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.

“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” students ride high

“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” (AGRI 130) students experienced precision agriculture through a unique vantage point on their third field trip this semester to Hoober, Inc. in Middletown. Each student, many for the very first time, climbed aboard a towering piece of agriculture equipment — a Case Magnum tractor or a Case Patriot sprayer. In the driver’s seat, the advantages of GPS-led Auto Steer technology was apparent, particularly when course instructor Mark Isaacs temporarily turned off the technology!

Although the majority of students represent majors across the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), several students are enrolled outside the college, selecting this elective to expand their knowledge of agriculture. For most of the students, the visit to Hoober, Inc. was their first time inside a tractor cab. Students learned that the investment a farmer makes in one tractor is significant, typically beginning at $250,000. A combine with two optional harvesting components, such as a corn or soybean head, can raise a grower’s investment to nearly to half a million.

One of the objectives of AGRI 130 is to expose students to the multitude of career opportunities available in the agricultural industry. Throughout the course, students hear from guest lecturers and tour guides who share their personal decisions and pathways that led them to their specific career choices in agriculture. In Delaware, agriculture is the leading economic driver in the First State with revenues of $8 billion contributed annually.

Mark outside as students listen
Mark Isaacs, left, David Wharry and Brian Lam, far right, provided an overview of the various equipment used in the agriculture industry before students climbed aboard the red giants.

Hoober, Inc. provided a sprayer and a tractor, each equipped with GPS “Auto-Steer” technology that allows a grower to map out their field or path on the farm. Co-piloting the Patriot sprayer was Brian Lam, a precision agriculture technician at Hoober, Inc.

Matthew poses alongside a red sprayer
Timothy Mulderrig poses alongside his ride of the day, a Case 4430 Patriot sprayer.

Mark Isaacs assisted students inside the Magnum tractor. While others waited their turn driving  their choice of a tractor or sprayer,  Dave Wharry, precision agriculture specialist demonstrated a drone and discussed the many uses of this technology in the day-to-day operation of a successful farm.

Adriana poses insde a tractor
Adriana Valentin is ready to take off inside the cab of a Case Magnum tractor.

Sprayers like the Patriot 4430 seen below,  are elevated to clear crops while spraying. The boom sections on each side are extended wide before the operator releases the the contents stored along the sides. Advances in GPS technology allow farmers to control exact amounts to spray and track exactly where they spray, therefore avoiding overlapping applications.

Hunter Sever inside a sprayer

A few steps up the ladder and students were ready to roll in their giant red rides!

Male student inside a tractor cab
John Schmidt, AS student majoring in English, inside the cab of a Case Magnum tractor.
Eric stands in front of a Case Phantom sprayer
Eric Albiez stands in front of the Case Patriot sprayer he drove at Hoober, Inc.

This is the fourth year Hoober, Inc. has partnered with the University of Delaware to give students first-hand observations of the significant investment farmers make when purchasing these technology-driven machines. In turn, a farm operation realizes tangible progress in productivity as well as achieve environmental stewardship best practices.

A special thanks to our hosts Dave Wharry (in his new UD shirt) and Brian Lam posing with Mark Isaacs and his class. Hoober’s also provided each student with a hat. With their new experience and looking the part, they are ready for their next tractor ride!

Class photo outside the showroom of Hoober, Inc.
AGRI 130 class photo at Hoober, Inc., in Middletown.

AGRI 130’s final tour on November 10, will be to the Webb Farm at the University of Delaware with UD host Scott Hopkins.

Article and photos by Michele Walfred

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 Smithsonian.com.

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.


“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” class visits Fifer Orchards

Fifer Orchards in Camden-Wyoming, Kent County served as destination for Understanding Today’s Agriculture‘s (AGRI 130) second class tour. A fourth-generation family farm with approximately 3,000 acres in production, Fifer’s diverse operation offered students a close-up examination of how one family’s strategy in the management of a multi-tiered agriculture operation has evolved and grown into one of Delaware’s most successful agriculture businesses.

On this tour, students observed retail and wholesale agribusiness, community engagement through agritourism, the development of community supported agriculture  (CSA), the considerations the family makes with regard to crop selection and production, management of farm labor, implementation of technology, and challenges with weather and disease pressures.

Bobby Fifer climbed inside the UD bus and welcomed students to his family’s farm. As the bus lumbered through the dirt roads, Fifer explained his primary role in the family business is to oversee agronomic production decisions and management.

Bobby Fifer talks to students inside bus

After touring high tunnel tomato production (no longer in production), the bus stopped at a field where cold-weather crops such as kale and cauliflower are currently in production.  Fifer explained that weather factored as the biggest challenge during the 2018 growing season. One student asked, “What is the biggest pest you deal with?” and Fifer’s  emphatic one-word answer: “rain.”

Bus drives to production fields of kale and cauliflower

Farm laborers continually monitor the crops and remove yellowed leaves, seen on the ground.

close up of kale growing on farm

A field of cauliflower looks healthy and just beginning to flower.

Field of cauliflowers

Fifer took questions from students. He explained one of the challenges his family faces, besides weather and the related disease pressure, is deciding what crops will be planted for the following year and how much acreage will be devoted to a particular crop. Fifer also considers which crops aren’t worth pursuing, and where crops should be rotated. A priority are pumpkins and sweet corn which are the farm’s most successful crops by production acre. Tomatoes grown in high tunnel and strawberries in plasticulture rows are also a mainstay crop. The farm also produces asparagus, peaches and apples. Grain is grown as a rotation crop.

Through the bus windows, students watched strawberries planted in rows covered by plastic. The tractor, guided by GPS, is adapted as a transplanter with a conveyor belt and seating for 5-6 laborers who punch young strawberry plants through slits in the rows of plastic, known as plasticulture. The plastic reduces weeds and protects water fed through drip irrigation from evaporation.

A tractor, guided by GPS pulls a wagon carrying a half a dozen laborers who plant stawberries in holes punctured in plastic rows

Thousands of future strawberries speckle rows of plasticulture. Technological advances help farmers practice better stewardship of the land by managing water and weather more effectively. Strawberries are an important and profitable crop for Fifer Orchards.

rows of plasticulture with newly planted strawberries

Following the bus tour, Fifer guided students through the cold storage area. Here, in addition to retail sales, commercial production takes over. Another brother, Kurt Fifer, handles all the farm’s wholesale and commercial business. Labor management, logistics, overseeing FSMSA (Food Safety Management Act) and all government regulations falls under Kurt Fifer’s family role.

students inside cold storage listen to Bobby Fifer

Bobby explains the difference in broccoli quality. The family sells its produce commercially, through its retail store and through community supported agriculture or CSAs. CSAs, essentially a subscription service, delivers seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables to convenient locations throughout the state where they are picked up by subscriber customers. The success of CSAs are one way Fifer Orchards can distribute local agriculture without the costly investment in brick and mortar stores.

Bobby Fifer holds up broccoli grown on farm

Below, Kurt Fifer talks to students outside the packing house and barn. Both brothers recognize that climate change exists and manage their decisions accordingly. For now, warmer temperatures extend the farm’s growing season. Fifer’s fruits and vegetables reach from Florida to Maine and as far west as the Mississippi River. Fifer explained that logistics remains a challenge and suggested solving that problem would be an excellent career opportunity.

Fifer’s supplies national grocery stores such as Wegman’s, Giant, Whole Foods, Walmart, Harris Teeter, and local stores such as Lloyds IGA, Hocker’s Market, Janssen’s Market and several regional farm stands and local farmers’ markets. Because their business is seasonal, with six months out of production, retaining full-time staff is not practical. The Fifer’s rely on regular part-time staff such as students and retirees looking for additional income.

Kurt-Fifer talks to students outside commercial packing and loading area

Fifer’s first cousin Mike Fennemore, busy with the launch of Fifer’s Fall Festival, leads all of Fifer Orchard’s communication and marketing initiatives with community engagement and retail sales.  His team’s efforts include the expansion of their successful country store,  the growth of CSAs in the community, the development and expansion of community events such as the popular Fall Festival, which includes a new corn maze every year, and other attractions.  He and his team oversee all social media outreach on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. In difficult weather years like 2018, diversifying into agritourism is a proven and sound financial practice. Another Fifer brother, David, handles all the farm infrastructure, equipment repair and engineering needs.

entrance to Fall Festival corn maze area

In autumn, Fifer’s ample grounds and parking lot transforms into picnic areas, a bandstand, a gallery of local vendors and food trucks, and crates of gourds and pumpkins for sale. Pumpkins are one of Fifer’s most profitable crops.

Exterior view of Fifer Orchards retail store and pumpkins for sale

Specialty pumpkins, like these small white decor favorites, are not grown on the farm, but brought in as a value-added product for customers.

bins of small white pumpkins for sale

Inside the country store, home grown and locally grown produce, as well as value-added canned and baked goods are for sale.

inside of Fifer's country store

Jannelle Hayward, one of many  University of Delaware AGRI 130 customers on this Saturday, happily holds up her purchases! In addition to homemade Fifer Orchards’ apple cider, fresh baked apple cider doughnuts proved a popular choice in the store.

Bobby Fifer, far left and Kurt Fifer, far right, pose with University of Delaware AGRI 130 students. The Fifer family has welcomed University of Delaware CANR students for all four years of the class, typically during one of the busiest seasons of their family farm operation! We appreciate their time offered. The students gained insights into how multiple members of the family divide their roles, communicate, and plan ahead for the following season. They learned the family meets several times a year to  evaluate and assess what works, what doesn’t, and how to better serve their local and national customers. Establishing well-defined roles within the family is a key to their success.

Class picture at Fifer Orchard

Next field trip is Oct. 19 at Hoober, Inc. in Middletown where students will learn about precision agriculture equipment and even drive a tractor!

Story and photos: Michele Walfred

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

“Understanding Today’s Agriculture” students tour Delmarva poultry farm

Twenty-one students from “Understanding Today’s Agriculture” (AGRI 130) toured an organic poultry farm on Delmarva. The visit was the first of four Saturday field trips scheduled this semester. AGRI 130 is taught by Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. He teaches from both Newark and Georgetown, alternately connecting from each campus through Polycom ITV-equipped classrooms, a high definition, distance technology that connects via IP addresses and uses multiple screens with the capacity to share and record video, computer screens and other media.

Now in its fourth year, the course includes four agriculture field trips that expose students to diverse career possibilities and provide an opportunity to network with agriculture professionals. Georgie Cartanza, Extension poultry agent, led the first tour and provided an overview of the poultry industry in the region and the unique challenges and rewards for poultry growers.

Students arrived at the poultry house in Kent County, DE on Sept. 22. The family-owned farm maintains four poultry houses, 65 feet wide and 600 feet long, retrofitted to be Global Animal Partnership (GAP) certified as an organic farm. When occupied, each house contains 37,000 broiler chickens. This single farm is responsible for feeding 59,808 individual’s consumption of chicken for one year, providing 780,000 families one rotisserie chicken meal.

Around the entire perimeter of the farm two rows of trees act as vegetative environmental buffers (VEB), serving as a dust and odor filter and as they grow and beautify the property.

students sit outside and listen to Georgie Cartanza's overview of poultryl

Cartanza explained that steroids and hormone use in all commercial poultry production is illegal. In this organic farm, all birds are raised without antibiotics. Anything around or provided to the poultry must be certified organic.

The addition of tunnel fans, seen in the background, ushered a key innovation for maintaining comfortable temperatures inside each house.

Cartanza refers to a lecture poster stating that steroids and hormone use in poultry is illegal

As a biosecurity measure, all visitors to poultry farms must wear protective gear such as overalls, hairnets and shoe coverings. This measure prevents humans from tracking in contaminants which could harm the chickens. Delaware’s adherence to strict biosecurity measures has paid off with no serious disease incidences since 2004.

Danielle Mikolajewski, Morgan Chambers, Sam Moran and Morgan Tesznar suited up and are ready to examine the details of poultry production.

Three students wearing protective overalls and hairnets pose before entering the poultry house

Photo of blue plastic "booties" or shoe coverings.

Before going inside the house, the class posed for a photo.

The class poses with their protective gear before entering inside the poultry houses

Timothy Mulderring and Taylor Nuneviller gave the thumbs-up before their first visit inside a commercial, organic poultry house. In front is Matthew Nemeth, and in the back is Christian Riggen.

Two students give a "thumbs up" as they get ready to go inside a house"

As they approached the houses, students observed the access doors, watering vessels and shade structures required in order for poultry growers to be designated as a GAP and certified organic.  Inside the house, the broiler chickens climb ramps and explore boxes and peck at small bales of straw for enjoyment.

Exterior of poultry house showing shade tunnels

As the students approach a recently vacated house, wooden structures known as “enrichments” are removed for cleaning. These structures serve as playground equipment,  ramps, bully boxes, toys and items of interest for birds to explore. These enrichments are part of the GAP requirements for certification.

Students walk toward the poultry house

This broiler chicken decided to exit one of 15 exterior doors and check out the visiting Blue Hens! Despite outdoor access provided every 30 feet, most broiler chickens prefer to remain inside the poultry house. Each house also features 26 windows which provides natural light for the chickens.

A broiler chicken exits a door to go outside

Students visited both an occupied and recently vacated house (shown below). Georgie Cartanza explained how the house temperature is maintained at a comfortable level for the broiler chickens through a tunnel ventilation system. During the peak summer heat, the inside of the house is typically 20 degrees cooler.  Air enters one end of the house via large evaporation cooling pads and the cooled air is pulled through the house by large tunnel ventilation fans located at the opposite end of the house.

Members of the class enter an empty poultry house

Anna Riley holds a broiler chicken near its full market weight of 7 pounds. Maxwell Huhn looks on as Cassidy Best prepares her smartphone camera.

Anna Riley holds a broiler chicken

The students took poultry portraits of each other.

Students take pictures of each other holding the broiler chicken

Christian Riggen poses outside with Extension poultry agent Georgie Cartanza.

Student poses with a chicken and Georgie Cartanza

Delaware agriculture is the largest economic driver to the state, with nearly $8 billion contributed to the state’s annual income. The poultry industry, Cartanza explained, drives nearly 70 percent of that economy, either directly, or indirectly through corn, soybean and grain production.

Students asks questions of Ms. Cartanza

AGRI 130 students asked pointed questions and took notes during the visit. Cartanza said that a commitment to animal welfare is a high priority for all poultry growers. Technological advances in house construction and innovations in energy control and monitoring allow farms like this one to be maintained full-time with only two individuals.  Energy costs are a persistent challenge for growers. With the decision to convert to growing only organic chickens, this farm accepted the higher costs of retrofitting the houses to meet strict organic standards, as well as incurring the higher cost and carbon footprint to obtain organic feed. Since the U.S. does not produce enough organic grain to meet demand, organic poultry ingredients are imported from Argentina and Turkey.

Consumer demand for organically-raised poultry is increasing and provides this farm family with a higher return for its investment.

After the visit, the class removed their protective gear and posed for another class picture before saying goodbye.

AGRI130 class without protective gear

AGRI 130’s next class trip is on Oct. 6, to Fifer’s Orchard in Camden Wyoming.

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.

The Art of Scientific Publishing with Harold Drake

Scientific journals have very high rejection rates — 75 percent or greater. The transformation of a manuscript into a published paper is a major challenge. Learn the logistics of publishing in scientific journals and approaches for minimizing perils from expert editor Harold Drake, Chair of the Department of Ecological Microbiology at the University of Bayreuth in Germany and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology (AEM). AEM has a broad interdisciplinary profile and is the number one cited journal in microbiology and biotechnology. AEM is published by the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) which publishes many journals in various fields of microbiology, including virology, immunology, and clinical microbiology.

Support from private and public sector provides key experiences for UD student internships

This summer, Mark Isaacs, director of the University of Delaware Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, coordinated strategic internships for 10 students in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). The disciplines spanned all four of the college’s departments, Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), Applied Economic and Statistics (APEC), and Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC).

“I am extremely excited about the partnerships with allied industries and government agencies in providing work-based learning opportunities and resources to enrich the professional development of our amazing CANR students,” Isaacs said.

Many of the students meet Isaacs through his fall class, Understanding Today’s Agriculture (AGRI 130). In the introductory undergraduate course, he continually stresses of the value of networking and securing diverse internship opportunities to build upon classroom learning.

Each year the intern list grows. Isaacs credits the CANR faculty and staff and an ever-expanding list of industry leaders who are eager to provide specialized, hands-on learning. In 2018, four agricultural organizations each funded five UD students: Willard Agri-Service, Perdue Agri-Business, National Chicken Council and Bayer Crop Sciences (formerly Monsanto), Cooperative Extension’s Extension Scholar Program, Sussex County Council and Carvel rounded out the remaining funding.

Tailored internships for each student

Samantha Cotten, a sophomore at the Associate of Arts Program in Georgetown, wanted entomology experience. Funded by Sussex County Council, Isaacs arranged an interview for Cotten with David Owens, extension specialist in entomology. After securing the internship, she worked alongside her mentor, examining spider mite colonies on watermelon, soybeans and bred spider mites for research. She also studied aphid populations in watermelons and peppers, and analyzed the effectiveness of different pesticides for controlling pests on multiple crops.

1.Associate of Arts Program sophomore Samantha Cotten evaluates control of aphids in watermelons.
Associate of Arts Program sophomore Samantha Cotten evaluates control of aphids in watermelons.

“Dr. Owens opened my eyes to so many possibilities,” Cotten said. “There is so much information that comes in and it just sticks with you.”

Cotten plans to transfer into the Insect Ecology and Conservation major as a junior.

Jenell Eck, an Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) major, worked at the National Chicken Council (NCC) in Washington, D.C. as a communications intern. With a second major in Communication and a minor in Environmental Soil Science, Eck sought out experiences that combined her academic interests. She received hands-on experience in public relations working on website and social media.

Jenell Eck poses outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where she attended hearings on Capitol Hill as part of her communications internship.
Jenell Eck poses outside of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where she attended hearings on Capitol Hill as part of her communications internship.

Eck promoted the poultry industry at lobbyist organizations, attended hearings on Capitol Hill and interacted with agriculture-sector professionals. Eck also attended weekly lunch meeting with other agriculture interns.

“My advice to other students it to wait it and see what is right,” Eck said. “I had another opportunity in front of me, but it didn’t feel right so I stuck to my gut and gave it up for only a better experience to come.”

Pre-veterinary medicine seniors Kaitlin Gorrell and Caroline Gibson based their internships at Lasher Lab and performed rotations with Delaware’s state veterinarians  as well as small and large animal and poultry veterinarians. Isaacs arranged for the pair to work alongside Dan Bautista, Lasher’s poultry veterinarian and Lasher staff. They performed necropsies on chickens and disease surveillance procedures like Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the Charm Kidney Inhibition Swab (KIS) test for antibiotic resistance in chickens. They also performed various poultry vaccine trials in the colony houses at the Carvel Center.

Caroline Gibson and Kaitlin Gorrell based their Animal and Food Science internship at Lasher Lab in Georgetown, where they conducted disease surveillance testing and necropsies with Lasher staff.
Caroline Gibson and Kaitlin Gorrell based their Animal and Food Science internship at Lasher Lab in Georgetown, where they conducted disease surveillance testing and necropsies with Lasher staff.

Gorrell’s internship also included Cooperative Extension outreach, an experience she found surprising and rewarding. She worked alongside and Nancy Mears, extension educator in family and consumer science to roll out community health initiatives such as Delaware Fit Biz, a SNAP-Ed funded worksite pilot program. Gorrell also co-planned the Sussex County Health Coalition Kid’s Health Fair, extension outreach at the Delaware State Fair and a health fair for the Developmental Disabilities Council members.

“My time with Nancy has shown me ways I can integrate veterinary medicine and education, which are two things I have always been passionate about,” noted Gorrell.

Jamie Taraila’s internship at the Delaware Department of Agriculture expanded her knowledge of agriculture in the First State and empowered her with new methods to advocate for agriculture.
Jamie Taraila’s internship at the Delaware Department of Agriculture expanded her knowledge of agriculture in the First State and empowered her with new methods to advocate for agriculture.

Jamie Taraila is a ANR senior with minors in Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Animal Science and wanted to round out her experience in marketing and advocating for agriculture. Isaacs arranged for Taraila to serve as a communications intern with the Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) in Dover, working with Chief of Communications Stacey Hofmann. Taraila honed her digital photography, videography, social media and video editing skills, and produced pieces for social media and the Delaware State Fair.

Taraila shadowed most of the sections within DDA, witnessing their efforts to educate the public about the spotted lanternfly, a serious invasive insect threatening plants and trees in the northeast. Taraila attended a bill signing at Legislative Hall, witnessed the implementation of the new Senior CItizen Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, toured a local butcher/slaughterhouse, learned about Delaware’s noxious weeds, and tested milkfat content from local creameries as part of DDA’s Weights and Measures section.

“This internship helped reinforce my passion to ‘agvocate,’” emphasized Taraila. “I learned about so many great and important things that are happening in agriculture. I passionately believe that the broader public should learn how vital agriculture is in people’s lives.”

Parker Magness, ANR senior was placed and funded by Willard Agri-Service in York, PA.  Magness worked with the crop protection and fertilizer division under the mentorship of David Hertel. His main task was scouting corn and soybeans for different pests affecting mid-Atlantic crops. Magness has been asked to stay on this fall conducting soil tests for nutrient management plans.

Magness was placed and funded by Willard Agri-Service in York.
Magness was placed and funded by Willard Agri-Service in York.

“Although I came into this internship with a background in farming, I learned much more than I expected to, such as slug damage on corn,” Magness revealed. “I was surprised how much interaction I had with crop producers on a daily basis.”

Parker O’Day, an APEC junior and David Townsend, a ANR/plant science senior, worked with mentor Scott Raubenstine at Perdue Agri-business. Both students gained exposure through various divisions within the company including specialty crops (malted barley and rapeseed), compost, marketing and sales.

Summer Thomas, pictured with mentor Emmalea Ernest (left) and Mark Isaacs (right) presented an overview of her Extension Scholar
Summer Thomas, pictured with mentor Emmalea Ernest (left) and Mark Isaacs (right) presented an overview of her Extension Scholar experience at UD’s Undergraduate Research Program Symposium in August.

Summer Thomas served as an Extension Scholar and worked on several projects with her mentor, Emmalea Ernest, extension associate scientist in Carvel’s fruit and vegetable program. Thomas worked with crops such as lima beans, tomatoes, peppers, string beans and lettuce – investigating the effect of heat stress on yields. Crops were grown under different colored shade cloths. Thomas collected data, measuring the temperatures under the tents as well as a control without shade protection. Thomas observed Ernest evaluating different breeding lines of lima beans for heat tolerance, disease, nematode resistance and yield.

While most of her time was spent out in fields, Thomas did have the chance to receive some heat relief of her own. Inside in the kitchen area of Carvel’s plant laboratory, she and Ernest tested sugars and acidity of blueberry fruit grown in research trials. Thomas also worked on the Weekly Crop Update, a publication sent to farmers during the growing season.

ANR senior Alex Winward spent 11 weeks at Bayer Crop Research’s station in Galena, MD, an opportunity Isaacs arranged. Winward worked closely with agronomic research manager and weed specialist Sandeep Rana. Winward mixed chemical applications, sprayed applications, and rated trials for herbicide effectiveness among other processes. He gained experience with field equipment such as the facility’s CO2 backpack sprayer and booms. Winward also collected data with Plot Walker software. Toward the end of the summer, Rana shared a graph representing the outstanding accuracy of their ratings work, giving Winward a sense of pride that his contribution was helpful for the assessment scientists.

Alex Windward poses outside Bayer Crop Science’s research center (formerly Monsanto) in Galena, MD, where he spent 11 weeks this summer and was asked to return for additional employment.
Alex Winward poses outside Bayer Crop Science’s research center (formerly Monsanto) in Galena, MD, where he spent 11 weeks this summer and was asked to return for additional employment.

“I was thrilled when management at the station asked me to continue working part-time through the harvest season,”  emphasized Winward

In addition to internships for UD students, Carvel staff members Jarrod Miller, extension agronomist and Shawn Tingle, extension associate in nutrient management mentored Jordan Marvel, a production agriculture major at Delaware Tech Owens Campus in Georgetown. This internship fulfills Sussex County Council’s requirement that an internship be awarded to a Sussex County resident.

About the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center

The Carvel Center serves as the southern agriculture experiment station for CANR and encompasses the 347-acre Thurman Adams Jr. research farm,the 120-acre Warrington Irrigation Research Farm, Lasher Laboratory (poultry diagnostics), the Jones Hamilton Environmental Poultry Research House and is home to Sussex County Cooperative Extension. Courses such as Isaacs’s AGRI 130 are taught in classrooms equipped with distance technology simultaneously reaching students in Georgetown and Newark. As such, the Carvel Center is a hub for research, outreach, teaching, and networking with stakeholders, growers, government and allied agriculture industries addressing fruit, vegetable and agronomic crop production; irrigation; nutrient management and integrated pest management. Carvel’s staff of faculty, researchers, extension agents and specialists customize the internships and personally mentor students at the facility, making the Carvel Center a unique campus venue to support specialized strategic internships.

Garden serving veterans more than just produce

The Home of the Brave isn’t just a verse in the national anthem, it’s also a home for homeless vets in Milford. And on the property is a community garden that’s doing much more than just supplementing vets diets.47 ABC — The Home of the Brave isn’t just a verse in the national anthem, it’s also a home for homeless vets in Milford. And on the property is a community garden that’s doing much more than just supplementing vets diets. It’s supplying new opportunities to the heroes who live there.

We’re told most of the vegetables before the garden was planted was canned goods. But now, veterans can go out the door and pick fresh home-grown veggies. Watch the video and read the full article.

Homecoming 5K

Runners get ready to take off at the University of Delaware Homecoming 5K. Lace up your sneakers for a run through South Campus. The fast and flat course weaves through the Nelson Athletic Complex and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. All members of the community are invited to participate. Whether it’s your first 5K or your 50th, you’ll have a great time being active with fellow Blue Hens. Register online.

Before or after the race, visit the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources display, featuring a produce display, greenhouse plants and the Center of Experiential and Applied Economics research tuk tuk.

UD researchers help area golf courses choose plants for out of play areas

UD graduate student John Kaszan works on a plot of ground to help area golf courses superintendents choose the native plants they use on areas that are out of play or naturalized.When Erik Ervin arrived at the University of Delaware in January of 2018, one of the first people to reach out to him was Jon Urbanski, who serves as the golf course superintendent for Bidermann Golf Course in Wilmington.

Urbanski was interested in organizing a group of golf superintendents to meet with Ervin, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, to see how UD might be able to help local golf courses.

Now, Ervin and graduate student John Kaszan (pictured above), are working with Bidermann Golf Course to make conservation management decisions with regards to planting a meadow comprised of native plants in the golf course’s out of play and naturalized areas. Read the full article on UDaily.

Alumnus Curtis Bennett works to inspire the next generation of environmental conservationists

Photo from the harbor of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. University of Delaware alumnus Curtis Bennett’s safe space has always been nature. Whether exploring in his back yard or participating in nature camps at local parks as a kid, his interest grew into a passion and that passion turned into a career.

Bennett serves as the Director of Conservation Community Engagement at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, and works to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. He also works outside of the aquarium in the City of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay watershed and nationally to empower conservation actions. Read the full article on UDaily.

Beverage Career Choices Day

The University of Delaware will hold “Beverage Career Choices Day” on Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Perkins Student Center. Industry professionals will include authorities on the business and crafting of beer, wine, spirits, coffee and other beverages.

“This effort was inspired by the exciting range of beverage careers. Students might not be aware of the diverse career opportunities. The best way for them to understand the industry is to meet professionals across diverse areas and who are at different points in their careers,” explained Professor Pamela Green, who teaches The Science of Wine (PLSC 128).

The format includes short talks, small group sessions, lunch, a discussion on UD course offerings and a networking reception. Advance registration is required.

The event is a collaboration between the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The colleges offer a joint minor in beverage management, which is open to all majors.

Collage of beverage industry work samples

The event is not a career fair; it’s an information-gathering and networking opportunity for students. Professionals will discuss their career journeys, offer advice, discuss industry trends and field questions.

Beverage industry professionals will include:


  • Brian Hollinger, VP of Operations, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Inc., Milton, DE
  • Justin Sproul, Regional Brewing Manager, Iron Hill Brewery, Wilmington, DE
  • Brian Vanderslice, Quality Assurance Manager, Flying Fish Brewing Co., Somerdale, NJ
  • Keith Symonds, Head Brewer and Brewing Consultant, Lucky’s 1313 Brew Pub, Madison, WI


  • Roger Morris, Fulltime freelance writer in wine and food, travel, culture, Wilmington, DE
  • Michele Souza, Division Director, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits, New Castle, DE
  • Ryan Frederickson, Founder, ArT Wine Preservation, Chicago, IL
  • Kevin Battisfore, National Account Manager, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Minneapolis, MN
  • Kristi Bowen, Director of Recruitment, E. & J. Gallo Winery, Tampa, FL

Spirits, coffee and other beverages

  • Michael Rasmussen, Owner, Painted Stave Distilling, Smyrna, DE
  • David Mendez, Vice President, WB Law Coffee Company, Newark, NJ
  • Katherine Fonte, Sales District Leader, PepsiCo, Philadelphia, PA
  • Nicole George, Sales Operations Manager, PepsiCo, Philadelphia, PA
  • Jeffrey Cheskin, Co-Founder, Liquid Alchemy Beverages, Wilmington, DE


Jake Bowman reflects on 17 years of deer research at UD

When Jake Bowman came to the University of Delaware 17 years ago after getting his doctorate from Mississippi State University, he encountered a problem with regards to deer research that he had never experienced before. Not only did some of the people he talked to have no idea about the number of deer in the area, some of them even thought that the animals were endangered.

UD Prof. Jake Bowman learned early that many people in Delaware were unaware of the deer population in the state.“That was kind of like a ‘Wow’ moment for me. I’m at a place where people don’t realize that deer are as abundant as they were in colonial times so it was kind of like, we need to do some things [to raise awareness],” said Bowman, chair for the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology

Read the full article on UDaily.


Jeffrey Caplan (left), UD associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and post-doctoral researcher Kun Huang, are part of a $3.5 million NSF grant to understand how pollen develops in plants, such as corn.

Food security under changing climate

UD part of $3.5 million NSF-funded study to improve key crop resilience

Jeffrey Caplan (left), UD associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and post-doctoral researcher Kun Huang, are part of a $3.5 million NSF grant to understand how pollen develops in plants, such as corn.
Jeffrey Caplan (left), UD associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and post-doctoral researcher Kun Huang, are part of a $3.5 million NSF grant to understand how pollen develops in plants, such as corn.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers from the University of Delaware, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and Stanford University have been awarded a four-year, $3.5 million National Science Foundation grant to address concerns about reduced harvests of corn and other cereal grasses.

The project will focus on understanding the small ribonucleic acid (RNA) pathways involved in anther development and crop development when plants are challenged by adverse environmental conditions. Small RNAs are tiny messengers that carry genetic information inside living cells, in this case anthers—the site of pollen development in plants.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, grains such as wheat, corn and rice grown in the United States account for roughly 25 percent of all grains worldwide. Changes to climate, including the frequency and intensity of extreme weather, are expected to impact crop yields at a time when the planet’s population — and the demand for food — is rising.

The collaborative effort brings together expertise in plant genomics and targeted genetic changes; cutting-edge imaging techniques; and bioinformatics, the science of collecting and analyzing complex biological data, with a focus on developmental biology to meet the demands of producing more nutritious food in climates with higher temperatures.

Jeffrey Caplan, UD associate professor of plant and soil sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is a co-principal investigator on the project, which is led by Blake Meyers, a member of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center and professor in the University of Missouri’s Division of Plant Sciences. The work is a continuation of a previous NSF study Meyers began while chair of UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Caplan and his collaborators will investigate the life cycle and functions of a class of RNAs that support anther development in grass flowers, which are flowers that are pollinated by wind, eliminating the need for eye-catching petals to attract insects. Anthers are critical in the reproduction of flowering plants because they are the site of pollen development and contain the sperm cells necessary for reproduction. In corn, also known as maize, anthers are located on the whispy tassels found at the top of the cornstalk. Prior research has demonstrated that anther development will often stall or fail under high temperatures, leaving the plants sterile or with reduced fertility, thus decreasing the harvest.

Backstory on corn

Anthers are particularly important to the production of hybrid corn seed. Hybrid corn seed differs from naturally pollinated corn seed in that it is produced by cross-pollinating plants and its use has contributed to increases in agricultural production in the 20th century. Corn is one of the most important crops in global agriculture, in part because of the widespread use of hybrid seeds that have high yields.

Knowledge gained from this research can also be extended to wheat and barley, two important cereal grains.

“A more detailed understanding of the molecular basis of pollen development and male fertility enables improvements in seed production, including hybrid seeds; in the grasses, hybrid corn and rice have significantly boosted world food production,” Meyers said. “Outcomes could include new genetic pathways for more precise control of male fertility and plants with fertility that is more resilient to distressed environments.”

Prior work demonstrated that these small RNAs are required for robust male fertility under even slightly stressful temperature changes. The project focuses on corn anthers because of the ease of staging and dissection, the numerous developmental mutants with cloned genes and the importance of understanding male fertility to the production of hybrid corn seed.

Imaging as a critical component of the work

Caplan’s role in the project will be to determine where these small RNAs are localized within the anther using advanced imaging techniques. Specifically, his team’s work will shed light on where these small RNAs are processed and expressed within each cell, and where they are located within the different tissue layers of the anther over time.

Caplan’s group has developed a method to produce a full 3D rendering of the whole anther, allowing the researchers to visualize the distribution of these small RNAs over the crop’s development.

“Anthers on corn are small in size but they have this beautiful organization that develops as different small RNAs are expressed at various times during the anther’s development,” said Caplan, who also directs the bioimaging center at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute, located near UD’s Newark campus. “Imaging can help visualize and quantify these small RNA developments in relation to other things happening within the cell, and inform understanding of how these small RNAs regulate pollen development.”

The research project will also include training of students in plant and computational biology via continued integration with long-running and successful undergraduate and high school internship programs.

About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center

Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Photo illustration by Christian Derr

What Do Ducks Hear? And Why Do We Care?

Photo of two baby ducks swimming in water for hearing frequency test.Scientists from the University of Delaware have created a hearing test for ducks. The New York Times put together a video to illustrate what Kate McGrew, a masters student in wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, was able to find out and why this may up saving the lives of countless ducks.

Why should we care? “This was no frivolous inquiry. Sea ducks, like the ones she trained, dive to catch their prey in oceans around the world and are often caught unintentionally in fish nets and killed.”

Read more about these sea ducks here.

Summer Scholar Amelia Griffith looks for ways to defend key global food source

Amelia Griffith is a biochemistry major from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.

Driven to Discover Summer Scholars at UD image

Q: What are you studying, where and with whom?

Griffith: I am doing research on rice in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, working with Professors Angelia Seyfferth and Nicole Donofrio. The project I am working on looks at two naturally occurring stresses on rice – arsenic uptake and rice blast fungus – and how they interact simultaneously.

Q: What is it about this topic that interests you?

Griffith: I have been interested in plant science research because I have always liked plants and it involves applied biochemistry. I think plants and crops are important in considering the sustainability of people and our planet. With the growing human population, it has become more and more important to develop better ways of feeding people and increasing crop yields. I think it is also important to be able to do this with minimal impact on the earth. This is something I would like to work on in the future.

Q: What is a typical day like?

Griffith: Since I have been working on this project for about a year, I have done many different things, depending on where I was in the project. This summer I have mainly been working on doing quantitative polymerase chain reactions (qPCR) to quantify and compare the expression of particular stress genes to see how the different treatments of arsenic, nutrients, and infection affect the health of the plants. On a typical day this summer, I do a qPCR reaction in the morning and after lunch I wash some dishes in the lab and do some data analysis of my qPCR results.

Q: What is the coolest thing you’ve gotten to do on the project?

Griffith: The coolest thing I’ve gotten to do on this project is probably confocal imaging. Last year I grew rice hydroponically and at different times I took leaf segments from each treatment and drop-inoculated the leaves with the rice blast fungus. The next day after the inoculation, I took the leaves to the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI) to use the confocal microscope there. We were able to take extremely magnified pictures of the leaf segments and see the fungus infection in the cells. Even though it did not work as well as we wanted it to, it was still an interesting process and I got some cool pictures of the rice.

Q: What has surprised you most about your experience?

Griffith: I was most surprised with how much trial and error was involved in research. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and a lot of things don’t work out the way they are expected to. On this project, I have spent a lot of time troubleshooting, particularly with confocal imaging and qPCR. However, a lot of times with the help of others in the labs and with experience, I was able to get better results.

Q: Dreaming big, where do you hope this work could lead?

Griffith: I hope that this research will help me gain lab experience and help me get into graduate school. I am currently looking for master’s programs in plant breeding and genetics. I think I would like to continue research in plant science in the future, perhaps working in industry. I hope to someday help develop a way of making crops and food healthier and more readily available to people worldwide.

Q: If you had to summarize your experience in only one word, what would it be?

Griffith: Stimulating.

Q: What do you enjoy when you are not doing this kind of work?

Griffith: I enjoy Zumba, camping, hiking and spending time with my friends, family and beagle.

Article by Beth Miller
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Video by Jason Hinmon
Published on UDaily on August 24, 2018

Ilvento visits with Bay Area Applied Economics and Statistics alumni

California Alumni Photo for Applied EconomicsIn July, Tom Ilvento, chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, traveled to the Bay Area to visit with alumni. During his stay, he visited with Blue Hens ranging from 1975 to 2016 graduates. To culminate the week, several alumni hosted an event in Milpitas to show their gratitude to Ilvento for leading the program and impacting their lives; attending alumni included:

  • Na He, Ph.D., ’07
  • Yilin Yang, ’14
  • Zhuo Liu, ’12
  • Junling Ji, ’09
  • Lianfang Xiao, ’03
  • Yijun Zhou, ’15
  • Liangzhen Du, ’15
  • Fei He, ’09
  • Yue Zeng, ’10
  • Lei Tian, ’09
  • Xi Liu, ‘14

Kelly Davidson New Professor Profile

Could you give a little background information about yourself? 

I’m an Assistant Professor of Applied Economics, and I teach courses in Food and Agribusiness Marketing and Management. My interest in this field started at the University of Kentucky, where I completed my undergraduate and masters degrees in Agricultural Economics. I’m a huge wildcats fan, but I’m actually from Ohio. I grew up on a farm in northwest Ohio and I moved to Kentucky in high school.

In undergrad, I also studied French and international economics, and I had opportunities to work and study abroad during summer semesters. I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in Applied Economics, but I took a break between my master’s and PhD. I worked in Hawaii for two years for the National Marine Fisheries Service. It was great. Then I taught agribusiness at the University of Tennessee at Martin for two years and then recently completed my PhD at the University of Florida.

Kelly Davidson New Professor ProfileWhat did you study for your PhD?

I studied Food and Resource Economics. My focus was on behavioral economics and food choice. I conducted an experiment to explore the impacts of behavioral nudges and participatory trainings on nutrition and healthy food choices in Bangladesh.

When did you arrive at UD?

Just a couple of weeks ago. I finished my PhD in December of 2017 and then I continued teaching for a semester at the University of Florida. I arrived in Newark at the end of July and I officially started at UD August first.

What are your impressions of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, the college and the University as a whole?

It’s impressive. It feels like home already. I’m excited about the high caliber of research, teaching and extension that is central to UD. It seems like there are a lot of great initiatives in all three pillars, and everyone has been super friendly and welcoming.

What will your focus be here at UD?

I’ll still be working on behavioral economics and food choice. I want to shift my focus a bit to explore nutrition interventions in the United States, particularly among low-income consumers, and to conduct research that informs food assistance policies. But I also still plan to occasionally explore ways behavioral economics can inform policy in developing countries.

You grew up on a farm and have an agriculture background, did that inform your agricultural economics interest?

Definitely. I chose my major as an undergrad because I liked math and I loved agriculture. We had a grain and cattle farm and I was in FFA as a kid and showed hogs and cattle at the county fair. I’m sure the experience of keeping farm records for my fair projects informed my choice to study agricultural economics.

What is the most important thing people need to understand about agriculture?

I think the most important thing is that agriculture spans so many different facets of life, particularly with all of the different points along the value chain. When someone opens a loaf of bread, they don’t necessarily think about farming, they think about the sandwich they’re going to make. But there are so many lives in between and decisions—production and consumption, buyer and seller decisions—to get to that loaf of bread and that’s what I find interesting.

Especially now as consumers increasingly show preferences for local foods while we’re operating in a global food system. The conversations around food and agriculture are really similar everywhere that you go. I was in Bangladesh and I was hearing similar conversations from families wanting to know where their food came from, that it was safe, that it was reliable and we have those same conversations here. The drivers of these preferences and conversations are what I find fascinating.

How many classes will you teach in the Fall of 2018?

I’m teaching strategic selling and buyer communication this fall. We’ll focus on relationship selling, which is important in agriculture but also relevant in many other industries. I’m also coaching the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) team. We’ll get started this fall looking at product ideas and putting together the marketing plan. We’re trying to carry on Dr. Toensmeyer’s [who established the club in the early 1990’s] legacy.

What drew you to UD and specifically to the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics?

In my world, I’ve always known agricultural economics to exist because I studied at land grant institutions. But I think, what’s unique to agricultural and applied economics, is that it is applied. We’re asking real world questions and solving, or attempting to solve, real world problems with economic models and empirical evidence. I pursued this field because we’re working on real world policy issues and informing policy with evidence.

That seems to be a top priority of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics here at UD so that was exciting. The Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research uses cutting-edge tools to inform policy, and that aligns very well with my research agenda. I was drawn to this department because it houses such high caliber researchers while at the same time being dedicated to high caliber teaching – our faculty truly care about the students. The dedication to excellence in both teaching and research is really what drew me to UD and this department. And of course, the color blue. Everywhere I go has to be blue.

Besides being a Kentucky fan, are there any other interesting hobbies or activities you like to do in your free time?

I am a very outdoorsy person. I enjoy hiking, trail walking, and going to the beach. A more recent hobby of mine, for the last two years, has been CrossFit. I started with little to no athletic background and am now it has become a major part of life for my husband and I.

I also collect pigs—like piggy banks and pig figurines—and still love all things pigs and agriculture. I don’t have any live pigs yet but that’s coming eventually. That’s the dream.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Kelly Davidson

UD graduate student investigates energy expenditure of ducks

With waterfowl habitat continually changing and wetland loss occurring on a regular basis, it is imperative for researchers to see if landscapes provide enough habitat to support waterfowl populations at ideal levels.

A habitat’s carrying capacity is the number of living organisms that a region can support without environmental degradation. Researchers at the University of Delaware recently partnered with the United States Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center (USGS PWRC) and Ducks Unlimited (DU) to piece together a part of the carrying capacity puzzle, looking at how much energy ducks burn during a given day.

The research was led by Jake McPherson, a master’s level student in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology as well as a regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited, and Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology who also oversees a waterfowl and upland game bird research program in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Supply and demand

McPherson said that there is a question of energy supply — how much energy a habitat is able to provide a certain number of waterfowl — and of energy demand, which is where his research comes into play.

UD graduate student investigates energy expenditure of ducks“On the energy demand side, you need to know how much energy a duck uses in a given day and you can scale that up and, for example, say, ‘One duck uses this many calories a day, and it’s going to be in this region for 60 days and we want to support 100,000 ducks’ so you can come up with a total energetic need for those birds,” said McPherson.

In order to investigate how much energy non-breeding waterfowl use in a day, past waterfowl graduate students under Williams first had to determine what specific activities make up the normal day of a duck. But after that, McPherson has come in to estimate the energy expenditure for some of those behaviors.

“It swims, flies, dives, feeds and each of those activities have different energy requirements. I’m looking at the specific energetic cost of each of those behaviors,” said McPherson.

The study used American black ducks and a lesser scaup in order to represent the two guilds of ducks: divers—ducks who dive for their food—and dabblers—those who dabble for food in shallow water or on the surface.

Using respirometry equipment for the study, McPherson put individual ducks in a sealed chamber. Whenever the duck would perform an action, whether it be swimming or diving, the respirometry machine would read the changes in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels within the chamber.

“As energetic activity increases in the chamber, that bird’s going to be consuming more oxygen than it would be if it was resting,” said McPherson. “We can use the oxygen consumption rate observed inside the chamber during that behavior to come up with an estimate of calories burned per time.”

McPherson said that while the size of the chamber can affect the accuracy of the readings, the researchers were able to develop a pyramid shaped chamber big enough that the ducks could do their normal activities without restriction but also small enough that they could get accurate readings.

In order to determine what the ducks were doing when they observed changes in the amount of oxygen in the chamber, they also videotaped the ducks during two-hour periods and cross referenced the data with the videos.

“We had to videotape these birds and time-synch the video to the respirometry output. I could look at the respirometry output and say, ‘I can see there was an increase in oxygen consumption and therefore energy expenditure in this period, let me go back and see exactly what the bird was doing during that period.’ That’s how we can correlate calories burned to a specific activity,” said McPherson.

One of the biggest challenges they faced in their research is that they were unable to observe what is perhaps the biggest energetic cost for waterfowl: flying.

“You can’t really measure flying in my set up so we said, ‘We’re going to try and get all of these other behaviors and we’ll accept that the energetic cost of flying is beyond the scope of this project,” said McPherson.

Previous study

Currently, when wildlife researchers are determining how many calories waterfowl are burning in a certain habitat, they are using numbers from a study in the 1970’s where researchers surgically implanted heart monitors onto birds in a semi-wild setting and then correlated the heart rate monitor with their observations in the field.

McPherson said that there are couple of challenges with this study, beginning with the surgically invasive implants which could affect the behavior of a wild duck.

“Certainly, it could be said of respirometry as well but surgical implants tend to be more invasive,” said McPherson. “Then, with monitoring heart rate, you can see an increase in heart rate and it wouldn’t be associated with behavior. If a predator flies over, that duck may just be sitting on the water but its heart rate may elevate exponentially and so these are some of the things we were thinking about in terms of the design set up of that previous study.”

McPherson said they are hoping to compare some of these older numbers to the ones they discover.

“Maybe we can confirm them or maybe we’ll find out those numbers were off a bit,” said McPherson.

Williams said that one of the ultimate goals of his lab is to be able to create shortcuts for researchers so that they can estimate carrying capacity without doing costly research in the field.

“It takes a lot of time and money to watch ducks in the field and record their behaviors as well as go out in the field and collect the amount of food that’s on the landscape. If we can get ourselves to a place where we feel like we’ve exhausted the data collection and there are no surprises, we could find shortcuts to make these estimates in the future,” said Williams. “Certainly, that would be a gold standard for us, especially for the state or federal agencies, who could use broad summaries of the data and extrapolate that to where their conservation goals are for the future.”

McPherson, who grew up hunting and fishing in eastern Virginia, said he is looking to determine these carrying capacity estimates in order for future generations to understand and appreciate wildlife.

“My interest in conserving waterfowl populations is to ensure that not only can I continue to enjoy this sport but future generations can enjoy it as well,” said McPherson.

In addition to support from DU and USGS PWRC, the research was also supported by the Black Duck Joint Venture, the Upper Mississippi/Great Lakes Joint Venture and the Waterfowl Research Foundation.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jake McPherson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birds

When plants are in distress or being fed on by insects, they have been known to send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area — such as birds — that they are in need of help. While research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests, until now, this phenomenon has never been demonstrated in an agricultural setting.

Researchers at the University of Delaware have recently found that agricultural plants also send out these signals when under duress from insects, opening new potential avenues for growers to defend their crops while at the same time providing a much-needed food source for birds.

Ivan Hiltpold and Greg Shriver led the research at UD and used an unorthodox method to create their ‘larvae’ for the study: a little bit of Play-Doh and orange colored pins.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birdsUsing a field plot of maize on UD’s Newark farm, the researchers attached dispensers using a synthetic odor blend that replicated the volatiles—odor cues given off by plants to indicate they are being attacked such as the smell of freshly cut grass—attached to corn stalks. They also used dispensers using only an organic solvent as a control measure.

The Play-Doh larvae with orange head pins were then distributed on plants around the volatile dispensers and the organic solvent dispensers with the researchers measuring the bird attacks or pecks on the larvae.

They found that the imitation larvae located closer to the volatile dispensers had significantly more attacks than those located closer to the organic solvent dispensers.

The results of their study were recently published in the Journal of Chemical Ecology.

Hiltpold said the results support growing evidence that foraging birds exploit volatile cues and a more accurate understanding of their behavior will be critical when implementing pest management programs benefiting from ecological services provided by insectivorous birds.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birds“Improving our understanding of how birds prey on insects would open new avenues in sustainable pest control,” said Hiltpold.

While it has been proven for years that parasitoid insects or predatory insects respond to volatiles released by damaged plants and it has also been demonstrated that birds react to tree volatiles after insect herbivory on a tree in a forest setting, Hiltpold, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, said that this is the first time field research has been conducted on volatiles in an agricultural setting.

“It is a cry for help,” said Hiltpold. “The plant is damaged, the plant emits something that recruits help and we’re all thinking it’s help from other insects but it seems that birds are also using that as a cue to locate a plant or a group of plants. Then what we think is that they use their visual equity to locate the larvae when they’re in the vicinity of the plant emitting the volatiles.”

Hiltpold said that their research in the field confirmed this, as they had one larvae located on a volatile dispenser on a plant, and then four larvae distributed on all the plants around the plant with the dispenser.

UD scientists examine how plants protect themselves by emitting scent cues for birdsWhen they compared the number of pecks to the larvae on the plant with the dispenser to the number of pecks on the larvae on plants around the dispenser, there was no significant difference.

“This means that the bird is coming, smelling the volatiles and when it gets to the vicinity of the plant that is damaged, then it visually searches for the insect,” said Hiltpold.

It is also interesting because birds have long been believed to not be able to smell, but this research indicates that they are smelling the volatiles and then coming in closer to visual locate their prey.

“Whether or not birds can smell is a big question because they apparently lack some anatomical things to smell the way other vertebrates are smelling,” Hiltpold said. “Yet, they seem to have the capability of sensing volatiles but we don’t exactly know how they do it yet.”

The next step for the researchers will involve monitoring the diversity of birds responding to these cues in agricultural, forest and wetland environments over the course of the summer.

To evaluate bird predation of fake insects, caterpillars will be visually assessed once a week. To know which birds are responding to volatiles, two time-lapse cameras will be set up per environment to collect pictures over the course of the experiment.

They were able to get the project funded by using Experiment.com to give more information about the project and raise funds.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Kenya native and UD grad student earns avian research award

When Michael Babak arrived at the University of Delaware from Kenya in the fall of 2014 as the inaugural Arthur W. Perdue Foundation Graduate Fellow, one of the first things he noticed was the technology.

“Delaware has huge opportunities,” Babak said. “My country is still developing so when you talk about research, even at the University level, you realize that this is pretty advanced compared to Kenya. The resources are available; the infrastructure is there, and you can explore your strengths and potentials with regards to research. I’ve been lucky to come here and be exposed to all this.”

After getting his bachelor’s degree in veterinary medicine from the University of Nairobi, Kenya, Babak went on to earn his master’s in veterinary anatomy in 2012. From there, he started looking for opportunities to further his studies and discovered UD.

Kenya native and UD grad student earns avian research award
Bruce Stewart-Brown (right), senior vice president of food safety and quality live operations, Perdue Farms, pictured with UD graduate student Michael Babak at the American Association of Avian Pathologists award presentation ceremony in Denver during the American Veterinary Medical Association Convention in July 2018.

As a part of Behnam Abasht’s lab, Babak came to UD to study diseases in poultry, specifically wooden breast syndrome, a novel disease in broiler chickens that makes their meat hard and chewy, rendering them unmarketable.

“The disease is presented by firmness of the breast muscle — basically compromising the quality, thereby downgrading them — and that’s the prime part of chickens,” Babak said. “If you look at it in totality, it’s causing lots of losses in the poultry industry at large and it’s not just the poultry in the U.S., Europe, or Latin America. It’s all over. Especially in those areas or countries that practice extensive poultry production.”

The cause of wooden breast syndrome is unknown.

“It is possible that management practices could be found if you understand how the disease develops and progresses,” said Babak.

Babak has thrived during his time at UD and was recently awarded with the American Association of Avian Pathologists’ Reed Rumsey Student Award for Advancement of Avian Medicine, an award given to two students annually who show promise as the future of the poultry industry.

Babak was given the award at the 2018 American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) convention held in Denver, Colorado from July 13-17.

In addition, Babak gave an oral presentation at the 2018 AVMA convention titled, “Pathological and molecular characterization of Wooden Breast Disease in commercial broiler chickens during the normal growth period.”

With research being his passion, Babak said he is proud to work in poultry as it is one of the staple foods in his country, and that he has enjoyed working as a member of Abasht’s lab.

“He’s a down-to-earth person and understands his area of research very well,” Babak said of Abasht, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “Seeing his students succeed is his greatest motivation and driving factor. His door is always open. Whenever you want to reach him, he’s there. Even during weekends, you can contact him any time through e-mails and he’ll respond promptly. He’s a good guy.”

Of Babak, Abasht said “Michael has been a tremendous asset to my lab. His strong background in anatomy and physiology has been of great importance to our lab projects. He is very passionate about his research on studying a novel muscle disorder in chickens, and you can see it in every single conversation about his research. I think his genuine interest to gain new insights and discover new knowledge is one of the main things that makes Michael a great grad student. Michael is also personable and a great team player.”

Babak also said that Erin Brannick, an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and a member of his doctoral committee, has been of great help during his graduate studies at UD.

Babak also said that he is thrilled and humbled to be the first recipient of the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation Graduate Fellowship.

“I think the responsibility was given to Dr. Abasht to look for a student who would be able to fit the program. Then somehow, he found me,” said Babak. “I really appreciate the award that I got from the Arthur Perdue Foundation because if it were not for that, I don’t think I’d be able to make it this far.”

About Perdue Farms

Perdue Farms is the parent company of Perdue Foods and Perdue Agribusiness, and represents the Perdue family ownership. To learn more about Perdue, visit the website. The Arthur W. Perdue Foundation is funded through the estates of Arthur W. Perdue and Frank Perdue. The foundation provides grants on behalf of Perdue Farms in communities where large numbers of company associates live and work.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Michael Babak

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alum Curtis Bennett works at the National Aquarium inspiring the next generation of environmental conservationists

University of Delaware alum Curtis Bennett’s safe space has always been nature. Whether it be exploring in his back yard or participating in nature camps at local parks as a kid, his interest grew into a passion and that passion turned into a career.

Bennett serves as the Director of Conservation Community Engagement at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland and works to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. He also works outside of the aquarium in the City of Baltimore, the Chesapeake Bay watershed and nationally to empower conservation actions.

“The work that I do in a lot of our communities in Baltimore City and others regionally and nationally is to identify the needs of those communities from an environmental perspective. I work collaboratively with community pillars, stakeholders and residents to develop programs, projects, and initiatives that meet those needs from an environmental perspective,” said Bennett. “The ultimate goal is to implement and facilitate those programs directly where people are in their own communities and change the narrative of where nature is and how we connect to it on a regular basis. It’s working towards a more sustainable environment but most importantly, sustainable communities.”

UD alum Curtis Bennett works at the National Aquarium inspiring the next generation of environmental conservationistsBennett got his undergraduate degree in environmental science and policy with a concentration in wildlife ecology and management from the University of Maryland College Park. He then came to UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to pursue his master’s in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology after hearing about UD from a friend.

“She told me about the University and she knew about my interests in pursuing opportunities in wildlife and she said, ‘You need to check out the University of Delaware. It has a really robust program,’” said Bennett. “I can recall coming here for a visit and having a chance to meet with some of the faculty and some of the students and I knew instantly that this was home. This was a place where I wanted to be and to expand my education and really prepare me for that next career step.”

At UD, Bennett studied with Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology. He worked in New Jersey looking at River Otters with the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, specifically where they were in the state as well as key habitat variables and parameters that were important for otters throughout the state so that they could be effectively managed.

There was also a strong education and community based component to the work, and Bennett got experience working with landowners in New Jersey talking to them about the wildlife that lived in their own back yards.

“Many of them had lived there for years and didn’t know some of the wildlife species that lived there, including that there might have been otters in their own back yard,” said Bennett.

This project helped Bennett realize and grow his passion for educating the public about wildlife and how to communicate the science and the details of important research and conservation topics overall.

The other strong passion Bennett has is diversity, equity, inclusion and justice work within the field to make sure that environmental conservation work is continuing to reach broader audiences and continuing to provide opportunities for all in the conservation space.

“It’s so strongly connected to what I do with community engagement but also with the conservation field overall. I’m a mentor in several programs just to make sure that those pathways and pipelines are there for all students to encounter and pursue opportunities within the conservation field,” said Bennett.

These opportunities are critical at a young age, and Bennett said that just as he was exposed to wildlife conservation early in his life, he wants to impart that passion in others as well.

“We did a lot of work with middle school students and with high school students. During my last year at UD, I worked part time with the Delaware Nature Society doing environmental education work,” said Bennett. “For me, it was always that combination of science and education work and being able to communicate the science to the general public. It’s amazing the moments you have engaging with youth out in the field where they’re learning actively how to get involved and what opportunities are available to them because they are the next generation. We need to make sure that we inspire and we empower them just like we’ve been inspired and empowered to do that work. There’s so much for them to do and they can have a lot of fun doing it too.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Curtis Bennett

UD alumna Samantha Fino reflects on time at UD, hands on research opportunities

Working as an intern-secretary on Wall Street during her sophomore year in high school, Samantha Fino came to a conclusion early on in life: working a desk job just wasn’t for her.

So, when it came time to apply to universities, she looked for one that was financially appealing and had a strong program for studying outdoors. Which is funny because Fino said that she never really appreciated outdoor activities until she arrived at the University of Delaware.

“I never camped or hiked growing up. I never really left Weston, Connecticut, besides our family vacations which were on the Jersey Shore. I never did any outdoorsy things until I went to college,” said Fino, who graduated in 2015 with a major in wildlife ecology and conservation.

UD alumna Samantha Fino reflects on time at UD, hands on research opportunitiesWhile at UD, Fino said that she loved the wildlife conservation and ecology program, and singled out her study abroad experiences—once to Tanzania with Jake Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and once to Costa Rica with Kyle McCarthy, associate professor of wildlife ecology, and Greg Shriver, professor of wildlife ecology—as being particularly memorable.

“I think Delaware fosters a unique opportunity unlike any other university in regards to study abroad,” Fino said. “It exposes you to so much more than what goes on in North America and in the United States. Not even just with wildlife but with culture as well. Those two programs really opened my eyes to the field and others interested in the same things I am. The friends I made on those programs are still really good, close friends of mine.”

In addition to her experience with study abroad, Fino also singled out the research experiences she gained as an undergraduate as being beneficial.

“The graduate students and professors at Delaware are very welcoming to undergrads,” Fino said. “When you’re 20 or 21, you don’t know how to get into that world or that career. You know you need research experience but you don’t know how to get it. Delaware offers an opportunity for those experiences to undergrads so they can get that foundation.”

Fino worked as a summer scholar going into her junior year with Bowman on mesocarnivore — animals whose diet consists of 50-70 percent meat — occupancy and abundance estimates within fragmented forest patches in Newark, Delaware.

The following year, she worked with Chris Williams, professor of wildlife ecology, looking at the bioenergetics of soils to estimate carrying capacity — the number of living organisms a region can support without environmental degradation – of black ducks within Prime Hook and Forsythe Wildlife Refuges.

“I believe that research exposure is what helped me get into graduate school,” said Fino.

After completing her master’s degree at West Virginia University, Fino began her doctoral work at South Dakota State University last summer looking at predator community dynamics and its influence on duck nest survival.

“I’m trying to better understand the relationship between mesopredators and duck nest survival,” said Fino. “My field season runs March through July. We radio collar coyotes, raccoons and skunks at the start of the season so we can track their movements and habitat use during the nesting season. Currently, though, we’re primarily focused on the ducks – searching, marking and monitoring nests for survival, as well as determining the nest predator with nest cameras.”

Fino recently received the doctoral portion of the Dave Ankney and Sandi Johnson Waterfowl and Wetlands Graduate Research Scholarship, which are two scholarships — one to a master’s candidate and one to a doctoral candidate — that are awarded annually to graduate students working on waterfowl and wetland issues in North America.

Fino said receiving the award was “super surprising. I’m honored to win awards like that and to have someone else appreciate the research that I’m doing. I’m very excited and enthusiastic about my project, and it’s nice to know other agencies and individuals feel the same way.”

As for whether she ever envisioned herself living and working in South Dakota, researching predator-prey relationships, Fino said that she definitely did not.

“It’s funny, if you would’ve told me back at Delaware, ‘Oh, you’re going to end up in South Dakota,’ I would have not believed you,” Fino said. “It’s a very different world out here. I’ve never been exposed to this type of lifestyle or culture, and it’s cool to interact with land owners. I like working with them and getting a better understanding of how different people view wildlife research and management.”

Photo courtesy of Samantha Fino
This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Botanic Gardens offers class on how to identify basic disease and insect pests in your garden

Have you ever wondered about that caterpillar on your red-twig dogwood, or if you should remove the extraterrestrial-looking spiny orange koosh ball-like mass on your cedar tree?

Join University of Delaware plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory and entomologist Brian Kunkel at UD’s Botanic Gardens (UDBG) on Tuesday, July 24 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. for “Uh-Oh … What’s That?”

You will learn how to identify basic disease and insect pests, as well as the “good guys” in your garden. The class will feature both inside instruction and continue with a walk through the gardens to provide hands on identification opportunities.

Plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory will cover diseases like cedar apple rust.
Plant diagnostician Nancy Gregory will cover diseases like cedar apple rust.

The cost of the class is $15 for UDBG Friends and $20 for non-members, and will occur rain or shine. Meet in room 102 of Fischer Greenhouse (behind Townsend Hall, 531 South College Ave, Newark, DE 19716). The maximum number of attendees is 25; registration and pre-payment are required. Email BotanicGardens@udel.edu or call 302-831-2531 to provide credit card information. If paying by check, make checks payable to “UDBG” and send to:


   University of Delaware

   152 Townsend Hall

   Newark, DE 19716

To enjoy member discounts and other exclusive benefits, join our UDBG Friends online at the UDBG website or contact Melinda Zoehrer at BotanicGardens@udel.edu.

About University of Delaware Botanic Gardens

The gardens are open year round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. UDBG contributes to an understanding of the relationships between plants and people through education, research, cooperative extension, and community support.

Article by Dante LaPenta

Photo by Nancy Gregory

UD drone work covers two bases

Each week for the last several months, Dr. Jarrod Miller, University of Delaware Extension agronomist, has launched an unmanned aerial vehicle, more commonly known as a drone, skyward to map fields at the university’s Carvel Research and Education Center and on nearby farms.

“I fly everything I can because we’re just trying to figure out how to use it,” he said. “Anything we can do with it, we’re trying.”

Miller said he’s been working drones via Extension since 2015 but the bulk of the flying has been since September.

Jarrod Miller, preparing to launch one of his drones in flight, has been flying repeatedly over the research and commercial fields, gathering data on crop conditions. “The hardest part is getting this thing to land,” he said, as it was airborne. “I make sure I stay away from roads.”
Jarrod Miller, preparing to launch one of his drones in flight, has been flying repeatedly over the research and commercial fields, gathering data on crop conditions. “The hardest part is getting this thing to land,” he said, as it was airborne. “I make sure I stay away from roads.”

This year, he’s been visiting about 14 fields in research and commercial production gathering thousands of pictures with both fixed wing and copter-style drones, that are then digitally stitched together into single images of the field.

The repeated flights help Miller, who is trained and licensed to fly the drones, gather as much data as he can think of on crop conditions and also become familiar with the equipment’s capabilities and limitations with an eye on relaying the information to farmers and other would-be drone pilots.

With each flight, Miller makes an entry in a journal, keeping record of the drone’s use, performance in different weather factors and other variables.

Miller said he’ll use this data and flight experience to educate farmers on making decisions on using drones when they see a possible payback.

“That simple kind of information is what I appreciate, doing the preliminary experimenting so they don’t have to,” he said. “Part of our goal is learn the basics and tell people what we learned. Maybe they can figure out ways to use it better for their own operation.”

Though drones have been a part of the agricultural landscape for a few years, their widespread use remains on the horizon as ways to effectively use the data catches up with drone innovation.

Add to that, drone companies frequently getting bought by other firms or going out of business and vauge guesses on the equipment’s life expectancy, and Miller said it makes going all in on using a sophisticated drone very risky for a farmer.

“The technology is so new, there’s no reason to invest a lot of money it,” he said. “It’s always changing.”

Drone packages can cost in the tens of thousands, Miller said; too expensive for most farmers to consider.

The fixed-wing drone Miller uses cost about $4,500 with much of that price paying for the multispectral camera embedded in it. Along with standard digital images, the camera captures images in four wavebands: green, red, red edge and near infrared, getting different perspectives of the crops below.

The multi-spectral imagery goes toward Miller’s research objectives, building a bank of data that, with multiple years added to it, can aid in better crop management, seeing problems sooner as they develop in the field and taking action.

“You start to pick up when things occurred,” he said. “You can actually see some interesting patterns in there.”

It’s already been a huge time and labor saver in calculating stand counts and biomass levels in some row crops which is helpful in plant population studies and research on equipment calibration. Miller expects the data will help refine soil mapping and grid sampling methods.

“We don’t know all of what we can do yet so I just figure collect as much as possible and later we might figure out how to use it better,” Miller said.

Article and photo by Sean Clougherty

This article was originally published in the Delmarva Farmer.

K. Eric Wommack named fellow of American Academy of Microbiology

The University of Delaware’s K. Eric Wommack has been named one of 96 fellows elected to the American Academy of Microbiology (AAM).

The American Academy of Microbiology is an honorific scientific leadership group within the American Society for Microbiology. Fellows are elected annually from the international scientific community through a highly selective, peer-review process, based on their records of scientific achievement and original contributions that have advanced microbiology.

There are more than 2,400 fellows representing all subspecialties of the microbial sciences and individuals involved in basic and applied research, teaching, public health, industry and government service. In addition, fellows hail from all around the globe. The Class of 2018 represents fellows from Bangladesh, the Netherlands, Switzerland, China, Israel, Austria, Sweden, Belgium and the U.K.

K. Eric Wommack (right), with Rita R. Colwell, his Ph.D. adviser; and Russell T. Hill, his co-adviser and Ph.D. committee member.
K. Eric Wommack (right), with Rita R. Colwell, his Ph.D. adviser; and Russell T. Hill, his co-adviser and Ph.D. committee member.

Wommack, deputy and associate dean for research and graduate programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, has a lab located at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute and through his lab, he has led research on the direct examination of viruses within natural environments — from estuaries to the deep-sea and soils.

Jacques Ravel, professor and associate director for genomics at the Institute for Genome Sciences at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that Wommack’s induction was “long overdue. He is among an elite group of early pioneers who have advanced our understanding of the role of viruses and viral infection within microbial communities. Through the application of cultivation-independent molecular approaches and tireless mentorship, his work helped establish fundamentals, such as the high abundance of viruses in natural systems; the rapid turnover and dynamic nature of viral communities; and the extraordinary levels of genetic diversity that exists within Earth’s virus. Dr. Wommack is well-deserving of this recognition and will be a major asset to the academy.”

Wommack has focused on revealing the emergent impacts of viral infection on cellular microbial communities and the ecosystems they inhabit. Using metagenomics, he has revealed the enormous diversity and unknown nature of Earth’s viruses. His recent work seeks to predict the phenomic features of unknown viruses via bioinformatic analysis of replication genes.

Emphasizing service to science Wommack served as editor of AEM and The ISME Journal and as co-editor-in-chief of Microbiome.

A proud father and husband, he is an Eagle Scout, a summa cum laude graduate of Emory University and a Bobby Jones Fellow at the University of St. Andrews, U.K.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of K. Eric Wommack

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Delaware 4-H hosts STEM summer camp for girls

Fourteen girls interested in science, technology and math (STEM) education got their summers off to a scientific start at Girls STEM camp, which was run in collaboration with the Delaware 4-H Youth Organization and the STEM You Can! Organization, a national youth-led nonprofit that provides free STEM summer camps and other programs for elementary and middle school girls.

It was held recently at the New Castle County Cooperative Extension building on Wyoming Road in Newark.

The week-long camp covered everything from astronomy to physics to engineering and had the students involved in fun, hands-on activities to teach them about the world of science.


Girls interested in STEM education took advantage of hands-on learning opportunities at Delaware 4-H’s girls STEM camp held recently in New Castle County.Activities included making slime to teach about chemistry, using three different colored grapes to teach the girls about the differences between neutrons, protons and electrons, learning the physics behind how Mentos and Diet Coke produces an explosion of Coke bubbles, and using a snack to teach about the different layers of the earth.

“We were learning about global warming and water filtration so we did a snack based on layers of the earth,” said Elaine Geng, a junior at the Hill School in Pottstown, Pennsylvania who led the camp and developed the camp curriculum with the STEM You Can! organization. “We did chocolate chips as the core, ice cream as lava, Oreos as the crust and so it was a fun way for them to learn the different layers of the earth and then eat it afterwards. I think they really liked it.”

As for a favorite topic, Geng said that the girls enjoyed all of the hands-on activities, such as creating a marshmallow catapult, but that one in particular seemed to rise about the rest.

“We made slime with borax and glue to teach them about how the two chemicals can combine and form a chemical with a very different texture. The girls were so excited to make slime. They kept asking me when we’re going to do slime. There’s girls who had been looking forward to making slime since Monday,” said Geng.

Geng participated in a 4-H camp last year as a counselor and enjoyed the experience so much that it made her want to get even more involved this year where she was able to combine her passion for teaching and working with youth to get them interested in STEM education.

“I think it’s important to inspire the girls’ interest at a young age about all different fields of science so that they know what field they are interested in so they can explore more in depth later on,” said Geng.

Betsy Morris, 4-H Extension Educator who mentored Geng, said that she was “so proud of Elaine for taking this initiative combining her 4-H camp counselor experience and her passion for science. The girls absolutely loved the camp.”

In a post survey of parents, the camp was rated 5 stars.

Campers surveyed indicated their knowledge and interest in STEM had increased to “very high” as a result of the camp.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

In Memoriam: Agriculture’s Jock Elterich – professor emeritus, researcher, adviser and donor – passes away

University of Delaware professor emeritus Joachim (Jock) Elterich passed away on June 27, 2018, in Hockessin, Delaware. The 88-year-old passed with dignity and peace and was surrounded by his family.

Before UD, he was a Fulbright research scholar at the University of Bonn (Germany) where he obtained his undergraduate degree; he went on to obtain his master’s degree at the University of Kentucky and Ph.D. at Michigan State University. He held professorships at the University of Kiel (Germany) and Slovak University (Slovakia). He was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor Honoris Causa from the Slovak University of Agriculture in Nitra (Slovakia) for the work he did there for several years.

Dr. Elterich began his UD career in 1967. He spent much of his career in the Department of Food and Resource Economics (now Applied Economics and Statistics). His areas of expertise included milk production economics, container port studies, labor markets and optimal farm organizations.

Agriculture’s Jock Elterich – professor emeritus, researcher, adviser and donor – passes awayDr. Elterich was a founding member of the Operations Research Program, which was designed to provide graduate students with strong foundations in the theories and methods of economics, engineering, mathematics and statistics in order to analyze problems from a systems approach. He retired in 1998 but remained a very active faculty member and world traveler, working on many agriculture-related research projects across the globe. He was vice president of the University of Delaware Association of Retired Faculty.

“Prof. Elterich was a very strong supporter of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR),” said Provost Robin Morgan, who previously served as CANR dean. “He attended many college events and celebrations, brightening these occasions with his keen interest in faculty and students.”

A native of Germany, Dr. Elterich never forgot the impetus that started him on this career path – research fellowship funding. He found a way to encourage other graduate students from foreign countries to come to UD and carry out research in agriculture economics. In 2002, he generously created the G. Joachim Elterich Fellowship, which – to this day – provides research support to students from abroad who plan to target operations research or agriculture economics.

The memorial service date and time are still to be determined. His full obituary is available online.

Article by Dante LaPenta

Don Sparks, CANR professor and DENIN director, invests in named professorship, graduate fellowship and scholarship

Donald L. Sparks, Unidel S. Hallock du Pont Chair, and a College of Agriculture and Natural Resources professor and Director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), has spent more than three decades building a career at the University of Delaware that has influenced the lives of countless students as well as the health of the planet.

Motivated by his passion for helping others and giving back to the University that has given him so much, Sparks recently committed a $1.5 million planned gift through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware to support undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty.

“I owe so much to this university because it’s been my life, my career for almost 40 years now, and UD has been an absolutely fabulous place to be,” said Sparks. “As employees, we have an obligation to give back and support programs and people to make this place even better.”

UD PROFESSOR SUPPORTS FACULTY AND STUDENTS THROUGH PHILANTHROPYThrough his investment, Sparks will establish the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Early Career Professorship in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. This professorship will create a position for a professor in the early stages of their career to teach and conduct research in soil sciences. In addition to recognizing individual talent, professorships help promote the University’s presence and expertise in particular areas of research. This line of thinking resonates with Sparks.

“Establishing professorships is very important in terms of attracting top talent and retaining top faculty, because we often hire great people,” said Sparks. “But the key is once we see how successful they are, we want to keep them. We don’t want to lose them, so I think incentives like these named professorships are essential.”

The remainder of the planned gift will be divided between two existing endowed funds – the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Student Fellowship in Soil Sciences and the Joy Gooden Sparks Scholarship. The Joy Gooden Sparks Scholarship is awarded annually to students matriculated in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources who participate in 4-H.

Mark Rieger, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said this gift demonstrates Sparks’ sincere commitment to the college, UD and ultimately student success.

“Dr. Sparks is one of the most successful faculty members in the history of the college, and he has mentored dozens of students who have gone on to incredible careers in academia, agency and industry,” Rieger said. “His generosity and open-hearted willingness to give in so many ways are an inspiration. Not only will his gift help provide resources to recruit and retain faculty, but it also shows how deeply he cares for UD and this college. I am truly grateful to Don for his contributions as a faculty member, administrator, thought leader and supporter.”

In 2011, Sparks established the scholarship in memory of his wife, Joy G. Sparks. Since that time, numerous students and friends have rallied together to make gifts to the fund.

Sparks is driven to honor his late wife by supporting their shared passions. Joy was the state 4-H coordinator for the UD’s Cooperative Extension Program before her passing in 2009. A lifelong Delawarean, Joy received a bachelor’s degree in home economics from UD in 1973 and later pursued graduate studies. She began her 35-year career in UD’s Cooperative Extension Service by first serving as the New Castle County 4-H agent and then as state coordinator. Without her, Sparks says, none of this would have been possible. It was her fondest wish that everyone should have access to a quality education and a chance to build the life they want.

“She was very adamant that everybody had an opportunity to get a college education,” Sparks said. “She wanted there to be scholarship money to support students who desired to come to the University of Delaware, and not only graduate students, but at the undergraduate level, too, because she dealt with a lot of young people over the years. I established that scholarship in her honor to support undergraduate students who had leadership capabilities.”

Sparks and his wife established the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Student Fellowship in Soil Sciences in 2000 to support graduate students in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences performing research associated with DENIN.  For Sparks, the most fulfilling part of his job has been mentoring students over the years.

“If there’s one thing in my career that I’ve enjoyed the most, it’s without any question, advising graduate students,” said Sparks. “It’s exciting to have such bright, young people around you where you see this growth period and they really progress and then they go out and become very successful. There’s a tremendous satisfaction that a faculty member gets out of that position.”

For Sparks, advising, teaching and philanthropy are all about making the world a better place.

“There are some tremendous challenges that we have in the world, but there are also tremendous opportunities,” said Sparks. “It’s very important that we provide funds to support excellent students that get trained and then go out to solve some of these major challenges that we’re facing. We all have great love for this institution and we want to make it better and in order to do that, we need to support it and help it get to the next level.”

About the Delaware First Campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on Nov. 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign will unite Blue Hens across the nation to accelerate UD’s mission of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, creating solutions to grand challenges, inspiring innovations and transforming lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and extend its impact on the region and the world.

Article by Nicholas Michael and Nadine Sabater

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Cooperative Extension coordinates statewide insect trapping program to benefit growers

Since the early 1970s, the University of Delaware’s Cooperative Extension Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program has coordinated a statewide insect trapping program—which includes black light traps and pheromone traps—to helps growers and industry professionals track seasonal occurrences of pests that might affect their crops, as well as let them know the best times to apply insecticides.

The program also helps academic professionals, as information gathered from the program was used in a recent study led by the University of Maryland and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, demonstrating regional pest suppression.

The black light traps use ultraviolet light to attract insects that are usually active at night. Pheromones are chemical substances usually produced by animals and they can be used to lure insects to a trap.

UD Cooperative Extension coordinates statewide insect trapping program to benefit growersSince the program began, traps have been located on cooperating growers’ farms throughout the state. In the early days, 25 black light traps were serviced by grower cooperators and collections were sent to the University where a technician hired by UD’s IPM program would identify key moth species.

Starting in late 1980s, trap monitoring shifted to a seasonal IPM employee who sent the trapping information electronically to IPM personnel. Today, that information is placed on the IPM website.

Joanne Whalen, a retired IPM specialist who joined Cooperative Extension in 1979 and became the IPM coordinator in 1983, instituted this change to ensure that trap catch information was received by growers in a timely manner.

In addition to the IPM website, Whalen sent the information to Penn State’s PestWatch website to share the information regionally. During her time as IPM specialist, she also used the information to develop articles for a statewide Weekly Crop Update newsletter.

In 2017, a pilot trapping program was initiated to train growers and consultants on how to monitor their own traps. Participants identified moths and reported moth catches to the IPM program to post on the IPM website. Currently, 14 black light and 13 pheromone traps are checked two times a week from April through September.

In the early days of the trapping program, black light traps, which attract a variety of insects, were used to monitor for black cutworm, true armyworm, corn earworm and European corn borer.

Since the late 1980s, the focus of the program shifted to monitoring primarily corn earworm and European corn borer. In recent years, the black light traps have also been used to monitor stink bug species, both the green and brown native species and the invasive brown marmorated stink bugs.

Currently, pheromone traps are used for corn earworm and emit a specific pheromone that attracts corn earworm moths. Other pheromone traps that have been part of the trapping network in the past have included black cutworm, European corn borer and Western bean cutworm, which will be added to the network again in 2018.

Bill Cissel, the IPM extension agent, said that extension personnel, as well as an hourly wage employee, monitor the traps twice a week and continue to post the results to the UD Extension Insect Trapping Program website.

They are also exploring ways to share trap catch data nationally by including it in the Integrated Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education (iPiPE) and with PestWatch, operated by Penn State University.

“Growers, crop consultants, agribusiness personnel, processing vegetable industry fieldmen and researchers use the trap catch results when making pest management decisions on sweet corn, peppers and green beans,” said Cissel. “Based on pest pressure, measured by the number of moths captured per night and using an IPM approach, they adjust insecticide spray schedules. If we capture a lot of moths, we know that ultimately, we will have a lot of caterpillars and spray intervals may need to be shortened. On the other hand, if pressure is low, then they can stretch that interval out.”

After hearing interest from growers, consultants and industry fieldmen in having historical data on the website, the IPM team worked on adding insect trapping data going back to 1982.

Pheromone trap located at the Carvel Research and Education Center.

“Their interest in using it was to say ‘Ok, I want to compare this year to a year that I recall as being really bad for corn earworms—an outbreak year—and see how we rank this year compared to then.’ With the help of our IT folks, we created an online interactive graph to visually display historical data,” said Cissel.

Greg Keane, database administrator for UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and Christy Mannering, communications specialist in CANR, helped in the creation of the website and historical interactive graphs.

“You can access the graphs from the current trap catch page on our IPM website by clicking on the historical trap catch data link. Then you can select a trapping location and insect pest to graph. The graph is created based on your selections, displaying current and historical trap catch data. I enter the trap catch data using an online form that is linked to the database and automatically updates the graphs,” said Cissel.

Program origins

Whalen said that the program was begun in the mid 1970s by the first IPM coordinator, Mark Graustein. He used the trap catch information to provide growers and processors in his pilot IPM programs with information to make decisions on when to spray for certain pests. He and entomologists in the region developed the first decision-making systems for insect management using trap catches for peppers and green beans.

“Before I arrived in Delaware in 1979, the main focus was on the processing vegetables industry, specifically green beans and peppers, and how could they could use trap catches, particularly for the management of European corn borer,” said Whalen. “From 1979 until I retired in 2016, we developed an IPM program that used trap catches to make spray decisions as part of an IPM program for sweet corn, green beans and peppers. We have a long history of using IPM and making spray decision based on trap catches for these vegetable crops because once the caterpillar gets in the fruit the damage is already done.”

In addition to providing growers with decision-making information on the need for and timing of insecticide treatments, the IPM trapping program has historically alerted them to potential outbreak of migratory pests and allowed them access to historical pieces of information that gives a sense of the population dynamics of local pests.

Whalen said that the program would not be possible if it weren’t for the cooperation with the local growers and their willingness to allow the traps on their property.

“They did it for the sake of having information they could use on their farms as well as for farmers as a whole,” Whalen said. “They were really committed to getting this information and making sure all growers had access to the information. You can see people from the very beginning felt like knowing what was happening with insect populations in our state was really important.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Michele Walfred

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD research shows beachgoers negatively impacted by offshore oil platforms

Every year, visitors flock to Delaware’s beaches for an opportunity to relax, soak up the sun and take a dip in the ocean.

But if offshore energy platforms—especially oil rigs—were installed off the Delaware coastline, many of those visitors would move their beach blankets elsewhere, according to University of Delaware research.

Forty percent of beachgoers responding to a UD survey that was administered in 2012 said their vacation experience would be negatively impacted, and 16 percent indicated they simply would not visit the beach with oil platforms looming offshore.

The research was led by Jacob Fooks, who was a doctoral student in economics at UD when the research was conducted, and Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Josh Duke, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, and George Parsons, professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, are also authors on the paper which was published recently in the journal Energy Policy.

UD research shows beachgoers negatively impacted by offshore oil platformsMesser said the results from the study should worry the leaders of beach communities who may be considering these offshore energy sources because they could experience a drop off of 10 to 15 percent of their visitors.

“Can the beach communities lose 15 percent of their tourists?,” Messer said. “These people will go elsewhere and another 25 percent of the group is going to come and not really enjoy their visit as much. That’s a big impact.”

The research was conducted at Rehoboth Beach and Cape Henlopen from July 12–15 and July 29–August 1 in 2012.

A total of 525 people participated in the research by completing either a short survey about their opinions regarding a series of images of oil platforms and wind turbines offshore at various distances or by taking a more in-depth, longer survey using computer simulations that presented images of oil platforms or wind turbines on the horizon at varying distances.

In both surveys, participants were shown oil platforms and wind turbines at different distances and asked if those structures would have enhanced, detracted or made no difference to their beach experiences.

Around 60 percent of those who took the short survey indicated that oil platforms would detract from their beach experience, compared with 25 percent for the wind turbines.

Those who took the longer survey were able to select a starting location for the energy platforms.

“Even at ten miles out, which was the farthest the participants could place the oil platforms, many of the respondents would not visit the Delaware beaches at this distance—even though they wouldn’t be able to see the platforms,” Messer said. “Participants were clearly concerned about the oil spills that could affect the beaches. In contrast, people were more comfortable with having wind turbines closer to the shore.”

In January 2018, the Trump Administration announced a new five-year drilling plan that could open new areas along both U.S. coasts. Messer said that it is important for coastal communities to realize the negative view many of their visitors have for offshore oil drilling structures.

“Our research shows that beach visitors do not like these oil platforms and believe they would detract from their experience,” Messer said. “A bunch of people said they wouldn’t come to the Delaware beaches because of the presence of offshore oil platforms and a bunch of people indicated a negative sentiment, basically saying, ‘I will still come to the beach but you’ve taken a bunch of the fun out of it.’ This negative sentiment is important from a consumer welfare perspective. If you go somewhere and you don’t like it, that’s a real loss to society.”

The research work was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR).

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by iStock

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

In Memoriam: Kenneth M. Lomax

Kenneth Mitchell Lomax, professor emeritus and former chairperson of the Department of Bioresources Engineering at the University of Delaware, died at his home in West Grove, Pennsylvania, on June 9, 2018, after a short illness from an aggressive form of cancer. He was 70.

Dr. Lomax, who earned his master’s degree in entomology and applied ecology from UD in 1971, joined the University’s faculty in 1979 as chairperson of the Department of Bioengineering Resources to pursue his passion, which was undergraduate teaching, especially working with and mentoring his engineering technology students. In 1988, he received the University’s Excellence in Teaching Award. He stepped down as chair of the department in 2003.

In Memoriam: Kenneth M. LomaxDuring the 1992-93 academic year, Dr. Lomax served as the 23rd president of the University’s Faculty Senate, and after his term ended he continued to serve as chair of the senate’s Academic Priorities Review Committee and the Committee on Committees and Nominations (COCAN).

Dr. Lomax’s research work focused on environmental engineering improvements to support the mushroom industry. He enjoyed working with mushroom growers to help develop pragmatic engineering solutions and provided hands-on assistance to challenges facing growers. Although most of his work was local, he was an active participant in international conferences and enjoyed traveling to other parts of the world to visit mushroom farms and assist as needed, particularly in his expertise in air-flow monitoring and controls.

After retiring from the University of Delaware in 2009, Dr. Lomax continued his work with mushroom growers, and that same year he was presented a lifetime honorary membership in the American Mushroom Institute at the organization’s 51st annual conference.

Robin Morgan, provost and former dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said, “After Ken retired, he continued to be involved at UD. He attended many events, always had a smile to share and genuinely cared about what his former students and colleagues were doing. He will be missed.”

“Although Dr. Lomax retired prior to my arrival at UD, his name was often mentioned by my contacts in industry and by alumni,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “His work helped make the Kennett-based mushroom industry the world’s best example of controlled environment agriculture, a sector that is expanding rapidly today.”

A seventh generation Delawarean, Dr. Lomax was born in Wilmington in 1947, the son of the late Ernest Lomax and Martha (Mitchell) Lomax. A graduate of Newark High School, he earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Lafayette College. After getting his master’s degree at UD, he earned his Ph.D. in agricultural engineering from the University of Maryland. He began his career as a research engineer at the University of Maryland’s Horn Point Environmental Laboratory in Cambridge, Maryland, before joining the UD faculty in 1979.

Dr. Lomax enjoyed traveling, gardening, maintaining and making improvements on his small farm, and volunteering. He and his wife often traveled to national parks to hike in the mountains and enjoy the wildlife. He also was an avid University of Delaware sports fan.

He was a member of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Newark, where he assisted with the monthly food pantry. He also served on the board of the Friends Home in Kennett for many years.

Dr. Lomax is survived by his wife of 46 years, Nancy Lomax; uncles Joe Mitchell (wife Kathy) of Woodside Farm in Hockessin, Delaware, and Larry Parrish of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania; and many cousins. In addition to his parents, he is preceded in death by his sister, Anne Lomax, who worked for many years at UD in health education, helping to grow the Wellspring program and the S.O.S. group.

A visitation for family and friends was held from 12:30-2 p.m., Sunday, June 24, at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 701 South College Ave. in Newark, where a memorial service to celebrate his life began at 2 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Friends Home in Kennett, 147 West State St., Kennett Square, PA 19348.

Vote for the Blue Rocks’ new signature flavor from the UDairy Creamery

Four potential flavors have been selected as finalists for the new signature flavor of the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

One lucky fan who votes for the winning flavor will win four tickets to the Blue Rocks game on National Ice Cream Day—Sunday, July 15—as well as gift cards to the UDairy Wilmington location and their own supply of the new signature UDairy ice cream flavor.

The contending flavors include:

  • Batter up!
    Fudge Brownie Batter Ice Cream with Fresh Baked Brownie Bites and White Chocolate Chunks
  • Celery-bration
    Celery-brating a Blue Rocks Score! Celery-Green, Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream Loaded with Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker Bases, a thick Marshmallow Swirl and Celebratory Blue Sprinkles
  • Rocky Bluewinkle Tracks
    Blue Sugar Cookie Ice Cream with a thick Fudge Swirl and Mini Chocolate-covered Caramel Truffles
  • Blue Rocks Slide
    Vanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Chunks and Blue Cookie Cream Swirl

Vote for the Blue Rocks’ new signature flavor from the UDairy CreameryThe flavor ideas all stemmed from the University of Delaware’s Associate in Arts students who work at the UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington. They came up with the four flavor ideas for the general public to vote on and choose from.

To vote, check out the Blue Rocks website.

For more information on the partnership between UDairy and the Blue Rocks,check out the recent UDaily article.

American Society for Horticultural Science honors recent graduate Olivia Kirkpatrick

Recent University of Delaware graduate Olivia Kirkpatrick was named a 2018 Outstanding Undergraduate Award Winner by the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS).

Kirkpatrick, who graduated in May with a major in landscape architecture and a minor in horticulture, joined a select group of students from across the country recognized as exceptional undergraduate horticultural students in baccalaureate programs.

Of receiving the award, Kirkpatrick said that it was an incredible honor.

“I had no idea, so I was really surprised and grateful when I found out,” said Kirkpatrick.

During her time at UD, Kirkpatrick had the opportunity to explore many different opportunities from designing UD’s 2018 Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit with Jules Bruck, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, to interning with Bruck’s Evolution Landscape Design business to participating in the University Innovation Fellows Program at Stanford University.

American Society for Horticultural Science honors recent graduate Olivia KirkpatrickShe was also nominated for a 2017 Woman of Promise award and was a teaching assistant for the Foundations of Landscape Architecture and Urban Design Studio, assisted in planning and creating print media for the UD Landscape Architecture (LA) 2017 Symposium “Breaking Urban,” was involved in high school outreach and programming for the LA program, and served on the executive board for the DeLA Club at the University of Delaware.

“I have loved so much about being an undergrad at UD. The Landscape Architecture program has been such a joy to be a part of—I’ve had so many opportunities that I couldn’t have gotten elsewhere and I am full of gratitude for that every day,” said Kirkpatrick. “Beyond the schoolwork and extracurricular [activities], I’ve just loved being able to spend time on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus, and having the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people.”

Having studied visual art for seven years at Cab Calloway School of the Arts and knowing that she wanted to continue to explore her passion for art and design, Kirkpatrick said that when she decided to study landscape architecture, it was mainly because it combined the visual design aspect with plant science and horticulture.

“As I continued my studies, though, I realized that it’s much more than that− and that’s part of the reason why I love it. It requires the understanding of a multitude of subjects, and allows for specialization in a wide array of subject areas. Landscape architecture is challenging and engaging; it is collaborative and introspective. I love that it’s a career where your design solutions can have a real impact- creating a more equitable, ecologically sound and beautiful world,” said Kirkpatrick.

Having been taught by many great professors during her time at UD, Kirkpatrick singled out many of the female professors in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in particular for everything they’ve done for her in the past four years.

“As a woman preparing to enter the working world, it has been such an inspiration to see all of the hardworking and passionate women in the Plant and Soil Sciences Department. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from or see the work of Jules Bruck, Anna Wik, Sue Barton, Tara Trammell, Nicole Donofrio, Angelia Seyfferth and Janine Sherrier in some capacity in my four years here, and it’s hard to even express what an inspiration that has been for me,” said Kirkpatrick.

This summer she plans on interning at Viridian Landscape Studio doing post occupancy and case study research and outreach.

She is also looking for a job at a small to medium sized landscape architecture firm, and prefers one with a focus on public works and equitable design.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

Jake Bowman named 2018 UD Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year

The University of Delaware’s Jake Bowman, a professor and chairperson of the Department of Entomology & Wildlife Ecology, led his first pioneering study abroad program to Tanzania in 2002. Sixteen years and nine programs later, hundreds of students have explored the field of conservation through the lens of the country’s indigenous people and the guidance of Bowman.

This year, Bowman’s efforts have earned him the title of Study Abroad Faculty Director of the Year, an accolade bestowed on just one person annually for extraordinary efforts in ensuring students’ global success and learning.

“I try to allow my students to see a different perspective on conservation,” Bowman said. “In the U.S., we have a very sort of top-down approach. In Africa, conservation is looked at from the bottom-up.”

Jake Bowman named 2018 UD Study Abroad Faculty Director of the YearProgram participants strike out on safari, observing everything from elephants to beetles and later journey across tribal lands with the Masai, Iraqw and the Hadza people. There, they collect tubers, observe traditional hunting practices and spend time in settlements learning about livestock management, among other topics.

“Dr. Bowman held class either in the field or at the campsite in interactive, attention-grabbing ways,” wrote one student in their anonymous award nomination. “From having students themselves guide lectures to teaching while an animal was just in front of us, Dr. Bowman managed to make each lesson both incredibly in depth and unbelievably exciting.”

The program also included nightly reflections around the campfire.

“From a cultural perspective, we open students up to understanding that while we may spend years in school learning to do conservation correctly, you also have these people who practice traditional knowledge and it really works great,” said Bowman. “We try to get our students to adopt a different thought process and to focus on the value of respecting others’ views.”

For his students, Bowman served as both a role model and mentor.

“Dr. Bowman utilized native languages to communicate to individuals,” one student wrote in a nomination letter. “Additionally, he was sure to lend a helping hand wherever needed among any community, from setting up tents to providing meals and he encouraged his students to do the same. Dr. Bowman instilled an incredible respect and sense of community among us all. He was fundamental in uniting our very different cultures as one.”

While Bowman begins planning his programs nearly two years in advance, he and his partners at the Dorobo Safari Company are required to be nimble at all times.

“There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes, even when we are in country,” he said. “We have to make changes on a daily basis to our schedule. For example, this year we had an extreme rain and an entire road washed away. We thought about how this might affect us and adapted. We always want our students to walk away having had a positive experience.”

Bowman’s study abroad experience is not limited to Tanzania.  He has also directed and co-directed programs in Antarctica, Argentina, Australia, Cambodia, Peru and Vietnam.

For students on the Tanzania ENWC program, the learning process also begins long before take off and includes several orientation sessions, covering packing tips, health and safety sessions, teambuilding and more.

“I had the pleasure of serving as Jake’s program coordinator for many years and can attest to his organizational skills, proactive approach to problem solving and high degree of expertise and professionalism,” said Lisa Chieffo, associate director for study abroad. “His programs are designed to maximize students’ learning and wellbeing, and the comments of his participants unmistakably reflect this philosophy. We at IGS are so pleased that Jake is part of the UD study abroad family.”

UD faculty are encouraged to consider leading a Summer Session study abroad program and should consult with their department chair and Lisa Chieffo prior to submitting a proposal by July 1.

UD students interested in studying abroad during Winter or Spring 2019 are encouraged to visit the Institute for Global Studies website and apply by Sept. 20. Follow along @UDGlobal on Instagram, Twitter, the UDAbroad Blog and by using the hashtag #UDAbroad to see moments from UD’s 100+ travel study programs.

About the Institute for Global Studies

The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world.

Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for several global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright Initiative, Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Institute, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and most recently the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) program.

IGS is the home of the UD Alternative Breaks Program and sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and Fulbright Lecture Series each spring.

IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program

Article by Nikki Laws

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Felix Francis receives Interdisciplinary Research Prize at doctoral hooding ceremony

Five graduating doctoral students received prizes at the University of Delaware’s doctoral hooding ceremony, held Friday, May 25, for their dissertations. The culmination of long hours of research, meticulous documentation and analysis, these scholarly works present students’ original findings to a field of study, and to the world.

Honorees and their awards are Alexander Ames, Wilbur Owen Sypherd Prize in Humanities; Kamilah Williams, George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences; Axel Moore, Allan P. Colburn Prize in Engineering and Mathematical Sciences; Christopher Long, Theodore Wolf Prize in Physical and Life Sciences; and Felix Francis, Interdisciplinary Research Prize.

Francis was awarded the Interdisciplinary Research Prize for his dissertation, Characterization of Genomic Diversity at a Quantitative Disease Resistance Locus in Maize using Improved Bioinformatic Tools for Targeted Resequencing.

Felix Francis receives Interdisciplinary research prize at doctoral hooding ceremonyHis dissertation shines a light on the specific genes associated with disease resistance in corn (maize), a staple crop in agriculture, but it is the tools he developed to reproduce accurate DNA sequence data for specific segments of large and complex genomes that will have a long-lasting impact on his field. These tools include novel bioinformatics and statistical methods that advance plant genomic data analysis and will enable genomics researchers and practitioners to address important biological questions related to human health, agricultural breeding, infectious disease management, biodiversity conservation and more.

J. Antoni Rafalski, a biotechnology consultant and former senior research assistant at DuPont, called Francis’ work “an excellent example of interdisciplinary research” that will be “an example to follow for future students of biology, which is increasingly becoming intertwined with advanced computer science.”

Cathy H. Wu, Unidel Edward G. Jefferson Chair in Engineering and Computer Science and founding director of UD’s new Data Science Institute, agreed.

“The bioinformatics algorithms, software tools and benchmarking data sets he has developed will have broad impact to the genomic scientific community, allowing researchers to address many important biological questions,” Wu wrote.

According to his adviser and dissertation chair, Randall J. Wisser, the bioinformatics algorithms and software Francis developed to precisely isolate targeted DNA already are having an impact on researchers and practitioners across the country.

“This tool is useful for a range of applications in genetics and genomics, and a number of researchers outside of UD (across the U.S.) have already begun adopting it,” wrote Wisser, an associate professor in plant and soil sciences.

Article by Karen Roberts

Photo by David Barczak, Wenbo Fan and Jessica Eastburn

To read more about the other award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

UD alumna Sara Albrecht works with Maryland Department of the Environment to reduce nitrogen in Chesapeake Bay

When Sara Albrecht graduated from the University of Delaware in 2015 with a degree in Natural Resource Management (NRM) from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and followed that up with a Master’s in Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2017, she wanted a job that would allow her to implement conservation practices with regards to nature, but do so in a way that would benefit everybody.

Now working with the Maryland Department of the Environment in their On-Site Systems Division as part of the Bay Restoration Fund, Albrecht gets to do just that, working with members of the local community to upgrade their septic systems to cut down on the amount of nitrogen coming out of their systems and into the Chesapeake Bay.

UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a well camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.
UD alum Sara Albrecht lowers a camera to monitor a well as part of her duties with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Using what are known as Best Available Technology (BAT) units to cut down on a minimum of 50 percent to as much as 76 percent of the nitrogen coming out of home owners’ septic systems, Albrecht said that her responsibilities include managing the database of the units and working with counties and contractors who do the actual installation, operation and maintenance of the units.

“Some of my work involves being out in the field, which I greatly enjoy,” said Albrecht. “I do inspections of the units to ensure that they’re running properly, and I’m also being trained to do soil and site evaluations to help repair failing systems.”

Along with installing the BAT units, the Bay Restoration Fund also helps farmers plant cover crops. Both of these practices are integral in trying to cut down on the amount of nitrogen entering the Chesapeake Bay, which affects everything from shellfish harvesting and crab populations to swimming and recreational uses for the bay.

“The bay is a precious natural resource whose ecosystems have suffered greatly from pollution. It can sometimes take a long time to see results, but we’re finally starting to see impacts of bay restoration efforts,” said Albrecht.

As for her time at UD, Albrecht said that the NRM program suited her perfectly.

“I’ve always loved nature, so I knew I was interested in pursuing that. I loved NRM because it’s all about a balance. I feel that when people think of conservation, they can think of it in isolating terms of ‘don’t develop anything’ or ‘develop everything.’ NRM helps show that there can be a compromise between the two that can benefit everyone. That’s what I really like about it,” said Albrecht.

And while she jokingly admits that she never envisioned herself going into a career involving septic systems, she is enjoying getting to learn more about them while also helping the environment.

“People don’t think about septic systems but they involve really interesting processes. I’m excited to be in this field and I’m excited to be working for the state and the Department of the Environment. I love working here in Baltimore and feeling like I’m giving back to my home state of Maryland,” said Albrecht.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Sara Albrecht

This story can also be viewed on UDaily.

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological Society

The University of Delaware’s Thomas A. (Tom) Evans has been made a Fellow of the American Phytopathological Society (APS).  Since 1965, just 547 of the society’s 5,000 plus members have achieved Fellow status, no more than 0.2 percent in any year.

Evans will be recognized at a reception on July 30 during the 50th anniversary meeting of the International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP2018) hosted by APS in Boston, Massachusetts.

UD has the distinction of being the first academic institution in the U.S. (and perhaps the world) to establish a professorship in plant pathology.  Frederick D. Chester was appointed to the position in 1888, concurrent with the establishment of the Delaware Agricultural Experiment Station.

Tom Evans honored by American Phytopathological SocietyThe Department of Plant Pathology, which began in that year, continued until 1967 when the departments of plant pathology, agronomy and horticulture in the then College of Agriculture were merged into the Department of Plant Science, now the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

There have been 25 professors of plant pathology in the 130 years since the founding of department. John Huberger, who was department chair from 1947 to 1967, is the only other plant pathologist at UD to be honored by APS as a Fellow.

To be elected an APS Fellow, a nominee must make outstanding contributions in one or more of the following areas: original research, teaching and professional or public service.  APS Fellows are selected for exceptional accomplishments that have advanced the science of plant health through publications, teaching and public outreach and service.

Evans has been doing all of that for three decades at UD. As professor of plant pathology, he has established himself as a leader in the area of plant health and food security on local, national and international levels.

He has maintained robust research programs in support of Delaware’s vegetable processing industry and established international research projects in Ecuador, Morocco, Egypt, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic.  In 2010, Evans received President Obama’s Volunteer Service Award from the Bureau for Food Security for his thousands of hours of service to the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Feed the Future Program.

Evans has published over 81 peer-reviewed papers, numerous extension publications and proceedings and has delivered numerous invited presentations and workshops both in the U.S. and abroad.

For the past 20 years, supported by a number of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Specialty Crops Research Initiative (SCRI) competitive grants, Evans’ research group has worked on the etiology and management of downy mildew of lima bean, the cornerstone of the Delaware vegetable processing industry.

Evans’ findings have led to a better understanding of the race structure of the causal agent, Phytophthora phaseoli, and the nature of resistance in lima bean to this important pathogen.  This work, along with the development of a new on-line Risk Management Tool for Lima Bean, has saved millions of dollars for the industry over that period.

Evans also played a pivotal role as a scientific advisor to the first National Summit on Rose Rosette Disease held in Newark, Delaware in 2013 leading to the funding of another multistate USDA-NIFA SCRI grant proposal in 2014.

Evans maintains the east coast screening facility for the development of resistance to the most important disease of cultivated rose.  Evans has secured research grants in excess of $6 million over his career and has advised 16 M.S. and Ph.D. students, served on 25 additional graduate committees and advised dozens of undergraduate students.

Over his 32 years at UD he has taught six courses to over 1,500 undergraduate and graduate students both on campus and on study abroad.  These courses include Introductory Botany (5x), People and Plants: Feast or Famine (25x), Vegetable Science (6x), Plants of Ecuador and the Galapagos (7x), Introductory Plant Pathology (15x), Diagnostic Plant Pathology (8x), Plant Virology (10x) and Current Concepts in Plant Health (25x).

He consistently receives excellent teaching evaluations with comments noting his passion and knowledge of the subject and his ability to explain concepts in simple terms.  Evans served APS’s teaching committee for 10 years, serving as chair in 2000.  In 1990, Evans was part of a team that developed the first multimedia platform for teaching plant pathology entitled A Plant Disease Video Disk Resource, which included 20,000 images of plant diseases and pathogens, a searchable database and an image glossary.  Evans was an early leader in plant pathology outreach to K-12 classrooms and for five years led a group of plant pathologists providing workshops to science teachers throughout Delaware.   Evans developed and led one of the first study abroad programs in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and led 10 programs to Ecuador and the Galapagos serving more than 200 students.

Evans has been a member of APS since 1982 serving as the vice-president, president and councilor of the Potomac Division of APS and was awarded their Distinguished Service Award in 2006.  He served APS as a member of the Office of International Programs and chair of the Library Support program for seven years.  He served as an associate editor of the Journal of Plant Disease, senior editor of the APS Education Center and currently serves on the editorial boards of the Mediterranean Journal of Phytopathology and Italian Journal of Mycology.  In 2015, he was elected to membership of the Accademia dei Fisiocritici at the University of Siena, Italy, one of the oldest scientific societies in world with members that include Carl Linnaeus and Louis Pasteur. Evans served the International Society of Plant Pathology  as treasurer from 2008-2013 and is serving as vice-president from 2013-2018.  He is the organizing chair of the ICPP2018 in Boston this summer.

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

New study uses weather radar technology to identify important stopover sites for migratory birds

Every fall, dozens of species of landbirds migrate from their summer breeding grounds in the United States and Canada to wintering grounds as far away as South America.

The migration period is one of the most perilous stages in the life cycle for birds, and the widespread loss of stopover habitat is believed to be a contributing factor in the decline in populations for a number of migratory bird species.

The first step to protecting important stopover sites for birds is to figure out where they are located, and a new study led by researchers at the University of Delaware and funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and partners uses weather radar technology to identify key stopover sites where birds can rest and refuel, and changing patterns in bird migration.

The Northeast Migratory Landbird Stopover Report provides a regional perspective on important sites across multiple states in the Eastern United States.

New study uses weather radar technology to identify important stopover sites for migratory birds“In the Northeast, nothing provides more comprehensive coverage of the land surface than radar,” said Jeff Buler, associate professor of wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware who led the study. “It detects birds over more than a third of the land area in the Northeast.”

Buler and his colleagues analyzed seven years of weather surveillance radar data to predict potentially important stopover sites for migratory landbirds in the region, and conducted surveys for two fall seasons at 48 sites in the Delmarva peninsula and mainland Virginia to corroborate their findings.

“We wanted to know: What are birds doing during stopovers, and why are they choosing certain sites over others?” Buler said.

Using accompanying maps with the radar data can help managers and agencies identify and conserve places heavily used by migrating birds — including protected areas and places that are not managed with migratory species in mind, such as urban parks.

“Before using this radar technology, we didn’t have such a comprehensive perspective on migration stopover for the entire region,” said Randy Dettmers, landbird biologist for the FWS Division of Migratory Birds. “We can use this information to target conservation efforts for management and protection of stopover habitat where it will have the greatest benefit to birds — including urban parks where forest and shrub habitats serve as important refueling sites for migrating birds attracted to brightly lit areas.”

Research Results

The researchers found that migratory birds favor landscapes with a greater amount of hardwood forest cover, but also have a clear preference for hardwood forest patches within more developed landscapes.

Bird density was positively related to the density of arthropods—insects and spiders—and the abundance of fruit, which provide critical food sources for birds looking to refuel during stopovers.

For migratory birds, artificial light is never out of sight — birds flying at about 500 meters above the ground can always detect the sky glow of some large city on the horizon — and it appears to be attractive. The results show that migrant bird density increased with proximity to the brightest areas.

The highest bird densities were found in coastal areas. When southbound landbirds encounter the Atlantic coast, many follow it south rather than migrating over the open Atlantic Ocean. Across the landscape, migrant stopover was most concentrated in woods around brightly lit areas near the Atlantic coast.

The average trend across all radars was a decline of 4.2 percent per year in bird density, which equates to a 29 percent total decline from the period of 2008-2014. Declines were particularly noticeable in Virginia, Massachusetts, and Maine.

Translating results to action

The combination of the regional radar data and the survey data equips people involved in conservation at any scale to identify important stopover sites and make management decisions that reflect the needs of specific species, such as ground foragers that feed on insects in the leaf litter.

While the maps are useful for informing management strategies on protected lands — about half of the National Wildlife Refuges in the region show up on the radar – Buler said the data can help identify new priorities as well.

“We can see many places with heavy use by migratory birds that are not yet protected,” he said.

When Gwen Brewer of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) looked at the study results, she said, “The Pocomoke River corridor on the Eastern shore just lit up like crazy as a migratory hotspot.”

The DNR provided funding to help ground truth the radar data in coastal Maryland and the Delmarva Peninsula through the Resource Assessment Service Power Plant Research Program.

Brewer, who is the science program manager for the Wildlife and Heritage Service, said the study can direct her agency to other priority areas where they can use fine-scale data to narrow in on the forest patches that offer the greatest value to migratory birds.

“By showing us what stands out as important in Maryland, the study also helps us understand what our role should be in the big conservation picture,” she said. “It helps us think about the responsibility we have as part of the larger landscape, and that can inform our in-state process for acquisition, easements, and grant proposals.”

The full Northeast Migratory Landbird Stopover report, maps and data depicting predicted bird density during fall migration, and a user’s guide for these maps are now available in the Northeast Stopover Sites for Migratory Landbirds gallery on DataBasin.

This article was originally published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Photo by Hannah Clipp

UD doctoral student co-authors guide on Mexico’s Mangrove forests

Mangrove forests cover just 0.1 percent of the earth’s surface and yet they are seventy percent more productive than most terrestrial ecosystems.

In Mexico, specifically, mangroves cover 775,555 hectres. Their ability to offer ecosystem services such as sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide into “blue carbon”—carbon stored in coastal ecosystems—working as nurseries for many commercial species of fish and preventing flooding and erosion events in coastal areas make them an invaluable environmental resource.

However, when it comes to uniformly studying mangrove forests, they present multiple challenges to researchers looking to coordinate their efforts at local, regional, national and international scales.

Alma and Rodrigo Vargas discussing mangrove forestsMangroves have a high rate of structural variability—meaning that it is possible to find one mangrove growing taller than 30 meters in one location and find the same species of mangrove growing less than one meter in height in a different location, mainly as consequence of different environmental conditions.

Because of this, the University of Delaware’s Alma Vazquez-Lule, in collaboration with researchers from academic, governmental and non-profit institutions, put together a guide to standardize the methods to monitor mangroves in Mexico at different scales, with the idea to generate data available for regional, national and international mangrove synthesis studies.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) collaborated with four Mexican institutions including the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), Mexican Forest Service (CONAFOR), ProNatura and the Mexican Fund for the Conservation of Nature (FMCN).CONABIOin Mexico was the main institution that coordinated the effort for the guide.

“The guide includes different laboratory and fieldwork methods to characterize the forest structure of mangroves and to identify environmental variables that can help to explain and understand the high structural diversity of this ecosystem in Mexico,” said Vazquez-Lule, a doctoral student studying with Rodrigo Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The guide is geared towards everyone from mangroves experts, to students, technicians and stakeholders to identify the minimum requirements for mangrove monitoring projects.

“Because this guide is in Spanish, it also can be used for other Spanish speaking countries with mangroves in the rest of the Americas,” said Vazquez-Lule, which is important because Mangroves are distributed in the tropical and subtropical areas of the world, between the 30° N and 40° S latitudes that include many Spanish speaking countries.

Alma Vazquez-Lule and Rodrigo Vargas pose with book about Mangrove forests in MexicoThe guide is divided into 8 chapters with each chapter following an order considering the implementation of a mangroves characterization project or mangrove monitoring project.

In addition to writing the introduction, Vazquez-Lule also co-authored chapter 8 with Vargas which focuses on potential studies of synthesis in the mangroves of Mexico with the idea to explain the mangroves ecological processes at different spatial scales.

“The chapter was done to direct actions for a better understanding of mangroves ecosystem processes in Mexico through the synthesis and integration of mangrove data collected at different scales,” said Vazquez-Lule.

Vargas said that he was thrilled to have Vazquez-Lule co-author such a high-profile guide that could have international implications.

“I think that’s extremely important to recognize that she is a collaborator for the leadership of this guide and I think it’s important for the need for standardization because not every mangrove forest is the same and the techniques that can be applied in one country may not be relevant for the specific characteristics of the mangroves of a different country. That is why it’s important to have these efforts and document them, to improve the inventories for educational purposes, technical accuracy, replicability, reproducibility, standardization and harmonization,” said Vargas.

Blue carbon has been a priority for Vargas’ lab as he received a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development award to study blue carbon at the St. Jones Reserve in Delaware.

Vargas is also involved in a NASA project that stresses the importance of sharing data across institutions, countries and agencies to map carbon dynamics throughout Mexico.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Monica Moriak

Laura K. Donohue named the Emalea Pusey Warner 2018 Award recipient

Graduating students, distinguished alumni honored

The University of Delaware Alumni Association (UDAA) recently announced some of its most prestigious awards to honor UD graduating seniors and alumni: the 2018 recipients of the Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Outstanding Senior Awards, the Outstanding Alumni Awards and the Alumni Wall of Fame Awards.

Warner and Taylor Awards for Outstanding Seniors

The Emalea Pusey Warner and Alexander J. Taylor Sr. Awards annually celebrate an outstanding woman and man, respectively, of the senior class. Recipients must demonstrate leadership, academic success and community service. Students must also have a cumulative grade point average of 3.0 or better at the end of the first semester of his/her senior year.

Laura K. Donahue and Zachary A. Sexton have been named recipients of this year's UDAA Warner and Taylor Awards, recognizing the outstanding woman and man of the senior class.The Emalea Pusey Warner 2018 Award recipient Laura K. Donohue graduates in May with an honors bachelor’s degree with distinction in preveterinary and animal biosciences. She is a member of the varsity rowing team and the president and executive officer of the UD Outing Club.

While at UD, Donohue worked closely with faculty in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to study the avian respiratory microbiome. Over the last four years, she worked on farms in northern Iceland and Denmark, as well as with the Lasher Laboratory in Georgetown, Delaware, the Pennsauken Animal Hospital in New Jersey and a small animal clinic in Costa Rica. This fall she will attend Cornell Veterinary School.

Top read more about the Taylor Award winner and the outstanding Alumni Award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

Article by Nicholas Michael

Photo by Kathy Atkinson

Isaacs, Murphy, Simmons recognized for service to people of Delaware

The Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service has been presented to three members of the University of Delaware community – Mark Isaacs, Carrie Murphy, and Diana Simmons – for their contributions to the well-being of the people of the state of Delaware.

The recipients were honored during a ceremony April 26 at the Courtyard Newark at the University of Delaware.

Mark Isaacs

Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, Delaware, was recognized for his work with Delaware farmers and on agricultural research and legislation.

Isaacs has spent his career of 32 years at the University, working primarily in Georgetown on agricultural projects. He has worked directly with farmers on developing management practices for nutrient management in crops; coordinated research and extension projects from the research station; and worked closely with local and state leaders, serving on legislative and governor-appointed task force groups and committees, including Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Farm Bureau, commodity boards, two boards of education and numerous advisory councils.

Recipients of the 2018 Ratledge Family Awards for Delaware Public Service are (from left) Diana Simmons, Mark Isaacs and Carrie MurphyPrior recognition of his work has included the John Warren Excellence in Leadership and Service Award and both the Sussex County and State of Delaware Farm Bureau Distinguished Service to Agriculture Awards.

Isaacs has served as a student adviser/mentor and coach of numerous sport teams over the last 30 years and works closely with students on internship opportunities to expand work-based learning experiences enhancing their professional development while preparing them for careers in agriculture. During “field season,” Isaacs continues doing what he loves best —working with farmers on addressing crop production issues related to pest, nutrient and irrigation management.

He was recognized at the Ratledge Family Award ceremony by Cory Whaley, extension agent at the Carvel Research and Education Center.

Carrie Murphy

Carrie Murphy, extension educator in horticulture, Master Gardener coordinator and program leader for the Lawn and Garden Program for the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension, has been at the University since 2004. She works together with extension educators and specialists to coordinate the Delaware Master Gardener program and the Delaware Cooperative Extension’s home and commercial horticulture programming and services.

Murphy also serves as co-chair for the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition, whose mission is to support community-oriented urban agricultural projects that expand healthy food access in northern Delaware and bring together resources and technical assistance through a collaborative approach to urban farming.

She takes special interest in supporting sustainable landscapes, vegetable gardening, organic production, backyard composting, school and community gardens, and local foods.

At the ceremony, Murphy was recognized by Jennifer Volk, associate director of Cooperative Extension in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Diana Simmons

Diana Simmons, an administrative assistant IV in the School of Public Policy and Administration (SPPA), plays an important role in supporting the school’s faculty, staff and students. She has worked in SPPA for 15 years and previously worked in the Honors Program and the American Philosophical Association at the University of Delaware. In total, she has been at the University for nearly 31 years.

Simmons is an important point of contact and support for SPPA students, and she says that working with students over the years has been the highlight of her career.

Beyond UD, Simmons currently serves as vice president on the board of directors for the Newark Arts Alliance (NAA), a nonprofit organization dedicated to developing community through the arts. She is also the coordinator of the NAA Art-to-Go program, which works to bring artistic opportunities to children, seniors and persons with disabilities in Newark and the surrounding area — with special attention given to children in underserved populations.

Additionally, Simmons supports the Code Purple initiative in Newark by volunteering at several temporary shelter sites when temperatures drop to 20 degrees or below. Code Purple sites provide safe, warm, overnight housing and hot meals to individuals and families who are homeless. Her outreach efforts include coordinating a supply drive each winter to collect items of need for the homeless residents of Newark and the surrounding community.

Simmons was recognized by Maria Aristigueta, director of the School of Public Policy and Administration.

At the April 26 ceremony, David Wilson, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented welcoming remarks, and Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, closed the program. Dan Rich, director of the Community Engagement Initiative and University Professor of Public Policy, presented a talk on community engagement at the University.

About the Ratledge Family Award

The Ratledge family, Delawareans who can trace their roots back to the 1700s, established the award to encourage and recognize significant public service contributions with an award of $1,000 to recipients.

Recipients of the award must be members of the UD community. Faculty, staff and students are eligible.

Preference is given to members of the School of Public Policy and Administration and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The award is presented to those who exemplify excellence in public service to citizens in the state, and those contributions are defined to include both paid and volunteer work.

Article by Crystal Nielsen

Photo by Ryan Halbe

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Joshua Duke, Kyle McCarthy honored with Excellence in Teaching Awards

Eight members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for outstanding work in teaching and advising, and four graduate teaching assistants have received awards for excellence in teaching. In addition, this year the new Mid-Career Faculty Excellence in Scholarship Award was presented to two faculty members.

Excellence in Teaching award winners: Joshua Duke-CANR (seated), McKay Jenkins-CAS (black sweater), Lisa McBeth-CHS (only female) and Kyle McCarthy-CANR (purple shirt)The honors were announced at the May 7 Faculty Senate meeting. Selected by the Senate’s Committee on Student and Faculty Honors, the teaching and advising awards are based primarily on nominations from current and past students. Nominations for the Mid-Career Faculty Award are solicited from members of the faculty.

Excellence in Teaching awardees each receive $5,000, have their portraits hung in Morris Library for five years and have bricks inscribed with their names installed in Mentors’ Circle between Hullihen Hall and the Morris Library.

This year’s Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to:

  • Joshua Duke, professor of applied economics and statistics, legal studies and marine science and policy;
  • McKay Jenkins, Cornelius A. Tilghman Professor of English;
  • Lisa McBeth, senior instructor in the School of Nursing; and
  • Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology.

Of the Excellence in Teaching Award, Duke said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the excellent students at UD. I enjoy helping students learn course content and improve their problem-solving skills, while also learning from them during our class discussions.  I am fortunate to teach environmental classes at a time when technological innovation and environmental policy are rapidly evolving.  I try to help students understand that economic analysis offers a surprisingly simple and powerful way to process the world’s environmental problems, though it often speaks against the conventional wisdom that those problems are too complex and insurmountable to solve without unacceptable sacrifice.”

McCarthy said, “Our students are the lifeblood of this University, and we are fortunate that they are willing to trust us with their education. To fulfill that trust, and to be awarded for doing it well, is both humbling and elating. I will never cease to be passionate about conservation of the natural world, upon which we place both the dreams and demands of humanity. To be able to share that passion with the next generation of decision makers is something I will never take for granted.”

To read about the rest of the winners from across the University, check out the article on UDaily.

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson and Evan Krape

CANR holds 2018 Research Symposium

The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) held its third annual Research Symposium on Monday, April 30 from 9 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. in an Ag Day tent outside of Townsend Hall.

This year’s symposium included 76 poster presentations—up from 50 in 2017—from undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers and CANR staff members and was split up into five areas of unique research strengths for the college:

  • One Health—intersections among animal, plant, human and ecosystem health;
  • Climate Change—impacts, mitigation and adaptation;
  • Genetics and genomics for plant, animal and ecosystem improvement;
  • Human Dimensions of food, agriculture and natural resources; and
  • Sustainable food systems, landscapes and ecosystems

CANR holds 2018 Research SymposiumEric Wommack, deputy dean and associate dean for research and graduate education at CANR, said that this year’s symposium was a great success.

“We made a big jump this year in presentations from 44 in 2016, to 50 in 2017, to 76 today. The breadth and impact of the work presented was impressive. It clearly demonstrates the global impact of the College’s research enterprise and that we are succeeding in delivering on UD’s land grant mission to serve the public good through scientific research,” said Wommack.

Winners were announced in PhD, MS, Undergraduate and Post-doc categories as well as top poster winners in each of the five CANR unique research strength areas.

The PhD winners included:

  • Adam Stager: Phenotyping on the move: Georeferenced imaging and sensing in UD’s outdoor plant science laboratories for advances in agriculture; and
  • Alma Vazquez-Lule: Carbon fluxes and phenology changes in a Delaware tidal salt marsh

The MS winners included:

  • Ying Peng: Evaluation of estrogenic activity of the novel Bisphenol-A alternatives by in-vitro bioassays; and
  • Susan Gachara: Synthetic biology for plant viral diagnostics: Application to Maize Lethal Necrosis disease

The Undergraduate winner was Dominique Lester: To bean or not to bean: Downy Mildew is the question.

The Post-doc winner was Matt Limmer: Quantitative synchrotron x-ray fluorescence for trace metal(loid) distribution in rice grains.

CANR holds 2018 Research SymposiumThe five unique strength winners included:

  • Justin Blair: Capture mechanisms of Duddingtonia flagrans on cyathostomin larvae; in the unique strength group: “One Health” – intersections among animal, plant, human and ecosystem health;
  • Branimir Trifunovic: Greenhouse gas dynamics in a salt marsh creek; in the unique strength group: Climate Change – impacts, mitigation and adaptation;
  • Imogene Cancellare: Snow leopard genetics across high Asia; in the unique strength group: Genetics and genomics for plant, animal and ecosystem improvement;
  • Sean Ellis: A neuroeconomic investigation of disgust in food purchasing decisions; in the unique strength group: Human Dimensions of food, agriculture and natural resources; and
  • Hannah Clipp: Food availability determines how migrating birds use stopover sites; in the unique strength group: Sustainable food systems, landscapes and ecosystems

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Monica Moriak

Doug Tallamy receives American Horticultural Society award

Douglas W. Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology and of biological sciences, has been named the 2018 recipient of the American Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison Award, which is given to an individual who advances public interest and participation in horticulture through effective and inspirational communication.

Doug Tallamy ReceivesAmerican Horticultural Society’s B.Y. Morrison AwardTallamy is the author of the 2009 book Bringing Nature Home, which has had widespread influence on the native plants movement in home gardening. The award will be presented June 21 during the Great American Gardeners Award Ceremony and Banquet at the society’s River Farm headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia.

UDairy Creamery hiring servers, interns for Wilmington and Newark locations

The UDairy Creamery, a campus and community staple centered around educational opportunities and a quality, local product, is also a quite a fun place to work.

Those who ever thought about working at the Creamery are in luck as the UDairy Creamery is currently hiring for both its Newark and Wilmington locations, and is looking for applicants for server positions as well as its three annual internships in Newark.

The Creamery is looking for University of Delaware students with bright personalities, who love helping people, and of course love the Creamery.

Servers get to serve ice cream to customers and also make the ice cream during production shifts. Additional perks include getting to serve ice cream at fun local events like UD Basketball games or taking the Moo Mobile to different, nearby JP Morgan Chase locations.

Due to the recent partnership with the Wilmington Blue Rocks, a new, exciting opportunity for employees at the Wilmington location is the chance to work at Blue Rocks games.

UDairy Creamery hiring servers, interns for Wilmington and Newark locationsIn addition to the server role, the Creamery offers three annual internship positions for a more in-depth, professional learning experience.

The intern roles for the 2018-2019 school year are Human Resources, Food Science, and Social Media and Marketing. These interns work together throughout the year on new flavors, specials, events, and promotional strategies to help the Creamery be the most successful it can be.

Dana Friedrich, a senior marketing major who served this year as the Social Media and Marketing intern at the Creamery, said that her favorite part of the internship was the ability to “be creative every single day and implement my own ideas to better the Creamery’s presence in the community. It’s a great way to improve your marketing and communications skills, and you have the ability to really choose which skills you want to work on, all while taking pictures of ice cream.”

Andrea Schaaf, a senior in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and current Assistant Manager intern, said that her favorite part of the internship was “being a part of such an awesome team and having such supportive mentors who were more than willing to teach me anything I was interested in. The main reasons I would recommend this internship are the amazing team members, the flexible and understanding managers, and all of the great learning opportunities”

New this year to the internship program will be a summer-only Social Media and Marketing internship. Even when the Blue Hens are away for the summer, the Creamery is still in full swing and needs to keep up to date with social media and promotion.

Any Blue Hens who will be around campus for the summer of 2018 and are interested in gaining some internship experience, should apply. The internship will focus mainly on keeping social media channels updated and collaborating with managers on summer specials and promotional ideas, while also working in the store.

Consider applying to work at the UDairy Creamery, and you might just get to join the Moo Crew.

Application links below:



Submit applications for the Newark location to udcreamery@udel.edu

Submit applications for the Wilmington location to udairymarket@udel.edu



Submit applications to udcreamery@udel.eduby May 4th!

And as always, be sure to follow the UDairy Creamery on social media to stay up to date! @udairycreamery

Article by Kristina Demou

Photo by Christy Mannering

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources gears up for annual Ag Day event

On Saturday, April 28, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the University of Delaware will host its annual Ag Day event at Townsend Hall on the UD’s south campus.

A student-run community event celebrating its 43-year anniversary, 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.

Several clubs such as UD’s Food Science Club, Animal Science Club and Entomology Club will be present.

UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources gears up for annual eventAg Day—which has a 2018 theme of “Global Explorers”—will also have children’s games and activities, a livestock display with UD farm animals, musical entertainment, hayrides and much more.

This year, Ag Day will offer a new plant sale hosted by UD Fresh to You, a garden managed at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) that focuses on growing organic produce as a tool to help educate students interested in local and sustainable growth.

The UD Fresh to You program, which is managed by Mike Popovich, farm manager, is a fresh market vegetable program that offers internship opportunities to those studying plant science, soil science, agriculture and natural resources, food science and other related fields.

The program, which was started in 2013, gives interns the opportunity to grow vegetables year-round, thanks in part to two season extending high tunnels, and learn about production.

“It’s a learning environment. Interns can come and learn small scale vegetable production so that they can go off and do it on their own,” said Popovich.

This past January, the UD Fresh to You program was certified organic. After a three-year process to get certified, the organic farm now offers more teaching opportunities for students and allows them to learn more about organic production on a small scale.

In addition to learning the ins and outs of organic production, the work opportunities are greater now that they are certified organic.

“There is definitely more labor involved with the organic system. Not to take away from conventional farming in any way, but a lot of the tools that production method employs are not available to us,” said Popovich.

The increased labor helps Popovich reinforce the strong work ethic he feels is necessary to be successful whether farming two or 2,000 acres.

At the sale, visitors will be able to buy organic and heirloom plants as well as support the numerous students that benefit from the program.

The inaugural UD Fresh to You sale, which will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., will be in addition to the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) annual spring plant sale.

The UDBG sale will take place for the general public on Friday, April 27 from 3-7 p.m. and on Ag Day from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Additional shopping days will be Thursday, May 3 from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday, May 5 from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friends of UDBG will enjoy an exclusive day to shop on Thursday, April 26 from 3-7 p.m

For more information on Ag Day, visit the event website.

Article by Julia Damiano

Photo by Wenbo Fan

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDairy Creamery partners with Wilmington Blue Rocks to serve ice cream at games

When the Wilmington Blue Rocks kicked off their 2018 season on Thursday, April 12, those in attendance were able to treat themselves to delicious UDairy Creamery ice cream, as the creamery has partnered with the Blue Rocks to be the official ice cream of the baseball team for the next two years.

Melinda Shaw, director of creamery operations, said that the partnership will be a great learning opportunity for the students involved, specifically the Associate in Arts students, University of Delaware students who take UD courses taught by UD faculty in small classes on Delaware Technical and Community College campuses throughout the state.

The Associates in Arts students who staff the Creamery Market will get the opportunity to create the ice cream for the games in house at the market and also get a different business and management experience than they would otherwise be afforded.

UDairy Creamery partners with Wilmington Blue Rocks to serve ice cream at games“They are offered the opportunity to go into the stadium and manage the ice cream part of the stands. If they are into entrepreneurship or business management, they’ll see a different side of a huge operation,” said Shaw. “It’s very hands on and they’ll actually train other people to help scoop ice cream, maybe make milkshakes, so it’s some supervisory skills that they’ll learn too.”

Ronald Krischbaum, a freshman UD student in the Associate in Arts program who works at the Creamery Market, said that he has grown up going to Blue Rocks games and is excited to have the opportunity to work at one.

“It’s a new environment, the whole sports area and everything,” said Krischbaum. “I know snacks and ice cream are big things when I go to sporting events and so it’ll be nice to meet more people in that environment and be a part of the game.”

The job at the Creamery is Krischbaum’s first and he said that he has been learning great customer service skills which he hopes to bring to the Blue Rocks games.

He also said that working at the Creamery Market and being a part of the Associate in Arts program has helped him meet new people and feel more connected to the University.

“Before starting school, I knew maybe two kids at UD but working here got me connected to people in the program which helped me out with my classes and everything,” said Krischbaum.

Olivia O’Neal, a sophomore who will soon graduate from the Associate in Arts program and transition to the main UD campus in Newark, has worked at the Creamery Market since it opened in May, 2017 and said that it has been a great experience.

“Everyone is really nice,” said O’Neal. “We kind of created a little family so there’s always a good vibe and feeling when you come in because everyone is so together.”

Like Krischbaum, working at the Creamery Market is O’Neal’s first job and she said that she has learned beneficial customer service skills as well as the art of making ice cream and getting used to the world of work in general.

“Doing the production is really interesting,” O’Neal said. “Everyone was nervous when we started, like ‘Oh, gosh, how are we going to make ice cream?’ but it’s definitely a fun part of the job. A lot of us didn’t have a first job before this so it has been a good step into the working world.”

In addition to serving traditional UDairy Creamery flavors of ice cream at the stadium, a signature Blue Rocks flavor will also be developed, with the Associate in Arts students who work at the UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington coming up with three flavor ideas for the general public to vote on and choose from.

Shaw said that she is excited for the new partnership to serve as a way for the University to reach out to the Wilmington community. The creamery is located at 815 N. Market Street.

“To be a part of something so fun in Wilmington is very special,” Shaw said. “I think that the more joy we can bring to Wilmington residents at those games with ice cream, the better. The fact that we get our students involved in the management process is a great opportunity for them to learn.”

LeeAnne Ahamad, UDairy Creamery Market Manager, said that she is excited for the students to do the bulk production, producing the creamery’s ice cream in a larger capacity, and also have the chance to work at the stadium.

“Going down to the Blue Rock stadium with the ice cream is a new experience for them and being able to bring light to the Associate in Arts program and be engaged with the community even more than they already are is an incredible opportunity,” said Ahamad.

In addition to the forthcoming Blue Rocks signature flavor that will be served in the stadium, there will also be crowd pleasing favorites such as vanilla, chocolate, mint chocolate chip, and cookies and cream. Strawberry pints will be available for sale as well.

The creamery will also continue its ‘K-Man’ contest where a row in the stadium is selected and anytime a certain player on the other team strikes out, that row gets a coupon to the Creamery Market.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Rodrigo Vargas works with NASA to map carbon dynamics across Mexico

The University of Delaware’s Rodrigo Vargas is partnering with NASA and an international team of collaborators to understand carbon dynamics in soils and diverse landscapes in Mexico. Using one of the agency’s high-performance computers, the group will study massive amounts of datasets to document carbon dynamics across the country.

Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is leading the three- year, $800,000 project. Vargas’ work is a continuation of a previous project that led to over 20 peer-reviewed publications and published datasets.

This new project aims to improve national carbon monitoring efforts and provide support for implementation of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation plus improving forest management, carbon stock enhancement and conservation (REDD+).

UD’s Rodrigo Vargas works with NASA to map carbon dynamics across MexicoCo-Investigator Sangram Ganguly, senior research scientist at NASA Ames Research Center, has developed a machine learning approach implemented in the NASA Earth Exchange (NEX) high performance computing (HPC) framework to detect forest cover change across the United States.

Now, the researchers are interested to see if this approach using high resolution aerial imagery can be applied to Mexico, which has a more heterogeneous landscape.

“Mexico is a great test bed for NASA Carbon Monitoring System (CMS) products because it provides a heterogeneous landscape for testing,” Vargas said. “That’s extremely important because in a short distance, you can have very sharp changes in climate and the land surface from deserts, tropical forests, all the way to tundra so this landscape heterogeneity makes a challenge for monitoring applications.”

Vargas said the motivation behind the project is to allow NASA to develop and improve capabilities to support stakeholders — such as the U.S. Forest Service, the National Forestry Commission of Mexico and the North American Carbon Program — to improve monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon stocks and fluxes across North America.

“This is about big data processing for training algorithms,” Vargas said. “This is about using the wealth of information to increase our capabilities for carbon monitoring systems. We want to generate a framework using different variables and then, through collaboration with stakeholders, improve national carbon monitoring.”

The researchers are collecting datasets from Mexico to create harmonized information that will allow them to study terrestrial carbon dynamics from local to regional levels. This will be important to test and improve the applicability of NASA CMS products elsewhere other than the United States.

“The data that is available in the United States is unique but Mexico is a country that has developed a lot of important and useful datasets that can now be used to test the U.S. derived technologies,” Vargas said. “Also because of the proximity of Mexico to the United States, some information of Mexico is covered by satellites of the United States because of the shared border. So many of the products that are designed for the U.S. can be independently tested in Mexico.”

By using remote sensing and ground information coupled with a HPC framework, the researchers are hoping to not only increase the knowledge in carbon cycle science but also reduce the costs associated with national-scale carbon monitoring.

“One step is to extract information and knowledge from remote sensing products, airborne platforms and intensive carbon monitoring sites to provide multi-scale benefits and knowledge on carbon cycle science,” Vargas said. “If you go and assign an inventory and say ‘I’m going to measure all the trees around the country,’ it could be very accurate but it’s super expensive. If you use a remote sensing approach, just by itself, it’s cheap but we need to test how accurate it could be.”

By extracting knowledge from intensive ground-based inventories of carbon stocks and fluxes to inform different approaches, the researchers are hoping to identify uncertainties to provide confidence in remote sensing products.

“What we’re trying to do in Mexico, is we have a lot of information for the inventories but also we have a lot of information from remote sensing. We want to put them together so we can maximize the efforts,” said Vargas.

The group will take advantage of available databases from Mexico and the United States on soil carbon and models of carbon fluxes across the countries which allows them to propose a methodology for forest classifications with regards to forest cover change assessments and an estimation of carbon related variables.

“We’re implementing techniques for land surface classification developed within the United States using HPC to test them to see how they perform in complex, heterogeneous landscapes in Mexico using new data sets,” Vargas said. “This is important to test but also to generate knowledge and inform stakeholders in Mexico to ultimately close the regional carbon balance across North America.”

Once the researchers provide a framework and their calculations, the outputs can be tested on the ground in collaborations with Mexican scientists for ground truth validation at intensive carbon monitoring sites.

“This builds on the goal of NASA CMS to build these prototypes to support monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon stocks and fluxes at different spatial and temporal scales,” said Vargas. “It brings the opportunity for UD to build international collaborations and build international reputation and it’s important for closing the regional carbon budget of North America.”

Vargas said that the project lines up nicely with UD’s new data science initiative and he has also been collaborating with researchers from multiple institutions to look at ecological data to help improve near-term ecological forecasting.

Kent County 4-H Junior Leader Retreat

Members of the Kent County 4-H program took part in a weekend Junior Leader Retreat from Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 25 learning skills to increase their leadership abilities and gaining additional tools to use when working with groups and leading.

The participants took part in workshops that covered everything from communication skills needed when working as part of a team, to how to help those in need who are being pestered by a bully, to learning all about how to use social media in a safe, responsible way.

They also planned the Younger Member Weekend where they will lead younger members of 4-H, ages 8-12, through a weekend retreat of their own.

Kent County 4-H Junior Leader RetreatJenny Trunfio, 4-H program assistant, said that the 4-H participants practiced a lot of team challenges to help with leadership and communication skills. One such challenge involved teams working together to put together a puzzle but they couldn’t talk and weren’t allowed to touch other members’ puzzle pieces.

“Some thoughts for them during that exercise were that if you can’t communicate, if there’s no way for you to say, ‘Your puzzle piece goes over here,’ how do you get around that? We did a lot of activities like that to get them thinking about how to communicate with a team, how to work together and then we also did some leadership type activities and showed them some challenges in their leadership roles,” Trunfio said.

Rachel Taylor, a member of 4-H who attended the event, said that her favorite part of the weekend was hanging out with friends, sharing laughs and making new memories.

“We did so many activities that helped us determine the type of leader we are [such as one] through animal comparisons. As a specific animal group, we learned the strengths and weakness we hold as a leader. This was a fun way to better ourselves as a leader,” said Taylor.

Taylor added that 4-H allows its members to find their true selves.

“Throughout the course of the retreat, youth are able to find their strengths and weaknesses as a leader. When you determine these characteristics, it helps you determine how you can improve yourself to be the best leader possible,” said Taylor. “It also provides knowledge that you can bring back to your club and community. For example, I attended a social media workshop. During this workshop, I learned how to be safe when using social media. I can take the knowledge I learned and bring it into a presentation that I could do with my club.”

Christy Mannering, communications specialist in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Delaware, led the presentation on social media and stressed that there are a variety of social media platforms that all have different privacy and location settings.

“They’re all going to have different terms and privacy policies. The more you’re connected to them and the more they’re connected to each other, the more they share with each other cross-platform,” said Mannering.

Mannering also let the 4-H participants know that sometimes even though they are posting in an appropriate fashion, other people may tag them or mention them in something public, saying that it doesn’t hurt to Google yourself every now and then to see what is out there.

To emphasize this point, the first 10 minutes of her presentation shared information she had found about each member participating in the session, as Trunfio had given her a list of names in advance.

“It’s important to know that you’re pictures and your interests are connected, your favorite sports, book, hobbies are linked with pictures of your face, you don’t want strangers to take advantage by using that information,” said Mannering.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Jenny Trunfio

CANR to host annual community push lawn mower tune-up service

The University of Delaware’s Alpha Gamma Rho (AGR) fraternity for agriculture and the Sigma Alpha sorority will host this year’s push lawn mower tune up.

The lawn mower tune up is in its 17thyear and over that time period, 8,750 mowers have been serviced.

Last year, over 650 mowers were serviced.

2018 Lawn Mower Tune up set April 13-15The lawn mower tune-up will be held this year on Friday, April 13, and Saturday, April 14, at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus with pickup on Saturday and Sunday, April 15.

The tune-up is provided by trained students and alumni members of the clubs and includes washing the mower, an oil change, spark plug replacement, air filter cleaning and blade sharpening.

Service performed is tune-up only; no repairs are performed and no riding mowers will be accepted.

The cost of the tune-up is $40. Payment in the form of cash or check may be made at drop-off. Checks should be made out to Alpha Gamma Rho.

Lawn mowers may be dropped off and picked up in the parking lot behind Worrilow and Townsend halls on UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources campus at 531 S. College Ave., just north of the Fred Rust Ice Arena.

For more information, contactJeffrey Hall at jeffhall@udel.edu or call the AGR Fraternity at (732) 672–0328.

Article by Adam Thomas

UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in Brazil

University of Delaware student Cate Medlock had always dreamed of seeing the Amazon River, so when the opportunity arose for her to join thirteen other students and professor Sue Barton on a study abroad excursion over winter session, she jumped at the opportunity.

“I wanted to go somewhere pretty special and this program was the perfect blend of nature, art and culture so it was exactly what I wanted,” said Medlock, a senior environmental science major.

Barton, professor and Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the study abroad presents two courses—Field Sketching of Landscape Subjects and Plants and Human Culture, which is a course she teaches each fall.

 UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in BrazilThe students visited the Amazon for the first week of their time in Brazil and then travelled to Rio de Janeiro where they were able to visit the home and gardens of artist Roberto Burle Marx and look at works by Marx and other Brazilian landscape architects and artists.

During their time on the Amazon, the students stayed in the floating Uacari Lodge in the Mamiraua Reserve, which afforded them the opportunity to encounter the plants and animals of the Amazon—such as pink river dolphins and caimans—close up.

“It’s pretty crazy to tell people that you were staying on a floating lodge in the middle of the river, hanging out on a hammock sketching and seeing pink river dolphins,” Medlock said.

In Rio de Janeiro, the students visited several gardens designed by Burle Marx, the landscape architect credited with beginning the native plant movement in landscape architecture. In addition to Burle Marx’s home, the students visited a rooftop garden, Flamingo Park and Tacaruna, a restored Burle Marx garden. Students also enjoyed Inhotim, a public Garden featuring modern art in galleries and landscape settings.

Many of the Brazilian artists the students researched for a study abroad presentation had their art displayed throughout the Garden.

“At least six students found their artists either at Inhotim or in Rio,” said Barton. “One of them, Eduardo Kobra, did a huge mural on a wall that was done for the Olympics. As soon as the students saw the pieces, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my artist.’ It was very cool and was a really nice connection.”

 UD students learn about field sketching landscape subjects in BrazilFor their final project as part of the study abroad, the students had to sketch a montage of five images from their time in Brazil. These montages are now on display in the hallways of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Medlock said that even though she didn’t have any previous artistic experience, it was a great opportunity to learn and travel, and that her sketchbook is something she will cherish forever.

“You come back with this sketch book full of some really bizarre objects that you see but you’re staring at them for a long while and it’s an intimate knowledge of this one area. I can still picture myself in that one spot where I was sitting sketching that object and there’s notes about it and I’m journaling about things I saw or how I was feeling at the same time,” said Medlock. “It’s almost a little time capsule that I get to look back and see who I was at that time and what I was feeling and what I was thinking.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Sue Barton

Submissions due for the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Second Annual Photo Contest

The entry deadline is fast approaching for the 2nd Annual University of Delaware Botanic Gardens Photo Contest. Submissions are due by noon on Friday, March 30, 2018. Five winners will receive gift certificates for the 26th Spring Benefit Plant Sale (April 27-28 and May 3 and 5, 2018) and a Plant Sale t-shirt. For complete information and details on how to submit your images, go to the UDBG website: http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/.

UDBG photo contest submissions due March 30The contest accepts submissions in 2 categories: UDBG Landscapes and UDBG Plants. The Landscapes category accepts images from any of the UDBG gardens that include plants and/or landscape elements. The Plants category is for close-ups of UDBG flowers, fruits, leaves, stems or other plant parts. There is a maximum of 2 entries per person per category.

To enjoy exclusive member benefits, join the UDBG Friends online at http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/ or contact Melinda Zoehrer at BotanicGardens@udel.edu. The Gardens are open year round to provide ideas and inspiration, or for a quiet stroll. UDBG contributes to an understanding of the relationships between plants and people through education, research, cooperative extension, and community support.

UD to host Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization certificate course

When there is a poultry disease outbreak in the United States, it has a big impact on the industry, especially with regards to global exports which fall between 15 to 20 percent of the poultry industry business.

Because of this, it is critical to educate the global poultry community on the safe guards the United States has in place to protect against the spread of poultry diseases such as avian influenza.

This summer, from Tuesday, June 5 through Thursday, June 7, the University of Delaware will host a Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization (PDOMR) certificate course geared towards giving an international group of participants a better understanding of how the United States is able to regionalize and control avian influenza outbreaks.

UD to host Poultry Disease Outbreak Management and Regionalization certificate course“The idea is that there are countries that say they don’t believe it’s safe to import poultry from anywhere in the United States when there’s an A.I. outbreak and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is saying, ‘Wait a minute, we have a program, a very well defined program to ensure that poultry from other regions of the country are safe,’” said Bob Alphin, senior instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and manager of the Allen Laboratory.

“Regionalization can be applied at the national, state, and ideally down to the county level,” said Eric Benson, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences and director of the program. “The avian influenza outbreak of 2014 – 2015 was the worst animal health disaster in U.S. history, but large sectors of the poultry industry including a commodity crucial to Delaware, broiler or meat chickens, were not directly impacted by the disease outbreak. Despite this, exports of broilers were significantly reduced. Good regionalization agreements help to reduce these impacts.”

The PDOMR training program will be an intensive program, taught in English, held at UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Newark.

Using a mixture of seminars, discussions, and hands-on technology demonstrations, the Certificate program’s instructors will cover topics such as the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reportable poultry diseases including avian influenza virus, surveillance, biosecurity, outbreak response and control, incident command structures, protecting the responder, disposal, composting, decontamination, the U.S. poultry industry, the nature and importance of regionalization and the economic impact of animal disease outbreaks.

The training program will extensively use the experiences gained during the 2014 – 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza and other outbreaks.

The course also utilizes the “Delaware model,” which emphasizes close cooperation between government, industry and educational institutions to manage avian influenza outbreaks using best management practices and technologies related to controlling outbreaks of avian influenza and other catastrophic disease outbreaks.

Alphin said there are around 10-12 participants who are sponsored by the USDA who will be arriving from all over the world  with room for 8 to 10 more participants.

“What we have to do is educate these foreign representatives about the entire program, the scope of it, the details, and then the big thing is to answer their questions,” said Alphin. “We think it’s one of our land grant missions. We try to help the industry by educating people about it and we think that if we can get more countries to accept our exports—even during the disease outbreaks where appropriate—that’s a win-win for everyone.”

“International capacity building helps protect the U.S. industry by helping to keep diseases away from the U.S. industry,” said Benson. “PDOMR presents both the technical and policy components in disease response.”

PDOMR is one of several internationally focused joint educational programs presented by the University of Delaware’s Avian Biosciences Center (ABC) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Division of Professional and Continuing Studies (PCS).

Additional offerings include the Emergency Poultry Disease Response certificate program, which is a five-day program concentrating on building participants’ technical expertise for managing and responding to disease outbreaks. The Veterinary Diagnostics and Laboratory Quality Assurance program is a second five-day program that helps international veterinary laboratories improve their capacity and meet ISO standards.

For additional information on PDOMR or to sign up for the program, visit the website.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo courtesy of Bob Alphin

New Wilmington Market mural takes UDairy from cow to cone

The UDairy Creamery Market in Wilmington welcomed a mural to its wall this past November and guests are now greeted with a unique and charming depiction of the University of Delaware’s Holstein cows enjoying some ice cream.

Being that the Creamery’s slogan is “from the cow to the cone,” the piece encapsulates the entire production process starting with the cows and ending with the delicious product, UDairy ice cream, which is also made in house at the Market Street location.

The mural was illustrated by UD’s Madison Bacon, a senior in the art department, who has a strong background doing work in animation and illustration.

“When I was designing it, I tried to think of the history of UDairy and, obviously, owning our own cows [at UD] is a big deal so I wanted them to be a centerpiece,” Bacon said. “I also wanted to include the student involvement working on the farm and in the store and tie it all together by incorporating Wilmington through the city depicted in the background. Overall, I think it captures the history and evolution of UDairy.”

New Wilmington Market mural takes UDairy from cow to coneMelinda Shaw, director of creamery operations, said the mural shows the creamery mission in a creative way.

“Wilmington has such a large creative district, so to show off student talent, we can use the market as a resource to do so,” Shaw said. “It was a really fun project because we were in such a fun environment and we got to see so many interesting drafts and iterations as it came together.”

LeeAnne Ahamad, the UDairy creamery market manager, said that the mural prompts guests to pause, look and help promote the creamery with their own photography.

It is, she said, “definitely a show stopper. As guests come in, especially those who have visited before, we see them stop and look at it. It has also become a popular ‘photo op stop’ where guests snap pictures with their ice cream in front of the mural, particularly with the cows.”

Work of this scale is not new to Bacon, but this process was new for her in some ways.

“I’ve done big paintings before, but this time I wasn’t doing a big painting on a wall, I created a smaller illustration that would then be blown up into a big decal,” said Bacon.

This opportunity also gave her additional experience working with clients, bringing them thumbnails and managing expectations, and she got to work with her professors to learn how to draft a contract for her work.

The mural has all of the UDairy Creamery’s staples tied in to one – the cow to cone ideology, fusing the farm aspects of ice cream production, the city aspects of the Market’s location and creative district, and the student involvement throughout.

The UDairy Creamery Market is located at 815 N. Market St. in Wilmington and open Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Friday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

To see more of Bacon’s work, view her online portfolio at:


To stay up to date with the UDairy Creamery, follow them at: https://www.facebook.com/UDairyCreameryMarketWilm/ http://canr.udel.edu/udairycreamery/wilmington/

Article by Kristina Demou

Photo by Dana Friedrich

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDBG offers hot peppers, heirloom tomato plants at annual plant sale

For hot pepper lovers and adventurous newcomers interested in tantalizing their taste buds, the University of Delaware Botanic Garden’s will offer its selection of hot pepper and heirloom tomato plants at the annual spring plant sale on Friday, April 27th and Saturday, April 28th as well as Thursday, May 3rd and Saturday, May 5th.

Popular chili peppers can be used to make everything from sultry salsas to flavorful dishes. Spiciness is essential to gastronomic pleasure and without chili peppers, dishes would lack Capsaicin—known as that mouth-watering spicy kick—which may play a role in increasing blood circulation, lowering cholesterol, improving digestion, and preventing cancer.

The UDBG plant sale will also feature the hottest chili pepper in the world, as the Capsicum ‘Carolina Reaper,’ which was recognized as the world’s hottest chili in 2013 by Guinnes World Records, will be available.

UDBG offers hot peppers, heirloom tomato plants at annual plant saleHeat is measured on the Scoville scale with bell peppers coming in at zero, or no heat, and the ‘Carolina Reaper’, rated at 1,569,383 – 2,200,000 in Scoville units.

Some of the UDBG’s other selections include ‘Trinidad Moruga Scorpion Red’, rated the second hottest pepper in the world, ‘7 Pot Douglah,’ an extremely hot and rare chili characterized by its dark brown to deep purple skin, and ‘7 Pot Brain Strain’ which many growers consider to be the hottest of the red ‘7 Pot’ varieties.

Incidentally, the ‘7 Pot’ varieties, native to the Caribbean, are named for the ability of 1 pepper to spice “7 pots of stew.”

For those who aren’t fans of hot peppers, the sale will also feature pepper plants for every palate. The selection of 42 cultivars ranges from sweets such as ‘Violet Sparkle’ and ‘Topepo Rosso’ to familiar, mildly hot peppers such as ‘Hot Cherry’ and ‘Corbaci’, to Scorpion, Ghost, Scotch Bonnets and the ‘Carolina Reaper’.

A full list of pepper and tomato plants, including tomatillos, can be viewed on the UDBG’s website at http://ag.udel.edu/udbg/.

Tomatillo ‘Amarylla’ is a key ingredient in many mild to hot salsas and therefore a perfect growing companion alongside pepper and tomato plants.

The UDBG only has a limited number of some varieties, so come early for the best selection.

Article by Rachel Hutchins

UD professor collaborates on publication focused on the importance of near-term ecological forecasting

We rely on accurate weather forecasting every day to help us determine what to wear or how to prepare for impending storms. Weather forecasting has become such a part of our lives and so common place that knowing the current weather conditions is only a click away for most of us on our phones.

Researchers from 23 institutions, including the University of Delaware, are teaming up to see if the same can be made true of near-term ecological forecasting—forecasts that will allow researchers to map out plans for future environmental management, conservation and sustainability.

Near-term ecological forecasting plans would cover everything from seasonal wildfires across the globe to weekly national influenza estimates to daily algal blooms for specific regions, according to the researchers. They recently published their call for a decade of ecological forecasting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

UD professor collaborates on publication focused on the importance of near-term ecological forecastingRodrigo Vargas, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, is a co-author of the paper, which was led by Michael Dietze, associate professor at Boston University, and included colleagues from universities, private research institutes, and the U. S. Geological Survey.

“Forecasting science has been developed for weather forecasting, which is surprisingly accurate, but in other disciplines, we are behind,” Vargas said. “So why is it not possible to increase forecasting in other areas of science, especially, in this case, ecological forecasting?”

The two main questions that drive the study are how the ecosystems and the services they provide are going to change in the future and how human decisions affect those trajectories.

“The challenge with ecological systems is you not only have the weather and the climate, you have soils, plants and animals, along with people who ultimately need to make decisions,” Vargas said. “Our decisions as a society are going to be combined with the environment to influence the trajectory of these ecosystems.”

Another problem is that most of the ecological forecasts that exist today are concerned with long-term trends, what’s going to happen 100 years from now, rather than near-term trends, such as what will happen tomorrow, within weeks or months.

“Environmental decision making requires that information,” Vargas said. “For example, if you’re the Delaware Department of Transportation, and you know that there’s going to be a snow storm tomorrow, you’re going to make management decisions that are either going to save you a lot of money or cost you a lot of money. Imagine if we can also have near-term forecasting information for ecological purposes because the same thing could be done for environmental management.”


With the amount of ecological data that is now able to be stored and accessed by scientists and other agencies, Vargas said that researchers can start applying different computational informatics and statistical methods to improve forecast specific theories.

There is also a need to coordinate and share technology, data, protocols and experiences through increasing interoperability which can be seen as a coordinated effort to maximize collaboration to produce knowledge and apply the knowledge gained, but there are several barriers for the scientific community to overcome.

Not only do the scientists need to coordinate what they are measuring and if they are measuring the right thing, they also have to discuss how to design a monitoring network and evaluate if they are all storing the information in the same way using similar instruments.

There are also organizational barriers, such as what agency or organization is going to measure and gather particular pieces of data, as well as cultural differences between social scientists and data scientists.

“For interoperability, it is about how can we work together and closely as human beings with our strengths and weaknesses to increase knowledge,” Vargas said.

The researchers also point to the need for near real-time data that shows up quickly in databases or data portals after being collected, in order to properly improve near-term ecological forecasting.

“Data accessibility has been improved for weather forecasting and meteorological stations,” Vargas said. “In the Delaware Environmental Observing System (DEOS) there is a minimum delay for data to be accessible in their website. But for the diverse array of ecological forecasting, that issue of data availability and accessibility is big because we’re not there yet.”

The data collected would be made as publicly available as possible and secured for long-term storage.

Next Steps

Moving forward, the researchers said that they would like to focus on three key topics: training, institutions and culture.

“It is important to train the next generation of ecological forecasters because this new generation will require skills that are currently not taught at most institutions,” Vargas said. “Forecasting can benefit towards researchers being trained in statistics, best practices of data, coding and informatics. I think the timing is interesting for UD where the Data Science initiative can catalyze new collaborations, visions and educational programs and open the opportunity for students to acquire skills that currently might not be there.”

Cross institutional fellowship programs where students can benefit from networking opportunities and interdisciplinary training programs will also play key roles in improving ecological forecasting.

“Ecological forecasters are not going to be just ecologists, are not just going to be data scientists, are not just going to be computer scientists or statisticians, it will require a combination of different skills,” Vargas said. “.The paper also calls for short courses maybe over one to two week periods to obtain specific skills.”

As for when the best time to start with this process of ecological forecasting, the researchers said that the time to start is now.

“We should start learning by doing,” Vargas said. “We will be making mistakes now but with that, we will be learning on the fly and that’s really how weather forecasting worked.”

Paper Roots

Though the paper was published this year, the process of thinking began back in 2015 when a diverse group of researchers gathered at the University of Delaware as part of the Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop to discuss ecological grand challenges including those associated with near-term ecological forecasting.

Those challenges were later the focus of the Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop in Fort Collins, Colorado, which ultimately led to the publication of the paper.

The Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop held at UD was organized by Vargas and the Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop was organized by Dietze.

The Building Global Ecological Understanding workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation.

The Operationalizing Ecological Forecasts workshop was hosted by the United States Geological Survey and funded by the National Ecological Observatory Network.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

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