Natural versus human contributionSurface 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 componentOne 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.
Historic Penn Farm classAt 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. “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 connectionIn 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.
Veterinary school applicationsTo 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.
Solny AdalsteinssonAdalsteinsson 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 RosierOf 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 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.
Seven 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.
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