UD researcher, Fulbright Scholar join forces to defend and fortify rice

UD researcher, Fulbright Scholar join forces to defend and fortify rice
College of Agriculture & Natural Resources professor Angelia Seyfferth does research on plant & soil samples.
If you were a server at a worldwide restaurant – one that could seat every last man, woman and child on Earth and feed them what they usually eat – you would be dishing out rice more than any other item on your menu. By far. You’d be serving much of it with extra arsenic, too – not because anyone asked for it, but because rice almost always brings it along and in some areas of the world the rice collects much more than in others. Many other foods on the menu would have arsenic in them, too, because rice is an ingredient in many cereals, drinks, pasta, puddings, pizza crust, pie crust, brownie mix, cookies, snack bars, even some beers and wines. Arsenic – a chemical and known carcinogen – occurs naturally in soil and is released into groundwater and soils through both natural processes and through pesticides and fertilizers. Rice is especially susceptible to arsenic contamination because of the way it is typically grown under paddy conditions and the way its roots take in water and nutrients. Diners in Bangladesh are believed to be at greater risk of arsenic poisoning than anyone else in the world because of high contamination levels in water supplies and rice. The United States serves up its share, too, but no government authority has yet set official arsenic-related exposure standards in food. Now an expert from Bangladesh is collaborating with an expert at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) to look for ways to defend rice plants against arsenic and fortify them with other nutrients at the same time. Mahmud Hossain Sumon is a professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh and a visiting Fulbright Scholar in residence this year at UD, working with plant and soil scientist Angelia Seyfferth. Seyfferth put rice on UD’s research map in a new way in 2015, when she installed 12 rice paddies on a small plot of UD’s Newark farmland. Six more were added this year. That’s a quaint little plot by standards in Sumon’s country, nestled between Burma and India, about 8,000 miles from Newark. More than 75 percent of arable land there is covered in rice, about 28 million acres, he said. The climate allows three harvests in many areas in Bangladesh, while Seyfferth gets one from her Delaware paddies. Both scientists see great benefit in their collaboration. Seyfferth hopes to test new methods in real Bangladesh field conditions and Sumon, whose research interests include geochemistry, environmental science, rhizosphere dynamics and biogeochemical cycling, now has access to UD’s research facilities. “We have the facilities but we are lacking field situations,” Seyfferth said of her lab at UD. “The rice paddies are our laboratory, but labs are mesocosms [carefully controlled environments], not traditional rice paddy fields.” She became aware of Sumon’s work through another colleague and suggested he apply for the Fulbright Program. He saw it as a rare opportunity to use state-of-the-art facilities. His wife and two children, ages 8 and 6, are with him for this nine-month endeavor. Together, Seyfferth and Sumon are working to find soil amendments that deliver two significant advances – decreased arsenic and increased nutrient levels – while remaining affordable to farmers in Bangladesh and other developing countries. Seyfferth has been testing silicon amendments that come from crop residues, such as rice husks. Using probes that continuously monitor the soil chemistry, she shows that the higher the silicon content, the lower the arsenic uptake. That could be part of the answer for Bangladesh, where rice husks are typically discarded but could instead be a readily available and affordable source of needed silicon. There are two forms of arsenic, organic forms and inorganic forms, and both are toxic to plants and humans. The majority of the arsenic found in U.S. rice is in organic forms, which are more phytotoxic while the majority in Bangladesh rice is in inorganic forms, which cause cancer in humans. That raises questions about what kinds of microorganisms are in the soils and how do they differ in U.S. and Bangladeshi soils and respond to different conditions? Under carefully controlled conditions monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Seyfferth has imported soil from Bangladesh for some of these analyses. Using DNA extraction and analysis, scientists can examine genetic material and learn what sort of organisms are – or have been – active. And that helps researchers learn how environmental conditions and amendments affect the rice plants and the essential food they produce. “Working with Mahmud has been a pleasure,” she said. “I think one thing that I can learn from him is rice cultural practices – not just for growing rice in the field, but for how rice ties into the culture. For example, if we come up with a solution on the bench top, would farmers in Bangladesh consider using the method? How would incorporating husk into soil work in practice? Would there be a mechanism to get the material back to the farmers once it is separated from the grain?” Having access to real field conditions is essential, too, she said. “The connections he has to various farms in Bangladesh is going to push the science forward. While we can test our ideas in our rice paddies as a proof of concept study, we really need to test our methods in fields in Asia and other places where rice is typically grown. This collaboration will help to facilitate that future work. I also envision that we will send students to do visits in Bangladesh in the future.”

About the researchers

Angelia Seyfferth is assistant professor of plant and soil sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. She earned her bachelor’s degree in environmental science at Towson (Maryland) University, her doctorate at the University of California, Riverside, and did postdoctoral work at Stanford University before joining UD’s faculty in 2012. She won a prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, which provided funding for the plot of rice paddies she and her team created in 2015. Mahmud Hossain Sumon is professor of soil science at Bangladesh Agricultural University in Mymensingh. He is a graduate of that university, earned his doctorate at the University of Aberdeen (Scotland) and did postdoctoral work at the Queen’s University in Belfast, Ireland. His research interests include geochemistry, environmental science, waste management, biogeochemical cycling, rhizosphere dynamics and plant ecophysiology.

About Fulbright at UD

The Fulbright Program annually provides 8,000 grants for research or teaching in one of over 140 countries throughout the world. Established by U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright in 1946, the program seeks to foster international partnership and cultural exchange by funding research and teaching opportunities worldwide. Since 1950, more than 170 faculty, staff, student and alumni members of the University of Delaware community have received Fulbright Awards. The University welcomes Fulbrighters from around the world for research and graduate study, with students hailing from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan. For two years the University has also hosted students from around the world for a week-long Fulbright Gateway Orientation administered by the Institute for Global Studies. For more details on Fulbright at the University of Delaware, visit the Institute for Global Studies website or contact Lisa Chieffo, associate director for study abroad and UD’s Fulbright Program adviser. Article and video by Beth Miller Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Jaisi wins NSF Career Award for research on sources, fate of phytate in soils

UD’s Jaisi wins NSF Career Award for research on sources, fate of phytate in soilsMuch like criminal forensic scientists use fingerprints to identify guilty parties at crime scenes, the University of Delaware’s Deb Jaisi utilizes isotopic fingerprinting technology to locate the sources of phosphorus compounds and studies the degraded products they leave behind in soil and water. Jaisi, an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), recently received a highly prestigious National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Award, and said that he will use the five-year, $570,000 grant to further his source tracking research, looking specifically at the sources and fate of phytate, the most common organic phosphorus in soils. In addition, an educational component of the research will contribute to the development of an Environmental Forensics and Society course at UD, enhance curricula at Delaware Technical Community College and develop an environmental forensics summer camp as part of the 4-H Positive Youth Development and mentoring organization summer activities. Of the award and Jaisi’s research interests overall, CANR Dean Mark Rieger said, “In just five short years at UD, Dr. Jaisi has become a national authority in isotope tracking methodologies, and he applies them to one of the most important issues at the ag-environment nexus: the sources and fates of phosphorus in the environment. This award is not only recognition of his prior impact on the field, but a testament to his future potential as a leader in soil biogeochemistry.” Janine Sherrier, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said that “Dr. Jaisi’s research provides a new dimension and a complementary approach to our department’s research program on phosphorous cycling in the environment.”

Natural versus human contribution

Surface water eutrophication and bottom water dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay have been an issue for decades. When it comes to phosphorous sources and biogeochemical processes that contribute to the water quality in the Chesapeake, Jaisi said that the quantitative identity and original sources of phosphorous are still not fully understood. “A molecular level understanding of the sources and processes that impact water quality is something I am interested pursuing in my career,” he said. This research will look at the phytates, which are phosphorus reserves in grains and are the most common forms of organic phosphorous in the environment. “Monogastric animals like a pig or a chicken cannot digest phytate in their grain-based diet, so it’s going to end up in manure. The application of manure in agriculture soil causes a portion of it to leach out of the soil and eventually finds its way to open waters,” said Jaisi. The other major form of phytate in the environment comes from plant leaves. While plants have an unusually small amount of phytate, the large numbers of leaves that fall off in early fall make this source of phytate abundant, as well. “Using isotope fingerprints of phytate, we can identify whether phytate is derived from a plant, which is a natural process, versus manure, which is related to anthropogenic activity,” Jaisi said. “Distinct seasonality of both processes allows us to provide precise information not only on the source but the exact residence time of phytate and its products in the environment. Understanding the role of the particular source of phytate on water quality is the primary information needed to devise appropriate water quality management.” The question of anthropogenic phosphorous loading versus natural phosphorous loading in the Chesapeake is one that Jaisi said gets asked a lot and that his research is central to answering. “The question is not natural versus agriculture-driven, as both contribute, but how much does one source contribute with regard to the water quality,” Jaisi said. “I am extremely lucky to work with a dynamic group of postdoctoral associates, graduate and undergraduate students on my team who are as committed to these problems as I am. Together we are dedicated to making a meaningful impact on science and society.” In addition to looking for the source of the phytate, Jaisi seeks to understand how one form of phytate transforms to the other form called “stereoisomers.” Specifically, Jaisi is interested in understanding if it is a biologically coded reaction or a chemical transformation. Since some of the stereoisomers are more stable than others, addressing the first question will unravel whether there is a yet unknown microbial process to synthesize them for yet unknown reasons. In regard to the impact on water quality, Jaisi will also investigate the residence times of different products of phytate and stereoisomers in soil and water, which will help address the longstanding scientific question concerning phytate accumulation versus degradation and its environmental impacts. Jaisi’s research will split into controlled experiments in his laboratory and a field study in East Creek, a body of water that flows into the Chesapeake Bay in Crisfield, Maryland. The resulting data and information on phytate pathways and processes could be useful to collective efforts by a series of federal, state, and local agencies involved in improving water quality including the Chesapeake Bay Program, such as the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which collectively develop Chesapeake Bay restoration plans.

Educational component

One of the key elements of the NSF Career program is to enrich educational experiences and inspire students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The research will lead to the development of an Environmental Forensics and Society course at UD and enhance curricula at Delaware Technical Community College. Lakshmi Cyr, instructional director and department chairperson of the biology and chemistry department at Delaware Tech, said that the collaboration between the two institutions, “provides enhanced training for DTCC program graduates, promotes student engagement, and eases students’ transition to four year institutions. DTCC interns had very positive experiences working with Dr. Jaisi. They demonstrated improved laboratory skills and a greater understanding of the research process, which led to post-graduation success in their chosen careers or continued education path.” In addition, Jaisi is looking forward to the environmental forensics summer camp through the Delaware 4H program, in which approximately 200 students will take part, as he is passionate about environmental forensics in different dimensions from research to the course development and to the summer programs. “A series of contaminants impacts human and environmental health and it could be a pesticide or another toxin or a heavy element. The unique way we approach the forensic question is we use source fingerprints to identify where did they come from and where do they end up? It is important we raise the public concern about environmental quality and our habitat. Thus, we’re going to make them aware of how important it is to protect the environment where we live,” said Jaisi. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

First generation farmers reflect on introduction to agriculture at UD

First generation farmers reflect on introduction to agriculture at UDFirst generation farmers Amanda and John Place not only found their love of agriculture while undergraduates in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), they also found each other. Now, 14 years later, they both have careers in what they studied as undergrads: Amanda as a veterinarian and the medical director at VCA Northside Animal Hospital in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and John as the general manager of Profeta Farms, an organic farm in Readington, New Jersey that farms 1,300 total acres. In addition, they also run their startup family farm, Keepsake Farm and Dairy, in Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where they raise wholesome food — such as grass-fed beef, raw milk, rose veal and fresh range pasture eggs — in a natural environment. They credit UD for introducing a girl from Long Island and a boy from the suburbs of Philadelphia to the world of agriculture. “The College of Agriculture [and Natural Resources] played a huge role in sending Amanda and I in this direction through the education and the guidance we had,” said John Place. Originally a biology major, who had always aspired to be a veterinarian but was intimidated initially by the years of education needed to pursue a veterinary degree, Amanda (Satriano) Place took an Animal Science 101 class with Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in CANR. The experience of that course convinced her to stick with her longtime goals and she changed majors and moved over to the CANR in her sophomore year. She met John through their involvement in the Animal Science Club. John Place said he looked at CANR originally to work with horses but after interning on the campus farm with Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, and Larry Armstrong, farm manager, he knew that was the direction he wanted his career to head. “Ever since I got to college, agriculture was what I was going to do. I wanted to farm. I didn’t really have that experience until I got there and that changed the trajectory of life,” he said. Both agreed that a study abroad program to New Zealand they took with Griffiths was a game-changer as it exposed them to pasture-based agriculture — letting cows roam and eat grass in a pasture as opposed to the practice of feeding them grain — something they carried with them when they started Keepsake Farm and Dairy, which is now an exclusively grass-fed raw milk dairy. “When we went to New Zealand and were seeing commercial size dairies that were 100 percent grazing operated, a light bulb went off in my head because I had never seen it on that scale outside on grass and I realized ‘Wow, this can be done,’” John Place said. “From that point, it was learning progressive grazing techniques and management of grazing and applying it to a more finicky animal — the dairy cow versus the beef cow — and a lot of trial by fire. We learned some important lessons but in the end, it does work and it works well.” Amanda Place said that it was “eye opening to see animals on pasture and how you can successfully do things so much differently than what’s standard here.” Because their cows are all grass-fed and not given hormones or antibiotics, and they don’t use chemical pesticides or fertilizers on their farm, she said they tend to have healthier animals. “Animals that eat grass produce healthier products, whether it’s meat or milk, just like humans who eat more than grains are a lot healthier. From the veterinarian’s perspective, mimicking nature produces healthier animals. We just don’t see sick cows. Many dairies have a standing veterinarian appointment once a week to take care of whatever sick cows have popped up and yet we rarely see our vet outside of our annual herd check,” said Place. “When cows are permitted to eat grass at their leisure, raise their own calves and be milked only once per day without any antibiotics or hormones, you’d be amazed how healthy they can be. That’s what they’re built for, so I think if you take some tips from how nature did it, you end up with a lot healthier happier creature.” John Place added that even though he and Amanda chose to go the organic route, they are not disparaging toward conventional farmers. “We’re all in this together. It’s not like I can’t talk to the conventional world, but we’re just trying to do something a little bit differently and provide a product that there’s a waiting customer base for,” said Place. For more information on Keepsake Farm and Dairy, visit their Facebook page. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR teams up with William Penn High on agricultural education

Carrie Murphy speaks to students at William Penn High School.Educating the next generation about where their food comes from and getting them to appreciate the process that allows food to go from farms to their tables is one of the most important challenges facing the agricultural industry today. It is with that in mind that experts from the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and Cooperative Extension spent time at William Penn High School in New Castle, Delaware, teaching students in the Penn Farm class the ins and outs of agriculture — covering everything from plants to poultry — with hopes of reinforcing lessons they are learning as part of the course curriculum. Carrie Murphy, extension agent and the lawn and garden program leader, and Donald Seifrit, a master’s degree student in CANR, visited the class on Dec. 5 and talked to the students about soil health. They also led an outdoor activity in which the students got hands-on experience working with soils, digging with spades and an auger — a tool with teeth at the bottom to break up rocks that can reach six feet down and pull up soil. Murphy said the students had a lot of fun getting their hands dirty and was impressed at their willingness to embrace the learning activity. “I handed out spades to everybody and they went ahead and started digging in the soil and we put it all into a couple of buckets and twirled it around and they got a closer look,” she said. “They were smelling it, rolling it around in their fingers, showing each other interesting things that they had found, and that helps us to have a real conversation with the kids.” Murphy said the students were able to see soil in poor health — such as the compacted pathway that led back to Penn Farm — as compared to the healthy soil on the farm itself, which is better for growing crops. “We could talk about the differences and help them understand why that might be important,” said Murphy. Seifrit, who was an Extension Scholar with Murphy and hopes to one day be a teacher himself, said the students really responded to being outside and working in the field. He was eager to have the opportunity to engage with high school students, which is the age group he sees himself teaching and educating about agriculture. “I want to show kids that it’s more than just corn and cows. For the next 50 years, when we’re supposed to hit 10 billion or so people in the world, it’s important that everyone can have good food. They should know where their food comes from and they should be involved in the process that gets people their nutrition every day,” said Seifrit. Seifrit also said that the teachers had done a great job with the students in the class. “They were vocal and active and it was really exciting. The three teachers we were there with have done a great job with those kids. They seemed engaged and they wanted to participate and that’s all you can ask for when you come in and present something,” said Seifrit.

Historic Penn Farm class

At William Penn High, one of the programs in which students can study is agriculture and they are exposed to four years of sustainable agriculture both in the classroom and on Historic Penn Farm. Through a partnership with Delaware Greenways, the school operates and manages four acres at the farm, where students grow a wide variety of vegetables. William Penn High agriculture students also plan and grow vegetables to be prepared for use in school cafeterias. Kelly Vaughan, one of the teachers involved with the class, said it is important for the teachers to educate the students on where their food comes from. Carrie Murphy and Donald Seifrit discuss agricultural practices with William Penn High School students.“We don’t want them to say [the grocery store]. We want them to say a farm. Students should understand where food comes from and what goes into getting food from the farm to consumer’s tables. Farming is hard and many factors go into food production and where it comes from. We hope students gain that knowledge first hand here in our Penn Farm class,” said Vaughan. Kathleen Pickard, a teacher at William Penn High who has been involved in the program since its inception, said that the class teaches students important skills to prepare them for college or future careers. “Not only do students have to know how to apply what they’re learning in math class or science class to real life situations but they also need to know the soft skills such as working together as a team, getting along with others, being on time, being prepared and professionalism. Getting them college and career ready is really what the high school is all about,” said Pickard.

UD connection

In addition to Murphy and Seifrit, other UD professionals lined up to talk to the class include Mike Popovich, farm manager at CANR; Brian Kunkel, an ornamental integrated pest management Cooperative Extension specialist; Bob Alphin, instructor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) and manager of the University’s Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory; Tanya Gressley, associate professor of animal and food sciences; and Laura Nemec, ANFS lab coordinator. The students also visited the CANR campus last summer and interacted with professors from all across the college’s four departments. Karen Ferrucci, a William Penn High teacher and a CANR alumna, said that it was great for the students to have a connection to UD. “Being a UD alumna, I get excited because maybe it’s a professor I had or I can tell stories to the kids and make more of a connection for them so they don’t feel that college is so far off. We have such a cool connection that we’re building with Mike [Popovich] and with Carrie and a lot of the professors we meet with in the summer. A lot of the kids are like, ‘Wow. I didn’t know UD did this or UD did that.’ It’s just kind of closing the gap for the students,” said Ferrucci. Pickard said that visiting UD and having professors and professionals come out to the class helps take the scare factor out of applying to college. “A lot of the kids are reluctant to fill out that application or take that SAT because they’re afraid, and just walking around the campus, interacting with the students and with the professors, taking a mini-course, it just really was exciting for them,” said Pickard. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD Extension educator named a 2017 Nuffield International Scholar

UD Extension educator named a 2017 Nuffield International ScholarThis will be a month Georgie Cartanza will not soon forget. Her first day as the University of Delaware Cooperative Extension state poultry agent was Dec. 1 and two weeks later she was named a 2017 Nuffield International Farming Scholar, one of approximately 20 selected each year from nominations across the globe. Cartanza is the first American to receive the prestigious scholarship. “Being chosen as the first American Nuffield Scholar makes me feel tremendously humble and honored,” Cartanza said. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that I believe will help me to better serve the University of Delaware and the poultry industry, an industry that has a huge economic impact on our state and region.” In the 1940s, the Nuffield Foundation was established to carry on the philanthropy and innovative vision of British automaker William Morris, also known as Lord Nuffield, who saw the value of education abroad and encouraged the experience in others. In 1978 a separate entity, the Nuffield Farming Scholarship Trust, was established to focus solely on agriculture advancement and exploration of progressive ideas.  Since its establishment, more than 600 Nuffield scholars have originated from the United Kingdom with another 1,600 scholars coming from across the globe. Cartanza is one of 90 working farmers from around the world to participate in the 2017 program. While Nuffield Farming Scholars conduct study tours in the United States, none have originated from the U.S. “All of us in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are beaming with pride with the news of the Nuffield Scholarship,” said Dean Mark Rieger. “Beyond the personal growth and genuine excitement that is in store for Georgie, I can’t think of a better way for someone to start a career as a Cooperative Extension poultry agent than this. She will bring back a wealth of information and new ideas to both the college and to Delaware’s multi-billion-dollar poultry industry.” Cartanza will travel a minimum of eight weeks abroad in locations selected to support her focus on poultry production. In addition, she will provide a significant report to the global agriculture community on her experience. In addition to her new Cooperative Extension career, Cartanza operates an organic poultry farm in Kent County and has worked an additional 20 years in the poultry industry. In 2014, Cartanza and her farm were recognized with Delaware’s Environmental Stewardship Award acknowledging her efforts with nutrient management best practices that reduce chicken nutrients from entering local watersheds. For Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, Cartanza’s expertise, love of learning and dedication to share knowledge with others made her a natural candidate to put forth as a Nuffield Scholar nominee. “Her expertise reflects a true grass roots experience but coupled with a thorough understanding of the biology and physiology of chickens,” Kee said. “As a result she has a true understanding of the impact of a wide array of variables on the growth of chickens.” According to the Delaware Department of Agriculture, Kee has assisted with the development of a Nuffield program in the United States since 2014 and will become president of the Nuffield USA board upon his retirement in January. “Georgie will see different production systems in very different cultures and different economic systems,” Kee said. “Our agricultural systems are always becoming more intertwined with global economic and market forces. I couldn’t think of a better opportunity for an experienced professional like Georgie, starting on her extension career at this point of her career, than the Nuffield International Scholars program. She will be able to identify various components of the different systems that may be of real beneficial use here on Delmarva.” Indeed, Cartanza is already considering how the Nuffield program will directly benefit other growers through her Cooperative Extension outreach, and said she hopes the experiences will make her a better servant leader. “The main areas I hope to investigate are managing birds in extreme temperatures – tropical and cold climates – learning the latest technologies used in poultry housing that save on energy and maximize bird comfort, and exploring how environmental challenges and consumer demands have changed production methods,” Cartanza said. “Participating in the Nuffield International Scholarship program will help me investigate, learn, question, understand and apply new information from a global perspective. The experience will help me to develop a greater appreciation and understanding of how other farmers meet challenges, how they make decisions, how they utilize technology and changing production methods,” she said. Article by Michele Walfred This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers develop models to improve environmental conservation on military bases

military-environmentMilitary installations in the United States are home to a surprisingly large number of threatened and endangered species, leaving the Department of Defense (DoD) with the critical dual responsibilities of ensuring that it provides the finest military readiness training to American service members and also that it protects the species that call those facilities home. It is also mandated by the DoD’s Natural Resources Conservation program and the mission of its Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) program that these two objectives be carried out in a cost effective manner. New research from the University of Delaware shows that by utilizing economic and optimization models – originally developed by the military in World War II – and changing up the way in which programs are selected, the DoD can generate a 21 percent increase in military readiness and environmental protection or achieve the same benefits they are currently receiving at a cost savings of 37 percent. The research was led by Kent Messer, the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment, director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) in the University’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and co-director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded national Center for Behavioral and Experimental Agri-Environmental Research (CBEAR), and Maik Kecinski, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, and was recently published in the journal Land Economics. With 425 military installations comprising approximately 25 million acres, and with over 320 listed species living on those installations — such as the endangered red cockaded woodpecker that thrives in the longleaf pine habitat of Fort Bragg in North Carolina — the need is great for an organization like REPI to partner with conservation organizations and other government agencies to maintain and preserve surrounding land, with REPI successfully protecting 315,000 acres with $890 million in funding through 2013. To conduct their study, the UD researchers used a 2010 data set from the Office of the Secretary of Defense focused on 44 projects considered for funding from the Army, the Air Force and the Navy to expand posts and bases utilizing a budget of $54 million. Kecinski said that the way the military currently chooses projects is based on a method called “benefit targeting.” “All of these 44 projects come with a benefit score. The problem with this benefit scoring is that they don’t look at the cost. You could have this insanely good project that has 99 points but it costs $40 million, so they would select this project, but you might also be able to get a project that has 95 points and you’d get it for $2 million,” said Kecinski. “You could get so much more in terms of the total score if you consider the cost.” Things that are factored into benefit scores are a military readiness score, in terms of how appropriate the land is for military uses and how the land stands from an environmental perspective, such as the condition of the species that live there. There is also a viability of agreement score, which considers how likely is it that the person who owns the land would actually sell the land for the amount the military offers. Kecinski said that the REPI program likely had biologists, soil scientists, hydrologists and experts in other environmental areas go over the land and give it a score. “You bunch all of these benefits together and you come up with a total benefit score for each of these projects,” said Kecinski. “What the military does then, without thinking of the cost of each project, they purely look at the benefits and then they start out. We have $54 million so the first project we’re going to select is the one that’s going to have the biggest benefits, and then if this project costs $54 million, hypothetically speaking, they’re done.” Kecinski said that it typically doesn’t cost $54 million for a single project but that they go down the list, checking off the projects with the highest benefit scores until they have no money left. The researchers used cost-effectiveness analysis, binary linear programming and goal programming to compare against the benefit targeting method used by the military and found that in all cases, large increases in environmental and military benefits could be achieved. “By doing something as simple as dividing the benefits by the cost and not just looking at benefits, you can protect the same amount that benefit targeting does and save 37 percent of the costs, which is huge,” Kecinski said. “We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars. Or you can spend all of your money and get a 21 percent increase in military readiness and environmental protection. “Oftentimes in economics, you consider difficult choices that hurt the environment. Such as should we cut down this tree and destroy some habitat in exchange for more money. This case with the military is the opposite. The money is there. The only question is how can we use it to protect as much as possible?” Article by Adam Thomas Animation by Jeffrey Chase This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

In first, UD sophomore elected national FFA president for 2016-17

UD sophomore David Townsend is the first national FFA president from the state.
UD sophomore David Townsend is the first national FFA president from the state.
David Townsend, a sophomore in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was elected president of the FFA at the 89th National FFA Convention and Expo in October. This is the first time someone from Delaware has been elected a national FFA officer in 47 years, and Townsend is the first national president to come from the state. FFA is an extracurricular organization bringing together those interested in agriculture and leadership in an effort to spread agricultural education throughout the country. FFA makes a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education,” said Alice Moore, one of Townsend’s collegiate FFA advisers and a past Maryland FFA state vice president who served in 1983-84. Townsend, who is majoring in agriculture and natural resources and plant sciences at UD, is a 2014 graduate of Middletown (Delaware) High School, where he was very active in FFA. In 2015, he was Delaware FFA state treasurer, serving more than 10,000 students. As a national officer, Townsend will travel more than 100,000 miles nationally and internationally. He will be interacting will fellow FFA members, industry leaders and business professionals through speeches and workshops to promote agricultural literacy. He will finish out this semester at UD and then take a leave of absence for the following year in order to serve as president and travel across the country. Bart Gill, state FFA adviser, said Townsend will develop a strong network and connections for life after college. He will develop speaking skills, time management and life skills. Townsend will go through extensive training between December and January, and then begin traveling in March. “David is a very unique and talented individual. I’m really excited for members across the nation to be able to get to know him throughout the next year because he is very genuine and easy to talk to,” said Gill. Townsend applied to be national president last year but did not get the position. This was the last year he qualified to apply due to FFA age limits, and he was elected to the position. “David was very proactive with this application. He did most of the work himself in getting all the necessary application materials in from those he knew would help him most,” Gill said. “I helped guide him when he asked for my assistance in applying the first time around when didn’t get it. He tried again this year and I am so excited for him to have been elected president.” Although his position is not paid, all travel and living expenses are covered, and at the end of his term, Townsend will receive a scholarship from the FFA. Each year, delegates of FFA elect a president, secretary and vice president to represent the central, southern, eastern and western regions of the country. Townsend had to be recommended by the state in order to be considered, and all candidates must have already served as officers on local or state level before. Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said, “Everyone in the college is beaming with pride on the news of David’s election as FFA president. This is the first time in decades that Delaware has had a national officer, and the only time we’ve had an FFA president from Delaware. He is going to have the experience of a lifetime as president, and I know he will be a great reflection on agriculture in the First State.” Townsend has been working at the UDairy Creamery since April. Melinda Shaw, manager of the UDairy Creamery, said, “David is a natural leader and a genuinely kind person. I’m not surprised he was elected president, he’s so passionate about the FFA, and everything he’s involved in. His passion and positivity is contagious. We will surely miss him while he’s on his tenure as FFA president but everyone at the creamery couldn’t be more proud of David. We are honored to have him as part of the Moo Crew.” Arba Henry, Townsend’s independent study instructor, said, “David is a very well-versed person. He will represent the state and university very well, and I am thrilled for him to embark on this journey.” Moore, co-adviser of the UD Collegiate FFA with Henry, said, “I am very excited for David being elected as national president of FFA. It will be wonderful to follow David in his year as national FFA president as he inspires the members that to make a positive difference in the lives of others as in the mission statement of the FFA.” Kathryn Daly, Townsend’s academic adviser, said, “David has been a great student to work with, he possesses strong leadership skills that, combined with his passion for agriculture, make him the perfect fit for this position.  He has a genuine interest in people and really exemplifies what it means to be a team player. I don’t think he’s ever met a stranger and his enthusiastic and warm personality make him the type of person that you want to work with.  I have no doubt that he will excel in this position.” Originally published on UDaily Article by Courtney Messina Photo courtesy of FFA

4-H alumna, volunteer, staffer receives Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award

4-H alumna, volunteer, staffer receives Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H AwardRita Lofland of Greenwood, Delaware, was honored recently as the Sussex County recipient for the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award. Lofland was surprised by the award, which was presented in front of the Sussex 4-H community during its annual achievement event on Sept. 25 at the University of Delaware Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown. “It is an honor to be the 2016 recipient,” Lofland said. “I worked with Joy for 13 years and I always respected her knowledge and passion for Delaware 4-H.” The Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award was established in 2009 in memory of Sparks, the Delaware 4-H program leader who died in February of that year. The honor recognizes outstanding achievement in individuals who exhibit dedication, enthusiasm and embodiment of 4-H values. The four H’s of the program represent “head, heart, hands and health,” which members and volunteers pledge to dedicate to their club, community and country through leadership, citizenship and the furtherance of life skills and community service. Lofland, who retired as the Sussex County 4-H program assistant in 2016, has a long relationship with the program. At age eight, she joined as a member of the Peach Blossom 4-H in Kent County where her parents, Bobby and Ruth Ann Messick, were club leaders. Both of her parents were recipients of the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H Award while they were volunteer leaders. As a 4-H’er, Lofland was active in the fashion revues, foods projects, talent shows, 4-H camps and showed sheep and ponies at the Delaware State Fair. “Joy and I were in 4-H together in Kent County,” Lofland said, noting they were a few years apart and in different clubs. “Her brother Alex Gooden and I were in the same year together as Kent County 4-H’ers.” In 1987, Lofland became a volunteer 4-H leader when her two children joined their local club, the Greenwood Hi-Flyers. Her dedication to 4-H was recognized by Sussex County 4-H agent Mary Argo (also a 2013 honoree) and Argo hired Lofland in 1996 for what would be a 20-year career as a part-time 4-H program assistant with UD Cooperative Extension. “Rita has been a valuable asset to Sussex County 4-H,” said Jill Jackson, Sussex County 4-H educator. “When I joined 4-H at eight years old, Rita was my club leader and was always looking for ways to promote 4-H values to our club members. She always goes above and beyond to help club members and leaders.” Jackson added, “We are blessed to have wonderful leaders such as Rita who put their time and talents into helping our members ‘Make the Best Better.’” Lofland’s contributions to 4-H were innumerable. She helped put together the monthly newsletter, managed the county 4-H bookkeeping, planned events, worked with volunteers and promoted many 4-H project areas, in particular anything to do with horses – the 4-H Horse Show, state judging contests at the Delaware State Fair and organizing Breyer Horse shows, Breyer paint nights, and working with youth on numerous horse bowl teams. Her family’s love of horses led Rita and her husband Donnie to chaperone the first Delaware Appaloosa youth team and attended the national show in Oklahoma in 1998. The Loflands continue to own two Appaloosa horses along with four miniature pet donkeys. Although her retirement from 4-H administrative work came in 2016, Lofland remains an active 4-H leader of the East Coast Riding Club. While Lofland received many formal accolades over the years, including the National Association of Extension 4-H Agent’s Award for support staff, and the Salute to Excellence Lifetime Volunteer Award for Sussex County, the Joy Sparks Spirit of 4-H is especially significant to Lofland and her family. “My parents both received this award during their lifetime. I am going to place mine right in the middle of theirs,” Lofland said. “This is very special to me.” Article and photo by Michele Walfred This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers new landscape architecture major

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources offers new landscape architecture majorA new landscape architecture major has been established in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) for students looking to combine their technical skills with their creative ones to tackle real world issues through environmental problem-solving. Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design who was recently appointed to the Delaware Board of Landscape Architecture, will serve as the director of the program for the next three years. She said that adding a landscape architecture program has been talked about at CANR for quite some time. To make the landscape architecture major a reality, a committee in the college worked closely over the course of two years with faculty members in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, which houses the major, as well as with a focus group of professionals in the field who weighed in on what they would like to see in the program. “The major is kind of comparable to engineering or nursing programs in that there’s a professional licensure involved that students would be on track to receive after they’ve completed the degree,” said Carmine Balascio, associate professor. The program will work to gain accreditation from the Landscape Architecture Accreditation Board after being in a candidacy status period. Attaining accreditation will help graduates when they head out to look for careers in the field, Balascio said. “We designed the program to meet the requirements of accreditation in the field, which is something that facilitates a student becoming licensed if the program from which they graduate is an accredited program,” he said. The entire Department of Plant and Soil Sciences faculty will teach courses in the major, with Anna Wik, assistant professor of landscape architecture, Bruck, Sue Barton, associate professor and Cooperative Extension specialist, and Balascio being especially involved. Wik said she is excited that the program is housed in CANR and specifically in the department. “One of the underserved objectives of landscape architecture education is plant knowledge, and, as part of the plant and soil sciences department, we are in a really good place to graduate students who are well-rounded and have a strong grasp of plant identification and plant communities,” said Wik. “The bachelor’s of landscape architecture is important because it provides a professional degree program in which students who are interested in ecological systems, design, plants and engineering can learn about and apply these skills. It will be a positive addition to the college.” One of the first students to major in landscape architecture is Austin Virdin, a senior at UD who said that his favorite part about landscape architecture is working with the built environment and creating spaces that people engage with. “A successful design serves many purposes; it can address ecological issues, unify communities and encourage individuals to interact with the landscape. Creating a user-centered experience through the use of plants and structural elements completely changes how someone perceives their surroundings. Oftentimes people do not realize that a majority of the places they enjoy spending time in outdoors have been designed by a landscape architect,” said Virdin. The major will include a senior capstone in which students will design a real project from start to finish with visiting practitioners who will help Bruck and Wik in the design studio. Program leaders also are hoping to have a junior symposium in which they will partner with a local public garden and invite other students from area universities that have landscape architecture programs to present and learn how to work collaboratively. “There is a leadership component of the curriculum. Part of what we want them to do as future leaders is to think about what it means to work collaboratively as part a team, to put together a big project, and then to benefit from all the different knowledge and networking with professionals,” said Bruck. When they developed the curriculum for the major, the committee developed three sections: planning and design, plants and ecosystems, and leading the profession. Members also discussed including a technology track, in which students could collaborate with the art and design major to get them comfortable with the technology they will have to use in landscape architecture. “Some of it is so cutting edge, using virtual reality or 3-D modeling. We want the opportunity for some of our students interested in technology, to take extra courses in connection with the art and design program. This will lead to a unique sets of skills when they graduate with a technology emphasis as part of their landscape architecture degree,” said Bruck. Balascio will teach planning and design courses that are cross listed with civil engineering. “I have a mix of students and we address some of the typical engineering site development and technical components that anybody that works with a site is going to need to understand. The students need to know everything from surveying, which is a hands-on sort of thing in the field, to computer modeling of a site for, say, the hydrology and the layout and things like that,” said Balascio. Leaders are hoping to have around 15 students in the major per graduating class and are excited about giving students the opportunity to make a difference in the world and in their local communities. “We have set up this program to allow students to give back to the community; it aligns with the University’s mission as a community engaged university,” said Wik. Bruck said that this is a major for people who want to solve global challenges. “Landscape architects concern themselves with resiliency against climate change, food access, sustainable and equitable communities, as well as water quantity and quality. If you want to make the world a better place, you should be a landscape architect,” said Bruck. She also added that UD is perfectly situated to house such a program. “In Delaware and nearby Pennsylvania there are many wonderful public gardens. We have a strong network of professional landscape architects in the region and community partners who are supportive of our mission. We want to build and maintain these important connections for the value these partnerships will bring to our students. It feels like UD landscape architecture will quickly become an integral part of our existing culture in the Delaware Valley and in this region,” said Bruck. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s John Frett receives service award from Garden Club of America

UD’s John Frett receives service award from Garden Club of AmericaJohn Frett, professor of landscape horticulture and director of the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG), was recently recognized by the Garden Club of America for his service as an advisory board member with the organization’s Wilmington chapter. According to the Garden Club of Wilmington’s Louise Roselle, who presented the award, Frett has shared much of his knowledge and expertise as a speaker at club meetings and gave an outstanding lecture at a March meeting on “Noteworthy Trees.” Frett also provided a workshop and a tour of the UDBG for the club in November 2015. “Under John’s leadership, the UDBG has grown to include more than 3,000 species and cultivars of perennials, shrubs and trees,” said Roselle in her presentation of the award. At UD, Frett teaches courses in plant materials and also collections management. Plants have always been a passion for Frett as he wanted to study either plants or animals as an undergraduate at the University of Illinois, ultimately deciding to study plants and earning his bachelor of science degree in ornamental horticulture, his master’s degree in plant science from the University of Maine and a doctorate in horticulture from the University of Georgia. “I’ve always had a tremendous interest in living things, plants or animals. Everything boils down to plants. Nothing would exist without plants,” said Frett. Though Frett has accumulated many awards in the past for his gardening achievements, this is his first award from the Garden Club of America. “It’s always nice to be recognized for these things. It’s not the award itself, but the fact that people deem what you’re doing is important enough to go through the effort involved with nominating someone. That to me is actually more important than the award itself,” said Frett. In addition to teaching, Frett also mentors five interns that work in the gardens. His next big project is the master plan for the future of the UDBG, a project that will take input from students, faculty and alumni. “It’s a discussion with all of those that use the gardens. [We will] get input from everyone and use the suggestions to formulate a vision for the future of the garden. It’s easy to build a garden, but a lot more work to take care of it,” said Frett. Article by Courtney Messina Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Don Sparks’ pioneering work recognized by the Clay Minerals Society

Don Sparks’ pioneering work recognized by the Clay Minerals SocietyDonald L. Sparks, Unidel S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Environmental Soil Chemistry at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute, has received the 2016 Pioneer in Clay Science Award from the Clay Minerals Society (CMS). The award recognizes research contributions that have led to important new directions in clay mineral science and technology. As the honoree, Sparks was invited to present a plenary lecture at the society’s 53rd annual meeting, held June 5-8 in Atlanta. CMS initiated the award in 1987, in part to provide younger scientists the opportunity to meet the researchers who have previously broken new scientific ground and to hear some of the inside stories on the developments and concepts that scientists now take for granted. Past recipients have included several members of the National Academy of Sciences and a Nobel Prize winner, Linus Pauling. “Dr. Sparks is one of the most celebrated and respected soil scientists in the world, a visionary leader in the soil science and agriculture communities, and a lifetime role model for many researchers including myself and many peers,” said Yuanzhi Tang, assistant professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Georgia Tech, in her introduction to the lecture. Sparks’ lecture addressed the history of clay mineralogy and some of the advancements he has been involved in as well as recent technical developments in his laboratory at UD. “It was a true honor to receive this recognition and the opportunity to address this audience from a different perspective than the usual scientific talk,” Sparks said. “It was certainly enjoyable to tell some of the stories of pioneers in the field before me, and how their discoveries inspired and helped me in my work and to pass some of that history along to a new generation of scientists.” Sparks has led the way in using innovative techniques such as synchrotron based X-ray absorption spectroscopy, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy and chemical kinetics methods to investigate reactions at the mineral-water interface. “Dr. Sparks is a true pioneer and worthy recipient of the 2016 Pioneer in Clay Science Award,” said Balwant Singh, professor of soil science at the University of Sydney, Australia, and a member of the selection committee. “He is a brilliant scientist and a very generous human being, who is always willing to help others and to advise young researchers.  He commits a great deal of time and energy in sharing his expertise and time to improve opportunities for young researchers all over the world.” Since joining the UD faculty in 1979, Sparks has created an internationally prominent graduate program in environmental soil chemistry in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, serving as chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences for 20 years. He has received numerous awards and honors, including the University’s highest academic recognition, the Francis Alison Award, and UD’s Doctoral Student Advising and Mentoring Award, of which he was the first recipient. Sparks was selected as the 2015 Geochemistry Medalist for the American Chemical Society. He currently serves as chair of the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science, which advises the U.S. National Academies on issues related to soil science, and is an honorary member of the International Union of Soil Sciences. Other awards include Einstein Professor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Liebig Medal from the International Union of Soil Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sterling Hendricks medal, the Northeast Association of Graduate Schools Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award, the Soil Science Research Award, the M.L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Science Award, and the American Society of Agronomy’s Environmental Quality Award. Sparks is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geochemical Society, and the European Association of Geochemists. He is a past president of the Soil Science Society of America and the International Union of Soil Sciences. Article by Beth Chajes This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR pre-veterinary program sends 29 students to vet, medical schools

CANR pre-veterinary program sends 29 students to vet, medical schoolsThe University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences program had its most successful spring on record, sending 29 students to veterinary and medical schools with an acceptance rate of 96 percent. The program has a long history of success, with an average acceptance rate of around 80 percent – significantly higher than the national average of veterinary school acceptance rate, which is around 50 percent according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges. Eight of those students were accepted to Ivy League schools with five going to the University of Pennsylvania and three to Cornell University. Three students were accepted to Tufts University and two students were accepted into medical school. One student in particular was accepted into 12 veterinary schools. Lesa Griffiths, the T.A. Baker Professor in CANR, said that the success of the students is contingent on many factors, with one of the most important being the location of a working farm right on campus. That provides students critical hands-on discovery learning opportunities. “What is unique about us, and getting more and more unique, is the 350-acre farm right on campus. Students have access to the farm 24/7 and they don’t have to take buses or rely on transportation to the farm, so we’re able to incorporate the farm into many of our classes and undergraduate research and our internship experiences. I think that still having a farm and then having it right on campus is getting more and more unique,” said Griffiths. The farm is utilized from day one for students in the program. Beginning with their first fall semester, students get to go out on the farm and participate in discovery learning. The discovery learning also comes in the form of undergraduate research opportunities offered by the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) and field experience courses in which students work on the UD farm, other local farms, or with local veterinarians and animal shelters. The program also offers a curriculum that reflects a unique combination of faculty expertise, with strengths in animal health and nutrition and the interactions between animal health and animal nutrition. “It is unusual to have a faculty very focused on animal health and nutrition and that grew out of the link to the poultry industry and poultry health, although it’s much more basic now in terms of microbiology and virology. The microbiology has grown out of links to both food science and food safety, and now with the huge interest in the gut microbiome and its link to human health,” said Griffiths. Griffiths also pointed to the program’s faculty expertise and advising capabilities as setting the students up for success. “We have a lot of advisees so I think the fact that we can continue to make it very personal and one on one is really critical,” said Griffiths. “We work very hard to try to maintain one on one interaction and we’re very good at backing each other up. If a student can’t reach his or her adviser and contacts me, I will fill in. The faculty members talk about advising and share information about veterinary schools and advising. I think we encourage student-faculty interaction and do our best to make connections with students.” The closeness that alumni of the program feel toward it can be seen in the fact that every year, UD graduates who are now enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine come back and participate in a panel talk for the animal science club with advice for applying to veterinary school and discussions about their experiences in veterinary school.

Veterinary school applications

To help current students with the process for applying to veterinary school, the department worked with Christy Mannering, communications specialist in CANR, to set up a website that takes students through the four-year process of applying to veterinary school. The website includes frequently asked questions about veterinary school and reminders by year, as well as interview questions and comments on interviews from alumni who have just gone through the interview process. The animal and food sciences faculty advisers help the students with the intensive and detailed application process for veterinary school by providing recommendation letters, reviewing their personal statements and sharing their knowledge about the application process. As part of the process, students have to document not only their academic program and their academic success but the number of hours they’ve worked while shadowing veterinarians and hours worked interacting with animals. The application also includes a personal statement and many veterinary schools have follow up personal statements so the whole process involves a lot of writing, which Griffiths said means the students have to make themselves stand out and distinguish themselves from other students. Griffiths singled out one statement in particular from a student who happened to be a cheerleader at UD. Both Griffiths and Erin Brannick, director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory and assistant professor in ANFS, told him independently that he should include that piece of information in his essay. “We both told him to go back and we said, we don’t really care if the admissions committee doesn’t remember your name, but you want them to say, ‘Hey, where’s that cheerleader guy? We want him.’ After revisions, his statement came back equating how being a cheerleader helped him in all the skills he’s developed, such as self-confidence, time management and all those important life skills and professional development skills.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

NIFA director reflects on UD visit, nutritional security challenges

NIFA director reflects on UD visit, nutritional security challengesSonny Ramaswamy, the director of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), recently visited the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources to tour the facilities, offer a roundtable discussion on NIFA opportunities and give a seminar titled “Perfect Storm to Nutritional Security.” Ramaswamy took time to discuss his visit, the importance of nutritional security and the value of innovations by land grand universities. Q. What were your impressions of the University of Delaware and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources? Ramaswamy: What struck me is that the University of Delaware is one of these institutions that really does get its work done. As a land-grant university, your natural resources are critically important for you and I was blown away by the work that you do. I talked to your stakeholders, including Ed Kee, the state secretary of agriculture, and they all are really appreciative of the kind of work that you do. Your plant sciences group, your poultry group, some of the innovative work that’s going on – for example the work that’s going on with regards to chickens and the adaptation to higher temperatures and climate change based on the genetics of chickens from Africa. These are the kinds of things that are truly outstanding work that’s going to be of relevance to everybody, not just the state of Delaware. I think you all can play a significantly bigger role not just for the state of Delaware but also to set the national agenda. Q. Was there a particular highlight of your visit? Ramaswamy: The conversations that I had with folks. I interacted with two of your Ag Ambassadors and they were really sharp. It was excellent to talk to them and find out about why they went to the University of Delaware, the education that’s being offered — those are the kinds of things that stick out and some of the work that I referred too. I’d stack it up against the best anywhere. Q. Could you talk about the presentation you gave at UD on “The Perfect Storm to Nutritional Security?” Ramaswamy: We have an existential threat and this existential threat is nutritional security. A few years ago, I quit using the term “food security,” in part because it’s not just food. It really is nutrition we have to be mindful of and if we don’t think of it from a nutritional perspective, from a health outcomes perspective, we will continue to exacerbate this situation that we’ve got. We frame our conversations around the year 2050, that something bad is going to happen with this nine-plus billion people, and that in the next 35-50 years we’re going to have to produce as much food as we’ve done in the last 10,000 years. But it’s not only about food, it’s about nutritional outcomes. The obesity epidemic that we’ve got in America and even globally, we’ve got a yin and yang situation. Globally, we’ve got about 1.3 billion people that before going to bed, they have to take Lipitor for cholesterol, baby aspirin for heart disease, medication for hypertension, medication for Type 2 diabetes and things like that. This is because of the excessive amounts of calories and poor quality calories as well. As a consequence of that, globally, we’ll have about 50,000 people that will drop dead today. Here in America, it’s one out of five people that have to take those medications to have a reasonable living. On the flip side, globally we’ve got about 850 million people that are going to bed hungry tonight for lack of food and every four seconds, a man, woman or child is going to drop dead. So you’ve got people dying because they don’t have any food and you’ve got people dying because they have too much food. In America, we’ve got 17 million households that are nutritionally insecure. On the other side of my building is the section of Washington, D.C., called Anacostia and it’s predominantly African American and very poor and there are food deserts out there. What happens is, folks are going to go to a local convenience store and getting a lot of cheap calories. We’ve also got people that have got no food in rural communities, even in the state of Delaware. Ursula Bauer, who is with the Center for Disease Control, did a study that said basically 75 percent of our nation’s health care costs are attributable to chronic disease. This is the result of genetics, excessive calories and quality of those calories, sedentary life styles, and behaviors.  Chronic diseases include Type 2 diabetes, metabolic disorders, and things like that. A number of cancers are the result of excessive amounts of calories, excess glucose in our diets. There’s tantalizing connections between excessive amounts of glucose that gets deposited in the brain that’s contributing to plaques, that’s contributing to Alzheimer’s disease. Many, if not all, of these are manageable by just being more mindful of the quality and quantity of food, along with a reasonable effort to avoid sedentary lifestyles, smoking, and other behaviors that contribute to negative health outcomes. Q. How does this factor in with the perfect storm? Ramaswamy: The perfect storm is everything from climate change to diminishing land and water resources, the competition between people wanting to build cities and towns and needing water for people living in cities and towns, and competition without food production enterprises, all of which compete with our ability to achieve nutritional security. Q. How do we get from where we are to where we need to be? Ramaswamy: I’m super optimistic and I know we’re going to get it done. At my talk, I showed since the invention of agriculture, all these innovations have come along whether it’s the use of biological control or the use of manure as fertilizer or the development of synthetic fertilizers to the genetics and genomics revolution to precision agriculture, tractors, combines, and robotics. Then I showed a line graph of teosinte — the ancestor of modern corn — that was just about as big as the American quarter. Then, humans got involved when they figured out how to take teosinte and convert it to corn that we could eat. Then the scientific enterprise, hybridization of corn and all that happened and it shoots up to where the corn is about 12 inches long and big and that quarter looks like a puny little thing. That’s what we’ve been able to do. Unbelievable creativity and innovations that have been brought to bear by institutions like the University of Delaware and the University of Maryland and Purdue University, and the many other academic, government, and private sector scientists and educators, including our extension personnel. So we know we can do it. Human ingenuity is critically important for this and now we’ve got to step it up. We need the 21st century Extension of translating knowledge and delivering it to the end users. We need the education of young people, not just to become scientists but to go and actually grow the crops and raise the livestock as well. All of the greatest discoveries and innovations, that knowledge you’re generating with regard to African chickens, means nothing at all if you don’t have people actually growing those chickens and making them available to our dinner tables. What’s incumbent on the University of Delaware is to make sure that those livestock producers are supported. We can address this nutritional security. It’s not just for America but America has shown that we can feed the world. I’m the beneficiary of America’s investments in me when I was growing up in India at a time when India couldn’t feed itself. My mom raised us as a single parent, four brothers, standing in line for rations, and America was very much a part of our ability to eat back in the 1960s. The education I got was at an institution that was built by American land-grants. So America can do it. We’ve done it and land-grant universities are an amazing part of it. When Abraham Lincoln signed the Morrill Act into law, he said these land-grants are going to be the economic engine of our nation and sure enough, these land-grants have been the economic engines. We can put a man on the moon, we can fly airplanes, we invented the internet. What other country can lay claim to that sort of capability? It’s because really, truly, these land-grant universities and these incredible American farmers that the land-grants support allowed us to do that. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Adalsteinsson, Rosier receive Benton Graduate Student Awards

Adalsteinsson, Rosier receive Benton Graduate Student AwardsThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that the winners of the 2016 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards are Solny Adalsteinsson and Amanda Rosier. The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), in recognition of his dedication to graduate education.

Solny Adalsteinsson

Adalsteinsson recently received her doctorate from UD’s Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and will step into a post-doctoral position at Washington University in St. Louis. While at UD, Adalsteinsson worked with her advisers Jeff Buler, assistant professor of wildlife ecology, and Greg Shriver, associate professor of wildlife ecology, researching Lyme disease and other pathogens that cause different tick borne diseases. “The overall theme was looking at how urbanization changes local forest fragments, how those changes affect the disease transmission cycle in the environment, and what that means for human risk of Lyme,” said Adalsteinsson. Adalsteinsson is looking at how invasive plants, specifically multiflora rose, affect tick populations and the populations of host animals that are important carriers of these pathogens. She said that in terms of tick abundance, forests with a lot of multiflora rose tend to have ticks concentrated in large numbers within those invasive plants. Forests without invasive plants, however, tend to have a larger number of ticks overall than the rose-invaded forests. “It was a surprising and really interesting result. We did some modeling to figure out what was driving that relationship and we identified other changes to the habitat associated with these invasive plants,” Adalsteinsson said. “The most important one is the loss of leaf litter — all the dead leaves that accumulate on the forest floor. That makes up really important habitat for ticks because they need it to be humid and they evolved naturally to live in that litter layer.” In the forests that have many invasive plants, the litter is gone, and Adalsteinsson thinks that results in a poor quality habitat for ticks to survive on the ground. Conditions are improved in the invasive plants themselves, and ticks are found aggregated within the plants in those sites. Forests that have a thick litter layer intact and no invasion support more ticks overall. When Adalsteinsson looked at the prevalence of the pathogen that causes Lyme disease, specifically looking at the presence of a bacterium in the ticks themselves, the ticks collected from forests with lots of multiflora rose had almost twice as much of the Lyme disease pathogen compared to the ticks from the uninvaded site. In addition, Adalsteinsson studied mice and fledgling birds in urban landscapes to see how many ticks they were carrying. In some cases, she got tissue samples from the mice to look at what pathogens they were carrying and transmitting to the ticks and looking at which features of the urban landscape might influence the abundance of important disease reservoirs and their interactions with the ticks. As to her favorite thing about studying at UD, Adalsteinsson said it was the “sense of community within the department and the support among the faculty and students. My advisers and my whole committee have just been fantastic to work with and have helped me and given me a lot of guidance shaping these ideas and figuring out what the important questions are. And I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented undergraduate students and technicians, and that’s really all thanks to my advisers and my committee.” In addition to Buler and Shriver, Adalsteinsson wanted to thank her committee members Vince D’Amico, a research scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service and an adjunct faculty member in CANR, Jake Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, and Dustin Brisson, associate professor of biology at the University of Pennsylvania, for all the training and support they’ve provided her.

Amanda Rosier

Of receiving the Benton Award, Rosier said she was “profoundly honored to have received this acknowledgement of my accomplishments while a student here at UD.” Rosier, who received her master’s degree from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has been advised by Harsh Bais, associate professor of plant and soil sciences, and her research entailed studying beneficial bacteria that associate with plants – essentially the plant’s “microbiome.” “We know about, and even use, bacteria to improve plant health. However, we know very little about how a majority of these ‘beneficials’ work. My research focuses on how different bacteria may work together in the environment to protect plants from pests and increase yield,” said Rosier. With agriculture companies looking towards more natural ways to protect crops and garden plants by using micro-organisms, one current idea is to mix many different types of beneficial bacteria together to enhance their overall benefits to the plants even though bacteria don’t always get along. “My work is looking into how two common, but very different plant beneficial bacteria interact with each other and how those interactions may impact the plant,” said Rosier. “One of the bacteria I work with, rhizobia, are commercially very important. These are bacteria that live symbiotically inside the roots of certain plants like peas and clover that can take the nitrogen from the air and make it so the plant can use the nitrogen as an essential nutrient.” Rosier said that the other bacteria she works with, Bacillus subtilis, are very common in soil, but they also live on the plant root and can protect the plant from pathogens. She is looking at whether these two bacteria are better at helping the plant when they are together or if they cancel out each other’s plant benefits. “My research is showing that there are subtle ways that these two bacteria are interacting with each other that might influence how well they function to help the plant. The Bacillus is capable of disrupting the ability of the rhizobia to ‘talk’ to each other. This is important, since the rhizobianeed to communicate to each other in order to start the process of symbiosis with the plant. Considering that the whole point of using these bacteria together is to enhance plant growth, interactions such as those I have found could have an impact on developing better plant beneficial products,” said Rosier. As an undergraduate studying for her degree in microbiology, Rosier said she was “fascinated by the concept that these incredible small organisms can have such a profoundly large and positive influence on the environment. We are surrounded by a greater number of helpful and beneficial bacteria than by those that may cause harm. If there is any one message, I’d like to emphasize is that microbes are awesome, not bad.” Rosier said she would love to continue to pursue research either academically or in an industry position that combines the areas of microbiology and plant health or environmental restoration. In addition to Bais, Rosier also wanted to thank Janine Sherrier, interim chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, for supporting her work and being a cheerleader along the way. With regards to her favorite memories from UD, Rosier said that it is the little things that have made her experience memorable. “My colleagues and fellow students in the department, those moments of achievement when an experiment works or getting really interesting results, and engaging in intellectual and challenging discussions with my mentors about my research. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have found myself in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and to have had the opportunity to engage in a research project that I really love and care about,” said Rosier. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD assists historic Old Swedes with landscape design, preservation

UD assists historic Old Swedes with landscape design, preservationUniversity of Delaware professors and students are partnering with Old Swedes Foundation in Wilmington to assist in determining the best way to manage storm water runoff, preserve its historical record, artifacts and buildings, and explore ways to transform the National Historic Landmark into a gathering space for the surrounding community. Students in Anna Wik’s Advanced Landscape Design Course worked this semester to design landscape architecture plans for the site, which dates to the late 17th century. “One of the primary issues identified for this site was the need for improved storm water management. In the cemetery, there are areas that are washed out, graves that are collapsed because of water, and a lack of vegetation as a result of erosion and aging tree roots. Rebecca Wilson, the executive director of the Old Swedes Foundation, really wanted to get some solutions in place for these issues,” said Wik, assistant professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The students’ ideas for addressing these issues and transforming the space were on display at the annual SpringFest event on April 17, celebrating the rich historical heritage of Wilmington’s 7th Street Peninsula, which includes Old Swedes Historic Site, Fort Christina Park, the Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard and the Copeland Maritime Center. Students set up posters of their work and collected surveys to find out what people in the neighborhood, parishioners and others at the event were looking for in the space. With that feedback, the students selected a specific area they wanted to focus on for their final project and came up with more detailed plans for that area, which were displayed on Tuesday, May 24, at a public presentation held at the Old Swedes Historic Site. Student solutions Hunter Perry, a senior majoring in landscape horticulture and design, said the class visited sites around Wilmington to get a sense of the different issues affecting the urban environment. Understanding the challenges and opportunities present in Wilmington helped the students come up with new ideas for the Old Swedes site. His poster showed plantings right against the church and large beds of ground cover, such as perennial flowers and annual plantings, that would look attractive as well as manage storm water. “Right now, storm water is just running along the existing surface, and there’s not much to catch it. I used a number of planting barriers that will allow water to infiltrate and potentially alleviate some of the issues caused by the run off. These plantings could put the water to use and cut down on a significant number of the problems,” said Perry. Perry said that a great learning experience with the project was being realistic in his plans. “The foundation has a budget, and obviously isn’t going to be able to put in Belgian block pathways that are a half million dollars. They also don’t want to remove all of the existing trees; many of them are attractive and have historical interest, so I elected to keep all the trees and do minimal site impact,” said Perry. Another portion of the project was the assessment of existing trees and creation of a conceptual tree succession plan. Tara Trammell, the John Bartram Assistant Professor of Urban Forestry in the plant and soil sciences department, helped the landscape design students measure and record data about the existing trees and gave them tips on preparing a succession plan. UD assists historic Old Swedes with landscape design, preservationOlivia Kirkpatrick, a sophomore majoring in landscape horticulture and design, said the class researched the history of the site and let that inform what they were doing as they came up with their conceptual designs. Kirkpatrick said she believes the biggest issue facing the site, other than the physical issues with runoff, is improving its ability to serve the surrounding community. “In my design, one of the things I added was a larger entryway so that when people are looking in, it seems more inviting,” said Kirkpatrick, who enjoyed the semester long focus of the project because it allowed her and her classmates time to explore a topic that interested them. “You’ll always find something that interests you and you want to pursue it, but with a lot of shorter term projects, you don’t have that opportunity. With this, we started broad and then we were zeroing in. Having the whole semester to do that research to focus on is just incredible,” said Kirkpatrick. Old Swedes Foundation Wilson, executive director of the Old Swedes Historic Site and Foundation, said that the foundation was thrilled to be able to partner with UD on the project. “They have some wonderful designs. I wish we could afford to do everything that they’re all saying but we’ll at least start with the things that we have to have for the water issues, and they’re coming up with some really good ideas. I’ve always enjoyed working with students and I like the relationship that I have with the University of Delaware. It helps them but it helps me too,” said Wilson. Wilson said that there is the possibility to incorporate bits and pieces of the students’ ideas and was pleased with the designs to improve the amphitheater. “It’s not being utilized as much as we would like but we’re planning to do more with it. The city offers some concerts there in the summer. We’d like to do a whole outdoor concert series in the fall with different musicians for the community and we also have a labyrinth out there, so a lot of people come and walk that,” said Wilson. Project origins The project came about when Wik met with Lu Ann De Cunzo, chair and professor in the Department of Anthropology, at a 2015 Summer Faculty Institute session where faculty members from diverse backgrounds were paired to come up with projects that would incorporate their work. De Cunzo had worked in the spring of 2015 at the Old Swedes site doing an archaeological investigation for the group. “When the church realized they were having serious drainage problems, they decided they would probably have to install an underground drainage system right outside the foundation of the church but they didn’t know if there were any archaeological remains from earlier in the history of the church, or if there were burials that went right up to the church walls, so we decided to do a course here,” said De Cunzo. With the 15 students in her Introduction to Archaeological Field Methods class, De Cunzo tested four locations around the church where they were having problems with water penetration. When they did a ground penetrating radar survey to try to see below the bricks, there were several places that showed graves going right up to the walls of the church. UD assists historic Old Swedes with landscape design, preservation“We tested one area where it showed graves and one area where it didn’t, and we found graveshafts in both locations,” said De Cunzo, who added that they were careful to stop excavation before reaching any human remains. They wanted to give the foundation information that would help them plan to preserve the church but also preserve the landscape and the burial ground. “Based on the information we found, Anna’s class is trying to provide some design solutions that would not further damage the archaeological record or the cultural landscape of the burial ground, so it’s looking at the whole property as an artifact and not just the building itself,” said De Cunzo. Ana Ambriz, a junior double majoring in Latin American studies and anthropology, worked on the project with De Cunzo and said that during the dig, they uncovered artifacts from the Lenape Native Americans. “We thought since it’s a Swedish settlement, we were going to find Swedish artifacts. Turns out, we didn’t just find Swedish artifacts, we actually found a lot of Lenape artifacts in addition to pipe stems and tea cups,” said Ambriz. Using characteristics and category technique checkpoints, the earliest artifact that they found could date back to 12,000 B.C., a fact that Ambriz thought was particularly interesting. “I remember the best part was coming home and being like, ‘I found this artifact that’s from 12,000 B.C.’ It was awesome,” said Ambriz. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan and Sarah Morales This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Chambers, Flynn, Whalen recognized for service to people of Delaware

Presentation of the Ratledge Family Award for Public Service  SHOWN - Michelle Rogers, Assoc. Dean, Cooperative Extension Service (L) with award recipient Joanne WhalenThe Ratledge Family Award for Delaware Public Service has been presented to three members of the University of Delaware community – Darryl Chambers, James Flynn and Joanne Whalen – for their contributions to the well-being of the people of the state. The recipients were honored during a ceremony April 28 at Marriott’s Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware campus hotel. Joanne Whalen Whalen joined the University in 1979 as an associate in Cooperative Extension’s Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program. She became the Extension IPM coordinator and Extension entomologist for agriculture in 1983. Whalen, who received her master’s degree in entomology and wildlife ecology from UD in 1983, has served on statewide, regional and national committees. She is a current member and past chair of the Northeast Region’s Technical Committee on Integrated Pest Management, responsible for improving communication and cooperation throughout the region. As a past member of the International Certified Crop Adviser Exam Committee and current Mid-Atlantic Certified Crop Adviser Board member, she has worked to establish base standards of knowledge and continuing education for individuals who advise growers on crop and pest management practices. As the Extension IPM coordinator, she focuses on developing and delivering recommendations that have both economic and environmental benefits. She conducts research and extension programs that educate agricultural clientele on a range of practices including the use of cover crops, reduced tillage, conservation biological control, trap cropping, insecticide resistance management and the proper use of insecticides to manage insect pests in crops. She was recognized by Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of Cooperative Extension. George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, presented welcoming remarks, and Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, closed the program. Dan Rich, University Professor of Public Policy, presented a talk on the value of community engagement. About the Ratledge Family Award The Ratledge family, Delawareans who can trace their roots back to the 1700s, established the award to encourage and recognize significant public service contributions with at least one award of $1,000 made each year. Recipients of the award must be members of the UD community. Professional staff, faculty and students are eligible. Preference is given to members of the School of Public Policy and Administration and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The award is presented to those who exemplify excellence in public service to citizens in the state, and those contributions are defined to include both paid and volunteer work. Photos by Duane Perry To read more about the other award recipients, check out the full article on UDaily.

Winners of the 2016 Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest announced

Tyler Lavender wins the 2016 Study Abroad Photo and Video ContestDuring the 2015-16 Academic Year, approximately 1,600 students engaged in education abroad opportunities courtesy of the University of Delaware. Together, they collectively took in the world’s most breathtaking landscapes and architecture, were exposed to the cultures of more than 35 countries, and got to know the people that call each of these locations “home.” They returned to UD – after just a semester or session away – as citizens of the world. The Institute for Global Studies annually invites each of these students to share their experiences with the UD community and with the world in a Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest. Participants were encouraged to submit photos in three categories: Landscape, Portraiture, and Impactful Moments. The latter category asked students to dig deep to uncover photos that truly represented their most life-changing and transformational moments abroad. In addition, students could “Dare to Take Us There” in 60 seconds or less with a short video compilation of their program. A total of 130 students submitted in excess of 300 photos and videos chronicling life in their host countries. Eleven were chosen as winners of this year’s contest. This year, 60,000-plus followers of the University of Delaware on Facebook were invited to serve as judges. Voting took place over a three-week period on UD’s Facebook page, where voters were asked to like, love, or react to their favorite entries. Contest winners were recently honored at the Institute for Global Studies’ “Best of UD Global” celebration alongside Crista Johnson, the 2016 Faculty Director of the Year, the 2016 UD Fulbright Award winners, and the Delaware Diplomats. Tyler Lavender, a junior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major, was awarded the overall prize of the photo contest with “Open Wide,” a close-up shot of a New Zealand seal waking up along the rocks on the shores of Kaikoura. Lavender participated in the 2016 Winter Session Animal and Food Sciences Program to New Zealand led by Lesa Griffiths, T.A. Baker Professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Susan Truehart Garey, UD Cooperative Extension agent and state 4-H Animal Science Program coordinator. The study abroad program sought to explore the diverse and efficient agricultural industry of the country, and to address current challenges in the system. “As a pre-veterinary medicine and animal bioscience major, a lot of the focus in class goes toward animal agriculture and animal health. We participate in active learning on the farm here on campus, and it’s been great getting to learn hands on,” said Lavender. “When provided the opportunity to go abroad and learn about international animal agriculture, I was excited to expand upon what I’d been learning in class to a global level. In New Zealand we learned first person, out on farms and talking to local professionals; I came away from it with an entirely new take on how agriculture works… This has already helped me in my classes this past semester and has given me new things to consider as I work toward becoming a veterinarian.” Other winners of the contest included Kyle Weinberg, Brian Griffiths, David Litz, Matthew Kantner, Cailin Murphy, Charlotte Vincent, Tyler Roberts, Laura Woodward, Grace Hassler, and Emily Mozal, who ventured to locations including New Zealand, Italy, Fiji, Turkey, Tanzania, France, and Dominica. Mozal, a junior communication major and UD Social Media Ambassador, won the top prize in the video category for her re-creation of the 2016 Winter Session Geography and Environmental Sciences Program led by Peter Rees, professor emeritus, and Lusiana Browning. “We learned so much and met so many more people then this 59-second video can hold,” she said. “It was the most amazing program of my lifetime.” To view this video and all of the winning photos in the 2016 Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest, visit the Institute for Global Studies website. Follow along as IGS shares the story of study abroad and UD Global on Twitter and Instagram. Engage using the hashtag #UDAbroad. Students who will travel abroad beginning this summer session through spring 2017 are invited to submit their photos and videos in the 2017 Study Abroad Photo and Video Contest. For full details will be added to the Institute for Global Studies website and communicated via email in early fall 2016. About the Institute for Global Studies The Institute for Global Studies was created in 2009 to enhance the international dimensions of teaching, research and outreach at the University of Delaware. IGS provides leadership and support for programs and experiences that contribute to the education of informed, skilled, open-minded citizens of the world. Best known for coordinating the University’s study abroad program, IGS also awards scholarships and grants to faculty and students for a number of global opportunities, and administers internationally-recognized State Department-sponsored programs such as the UD Fulbright InitiativeMiddle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) Student Leaders Institute, Mandela Washington Fellowship Program for Young African Leaders, and most recently the Study of the U.S. Institutes for Student Leaders on Women’s Leadership (SUSI-WL) program. IGS sponsors such signature events as Global Month each fall and country-specific celebrations each spring. IGS collaborates with other global partners on campus, including the Office for International Students and Scholars, the Confucius Institute and the Center for Global and Area Studies. In addition, IGS partners with Enrollment Management to coordinate the UD World Scholars Program. Article by Nikki Laws This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD professors look at water reuse for irrigation and consumer response

UD professors look at water reuse for irrigation and consumer responseTwo University of Delaware professors in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Kali Kniel and Kent Messer, are members of a multidisciplinary team that is dedicating itself to developing innovative, safe and sustainable ways to irrigate food crops in variable climates. The CONSERVE team is led by Amy R. Sapkota of the University of Maryland’s School of Public Health, and received a $10 million grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), awarded over a four-year period, to support the CONSERVE Center of Excellence. CONSERVE (for COordinating Nontraditional Sustainable watER Use in Variable ClimatEs) includes bioscientists, engineers, economists, social-behavioral scientists, law and policy experts, agricultural extension specialists, educational media developers, computer scientists, and public health experts. CONSERVE team members from the University of Maryland College Park, the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, the University of Delaware, the University of Arizona and the USDA Agricultural Research Service will lead the study, determining the microbial, physical and chemical constituents of reused water to understand what is required to make the water acceptable and safe for irrigation. The CONSERVE Center of Excellence links experts from the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest to identify the best nontraditional water sources and new water treatment technologies that farmers can safely use on food crops without compromising public health. The center’s focus will be on developing water reuse solutions to safely irrigate vegetable and fruit crops that are generally consumed raw, which therefore require the highest quality, contaminant-free water during the irrigation process. Irrigation water Kniel’s role in the project will focus on looking at the safety of non-traditional water sources for irrigation. “We hope to better define what is the right water and what makes water useable for irrigation so that growers don’t have to rely on groundwater for safe irrigation water,” said Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences. Working with a team that includes Gordon Johnson, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, Pei Chiu, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Manan Sharma, a research microbiologist affiliated with the USDA Agricultural Research Service, Kniel will look at brackish river and stream water in Delaware that growers in the state are interested in using, although these sources may not necessarily comply to the microbial water quality standards that will now be required through the Food Safety Modernization Act. Kniel said this research will look to define and create a resource for the nation in terms of what is good microbiological quality. “We will also be able to use technologies to better utilize water that’s there, surface water, to improve the use and improve the yield of the water that’s available using either ozone or zerovalent iron filtration,” said Kniel. Chiu has been working on zerovalent filtration for quite some time and Kniel said that it has a lot of promise in the use of irrigation technology. A zerovalent filtration system is a sand filter in which some of the sand is replaced with zerovalent iron (ZVI), a waste product of metal manufacturing. As water flows over the ZVI, its surface is oxidized and it can adsorb microorganisms, like viruses and bacteria. “We’ve had great success showing removal of pathogenic bacteria and viruses from water using ZVI but it can also remove chemicals from water, so we think it will be a great tool for use with the CONSERVE project,” said Kniel. The research will have the potential to assist in areas that have tight regulations on what water can be used for irrigation but have been stricken with drought. “California already has very specific rules where they can’t use surface water because of the risk of microbiological contamination to the crops. Growers on the East Coast do use surface water but now we’re hoping to make it safer,” said Kniel, who added that surface water tends to be clean microbiologically except for after rain events or if animals are around. The project will also have an education component with an open education resource being developed to house information for the public and consumers. “We’ll have K-12 information, information for secondary education and information for college students and college professors. There will be a variety of instructional content, including videos and animations, graphics, virtual labs, traveling labs. At the end it’s going to all be wrapped up into an e-book that people can read and take with them,” said Kniel. Adrienne Shearer, research associate in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, is a large part of this project along with New Mexico State University’s Media Productions and Learning Games Lab. The team has plans to use a Creative Commons license and have flexible curriculum materials in order to market the materials to educators. Matthieu Plourde and Paul Hyde, from Academic Technology Services at UD, are providing their expertise to this part of the project. “We will hold teachers’ workshops to train and provide all this information in hopes of spreading the word to change behavior and thinking about agricultural water sources,” said Kniel. Understanding the consumer Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics and director of the Center for Experimental and Applied Economics, said he is excited to work on the project because it is at the nexus of agriculture and the environment. “If we look at the next generation of food production, we need to understand where we can get the irrigation water from and how we do that in a sustainable way since food production inevitably involves water,” he said. “If we can find non-traditional ways — either through re-use water or brackish water — and do it in a safe way, that has a real opportunity to benefit consumers, farmers and the environment.” Increasingly, Messer said it has become apparent that science and technology can be brought into agriculture but if in the end the consumer is uncomfortable, that can stop a project entirely, no matter how promising it may be. “Early in the development stages, one needs to understand consumers and their likely response to these new technologies. That is where UD’s Center for Experimental and Applied Economics comes in,” said Messer. “We study consumer behavior. We especially focus on circumstances where the best available science says a product is safe, but consumers remain wary.” Messer notes that “to a certain extent, being wary of something new makes a great deal of sense from an evolutionary perspective. However, as we look towards new ways to sustainable use water for food production this aversion to new processes could be a significant obstacle.” Messer said it is hard to forecast what the consumer response will be to non-traditional sources of water for irrigation and his team will work with Cooperative Extension to evaluate how best they can communicate the results of food safety tests on this food. “Some food produced with some water sources might raise concerns amongst some consumers. For example, reused water that’s been part of the sewer system at one point — even if it’s clean now – can raise a sense of disgust in consumers. Thus, we want to understand to what degree will consumers get concerned about recycled water being used in their food production? Does the response vary by the type of water or the type of product? For some products, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, we may need to ensure that the water is both physically and psychologically clean before consumers will accept this food,” said Messer. As damaging droughts occur, such as the current one in California, people may become more sensitive to their foods’ “water footprint” and begin seeking out food that uses less fresh water. In fact, in California there have been “water shaming” efforts to encourage people to avoid eating high water foods, such as almonds. Messer is interested to see if there is an opportunity to market products to alleviate these concerns about excessive water use. Recently, at UD’s Ag Day, Messer and his team evaluated whether consumers would actually pay more for food produced with recycled water. They evaluated the consumer response to strawberries, blueberries, spinach, and broccoli produced with and without recycled water. “Through the CONSERVE project, we have the opportunity to say, ‘Here’s some water friendly products. Would you be willing to pay more for them?’ If the answer is ‘yes,’ then this might be a win for the consumers, the farmers, and the environment,” said Messer. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Vita Nova partners with UDBG, Longwood Graduate Program for centerpiece plant materials

Vita Nova partners with UDBG, Longwood Graduate Program for centerpiece plant materialsEvery Monday morning during the spring and fall semesters, students in the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture gather plant materials at the University of Delaware Botanic Gardens (UDBG) and transport their harvest to Vita Nova, the fine dining student operated restaurant on campus, where the materials are arranged and placed in vases to serve as centerpieces for the tables at the student-operated restaurant. Frances Jackson, one of the current Longwood Graduate Fellows, said that going out and picking the flowers is a fantastic way to start the week. “Sometimes you’ve just got to give yourself time to walk around the garden, and there’s worse things to do than go out and pick flowers,” Jackson said. “It’s a lovely garden and it’s a really useful resource. It’s great to be out there even if it’s just picking flowers and looking for plant materials. It’s a great sort of breathing space.” Brian Trader, the interim director of the Longwood Graduate Program, housed in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said the partnership allows students a chance to get outside and be involved with experiential learning. “Most of the Longwood Graduate Program is experiential learning. The students learn by doing, but a lot of it is inside and a lot of it is around a conference table and everyone on their laptops, so I think it’s very refreshing for the fellows to go out and be immersed in the garden,” Trader said, adding, “It’s very easy to take for granted that we have these beautiful grounds right outside the walls of Townsend Hall. The gardens are a great resource for the University.” Seamless partnership Having beautiful, locally grown flowers is all part of teaching the students at Vita Nova the art of providing an experience for the guests at the restaurant, which is located on the second floor of UD’s Trabant University Center. “Fine dining and beautiful flowers go together, so we get a lot of use out of the flowers,” said Venka Pyle, manager of Vita Nova. “In a restaurant, creating a good ambiance for our guests for conversation is vital. I think it’s part of teaching our students about what it takes to pamper our guests and give great service.” Sheryl Kline, chair of the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management(HRIM) in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics, said the collaboration was one of the first undertaken by Vita Nova and that it helps the students to appreciate all aspects of the restaurant industry. “You don’t just learn about operating a restaurant and it is a complex business. In restaurants, you have flowers, you have centerpieces, you need to work with florists, you need to understand seasonality of what’s available and how to compliment the food and decor,” said Kline. “And we do that with our collaboration with the Longwood Graduate Program and UDBG. It is a wonderful learning experience for students in both programs.” Trader said that the collaboration is “a seamless partnership. It runs and it runs very well. It gets the program and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences a little bit of recognition, and the restaurant benefits from having beautiful flowers and beautiful arrangements on the table. It clicks.” Endless supply John Frett, professor of landscape horticulture in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC) and director of the UDBG, said that the Longwood Graduate Program students are always able to find something to provide for the centerpieces, no matter the season. “There’s enough material in the botanic gardens that there’s always something, whether it’s foliage or stem color or fruit or flowers or seeds,” said Frett. In return for providing plant materials for the centerpieces, informational brochures about UDBG are available at the restaurant, as is a sign thanking UDBG and the Longwood students for the flowers. Robert Lyons, UDBG board president and former director of the Longwood Graduate Program, was initially contacted by Vita Nova to start the collaboration and said that he “looked at it as a great service project and an opportunity for our students to be good citizens of the college and the University. We had different students doing it every week and we have 10 students in the program, so that’s 10 weeks — that’s almost the whole semester covered. I told the students, ‘Go select what you like.’” Lyons said it was always great to visit the restaurant and for the students to see how the vases were put together. “I would go up with my students and have lunch and then the staff from the restaurant would come out and they’d welcome us and they’d thank us for doing this, and UDBG was thanked for the materials, so it was this great pat on the back all the way around for this one collaborative effort,” said Lyons. Sustainability Getting flowers and plant materials locally from UDBG also helps with Vita Nova’s sustainability goal. Grace Parker, grad student in the Longwood program, picks flowers from around the Botanic Garden for use in Vita Nova.“There’s a big sustainable push. We want to tie that to other student initiatives and collaborate on research projects and events,” said Pyle. Lyons said his students took the sustainability goal to heart, with many of them picking the flowers and then taking the bus to deliver them in order to cut back on fuel use. “Some of my students, after they gathered the cut plant materials, would take the bus or they’d make the delivery on bike,” said Lyons, who noted one student in particular would ride to main campus on his bike with a big bucket of flowers and other plant materials under his arm. “That’s the ultimate sustainability practice. He’d hand deliver the plants and then ride back to South Campus on his bike. They really got into it,” said Lyons. Many UD collaborations Vita Nova has many partnerships and collaborations with organizations throughout UD. In the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alone, they work with Mike Popovich, a research associate in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, to get fresh produce grown at UD’s Garden for the Community and UD Fresh to You. They also get Dare to Bee honey from UD’s apiary, and they serve ice cream from the UDairy Creamery. In addition, they collaborate with students in the College of Arts and Sciences, having students’ art featured as part of an art exhibit in the Vita Nova Bistro Dining Room, as well as students and faculty in the College of Engineering, with engineers showcasing their experiments and using some of those concepts to create dishes, such as food that looked like molecules. They also partnered with Xiang Gao, UD Trustees Distinguished Professor of Music, and the English Language Institute (ELI) to put together the UD World Kitchen Series. Kline said that all of these collaborative efforts are “a great way for undergrads, graduate students, faculty and staff to meet people they wouldn’t normally meet. For example, in the UD World Kitchen Series we are using food to break down cultures and build interdisciplinary relationships. The most intimate thing you can do for someone is to prepare a meal, and the idea is that we’re going to prepare a meal and we’re going to sit down and have conversations and break down barriers and build awareness of diverse cultures and perspectives. “Again, it’s part of the diversity and interdisciplinary goals that we have in the department. We want to expose our students to different people and different cultures,” said Kline. Pyle added, “Our customers love the fact that we have so many UD things, that we’re local, we’re UD, we’re young and vibrant, and I would love to do more.” DIY bouquet For details on creating a colorful bouquet, see the Pinterest site. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan and Ashley Barnas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate fulfills lifelong dream to work with dolphins

UD graduate fulfills lifelong dream to work with dolphinsUniversity of Delaware graduate Jenna Billings is putting her psychology and animal science education to good use, helping to get inside the minds of marine mammals at Florida’s Dolphins Plus. There she is learning to train dolphins and inform the public about conservation issues, while also fulfilling her lifelong dream to work with dolphins. Dolphins Plus is committed to the conservation and protection of marine mammals worldwide and is actively involved in research — constantly trying to learn and discover new things about the species — with extensive education and outreach programs. The organization is located in Key Largo, and has facilities on the Atlantic and on the Gulf of Mexico. Billings is at the Bayside facility on the Gulf of Mexico, a job she started in February, where she works with 11 Atlantic bottlenose dolphins — two of which are eight months old — and two California sea lions, which have their own trainers. The interactive facility is open to the public and offers programs such as a structured swim during which guests can get into the water with the dolphins to do various behaviors with them, and a shallow water encounter for guests who are younger or not comfortable in the water. Guests who still want to meet and interact with a dolphin without getting into the water can do so by signing up for a kiss with a dolphin or paint with a dolphin, several of which happen to be quite the artists. “We hope to inspire conservation and protection of marine mammals through our guest interactions. By our guests observing or being in the water, we hope that they will form a connection with these animals and be inspired to make a difference and help protect the dolphins and all of the other animals out in the wild,” said Billings. Billings said that one of her favorite parts of the job is seeing a guest interact with a dolphin for the first time. “Some of the guests who’ve never seen a dolphin before, or never been up close and personal with a dolphin, just think it’s the coolest thing ever. It’s really great to see that we can instill that passion in others,” said Billings. Teaching dolphins Billings also said she enjoys asking the dolphins for various behaviors. “Just like humans, dolphins learn differently. Seeing what they find reinforcing and seeing what works better for each individual dolphin is really neat. When you end up training a behavior, you can relate it to a school teacher explaining a new concept to her students. It’s a really rewarding job,” said Billings. Billings is still in her three-month training period and because she is a new face to the dolphins, she is getting to know them and allowing them to get to know her in order to build relationships. “I’ve been working with some of the dolphins more so than others and I can already see a relationship forming with some of them. They seem more comfortable around me and they get really excited around me. Just seeing that is rewarding. And knowing that you are helping provide amazing care to these animals, I absolutely love that aspect of the job,” said Billings. As a dolphin trainer, Billings will eventually get to do things like train new behaviors with the dolphins and swim and work with the dolphins more as her time with Dolphins Plus goes on. Dolphin communication Billings said the primary way trainers communicate is through what’s known as a bridge. “If you’ve seen trainers with a whistle, that’s an auditory bridge so we can use that to communicate with the dolphin when they do what we are looking for. That tells them, ‘Yes, that was perfect. Great job.’ Once we blow the whistle, we start to pair that with what we call primary reinforcement,” said Billings, adding that an example of primary reinforcement is fish. “The more the dolphins associate hearing the whistle and the whistle being paired with something they find reinforcing, soon enough the whistle will become reinforcement on its own, and won’t always have to be backed up. The dolphins come to learn that the whistle communicates to them yes, good job and to come back to the trainer,” said Billings. Billings said another way trainers communicate with the dolphins is through hand signals, almost like a sign language, in order to train behaviors. “It usually starts with what’s called a hand target. That’s when you present your hand and the dolphin’s mouth — also known as their rostrum — will come into contact with that hand and soon they’ll learn to follow that wherever it goes,” said Billings. That hand will get extended to what’s called a target pole, which the dolphins learn to follow. Once they get the motion of the behavior, the trainers incorporate a hand signal so the dolphins will eventually be able to associate the behavior with the hand signal. History with dolphins With regard to her prior experience working with dolphins, Billings said that she interned at Dolphins Plus last summer for three months before interning at Dolphin Quest in Bermuda. I learned a lot from those internships. Both were pretty hands-on and within my last month at Dolphin Quest, I got hired back here,” said Billings. Her love of dolphins began when she was young and would visit Sea World when taking trips to see her grandparents in Florida. “I was really young — about five years old — the first time I saw a dolphin. My grandparents live an hour away from Orlando so growing up, it was really nice. Over the summer, my family would come down and visit them, and we would do a lot of fun things. One of my favorites was visiting Sea World,” said Billings. She thought it was “mind-blowing” that the trainers could get in the water and interact with the dolphins. “I was intrigued and blown away and ever since that moment, I wanted to be a trainer,” said Billings. Billings said that her time at UD helped prepare her for her current job as some of the classes in her psychology major go hand-in-hand with what she is doing with the dolphins and her animal science minor allowed her hands-on experience with animals — especially in her senior year swine production capstone course. “Never in my life did I think that I’d fall in love with pigs but I did, and it was really cool how hands-on that class was. The University of Delaware has an amazing animal science and agricultural program. For any students who are looking at places to go and looking for where they can get the experience that they need, I would definitely put UD out there. It was a great school for me. I absolutely loved it. The program is unbelievable and it helped me achieve my dream job, so that’s really awesome,” said Billings. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UDairy ice cream available for shipping to homes, businesses

UDairy ice cream available for shipping to homes, businessesFans of the University of Delaware’s UDairy Creamery ice cream will no longer have to be close to the First State to get their hands on their favorite flavor as the creamery will now offer to ship its product anywhere in the continental United States. Melinda Shaw, UDairy Creamery manager, said the decision to make ice cream available via shipping came when the creamery got an unusually large number of requests over a two-month period for products to be shipped to locations outside of Delaware. “We had a handful of requests from the Development and Alumni Relations office and then a handful of random requests in a short period of time,” said Shaw. The UDairy Creamery is also working with a spice company to develop new ice cream flavors and the firm asked if it could ship the ice cream to some of its trade shows as well as provide samples to clients. “We thought, if we’re going to have to figure it out for those requests, we might as well offer it to everyone,” said Jennifer Rodammer, supervisor at the UDairy Creamery. The creamery will offer pint, half gallon and two and a half gallon containers, all of which will be packed with dry ice in a foam cooler in a box. To ensure that the ice cream doesn’t melt on its way to the customer, the packages will be shipped overnight. There will be two cooler sizes available, a small one for $25 and a large one for $30. The dry ice and cooler are included in the costs but the ice cream and the cost of shipping will be added on to those starting prices. Any of the flavors that are currently in stock and available at the creamery are eligible for shipping. Shipping will also be available during the holidays to allow for a sweet treat to be delivered to anyone’s home or business. To get ice cream shipped out to a certain location, those interested should visit the UDairy Creamery website and fill out an order form and then call the creamery at 302-831-2486 to get a quote once the weight and shipping costs are determined. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD sophomore gets hands-on experience as volunteer at animal clinics in Nicaragua

UD sophomore gets hands-on experience as volunteer at animal clinics in NicaraguaWhen University of Delaware student Emma Charlton decided that she wanted to travel abroad during Winter Session, she was looking for an opportunity that would give her a real-world, hands-on learning experience with animals and also help her make a decision about her future career. Working with Volunteers for Intercultural and Definitive Adventures (VIDA) in Nicaragua, Charlton not only got the experience working with large and small animals she was looking for, she was also able to figure out what she wants to do when she graduates. “I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do going into this trip. I kind of wanted to soul search a little bit, and this trip made me realize and help me decide that I want to focus more on the nutrition and medical aspect and not so much the veterinary aspect with regard to animals,” said Charlton. Nicaraguan experience  Charlton, who is majoring in animal and food science in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), traveled to Masaya and Diriamba, Nicaragua, from Jan. 3-13 and worked in a small animal clinic for four days and a large animal clinic for two. “With the small clinics, we set up in local schools and we brought our own supplies. Things like electricity and running water were a problem so we kind of worked with what we had and we did basic consultations and gave dogs de-wormer. We gave the owners pills to take home, so they could give them to the animals themselves, and then we also spayed and neutered,” Charlton said. With the large animals, Charlton said she worked with cattle, horses, goats, pigs and sheep, and administered vitamins like B-12 and gave them a de-wormer. The experience started right off the bat, as Charlton said that the first day, she scrubbed in and was told that she was helping. “I got to administer shots and I got to be an anesthesiologist, I got to practice sutures in surgery — it was very in depth,” said Charlton. “The first day I was very scared; I’m not going to lie. It was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever done, but the doctor is helping you the whole time, of course, and the second day when I got to assist with surgery, I was ready to go, I felt comfortable, and I was eager to help them.” As to her favorite part of the trip to Nicaragua, Charlton said it was seeing the owners’ reactions and their gratitude for what she and her group were doing for their animals. “We also wanted to teach them how to better communicate with their animals and it was nice because we put a collar on their animal and we showed them that they are a part of their family, and they should love and care for them just as much as they do everyone else. Even though there was a language barrier, we all just had a common bond for the animals,” said Charlton. UD animal science program That learning experience working with animals is something that Charlton said she also got exposed to while at UD studying animal science. “Compared to other colleges, we get a lot of hands-on learning right from the start in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences lab the first semester when you’re a freshman. I think that helps a lot of kids to decide right off the bat if they do want to pursue a career with animals or not,” Charlton said. Charlton said she got interested in animal nutrition in a career development class taught by Mark Parcells, professor in the department. “That class showed us options outside of vet school of what we can pursue with our major. With animal nutrition, I don’t know if I want to be a generalized but I could either specify in poultry nutrition or equine nutrition, and animal nutrition is an up and coming career,” Charlton said. “It’s getting more and more important. The animals have to eat every day so that’s the basis and the start. If they don’t have good nutrition and diet then their whole performance is going to be affected, so I want to learn more about that.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo courtesy of Emma Charlton This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

First Step team removes barriers in community gardens for people with disabilities

Students work at the Luthern Community Service to provide wheelchair and disability access to the gardens at the center.A little hill. A community garden at Lutheran Community Services in Northwest Wilmington is perched on a little hill. It’s not much of a hill when you stand in front of it, but for someone in a wheelchair, it’s enough to keep them out of the garden. After talking to community members, Spencer Hoernes, a student in the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, decided to investigate. He discovered that 25 percent of people with a physical or visual disability live in poverty. This garden is located in the highest disabilities and food insecurity rates in Wilmington, so improvements would mean garden new community members could finally take part. “After discussing my thoughts with Lutheran Community Services, we agreed that the garden needed wheelchair access,” said Hoernes. “I’m very interested in learning how gardening would impact the quality of life of a person with disabilities.” So he created Green Inclusion to take on the challenge of converting the local plot into a disability-friendly garden. Hoernes, a food science major, entered his team into First Step Grand Challenges, a UD competition that invites undergraduate students across disciplines to identify societal and environmental challenges. After identifying a problem, students are charged with developing novel solutions. The undergraduates are tackling issues from CPR to veterans’ assistance to diversity. While the competition is run by the College of Health Sciences and the Horn Program in Entrepreneurship, First Step boasts students from all seven colleges — a true interdisciplinary competition. Early in the fall semester, the teams began formulating their ideas. Each was given $500 to get their projects off the ground. Green Inclusion started off with a focus on creating a garden compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). But, like many of the First Step teams, Green Inclusion’s project soared to something greater. The group is planning multiple projects at the Wilmington garden — installation of a ramp, new raised beds for easier access, purchasing disability-friendly tools, incorporating a braille system for the visually impaired, and creating an open source site that would allow anyone in the country to pattern their own garden after that in Wilmington. This open source mindset illustrates the group’s desire to take this project beyond Delaware. “If someone wants to recreate our garden, they will be able to find the schematics and step-by-step processes on our site for free,” Hoernes said. “That way, we are not only creating it for Wilmington, but for the entire world.” In order to accomplish all of this, Hoernes needed someone with a background in disabilities studies, so First Step connected with Mariah Graham, a junior cognitive science major and disability studies minor. “We didn’t realize how excited we were to tackle all of these projects,” said Graham. “It has become so much bigger than we imagined.” And it’s not accessibility that’s the chief outcome, it’s the impact. For a person with disabilities who might otherwise never get a chance to grow food with their own hands, the act of gardening can improve self-worth and help eliminate depression. “If they are included in this garden, they feel more included in the community. That’s how you raise people’s spirits,” said Graham. After a yearlong competition, the First Step field was whittled down to Green Inclusion and 20 other teams. The competition culminates on Wednesday evening, April 6, at the STAR Health Sciences Complex when Hoernes, Graham and more than 90 other undergraduates compete at the poster presentation and awards dinner. The doors open at 6 p.m. with the poster session preceding spotlight presentations and an awards ceremony. Students will pitch their ideas to judges from the professional, non-profit and academic arenas, who will focus on feasibility, societal and environmental impact. They will crown a champion that evening with $10,000 in awards on the line. The majority of the $1,000 third-place, $2,500 second place and $5,000 first-place prizes is allocated for project continuation, so students can further progress their innovative ideas and make the solutions come alive. To ensure the projects live on, First Step’s creators established a rule that each team must have at least one non-senior. “Our hope is to see members of the winning teams carry on and continue to develop their ideas,” says Sarah LaFave, program coordinator in the College of Health Sciences. “Students may choose to apply to First Step Grand Challenges again next year, a Horn Program opportunity like Hen Hatch, participate in undergraduate research or use some other means to take their project to the next level.” So if Hoernes and Graham walk away with seed money, you can probably guess where they’re going to plant it. “We want the garden to be a focal point for Northwest Wilmington — let it be an escape for daily life where people can be with nature,” said Hoernes. “It’s a place to relax, but also produces food for the community.” Those who plan to attend the First Step Grand Challenge finals on Wednesday evening are asked to register in advance. Article by Dante LaPenta Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Outstanding Downtown Community Partner Award

Outstanding Downtown Community Partner AwardJules Bruck, associate professor of landscape architecture in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Ed Lewandowski, acting director of Delaware Sea Grant’s Marine Advisory Service in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, received the Outstanding Downtown Community Partner Award at the Revitalize 2016 conference in Wilmington, Delaware, for their innovative project in Laurel, Delaware, to redevelop the town’s commercial district along the Broad Creek waterfront. “Much of their time and commitment exceeds their regular work duties because of their vision for the town and belief in its potential,” wrote Brian Shannon from the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation in nominating Bruck and Lewandowski for the award. Members of “Team Laurel,” including Bruck and Lewandowski, discussed the project during a TED-style talk delivered at the event, hosted by the Delaware Economic Development Office. They were recognized, along with Lee Ann Walling from Cedar Creek Planners, during the Excellence in Downtown Revitalization awards ceremony for their dedication and project leadership. This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD study abroad students learn about tribal life, wildlife conservation in Tanzania

UD study abroad students learn about tribal life, wildlife conservation in TanzaniaFor 30 days over Winter Session, 24 University of Delaware students trekked through Tanzania, learning about African cultures and wildlife conservation issues as part of the wildlife conservation study abroad program. Led by Jake Bowman, chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), the group departed from New Jersey and landed in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, on Jan. 7. During the next month, the participants saw hundreds of birds and animals such as zebras, elephants, rhinos, gazelles and even a wildebeest migration. They also interacted with three local tribes — the Hadza, the Iraqw and the Maasai — and learned about their cultures. Bowman said the program was important for the students as they “learned first-hand how other cultures handle wildlife conservation issues. These lessons will impact the decisions they make in their careers. They gained a greater understanding of how difficult conservation decisions can be.” Laura Manser, a senior majoring in wildlife conservation with a minor in entomology, said she enjoyed “interacting with the tribes and learning how they did everything, and asking them questions just out of pure curiosity.” Tribal interaction From interacting with the Maasai, the students learned about how the tribe’s members are conserving dry season grasslands for their cattle and how those areas are important to wildlife that use the adjacent Tarangire National Park. Through their interactions with the Iraqw, an agricultural society, the students learned how they are conserving the Nou Forest as a watershed that allows them to grow sustainable crops. The students focused on the economic and ecological value of forests such as the Nou to the Iraqw society. One of the groups that stood out in particular for some of the students was the Hadza. Dan Wilson, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation, said it was great to interact with one of the few remaining hunter-gatherer cultures in the world. “They don’t have permanent settlements and they were up for anything. They were fun. They sang and danced with us the last night we were with them. Just in general, they were really awesome people. All of them,” said Wilson. Carley Gringer, a sophomore majoring in wildlife conservation, ecology and pre-veterinary and animal biosciences, echoed these sentiments, saying it was interesting to see the American students interact with the Hadza. “They don’t have any material goods. They don’t collect wealth, which is why it’s so hard for them to continue living in this world. Beads are the one thing that they can have that’s theirs, and it was amazing because they made all the girls bracelets and they just gave them to us. I was amazed by that because they were so willing to give away the only thing that they had,” said Gringer. Manser said it was interesting to learn how the Hadza tracked animals, adding that the students were able to make decorative arrows with the Hadza that they brought back home. Birding in Tanzania The students also did a fair amount of birding during their time in Tanzania, on one occasion getting to see the endangered Beesley’s lark at the Engikaret lark plains, the only place in the world where the lark is found. “There are less than 100 in Tanzania and we saw two of them so it’s kind of cool we could say we saw 2 percent of their population,” said Manser. They also learned about how community-based conservation is at work, as the local residents manage the area in order to conserve the Beesley’s lark. Wilson pointed out that although he isn’t a birder, he found the experience enlightening and enjoyed seeing the variety of birds in Tanzania, specifically the giant marabou storks. “They have a unique appearance. They’re big birds. They probably stand up to my shoulder almost. They’re not pretty birds but they’re memorable. We were in Ngorongoro Crater and when we got to camp, there were a couple dozen of them hanging out,” said Wilson. The wildebeest migration also served as a great learning opportunity for the students as they focused on how the migration can be conserved and how much of the migration takes place outside of the Serengeti National Park. “We were in the middle of their migration and that was really cool,” Gringer said. “There were literally hundreds of thousands of them and Prof. Bowman asked us to try to count them to try and get a sense of their population. But when I first saw them all, I thought it was a joke because there were just so many I was wondering, ‘How am I supposed to count this?’ But that was really cool and they’re beautiful animals.” UD study abroad students learn about tribal life, wildlife conservation in TanzaniaNou Forest The students also singled out the Nou Forest as a highlight, with Wilson and Manser both saying they enjoyed jogging through the forest. Gringer said that using mist nets in the forest in order to catch birds was a great hands-on learning opportunity for the students. “I was surprised because there were other kids on the journey who had taken ornithology and I hadn’t because I’m a sophomore, so I thought they would just be able to hold the birds and I wouldn’t. But Prof. Bowman taught me how to hold them and passed it to me and it was really cool,” said Gringer. She also said that one of the most memorable aspects was being caught in a hailstorm in the Nou Forest. “I was walking back with my one friends and we were laughing through the rain because there was nothing else to do. You can’t complain. You just have to keep walking, and we eventually got back to camp and we all had warm drinks and huddled around the fire. The hard times were really memorable; they’re the good stories,” said Gringer. Through it all, the students said they felt that a closeness formed within the group. Manser, who had also gone on a study abroad to Costa Rica, said she didn’t know many people on the Tanzania study abroad prior to leaving and that it was a great experience to bond with everyone. “I went to Costa Rica last year and I knew everybody that was going, so this was a big change. I actually really liked it because everybody was so nice and I feel like because we were in such rough and hearty conditions, everybody felt the same way so we could bond over different types of experiences,” said Manser. Gringer, who said she plans on going to Costa Rica next year as part of study abroad, said she was “impressed with the character of all the people who went. I honestly didn’t think there were that many people who would put up with those conditions and not complain and be so positive. Everyone was really great and there were times when everyone was down and we were all exhausted but everyone rallied really quickly and everyone was really supportive of each other.” Article by Adam Thomas Video by Nikki Laws Photos by Andy Bale, Laura Manser and Carley Gringer This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit features natural beauty of scenic trail

2016 Flower Show theme is National Parks and UD has partnered with Delaware Nature Society to promote trail hiking. Students prepare the show during class at 124 Worrilow Hall Univeristy of DelawareThe Pacific Crest Trail, a West Coast counterpart to the Appalachian Trail, stretches 2,600 miles from the Mexican to the Canadian border, spanning terrain that ranges from deserts to snow-topped mountains, bare lava fields to thick evergreen forests. Hikers might spend half a year covering its length, but a group of University of Delaware students is hard at work on a different kind of challenge — distilling the essence of the trail into a 23-by-33-foot exhibit that visitors to the Philadelphia Flower Show can experience in just a few minutes. “Our goal is to give everyone the sense of actually walking along the Pacific Crest Trail, so with all the variety on the trail, there are a lot of things for us to think about and try to include,” said Greg Heiner, a junior majoring in criminal justice who’s the project manager for the exhibit’s construction. “We’re partnering this year with the Delaware Nature Society, and they’re giving us help with the best way to spread the message of appreciating nature.” The end result will be on display for the duration of the Flower Show, March 5-13, in the Pennsylvania Convention Center. For more about visiting the show, including hours and ticket information, see the website. On a recent evening in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Worrilow Hall, Heiner and some two dozen other students were busy sawing and painting plywood for the exhibit’s walls, mounting poster-size photographs depicting scenic views of the trail and making papier-mâché boulders. Some walls were being covered with green chalkboard paint to encourage exhibit visitors to leave a personal message sharing their thoughts about the experience. Student involved in the project represent a diverse assortment of majors from nearly every one of UD’s seven colleges. Some are working on the exhibit as part of the Design Process Practicum class, taught by Jules Bruck, associate professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, while others are members of the Design and Agriculture student organization. “Everyone is so engaged in creating this project and wanting it to be a great experience for the people who will come to the Flower Show,” Bruck said. “I see students who aren’t even taking the class for credit — they’re members of the club — but they come to class just because they’re so enthusiastic about it.” This will be the sixth consecutive year that an interdisciplinary team of faculty and students is contributing an exhibit to the show, which is the oldest and largest indoor flower show in the world. The show’s theme this year, inspired by the centennial of the National Park Service, is “Explore America.” At UD, students in Bruck’s class last year came up with the design concept for the 2016 exhibit once the Flower Show announced its theme encouraging exhibitors to draw inspiration from the nation’s parks. Students chose the Pacific Crest Trail, a designated National Scenic Trail, and made drawings and models of their proposed exhibit, which will be UD’s first walk-through entry in the Flower Show. Bruck’s current class dived into the construction work as soon as spring semester began. 2016 Flower Show theme is National Parks and UD has partnered with Delaware Nature Society to promote trail hiking. Students prepare the show during class at 124 Worrilow Hall Univeristy of DelawareBecause the exhibit must be partially disassembled, trucked to Center City Philadelphia, and then reassembled inside the convention center, the class got some expert help from a faculty member accustomed to that kind of process. Stefanie Hansen, associate professor of theatre, has been working with the students to help them construct the kinds of modular, lightweight pieces that are used in set design. “This is a more interactive exhibit than the ones they’ve done in the past,” Hansen said. “Everything we do in theatre work is built like this, in manageable pieces so it can be moved around and reassembled, so I was able to help them with that process.” In fact, she said, she hopes more theatre minors get involved in future Flower Show projects at UD because the skills involved are so similar to those used in stage-set design. As construction proceeds in Worrilow Hall, another key part of the project is flourishing in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ nearby greenhouse. The exhibit’s plant manager, senior horticulture and design major Sarah Morales, has been ordering and caring for the succulents, moss, evergreens and other vegetation that will complete the display. “This is a flower show, after all, so the plants are the most important part of the exhibit and a major element in how the judges will evaluate us,” Bruck said. “All the plants are sustainably grown, and we want to be able to reuse them after the show closes, so they’re representative of what you’d find on the Pacific Crest Trail but they’re not the exact plants that grow there. We’re using ones that are native to our area, so they can be planted here after the show.” Morales said she and the team of students working with her have researched the plant life found on the trail and view it as “a source of inspiration” for their choices. They’ve taken that inspiration and used it to develop their own creative ideas for the exhibit. Like others working on the exhibit, Morales said the project has been time-consuming but highly enjoyable and rewarding. “It’s such a large event that ends up making an impact on a significant amount of people, and being able to help create that impact is incredible,” Morales said of the Flower Show. “Plus, I’ve made a lot of great friends outside of the College [of Agriculture and Natural Resources] that I wouldn’t have met otherwise.” Just as the students come from a variety of colleges and majors, faculty assistance with the project, primarily Bruck and Hansen, has been interdisciplinary as well. Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor of leadership in the School of Public Policy and Administration, and Jon Cox, assistant professor of art and design, worked closely with Bruck on previous years’ Flower Show exhibits, although they were less involved in this year’s project. Middlebrooks called the project “an amazing opportunity for students” and one that is valuable every year in engaging his leadership students. This year’s team will transport the exhibit to Philadelphia and set it up to be ready for a special preview show for Pennsylvania Horticultural Society members on Friday, March 4. Students will staff the exhibit throughout the show and, after closing time each night, will water and care for the plants. When the show ends, the team will bring materials back to campus, and Bruck’s class will continue to meet as students immediately begin planning next year’s exhibit. “Long-term projects like this encourage and promote interdisciplinary learning among faculty, students and the community,” Cox said. “We all stand to benefit from the unique perspectives presented from the various disciplines involved in this massive undertaking.” Article by Ann Manser Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Lesa Griffiths named T.A. Baker Professor in College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Lesa Griffiths named T.A. Baker Professor in College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesLesa Griffiths has been named the T.A. Baker Professor in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). Griffiths assumed the role on Jan. 16, succeeding Tom Sims, who retired on Jan. 15. The T.A. Baker Professorship, named for Thomas A. Baker, a highly respected and appreciated faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) from 1919 until 1958, is awarded for a five-year term based on clear and substantial evidence of impact in teaching, research or extension. A five-person committee composed of endowed chairs from across the University reviewed applications for the professorship. Griffiths, who has been at UD for 29 years and has interacted with thousands of undergraduate students, said she hopes that she has “impacted and will continue to impact the thousands of students and colleagues that I have taught and mentored in a way that is meaningful and lasting, and in a manner that truly honors Prof. Baker.” After receiving her bachelor of science degree in animal science from Cornell University — of which Baker also was a graduate — and her master’s degree and doctorate in animal nutrition from Purdue University, Griffiths came to UD and served one term as associate dean for academic programs for CANR, followed by two terms as associate provost for international programs and director of the University’s Institute for Global Studies (IGS). Under Griffiths’ leadership, participation in study abroad increased over 60 percent, ranking UD consistently among the top public institutions in the United States for study abroad. Griffiths teaches a number of required courses and labs, including the Introduction to Animal Science and Animal Nutrition courses and the hands-on, laboratory-based capstone courses on beef cattle, sheep and swine. She developed the University’s first study abroad program to New Zealand and has accompanied over 200 students on study abroad programs focused on international agriculture. Griffiths has been recognized with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Award for Teaching Excellence, the UD Excellence-in-Teaching Award, the CANR Outstanding Teaching Award, and the UD On-line Teaching Award. Purdue University recognized Griffiths with its Distinguished Alumni Award and she has also been acknowledged for her work with students and is the recipient of two YoUDee Leadership Awards for outstanding adviser of a registered student organization, the Equestrian Team, and the Agricultural College Council (AgCC) Advising Award. Griffiths is the author of a variety of publications on pedagogical topics including problem-based learning and the impact of study abroad on students. In his nomination letter, Limin Kung, the S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Animal and Food Sciences and interim chair for the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, said that Griffiths has an impact on people that is “long-term and wide-reaching,” noting that she teaches a large freshman course that enrolls over 200 students as well as the senior capstone course for more than half of the department’s graduating seniors. “Her influence on freshmen ANFS students is impactful as it is the first experience that incoming students have to our major. It is not uncommon to hear students praise her for making classes informative, challenging and fun,” said Kung, who added that the impact of the capstone course Griffiths teaches “extends far beyond the in-depth animal experience that students receive under her guidance. Lesa makes herself available to students 24/7 during these courses.” Kung added, “It is Lesa’s personal impact on students — including some of the most challenging students — that is most powerful and profound. She truly understands the challenges that students face and she helps guide them through the University with unyielding support.” In her letter of nomination, Susan Garey, extension agent for animal science and state 4-H animal science program coordinator, said she was writing “on behalf of the thousands of students [Griffiths] has touched during her career at the University of Delaware. We were fortunate to encounter Dr. Griffiths when we enrolled as undergraduates in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UD. “Dr. Griffiths has fulfilled many roles in our lives during her nearly 30-year career at UD. As undergraduates, she fulfilled the traditional roles of professor, academic adviser and club adviser; after graduation, she became a role model, mentor and wise friend. Through these roles, she has had a tremendous and lasting impact on students’ lives, not only during our time at UD but in our professional careers, as well.” James Magee, Judge Hugh M. Morris Professor of Political Science and International Relations, said in his nomination of Griffiths, “Through her contributions to many of the missions of the University, internationalizing the campus and especially in the area of teaching and mentoring, both students and faculty, Lesa’s performance at UD can accurately be described as excellent. Her contributions from her work as a teacher, mentor, and senior administrator have truly been incredible.” About Thomas A. Baker The professorship that bears his name was created by his wife, Ruth Baker, through a bequest made for “a purpose which will advance the aims of the University of Delaware and appropriately honor the name of Prof. T.A. Baker.” The Board of Trustees of the University formally established the professorship on Dec. 19, 2001, as the T.A. Baker Professorship in Agriculture and Natural Resources. The T.A. Baker Professorship is a college-specific award that can be bestowed on a faculty member in any discipline within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Antonette Todd receives doctorate after being co-advised by UD, DSU professors

Antonette Todd receives doctorate after being co-advised by UD, DSU professorsAfter the University of Delaware’s doctoral hooding ceremony on Dec. 18, Antonette Todd spoke with her two advisers, Nicole Donofrio and Venu (Kal) Kalavacharla, which is not unusual after receiving such a prestigious honor. What was unique about the situation, however, is that the professors came from two different universities, UD and Delaware State University. Todd had previously completed her master’s degree at Delaware State with Kalavacharla – director of the Center for Integrated Biological and Environmental Research (CIBER) and professor of molecular genetics and epigenomics at Delaware State who holds an adjunct appointment in UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) – and went on to work as a research technician in his laboratory. Knowing that Todd wanted to go on to get a doctorate, but also aware that no such program existed in plant science at Delaware State, Kalavacharla reached out to Donofrio, associate professor of plant and soil sciences at UD, to see if she would be able to assist. Donofrio and Kalavacharla had worked together on a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) grant and when they needed someone to continue working on the project, Kalavacharla suggested Todd. Rust fungus research Todd’s doctoral research interest was in plant pathology, specifically studying the interaction between the common bean and fungal rust, carrying over the work she did for her master’s degree but looking at it from a different angle. “The ultimate goal is to find a resistance gene in the common bean,” said Todd. Rust fungus is a major problem worldwide and while there is some genetic resistance, the pathogen eventually finds a way to overcome the resistance, leaving the researchers back at square one. The fungus is also difficult to work with as it can only be cultured on actual plants and not on petri dishes. Todd’s project had to do with trying to figure out the underlying basis of cryptic resistance regions of the bean genome, working with plants that Kalavacharla had found during his doctoral research to understand what genes play a role and the location of important genes involved in the rust resistance response of the common bean. Along with Kalavacharla and Donofrio, she was guided by UD committee members Randy Wisser, associate professor of plant genetics; Tom Evans, professor of plant and soil sciences; and Adam Marsh, associate professor in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), who provided support and valuable mentoring along the way. Todd used next generation sequencing and bioinformatics to try and determine what those genes were and got pretty close, narrowing it down to one well-defined region with a number of genes that look promising. Her work will allow a future student to come in and do their research around figuring out and identifying the magic gene. “She was successful in pinpointing the region of one of those genes to a base region in the bean genome by a combination of genetics, molecular biology, genomics, and bioinformatics,” said Kalavacharla. Family, career, doctorate Todd not only worked at pursuing her doctorate, she also retained her job as a technician in Kalavacharla’s lab and had three children at home to care for, one born during her pursuit of her doctorate, and with a fourth due shortly after completion of her degree work. “The great thing about the fact that Antonette had a successful Ph.D. experience is that we’ve demonstrated that you can do this even if you have a growing family or a young family – you can maintain your employment status and still get a Ph.D. You just have to be really determined about it and dig your heels in, and that’s exactly what she did,” said Donofrio. Todd said that she has a “super family” and that as a research technician, her responsibilities include “everything from helping the post-docs out with their research, to mentoring our undergraduate and graduate students. We have a lot of students that work in our lab so it’s taking them through the process and holding their hands sometimes.” Kalavacharla said Todd is a “wonderful person to work with and is calm and has a great sense of humor. She is very passionate about genetics, molecular biology, and agriculture. She is a very talented and intelligent person who has made it her mission to be a great mentor and a teacher. She strives to bring about the best in the people that she has mentored in research, be they graduate or undergraduate students. She has mentored many undergraduate and graduate students at DSU.” Future collaboration Of working with Donofrio, Todd said she is “awesome. She’s very supportive. I like her laid back style, which makes her very approachable. Her wealth of knowledge on plant-pathogen interactions is immeasurable.” She also said that being co-advised by people at both universities was the best of both worlds. “Kal (Kalavacharla) has played an enormous role in my success not only a graduate adviser, but also by providing mentorship for real life issues such as managing family, school, and work.” “I think I’m the first, at least from the College of Agriculture and Related Sciences at DSU – I’m not sure if they’ve done it at any of the other colleges from Delaware State but definitely from this college it was the first collaboration between DSU and UD for a Ph.D.,” said Todd. Donofrio said she is hopeful that UD and Delaware State can have more such collaborations in the future and that it shows that individuals who really want to get their doctorate but still want to keep their jobs can do both. “We demonstrated that people, if they’re determined about it and if they really want it, we can pave a way for them to keep their employment and get a Ph.D. That Kal and I were able to successfully co-advise her to completion was a good thing,” said Donofrio. Kalavacharla said that Donofrio “is a very good friend and a respected colleague. It has been a wonderful partnership. Nicole and I share a common passion of training students and the next generation in biology and agriculture. We also recognize that although the University of Delaware and Delaware State University are two different institutions with distinct missions, there is common ground that can help serve the state of Delaware. Educating students and bringing about the best in individuals such as Dr. Antonette Todd is a wonderful outcome of this shared interest.” Todd said that for anyone out there looking to get their Ph.D., the biggest piece of advice is to have patience. “Have patience with yourself and have perseverance. Keep your eye on the goal, that’s the biggest thing,” said Todd. Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Isaacs, VanSant receive awards from Delaware Farm Bureau

UD's Isaacs, VanSant receive awards from Delaware Farm BureauThe University of Delaware’s Mark Isaacs and Ryan VanSant were presented statewide honors from the Delaware Farm Bureau during a ceremony held in December. Isaacs received the 2015 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award and VanSant was named the bureau’s Youth Ambassador. Mark Isaacs Isaacs, the director of the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center and an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said he was honored and humbled to receive the award. “It’s pretty special to me coming from that particular group, our state Farm Bureau, because I’ve always felt that what I did here was really connected to our state’s agriculture system and it’s important to me that those people at that level feel like we’ve done a good job,” Isaacs said. “It’s pretty special just because of who it came from and the importance of the Farm Bureau to Delaware agriculture.” Isaacs, who also received the Sussex County Farm Bureau’s 2015 Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award, has been at UD for almost 30 years and said that he is proud of the way the 344-acre Carvel Research and Education Center campus has developed over the years and of the staff that the center has assembled. “I feel really good that we’ve set our facility up here to meet the future needs of agriculture for the state, and that’s something I take a lot of pride in,” he said. “We positioned ourselves to make sure that agriculture stays number one in the state because we’ve been blessed in having some great staff. Being a part of hiring them and watching them develop and lead tremendous research and extension programs is really great.” In addition to his service to the state’s agriculture through his work at UD, Isaacs has also worked with members of the General Assembly on governor-appointed boards to enhance Delaware agriculture. He also has worked with students at the high school level, having served on agricultural advisory boards at Indian River, Woodbridge and Sussex Tech, and also having served on the school boards for the Indian River and Sussex Tech districts. Isaacs said that reaching the next generation of Delaware growers is of the upmost importance to him. “Being director here, we’ve tried to make opportunities for high school students to work here through summer jobs and internships to try to help them and also to recruit students into agriculture by making them aware of the diversity of career opportunities out there,” said Isaacs. “I love talking about the great things that Delaware agriculture does with our younger generation and I love seeing them get involved in agriculture. It’s pretty cool when you see you’re opening career opportunities for them when you talk to them.” Isaacs, who was born and raised on a poultry, grain and hog farm and is the fourth generation of his family to farm, also teaches at UD. Last year he developed a course on “Understanding Delaware Agriculture,” which exposed students to all the different facets of the unique agricultural enterprises in the state. Isaacs still farms grain and said that work is very important to him in keeping his roots tied to Delaware agriculture. “I think that in working with a lot of the clientele, when we talk about different things they feel my love for Delaware agriculture because I’ve spent my entire life in it — from a kid all the way to my professional career.” As for his favorite part of his job, Isaacs said that it would have to be the teaching and the interactions he has with members of the industry. “I really enjoy the one-on-one interactions, working with the clientele in the industry and having the opportunity to help them move their individual enterprises forward whether it be helping them look at different production options and communicating the research that’s out there and trying to help them enhance their operations,” said Isaacs. Ryan VanSant VanSant, a freshman majoring in animal science and French, has close ties to Delaware agriculture, having grown up on a family dairy farm in Middletown. His family has been heavily involved with the Delaware Farm Bureau over the years, with his sister and older cousins having served as Farm Bureau Youth Ambassadors and his grandfather and uncle having served on the boards for the New Castle County and statewide Farm Bureau. “When my mother was around my age, she was named Delaware Farm Bureau Queen, so we’ve been pretty involved in this organization for a long time,” said VanSant. Being named Youth Ambassador is “honestly amazing,” VanSant said. “I had to interview against a couple other extremely qualified individuals for the position, and having been selected as a representative for such a prestigious organization and for an organization that I believe in is truly an honor. I have so much belief in the agriculture industries and the Delaware Farm Bureau and what this organization can do for Delaware agriculture. It’s an honor to be able to represent the organization that I love.” VanSant said that his duties will include serving as a representative for the bureau, attending state functions and going to classrooms to teach younger students about agriculture and the different aspects of agricultural education. He also will do representative work at the Delaware State Fair and attend meetings and banquets to represent the organization. VanSant, who was recently named a finalist in a national competition for job interview skills through FFA, said it is important for the next generation to study agriculture because of the challenges facing the world to feed a growing global populace. “When we look at the world as a whole and you see where the world is going in terms of climate change, and when you think about it terms of creating more food for the growing population, the only answer is agricultural education,” VanSant said. “We have to have individuals — whether it be agricultural teachers, or representatives of different organizations, or just people who are advocating for agriculture – who can spread the knowledge and the necessity of the agricultural industries, all those different aspects of why we need agriculture,” said VanSant. Isaacs, who had VanSant as a student in his “Understanding Delaware Agriculture” class, said that with students like VanSant interested in agriculture, he knows the future is bright. “He really is a fabulous young man. He’s got a lot going on. He’s a freshman and I would like to get him in the field of agriculture because he is a sharp student who shows great promise as a future leader in agriculture,” said Isaacs. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Michelle Rodgers recognized with two national Extension leadership roles

Delbert Foster, chair of the national Extension Committee on Organization and Policy for 2014-15, hands the gavel to UD's Michelle Rodgers.Michelle Rodgers, associate dean of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of UD Cooperative Extension, has received two national Extension honors. Rodgers was named chair of the Extension Committee on Organization and Policy (ECOP) and elected as a trustee on the National 4-H Council. Rodgers said her position as ECOP chair is a major responsibility and that she looks forward to representing a diverse group of leaders with different opinions on Extension decisions made on a national scale. “I’m very cognizant of those who may think differently than I and I want to reflect on all the interests of Extension directors from across the country,” said Rodgers. “It’s a good challenge for any leader of a group to reflect the diversity of the thoughts and opinions of the group but also to bring some consensus and decision making to move forward on the items.” The executive committee has set forth many national goals for Cooperative Extension for the coming year, among them figuring out best practices for Extension programming in urban areas, focusing on innovation, and professional development. Officials also are looking at the core values for Cooperative Extension on a national scale. Rodgers said that providing a framework for a national Extension system is a challenge because each state is staffed and funded differently. “A topic I talked about recently in Washington, D.C., was pesticide safety education. In Delaware we have no one individual assigned to pesticide safety education, whereas Texas has eight or nine people,” Rodgers said. “Extension is staffed from a statewide perspective but when we talk about doing things nationally, what does that look like and how can we speak as a national system when we’re still based in a state, funded in part by state dollars, and have expectations from our state legislators? What are the common things around the national focus that we can agree on and work with?” Rodgers said that an example of a successful national program came about last year when Extension developed common training and curriculum for agents across the country with regard to farm risk management education. “In our state, Laurie Wolinski and Dan Severson were the key leaders. They attended national trainings and then provided education to producers here in our state in combination with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Farm Service Agency (FSA). All states used the same evaluation instrument and we were able to compile data and tell a wonderful story about the impact that Extension made nationally as a result of the effort across the states,” Rodgers said. “We have the capability to work locally but on a national scale and that really helps to show the impact of our national system and why people should continue to invest and fund and support Cooperative Extension,” Rodgers added. “It’s more than a state system; it’s really bringing our collective pieces together on key issues at a national level.” National 4-H Council As a trustee on the National 4-H Council, Rodgers will have a role in providing leadership for fund development, marketing and promotion for 4-H nationally. “We’re getting ready to launch a national marketing campaign across the country about 4-H and, again, instead of each state having to do their own individual marketing, we’re working with professional partners,” Rodgers said. “We’re getting ready to launch a national marketing campaign with some national spokespersons this spring. About 10 people are lined up, great people who are 4-H alums and who will speak to that.” Rodgers is an alumna and a product of the 4-H program and her parents met in 4-H. “I wouldn’t be here if my parents hadn’t met in 4-H, and 4-H was a major factor in my career choice,” said Rodgers, who got her first job working with a family and consumer science educator who had been her mentor while in 4-H. “I have 35 years of work in Cooperative Extension as a direct result of having been a 4-Her and having been opened up to the career opportunities through 4-H. I also think it had a lot to do with my success in my college years in terms of my abilities to organize, make presentations and to work with others. I think it had a major impact on my capabilities to be a good scholar because I had skill sets that I had learned in 4-H.” Rodgers said she thinks 4-H is one of the best youth-serving organizations in the country, with great adult mentorship for young people and important life skill development, and singled out all that Delaware 4-H has to offer. “I’m very proud that Delaware has a wonderful menu of ways to be involved in 4-H. We have in-school, after-school, community clubs, we have camps, we have self determined projects that you can do — there’s many ways that you can be a 4-Her in this state depending on what works and what your interests are,” she said. As to the future, Rodgers said that, much like institutions of higher education are reaching out to first generation college students, she would like to try and reach more first generation 4-Hers. “I’m a product of the program, but what about the kids who haven’t had the opportunity to be a product of the program? How do we reach out to the first generation of 4-Hers who may or may not have had exposure to 4-H? I think there’s a great opportunity for us to expand our program by focusing on the diversity of young people who are first generation 4-Hers. And I think we do some of this, but I also think we could do more,” said Rodgers. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Armstrong offers students hands-on learning opportunities at UD’s Webb Farm

larry armstrong at webb farm with the happy sheep at canr university of delawareAs he took night classes in ornamental horticulture at the University of Delaware, Larry Armstrong realized something about the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) of which he had been previously unaware — the college had a livestock farm. Having grown up on a 400-acre farm with sheep, beef cattle and horses, Armstrong said to himself that if a job ever opened up on the farm, he would jump at the opportunity. Sure enough, in 1997, not a year after he started taking classes, a farm assistant position became open and Armstrong applied and set himself off on an 18-year journey that sees him now serving as farm manager for UD’s Webb Farm. There, he oversees 20 beef cows, around 50 sheep and six horses. “It’s a great multi-species farm and I started doing a lot of research and learning about multi-species grazing and actually breaking up the parasite cycle. We’ll put cows out first and that will end the life cycle of a certain parasite that affects sheep, and then the horses can come through. They all graze a little bit differently. That’s been working really well and it’s beneficial for each species involved,” said Armstrong. Animal health and natural resource management are two of the large priorities on the farm, but perhaps most important is the education component for UD undergraduate students. “That’s really why we’re here,” Armstrong said. “We want to show them how we’re doing the right things, the right way.” At the Webb Farm, students from freshmen in the introductory animal and food sciences laboratory classes through seniors working on their capstone courses — as well as volunteers who work at the facility — get to experience hands-on learning opportunities with the animals, something that Armstrong said is vital to the farm’s success. “So many universities with agriculture colleges of our size have gotten rid of or downsized their farms and it’s a huge disservice,” Armstrong said. “It’s awesome and it’s amazing to have the farm. The number one thing I hear from undergraduates and alumni is that their hands-on experience here, whether it’s been on Webb or in the dairy, has really allowed them to apply their knowledge and to better understand through problem-based learning. What they’ve learned has been invaluable.” Armstrong noted that he recently heard from a colleague that a CANR alumna who is now at veterinary school said her class is currently learning how to trim sheep’s hooves, something that she learned at the farm as a freshman. “It’s great when we can give them that foundation, and it’s really about that foundation because, especially working with the animals, a big part of it is the confidence,” Armstrong said. “If you’ve got a big cow and she’s breathing in your ear and you’re trying to work with her and give her medication, it can be a little unnerving. A lot of it is just practice and building that confidence. We try to give them that experience here because it’s hard to find.” Farm changes Armstrong said he has seen a lot of positive change over the years on the farm and one thing he is proudest of is the fact that he and Scott Hopkins, farm superintendent, were able to plant trees along the Cool Run stream corridor that runs through the farm and see those trees grow. “We called it ‘Making Cool Run Cool Again,’ as cool water supports more aquatic life and biodiversity,” Armstrong said. “When the water heats up, it grows algae, lowering available dissolved oxygen and riparian buffers [a vegetated area near a stream] help prevent this by shading the water and capturing nutrients. I can go on and on about how awesome trees and buffer zones are. We started planting trees there and did two or three phases. Some of the oldest trees go back to that first summer I worked here in 1998, and they’re beautiful big oak trees now, so it’s pretty cool.” Armstrong is also proud of the fact that the farm started a compost operation about 10 years ago, taking all the organic material generated and composting it, then reapplying it on the parts of the farm that can best use the matter. “We always pick the field with the lowest organic matter and focus on that. That really helps lock up the nutrients. We’re not putting raw manure out on the field, we’re composting it and locking it up,” said Armstrong, who added that one of the things he finds fascinating about composting is watching up to 20 tons digest and work down to half of that. “It’s amazing. It just slowly biodegrades and it’s beautiful stuff. That’s the new thing I geek out on is the compost, that’s what we’re sort of experimenting with. We keep data and have sheets from 10 years worth of temperatures on this stuff,” said Armstrong. Well-rounded students Being well-rounded and well-versed on a multitude of topics, from pasture rotation to animal health to composting, as well as being able to adapt and think outside the box, are among the core tenets that Armstrong hopes to instill in the students who come through Webb Farm during their time at UD. “It’s really great to see them apply what they’ve learned and be able to problem solve because I don’t want to be that guy who is like, ‘Do this, this and this and don’t ask questions.’ They need to learn how to figure it out because it’s biology, there’s no constant, there’s no absolute. Things are always changing, we always have these X-factors come up and that’s exciting. If you can think it out, it really teaches them to problem solve and I think that’s a big thing a lot of students are missing these days,” said Armstrong. Armstrong also said that his goal in exposing students to life on the farm is to help them become not only great veterinarians and farm managers in the future, but also more well-rounded as individuals. “They can be brilliant scholars but so many people are missing that agricultural foundation now. It used to be a given. Almost everyone came or knew somebody and did some farm work, but we’ve shifted almost the other way,” Armstrong said. “There are suburban areas growing and our farms are getting bigger and there’s less need for labor, which is more efficient, but you miss some of those nuances, for sure. It’s all connected, and I think it’s going to make them not only great veterinarians and farm managers but also good people because they’re learning where their food comes from, whether it’s vegetables or animals. They’re learning the foundation and the basics.” Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD scientist receives special appointment from the Institute of Soil Science in China

Donald L. Sparks, Unidel S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute, has been named an honorary professor of the Institute of Soil Science in Nanjing, China.Donald L. Sparks, Unidel S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Soil and Environmental Chemistry at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute, has been named an honorary professor of the Institute of Soil Science in Nanjing, China. A division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Institute of Soil Science is the oldest and most prestigious institution for soil science in China. Sparks is the first soil scientist to receive the title of honorary professor in the institute’s 60-year history. “I first visited the institute in 1987 and have since visited several times and collaborated with a number of their scientists over the years,” Sparks said. “I was extremely honored to be essentially the first foreign scientist asked to join their ranks.” Sparks received the recognition during a recent trip to China that included stops in Beijing, Nanjing and Wuhan. He traveled with a former student, Scott Fendorf, the Huffington Family Professor in Earth Sciences at Stanford University. Fendorf received his doctorate under Sparks’ mentorship in 1992. Sparks and Fendorf delivered guest lectures at the China Geological Survey in Beijing, Nanjing University and the Institute of Soil Science in Nanjing, and China University of Geosciences in Wuhan. Over the duration of the trip they addressed a total audience of about 600 people. Both Sparks and Fendorf also received distinguished professorships from the provost at Nanjing University and were honored with a special luncheon with the university president during their visit there. Sparks expects that new research collaborations will result from the trip and his special appointments. He and his Chinese colleagues will be seeking joint U.S. and Chinese funding for several projects. “The scientists at the Institute of Soil Science and at universities and institutes in other locations in China are conducting some excellent research in the soil and environmental sciences. Thus there are some wonderful opportunities for collaboration,” Sparks said. As a member of an international steering committee on critical zone science, Sparks has been working with Chinese scientists who are interested in establishing a network of critical zone observatory sites within China. The primary goal of his visit to the China Geological Survey was to further advance this effort. The critical zone is the thin layer of Earth’s crust and lower atmosphere where land, air and water combine to support life. An additional highlight of the trip, according to Sparks, was a Yangtze River cruise hosted by China University of Geosciences President Yanxin Wang to view the Three Gorges Dam, the largest operating hydroelectric facility in the world in terms of annual energy generation, which was completed in 2012. About Donald L. Sparks Sparks has been a faculty member in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources since 1979 and served as chair of the department for 20 years. He was the first recipient of UD’s Outstanding Graduate Advising and Mentoring Award. In 1996, he received the Francis Alison Award, the highest academic honor bestowed at UD. In 2011, Sparks was named an Einstein Professor by the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Twenty Einstein professorships are awarded each year to distinguished international scientists actively working at the frontiers of science. The award enables recipients to conduct lecture tours in China aimed at strengthening scientific cooperation and exchange between China and other nations. Sparks was the 2015 recipient of the Geochemistry Medal conferred by the American Chemical Society, He currently chairs the U.S. National Committee for Soil Science and is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Soil Science Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the European Society of Geochemists. He has also served as president of the Soil Science Society of America and the International Union of Soil Scientists. Article by Beth Chajes This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Landscape construction materials class creates colorful benches for ELI’s Community Garden

Landscape construction materials class creates colorful benches for ELI's Community GardenStudents in a landscape construction materials class taught by Anna Wik of the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) recently helped colleagues from the English Language Institute (ELI) construct a set of benches to help with seating for classes and events at the ELI Community Garden. Wik, assistant professor of landscape design in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said the purpose of the benches is to help create a central gathering space within the garden. “The ELI garden has all sorts of workshops throughout the fall and spring semesters and they wanted benches that could be moved around so they could use that space a little more functionally. Right now, they don’t have any seating within the garden, or any potting space,” said Wik. Kate Copeland, an instructor at ELI and the ELI Community Garden liaison, said that the operative word in the garden is “community.” “The challenge was this – we have a garden but we don’t have a space in the garden where we can actually congregate as a community. People want to sit down, take a break, and enjoy the space in the garden, in addition to working on garden tasks,” said Copeland. “We wanted to create a gathering space inside the central area of the garden where we could just sit and talk with each other.” Wik said that the pocket seating benches, which were designed by the class, are of varying sizes – 36 inches, 24 inches and 18 inches – and can be stacked under one another to make for convenient storage. They also can collapse and be put away for winter, and the design allows for multiple uses. The tallest one can actually be used as a table. Sarah Morales, Rob Phipps, Hunter Perry, Matt Tjaden and Austin Virdin, all students in CANR, were the class members who took the initial idea from concept through documentation, and ultimately helped the ELI students to assemble the final product. The landscape construction materials course focuses on the interface between drawing and building, and this project was an opportunity for the students to focus on creating really clear graphics, without resorting to a lot of text to explain the process. The project also gave ELI students a chance to interact with UD students in a hands-on, project based activity where they had an opportunity to practice their English language skills. “It gave the ELI students an opportunity to interact with native English speaking UD students, which is often a challenge for them,” said Copeland who explained that in addition to teaching English grammar and vocabulary, the ELI also works to acculturate international students to the UD academic and social environment. “There are lots of soft skills that we teach them in addition to the language that they’re learning, and the best way to do that is to give them opportunities to integrate with students and teachers in the larger UD campus,” Copeland said. “This was just one example of the opportunities we try to create to collaborate with other UD students, which is sometimes an unfamiliar experience for them.” To facilitate the interaction, the benches were color coded, which gave Wik’s students the chance to visually represent the task so that the ELI students, of all different levels of language proficiency, could understand and participate in the project. Wik’s students presented their design and had their materials all prepared for the 25 students who arrived to hear the presentation and get involved with the actual construction of the seating. “The agriculture students gave directions and explained their process and talked about why it was important, and the ELI students were given the opportunity to ask questions. Anna and I facilitated as needed,” said Copeland. Copeland added that the event was a success and that she is excited about potential future collaborations between the ELI Community Garden and the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences. “This was basically a beginning, just bringing the materials class over to the garden and engaging them with our international students. Anna and I are very excited to see where it could go and we hope to have many other projects in the wings,” said Copeland. About the Community Garden The ELI Community Garden was started five years ago by a UD student organization with funding from the University’s Sustainability Task Force. Its mission, through the Food and Garden Policy Committee, has been to engage students and faculty across the University in learning experiences that explore sustainable best practices in gardening and food production. Members of the UD community can rent beds for a very small fee with the stipulation that they participate in community events to which international students are invited.  Some ELI garden beds are also dedicated to service learning projects that produce food for charitable organizations such the Food Bank of Delaware. Copeland said, “through content and project based learning, the ELI Community Garden offers marvelous English language development opportunities for the 700 plus international students that we teach in our intensive English program” Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Six graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as four Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award – during a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 6, as part of Homecoming festivitiesSix graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors – the George M. Worrilow Award as well as four Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award – during a ceremony held Friday, Nov. 6, as part of Homecoming festivities. The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD. George M. Worrilow Award Charles C. Allen III was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education. It is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture. Of receiving the award, Allen said he was pleasantly surprised. Allen served as president of Allen Family Foods Inc., which was founded by his grandfather in 1919, from 1998 until 2008. Until 2011, the company was based in Seaford, Delaware, and was an industry leader and a global exporter of premium poultry products. At its height, Allen Family Foods packed approximately 12 million pounds of finished products per week and employed more than 3,000 people. The Allen family, including three generations of alumni, has long supported UD in such areas as scholarship programs and research facilities, including the Charles C. Allen Jr. Biotechnology Laboratory for poultry disease research. On the importance of giving back, Allen said, “I’ve been fortunate and I think it’s incumbent upon those who have had good fortune and good starts in life, a good basic foundation, to give back. Some generation ahead of me gave back, I think I should do the same. I think all of us should do the same.” Allen said that he has seen firsthand the great impact that scholarships can have on students. “I think it gives them encouragement. It gives them an outward vote of confidence. Somebody else believes that I can do what I’m seeking out to do. And I’ve seen it help students overcome some hurdles of self confidence,” Allen said. “That’s the reward that you get. Giving the money is easy; seeing the result of it is what you really look for. And I’ll tell you this, my exposure to students gives me faith in the future.” Allen served on the University of Delaware Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1993 and has been a member of the Delaware Diamonds Society since 1996. He has made several significant contributions to CANR, including gifts to the Agriculture Biotechnology Center, the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, Allen Lab, CANR Undergraduate Research, and the Cooperative Extension Program. Allen was honored with a place on the University’s Alumni Wall of Fame in 2006. From 1992-93, he was chairman of the National Chicken Council in Washington, D.C. In October of 2012, he was elected National Honorary Life Member of the Chicken Council. In August of 1992, Allen had the honor to meet with President George H.W. Bush in the Oval Office of the White House. Allen received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from UD in 1971, and his son, Chad Allen, also received a bachelor of science degree in agriculture from UD in 1998. Distinguished Alumni Mary Denigan-Macauley is an assistant director at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in Washington, D.C., where she leads the agency’s work related to food safety and agriculture production and defense. In this role, Denigan-Macauley has led reviews of numerous federal programs to improve the safety of the nation’s food supply and to prevent, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and terrorist attacks on livestock and poultry. Her work helped to shape legislation and public policy in several key areas, most notably on agroterrorism. Through the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, Denigan-Macualey also worked to improve government auditing of agricultural programs worldwide and enhance professional capacities. Prior to joining GAO, she taught program evaluation and comparative public policy for Troy University in Japan. Denigan-Macauley earned a doctorate in public policy from Arizona State University in 1997. She earned a master of dairy science degree from the University of Arizona in 1991, and a bachelor of science degree in animal science from UD in 1988. Devan Mehrotra Devan Mehrotra is associate vice president of biostatistics and research decision sciences at Merck Research Laboratories (MRL). He is also an adjunct associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Pennsylvania. Over the past 25 years, Mehrotra has made significant contributions toward the research, development and regulatory approval of medical drugs and vaccines across a broad spectrum of therapeutic areas. In addition, he has served as a subject matter expert for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Academy of Sciences and the International Conference on Harmonization. His recent focus has been on developing innovative approaches that leverage human genetics to enable personalized medicine. Mehrotra was elected an American Statistical Association Fellow in 2008 and an MRL Presidential Fellow in 2012. He earned his doctorate in statistics from UD in 1991. Mehrotra earned a master of science degree in statistics from the University of Bombay in India in 1986 and a bachelor of science degree in mathematics and statistics from St. Xavier’s College in Bombay in 1984. Kenneth Raffa Kenneth Raffa, Vilas Distinguished Professor, has served as forest entomologist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, since 1985. Raffa studies population dynamics of forest insects, especially the chemical signaling involved in plant defense, predator-prey interactions and microbial symbiosis. He teaches forest entomology, plant-insect interactions and scientific presentations. Thirty-six graduate degrees have been awarded under his mentorship, and his students now hold prominent positions in universities, industry and government. Raffa once worked as a section research biologist at the DuPont Experimental Station, has published over 300 papers, and has won honors from the Entomological Society of America, the International Society of Chemical Ecology, the Spitze Land Grant Foundation and the University of Wisconsin. He has served on advisory panels addressing various natural resource issues such as invasive species, pesticides, and biotechnology for the National Research Council, U.S. Forest Service, state agencies and corporations. He has also served on grant panels for the National Science Foundation and U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was a subject editor for three scientific journals. Raffa earned a doctorate from Washington State University in 1980. He obtained a master of science degree from UD in 1974, studying biological control of gypsy moths under Roland Roth and Dale Bray. He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in biology from St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia; he was a first generation college graduate. H. Don Tilmon H. Don Tilmon began his academic career at Lynchburg College in Virginia, where he was associate professor of business administration, department chair and director of the MBA program. In 1978, Tilmon accepted the position of Cooperative Extension farm management specialist at UD’s Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC). Tilmon, who was promoted to full professor, conducted research for the development of crop insurance for six new vegetable crop policies in Delaware, as well as provided educational programs on the topic to growers. Tilmon also worked with Delaware farmers, privately and individually, to assist them in making financial and production decisions to help manage financial stress due to the 1980s Farm Crisis. Tilmon served most recently as director for the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education at UD. In addition, Tilmon was the national program leader for farm management at the National Extension Service/U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C. During three separate one-year “shared faculty” assignments at USDA, he also served as the national program leader for risk management education. Tilmon earned a doctorate at Purdue University in 1971. He earned a master of science degree from UD in 1967, a bachelor of science degree from the University of Missouri in 1965, and an associate of science degree in 1963 at the School of the Ozarks in Branson, Missouri. Distinguished Young Alumni Jared Ali Jared Ali is an assistant professor of entomology at Michigan State University. Ali’s lab focuses on the natural defenses of plants and how plants, herbivores, and beneficial natural enemies communicate. Ali has authored over 20 peer reviewed journal articles, review papers, and book chapters. He has been invited to give lectures, seminars and presentations on his research at universities and professional meetings both nationally and internationally. He is a major inventor on two patents for chemical attractants for both insects and nematodes. He looks forward to establishing his career as a mentor for students from diverse backgrounds and assisting them in achieving success as future scientists. Ali developed a longing to explore an alternative path of knowledge while studying at private Quaker grade schools in Pennsylvania. He left high school during his junior year to travel throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. Thomas Lewis’ The Lives of a Cell ultimately inspired him to study biological interactions and evolution. Upon earning a doctorate at the University of Florida in 2011 and receiving the Pauline O. Lawrence Award in Physiology/Biochemistry, Ali accepted an opportunity to study plant defense and multitrophic interactions in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University, where he was awarded a USDA-NIFA-AFRI postdoctoral fellowship. Ali earned his master of science degree in entomology and applied ecology at UD in 2008 and received a bachelor of arts degree in biological sciences from the University in 2005. Photos by Wenbo Fan This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD graduate Jenna Byers finds career with Kellogg’s

UD graduate Jenna Byers finds career with Kellogg'sAs an undergraduate at the University of Delaware studying food and agribusiness marketing and management (FABM) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Jenna Byers was able to learn about food retailing, customer behavior and how to analyze the best sales strategies for particular markets. Byers also worked as the marketing manager for the UDairy Creamery, which gave her hands-on experience in business and marketing. It was with these tools in hand that Byers was able to get a job with Kellogg’s as a senior customer analyst directly after graduating from UD. Now in her second year with the company, Byers has recently been promoted to account executive, a job that allows her to travel up and down the East Coast as she supports the Baltimore, Washington and Philadelphia area wholesale accounts — such as Redner’s Markets and Farm Fresh Supermarkets — for the company. Byers works with snacks for Kellogg’s and manages the company’s portfolio of products such as Cheez-It and Keebler cookies for those wholesale accounts. She said her job is made up of responsibilities that she learned about while an undergraduate at UD. “In the FABM program, we took a lot of classes about food retailing and consumer behavior, and that’s pretty much exactly what I’m doing at Kellogg’s – looking at the customers and the markets and figuring out what the best sales are and what the best ways to reach those consumers are,” said Byers. “It’s great because a lot of it lines up with exactly what I was learning from Dr. Ulrich Toensmeyer, Dr. John Bernard (both professors of applied economics and statistics) and the classes there.” Toensmeyer said of Byers, “If you’re looking for a role model, someone to represent the FABM program, she would be it. Her enthusiasm, her passion and her work ethic, you put them all together and that’s Jenna.” In her previous role at Kellogg’s as a senior customer analyst, Byers said she would perform shipment tracking and return on investment analysis, where she would look at the most effective price points for certain products. “It’s looking at what people buy and what the best prices are,” said Byers. In her new role as an account executive, Byers said that because most of the stores are already carrying well-known products like Cheez-It, she is mostly involved with selling new items, such as a new flavor of Cheez-It or a new cookie or flavor of Nutrigrain or Special K bar. Of her favorite part of the job, Byers said it would be the opportunity to work with such a well-known company. “The brands that we have are definitely family brands, they are brands that people know, so it’s fun to sell,” said Byers. “It definitely makes the day interesting and when you walk in and you’re selling Cheez-Its and cookies and things like that. It makes the job more fun.” UD experience In addition to her time in the FABM program, Byers said that working at the UDairy Creamery as an undergraduate was an excellent learning experience. “Since it is student run and faculty supported, we really got to have a lot of say in what was going on. We could try out different ideas, so a lot of the things that I learned about how to sell and how to market products and reach consumers are things that I’ve been able to replicate here, and really kind of hit the ground running,” said Byers. Byers was also helped along the way at UD by receiving the Charles and Patricia Genuardi Scholarship. Byers said that receiving the scholarship from someone like Charles Genuardi – who graduated from UD in 1970, was inducted into the UD Alumni Wall of Fame in 2005 and served as chairman, president and CEO of Genuardi’s Family Markets from 1990 until the family sold the business to Safeway Inc. in 2001 – and Patricia Genuardi was a double bonus as it helped her not only financially but also gave her great mentors as she started her career. “Having that relationship with Mr. Genuardi and Mrs. Genuardi, they were mentors for me through my time at UD and they continue to be now that I’ve been out in the real world,” said Byers. “He has been and still is very successful in the grocery industry and that’s where I made my home career-wise. I’ve been able to, both when I was in school and now, reach out to him and get his feedback. It has been great for me to have him as a mentor, somebody that I can bounce ideas off.” Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD researchers help Laurel residents reimagine town

UD researchers help Laurel residents reimagine townNeighbors ambled along the walking trail near Broad Creek, watching wildlife, kayakers and paddle boarders glide across the water. Children hopped over logs and hunted bugs in a nature playground, while music and the smell of food wafted from Laurel’s downtown commercial district. These activities, and more, were part of the Fall Ramble along Broad Creek held on Saturday, Sept. 26. Based on a national Better Block model, the one-day Fall Ramble event was designed to help residents and visitors envision what “could be” for Laurel on a permanent basis with The Ramble redevelopment plan. The Ramble project is a collaborative effort between the Laurel Redevelopment Corporation, the town of Laurel, and the University of Delaware’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, led by Jules Bruck and Ed Lewandowski. “By taking advantage of the amenities in their own backyard, like the Broad Creek, the townspeople of Laurel can create a destination spot, a reason for visitors to want to stop downtown in the future,” explained Lewandowski, acting marine advisory services director for Delaware Sea Grant and coordinator for the University’s Sustainable Coastal Communities Initiative, which is housed in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment. Attractions like the The Shoppes at Village Greenemerged as a community hot spot with café dining, entertainment, local artists and farm fresh produce, among other things, while pop-up shops including Next Level Bike and Boards, created by UD alumnus Paul Moser, and the temporary façade of a proposed residential Cottages at Laurel Mills showcased the potential businesses and residential areas that could thrive in the town. “And of course the Ramble Tap House. It felt like a meeting spot, a place where everyone went to check in, relax, hear some music and socialize,” said Jules Bruck, assistant professor of landscape design in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Bruck presented the town leaders with a conceptual “nature based playground” where planted landscapes, logs and trees create a semi-wild environment for children to bug-watch, dig, play in the tall grass and otherwise explore nature. Research supports the idea that children who spend time in nature are more active, get sick less often and develop better stress management techniques. At the same time, natural playgrounds are sustainable and offer a lower carbon footprint than their plastic counterparts. During a special ceremony, members of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe blessed the Broad Creek at “The Wading Place,” a site shown in historical records to once have been part of the Nanticoke reservation. Neighbors and visitors stood shoulder to shoulder alongside the tidal waters as the tribe’s assistant chief, Larry Jackson, offered prayer and tribal leader Herman Jackson cleansed the area with a traditional “smudging ritual.” Assistant chief Jackson presented the event organizers with a commemorative tribal coin and a turkey feather adorned with four colored beads representing the “Four Peoples — north, south, east and west” in symbolic recognition of their keen vision and efforts to bring the community together. “It was a tremendous way to emphasize community unity and the concept of restoring balance and harmony to the Broad Creek through Laurel,” said Bruck. The Ramble redevelopment plan grew out of an earlier water quality improvement project by UD, the town of Laurel and the Laurel Redevelopment Corp. Posted signs at the event described plans for a future “floating wetlands” project to help continue water quality improvements in the Broad Creek. Article by Karen B. Roberts This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Yan Jin receives national society’s soil physics award

The University of Delaware’s Yan Jin has been presented the 2015 Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Award by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The University of Delaware’s Yan Jin has been presented the 2015 Don and Betty Kirkham Soil Physics Award by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The award is designed to recognize a mid-career soil scientist who has made outstanding contributions in the areas of soil physics and is supported by the Don and Betty Kirkham Fund established through the Agronomic Science Foundation and administered by the society. The award was established in 1998 as a permanent tribute to Don Kirkham, regarded as the founder of modern soil physics, and his wife Betty, who inspired and supported him in an unparalleled and unselfish way. Jin, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences with a joint appointment in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, is the 18th award recipient and the first woman to receive the award. Jin will be presented with the award at the society’s international annual meeting to be held in Nov. 15-18 in Minneapolis. “I feel very honored and also humbled,” said Jin of the honor. “When I look at the list of past recipients, I see the people who have been instrumental in developing the soil physics field; some of them have been my personal inspiration and helped me tremendously during my career. I’m really grateful to them, and it feels a little unreal to be on that list.” Jin’s primary research at UD is in the general area of measurements, modeling and interpretation of contaminant fate and transport in porous media. In particular, she is internationally recognized for her work on colloid and microorganism transport in soils and groundwater. She was praised for her unusually comprehensive and intense focus on all of the underlying physical and geochemical processes controlling colloid and virus transport, and subsequent application of the research to practical soil and groundwater pollution problems. Her research includes theoretical and experimental ranging from the pore scale to laboratory column scale and beyond. One of the major contributions of her research was being the first to quantify and examine the retention mechanisms of viruses in unsaturated systems. Subsequent studies have examined all the major factors and processes that control virus retention and transport in porous media, which led to the invention of a novel non-chlorine-based treatment technology for removing viruses and other pathogens from water using elemental iron. The technology has been patented in the United States and Canada and has the potential to be adopted in various settings and for different purposes, such as in developing countries to provide safe drinking water and protect public health and in developed countries as an inexpensive alternative to more effectively remove viruses in a variety of treatment settings for drinking water. After receiving her undergraduate degree in soil science from the Hebei Agricultural University, China, Jin went on to get her master’s degree in soil chemistry from New Mexico State University and then received her doctorate from the interdisciplinary environmental toxicology program at the University of California, Riverside. She joined the UD faculty in 1995 and has been actively engaged in research, teaching and service/outreach in her 20-year tenure at the University. She has provided leadership and services to SSSA and other scientific communities, including serving as associate editor for the Vodose Zone Journal and Journal of Environmental Quality. She was elected an SSSA fellow in 2008. With the United Nations declaring 2015 to be the International Year of Soils, Jin said she is glad to see the importance of soil being highlighted on a global scale. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Lindsay Yeager This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD grad student Bridget Aylward recognized for work on bovine immune cells

UD grad student Bridget Aylward recognized for work on bovine immune cellsThe University of Delaware’s Bridget Aylward was recently awarded first place for a presentation concerning her research on immunology in bovines in a regional graduate student competition sponsored by the American Dairy Science Association (ADSA) and the American Society of Animal Science (ASAS). Aylward, a master’s degree student in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), received the award at the ADSA/ASAS Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) in Orlando, Florida. Working with Robert Dyer, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Amanda Barnard, a doctoral student in the college, Aylward said that their research is focused on immune cells from fat tissues and lymph nodes in dairy cows. “We extract the cells and stain them with fluorescent antibodies to look for certain surface markers that are only expressed on immune cells,” said Aylward. The idea for the project came from studies of humans in which researchers have been able to identify significant populations of immune cells in the fat. In cases of nutrient overburdening and increased diet-related obesity, scientists have been able to show that those immune cells assume a more inflammatory phenotype. “They start to release inflammatory cytokines and these have a direct impact on the development and progression of metabolic diseases in humans, such as fatty liver disease and insulin resistance – all the health problems that we associate with obesity in humans,” said Aylward. There is limited literature on the phenomenon in the bovine model, and the researchers wanted to see if those same cells might be present. “Ultimately, we want to see what they’re doing in there, but the scope of this project was just to see if they are present,” said Aylward. “It was pretty exciting to find that they are and we have been able to identify several types of immune cells, specifically the cells that make up the two components of an immune response. What that tells us is that there is the potential to mount an immune response in the tissue. Now, what triggers this immune response, and what it looks like when it’s activated, we have to find that out, and that’s what we’re working on now.” Joining Aylward at the conference were Dyer, Barnard, Tanya Gressley, associate professor of animal and food sciences, and Jenna Wilson and Nicole Collins, both seniors in CANR. Aylward said her favorite part of the conference was hearing about the wide range of research being conducted. “What’s great about these conferences is that you get to hear something different than what you’ve been working on,” she said. “You listen to other people present their work, and they’re working on different aspects of dairy cow health, so you can learn about a subject that maybe you’re not as familiar with,” said Aylward. As for how it felt to win the award, Aylward said that she was just happy that her presentation was well received. “It was surprising but winning the award was really vindicating for us and our work,” Aylward said. “Immediately after my talk, a number of judges came up to me and said how this work is really important and we really need to start addressing this, and so for our project it was definitely a nice surprise.” Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Students to learn floral business through Blossoms at the University of Delaware pilot program

Blossoms at the University of Delaware partnership between CANR and Theresa Floral DesignThe University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has partnered with THERESA Floral Design, a boutique event floral design company in Newark that specializes in event work throughout Philadelphia, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland, to launch Blossoms at the University of Delaware, a six-month initiative that will provide an experiential learning opportunity for UD students to plan and provide flower arrangements for special events on campus. UD Blossoms is modeled after the UDairy Creamery in terms of student support and learning experience. The pilot program will start Aug. 15 and run through Feb. 15, 2016, and will focus on events of all sizes within the University. CANR Dean Mark Rieger said of the partnership, “I am delighted that this pilot initiative will give our students additional opportunities to have practical training in floral design for events. Collaborative and creative partnerships such as this provide valuable co-curricular opportunities that help train students for today’s professions in agriculture and natural resources. We are optimistic about the project’s potential.” Students will be provided with hands-on work and management opportunities through the interdisciplinary program, which will cover all aspects of the business, including purchasing, distributing, marketing, designing and selling floral products. Emma Brown and Sarah Morales, both seniors in CANR, have been chosen as the first two student interns for Blossoms at the University of Delaware and both will be trained in design work. Brown will be the shop and studio manager and will work with the plant material, processing the flowers that come in weekly for orders, keeping the coolers clean and making sure the inventory is correct and organized. Morales will be the assistant manager and will be in charge of communications and marketing. She will oversee the installation teams that put the floral work in place and will be responsible for publicizing Blossoms at the University of Delaware. Theresa Clower, manager of Blossoms at the University of Delaware and owner and principal designer of THERESA Floral Design, will oversee the project. Clower is quite familiar with the University, having done many of its floral design projects for a number of years. She developed the project’s concept of taking the investment the University is currently making in flowers for special events and turning it into a professional learning experience for students. Blossoms at the University of Delaware will run out of THERESA Floral Design’s studio for the first six months with the hope to eventually establish a location on campus to house the program. Clower’s intent is for Blossoms at the University of Delaware to become a stand-alone business separate from THERESA Floral Design. The pilot project will be assessed officially after its six-month duration. “The plan is to use local product as much as we can but when you’re dealing with event work, it can be impractical for some things,” said Clower. “This year, we do have some basics started and we will use those to the extent that we can. But most of our material will come from wholesalers.” Clower said that with the time frame for the pilot project, which runs through football season — where they provide flowers for tailgate gatherings — and the holiday season, Blossoms at the University of Delaware will have a good snapshot about what they will be able to manage. They currently are scheduled to provide flowers for several fall events on campus. “We haven’t even publicized yet and the requests are starting to come in. I’m optimistic that this program will succeed by providing quality and creative floral designs for events throughout the University at the same time providing students with a real-life learning experience,” said Clower. For more information on Blossoms at the University of Delaware, visit the website or contact Theresa Clower at tclower@theresafloral.com. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Buler recognized for work with radar ornithology

Jeff Buler receives the 2015 H.R. Painton Award from the Cooper Ornithological SocietyThe University of Delaware’s Jeff Buler has been presented the 2015 H.R. Painton Award from the Cooper Ornithological Society for his paper “Radar Analysis of Fall Bird Migration Stopover Sites in the Northeastern U.S.,” which was published in the society’s journal The Condor: Ornithological Applications. The award is named for Harry R. Painton, one of the four founders of the Cooper Ornithological Club in 1893, who bequeathed funds to establish an award that recognized original and significant ornithological research. Buler, assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology, received the award at a recent joint meeting of the international Cooper Ornithological Society and American Ornithologists’ Union in Oklahoma. “It was an honor and a surprise,” Buler said of the award. “It basically came out of the blue. It is a real honor because it is among the most prestigious awards that this society presents and it is only presented every other year. It is reassuring to know that you are doing good science when your peers recognize that and give you an honor like this.” Buler said the paper was the culmination of many years developing a new approach to using weather radar to map distributions of birds on the ground during migration. “The first paper to publish on a similar approach was in 2009, and so it is very fresh,” Buler said. “I think part of the recognition of this paper is that the approach is being embraced by the community and that people appreciate and see the potential of using weather radar to inform us about the ecology of birds in powerful and in broad scale ways.” With co-author Deanna Dawson, a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Buler mapped stopover distributions of birds during autumn migration in the northeastern U.S. using 16 weather radar installations across the region. “We’re pretty much the only group in the country that’s doing this right now,” Buler said of the pioneering study developed at UD. A major focus of Buler’s research is developing an application to use radar analysis to study birds and bird migration. He said students in his laboratory are working on a follow up to the study incorporating more years of data and doing ground validation surveys at sites in Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. That project will continue until spring 2016. “We’ve continued to work on this system, and we have made some improvements on the methods since we’ve published that paper and expanded the number of years we’re looking at so that we can start to say something about longer term trends and changes in distribution,” Buler said. “We’re building a larger knowledge base from this system and continuing to explore questions related to bird migration throughout the whole northeastern United States.” Meeting representation At the Oklahoma meeting, Buler said UD was well represented as he organized a workshop in “Weather Radar Ornithology 101” and a symposium on “Recent Scientific Applications of Weather Radar for Advancing Ornithology.” Five out of the 15 presentations at the symposium were by current UD affiliates. Buler, along with an undergraduate, two graduate students and a post-doctoral researcher, gave presentations. Additionally, a former UD graduate student of Buler and Sid Gauthreaux, Buler’s “academic grandfather” who he called the “pioneer of radar ornithology in America,” also presented at the symposium. Buler also became an elected fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union during the meeting in recognition for his contributions to ornithology. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Evan Krape This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Awokuse named chair-elect for agricultural economics administrators group

Awakes named Chair Elect for National Association of Agricultural Economics Administrators The University of Delaware’s Titus Awokuse has been named chair-elect for the National Association of Agricultural Economics Administrators (NAAEA), a section of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA). Awokuse, chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC) in UD’s College of Agricultural and Natural Resources (CANR), will assume his role on July 26 during a meeting to be held in San Francisco. Of being named chair-elect, Awokuse said, “I feel honored to be elected because it’s always special when your peers choose you to lead them.” Awokuse has been involved with the organization for the last four years and explained that being named chair-elect means he will begin a three-year term that will see him serve as chair-elect the first year, chair of the organization for the second year and then past chair in the third year. According to Awokuse, it is structured this way to ensure continuity in terms of leadership. As chair-elect, Awokuse will plan the meetings for next year in addition to other responsibilities. The NAAEA is comprised of department chairs in agricultural and applied economics across the nation and as part of the association’s function they organize workshops and symposia on important agricultural policy issues that affect the agricultural and resource economics profession. “The group advocates for professional issues with regard to educational programing and students’ training, academic leadership development, research promotion, and strategic responses to the societal challenges of our day,” said Awokuse. The association provides advice and recommendations to government agencies and policy makers on important issues. It also serves as a source of information dissemination on best practices in terms of administrative leadership of academic departments in the agricultural and applied economics profession. “We have a bi-annual meeting in addition to the annual meetings focused on special policy issues of relevance to the profession. It is usually held in Washington, D.C., and we invite legislators and policymakers from Capitol Hill as participants in the meetings,” said Awokuse. At the meeting, there is a forum with presentations about legislations in Congress concerning the food industry or national agricultural and farm policy. “This bi-annual meetings organized by this association plays an important role as it also serves as a forum for responding to crucial questions being asked by policymakers,” said Awokuse. Awokuse also said that the group plays an advocacy role for the profession. “As a leader, a department chair has the ability to influence the implementation of an institution’s mission and strategic agenda and can also promote scholarship in an academic discipline by supporting and facilitating the research work of colleagues in the department,” said Awokuse. “I see the role of a department chair as primarily being one that enables others to do their work better. We serve as facilitators, working to create an environment where people can do their jobs effectively and efficiently.” As for how Awokuse handles the workload of being department chair and serving on various national and international agricultural committees — he also was named to the Nigerian National Agricultural Policy Committee in 2014 — he said it’s important to be organized and to prioritize which projects and service opportunities to take on. “I don’t do everything. Time is a very scarce resource. I respond to requests and invitations that are relevant to my research and professional interests, and also commit to activities that are consistent with my passion and appointment,” said Awokuse. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Markland, Savin named Benton Graduate Student Award recipients

The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that the winners of the 2015 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards are Sarah Markland and Melissa Savin. The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS). Sarah Markland receives the 2015 Benton AwardSarah Markland Markland recently received her doctorate in animal and food sciences, wrapping up a 10-year career at UD, where she also received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in food science. Markland has been working with Kali Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences, to consider ways to keep the world’s food supply safe and sustainable as the world’s population continues to increase. “By the year 2050, the world’s population is expected to double and we’re going to be expected to produce the same amount of food on the same amount of land but we’re going to be feeding twice the amount of people,” said Markland. Markland’s primary project involved looking at ways that plants interact with human pathogens with the hope that through the study researchers will able to develop ways plants can fight off human and plant pathogens. In another study, Markland looked at the use of bacteria that grows naturally in soil that can be used as a biocontrol agent to protect plants and boost immune response. “They’re also known as plant probiotics,” she said. Markland said that unlike when a plant is infected with a plant pathogen — during which it will show signs of stress, such as developing chlorosis lesions — a plant infected with a human pathogen does not show signs of stress because it isn’t really a host. “There are some studies coming out that say if you inoculate salmonella on the plants, they will start to show signs of stress. As a result, there are questions as to whether human pathogens are also plant pathogens and whether organisms like salmonella and E. coli are using plants as a vector to get to us,” said Markland. “These are all different types of questions that we’re trying to answer.” Markland said she wanted to thank Kniel and Dallas Hoover, professor of animal and food sciences, for all their help during her time at UD. Now that she has her doctorate, Markland will start a job as a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Florida. Markland said she chose to complete her degrees at UD, and in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, because “doors kind of opened at the right time and I took opportunities. I think I was really fortunate and I’ve done really well here. We have one of the best programs in the country, which I think is also why I’ve done so well. We have great professors who are internationally known for the research that they do.” Melissa Savin receives the 2015 Benton AwardMelissa Savin  Savin is working on her master’s degree through the graduate program in water science and policy at UD. Her research in the interdisciplinary program has an emphasis on soil and plant science. As a Kent Conservation District employee, Savin works as an environmental planner stationed in the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Watershed Stewardship: Drainage Program. “I go out and look at different sites that need improved drainage or restoration. I help in the planning and permitting process to design viable solutions to meet the drainage concerns while protecting the environment. In my position I serve as a liaison between the drainage program and regulatory agencies to gain approval for the project plans.” Her current job has direct ties to her studies at UD, as Savin said that her research required her to study tax ditches throughout Delaware to improve ditch management. “I characterized ditch bottom sediments before and after ditch maintenance and simulated current management following maintenance in the lab to determine nutrient loss potential from these networks,” said Savin. “Minimizing nutrient losses from tax ditch networks is important for protecting water quality especially since many of our ditches ultimately drain to the Chesapeake or Delaware Inland Bays.” Savin said that she was in ditch systems throughout her entire research project and “that’s how I became interested in the Drainage Program. Now I’m working with these guys to address drainage concerns and I hope to apply my knowledge to make the solutions even better.” Savin said that she wanted to thank Amy Shober, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, who she credits with guiding her and conducting interesting research that helped her land in her current career. Savin said that receiving the award was “pretty awesome. I feel like my hard work really paid off. As a graduate student, you’re working so hard and sometimes you don’t feel like it amounts to anything besides your thesis but to actually be awarded is an honor. I feel like I’m really making a difference.” Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Fooks receives the 2015 George Herbert Ryden Dissertation Prize

Jacob Fooks receives the George Ryden Award for outstanding dissertationAlfred Lerner College of Business and Economics doctoral graduate Jacob Fooks has been awarded the 2015 George Herbert Ryden Prize in Social Sciences, presented annually by the University of Delaware’s Office of Graduate and Professional Education for the outstanding dissertation in the field. Fooks, who received his doctorate in economics at Commencement on Saturday, May 30, is a postdoctoral researcher for UD’s Center for Experimental and Applied Economics (CEAE) in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC). Fooks, who also holds a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was presented the Ryden Prize during the doctoral hooding ceremony on Friday, May 29. His dissertation, titled “Essays on Computational Methods in Land and Resource Economics,” included several essays on the theme of applying computational models from the natural sciences methods to several problems in economic valuation and regulation. One of the essays looked specifically at sea level rise in coastal protective infrastructure and used complex surging wave dynamics and simulations and data on competitive behavior from research participants to see how better policies and subsidy mechanisms can be developed to minimize damage. Fooks said the study was set up to be fairly generic so that it could be applied to different areas threatened by sea level rise. “It looked specifically at how regulators can subsidize investment decisions that decreases damage, sea walls or dune nourishment, given that individuals may have different, private values for these things,” said Fooks. Of receiving the award, Fooks said, “It was unexpected and I’m very honored. It’s a little surreal but very exciting.” Fooks said that he had many people to thank and that the award was “as much a reflection of the lab and the team here and all the support that I’ve gotten from them. My advisers, Kent Messer and Michael Arnold, especially have been incredibly supportive, as well as both the APEC department and the economics department which I have worked with. And most importantly my family who’ve shared the struggles of graduate school with me for the last five or six years.” Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, said of Fooks receiving the award, “Jacob’s work on a wide array of agricultural, natural resource and environmental economics topics is truly groundbreaking, as exemplified by his impressive publication record and his National Science Foundation dissertation award.” Now that he has received his doctorate, Fooks will begin working at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Economic Research Service’s Conservation and Environment branch. Fooks said he is excited to start work and that he will hold a research position with a heavy policy connection, focusing on “both academic publishing, as well as producing policy oriented briefs on what the implications are for federal environmental and resource policy.” In the role, he will also be able to continue to work closely with the CEAE. “I’m sure I’ll continue to work closely with this center, which is really great because it’s been such a supportive environment and place to work,” Fooks said. “We have worked very closely with the group that I’ll been working with in the past – actually I’ve been working with several of my future coworkers more or less since I started my master’s program in the APEC department.” Article by Adam Thomas and Sunny Rosen This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD’s Kali Kniel receives awards for teaching, research and advising

Kali Kniel, Sarah Markland at convocationThe University of Delaware’s Kali Kniel has been awarded the 2015 International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) Elmer Marth Educator Award, which recognizes an outstanding educator who consistently serves their university in a teaching and research capacity for dedicated and exceptional contributions to the profession. Kniel, professor of animal and food sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), is one of the youngest professors ever to win the award, which is the highest honor IAFP can bestow on a faculty member. Kniel was nominated for the award by Manan Sharma, a colleague at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service and also an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences. Kniel’s doctoral adviser, Susan Sumner of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, received the award in 2000 and Kniel wrote a letter of support for her package then. “It is truly an honor to receive this prestigious award,” Kniel said. Kniel also was the 2015 recipient of the CANR Outstanding Teaching and Advising Award. “I am truly humbled by the two awards I have received for teaching, which is a huge passion of mine,” said Kniel. “It’s overwhelming and such an honor because we have such an amazing group of educators and professors in the college, people that I have learned a great deal from.” Sarah Markland, who recently received her doctorate from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, was the 2015 recipient of the William J. Benton Graduate Student Award and had Kniel as an adviser and a teacher said she is not surprised by the honors presented, saying, “Dr. Kniel is the type of professor whose enthusiasm is so contagious that it enables her students to feel inspired and empowered. She genuinely wants all of her students to excel and tries to help guide each of her advisees down the career path for which they are most passionate about.” Markland said Kniel has been her mentor at UD since 2007 and “it is because of her I found something I am extremely passionate about as a food safety researcher. I would have never expected in a million years that I would have developed into the scientist I am today without her constant support and encouragement. I admire her as an educator, a mentor, a researcher and as a person, and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to study under her mentorship. I hope that I am someday able to become as successful she has become in her career as a food safety educator.” This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Sharon Webb receives UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources honor

Jack Webb, Barbara Stephens, Sarah Webb, Sharon Webb, Mark Isaacs. Photo by Pete StephensSharon Webb, an administrative assistant at the Elbert N & Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown, was honored with the inaugural 2015 Superior Support Accomplishment Award presented by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the college’s Convocation ceremony held in Newark on Friday, May 29. The award, which will be presented by the college every other year, recognizes professional excellence and superior dedication by a university staff member serving in an administrative role. Webb received a $2,000 monetary award with the honor. “I have worked for our college for over 28 years and I must say Sharon Webb stands out as one of the most organized, dedicated, productive and professional employees I have had the privilege of working with,” wrote Mark Isaacs, director of the Carvel Center. With 14 years of service to UD, Isaacs shared in his nomination letter that Webb is known as “Wonder Woman” for her exceptional work ethic, leadership, and everyday passion for her job, her colleagues and the university. As a senior administrative assistant, Webb’s responsibilities include overseeing the Carvel Center’s financial records, reports, budgets, payroll, audits, mileage requests, grant management and the supervision of the Center’s administrative support staff. In pages of supporting documentation, colleagues were effusive in their praise for Webb as an innovator, adaptable to change, and always cheerful. Often facing a hard deadline, her meticulous attention to detail was noted, along with a cheerful countenance that never waivers. “Her car is always one of the first in the parking lot every day and it is also one of the last to leave,” wrote one co-worker. Prior to her career with the university, Webb worked for the Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc. which shared office space at the Center’s prior location. Webb joined UD in April, 2001. In her tenure with the college, Webb developed a database to organize Carvel’s broad clientele. She organizes employee development, assists at all levels of the Center’s working research farm, and is often the first staff member to test drive new protocols, policies and procedures that are implemented from main campus. Noting her ability to multi-task, one colleague wrote, “With Sharon, it all seems to just flow.” “Sharon is a role model for her colleagues as she demonstrates her eagerness to develop professionally—and she supports them in their educational endeavors,” said co-worker Barbara Stephens. “Sharon is one of those rare individuals that leads by example.” Webb and her husband Jack reside in Delmar. They have three grown children Damien, Jack and Sarah and two grandchildren, Autumn and Finn. Article by Michele Walfred Photo by Pete Stephens

Delaney receives Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising Award

Group photo of the spring 2015 recipients of the excellence in undergraduate academic advising award recipients Laura Eisenman, Thomas Kaminski, Deborah Delaney, and Cynthia Diefenbeck. - (Evan Krape / University of Delaware) Eight members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for noteworthy performance in teaching and advising, and three graduate students have received awards for excellence in teaching. The Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Academic Undergraduate Advising awards were presented at the May 4 meeting of the Faculty Senate. Based primarily on nominations from current and past students, faculty excellence awards recognize those professors whose courses are viewed as being thought-provoking, intellectually demanding, related to other fields and touching on contemporary issues and student experiences. Awardees receive $5,000, have their portraits hung in the Morris Library for five years and have bricks inscribed with their names installed in Mentors’ Circle. This year’s Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to:
  • Ralph Begleiter, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Communication at UD and the founding director of the Center for Political Communication, in the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Guido Geerts, professor of accounting and management information systems and Ernst and Young Faculty Scholar, in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics;
  • Anthony Middlebrooks, associate professor in the Organizational and Community Leadership Program in the School of Public Policy and Administration, in the College of Arts and Sciences; and
  • Margaret Stetz, Mae and Robert Carter Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and professor of humanities, in the College of Arts and Sciences.
UD’s Excellence in Undergraduate Academic Advising Award is based on student nominations. Awardees receive $2,500 and also are honored with bricks inscribed in Mentors’ Circle. This year’s honorees are:
  • Laura Eisenman, associate professor in the School of Education and adviser for the interdisciplinary disabilities studies minor, in the College of Education and Human Development;
  • Thomas Kaminski, professor of kinesiology and applied physiology, and director of undergraduate athletic training, in the College of Health Sciences;
  • Deborah Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and
  • Cynthia Diefenbeck, assistant professor in the School of Nursing in the College of Health Sciences.
Of her role as an adviser, Delaney said, “Being an adviser is the most challenging part of my job at UD, and it requires me to get to know each of my students and understand how I can mentor them. Each student is so different and blessed with different gifts. Being a mentor also is the most rewarding part of my job, and watching a student grow and become more confident is the best. Being able to be a supportive and encouraging voice to the future generations in the field of entomology is an honor. Insects are just so cool!” To read about the other award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

UD alum dives into world of sea animal stranding, health, rehabilitation

UD alumna Wendy Marks, shown during her time working at Dolphin Quest Hawaii.
UD alumna Wendy Marks, shown during her time working at Dolphin Quest Hawaii.
When a dolphin calf became entangled in monofilament fishing line recently in the Indian River Lagoon near the east coast of Florida, University of Delaware alumna Wendy Marks was on hand to help with the rescue efforts. Marks, who works for Florida Atlantic University at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute as part of the Stranding, Health and Rehabilitation Project team, said that with the help of multiple agencies and institutions, the group was able to track and locate the dolphin — which turned out to be a calf traveling with its mother — and eventually get the fishing line off its rostrum, or beak. Working with dolphins has been a part of Marks’ life ever since she graduated from UD in 2002 with a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the College of Agriculture of Natural Resources (CANR) and decided that she wanted to pursue a career in large marine animal rehabilitation and conservation. “I’ve always been kind of drawn to big animals. I grew up riding and then I rode on the UD equestrian team through college and I definitely saw my career going in a direction that works specifically with animals — preferably hands-on and probably with some type of big animal,” said Marks, who minored in biological sciences. Dolphin Quest Her career path started with an unpaid internship with Dolphin Quest Hawaii on the Big Island of Hawaii, where she spent three months learning the basics of dolphin training. This led to a position as a dolphin trainer at the Dolphin Quest site in Bermuda before eventually moving back to Dolphin Quest Hawaii. Through these positions, Marks trained dolphins and led “swim with the dolphins” programs, where she took people into the water to meet the animals and learn more about them. She was also able to instill in the visitors a basic conservation message about recycling and making sure that trash gets placed in the proper receptacles so it does not end up in the ocean. “It was a great way to give the general public a connection between the marine environment and a charismatic marine animal. This connection created meaning and allowed us to the get across important conservation messages about pollution. We discussed how no matter where on the earth you are located, you are effecting the environment and the critters that call it home,” said Marks. “It was quite an opportunity to not only train dolphins, but to also get a strong background in cetacean (dolphin and whale) husbandry and health care.” Miami Seaquarium Marks said she had an interest in learning more about marine life and getting involved in wild populations and decided to take a senior keeper position at the Miami Seaquarium in Florida. Through this role, she helped supervise the manatee and sea turtle rehabilitation programs and oversaw a variety of animals including tropical birds, crocodiles, alligators and deer. The facility also had a resident sea turtle and manatee population that stayed on site because the animals were deemed non-releasable and would not have survived in the wild. “This position incorporated some of my training skills with the birds and the resident animals that lived in the aquarium, and then also gave me experience doing manatee and sea turtle rehabilitation and stranding response. That was a cool combination for me,” said Marks. Back to Hawaii After a year at the aquarium, Marks decided to move back to Hawaii and got a job working in a small animal veterinary hospital for a short period of time before moving to Honolulu and working for the National Marine Fisheries Service, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), at the Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (PIFSC). Marks said it was a great career move because she was working in the sea turtle stranding response program that also incorporated a great deal of research. “I was there for three years and I was mostly in charge of doing sea turtle stranding response. If a sea turtle came up on shore sick, injured, or dead, we were the ones that were called and we would go and pick up the animal,” said Marks. Marks said that the center in Honolulu also had jurisdiction over the other islands where their stranding partners were located, and that she worked with those partners to coordinate the arrival of live or dead sea turtles to their center in order to do rehabilitation or to determine cause of death. “NOAA PIFSC brought in live animals for rehabilitation when necessary, but also did about 120 necropsies per year on four different sea turtles species to figure out cause of death,” said Marks. According to Marks, determining cause of death is a vital conservation component. “Studying the dead animals and doing necropsies is very rewarding to me because you can learn more about why those animals died and better help the population that’s still alive out in the wild,” said Marks. Marks is involved with this aspect of conservation work once again at her current position at Florida Atlantic University, adding that her current job is quite diverse. “I do a little bit of everything. I’m a first responder for cetacean stranding calls, veterinary technician, laboratory technician and researcher,” said Marks. “I also assist with all of the necropsies. It’s very interesting to me to see some of the trends in strandings and to specifically look for reasons as to why they would strand and what is causing damage or changes to the different cetacean populations. It’s like a mystery that we keep collecting clues to.” Time at UD Concerning her academic career at UD, Marks said she enjoyed studying at CANR and getting hands-on experience with the animals out on the farm, which allowed her to work directly with animals and not simply learn about them in the classroom. As for advice for any current students looking to get into her line of work, or any type of conservation work with animals, Marks said to “take your opportunities as they come, whether it’s an unpaid internship or an opportunity to volunteer. All of those experiences can really help you make connections and teach you a variety of different skills within the field that can only help you further on in your career.” Article by Adam Thomas Originally published on UDaiy

UD professors honored for work on sustainable landscape project

Jules Bruck and Sue Barton received a Land Ethics Award for their demonstration garden at ApplecrossUniversity of Delaware professors Jules Bruck and Sue Barton have received the Land Ethics Award in the residential category from Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve for their work on a sustainable demonstration project in the northern New Castle County community of Applecross. They were presented the award at the 15th annual Land Ethics Symposium on Thursday, March 12, at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. According to the Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve website, the purpose of the Land Ethics Award is to honor and recognize individuals, organizations, government agencies, community groups and business professionals who have made significant contributions to the promotion of native plants and have exhibited a strong land ethic while promoting sustainable designs that protect the environment. For their particular project, the awards jury noted that the project “clearly demonstrated what can happen when several partners collaborate to change a sterile home landscape into one of environmental value. One can only think that the neighbors will be queuing up themselves to upgrade their own properties with similar projects.” Bruck, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), said the award carries great meaning. “I’m happy that it’s a Land Ethics Award and I think that’s just such a nice way to honor how designers can make a difference in land stewardship versus our traditional role, which has just been more aesthetic based,” she said. The Applecross demonstration project was designed and installed by researchers and students at UD and displays sustainable practices that reduced the lawn area of a residential yard by 50 percent while maintaining enough lawn for circulation, play and entertaining. The project began in April 2012 and, since then, those involved with the project have increased plant diversity by 500 percent, improved water quality and quantity on the property and planted the area with 95-97 percent native plants. The landscape also includes a 6,000-square-foot meadow and a 3,000-square-foot reforestation area. Turf paths wind through the meadow and landscape beds and connect large areas of lawn. “The idea was to show people that you can incorporate a meadow and a forest into a residential landscape,” said Barton, associate professor of plant and soil sciences. In addition to being functional, the landscape is also visually appealing, something that Barton stressed because she believes that sometimes when people hear about native landscapes, they think only of the functionality and not of the aesthetic appeal. “Almost all the plants are native and they’re quite showy. Sometimes native plants have a connotation of being less formal, less colorful, a compromise, and they’re not a compromise at all. It’s a very dramatic landscape. There’s almost always something blooming,” said Barton. Bruck added that while the landscape is quite different from the yards of the surrounding houses from a functional and ecological perspective, it doesn’t look that much different from the front, as most of the showy aspects are more toward the back of the property. “I thought it was really interesting that the sustainable landscape that we put around the entire house just didn’t look that much different than everybody else’s landscape,” said Bruck. “It wasn’t like a wild look. It wasn’t a messy look. It was well cared for, well maintained.” Bruck said that even though they used a large quantity of native plants in order to cover the ground and make it dense, the landscape is still orderly. “I think orderly is one of the things that doesn’t always translate when people think about native landscapes or ecological landscapes. We still use design principles to guide our placement of plants. They’re not supposed to be wild, messy landscapes just because they have native plants in them, and they are highly functioning landscapes,” said Bruck. In addition to being visually appealing and ecologically functional, the landscape also provides a great teaching tool for students and for members of the community at large, as there have been at least five public tours of the site. One of the tours was sponsored by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society, and it attracted several hundred people. The last tour in October 2014 drew around 80 people. “Master Gardeners have gone and we’ve brought professionals there as part of the turf and landscape expo that we hold in Hockessin every November,” Barton said. When the project wraps up in August, Barton said the space can still serve as a learning tool for the future because of a large number of photographs of the project that are available. “We have hundreds of images of Applecross so that even though we can’t bring tours back to that site anymore, we have it documented in photos so that we can use that as an educational resource forever,” said Barton. Now that the demonstration site will be closing, Barton said that they are hopeful they can find space at the University to demonstrate how homeowners can incorporate a meadow or forest using native plants in a home landscape. The demonstration garden was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) that was awarded to Barton, Bruck, Joshua Duke, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), Shreeram Inamdar, professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Doug Tallamy, professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC). In addition to many volunteers, contributors to the project include North Creek Nurseries, Octoraro Nursery and Steve Gantz of All Seasons Landscaping. Article by Adam Thomas This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

UD alumna plants community garden on abandoned tennis court

UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.
UD alumna Elisa King led the effort to create a community garden in Elsmere.
When Elisa King was an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware, she gained an appreciation for community gardens through her work volunteering at that maintained by the English Language Institute and also as a member of the University’s Food and Gardening Policy Committee. Now that she has graduated, King is applying that love of gardening to the real world as she has spearheaded an effort to launch a community garden on an abandoned tennis court in the town of Elsmere, Delaware. King said that her idea to start the Garden at Linden — located in Walling Park on Linden Avenue in Elsmere — came out of her desire to improve the community. Given her passion for food and green spaces, a community garden seemed like a great place to start. The only problem was, King didn’t really know where to begin.
A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.
A community garden has been created on an abandoned tennis court in Elsmere.
“I started finding people around the neighborhood who were equally interested in the project but we didn’t know where to begin, so we started making some connections with people like Carrie Murphy and Tara Tracey,” said King. Murphy, a Cooperative Extension agent at UD, and Tracey, urban agriculture manager for the Delaware Center for Horticulture (DCH), are co-chairs of the Delaware Urban Farm and Food Coalition. They explained to King how she could get things moving, offering information on issues from how to approach the town with the idea to what kinds of materials they would need to start the garden. King said the group decided that the garden would be totally communal, meaning volunteers would get to take home some of the harvest. “There’s no fee involved and one of the reasons we wanted to do that was that we wanted to make it as inclusive as possible, so if people wanted to volunteer at any given time, they could,” said King. “Another reason for doing that is to gain interest in the community and have people spread the word.” Tennis court garden The town of Elsmere granted the group permission to use the tennis court, which needed to be repaved and could no longer be used for tennis. King said it was a win-win for her group and the town. “They saved money from not having to re-pave and we got to do something different in the community — getting residents engaged in how food grows and doing some healthy outdoor activity,” said King. Once they had the space, the group held fundraisers and received grants from the Delaware Department of Agriculture, New Castle County and the New Castle Conservation District to help fund the project. A crew of 30 people built the garden, which has 15 raised beds, at the end of March, and King said that a core group of around 15-20 people rotate to maintain the garden. They have been getting more and more positive community response. “People just show up. They want to be a part of it but it might not fit in their schedule, but they come and give us positive feedback or ask questions to find out what we’re doing. It’s been really good,” said King. Learning to grow As for the growing process, King admitted that it was a learning experience for everyone involved. “I probably had the most horticultural or agriculture experience out of everybody and I would say that my experience is not that vast,” said King. “It’s been interesting and definitely an awesome learning process for everybody. Everybody’s been able to contribute in some way. We help each other out and we’ve been reaping the benefits from it.” Even with the learning process, King said the group had a nice harvest through their first season and they are in the midst of fall gardening work. As for what they grow in the garden, King said that they are experimenting with a bit of everything, taking the approach of companion planting — planting different crops in close proximity for pest control, pollination and to maximize space and crop productivity — as they do not use any type of chemical treatment. The garden has everything from kale, tomatoes, corn, beans and all different kinds of squashes. They also have blueberry bushes that were donated — a big draw for the local children who wanted to come and see the blueberries — and started strawberries, asparagus, sweet and hot peppers, and lots of different herbs. The garden also has an herb spiral — a vertical garden design that allows gardeners to stack plants to maximize space — that King called a focal point. “That herb spiral always looks beautiful because we have lots of different herbs and flowers growing in there,” said King. “We’ve integrated different flowers so we could attract pollinators and beneficial insects. We have flowers like marigolds and sunflowers and it’s been interesting seeing the life form in that space because there was nothing before. It was just pavement and now there’s birds and all these different insects.” Elsmere Garden Society Learning about the importance of community gardens and urban farms has led to an informal organization known as the Elsmere Garden Society, and King said she is hopeful that the idea will catch on and that people will want to put gardens in other spaces that are being underutilized in Elsmere. “The garden is generating awareness that I think is really needed as far as where our food comes from, how to eat healthy, how growing food effects the environment and who has access to fresh food,” said King. “And when we have community gardens and urban farms, we can make more of an impact on the neighborhood scale, and I think that’s really important.” Article by Adam Thomas Photos by Lindsay Yeager

CANR recognizes recipients of Worrilow, Distinguished Alumni awards

Pictured are College of Agriculture and Natural Resources award winners (from left) James H. Baxter IV, Erica Spackman, Mary Ellen Setting, Craig Clifford, CANR Dean Mark Rieger, and Tom Fretz.
Five graduates of the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented with honors — the George M. Worrilow Award as well as three Distinguished Alumni Awards and a Distinguished Young Alumni Award — during a ceremony held Friday, Oct. 17, as part of Homecoming festivities. The awards are given based on a clear record of outstanding career accomplishments, service and leadership to the profession, and community service, including service to UD. George M. Worrilow Award Erica Spackman was presented with CANR’s George M. Worrilow Award, named for the dean of the college from 1954-65 whose career was dedicated to better agriculture and better agricultural education. It is given annually by the Ag Alumni Association to a graduate of the college who has exhibited outstanding service to agriculture. Spackman attended Haverford College and graduated in 1995 with a major in sociology then entered the CANR master’s program in animal science. Jack Rosenberger, chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences from 1981 to 2004, was her adviser and she continued work in his laboratory to complete a doctorate in 2001. Spackman then went to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory for a post-doctoral research program, became a staff research microbiologist in 2002 and continues to work at the facility. Her career has focused on improving the prevention, detection and control of viral poultry diseases to maintain healthy and productive animals. Throughout her career she has worked closely with the poultry industry, government agencies and veterinary diagnostic labs to achieve these goals. Although much of her career has focused on avian influenza virus, she has worked with numerous important diseases affecting chickens and turkeys in the areas of vaccine development, pathobiology and disease ecology. Diagnostic tests and sample collection strategies have been among the most widely adopted elements of Spackman’s work nationally and internationally, and continue to be a major focus of her current research. Distinguished Alumni Awards Craig Clifford is a graduate of the Mississippi State University College of Veterinary Medicine and received his master’s degree in animal sciences/virology from UD. After completing an internship and a medical oncology residency at the University of Pennsylvania, he became a diplomat of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (Oncology) in 2003. Clifford is Hope Veterinary Specialists’ first medical oncologist and director of clinical studies. Prior to this role, Clifford was a medical oncologist and director of clinical research at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in Tinton Falls, New Jersey. There, he was responsible for the creation of a comprehensive clinical studies program. Clifford has authored or co-authored more than 50 papers and book chapters and created the Veterinary Cancer Society’s resident review session and the Northeast Veterinary Co-operative Oncology Group. Thomas Fretz Thomas A. Fretz received an undergraduate degree from the University of Maryland in 1964, and his master’s and doctorate degrees in horticulture and plant science from UD in 1966 and 1970, respectively. Fretz retired from the University of Maryland and the position of executive director of the Northeastern Regional Association of State Agricultural Experiment Station Directors (NERA) in March 2007, after having served from 1994 to 2003 as dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and director of both the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station and Maryland Cooperative Extension at the University of Maryland. He previously served as associate dean and director of the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station at Iowa State University from 1989-94. Among his many awards and recognitions, Fretz was co-recipient of the Kenneth Post Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) in 1979 and was elected a fellow of the ASHS in 1986. He received UD’s George M. Worrilow Award in 1999, the B.Y. Morrison Award from the USDA-ARS in 2001, and the “Irving” for distinguished service to the American Distance Education Consortium (ADEC) in 2002. Mary Ellen Setting Mary Ellen Setting is the deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA).  She has served Maryland agriculture for 37 years while working in various capacities at MDA.  She graduated cum laude from the University of Delaware in 1975 with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture, majoring in entomology and applied ecology. As deputy secretary, Setting is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the agency, providing leadership to MDA staff, establishing policy and procedures for regulatory, service and educational programs, and implementing MDA’s mission. Setting was first employed by MDA in 1977 as an entomologist for the Pesticide Regulation Section. She developed and managed Maryland’s private and commercial applicator recertification and training program. She became chief of the Pesticide Regulation Section in 1988 and was responsible for oversight of all pesticide management, educational and regulatory programs in Maryland, including enforcement of state and federal laws, and applicator certification and training. Setting was named assistant secretary of the Office of Plant Industries and Pest Management in March 2004. As assistant secretary, she was responsible for oversight of enforcement of state and federal laws, regulations and quarantines related to management of pests that affect the health of crops, nursery stock and forests. Distinguished Young Alumni James H. Baxter IV James H. Baxter IV graduated from UD with a bachelor of science degree in agriculture in 2002 before returning to Baxter Farms Inc., the family farm where he is a fourth generation farmer. As president and manager of Baxter Farms, he oversees and farms the 2,800-acre tract in Sussex County with the knowledge and support of his grandparents, Jim and Ruth Baxter, who have been dedicated to growing the farm since 1948. Today, a majority of the acreage on the farm is corn and soybeans. The farming operation also includes overseeing the production of 200,000 broilers that are raised for Mountaire Farms Inc. Baxter has been active in the community as director of the Delaware Farm Bureau, chairman of the Delaware Soybean Board, founding member of Delmarva Tractor Pullers Association, founding member of Southern Delaware’s Local on the Menu, as well as a number of other affiliations. He is also an active member of Young Farmers and Ranchers and the Delmarva Poultry Industry. Also during Homecoming Weekend, Baxter was presented with a Presidential Citation for Outstanding Achievement. Photos by Lindsay Yeager

UD’s Sparks named 2015 American Chemical Society medalist

UD's Sparks named 2015 American Chemical Society medalistThe University of Delaware’s Donald Sparks has been selected as the 2015 medalist for the Geochemistry Division of the American Chemical Society (ACS), a congressionally chartered independent membership organization that represents professionals at all degree levels and in all fields of chemistry and sciences that involve chemistry. Sparks, the S. Hallock du Pont Chair in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, Francis Alison Professor, director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN) and a leader of the University’s Environmental Soil Chemistry Group, is the first soil scientist to receive the prestigious award. Sparks also holds joint appointments in the departments of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Chemistry and Biochemistry, and the School of Marine Science and Policy. Of learning that he had received the award, Sparks said he was “overjoyed.” “It means a lot to me because it’s recognition not just of what I’ve done, but also of the people I have worked with,” he said. “I’ve had a remarkable group of students and post-doctoral researchers over the years and certainly part of the recognition goes to them, too.” Blake Meyers, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, said he was excited to learn that Sparks was receiving the award “Don is an outstanding scholar, and this recognition by the ACS is a well-deserved honor that reflects the incredible contributions that he has made to the fields of soil science and geochemistry over many years,” Meyers said. “Don contributes his time generously to support environmental science here at UD, nationally and internationally. His work has helped develop the research infrastructure across campus, and he is also an excellent mentor to students, young scientists and faculty members.” In the letter of nomination for the award sent by Scott Fendorf, a former doctoral student of Sparks who is now the Huffington Professor of Earth Sciences and chair of the Department of Environmental Earth System Science at Stanford University, he said that in addition to being a tremendous adviser and mentor, “Sparks is a leading scholar in geochemistry and soil chemistry, having contributed wide and deep to our understanding of reactions at the solid-water interface over the past 30 years. His research record illustrates both his productivity and impact: three books, nine books edited, 55 book chapters, and 225 research papers having nearly more than 9,000 citations (ISI count). This has resulted in a research program recognized as one of the world’s finest in geochemistry.” Sparks has been the recipient of numerous awards including UD’s Francis Alison Award, the highest competitive award given by the University, and he was the first recipient of the UD Outstanding Doctoral Graduate Student Advising and Mentoring Award. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Geochemical Society, and European Association of Geochemists. Other awards include Einstein Professor from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Liebig Medal from the International Union of Soil Sciences, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Sterling Hendricks medal, Northeast Association of Graduate Schools Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award, the Soil Science Research Award, the M.L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Science Award, and the American Society of Agronomy’s Environmental Quality Award. Sparks was president of both the Soil Science Society of America and the International Union of Soil Science. He has served as adviser to 90 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. Douglas Kent of the U.S. Geological Survey and chair of the ACS awards committee said that Sparks “has made far-reaching contributions to understanding the physical and chemical forms of metals in the poorly ordered, steadily changing materials that comprise soils, sediments and aquifers. In addition to these contributions, he has written books that have helped transform the field of soil chemistry and, through his role as an educator and mentor, has inspired a new generation of soil and environmental geochemists.” Sparks, who has been a member of ACS for over 30 years, said it is “always nice to be recognized by your peers, and certainly it’s nice to be recognized by fellow soil scientists, but it was particularly so in this case because this is in the American Chemical Society. To be recognized by geochemists and environmental chemists means a lot because it shows that the work we’ve done has stretched across disciplines and is not just confined to one area.” Thoughts on research Of interdisciplinary research, Sparks said it has always been important but it is of a special significance now because scientists are trying to answer questions related to climate change, soil contamination and water quality that cross scientific boundaries. When he first started his career, Sparks said the areas were much more in silos but now “there’s a lot of cross-disciplinary work, and so what people do in soil chemistry is no different from geochemistry, environmental chemistry or environmental engineering.” Sparks said that over the course of his career, he has been a strong proponent of the importance of basic research and providing students the freedom to explore their ideas. “If we don’t understand what’s happening in a basic way, then it is hard to try to apply it,” he said. “If you’re able to stick with a topic for a long enough period of time and dig deeply, you really understand things at a very fundamental and important way.” Sparks added, “I’m a strong believer that if you have excellent students and then you give them a lot of freedom — of course I’m always there to help them and give them input and I want to know what they’re doing — but to give them that kind of independence I think has been a major factor as to why they’ve all been able to be placed well and been very successful.” Current work Sparks said that his current research interests include the study of contaminants in soils, such as metals like arsenic and chromium, and sea level rise. “This Mid-Atlantic coast is very susceptible to sea level rise and we have a lot of these old, legacy contaminated industrial sites and it’s not clear at all what’s going to happen when we have inundation of sea water into those areas,” said Sparks, whose research group is trying to understand what happens to those contaminants under different seawater flooding scenarios. His group has done extensive research since 1991 at synchrotron facilities, located at national laboratories, in the U.S., Canada and Europe. At these facilities they employ powerful X-ray sources to determine the form and reactivity of nutrients and metals in soils and minerals. Sparks and his group are also investigating carbon cycling in the terrestrial environment, specifically the role of carbon complexation with soil minerals in retaining the carbon in the soil so that it is not emitted into the atmosphere and adding greenhouse gases, he said. The issue is a big one as soils are a major player when it comes to sequestering carbon but it is hard to predict what will happen to the carbon in the soils in light of climate change. This process has been studied as part of the Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory (CRB-CZO), which was funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant in 2009.  Sparks said that much research has been conducted at the CRB-CZO concerning carbon sequestration in different land uses and positions on the landscape. Sparks said he has been grateful to have been able to spend his career at the University of Delaware. “UD has just been an incredible place to be. The wonderful support that I’ve received and the great facilities, and the ability to attract really exceptional students and post-docs has been a tremendous asset,” he said. The medal will be presented to Sparks at a plenary symposium on Monday, March 23, 2015, at the 249th national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Denver. There will be an additional symposium to honor the contributions that Sparks has made to the field of geochemistry. Article by Adam Thomas Photo courtesy of Donald Sparks This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Kern, Rogers named Benton Graduate Student Award recipients

Rebecca Kern and Allison Rogers receive the 2014 Benton Graduate Student  AwardsThe University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced that the winners of the 2014 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards are Rebecca Kern and Allison Rogers.

The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Rebecca Kern Kern is currently pursuing her doctorate in wildlife ecology with her research focusing on the demographics and conservation of saltmarsh and seaside sparrows. She has been working under the supervision of Greg Shriver, associate professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC), for the past six years, earning her master’s degree at UD before continuing on with her doctoral studies. “My dissertation research is part of the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Program (SHARP), a collaboration between seven universities, non-profit groups and state agencies to better understand endemic tidal marsh bird distribution and productivity in the northeastern U.S., as well as improve tidal marsh bird conservation,” said Kern, who added that being part of such a large, collaborative effort has been an extremely beneficial experience. Speaking on her research specifically, Kern said, “My research compares the reproductive success of saltmarsh and seaside sparrows, which is crucial knowledge for conservation. It also examines how the species interact with each other and how they’ve adapted to the marsh environment.” Kern said that Shriver and Jacob Bowman, chair and professor of ENWC, have had a positive impact on her experience as a graduate student while at UD. Kern said that Bowman has been instrumental in helping her “approach ecological questions from a rigorous quantitative and statistical viewpoint. He’s taught me the importance of developing both observational and field work skills, as well as analytical abilities.” She said that working with Shriver has taught her “the importance of seeing the big picture, working for conservation at the landscape level and seeking out productive collaborations. He’s helped me become a more well-rounded and passionate ecologist in many areas – from teaching to field research.” Kern added that receiving the Benton Award was a “a real surprise and a great honor.” Allison Rogers Rogers received her master’s degree from ANFS in May. She said that receiving the Benton Award “feels amazing. It’s really wonderful to be recognized for working hard for your lab group and really just trying to advance the subject that I was working in, which was the impact of the environment on poultry health and growth.” During her time at UD, Rogers conducted research on the effect of alternative lighting technologies on broiler chicken growth and welfare in terms of stress. Rogers and her group looked at how newer, more energy-efficient lighting technologies — such as light-emitting diode (LED) lights or cold-cathode fluorescent lamps (CCFL) — impacted broiler chickens. “The industry standard is incandescent lights and so with broiler producers wanting to implement a higher efficiency light, they wanted to see if there were any adverse effects. We monitored the birds’ growth as well as their stress by measuring different white blood cell counts within their bloodstream throughout the course of the study,” said Rogers. Rogers said it turned out that the birds seemed to do best under incandescent lights but also did very well under LED technologies. The group’s next step will be to investigate why they saw the changes in growth and chronic stress in the birds under different lighting technologies. As far as singling out individuals to thank, Rogers said that it was difficult, as the entire department has been instrumental in helping her during her six years — four as an undergraduate and two as a master’s degree student — at UD. “I’ve found there have been so many people in the department that you can just walk up to and ask questions,” Rogers said. “I’ve talked to almost the whole department. It has been awesome to get to know everyone on a different level as a graduate student than I got to as an undergrad, and I’ve really loved it. It’s been a lot of fun.” In particular, Rogers singled out Eric Benson, Bob Alphin, Erin Brannick, Carl Schmidt, Robert Dyer, Marlene Emara, Mark Parcells and Behnam Abasht as faculty in ANFS who have helped her along the way. Article by Adam Thomas Photo by Danielle Quigley This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

Dyer receives Excellence in Teaching Award

Robert Dyer awarded Excellence in Teaching AwardSeven members of the University of Delaware faculty have been recognized for noteworthy performance in teaching and advising, and two graduate students have received awards for excellence in teaching. 

The Excellence in Teaching and Excellence in Undergraduate Advising and Mentoring awards were presented at the May 5 meeting of the Faculty Senate. 

Based primarily on nominations from current and past students, faculty excellence awards recognize teachers whose courses are viewed as being thought-provoking, intellectually demanding, related to other fields and touching on contemporary issues and student experiences. Awardees receive $5,000, have their portraits hung in the Morris Library for five years and have a brick inscribed with their name installed in Mentors’ Circle. This year’s Excellence in Teaching Awards were presented to:
  • Dana S. Chatellier, education specialist in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in the College of Arts and Sciences; 
  • Iris Busch, assistant professor in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures in the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Dannagal Goldthwaite Young, assistant professor in the Department of Communication in the College of Arts and Sciences;
  • Robert M. Dyer, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and
  • Debra Gassner Dragone, instructor in the Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics.
When it comes to teaching and what he hopes for his students, Dyer said, “My long-term goal is to have students leave the University with a real love to learn and courage to explore. The objective is to create an unquenchable thirst for new knowledge within each student. When students thank me for what we have done here at Delaware, I simply tell them what my instructors told me — pass on the favor to some young, upcoming student who needs a helping hand.” To read about the other award winners, check out the full article on UDaily.

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