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

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

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

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

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

Tailored internships for each student

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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