All posts by dlapenta

Scientists who selfie

Doctoral candidate Imogene Cancellare in the labUniversity of Delaware entomology and wildlife ecology doctoral candidate Imogene Cancellare is passionate about conservation. In 2014, Cancellare took to the burgeoning social media site Instagram to share her passion for wildlife. Over the past five years, thousands have followed her. They liked her photos of everything from mountain lions to salamanders and snow leopards to snowy owls; they comment on her educational posts about the health of natural ecosystems, benefits of biodiversity and her thesis research. And while you can usually catch her investigating carnivore genetics in UD’s Rare and Elusive Species Laboratory, her latest research (queue the selfie) is on Instagram itself.

The conservation biologist and National Geographic Explorer shares wildlife “so we can all appreciate the natural world” on her @biologistimogene profile. After amassing a substantial following, Louisiana State University alumna Paige Jarreau, current director of social media and science communication at LifeOmic, DMed (direct messaged, for those new to Instagram) her and a handful of other scientists and early career researchers from different disciplines to discuss studying if the selfie culture is playing a meaningful role in science communications. Read the full article on UDaily.

Researchers examine the use of QR codes on food packaging

Mobile phone scans QR codeAccording to a Microsoft study, the average human attention span is eight seconds long. To understand how short that is, consider that a common goldfish has a nine second attention span. This rapidly shifting interest means that a product has limited opportunity to catch consumer attention and convey important information. This becomes especially difficult for products that are considered more complex or controversial like bioengineered foods, also known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In 2016, thanks in part to consumer demand, Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, a federal mandate requiring manufacturers to label bioengineered foods as such.

Industry leaders are now searching for quick and easily accessible methods for sharing information about how and why a product was bioengineered, and the impact that might have on the consumer or the environment. One such method is through the use of quick response codes, or QR codes, that allow shoppers to scan a label to access information about the production, development or manufacturing process. Read the full article on UDaily

UD-developed beneficial bacteria part of BASF product for soil

UD1022 microbe hat helps plants form a root-strengthening biofilm. Commercializing a product often takes years, with no guarantee of success. It starts with an idea, but requires many minds — and hands — to make its way from the lab bench into products that serve the public.

At the University of Delaware, invention, innovation and entrepreneurship are considered essential to the University’s institutional mission, as well as to the prosperity and security of our society.

One UD-developed technology that has successfully made it to the marketplace is a beneficial microbe named UD1022 that helps plants form a root-strengthening biofilm. Developed by UD’s Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and Janine Sherrier, a former UD-faculty member now at the University of Georgia, the UD-patented microbe is a unique strain of Bacillus subtilis, a natural, beneficial bacterium that lives on the surface of roots and the surrounding soil, or rhizosphere. Read the full article on UDaily

Edible forest gardens to teach sustainability, food systems at UD’s Children’s Campus

Students do yoga in one of the outdoor classrooms at the Laboratory PreschoolKids at the University of Delaware’s children’s campus are getting access to a new outdoor learning space. UD interns led the design of several edible forest gardens planted recently at the children’s campus in Newark. Edible forest gardens are often described as self-sustaining ecosystem-style gardens that may consist of several forms of plants, such as trees, shrubs and vines. Delaware Public Media has the story

Information on food production, waste, and healthy eating with Delaware youth

Hunger Conference
Children look for worms in the compost pile while learning about fruit and vegetable production at the third annual Delaware children’s hunger conference.

Focused on sharing messages of food security, production and waste, faculty and staff from University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Cooperative Extension recently attended Delaware’s third annual children’s hunger conference in Wilmington. According to Feeding America, one in every six children in Delaware struggles with hunger.

Hosted by the Delaware Food Bank, in partnership with Brae’s Brown Bags and First Chance Delaware, this event brought children from across the state together for a morning of learning and advocacy.  Activities included environmental lessons on pollinators and composting, experiences with hands-on gardening and grocery shopping, physical fitness and yoga exercises, and a letter writing campaign that ended with 100 letters for Delaware legislators hand-written by the group of elementary and middle school attendees. Read the full article on UDaily

Auburn University president Steven Leath headlines George M. Worrilow and Distinguished Alumni Awards

University of Delaware President Dennis Assanis (right) and College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Mark Rieger (left) present UD alumnus and Auburn University president Steven Leath with the George M. Worrilow Award during the college’s annual alumni awards ceremony.University of Delaware alumnus and Auburn University president Steven Leath was awarded the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ (CANR) most prestigious award at the George M. Worrilow and Distinguished Alumni Awards. Alumni and their families joined CANR faculty, staff and students in the new Audion at the Tower at STAR for the 50th edition of the ceremony.

Leath (Class of 1981), who earned his master of science in plant pathology, was given the George M. Worrilow Award by President Dennis Assanis and CANR Dean Mark Rieger. The honor is bestowed annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a CANR graduate who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture. Read the full article on UDaily

Mourning the loss of Cooperative Extension and nutrition advocate Sue Snider

Sue Snider sits in front of the laptop in her office.The University of Delaware’s Sue Snider passed away on March 19 while under the care of physicians at Christiana Hospital. Her nephew and closest living relative, Trent Drake, was present along with several friends.

“Sue Snider worked tirelessly via the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension network to promote nutrition and food safety throughout Delaware,” said UD Provost Robin Morgan. “Her commitment to assuring healthy eating regardless of socioeconomic status was truly inspiring and impactful.”

A memorial service for Dr. Snider will be held on campus from 4-6 p.m., Thursday, June 20, in the Townsend Hall Commons. Read the full article on UDaily

Sweet corn out, sweet potatoes in: Data shows fundamental shifts in American farming

Emmalea Ernest looks through plants in a greenhouse.The American vegetable landscape has shifted. Farmers are abandoning one-time basics such as sweet corn, green beans, peas and potatoes. In their place, they’re planting sweet potatoes and leafy greens such as spinach, kale and romaine lettuce. UD Cooperative Extension’s Emmalea Ernest, associate scientist in the Vegetable and Fruit Program, was among the scientists and farmers who spoke to Washington Post on the challenge facing farmers in a shifting U.S. agricultural market. Read the article.

Community invited for Ag Day on April 27

An exhibitor sends a large bird over the heads of seats families at Ag Day 2018. The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) will host its 44th annual Ag Day at Townsend Hall in Newark on Saturday, April 27, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission and parking are free and the event is open to the public, rain or shine.

As a student-run event for the community, Ag Day will have community and collegiate organizations on hand to show off agriculture and natural resources, as well as educate the public through numerous demonstrations, events, food and attractions. The event has something for everyone — games, activities, a livestock display with farm animals, entertainment, hayrides, plant sales, educational exhibits, entertainment, and the famous UDairy Creamery ice cream. The 2019 Ag Day is a special one as the college celebrates its 150th anniversary with the theme “Cultivating our Legacy.”

“Ag Day is a wonderful chance for our groups to educate the public on the strides forward in agriculture and natural resource management,” said wildlife ecology and conservation major Justin Roure. “This year we will have a wonderful array of demonstrations, entertainment, food, and educational booths.”

Several UD clubs will be present, including the Entomology Club, Food Science Club, Wildlife Society, and the Animal Science Club. UD Botanic Gardens Annual Plant Sale, which runs from April 24 to May 4, is also offered on Ag Day.

The Ag Day Committee is looking for student volunteers for setup on April 26 and during the event on April 27.

Please note: For the safety of visitors and animal exhibits, please leave pets at home.

Community needed to help Delaware 4-H to reach first place in national initiative

Four youths in green 4-H T-shirts.
Youths at the 2015 4-H STEM event watch as rockets they made take off and soar into the sky! Delaware 4-H earned First Place in the national 4-H competition and an award of $10,000.

National 4-H announced that Delaware 4-H reached third place in a national 4-H “Raise Your Hand” call-to-action initiative. Four weeks remain in the contest. The three states with the most hands raised will receive $20,000, $10,000, and $5,000 respectively toward local 4-H programming and events. From now until May 15, Delaware 4-H invites the local community to show its support for 4-H outreach and education in the First State by voting for Delaware on the 4-H website.

An impressive 36,000 youth in Delaware are impacted by 4-H programs. Across 93 community clubs, 15 afterschool programs, and nine day and overnight camps, youth ages five through 19 receive positive life skill experiences.

In addition to the traditional agriculture programming, Delaware youth involved in 4-H learn public speaking, critical thinking, leadership. and citizenship skills. A primary focus is STEAM, Science Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.  Healthy living through diet, exercise, nutrition, and food science is strongly emphasized of all participants. 4-H Botvin Lifeskills are taught across the state, empowering youth to resist substance abuse.

Supported by extension staff at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University, 4-H programs benefit exponentially from 470 volunteer adults known as leaders.

“We have a strong 4-H program in Delaware reaching a high level of youth through various delivery modes including community clubs, afterschool, military, camps, school enrichment programs and other various programs,” said Doug Crouse, state 4-H program leader.  “We depend heavily on our outstanding 4-H volunteers throughout the state who provide their time, efforts and knowledge to work with our youth to teach them valuable life skills.”

Good odds for the first state — win, place or show

The structure of the national initiative considers the number of votes in ratio to the state’s population.

In 2015, Delaware 4-H won the national initiative #4HGrown and $10,000. With the award, Delaware 4-H invited Delaware youth to a STEM Day event held in Smyrna.  Students built rockets and watched them soar, examined space rocks under microscopes, and learned about their natural world surrounding.

Delaware 4-H looks forward to receiving funds from this opportunity and plans to use the monies to support additional programs, opportunities and activities around our three national mandate areas of science and technology, healthy living and civic engagement.” Crouse said.

While Delaware 4-H is in third place, they are only slightly ahead of fourth place Maine by one-tenth of a percentage point. Getting all Delawareans to vote is paramount.

With a month to go Crouse feels Delaware can take the grand prize.

“Delaware may be small, but they are mighty!” Crouse said.

“Our youth leave a positive impression on this state and  network with legislators, business owners and organizations across this state. 4-H is well known for its devotion to community service. I am confident the community will respond and vote us to the winning circle,” Crouse said.

Voting is easy

Everyone in Delaware is invited to vote by visiting 4-H’s Raise Your Hand website. Name and address are requested to verify authentic voting, but visitors may opt out of receiving emails. Membership in 4-H is not required and no purchase is necessary.

Turning recycled water into wine

Eight bottles of wine covered in white wraps on white trays inside a research tuk tukWith a diminishing supply of safe freshwater in many areas, and increasing periods of drought that further limit that supply, we are facing a dilemma. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, farming uses consume nearly 80 percent of our available water. Now, producers and agricultural researchers are searching for alternative irrigation sources to limit this consumption and extend our water supply.

One solution is to irrigate crops using treated wastewater, otherwise known as reclaimed or recycled water. This recycled water, highly purified though perhaps not as pristine as drinking water, could be the key to a successful crop yield during times of drought when conventional freshwater is unavailable.  

But, while recycled water is widely used in some countries — by 2012, 85% of the effluent in Israel was recycled — it has yet to be widely adopted in the U.S., due at least in part to concerns about consumer response. Read the full article on UDaily

Distinguished agriculture and natural resources alumni

Steven Leath stands at the UD podium in the AudionAt the 50th edition of the George M. Worrilow and Distinguished Alumni Awards, the college honored 2019 cohort of distinguished alumni. The Distinguished Alumni Award criteria include a demonstration of outstanding career accomplishments, evidence of service and leadership to their profession and active involvement in community service activities. The Distinguished Young Alumni honors the professional and personal accomplishments of graduates from the past decade decades.

Distinguished Young Alumni

Shawn Dash in the woods in winterShawn T. Dash, Ph.D., Class of ‘02, Entomology and Wildlife Conservation (B.S.)

After earning his Bachelor of Science in Entomology & Wildlife Conservation from the college in 2002, Dr. Dash attended Louisiana University for his M.S. in Entomology, and later the University of Texas El Paso for a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences. Dr. Dash is an active researcher and is completing a project about ants of the Delmarva Peninsula that he started while attending UD. He is currently an assistant professor at Hampton University in Virginia.

Grace Chapman Elton headshotGrace Chapman Elton, Class of ’08, Public Horticulture (M.S.)

Ms. Elton earned a Master of Science in Public Horticulture with a certificate in Museum Studies from the Longwood Graduate Program in 2008. She is currently CEO of Tower Hill Botanic Garden, one of the nation’s premier gardens in Boylston, Mass. She serves on the Board of Directors of the American Public Gardens Association, Prior to that, she served as Director of Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA, which was recognized as a top 10 botanical garden by USA Today under her watch. Ms. Elton received the prestigious Martin McLaren Horticulture Scholar Award and was twice honored as a “Top 40 Under 40” in both Virginia and Massachusetts.

Michele Maughn professional headshotMichele Maughan, Ph.D., Class of ’03 (H.B.S.), ’07 (M.S.), ’12 (Ph.D.) Animal Science

Dr. Maughan holds three degrees from the college, all in Animal Science, receiving the BS in 2003, the MS in 2007, and the Ph.D. in 2012.  She currently provides subject matter expertise to the department of defense on military working dogs. She works with her bomb-sniffing dog “Usher” on research, development, test and evaluation projects. Dr. Maughan work with Military Working Dogs led to the invention of the patented canine Training Aid Delivery Device, a containment and odor delivery system that ensures the safety of dog handlers as they are training with hazardous materials.

Distinguished  Alumni

Mark Collins professional headshotMark Collins, Class of ’80, Agricultural Engineering (B.S.)

Mark Collins received his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Engineering from the college in 1980. Upon graduation, Mr. Collins bought his first farm, which was approximately 118 acres, and now this third-generation farmer tills approximately 1300 acres in the family business known as DMC farms. He has been honored many times, including the Master Farmer Award presented by the Pennsylvania Farmer Magazine and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Perdue Outstanding Producer Award, and first place in the Delaware Soybean Yield contest in 2017 & 2018. Mark also serves on several agricultural organizations, most notably the National Watermelon Board and Executive Council.

Mike Graham headshotMichael J. Graham, Ph.D., Class of ’90, Plant Breeding (M.S.)

Dr. Graham earned an MS from the college in 1990, after obtaining a B.S. in Agronomy at Minnesota. Continuing in plant breeding for a Ph.D. at the University of Illinois, Dr. Graham began working as a plant scientist at Monsanto, one of the major innovators in crop breeding. Michael is a third-generation plant scientist who discovers new ways to increase agricultural productivity through plant breeding innovation. He joined Bayer Crop Science in 2018 where he serves as Head of Plant Breeding.

Wayne Lord professional headshotWayne D. Lord, Ph.D., Class of ’78, Entomology and Applied Ecology (M.S.)

Dr. Wayne Lord earned an M.S. in Entomology in the college in 1978. He is currently a Professor of Biology and Forensic Science in the W. Roger Webb Forensic Science Institute and Dept. of Biology at the University of Central Oklahoma, but spent most of his career working for the US Air Force and the FBI. Dr. Lord is internationally renowned for his expertise in forensic entomology, remains detection and recovery, and crime scene analysis, and has served as an FBI field division relief supervisor, SWAT team member, and FBI pilot-in-command.

Bob Thompson  professional headshotRobert M. Thompson, Jr. VMD, Class of ’81, Agriculture (B.S.)

Dr. Thompson is a native Delawarean and received his Bachelor of Science from the college in 1981. Like many of our pre-vet graduates, Dr. Thompson attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, receiving his VMD degree in 1985. After working as Assistant Track Veterinarian at Delaware Park, Dr. Thompson opened Lums Pond Animal Hospital which has since become one of Delaware’s leading veterinary practices. He was named veterinarian of the year by the Delaware Veterinary Medical Association in 2010 and was nominated as a board member of the Delaware Institute of Veterinary Medical Education in 2018.

George M. Worrilow Award

Steven Leath  professional headshotSteven Leath, Ph.D., Class of ’81 M.S., Plant Pathology

Dr. Steven Leath became Auburn University’s 19th president on June 19, 2017. Supporting Auburn’s vision to inspire, innovate and transform, Dr. Leath is focused on strengthening the institution’s reputation as a partnership university and empowering students, faculty and entrepreneurs to develop transformative ideas and inventions that improve lives. Since arriving at Auburn, Dr. Leath has advanced key initiatives, including a plan to recruit 500 research- and scholarship-focused faculty, the advancement of multidisciplinary research through a $5 million presidential award program and new fellowships to attract top-tier Ph.D. scholars. Under his leadership, Auburn achieved Carnegie R1 classification, placing the university among the country’s elite research institutions. Auburn is renowned for its exceptional student experience and Dr. Leath champions programs that position Auburn students to become leaders in their professions and engage in their communities.Prior to arriving at Auburn, Dr. Leath served as president of Iowa State University and vice president for research and sponsored programs for the University of North Carolina System, and he held several prominent positions at North Carolina State University. Dr. Leath holds a B.S. in Plant Science from Pennsylvania State University, M.S. in Plant Pathology from the University of Delaware and Ph.D. in Plant Pathology from the University of Illinois.

While at UD, Dr. Leath studied under Dr. Bob Carroll and Dr. Jim Hawk; both attended Dr. Leath’s presidential inauguration. Then working as a research associate, Dr. Leath took advantage of many opportunities at UD, including accompanying Dr. Hawk to national plant breeding discussions, conducting international research with plant pathologists in Panama, and taking extra classes in statistics and Spanish to further his research. Dr. Carroll proudly recalls Dr. Leath earning the top graduate student paper presentation award at the American Phytopathological Society regional conference; his master’s research spawned three publications.

In 2018, Dr. Leath was appointed by President Donald J. Trump to serve a six-year term on the National Science Board. He also serves as Secretary of the Council of Presidents for the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities.

One Health Delaware free vet clinic in Wilmington helps pets, people, students

UD pre-vet students Erik Gary and Carly Flink work with their canine patient.

On a rainy Saturday morning, staff and students huddled inside to quickly assign tasks and discuss the day’s schedule while patients began to arrive outside, tails wagging.

All were gathered at the Henrietta Johnson Medical Clinic for the monthly One Health Delaware Vet Clinic. Here, community members have an opportunity to bring their pets in for free exams, medications and vaccinations. At private veterinary offices, these visits could cost several hundred dollars.

University of Delaware students majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources serve as interns at the clinic, gaining valuable hands-on experience with their four-legged charges. They work alongside local veterinarians and students from Penn’s School of Veterinary Medicine to learn and practice a wide range of veterinary skills. Read the full article on UDaily

UD grad, Cooperative Extension’s Susan Garey named as Nuffield International Farming Scholar

Susan Garey holds a day-old crossbred ewe lamb, raised on her family’s farm in Harrington, Delaware.Susan Truehart Garey, animal science agent with University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, became the second UD staff member named as a Nuffield International Farming Scholar. Garey is a 1998 graduate of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Garey will spend 18 to 20 months networking with other scholars, traveling internationally, conducting research and sharing academic scholarship on her chosen topic. Read the full article on UDaily

Erik Ervin in ‘The Case Against Adnan Syed’ finale

Erik Ervin points to a gray laptop to explain his findings.The New York Times‘ television critic published a final write-up of the HBO true crime documentary ‘The Case Against Adnan Syed,’ which mentions the work of our Erik Ervin. The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences’ department chair examined a key piece of evidence in the case — how long the victim’s car had been abandoned on a patch of grass in a Baltimore lot. Read the article. Ervin’s comments are highlighted in the section ‘More Questions About the Car’.

Sustainable development course activity simulates fishery management

University of Delaware students reach into a plastic container to scoop pretend fish.02

As advancement in science and technology increases, there comes a greater need for people with analytical skills to address sustainable development issues facing people around the world. For applied economics and statistics majors at the University of Delaware, their skills begin in a 100-level course — where they simulate natural resource management through “fishing.” 

UD research investigates migratory birds’ habitat concerns on coffee farms

The yellow-tailed oriole sits on leaves.
The yellow-tailed oriole is among the resident Colombian bird species.

Coffee grown under a tree canopy is promoted as good habitat for birds, but recent University of Delaware research shows that some of these coffee farms may not be as friendly to our feathered friends as advertised.  

Working with geographer Robert Rice of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), University of Delaware Professor of Entomology Doug Tallamy and former UD graduate student Desirée Narango studied canopy tree preference of birds in shade-coffee farms with a particular focus on the implications for migratory birds that spend the winter in neotropical coffee farms. Read the full article on UDaily

Kerry Snyder and Professor of Entomology Doug Tallamy stand in front of a central American coffee farm.
Then UD undergraduate now alumna Kerry Snyder and Professor of Entomology Doug Tallamy stand in front of a central American coffee farm.

Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee holds second, bi-annual summit

Banner reading Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership SummitThe Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee held a day-long summit at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center in Salisbury, MD. The day consisted of discussion on current poultry industry issues, information exchange, lightning presentations, and networking.

“This was the second time we’ve met in two years to present research results and discuss important ideas for future research,” said College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Dean Mark Rieger. “The poultry industry is changing rapidly and we need to continue this valuable dialogue.”

Mark Parcells holds the microphone while asking a question.
Department of Animal and Food Sciences’ Mark Parcells (standing) and Aditya Dutta (sitting)

The audience was comprised of more than 120 representatives from universities, the private sector, NGOs, and federal and state agencies. Jack Shere, the Chief Veterinary Officer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided the keynote speech.

“We recognize the need to improve communications between the Delmarva Poultry Industry and academic researchers at universities in the region,” said University of Delaware Professor Calvin Keeler, chair of the Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee (DPU-IPC). “Our goal is to better understand the needs of the poultry industry and to mobilize the talent to address those concerns.”

Along with research presentations and networking, other summit highlights included:

  • A panel of poultry industry representatives led an open discussion of the research needs of the industry.
  • A panel of state agency representatives discussed avian flu responses.
  • Attendees reviewed state legislative initiatives that relate to the poultry industry.

“The summit provided a great platform for developing industry, government and university research and extension communication. Industry representatives spelled out where university partnerships were needed, welcome and encouraged,” explained Professor Mark Parcells. “My hope is that the momentum established by this meeting is maintained and yields long-term research and educational relationships.”

Conference attendees sit around a table to talk.
Dean Mark Rieger chats with summit’s attendees.

2019 marked the second, bi-annual gathering and built on the momentum of the 2017 edition, which resulted in the creation of the partnership committee and supported collaboration to advance the growth and sustainability of the poultry industry in the region.

“The key takeaway was improving communications and collaborations among industry, allied industries and government,” noted UD senior instructor Bob Alphin. “As several speakers mentioned, these relations are very important, but do require time, effort and in-person contact to stay fruitful over time.”

Following the summit, the committee will survey attendees and discuss the utility of future meetings. DPU-IPC will focus on the development of educational and training programs for employees in the industry, facilitating exchange programs between the poultry industry and academia, and continuing to identify subject experts.

Research presented

Alphin co-authored two different posters presented at the summit. The first covered three different international training programs. Alphin, Professor Eric Benson and Research Associate Dan Hougentogler run two programs on avian influenza outbreak response, its control and trade; a third program headed by Senior Scientist Brian Ladman is on veterinary diagnostic laboratory quality assurance to help other countries have their labs certify. Alphin, Benson and Hougentogler also showcased a poster on testing a low cost, undercarriage spray rig for decontaminating vehicles coming onto and leaving poultry farms, helping poultry farmers to increase their biosecurity at an affordable cost.

Conference attendees stand in the exhibitor area to talk.
Delmarva Poultry Industry Executive Director Holly Porter (left) meets with attendees.

Members of the Delmarva Poultry University-Industry Partnership Committee

  • Delaware Department of Agriculture
  • Maryland Department of Agriculture
  • Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc.
  • Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, Inc.
  • National Chicken Council
  • University of Delaware
  • Delaware State University
  • University of Maryland, College Park
  • University of Maryland Eastern Shore
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Photo credit

Samantha Watters, University of Maryland College of Agriculture and Natural Resources


Dante LaPenta

Rodrigo Vargas among leaders in assessment of continent’s carbon cycle assessment

Researcher Rodrigo Vargas squats next to wetlands research equipment.University of Delaware associate professor Rodrigo Vargas and more than 200 experts from the United States, Canada and Mexico recently unveiled Second State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR2), a state-of-the-art assessment of carbon cycle science across North America and its connection with climate and society.

Carbon is essential to the molecular makeup of all living things on Earth, playing a pivotal role in regulating global climate. Commissioned by the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the 878-page report applies to climate and carbon research as well as management practices on our continent and around the world.

This study is the second of its kind, building off of the 2007 First State of the Carbon Cycle Report (SOCCR). From an overview of the carbon cycle to consequences and ways forward, SOCCR2 analyzes the carbon cycle from 2004 to 2013. Read the full article on UDaily

Wicomico bird flu scare shows gap in poultry response plan

Three small chicks standing side by side.DELMARVA NOW—The poultry sample from a sick flock in Willards, Maryland, was moments away from passing cleanly through a routine bird flu test in December. Then the data showed something unexpected: the presence of avian influenza. Salisbury Animal Health Diagnostic Laboratory scientists tested a sample from the same group of birds again.And again in the last minutes, the test lit up. The result was in a category termed “non-negative” or “inconclusive.” The poultry community isn’t quite sure what to call it. Read the full article, including our Brian Ladman’s comments on Delmarva Now

Erik Ervin on “The Case Against Adnan Syed”

Show poster for The Case Against Adnan SyedIn HBO’s hit documentary series “The Case Against Adnan Syed,” Professor Erik Ervin was brought in for his expertise on turfgrass and horticultural systems. The show explores the 1999 disappearance and murder of 18-year-old Baltimore County high school student Hae Min Lee, and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend, Adnan Syed — a case brought to global attention by the hugely popular “Serial” podcast.

Ervin examined the grass and weeds beneath the car belonging to Syed’s girlfriend. The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences Chair took samples from the Baltimore lot back to the University of Delaware; he grew them in soil under similar weather conditions for a similar length of time that the car allegedly sat in the lot. He also examined tire tracks at the scene to help determine how long the car was there. Watch the series trailer

Why I majored in insect ecology and conservation

Student holding two tarantulasWith many insect populations in steep decline, University of Delaware insect ecology and conservation majors study the interactions of these vitally important creatures with other wildlife, humans and the environment. Junior Patrick Carney explains his interest in entomology and hands-on experiences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Learn more about UD’s insect ecology and conservation major


Check your freezer: What to know about the Butterball turkey recall

Kali Kniel points to the screen during a presentation.Butterball recalled more than 78,000 pounds of raw ground turkey products that may be tainted with salmonella. Our Kali Kniel (Animal and Food Sciences) discusses how this latest in a recent flurry of food recalls is less a sign of food in America being less safe than it is a reminder that technology is making it easier to track the source of foodborne bacteria and other pathogens. Read the full article on Healthline

The buzz of bees and the problems they face: UD researchers test hive monitoring tech

Dan Boroski stands next to a bee hive.MILFORD BEACON — According to the American Beekeeping Federation, about one third of the food we eat relies on honey bee pollination.

“A lot of our food would disappear or at least be scarce and expensive without honey bees,” said Dan Borkoski, an apiary research associate at the University of Delaware. “Fruits, nuts, even meat, because bees pollinate feed for livestock.”

In Delaware, honey bees pollinate our strawberries, blueberries, cucumbers, pumpkins and watermelons, and certain groups are taking steps to safeguard them.

There are about 400 different bee species in the state, and they are all pollinators. However, honey bees are different because they have been domesticated for both honey production and beekeeper-managed crop pollination. The population of wild honey bees worldwide is impossible to count, so most modern data on honey bees comes from these managed populations. Read the full article on Mildford Beacon

Philadelphia Flower Show gold for landscape architecture students

University of Delaware "flower power" exhibit at the Philadelphia Flower Show.

At the Philadelphia Flower Show, a University of Delaware team earned three awards, including the event’s prestigious gold medal. Their “herban apotheka” exhibit showcased plants’ capacity to health. The team was predominantly comprised of landscape architecture majors, who study a diverse curriculum, including plants and ecosystems; site design and engineering; and sustainability.

Exhibit team

  • Chris Bonura, landscape architecture (Flower Show Club president)
  • Abby Quin, Lerner College of Business and Economics
  • Alex Hubler, landscape architecture major
  • Anthony Raimondo, landscape architecture
  • Austin Dill, landscape architecture major
  • Bianca Mers, College of Arts and Sciences
  • Bruce Turner, landscape architecture major
  • Conner Graybeal, landscape architecture major
  • Eduardo Limon, landscape architecture major
  • Emily Birardi, agriculture and natural resources major
  • Erick Jones, landscape architecture major
  • Erin Fogarty, plant science major (Horticulture Club president)
  • Hannah Bruck, College of Engineering
  • Ilana Shmukler, College of Engineering
  • Jaime Manlove, landscape architecture major
  • Jessica Toy, landscape architecture major
  • Josh Gainey, landscape architecture (Flower Show Club treasurer)
  • Maija Griffioen, College of Engineering
  • Melody Cerro, College of Engineering
  • Nick Bruce, landscape architecture major
  • Olivia Boon, landscape architecture major
  • Savanah Love (Wesley College)
  • Shirley Duffy, landscape architecture major
  • Tom Pennachio, landscape architecture major
  • Carolyn May, agriculture and natural resources major
  • Claire Ciccarone, art major

Faculty and staff

  • Jules Bruck, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Stefanie Hansen, Theater
  • Karen Gartley, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • John Kaszan, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Jame McCray, Earth, Ocean, and Environment

See the full list of winners on

Palmer amaranth weed threatening farmers

Mark J. VanGessel points out weeds on a Sussex County farm.
Mark VanGessel, Professor and Cooperative Extension Specialist, Weed Science and Crop Management

WBOC — There’s a growing problem around the country and on Delmarva, and it is a weed called Palmer amaranth. This weed is fairly new for some farmers and one of the most difficult to get rid of — especially for those growing soybeans. Farmers say it is an aggressive type of weed that is showing growing resistance to certain herbicides. Now, specialists from the University of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia Tech are holding workshops to provide farmers with the necessary tools to overcome herbicide resistant weeds. Watch and read the full story on

Quarantined! State demands people in 11 New Castle County ZIP codes check for these pests

The invasive spotted lanternfly, which has been seen in New Castle CountyDelaware agriculture officials are quarantining 11 New Castle County ZIP codes to try to stop the spread of an invasive bug that threatens Delaware’s orchards, nurseries and forests. The spotted lanternfly was first found in Wilmington in late 2017. It had been discovered in Pennsylvania in 2014. The plant hopper native to China, India and Vietnam sucks sap from stems, leaves and trunks. Read the full article on Delaware Online.

Engineers and plant scientists team up to optimize corn growth

left to right, Erin Sparks, Pete Moore, Burt Tanner, Adam Stager, Teclemariam Weldekidan and Randy WisserEach new technological advancement in agriculture, from tractors to tillage techniques, has allowed farmers to plant and harvest more food in less time. Today’s era of agricultural innovation is precision agriculture — optimizing crop performance in farmers’ fields based on their individual characteristics. To combat the range of challenges in agriculture, such as improving crop yields and plant resiliency, increasing pest resistance, addressing nutrient insufficiency, and more, scientific insights into the crop are needed.

Robots are important tools for precision agriculture because they can quickly collect valuable data to help farmers fine-tune their methods of planting, irrigation, pest control, harvesting and more. Similarly, for scientific discovery that underlies crop improvement, robots make it possible to gather a wide range of information on very large numbers of plants – tens to hundreds of thousands – in order to break new ground in plant science.

With robotics engineers and scientists who study plant genetics and biology, the University of Delaware is an ideal breeding ground for robotic agricultural technology. Algorithms and circuits can be designed and built in laboratories onsite, and machinery can be tested in “outdoor laboratories” located on the University’s Newark campus. With the range of expertise at UD, the on-campus farm with dedicated research fields is a unique asset that facilitates cross pollination of different scientific domains, ranging from biology to engineering to data science, which can open new pathways that address challenges in agriculture. Read the full article on UDaily

Researchers discover corn plants call in hungry nematodes when resistant rootworms attack

Ivan Hiltpold, an assistant professor of entomology, stands in a corn field.
Ivan Hiltpold, an assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, grew up in Switzerland. Years later, he did research in Australia and joined UD in 2016.

Someday – in some scientifically savvy encyclopedia perhaps – the word “resilience” may include a photograph of the Western Corn Rootworm. This crafty, intrepid rootworm has found a way to circumvent just about every defense a corn plant and its advocates have thrown at it.

This is why its street name is “Billion Dollar Bug” in many agricultural circles, a name that reflects the size of this insect’s annual bite into the coffers of U.S. corn growers, who last year year planted 89.1 million acres of the crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not all of that acreage is at risk. But the rootworm is considered the most important pest in the Midwest’s Corn Belt, where corn production is highest, led by Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota.

Consider this rootworm’s impressive record: It has survived granular insecticides and sprayed insecticides. It has figured out how to beat crop-rotation practices, which discourage rootworm population increases. And, scientists say, it has developed resistance to hybrid corn plants that were engineered with toxins released when the rootworms attacked, a defense that had proven effective for at least a decade.

Now researchers at the University of Delaware and the USDA have discovered an indirect defensive strategy used by the hybrid plant that provides some recourse against this stubborn creature. Ivan Hiltpold, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the USDA’s Bruce Hibbard, who leads plant genetics research  at the University of Missouri, published their findings in the Journal of Economic Entomology. Read the full article on UDaily

Provost Morgan honored with Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture

U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons congratulate Robin Morgan on her award for service to Delaware agriculture.University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan was recognized Thursday, Jan. 24, at the 48th Delaware Agricultural Industry Dinner with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture. She was honored for her commitment to agriculture through education, research and encouraging the next generation of agriculturalists.

“I was a newcomer to agriculture when I came to Delaware three decades ago. Many people in academia, industry and government patiently taught me about poultry health and agricultural sustainability, and maybe I taught them a little something about molecular biology,” Morgan said. “Somewhere along the way, I became very committed to food and water security, which are major challenges for our society.” Morgan has also indicated that this award was especially meaningful because it was kept a very tight secret, and she had no inkling that she was the recipient. Read the full article on UDaily

Mock outbreak for final exam

Examining a blood smear under the microscope, student Conor Naughton fills the role of CDC epidemiologist working to identify the cause of the outbreak.When an outbreak of disease strikes in remote parts of the world, a field response team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works quickly to identify, investigate, and treat the disease to maintain global health security. In December, while many University of Delaware students were finishing written final exams, the students in Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology (ENWC267) were testing their own emergency response and critical thinking skills in a mock outbreak and CDC investigation. The first of its kind in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this experiential final saw students pretending to be deployed to the Amazon rainforest where they explored a laboratory transformed into a mock outbreak zone complete with medical tent, research station, and local farm. Read the full article on UDaily.

EPSCoR kickoff brings together statewide leaders to celebrate $23 million grant

Illustration of a buoy and fish jumping out of the oceanParticipants in Delaware’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) gathered alongside state leaders and community partners on Friday, Jan. 11, to celebrate the launch of a new five-year, $23-million grant to further expand environmental research in the First State. EPSCoR is a federal-state partnership sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that engages Delaware’s academic institutions in cutting-edge research and training activities that address critical needs of the state. The new grant is the fourth EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant awarded to Delaware since its designation as an EPSCoR state in 2003. The award supports activities at the four partner institutions — the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College and Wesley College. The state of Delaware is contributing $3.8 million of the overall grant through matching funds over the next five years. Delaware Gov. John Carney offered his congratulations to those in attendance at the event, held at Delaware State University, reflecting on EPSCoR’s humble beginnings from an experimental program to the established program today that “has taken root in our state” to address problems such as water quality, increased salinity and other challenges related to climate change. Read the full article on UDaily.

To stop trashing of Delaware’s water supply, we must work together

Holly Michael stands next to Kent Messer in front of a projection screen.Applied Economics and Statistics’ and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s Holly Michael teamed up for an op-ed on the state of Delaware’s water supply. The pair are the project director and research lead for a $23 million research effort dubbed Project WiCCED, a multi-institution, interdisciplinary collaboration to understand and develop solutions for Delaware’s water security. The project integrates engineering, natural, and social sciences, including the application of advanced data analytics, the development and deployment of new sensor technologies, and the use of new techniques and models to predict the often-coupled behavior of water resources and people. Read the op-ed on Delaware Online.

Delaware gets $19 million for water research

A boat passes Beach Cove in Delaware's Inland Bays near Bethany Beach.WHYY — As the country’s lowest-lying state, Delaware is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels — and the influence of saltwater on the wildlife that depends on freshwater wetlands. What’s more, water quality throughout the state is poor. More than 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted, according to a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control study cited by the University of Delaware’s Kent Messer. Now, Messer is leading a massive research project seeking a solution to the state’s water woes — with the help of the  National Science Foundation, that has awarded the effort $19 million over the next five years to fund the work. Read the full article on WHYY.

Genome science class allows graduate students to create problem-based learning resources for undergraduates

Graduate student Jolie Wax presents a problem-based learning exercise in front of the class.Exploring a new way to teach, University of Delaware graduate students in Randy Wisser’s “Genome Science: Technology and Techniques” course gained practical experience not only in the field of genome science, but also in helping others learn. That experience culminated in the development of a problem-based learning (PBL) exercise for undergraduates that was published in Genetics Society of America’s Peer-Reviewed Education Portal. Problem-based learning is a method of teaching where the motivation to learn is stimulated by confronting real-world problems and learning is elevated by addressing the problems in teams. For PBL, exercises are developed to implement the teaching method. Wisser sought to use this as a platform for teaching his graduate students. Read the full story on UDaily.

Mock outbreak investigation tests students’ teamwork and critical thinking

Students in hazmat suits perform a mock outbreak investigation tests students’ teamwork and critical thinking.
From left to right: Natalie Wong, TJ Fedirko, and Abby Clarke review notes from their patient interview to determine the disease and offer treatment options.
When an outbreak of disease strikes in remote parts of the world, a field response team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works quickly to identify, investigate, and treat the disease to maintain global health security. In December, while many University of Delaware students were finishing written final exams, the students in Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology (ENWC267) were testing their own emergency response and critical thinking skills in a mock outbreak and CDC investigation. The first of its kind in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this experiential final saw students “deployed” to the Amazon rainforest where they explored a laboratory transformed into a mock outbreak zone complete with medical tent, research station, and local farm.  
 student Conor Naughton peers through a microscope
Examining a blood smear under the microscope, student Conor Naughton fills the role of CDC epidemiologist working to identify the cause of the outbreak.
Students split into teams of CDC medics, entomologists, and epidemiologists to interview various actors in an effort to determine the disease, treatment, and best vector control methods. Several current and former Entomology and Wildlife Ecology graduate students volunteered to portray physicians, researchers, farmers and ill patients, and answered student questions on a range of topics including health symptoms, native insects, and recent weather events. After two hours of investigation and deliberation, students collectively presented their findings and correctly attributed the outbreak to yellow fever virus, transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito.
Sam McGonigle, Nick Benton, and Sophie Menos looks at species of insects.
From left to right: Sam McGonigle, Nick Benton, and Sophie Menos work as CDC entomologists, searching insect specimens to identify potential disease vectors.
Led by Entomology and Wildlife Ecology doctoral candidate Ashley Kennedy and Associate Professor of Entomology Charles Bartlett, this imaginative final was modeled after a similar exam designed by renowned medical entomologist Jerome Goddard at Mississippi State University.  As with most finals, it is meant to test students’ ability to synthesize information they’ve learned throughout the course of a semester. However, because each student is assigned a specific CDC role and interviews only actors relevant to that role, this test relies not only on each student’s critical thinking but also their ability to cooperate, share information and present a final team report. Kennedy was excited to introduce this test format to students at the University of Delaware.  “I think that having a hands-on experience where they’re face-to-face with patients and other people impacted by an outbreak was good training,” said Kennedy, “to remind them that these are real diseases that still affect millions of people worldwide and not just a thing of the past.” Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology will be offered again in Fall 2019.
Two students role play as CDC scientists while an aluna lays on the ground as a pretend patient.
Recent alumna Devan George acts as an injured patient and explains her ailments to the student medics (left to right) Natalie Wong, TJ Fedirko and Abby Clarke.
Article and photos by Lauren Bradford

Investigating water in Delaware’s changing coastal environment

Professor Kent Messer stands next to a presentation on “Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware. Principal investigator Kent Messer (Applied Economics and Statistics) is leading “Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware (Project WiCCED). Scientists and researchers from the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical Community College, will work together with their students to take a closer look at challenges facing the water supplies that residents, businesses, farmers and wildlife rely on for survival. The National Science Foundation contributed $19 million in funding and the state of Delaware provided $3.9 million. Learn more about the research study on Delaware Online.

Genuine or fake seeds? UD researchers ‘dig in’ to how seed fraud impacts Kenyan farmers

University of Delaware alumnus Mariam Gharib (right) helps a Kenyan farmer verify the corn seed’s authenticity by submitting the certification code listed on the seed packet to the manufacturer via a text from his cell phone.For farmers, a productive harvest can mean money in the bank.  Poor yield due to drought, pests and other environmental factors, on the other hand, can threaten livelihoods. Improved seed varieties have been developed to address these problems for many agricultural crops. Yet while agricultural production in the United States continues to rise, in areas of Africa, such as Kenya, gains in agricultural production have been more limited. This is particularly true of corn, or maize, productivity in the Nyanza Province, which occupies the largest share of the region’s farmland compared to other crops and is a staple food for more than 90 percent of the area’s population. According to University of Delaware alumnus Mariam Gharib, a Kenya native, one possible reason for this production lag may be seed fraud, a practice where plant seeds marketed as high-performance have actually been tampered with or been replaced with inferior products. Read the full article on UDaily.

Survey shows Marylanders support deer hunting

White-tailed deer in high grassThe Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the results of a public opinion survey, done in cooperation with the University of Delaware and Responsive Management on white-tailed deer. The survey, taken by more than 2,200 individuals representing the general population, landowners and hunters, found that a majority like deer, but a significant proportion of the population are concerned with the negative impacts deer cause. Read the article on Southern Maryland News Net.

UD alumnus Courtney Campbell shares his passion for veterinary medicine

UD alumnus Dr. Courtney Campbell poses on the set of Pet Talk, the first talk show of its kind on Nat Geo Wild.Current students joined University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni and veterinarians in Townsend Hall during UD’s Homecoming Weekend at the Pre-Vet Alumni and Delaware Veterinary Practitioners Reception. While most of the guests hailed from the mid-Atlantic, the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Courtney Campbell, traveled all the way from California for the occasion. But jetlag couldn’t possibility slow down this class of 2001 alumnus, who is bursting with endless positive energy. Campbell is no stranger to the microphone, the camera or long work days. While practicing veterinary medicine at VetSurg in Ventura, California, he’s appeared on Live with Kelly, hosted the National Geographic show Pet Talk and makes regular trips down the 101 Freeway to Los Angeles for media appearances. Read the full article on UDaily.

How Delaware oysters reappeared on local menus

Delaware's blossoming shellfish aquaculture program was highlighted in November with a tour of Delaware Cultured Seafood's nursery operation near Millsboro. (Photo: Jason Minto, The News Journal) Southern Delaware oysters are back on the menu thanks to new aquaculture program. Delaware Online has the story on the businesses getting involved and what it means for bay waters. The article mentions University of Delaware research on the consumer demand for oysters and how it can have a positive impact on water quality. Watch the video and read the article.

Tara Trammell to study ecological effects of excess nitrogen in small forests

Assistant Professor Tara Trammell speaks to students at a local state park. Nitrogen is an essential element required by all life — vital for plant and animal growth and nourishment. But, an overabundance of nitrogen can cause negative ecological effects. Over the past century, the amount of nitrogen cycling through the environment has drastically changed with humans as the culprit. “We’ve doubled the amount of reactive nitrogen cycling through the environment,” said Tara Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in the University of Delaware Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “Prior to the Industrial Revolution, nitrogen would cycle tightly within ecosystems. Through human activities, we are converting inert forms of nitrogen into reactive forms, like inorganic fertilizer, that plants can use.” Read the full article on UDaily.

Bright lights, big city: why light pollution threatens migratory birds

Bright lights of a big city reflecting off of a bayMigratory birds rely on high quality habitat in which to rest overnight during their annual journeys. However, a recent study from our Jeff Buler suggests that city lights can divert birds from their traditional flight paths. By resting in areas with fewer resources – be it less cover for protection or fewer plants and insects to eat – birds may need more time to complete their migrations and arrive at their destinations in poorer condition. Read the full article in Yale Environment Review.

Graduate fellowship provides pathway to landscape architecture graduate work at Penn

UD landscape architecture program director Jules Bruck (left) teaches undergraduates in the Landscape Architecture Design Studio in Townsend Hall.The Department of Plant and Soil Sciences has agreed to a landscape architecture fellowship with the University of Pennsylvania. The “Penn/Delaware Graduate Fellowship” provides a pathway for talented UD landscape architecture undergraduates to pursue graduate education with PennDesign’s Department of Landscape Architecture. As potential fellows, top UD applicants to PennDesign will receive a scholarship to pursue either a master’s or dual graduate degree. Read the full article.

Woolly caterpillars can’t predict winter and 10 other facts you didn’t know

Black and brown wolly bear caterpillarDELAWARE ONLINE — On warm fall days, it can be almost impossible to avoid squishing the fuzzy caterpillars frantically crossing the road.

Black and brown banded woolly bear caterpillars, also known as woolly worms, are one of thousands of caterpillars found in the Mid-Atlantic. But they win the prize for one of the fastest moving of their kind in Delaware – and it is not because they’re racing to the polls.

And while tall tales say their coloration is a sure sign of how bleak the upcoming winter will be (the story is that thicker the woolly bear’s brown band, the milder the season ahead), scientists have debunked that myth.

“There’s a lot of genetic variability in populations … the band width is varying,” said Doug Tallamy, a University of Delaware entomologist and advocate for native plants and wildlife. “Just like humans, we have different hair colors and different eye colors, and that doesn’t mean we had a lot to eat or that the winter is going to be bad.” Read the full article on Delaware Online.

Mark Manno to National 4-H Hall of Fame

At the 4-H Hall of Fame award ceremony, Mark’s Manno family (seated) is surrounded by former and current Cooperative Extension staff and volunteers from across the state of Delaware. From left to right seated: Mark Manno’s son, Mark, wife Sandy, daughter Nikki and son Tony.The National 4-H Hall of Fame posthumously inducted Mark Manno, former 4-H program leader at the University of Delaware, for his lifetime achievements and contributions, which impacted thousands of youth and families across the state. Manno’s career and service was well known on campus and throughout Delaware during his four decades with Cooperative Extension. “Mark was a one-of-a-kind, outgoing individual with a huge heart and passion for youth and the 4-H program,” said UD Cooperative Extension director Michelle Rodgers. “His legacy continues through the ongoing programs, contacts and networks that he helped establish. He is an eternal part of Delaware 4-H’s DNA.” Read the full article on UDaily.

Ecologists have this simple request to homeowners—plant native

In areas made up of less than 70 percent native plant biomass, Carolina chickadees will not produce enough young to sustain their populations. At 70 percent or higher, the birds can thrive. (Desirée Narango)They say the early bird catches the worm. For native songbirds in suburban backyards, however, finding enough food to feed a family is often impossible. A newly released survey of Carolina chickadee populations in the Washington, D.C., metro area shows that even a relatively small proportion of nonnative plants can make a habitat unsustainable for native bird species. The study, published last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first to examine the three-way interaction between plants, arthropods that eat those plants, and insectivorous birds that rely on caterpillars, spiders and other arthropods as food during the breeding season. The University of Delaware Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology collaborated with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center on the research. Read the full article on

Drought fighter found in soil

Some discoveries happen by accident. Consider how Sept. 28, 1928, unfolded: Alexander Fleming, back in the lab after a vacation with the family, was sorting through dirty Petri dishes that hadn’t been cleaned before he went away. A mold growing on one of the dishes caught his attention — and so began the story of the world’s first antibiotic: penicillin. Recently, at the University of Delaware, the plants didn’t get watered one long weekend during a small botany experiment. That has now led to an intriguing finding, especially for areas of the globe hit hard by drought — the American West, Europe, Australia, portions of Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, among them. Climate scientists say we should expect more frequent and severe droughts in the years ahead, while population experts predict about a 30 percent increase in world population, to more than 9 billion by 2050. How will we grow enough food for everyone under such pressures, and do so sustainably? According to this UD research, the answer may lie right under our feet. Read the full article on UDaily.

These plants bring all the birds to your yard

Researchers studied the impact of non-native plants on the Carolina chickadee, an ideal representative for bird species in the eastern and southeastern U.S.Popular Science interviewed Professor of Entomology Doug Tallamy and his former Ph.D. student Desiree Narango about their recently published research on non-native plants and population reductions on insectivorous birds. Working with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC), the researchers investigated the link between non-native plants and birds’ population growth in human-dominated landscapes. This is the first time that the breeding success of a bird has been directly tied to landscape decisions that homeowners make. Tallamy also provides advice what native plants support biodiversity. Read the feature in Popular Science.

UD hosts first of three symposia on grand challenges in water sustainability

The University of Delaware's Alma Vázquez-Lule (left) and keynote speaker Robert Twilley of Louisiana State University
UD Plant and Soil Sciences graduate student Alma Vázquez-Lule (left) and keynote speaker Robert Twilley of Louisiana State University
The University of Delaware hosted the first of three symposia in the graduate-student inspired “Human and Climate Series.” The goal is to bring together students, faculty and professionals to share research and knowledge centered on water sustainability, as well as expose scholars to potential career paths within water sciences. The first installment – Dynamic Hydrology from Land to Sea – brought UD and national experts to Pencader Hall. Speakers ranged from veteran water sustainability researchers to first-year graduate students.
aculty members and private sector professionals speak to graduate students.
William Ball, director of the Chesapeake Research Consortium, speaks at a symposium career panel.
  “We had a broad range of working professionals — both the invited speakers spanning government agencies, private companies and academia, as well as participants,” noted Holly Michael, the Unidel Fraser Russell Career Development Chair for the Environment and an associate professor in the Department of Geological Sciences. “In particular, the career panel helped give students perspectives on various career avenues as well as strategies for getting there.” In his keynote presentation “Ecosystem design approaches in a highly engineered landscape of the Mississippi River Delta,” Robert Twilley, executive director of the Louisiana Sea Grant College Program, provided a historical perspective on the human connection to water, the impact on the critical areas and a look into the future if human behavior does not change. “Sea level rise amplifies decisions we make on how we use our land. We have to think about the consequences of what we do with land and water resources,” explained the Louisiana State University professor. “If you make not-so-smart decisions, they become really not-so-smart. If you make though, right decisions, they become really smart decisions.” Twilley feels an area that will come to define these decisions is cost. He advised to keep an eye out for insurance rates in coastal zones. How we use land directly impacts water quality, an important topic in a state where agriculture is the Number one industry. “Delaware is a state that is susceptible to sea level rise and has some tough decisions,” said Twilley. “Coming from a farming family myself, I know there is a lot of conservation mindedness in the people managing that land. There needs to be an awareness of downstream effects.” The day also featured sessions on coastal processes, environmental networks and monitoring, social dynamics and water management, and watershed processes and management.
Graduate student Samuel Villarreal speaks at the podium.
Water Science and Policy Ph.D. student Samuel Villarreal
The creation of the conference was completely organic. UD graduate students across several disciplines, including Margaret Capooci, saw the need for an interdisciplinary discussion on water sustainability. “The symposium provided us an opportunity to learn about how various sectors approach issues related to water sustainability,” said the Water Science and Policy doctoral student. “It underscored the importance of working across sectors and disciplines to address them.” Students on the symposia organizing committee are a mix of Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) Environmental Fellows, members of the Water Science and Policy Program as well as students from three colleges — the College of Earth, Ocean and Environment (CEOE), the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and the College of Engineering (COE). “I heard great feedback from students who enjoyed the range of water science, engineering and policy topics covered,” added Michael. “Faculty and professionals commented on the professionalism of the student organizers and the excellent job they did in putting the event together.” The second and third part of the Human and Climate Series takes place in March and June respectively. The March 22nd symposia focuses on water for food and energy; the June 7 symposia covers science, management and policy. The student and faculty steering committees will now incorporate ideas and feedback that followed Friday’s symposium — laying out the agenda for the two 2019 events. They are keen on inviting speakers with a different set of perspectives and whose research addresses novel topics in water sustainability.
Samuel Villarreal, UD graduate student
Water Science and Policy Ph.D. student Samuel Villarreal
About the Human and Climate Series This symposia series is funded through the UD Office of Graduate and Professional Education, Grand Challenges program and organized by the DENIN Water Working Group and graduate students studying water across campus. About the organizers Graduate student members of the Water Sustainability Challenges Symposia Student Committee include Margaret Capooci, Julia Guimond, Alma Vázquez-Lule, Jillian Young Lauren Mosesso, Chunlei Wang and Shanru Tian. The faculty steering committee includes Jeanette Miller, Holly Michael, Shreeram Inamdar, Todd Keyser, Scott Ensign, Yo Chin and Dave Arscott.  

Record number of College of Agriculture and Natural Resources students

As 10-day student total became official at the University of Delaware this fall, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources broke a record. The 2018 student enrollment total reached an apex of 1,057 students with 865 undergraduates and 208 graduate students. The previous recorded high for the college was 1,045 in 1975. “We have been working toward this goal for at least five years, so it is great to see the record broken,” said Mark Rieger, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “I am so proud of the faculty, staff, students and stakeholders who have all contributed to this outstanding achievement, and I know I can count on them to help us grow even further.” Total number of students in 2018: 1,057 Highlights from across the University include:
  • A record number of Delawareans (more than 2,000);
  • A record number of international students (290);
  • A record number of students in UD’s innovative Associate in Arts program dispersed among Wilmington, Dover and Georgetown campuses (475);
  • The strongest academic credentials in history (1275 average SAT, 3.76 average high school GPA); and
  • The second largest class of honors students in history (600).

Master Gardeners and Main Towers residents team up on Newark community garden

On a pair of high-rise gardening beds behind Main Towers in Newark, a small, but growing group of resident gardeners gathers every week. Their community garden at the independent senior living complex is bursting with tomatoes, beans, peppers and summer squash. “We each take our turn watering. Then we meet as a group on Wednesdays to fix and fertilize,” said Main Towers resident Catherine Hoddinott. “It’s really fun coming out here.” The effort is guided by Master Gardener volunteer and educator Rick Judd. The former scientist and gardening enthusiast retired a few years ago. Wanting to further develop and share his gardening knowledge, he trained to become a certified master gardener through University of Delaware Cooperative Extension. Read the full article on UDaily.

Five proposals selected for multicultural course development

The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) is developing multicultural courses within its existing curriculum. The effort will expose students to opportunities they might otherwise not be afforded. Prior to graduation, UD undergraduate students must take at least one multicultural course and a 2017 survey of CANR faculty found that 76 percent of respondents taught courses that address one or more of the diversity competencies — cultural intelligence, diversity self-awareness, perspective taking, personal and social responsibility, knowledge application and understanding global systems. Despite this, only one regularly offered CANR course (Plants and Human Culture) officially satisfies the University’s multicultural course requirement. With the goal of increasing multicultural course offerings, the college centered this year’s teaching mini-grants on this topic. To apply for a grant, CANR faculty looked at existing courses and presented curriculum revisions, new materials and professional development opportunities that would transform those courses into multicultural courses. College leadership evaluated the proposals and selected five to implement.
  • Wildlife Policy and Administration (ENWC413/613)
  • Sustainable Development (APEC100)
  • Food for Thought (ANFS102)
  • History of Landscape Architecture (LARC202)
  • Animals and Human Culture (ANFS100)
“All of these courses are great examples of how agriculture and natural resources contribute to UD undergraduates’ multicultural awareness,” added CANR Dean Mark Rieger. “[Associate Professor] Tanya Gressley gets all the credit. She wrote the grant guidelines and ushered this effort along. Our faculty did a wonderful job with their proposals.” As Rose Muravchick, assistant director of UD’s Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning, explains, this effort demonstrates the college’s commitment to inclusive excellence. “This is a wonderful initiative that supports many of the University’s strategic goals. It demonstrates that CANR highly values teaching,” said Muravchick. “Many faculty members are passionate about creating supportive, inclusive and diverse learning spaces and courses. They are experts in their research areas, but also talented pedagogues.” The revised courses will be submitted for certification with hopes that all five will meet UD’s multicultural course requirement beginning in fall of 2019.

About the courses

Wildlife Policy and Administration (ENWC413/613)
Professor Chris Williams dressed in a suit.Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology who also oversees CANR’s waterfowl and upland game bird research program, provides an introduction to policy issues that relate to wildlife management and natural resources. Students study how cultural and socio-economic backgrounds and history affect values relationships to the land and wildlife. Williams will challenge participants to consider how race, indigenous cultures and non-European origins affect values toward a broader global relationship with the land. His students will analyze the ethical, social, and environmental consequences of policies and ideologies. They will systematically ponder how institutions, ideologies, rhetoric and European-descended cultural representations shape North American culture, identity and values toward the land and wildlife.
Sustainable Development (APEC100)
Professor Kent Messer dressed in a suit. Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Career Development Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, will engage students in learning and critical thinking about a variety of pressing issues, such as natural resource management, environmental protection and poverty alleviation. From a regional, national, international and multicultural context, the course integrates natural science, economics, ethics and policy to improve the wellbeing of people and the environment. Messer will discuss how cultural differences impact agricultural production, environmental conditions and policies as well and the plight and environmental degradation of low-income communities.
Food for Thought (ANFS102)
Professor Kali Kniel takes a head shot. CANR students will gain an appreciation for the complexity of food production, product development and distribution systems from Kali Kniel, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. The course provides an overview and an introduction to the fascinating and complex world of food science. Students will consider how foods shape our identity, realities and perspectives. Kniel will cover global food topics and critical issues of social responsibility — such as food waste and food insecurity.
History of Landscape Architecture (LARC202)
Professor Anna Wik poses for a head shot.Anna Wik, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, provides an introduction to the history of landscape architecture — from pre-history through modern times. Students not only review specific gardens, landscapes and designed spaces, but are also required to consider the philosophical, social and cultural reasons these landscapes came to be. Students reflect what is aesthetic, safe and sacred. They will also explore diverse attitudes and outlooks upon nature and the built environment throughout history. Finally, students gain a goal perspective, investigating landscape architecture from ancient Mycenaean culture; Egypt; Italian Renaissance; Chinese, Japanese, Islamic gardens of the Iberian peninsula and Mughal empire gardens of India.
Animals and Human Culture (ANFS100)
Professor Eric Benson poses for a head shot. Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, will teach students about the important role of animals in human society and how animals’ significance varies across cultural settings. Participants will explore human-animal interactions on issues related to food and fiber production, welfare, conservation, research, work and service, natural and man-made disasters, zoonotic disease, and human health. Benson will incorporate international production and management approaches, provide a historical perspective on animal welfare and greatly broaden students’ perspective and self-awareness around the subject.

Prestigious equine opportunity

Seniors Jenna Deal and Catherine Galbraith took part in a prestigious equine internship program at Camden Training Center. The 10-week opportunity provided a hands-on look at the world of Thoroughbred race horses. Under the tutelage of manager Donna Freyer, the pair took on up to 10-hour days of barn management, and daily care and training of 40 young Thoroughbred and Warmblood horses. Read the full article on UDaily.
Catherine Galbraith rides Rémy, a two-year-old “off the track thoroughbred (OTTB)” who she later adopted.
Catherine Galbraith
Senior Jenna Deal poses with two Thoroughbred horses at Camden Training Center.
Jenna Deal

Agricultural risk management strategies

Sheep on a farm in front of a corn field. The Northeast Extension Risk Management Education (ERME) Center at the University of Delaware recently awarded 10 grants for educational projects. Supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture, these grants fund outreach that provides training and tools for producers to establish new risk management strategies. The goal is to strengthen the economic viability of agribusinesses. Read the full article on UDaily.

Water in a Changing Coastal Environment

Beach view in Lewes, DelawareAn estimated 40 percent of the world’s population resides within roughly 60 miles of a coast. Delaware has a rich coastal environment with 381 miles of tidal shoreline, including 24 miles of ocean coastline and approximately 90,000 acres of tidal wetlands. Coastal regions throughout the world have entered a critical period when multiple pressures threaten water security, which the United Nations defines as society’s capacity to safeguard adequate, sustainable quantities of high-quality water. A new five-year, $19.2 million Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) will help Delaware develop solutions to water issues related to human, economic and ecosystem health. In addition to the federal award, the state of Delaware has committed $3.8 million in support of this initiative. Read the full story on UDaily.