Someday – in some scientifically savvy encyclopedia perhaps – the word “resilience” may include a photograph of the Western Corn Rootworm. This crafty, intrepid rootworm has found a way to circumvent just about every defense a corn plant and its advocates have thrown at it.
This is why its street name is “Billion Dollar Bug” in many agricultural circles, a name that reflects the size of this insect’s annual bite into the coffers of U.S. corn growers, who last year year planted 89.1 million acres of the crop, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Not all of that acreage is at risk. But the rootworm is considered the most important pest in the Midwest’s Corn Belt, where corn production is highest, led by Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Minnesota.
Consider this rootworm’s impressive record: It has survived granular insecticides and sprayed insecticides. It has figured out how to beat crop-rotation practices, which discourage rootworm population increases. And, scientists say, it has developed resistance to hybrid corn plants that were engineered with toxins released when the rootworms attacked, a defense that had proven effective for at least a decade.
Helping farmers find new ways to use manure beyond fertilizing fields is not as easy as you’d think. Trying new technologies and techniques can be expensive and time-consuming. And as University of Delaware Extension Agronomist Jarrod Miller suggests, what can work in the laboratory might not be as successful in the field. Read the article in Bay Journal.
University of Delaware Provost Robin Morgan was recognized Thursday, Jan. 24, at the 48th Delaware Agricultural Industry Dinner with the Secretary’s Award for Distinguished Service to Delaware Agriculture. She was honored for her commitment to agriculture through education, research and encouraging the next generation of agriculturalists.
“I was a newcomer to agriculture when I came to Delaware three decades ago. Many people in academia, industry and government patiently taught me about poultry health and agricultural sustainability, and maybe I taught them a little something about molecular biology,” Morgan said. “Somewhere along the way, I became very committed to food and water security, which are major challenges for our society.” Morgan has also indicated that this award was especially meaningful because it was kept a very tight secret, and she had no inkling that she was the recipient. Read the full article on UDaily.
When an outbreak of disease strikes in remote parts of the world, a field response team from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works quickly to identify, investigate, and treat the disease to maintain global health security. In December, while many University of Delaware students were finishing written final exams, the students in Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology (ENWC267) were testing their own emergency response and critical thinking skills in a mock outbreak and CDC investigation.
The first of its kind in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this experiential final saw students pretending to be deployed to the Amazon rainforest where they explored a laboratory transformed into a mock outbreak zone complete with medical tent, research station, and local farm. Read the full article on UDaily.
Participants in Delaware’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) gathered alongside state leaders and community partners on Friday, Jan. 11, to celebrate the launch of a new five-year, $23-million grant to further expand environmental research in the First State.
EPSCoR is a federal-state partnership sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) that engages Delaware’s academic institutions in cutting-edge research and training activities that address critical needs of the state. The new grant is the fourth EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement (RII) grant awarded to Delaware since its designation as an EPSCoR state in 2003. The award supports activities at the four partner institutions — the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical Community College and Wesley College.
The state of Delaware is contributing $3.8 million of the overall grant through matching funds over the next five years. Delaware Gov. John Carney offered his congratulations to those in attendance at the event, held at Delaware State University, reflecting on EPSCoR’s humble beginnings from an experimental program to the established program today that “has taken root in our state” to address problems such as water quality, increased salinity and other challenges related to climate change. Read the full article on UDaily.
Applied Economics and Statistics’ and the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment’s Holly Michael teamed up for an op-ed on the state of Delaware’s water supply. The pair are the project director and research lead for a $23 million research effort dubbed Project WiCCED, a multi-institution, interdisciplinary collaboration to understand and develop solutions for Delaware’s water security. The project integrates engineering, natural, and social sciences, including the application of advanced data analytics, the development and deployment of new sensor technologies, and the use of new techniques and models to predict the often-coupled behavior of water resources and people. Read the op-ed on Delaware Online.
WHYY — As the country’s lowest-lying state, Delaware is especially vulnerable to rising sea levels — and the influence of saltwater on the wildlife that depends on freshwater wetlands. What’s more, water quality throughout the state is poor.
More than 90 percent of Delaware’s waterways are polluted, according to a Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control study cited by the University of Delaware’s Kent Messer.
Now, Messer is leading a massive research project seeking a solution to the state’s water woes — with the help of the National Science Foundation, that has awarded the effort $19 million over the next five years to fund the work. Read the full article on WHYY.
Exploring a new way to teach, University of Delaware graduate students in Randy Wisser’s “Genome Science: Technology and Techniques” course gained practical experience not only in the field of genome science, but also in helping others learn.
That experience culminated in the development of a problem-based learning (PBL) exercise for undergraduates that was published in Genetics Society of America’s Peer-Reviewed Education Portal.
Problem-based learning is a method of teaching where the motivation to learn is stimulated by confronting real-world problems and learning is elevated by addressing the problems in teams. For PBL, exercises are developed to implement the teaching method. Wisser sought to use this as a platform for teaching his graduate students. Read the full story on UDaily.
When an outbreak of disease strikes in remote parts of the world, a field response team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works quickly to identify, investigate, and treat the disease to maintain global health security. In December, while many University of Delaware students were finishing written final exams, the students in Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology (ENWC267) were testing their own emergency response and critical thinking skills in a mock outbreak and CDC investigation.The first of its kind in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, this experiential final saw students “deployed” to the Amazon rainforest where they explored a laboratory transformed into a mock outbreak zone complete with medical tent, research station, and local farm. Students split into teams of CDC medics, entomologists, and epidemiologists to interview various actors in an effort to determine the disease, treatment, and best vector control methods. Several current and former Entomology and Wildlife Ecology graduate students volunteered to portray physicians, researchers, farmers and ill patients, and answered student questions on a range of topics including health symptoms, native insects, and recent weather events.After two hours of investigation and deliberation, students collectively presented their findings and correctly attributed the outbreak to yellow fever virus, transmitted by the yellow fever mosquito.Led by Entomology and Wildlife Ecology doctoral candidate Ashley Kennedy and Associate Professor of Entomology Charles Bartlett, this imaginative final was modeled after a similar exam designed by renowned medical entomologist Jerome Goddard at Mississippi State University. As with most finals, it is meant to test students’ ability to synthesize information they’ve learned throughout the course of a semester. However, because each student is assigned a specific CDC role and interviews only actors relevant to that role, this test relies not only on each student’s critical thinking but also their ability to cooperate, share information and present a final team report. Kennedy was excited to introduce this test format to students at the University of Delaware. “I think that having a hands-on experience where they’re face-to-face with patients and other people impacted by an outbreak was good training,” said Kennedy, “to remind them that these are real diseases that still affect millions of people worldwide and not just a thing of the past.”Medical, Veterinary, and Forensic Entomology will be offered again in Fall 2019.Article and photos by Lauren Bradford
Apiary research associate Dan Borkoski is using ApisProtect’s service to monitor 20 of the UD’s hives in Georgetown since last fall. WIRED has the story on the Irish company’s app that is giving commercial beekeepers a high-tech helping hand and reducing how often beekeepers open hives. Read the article.
Principal investigator Kent Messer (Applied Economics and Statistics) is leading “Water in the Changing Coastal Environment of Delaware (Project WiCCED). Scientists and researchers from the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Wesley College and Delaware Technical Community College, will work together with their students to take a closer look at challenges facing the water supplies that residents, businesses, farmers and wildlife rely on for survival. The National Science Foundation contributed $19 million in funding and the state of Delaware provided $3.9 million. Learn more about the research study on Delaware Online.
For farmers, a productive harvest can mean money in the bank. Poor yield due to drought, pests and other environmental factors, on the other hand, can threaten livelihoods.
Improved seed varieties have been developed to address these problems for many agricultural crops.
Yet while agricultural production in the United States continues to rise, in areas of Africa, such as Kenya, gains in agricultural production have been more limited. This is particularly true of corn, or maize, productivity in the Nyanza Province, which occupies the largest share of the region’s farmland compared to other crops and is a staple food for more than 90 percent of the area’s population.
According to University of Delaware alumnus Mariam Gharib, a Kenya native, one possible reason for this production lag may be seed fraud, a practice where plant seeds marketed as high-performance have actually been tampered with or been replaced with inferior products. Read the full article on UDaily.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources announced the results of a public opinion survey, done in cooperation with the University of Delaware and Responsive Management on white-tailed deer. The survey, taken by more than 2,200 individuals representing the general population, landowners and hunters, found that a majority like deer, but a significant proportion of the population are concerned with the negative impacts deer cause. Read the article on Southern Maryland News Net.
Current students joined University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni and veterinarians in Townsend Hall during UD’s Homecoming Weekend at the Pre-Vet Alumni and Delaware Veterinary Practitioners Reception. While most of the guests hailed from the mid-Atlantic, the evening’s keynote speaker, Dr. Courtney Campbell, traveled all the way from California for the occasion. But jetlag couldn’t possibility slow down this class of 2001 alumnus, who is bursting with endless positive energy.
Campbell is no stranger to the microphone, the camera or long work days. While practicing veterinary medicine at VetSurg in Ventura, California, he’s appeared on Live with Kelly, hosted the National Geographic show Pet Talk and makes regular trips down the 101 Freeway to Los Angeles for media appearances. Read the full article on UDaily.
A carnivore is an animal or plant that eats the flesh of animals. Most, but not all, carnivorous animals are members of the Carnivora order; but, not all members of the Carnivora order are carnivorous. Live Science break it down with the help of our Kyle McCarthy, assistant professor of wildlife ecology. Read the article.
For Summer 2019, the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has several internship programs for both UD and non-UD students, including Summer Institute, Cooperative Extension Summer Scholars, and ENVISION. The programs offer excellent laboratory and field research and service-learning opportunities for students. Descriptions of each program are listed below.
CANR is offering summer research and education experiences to undergraduates (both UD and non-UD students) who are interested in pursuing an advanced degree in the agricultural, natural resources, or life sciences. During the ten-week Summer Institute, students will be paired with CANR researchers on projects that will provide “real-world” experiences in scientific careers. Participants have the opportunity to develop a project, collect and analyze data, and present their results at a campus wide summer symposium. Participation in the Summer Institute is awarded through a competitive application process and freshmen, sophomores, and juniors are encouraged to apply. The Summer Institute seeks diversity among its participants and thus particularly encourages student applicants who are from groups that are underrepresented in the nation’s scientific or agricultural workforce. The Summer Institute encourages applicants from other colleges and universities to apply.
The 10-week 2019 Summer Institute will be held on the University of Delaware campus in Newark, Delaware. Students will each receive a $4,000 stipend for personal and food expenses and can be reimbursed (up to $500) for round-trip travel to participate in the program. Additionally, housing and/or parking permit costs will be covered if students live in University residence halls or need to have a car on campus.
For more information, visit the Summer Institute website or contact Dr. Eric Benson, CANR Summer Institute Faculty Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org. To apply, visit the application process page. Applications will be accepted through March 1, 2019.
Cooperative Extension Summer Scholars
The Cooperative Extension Summer Scholar Program is for current University of Delaware undergraduate and graduate students. Selected scholars will be paired with Cooperative Extension personnel to work on a project in line with Cooperative Extension’s mission to connect university knowledge, research, and resources with the public to address youth, family, community and agricultural needs.
During the summer scholar session, students will follow Cooperative Extension’s service learning model, implemented through one of extension’s four program areas: 4-H youth development, family and consumer sciences, lawn and garden, and agriculture and natural resources. The summer scholar session will take place June 9 to Aug. 14, 2019. Scholars will receive a stipend for their participation.
Interested students are encouraged to apply before the application deadline of Feb. 8, 2019. Applicants will be invited to meet with the selection committee. Selected scholars will be notified of their acceptance into the program prior to spring break.
For information and the application link, visit the Cooperative Extension website or contact Alison Brayfield at email@example.com or 302-831-2504.
Unique Strengths Undergraduate Research Internships
Through the generosity of our donors, the CANR Unique Strengths summer undergraduate research internship program will provide support for a 10-week undergraduate research internship experience with a CANR faculty member. The CANR Unique Strengths encompass five research areas:
Genetics and Genomics
Mitigation of and adaptation to climate change
A “one health” approach to animal, plant, human and ecosystems;
Sustainable food systems, landscapes and ecosystems; and
The human dimensions of agriculture and natural resources
Eligible undergraduates must be nominated by a CANR faculty member. Once nominated, each nominee will need to provide a brief personal statement articulating how the internship experience with the nominating faculty member will serve their longer-term career goals and interests. Nominees must also provide a transcript (unofficial is ok) and a description of their prior research experiences (if, applicable).
Interns will receive a $4,250 stipend and $750 for laboratory supplies. At the conclusion of their fellowship experience, undergraduate interns are expected to present a poster at the annual summer undergraduate research symposium, typically held on the second Thursday of August. A total of ten undergraduate research internships will be awarded across the five CANR unique strength groups. Nominations will open on Jan. 14, 2019 and will close on Feb. 28, 2019. Applicants will be notified of acceptance the week of Mar. 18th, 2019.
Undergraduate nominees only.
Nominee must be advised by a CANR faculty member who has aligned with a CANR Unique Strength group.
A CANR faculty member may nominate up to two students.
Priority given to students graduating in 2021 or later or students graduating in 2020 who have prior research experience.
Priority given to students who have already participated in an undergraduate research experience.
Envision is a three-year undergraduate research experience funded through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) focused on generating the next generation of Agricultural Scientists. As minorities are underrepresented in these disciplines and research target areas, this project was developed to address this disparity.
With partnering institutions (Lincoln University, Delaware State University, and University of Maryland Eastern Shore), at minimum of ten undergraduates will work with project investigators to develop their own hypothesis-based research project, document this using video production training, and present on this work at both public (Delaware State Fair) and scientific (UD Symposium) audiences. The summer includes training in video equipment, editing and storytelling, industry trips, laboratory and safety training, and participation in team-building activities.
Participants will be paired with faculty members in the areas of Animal Health and Disease; Bioenergy and the Environment; Food Microbiology and Safety; Genetics and Genomics; or Physiology, Immunology, and Animal Nutrition based on student interest and faculty availability.
Students from the University of Delaware and the list partner institutions are encouraged to apply. The ten-week, 2019 ENVISION program will be held on the University of Delaware campus in Newark, Delaware. Students will each received a $4,000 stipend for personal and food expenses and can be provided on campus housing by request.
Contact Dr. Mark Parcells, Animal and Food Sciences Faculty Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To apply, visit the application process page. Applications will be accepted through Mar. 18, 2019.
Southern Delaware oysters are back on the menu thanks to new aquaculture program. Delaware Online has the story on the businesses getting involved and what it means for bay waters. The article mentions University of Delaware research on the consumer demand for oysters and how it can have a positive impact on water quality. Watch the video and read the article.
Food safety and nutrition specialist Sue Snider knows that cooking a turkey for Thanksgiving or any other occasion, comes with many challenges. To keep your main course safe and delicious, the Cooperative Extension specialist addressed key issues and burning questions for this Thursday’s chefs. Read the article on UDaily.
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.
Migratory 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” (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.
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.
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.
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.
A few steps up the ladder and students were ready to roll in their giant red rides!
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!
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
DELAWARE 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Farm laborers continually monitor the crops and remove yellowed leaves, seen on the ground.
A field of cauliflower looks healthy and just beginning to flower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Specialty pumpkins, like these small white decor favorites, are not grown on the farm, but brought in as a value-added product for customers.
Inside the country store, home grown and locally grown produce, as well as value-added canned and baked goods are for sale.
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.
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
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.”
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).
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Before going inside the house, the class posed for a photo.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The students took poultry portraits of each other.
Christian Riggen poses outside with Extension poultry agent 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.
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.
AGRI 130’s next class trip is on Oct. 6, to Fifer’s Orchard in Camden Wyoming.
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.
An 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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 CarolineGibson 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.
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 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.
“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 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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
“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.
UD part of $3.5 million NSF-funded study to improve key crop resilience
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.
Article by Karen B. Roberts, adapted with permission from the Danforth Plant Science
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.
Amelia Griffith is a biochemistry major from Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.
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
In 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:
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.
What 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
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Using 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.
“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.
When 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.
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.
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.
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.”
Bennett 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
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.
While 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.”
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.
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:
UDBG 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Dr. 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
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.”
Through 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.
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.
Since 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.
“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.
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.
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.
Messer 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.
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.
During 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.
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-brationCelery-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 TracksBlue Sugar Cookie Ice Cream with a thick Fudge Swirl and Mini Chocolate-covered Caramel Truffles
Blue Rocks SlideVanilla Ice Cream with Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Chunks and Blue Cookie Cream Swirl
The 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.
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.
She 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
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.”
Program 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.
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.
His 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.
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.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
“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.”
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