UD alum writes ice cream cookbook featuring UDairy Creamery

January 29, 2014 under CANR News

UD Alum Lindsay Clendaniel features UDairy Creamery in CookbookMost adventures don’t lead to writing a cookbook – particularly one about ice cream – but that is where University of Delaware alumna Lindsay Clendaniel was headed all along when she started a Scoop Adventures blog in 2009 to chronicle her experiences with unique and interesting flavors and recipes.

The blog ultimately led to a publisher approaching her to write a cookbook on the subject and Clendaniel, a 2003 UD graduate, jumped at the opportunity.

The cookbook, titled Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States, is due out on March 25 and features ice cream recipes from all 50 states as well as 30 of Clendaniel’s own personal recipes. Chapters are divided up regionally, from the “Sugary Southeast” to “The Mountains of Milk and Cream.”

Clendaniel took six months to write the book, in which she found and whipped up 12 to 16 recipes per week. “The book is full of recipes that I would consider pretty unique and creative,” said Clendaniel. “There is nothing wrong with the run of the mill chocolate, vanilla and strawberry when it’s done right, but I like coming up with pretty creative flavors.”

Clendaniel said she sought out contributors, looking for ice cream vendors that used good ingredients and had a good philosophy about ice cream, as well as that creative knack for flavor.

When it came time to pick an ice cream contributor for Delaware, Clendaniel looked no further than her alma mater. “The UDairy Creamery didn’t start until after I graduated but, of course, since I’m so in to ice cream, I was super excited to hear that they were actually starting a creamery on campus. As soon as I got this book opportunity one of the first things I did was contact the University of Delaware.”

For the book, Clendaniel said the UDairy Creamery contributed its recipe for the flavor known as “Junk in the Tree Trunk,” which consists of maple, a caramel swirl, pecan and praline pieces. She noted that she is a big fan of the UDairy Creamery flavors “Holy Fluffernutter!” and “Katie’s Bagged Lunch,” as well.

Not surprisingly, Clendaniel’s adventures opened her eyes to some interesting flavors of ice cream, such as basil. “I heard of restaurants making basil ice cream and it turns out that the anise kind of quality actually does well with the ice cream — and when you pair it with things like lemon and strawberry, it’s really good.”

Clendaniel, who works as a psychologist, said that ice cream and her blog are a special interest of hers and that it is “nice to have an interest that is truly different from my work. Outside of work, I love food, and I love sweet things, so ice cream was just a good thing to find.”

Having dealt with ice cream for so long and tasted so many flavors over the years, it is also no surprise that Clendaniel has trouble picking a favorite.

“I love fresh fruit flavors. I think that making sorbets is one of the best things to do with fresh fruit other than eat it,” she said, adding, “This is always the hardest question. I love chocolate flavors, too — some of the chocolate flavors in the book that I like are chocolate coconut macadamia nut. Those are just kind of playing with chocolate, which is one of my favorite things to do, too.”

Scoop Adventures: The Best Ice Cream of the 50 States is available for pre-order on-line at Barnes and Noble.

Those interested can also check out Clendaniel’s Scoop Adventures Blog.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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CANR alumna reflects on introduction to agriculture, Maryland post

January 27, 2014 under CANR News

Mary Ellen Setting CANR alum serves as Maryland Deputy SecretaryWhen Mary Ellen Setting attended the University of Delaware, she never envisioned herself as one day serving as the deputy secretary of agriculture for the state of Maryland.

In fact, before coming to UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), Setting — who grew up in the city in downtown Wilmington — had very little interaction with agriculture at all.

Now, after a little over 36 years working at the state of Maryland’s Department of Agriculture, Setting has learned a thing or two about the subject.

Setting said her initial introduction to agriculture came as a youth, when she and her mother would travel to the King Street Farmers Market and interact with the farmers there. A farmer would deliver fresh eggs and fruit and vegetables to her house, and that same farmer would take his customers out to his farm as a sort of customer appreciation day.

But other than that, Setting had very little background in the field when she chose to study entomology at UD.

“Coming to the University of Delaware in the entomology department, that’s really where I got my main introduction to agriculture,” said Setting, who majored in entomology and applied ecology, learning things like wildlife management and ornithology along the way.

After working at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C., doing pesticide registration, Setting was hired as an entomologist trainee at the Maryland Department of Agriculture in 1977.

She went on to be promoted to section chief for the pesticide regulation section in 1988, and served as the first woman president of the Association of American Pesticide Control Officials in 1994 before becoming the assistant secretary of plant industries and pest management for the agency in 2004.

Setting was appointed deputy secretary in 2009.

The job entails being directly accountable for the day-to-day operations of the department and providing leadership to upper level managers as well as all of the department’s 400 employees.

Setting said she is also “responsible for setting policy, determining procedures and more or less guiding the direction of our programs and the activities here at the department.”

Setting said her job does not have a set day-to-day routine, and that while one day she could be testifying before the Maryland General Assembly on legislation that affects either the department’s programs or agriculture, she could also be participating in a commodity conference, going to a trade show for the nursery industry, or heading out on the ice cream trail to promote the state’s dairies.

Of all her job requirements, however, Setting said that her favorite is meeting and working with farmers. “We’ve got very knowledgeable and innovative farmers here in Maryland,” she said, adding, “They’re always looking for new angles, new ways to add value to their production.”

Setting added that getting to know the farmers and learning from them, as well as learning about their operations, has been an important experience in her work for the state. “I’ve had several farmers that have taken me under their wing over the years and showed me how to treat the farming industry, how to regulate them, and how to get cooperation from them. So I’ve had a lot of folks over the years help me along the way.”

Setting, who joined the Maryland Department of Agriculture at the age of 24, said she has grown up in the department and enjoys that the people she works with “share the enthusiasm that I have for agriculture. They work very hard at it. They work hard for farmers and I’ve been fortunate to have the relationships I’ve had, not only with my co-workers but with the folks outside of this department, the whole industry. I feel very blessed that I’ve had these opportunities.”

As for advice for current CANR students, Setting said that agriculture is a wonderful field to get into, one that is important not only for the individual but for the country as a whole. “Having the opportunity to be in that field is pretty exciting and students should take advantage of that and focus on what interests them but not be afraid to go outside of their comfort zones and look into new areas because you just never know where that will take you,” Setting said.

She also encouraged students to build on the relationships they gain from being in the field.

Article by Adam Thomas

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UD students create predictive models for Capital One competition

January 23, 2014 under CANR News

UD interdisciplinary team placed as finalists in a Capital One competitionAn interdisciplinary team from the University of Delaware was one of six finalists from universities across America selected to compete in the Capital One Modeling Competition held in the financial corporation’s headquarters in McLean, Va.

The final six teams were chosen from a field of 33 universities and, in addition to UD, included Ohio State University, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, which fielded two teams, Texas A&M University and Southern Methodist University.

The five-member UD team consisted of graduate students from three different colleges — Ruizhi Xie, a doctoral student in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics who is also a master’s degree student in statistics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and received a master’s degree in agricultural and resource economics from CANR; Zhiqi Zhang, a master’s degree student in CANR; Yue Tan and Yan Hu, both doctoral students in the Lerner College; and Du Zhang, a doctoral student in the Lerner College and a master’s degree student in the College of Engineering.

The competition required the team to use creativity and statistical problem solving skills to develop an analytic tool to uncover insights about individuals’ spending patterns. The goal was to predict how those individuals would spend at certain merchants and to develop a strategy for those merchants to assign discounts to customers who use their Capital One cards at their places of business.

Xie explained that the group was given a large amount of real transactional data of customers from 3,000 different merchants. The data included information such as the merchant ID, the date of the transaction, the amount and whether the purchase was made on-line or in the store.

From that data, Xie said the team “basically applied the optimization strategy and the modeling strategy to predict the likelihood of the future expenditures for every customer of certain merchants.”

Zhang said that she enjoyed how Capital One allowed the team to use real data to solve the problem for the competition. “Most of the time, the data from the bank is confidential. They don’t want to provide the data to personnel outside the company but because we were solving a real problem for them, they provided us with the real data.”

Xie said that the group worked on the project for about two months and once they made it to the finals, they spent two sleepless nights preparing for the project’s final presentation to the bank executives.

Zhang said the interdisciplinary aspect of the team helped them greatly as the members could each tackle individual problems on their own and also within the group during meetings, which were held twice a week. “It was very efficient working in this team. Before the meeting, everyone prepared his or her own part for the meeting and during the meeting we could exchange ideas,” Zhang said. “When we talked about our ideas, sometimes we could find that something might be wrong and the other people could give us feedback, and that was great.”

Tan said he had two favorite parts of the competition — the teamwork aspect and the fact that they got to use the real world data. “I enjoyed dealing with the real banking data. If you go into the industry, this is the kind of data you will experience every day. And the other thing was we had very good team work and I enjoyed that part, too.”

The team was introduced to the competition and advised by Titus Awokuse, chair of the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC). Zhang said that working with Awokuse was beneficial because he has “a real direct connection to the industry field so we could get this opportunity. The manager of this project sent the invitation directly to him so we could take part in this competition.”

Xie, who has been advised by Awokuse since 2009, said he has helped her with studies and research, especially “how to identify research problems and how to tackle them using different methodologies to try and reach the conclusions. I’m very grateful to him.”

Awokuse said he thought this opportunity was a fantastic one for the students. “I think overall it was a very good experience for our students because not only did they work with data based on a complex real world problem that has potential to help a real company, they also got to interact with people in the industry.”

Awokuse continued, saying that the people at Capital One were very impressed with the students’ presentation. “They liked the models that the students developed. Their models were the best in terms of accuracy of prediction and I was very impressed with them. They did excellent work.”

Article by Adam Thomas

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Professor seeks volunteers for nutrient management research

January 8, 2014 under CANR News

Kent Messer, Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair and associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, is seeking volunteers to participate in a research project focusing on the adoption of nutrient management practices on farms. Messer is seeking volunteers to complete a 30 minute survey and participate in a choice activity in order to understand their perspectives on the topics and their willingness to adopt new practices.

Participation is voluntary and all responses will remain confidential. By completing the survey and participating in the choice activity, participants will receive a $50 Visa card. To be eligible for the $50 gift card, you must have decision-making authority for at least 10 acres of agricultural land in Delaware.

Participants will also be eligible for up to $40,000 in participant incentives and cost-share match for the implementation of new nutrient management practices on their property.

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UD Botanic Gardens selected as partner for Woodburn Garden Project

December 17, 2013 under CANR News

University of Delaware Botanic Gardens’ (UDBG) own gordlinia, a rare tree characterized by large “fried egg” white flowers and deep maroon fall foliage, has been donated to the Woodburn Garden ProjectSome say a rose by any other name is just a rose; a gordlinia by any other name, however, is far from just another gordlinia. During this season of giving, University of Delaware Botanic Gardens’ (UDBG) own gordlinia, a rare tree characterized by large “fried egg” white flowers and deep maroon fall foliage, has been donated to the Woodburn Garden Project as plans unfold to establish the historic grounds at Woodburn, the governor’s residence in Dover, as a public garden.

UDBG has been selected as one of several official partners for the project, which is being coordinated in two phases by Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs.

Landscape architect Rodney Robinson, a UD alumnus who hails from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, heard about the plant this September through a colleague at work and visited UDBG to purchase the unique species, which is a hybrid between two native trees (Franklinia and Gordonia).

When he later became involved with plans for phase one of the Woodburn Garden Project at the home of Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Robinson knew the gordlinia was the “last piece of the puzzle.” A call to Melinda Zoehrer, assistant director of UDBG, followed quickly to see if the botanic gardens would be interested in donating the tree to what will one day be a popular garden focal point in the Dover area.

Ken Darsney, state horticulturist for Delaware’s Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs, visited campus recently to secure the tree, which has wowed many by its beauty and rarity. “The gordlinia will be used during phase one of the planting,” he said. “We are going to interpret the garden from different angles to tell stories. It has been a lot of work, but we are happy. Phase two will be a formal garden located in the back of the residence.”

“The Woodburn Garden Project is an important way for our students and faculty to help tell the state’s botanical story,” said Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “We are particularly honored to have been asked to contribute to this important effort and look forward to our continued partnership.”

A formal ribbon-cutting for the garden is slated for spring 2014 at Woodburn. Woodburn has served as the official residence of the governor of Delaware since it was purchased by the state in 1965. The Georgian mansion is considered to be one of the finest examples of late-18th century architecture in Delaware.

The house was built by Charles Hillyard III around 1798. Hillyard bought the land at a sheriff’s sale for 546 pounds, 4 shillings and six-pence in 1784. At the time of purchase, the estate measured approximately 29 acres and was located outside the town limits of Dover.

Article by Nancy Gainer

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4-H youth from Kenya tour University’s CANR facilities

December 13, 2013 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Two 4-H youth from Kenya and their principal visited DelawareThe University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) served as host to three guests from Kenya on Wednesday, Dec. 11, as part of a joint effort by DuPont and the National 4-H Council.

Touring CANR facilities were Naomi Atieno Ochieng and Dancan Odhiambo Inda, two young 4-H members from Kenya, and Millicent Akinyi Obare, the principal of Nyaminia Primary School, which they attend.

The goal of the trip was for the students and principal to share the many ways that their club enterprises have helped generate life-saving revenue in Africa due to the unique partnership between DuPont and 4-H.

The guests were joined by members of Collegiate 4-H and Ag Ambassadors for a pizza party in the Townsend Hall Commons before taking a tour of the UDairy Creamery.

Prior to arriving at UD, the delegation also visited the 4-H After-School Program at George Kirk Middle School in Newark, which is run by UD’s Cooperative Extension, had lunch and a reception with DuPont leaders, and visited DuPont’s Stine-Haskell Research Center, which both of the students said was a highlight of the day.

Obare explained that the club in Kenya, which there is called 4-K, has “45 registered members but basically all the children in the school are members in a way because the club runs a school feeding program which feeds the whole school. The population of the school is 920 so the feeding program takes care of the 920 every day.”

Obare also said that the Nyaminia Primary School keeps the feeding program open on weekends so that if any child should stray into the school, they will have something to eat.

Ochieng said that the 4-K program has provided her the opportunity to “learn skills that will help me in the future, and it has led me near a brighter future.” She said that her favorite part of 4-K is horticulture, while Inda said that he enjoys the livestock, specifically the cows.

Obare said that since they have been in the U.S., she has taken a look at what kinds of activities the 4-H program runs for American youth and will try to incorporate some of those activities in the 4-K program when they travel back to Kenya. “Many of our projects are agriculture based but we could have children who have other interests, maybe scientific or otherwise. So we are going to sit down and explore ways of incorporating such kinds of projects so that we can bring on board other children who are not really interested in agriculture,” she said.

About the partnership

In 2011, DuPont partnered with 4-H in five African countries to engage youth in development activities aimed at building skills to address the challenges of food security.

The Kenyan 4-H, or 4-K, club was initially designed to help sustain the feeding program of Nyaminia Primary School, which often provides a child’s only meal for the day.

Today, the club’s enterprises include gardening, maize growing, dairy production (cattle and goat), poultry, horticulture and forestry.

Club enterprises also include a barbershop, as well as printing and photocopying.

The club uses the revenue generated from these projects to subsidize the school feeding program; to provide milk and other sustenance to reach local communities affected and infected by HIV/AIDS; and to hire four adults to assist with forestry and animal projects.

Photos by Danielle Quigley

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Waterfowl conservation focus of new UD Ducks Unlimited chapter

December 12, 2013 under CANR News

UD adds a Ducks Unlimited chapter to campusThe University of Delaware has added a Ducks Unlimited chapter as a new registered student organization on campus.

Ducks Unlimited (DU) is the world’s leader in wetlands and waterfowl conservation and started in 1937 during the Dust Bowl when, according to its website, North America’s drought-plagued waterfowl populations had plunged to unprecedented lows.

DU has an active presence in the state of Delaware, with more than 6,000 members in now 16 chapters who have conserved over 15,000 acres of the state’s wetlands.

At UD, the chapter will have three goals for its members: fund raising for the national organization, educating the public about waterfowl and wetland conservation, and providing students with conservation experiences.

Chris Williams, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology and the club’s adviser, explained that because UD is situated in the center of the Atlantic Flyway — one of four flyways corridors waterfowl use to move between northern breeding and southern wintering landscapes — “we have an amazing resource, starting in New Jersey and continuing through Virginia, where there are a lot of wintering waterfowl.”

As such, UD is “naturally a central hub for potential waterfowl research and education,” Williams said, adding, “It’s exciting that we have the ability to offer this resource in terms of education and research for the East Coast as a whole.”

Williams said that other than a DU chapter at Yale University, there are no other university chapters in the Mid-Atlantic and northeast regions. “When you think about that flyway, and all those ducks piling down starting at Long Island, we have a hole in university representation, so it was perfect that we could add a chapter.”

DU has a youth education outreach component that is broken up into three groups: Greenwing, for grade school; Ducks Varsity, which is geared toward high school students; and Ducks University, of which the UD group is a part.

Williams said he is hopeful that the UD group can give back by educating those in the Greenwing sections during an annual statewide event in April, while also exploring other opportunities as they arise.

Through the program, UD students will be directly involved in conservation efforts, Williams said, adding that they have already taken a trip to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge.

Chase Colmorgen, a senior majoring in natural resource management in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and president of DU at UD, said the trip to Bombay Hook was very interesting as the students “met with the regional biologist for Delaware Ducks Unlimited, a Bombay Hook biologist, and a UD graduate student conducting waterfowl research. We had a tour explaining Ducks Unlimited’s projects in Delaware and in Bombay Hook, specifically. We hope to do more trips like that, where we can actually get insight on how Ducks Unlimited is getting involved and how we can help to get involved with conserving wetlands.”

Colmorgen, who has been a member of DU since he was 12 and participated in the Greenwing program, also said that while some may look at DU as simply an organization focused on hunting, it is much more than that and he wants to help spread their message of conservation. “Ducks Unlimited was founded by hunters but it’s priority is for conservation, so we want to do a lot of hands on work — maybe adopt a wetland on campus or go out and do work somewhere around the state in one of the main areas for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). We also want to do a lot of education for the public and for younger people.”

Colmorgen said the University’s DU chapter offers something for everyone. “If you’re interested in the outdoors, and you might not be a CANR student, we want to offer a chance for you to learn more about wetlands. We’re trying to do activities that pretty much cover anything that anyone would be interested in with regards to wildlife and the outdoors. We really just want it to be a group that everyone can have something to relate to.”

Getting DU to UD

Williams pointed out that the DU chapter at UD was formed in large part to efforts made by U.S. Sen. Chris Coons and Bill D’Alonzo, a Delaware resident who is on the national board of directors for Ducks Unlimited and who was named the 2012 Budweiser Conservationist of the Year.

“Both Senator Coons and Bill D’Alonzo have been interested in increasing our younger citizens’ involvement in Ducks Unlimited, so a conversation was opened up in the early part of the summer to extend DU to the University of Delaware, where a waterfowl research program already exists,” said Williams.

He explained that after a meeting with DU officials, D’Alonzo, Dan Sarkissian, director of development for CANR, and Mark Rieger, CANR dean, the decision was made to start a DU chapter at UD.  The chapter became official in October.

For those interested in joining DU, Colmorgen said to contact him or Williams and that DU will be present at the spring activities night — scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, at the Perkins Student Center — during which students can learn more about campus organizations.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos courtesy of Chris Williams

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UD’s Ernest receives USDA grant for research on lima beans

December 11, 2013 under CANR News

Emmalea Ernest Research Assistant for Vegetable crops. Plant and Soil Science, Cooperative ExtensionEmmalea Ernest, extension agent in the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), has received federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Specialty Crop Block Grant (SCBG) Program for a project aimed at developing heat-tolerant lima bean varieties.

“Lima beans are Delaware’s largest acreage vegetable crop and anchor the state’s processing vegetable industry,” said Ernest. “The varieties that are currently available to growers suffer yield loss or delayed yield when they are exposed to high temperatures during flowering.”

In order to be eligible for funding from the program, grant money had to be used toward specialty crops as opposed to field crops, such as corn and soybeans, or animal agriculture. Specialty crops are a wide-ranging category that includes fruits, vegetables, dried fruits, tree nuts, horticulture, and nursery crops.

With her funding, Ernest aims to develop procedures for heat tolerance screening in the existing lima bean breeding program, examine the physiological mechanisms for heat stress tolerance or susceptibility in lima beans, and investigate the underlying genetic basis for heat stress tolerance in lima beans. Her findings could greatly impact Delaware vegetable farmers’ yields.

Ernest said she has collaborated on multiple USDA Specialty Crop Block Grants in the past six years and acknowledged that the program has been a vital source of funding to the Extension Vegetable and Fruit Research Program. The money has allowed Ernest to help address production problems many Delaware fruit and vegetable growers have experienced, as well as explore new crop prospects.

The SCBG program seeks out projects like Ernest’s in order to promote and enhance the local agricultural economy.

“My past and current grant projects through this program have included work on lima beans but also on a variety of other crops, including processing sweet corn, blueberries, snap beans, cucumbers and cantaloupes,” said Ernest.

Her research with lima beans will be over the course of the next three years and take place on UD’s research farm in Georgetown.

Ernest said that in the genetics portion of the project, which will be built off of work funded by the Building a Better Bean SCRI Grant awarded to UD researchers last year, she will be working closely with colleague Randy Wisser, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences, and Gordon Johnson, extension vegetable and fruit specialist.

Article by Angela Carcione

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Tallamy urges ecofriendly management of natural habitats

December 9, 2013 under CANR News

Dr. Douglas Tallamy speaks about wildlife animals and reptiles to a crowd of retired faculty at the December UDARF meeting.Doug Tallamy believes that if nature, as we know it, is going to be saved, humans will have to do a much better job of managing the ecosystems that support the biodiversity of life on our planet.

Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware, discussed the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem protection during a luncheon meeting of the UD Association of Retired Faculty held Tuesday, Dec. 3, in Clayton Hall.

The author of Bringing Nature Home: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens, (Timber Press 2007), Tallamy began his “Network for Life: Your Role in Stitching Together the Natural World” presentation by recalling President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1908 dictum of “leave it as it is” to those who advocated mining the Grand Canyon.

“It is no longer an option to leave most of our country as it once was,” Tallamy said. “Only five percent of the lower 48 states are even close to being in a pristine ecological state.”

The remaining areas, Tallamy said, have been logged, tilled, paved, drained, grazed or otherwise developed, with rivers either straightened, dammed and, in some cases, not even reaching the sea.

This state of environmental degradation can be traced to a failure to abandon the adversarial relationship with the natural world that enabled hunter-gatherer societies to survive, Tallamy said.

“Remember, it was nature that ate us, froze us, drowned us, starved us and destroyed our crops, and the more we beat back nature, tamed it or eliminated it, the better off we were,” Tallamy said. “Our war against nature worked in the past without causing ecosystem collapse because there were so few of us. Understanding this is the key to fixing the problems we have created.”

Fragmented into small, isolated pockets, the natural world has been carved into tiny remnants of its former state, with each area too small to sustain the species that run its ecosystems, Tallamy said.

Tallamy cited a study of the number of Eastern box turtles living on a 35-acre woodlot just east of the athletic facilities on UD’s south campus that has been isolated for the past century.

“When the study began in 1968, researchers found 91 turtles. There were 22 in 2002 and in 2010 there were just 12 turtles found in that woodlot,” Tallamy said. “When you take large populations of species and shrink them down to tiny populations, they are highly vulnerable to local extinction.”

Ecosystems function locally, Tallamy said, and recent research suggests that every species counts.

“We need them all, because biodiversity runs our ecosystems,” Tallamy said. “Biodiversity is essential to ecosystems because it increases stability, improves biogeochemical processes, increases productivity and decreases susceptibility to biotic invasions.”

A viable alternative to fragmentation and local species extinction is the creation and expansion of corridors linking these isolated habitats, Tallamy said.

Convenient opportunities for building such corridors include mountain ridges, riparian corridors, cross-country power lines, roads and rangelands.

“We need to expand our traditional definition of a corridor, because the ones we have are not big enough,” Tallamy said. “Biological corridors must do more than facilitate movement — they must support life.”

For such corridors to become viable connections they need to become functional habitats populated with native plants that support biodiversity and sustain ecosystems, Tallamy said.

“The more plants you have, the more animals you will have saved,” Tallamy said. “Plants provide all of the food and much of the shelter for the animals that run our ecosystems. Plants are literally a matter of life and death.”

With more than 3,300 nonnative plants introduced in the United States, selecting native species that support animal life is key to restoring the balance of nature, Tallamy said.

“Most insects, especially the ones birds eat, develop and reproduce only on the plants with which they share an evolutionary history,” Tallamy said. “We must use the knowledge that most insects are specialists to build corridors that support effective food webs.”

Land management alternatives can also be adopted in residential areas where the norm is having a large lawn and decorative plants that don’t sustain beneficial insects and the birds that feed on them, Tallamy said.

“The typical suburban yard has 90 percent less tree biomass than the natural woodlot habitats, and we have landscaped these areas the way we do because we now see plants only as decorations,” Tallamy said. “Future criteria for choosing plants for our landscapes need to include a sizeable percentage dedicated for food web, watershed, wildlife and soil restoration, accompanied by a more balanced percentage of plants chosen for decorative value.”

Tallamy said that the world is entering a new era, the ecocene, where ecological sustainability will not be just a tired cliché but a globally embraced mandate.

“Our age-old need to destroy the life around us in order to survive will be replaced by the ethical and ecological imperative to sustain it, because we have no other choice,” Tallamy said. “I for one cannot wait for the ecocene, and you won’t either. If we practice conservation in our public spaces, our work places and in our yards, we will enrich our lives.”

Article by Jerry Rhodes

Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson

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Two UD professors assess habitat degradation in wake of Hurricane Sandy

December 4, 2013 under CANR News

Greg Shriver conducts research on habitat degradation due to Hurricane SandyUniversity of Delaware researchers Greg Shriver and Chris Williams have been awarded funds from a $162 million U.S. Department of the Interior project that will be invested in 45 restoration and research projects to better protect Atlantic Coast communities from future powerful storms by restoring marshes, wetlands and beaches, rebuilding shorelines, and researching the impacts and modeling mitigation of storm surge impacts.

Shriver and Williams will begin multiple projects to assess habitat degradation and restoration efforts with a focus on tidal marsh birds such as Nelson’s and saltmarsh sparrows, the American black duck and the Atlantic brant.

Shriver, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology (ENWC), and Williams, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, were awarded funding in large part because of work that occurred before Hurricane Sandy and the amount of pre-storm data that they collected.

“We were both well positioned,” said Shriver. “The challenge with determining the effects of disturbances is having the pre-disturbance data; Chris and I both have that so we can go back to the same place after the disturbance and assess the effects.”

SHARP continued

Shriver’s work will build off of the pre-Sandy work that he is conducting as part of the Saltmarsh Habitat and Avian Research Project (SHARP) research. SHARP aims to provide the information necessary for all states in the bird conservation region stretching from coastal New England through the Mid-Atlantic to protect regionally important habitats for tidal marsh birds.

Of particular interest is the saltmarsh sparrow, which is listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and has a limited breeding range from Virginia to Maine.

“The SHARP surveys are conducted at over 1,700 locations from Virginia to Maine where we are sample breeding tidal marsh bird populations and vegetation communities so we have a nice extensive survey that goes all the way through the hurricane impact zone, from the most intense area all the way to Virginia and Maine,” said Shriver.

Another goal of the project is to provide a regionally consistent platform for tidal marsh bird monitoring in the face of anticipated sea-level rise and upland/watershed development to produce population estimates for all bird species found in the high tidal marsh — including a global population estimate for saltmarsh sparrow — and identify regional population centers.

Shriver said the research team has two years of pre-hurricane data from 2011-12, and explained that this project will last until 2016 with a big part aimed at assessing the effects of Hurricane Sandy restoration projects. “A lot of them will be happening on places we already surveyed, and we will survey new sites that are identified as tidal marshes that are going to be restored. We will complete pre- and post-restoration sampling so that, as we get into 2015-16, the focus will be on the ‘before and after’ restoration sites.”

Black duck, Atlantic brant

Atlantic brant flockWilliams’ research focuses on the American black duck, which has been a bird of priority concern in the Atlantic flyway and the Mid-Atlantic, as well as the Atlantic brant, which is a small goose.

Explaining that he has been working with Southern Illinois University and the state governments of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia, Williams said that his research has many facets. “We monitor the populations of these two species, how they’re using the habitat, how productive the habitat is in the way of feeding,” he said. “All of this work has been going toward the greater goal of assessing the potential on the landscape at a very large macro scale over a long period of time for the populations of black duck and Atlantic brant.”

Williams said his research is looking at the initial impact of habitat loss and the secondary effects, such as loss of food supplies and the impact that might have on population. “For the black duck, we can come in a year later and we can measure how much habitat there is, and whether the food has responded or not, and we can do that at all of these sites that we previously measured,” said Williams.

The research is a little bit more complicated for the brant. Williams explained that the brant mainly eat sea lettuce, algae and eelgrass, and it is likely those food supplies were severely impacted by the hurricane.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is better map and predict where those foods are on the landscape,” said Williams. “If the models we have created work well using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS), we can apply them to a series of aerial photographs that were taken pre- and post-Sandy. The goal is a really nice pre- and post-storm scenario to evaluate the effect that a destructive storm can have on the brant food supply.”

Williams said the researchers are both just happy that they can be of service to those communities impacted by the hurricane in any way possible. “From an academic standpoint, we’re lucky that we can help,” said Williams. “While we can only minimally help with the human component, we have a well developed program at UD to provide assessment of the ecological and wildlife community and provide recommendations for future landscape planning.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley and courtesy of Chris Williams

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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