Natalie Stevenson transitions from conventional to conscious at eco-summit

January 3, 2013 under CANR News
Stevenson, pictured on the left of the middle row, and the other Green University finalists

Stevenson, pictured on the left of the middle row, and the other Green University finalists

Natalie Stevenson, a senior studying in the College of Arts and Sciences  who is working on her senior thesis with Robin Morgan, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, was one of 14-finalists chosen to take part in the Project Green 3-day Green University Eco Summit sponsored by Teens Turning Green in Marin County, California. The finalists were flown into San Francisco and the aim of the summit, according to the Teens Turning Green website, was to have the finalists learn from eco leaders and work together with mentors to create platforms for social action.

Project Green was a 30-day event where participants were sent daily challenges by e-mail throughout the month of October with different themes, all aimed at transitioning high school and college students from conventional to conscious living to get them committed to sustaining a healthy and just planet. The 30-day event culminated with Green University, where participants shared their experiences about the 30-days.

Stevenson said she heard about Project Green from an e-mail sent out by the University of Delaware Students for the Environment club. “I completed challenges throughout the month of October and because I earned enough points, I was invited to apply for Green University,” said Stevenson.

Stevenson, an environmental science and biological sciences double major, not only had to complete the 30-day challenge but also had to put together an essay and a video submission before being interviewed and finally being selected as a finalist for Green University.

She said that her favorite part about the summit was “meeting so many incredible people. Not just leaders in the environmental community like the CEO of Whole Foods, but the other challenge finalists were inspirational as well.”

Stevenson added that she “loved meeting the Teens Turning Green Team. Judi Shills, executive director and founder of Teens Turning Green, and everyone were amazing and put so much work into getting us together.”

As to why undergraduates should participate in these summits, Stevenson stressed that it connects “like minded people, and helps you forge life-long connections. There was a very inspirational atmosphere that carried through the summit. I learned even more about how to continue my transformation from conventional to conscious.”

Article by Adam Thomas


University of Delaware Poultry Career Seminar series

December 11, 2012 under CANR News

Poultry career seminar seriesThe University of Delaware held its first Poultry Career Seminar series this fall with funding provided by a grant from the United States Poultry Foundation and additional funds from the UD Career Services. The series of four seminars were held on October 3, 8, 16 and November 1.

Connie Parvis, director of education and consumer information from Delmarva Poultry Industry, Inc., spoke at the Oct. 3 seminar. She started the program giving an overview of the industry and discussed career and scholarship opportunities. She was joined by Byron C. Friend from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service who spoke about how his service facilitates the marketing of poultry, poultry products and eggs.

The second seminar included Bernie Murphy, a UD alumni who earned his doctorate from Iowa State University and serves as President of the Jones Hamilton Co., a leader in producing, packaging and distributing chemicals and compounds for a variety of customers since 1951.

Perdue Farms also presented during the second seminar, with Todd Baker, breeders operations manager, Katelyn MacCann, UD alumna and breeders farm manager, and Chris DelCastillo, Milford associate relations representative, speaking about career and internship opportunities at Perdue Farms, a family-owned company producing the Perdue brand of premium fresh chicken based in Salisbury, Maryland.

The third seminar included Pat Townsend, director of human resources at Mountaire Farms, who described their year long management training program, as well as internship and career opportunities. Mountaire Farms is a diverse poultry and agricultural business that partners with local farming communities to raise chickens and grains to feed them.

He was followed by Bill Brown, UD alumni and UD poultry extension specialist, and Carissa Wickens, assistant professsor and equine extension specialist. Brown described the purpose of Cooperative Extension and the many career opportunities it affords, while Wickens discussed the CANR Cooperative Extension Summer Scholars Internship Program and brought along her summer scholar, Rebecca Frost, a sophmore studying in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS).

Chuck Snipes, Mid-Atlantic sales representative of Cobb-Vantress, Inc., gave an overview of his company’s research, development and production of broiler breeding stock and the company’s internship and career opportunities. The final speaker in the seminar series was Nannette Olmeda-Geniec, poultry technical consultant for Elanco, an international company that develops products and services that enhance animal health, wellness and performance. Olmeda-Geniec is a veterinarian who earned her doctorate at UD in ANFS and presented an overview of this international company and the opportunities for internships and careers within her company.

A total of 81 students attended the seminars, with seven students attending all four. The seminars were also used to promote the United States Poultry Foundation’s College Student Career Program to be held in Atlanta, Georgia in January 2013. The program will allow students opportunities to interview with 25 regional, national and international poultry and agribusiness companies and organizations while having the opportunity to network with over 970 companies.

A goal of ANFS is to increase the number of students participating in the United States Poultry Foundation’s College Student Career Program. This year the ANFS Department will increase the number of undergraduate and graduate students participating in the expo from 4 to 11.

Photo by Danielle Quigley


CANR students learn about veterinary career opportunities

November 2, 2012 under CANR News

15 University of Delaware students studying in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS) recently took a trip to Johns Hopkins University to hear Mark Pokras, an associate professor in the Department of Environmental Population and Health and at the Wildlife Clinic & Center for Conservation Medicine at the Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, speak about opportunities available to them in the veterinary science field.

Erin Brannick, assistant professor in ANFS, director of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Comparative Pathology Laboratory and a veterinary pathologist, went on the trip with the students and said that Pokras, “Offered invaluable insight into the wide array of career options open to veterinarians. More importantly, the speaker emphasized the flexibility of a career in veterinary medicine, indicating how important it is for students to be open to changes in career aspirations and paths which can be shaped and reshaped by the students’ pre-veterinary and veterinary experiences.”

Laura Nemec, the laboratory coordinator in ANFS, who also went on the trip said that it was great for the students to learn about all the opportunities afforded to those with veterinary degrees and to see that there are more options out there than just the three most common veterinary practices: small animal practice, large animal practice and food animal practice.

“There is wildlife conservation, there are public health aspects, aquatic and marine aspects and regulatory aspects, it is huge what you can do with a veterinary degree,” said Nemec.

Nemec said that she was glad to see a wide range of students, from freshman up to seniors, go on the trip because it benefitted them all in different ways. “Our juniors and seniors were able to benefit from the procedural aspects of applying to veterinary schools and our freshman and sophomores were able to get a glimpse into the vast realm of veterinary medicine,” said Nemec.

Nemec added that it was great for the freshman, who may have come into college only looking to study small or large animals as undergraduates, to see the different opportunities afforded to them. “At the college level we are opening their minds to small, large and food animal practices, but at the vet school level they realize that these three practices are just the tip of the iceberg.”

Nemec said that Pokras also spoke to the students about funding opportunities to help them pay for vet school, application and interviewing tips, and interesting career opportunities—such as working as a veterinarian in the Army—once the students complete vet school. “Dr. Pokras was a fantastic speaker and was able to encourage and engage the students in discussions throughout the time we were there,” said Nemec.

Jesse Kovacs, a sophomore in CANR, said of the trip, “After attending Dr. Pokras’ lecture, I realized just how many options I had available to me. I had always thought of veterinary school as a way to become a small animal vet, a large animal, or an exotics vet. He demonstrated how many other jobs were out there for someone who had attended vet school.”

Ashley Tait, a sophomore in CANR, echoed these sentiments, saying that she was “amazed at how many options there were besides being a large and small animal veterinarian. Joining the military, working in public health fields, or working for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), all encompass jobs with veterinarians.” She also added that Pokras made it clear that if you do not get accepted into veterinary school right away, to keep applying yourself and to not give up. “Become more experienced and diversify yourself, until you are accepted and make your dreams come true.”

Article by Adam Thomas


Lasher Fellowship for Graduate Students

November 2, 2012 under CANR News

The family of Dr. Hiram Lasher—a pioneer in poultry vaccine research, development, and commercialization, and a generous benefactor of the University of Delaware—has announced the establishment of the Hiram Lasher Fellowship Award at the University of Delaware.

“We are honored that Dr. Lasher’s family has established the Hiram Lasher Fellowship award to benefit graduate students pursuing studies in poultry health at UD,” says Jack Gelb, professor and chair of animal and food sciences, and the director of the Avian Biosciences Center at UD. “Dr. Lasher directly influenced many, many people from all walks of life directly through his support, his knowledge and generosity.  It is fitting that Dr. Lasher’s family has established this fellowship so that his legacy can live on.”

The family’s announcement of the scholarship is available on

Dr. Lasher, 92, died Oct. 7 after a short illness. In 1997, the University dedicated the Lasher Laboratory in Dr. Lasher’s honor in Georgetown, Del. The laboratory, formerly owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was transferred to UD when the USDA decided to close it. A $250,000 gift from Dr. Lasher allowed the University to update and renovate the lab.

In 2008, Dr. Lasher was awarded the University of Delaware Medal of Distinction. Robin Morgan, then dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, read a citation that noted his importance to the poultry industry worldwide and also noted his extraordinary contributions in Delaware to education, youth development and public service. “Hiram Lasher is a scientist, businessman, public servant, educational advocate and philanthropist who contributed significantly to the lives of many Delawareans.,” she said.

Donations to the Hiram Lasher Fellowship Award should be directed to the attention of Robert Rudd, University of Delaware, Office of University Development, 83 E Main St., Newark, DE 19716-0701 with a notation that the donation is to be assigned to the Lasher Fellowship. Alternatively, donations may be made online on the University of Delaware’s Giving webpage.    Please enter “Lasher Fellowship” in the “Other” box on the web form.


High school students explore College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

October 22, 2012 under CANR News

High school students interested in studying food science, plant and soil science and poultry science at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) had a chance to take a closer look at those fields on Friday, Oct. 12, as part of the college’s Exploration Day.

The day started with a continental breakfast in the Townsend Hall Commons followed by a reception at which professors from the departments welcomed the students to the college.

Among those were Blake Meyers, the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences and chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and Jack Gelb, professor and chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Meyers talked about the diverse areas of expertise in the plant and soil sciences department, with professors working in areas ranging from horticulture to landscape design to sequencing plant DNA. “It’s a remarkable department for the range of expertise that we have and we have wonderful student to faculty ratios,” said Meyers. “We have a relatively small undergraduate program, and a larger graduate program in some respects, so that really affords a lot of opportunities for one on one interactions between students and faculty and a lot of research opportunities, and of course a lot of those opportunities lead to internships and lead to jobs later on.”

Gelb spoke to the parents and students about the plethora of job opportunities available to them in the agriculture and natural resources field. “Colleges of agriculture and natural resources generally graduate 30,000 students a year across this nation but really, we need about 50,000 to 60,000,”said Gelb. “There are many job opportunities, so I think this is good news for the parents and the students alike, especially when you’re making a big commitment for that college education.”

After a presentation on admissions and scholarships by Heidi Mulherin, UD admissions counselor, the students divided into three groups — one for students interested in food science, one for plant science and one for poultry science.

The food science students got to visit the UDairy Creamery in the morning, where they tried their hand at making ice cream and participated in an ice cream taste test. In the afternoon, they had lessons on topics such as food packaging and investigating a foodborne illness outbreak.

The plant and soil science students learned about suburban landscaping with Sue Barton, associate professor of plant and soil science; toured the Fischer Greenhouse and the UD Botanic Gardens with David Frey, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences; and explored a plant cell with Janine Sherrier, professor of plant and soil sciences at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

As for the poultry science students, they had a chance to tour the Allen Laboratory in the morning, and in the afternoon, they learned about avian histopathology for disease diagnosis from Erin Brannick, assistant professor of animal and food sciences and director of the CANR Comparative Pathology Laboratory, and investigated a foodborne illness outbreak with Kali Kniel, associate professor of animal and food sciences.

The three groups had lunch together in the Townsend Hall Commons before breaking off for panel discussions with current UD students and alumni from their respective areas of interest.

Latoya Watson, academic adviser at CANR, said of the event, “Exploration Day is designed to introduce high school students to some of our science-based majors in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Students participate in hands-on activities so that they can get a better understanding of their majors of interest. For example, depending on the track students choose, ‘student explorers’ may find themselves touring our Biosafety Level 3 avian research facility, performing activities that simulate a foodborne illness outbreak or even traveling inside plant cells by using some of the most high tech microscopes. These are unique experiences that we hope give them more insight into their intended fields of study.”

Patrick McDonough, a student interested in plant science who manages his own vegetable garden at his home in New Jersey, said that he was looking forward to touring the Fischer Greenhouse.

Caroline Coffee was one of the students who participated in Exploration Day, and she said that she enjoyed touring the Allen Laboratory and getting to see the chickens. “I’ve never held a chicken before and never worked with chickens,” said Coffee. “That was just a really cool experience for me.”

Coffee, who is interested in studying veterinary medicine, said that she also enjoyed learning more about virology and getting to tour the CANR facilities. “The facilities are definitely impressive and if I decided to go here and get accepted, knowing what I would have as far as the hands-on things and the opportunities for my education was really cool.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Nov: Equine Behavior Short Course

October 9, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

The University of Delaware Cooperative Extension is excited to offer a three-night educational series this fall on topics related to equine behavior. All three sessions will be held at the Paradee Center, Kent County Extension Office in Dover, Delaware from 6:30-8:30 pm. A registration fee and advanced registration will be required. Light refreshments and take-home materials will be included as part of the registration fee.

Night 1 on Monday, November 5 will focus around the theme of “Foundations of Equine Behavior” and will cover topics such as anatomy and physiology, the workings of the equine brain, normal or natural equine behavior and learning terminology and how horses learn.

Night 2 on Wednesday, November 7 will focus around the theme of “Handling Behavior Problems” and will cover topics such as stereotypies and dealing with common equine behavior issues. This evening will feature a special guest lecturer, Dr. Sue McDonnell from the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center, a nationally known researcher and speaker on equine behaviors.

Night 3 on Wednesday, November 14 will focus around the theme of “Working Effectively with Equine Behavior” and will cover topics such as positive versus negative reinforcement, a review of current training approaches and common equine welfare concerns.

Interested individuals may attend just one or all three of the sessions. For more information please contact Susan Garey at (302) 730-4000 or Dr. Carissa Wickens at

For additional information and to register for this program, please visit the UD Cooperative Extension Equine Blog at

If you have special needs that need to be accommodated, please contact the office two weeks prior to the event.

Cooperative Extension Education in Agriculture and Home Economics, University of Delaware, Delaware State University and the United States Department of Agriculture cooperating. Distributed in furtherance of Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, Delaware Cooperative Extension, University of Delaware. It is the policy of the Delaware Cooperative Extension System that no person shall be subjected to discrimination on the grounds of race, color, sex, disability, age or national origin.


Gelb Receives Poultry Research Award

August 21, 2012 under CANR News

Jack Gelb, Jr., chair of the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, was awarded The Bruce W. Calnek Applied Poultry 
Research Achievement Award at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP). The award is presented annually by the AAAP to an individual in recognition of their outstanding research contributions resulting 
in a measurable and practical impact on the control of important diseases of poultry.

Gelb was honored for his work related to the control avian infectious bronchitis virus, an important respiratory disease of chickens.

The Bruce W. Calnek Applied Poultry Research Achievement Award was first presented in 2004 as a result of a gift from 
Bruce Calnek of Cornell University.


Emergency Poultry Disease Response workshop considers biosecurity, rapid response

June 26, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware hosted its fourth annual Emergency Poultry Disease Response (EPDR) certificate program June 18-21. The workshop, which was held on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) campus, was aimed at teaching both local and international participants about preparedness planning, biosecurity and assessment, and rapid response techniques and technology with regard to avian disease outbreaks.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Avian Influenza Coordinated Agriculture Project 2, this year’s workshop included participants from all over the globe. Thirteen countries were represented, including Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, Bolivia, Mexico and Japan.

U.S. Sen. Chris Coons spoke at the opening of the event, talking about the importance of having strong measures in place to curb any avian disease outbreaks and praising UD for its role in helping educate local and international audiences on the topic.

“I am thrilled that the University of Delaware continues to sponsor and support this unique program,” Coons said. “As we’ve learned, avian influenza and other challenges to poultry health and poultry management are truly global. They spread quickly, they spread globally and they present a threat to all of us.”

Coons talked about the importance of collaboration, saying there are important technical aspects in the management of modern poultry flocks that can and should be shared. “My hope is that you will go home having had a great four-day experience and saying to folks, ‘You ought to sign up, because this was an amazing experience,’ and then sharing ideas about how we can continue to strengthen and broaden a global community that is committed to feeding the many, many people who need what poultry brings.

“I just want to thank the University of Delaware for hosting this and for having such a positive global orientation, and for [their] national leadership role in making sure that we’re all able to deliver a secure poultry future,” Coons said.

Eric Benson, associate professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences (ANFS), explained that the course came about during international efforts in Romania and Bulgaria and that it is adjusted every year based on changes in avian disease understanding.

Benson said feedback from past participants in the course has been positive, with many saying it “really helped them to make changes” in their understanding of the subject.

George Irvine, of UD’s Division of Professional and Continuing Studies, explained to the participants that they will soon be joining a group of poultry and veterinary professionals from across the world who are alumni of the program, and that they will need to “engage now, but engage also with each other later, because we can only work together on these problems, which are global. Disease doesn’t define borders, it steps right across them.”

During the intensive four-day workshop, participants received instruction from UD faculty members on things such as influenza viruses and detection, hands on surveillance swabbing and learned about equipment disinfection.

The workshop wrapped up on Thursday, June 21, with Robin Morgan, dean of CANR, and Jack Gelb, chair of ANFS, handing out certificates to the participants, signifying that they had completed the course and that they are now official alumni of the EPDR program.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.



CANR announces 2012 Benton graduate student award winners

June 25, 2012 under CANR News

The University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced the winners of the 2012 William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards. The 2012 recipients are Rachael Vaicunas, Jixian Zhai and Kirsten Hirneisen.

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).

Rachael Vaicunas

Vaicunas received her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the Department of Bioresources Engineering, and she said that studying in the department “was a great experience because it provided me with valuable skills that will be useful for my future as an engineer.”

She is researching water quality throughout the state of Delaware, specifically looking at “concentrations of hormones and antibiotics in surface waters across the state and how different land uses affect water quality.”

Vaicunas said that receiving the Benton Award has made her “feel like I brought value to the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.” She also wanted to acknowledge her graduate adviser, Shreeram Inamdar, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (PLSC), as she called him “a great mentor and motivator throughout my time at UD.”

Jixian Zhai

Zhai, a doctoral student in CANR, said his research focuses on understanding the roles of small RNA molecules in plant development and disease resistance. He conducts his research by utilizing high throughput sequencing technology, studying the small RNA molecules in a variety of plant species.

Zhai said that he is “really honored to receive this award and very grateful to the donors who always support graduate research in CANR. I believe this is an important step in my career and I am deeply motivated to live up to the expectation of this prestigious award.”

Zhai called his adviser, Blake Meyers, Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences and chair of the department, an “extraordinary adviser” and he wanted to thank Meyers for “all the guidance as well as the freedom that he gave me on my research.”

Kirsten Hirneisen

Hirneisen, also a doctoral student in CANR, said that receiving the Benton Award is “a great honor. Past recipients have been wonderful students and great scientists and it’s a wonderful feeling to be associated with them through this award.”

Hirneisen’s area of research is microbial food safety and she said that she enjoys working in the field because it encompasses many different areas. “As a food safety microbiologist; I get to be involved in all these areas to control hazards from the field to fork.”

Her doctoral research focuses on “the enteric viruses, including Hepatitis A Virus and human noroviruses, and their interactions with fresh produce in a field environment. The impacts of my research helps assess the risk of human pathogen contamination of produce and aids in the development of strategies to ensure a safe food supply.”

Hirneisen said that her adviser Kali Kniel, associate professor of ANFS, has been “a wonderful mentor to me and a great role model.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily



UD’s Schmidt studies genome of crocodile family in evolution research

June 14, 2012 under CANR News

University of Delaware scientist Carl Schmidt is working to identify genes in crocodiles, alligators and gharials as he searches for links between the creatures that could give clues as to how they evolved over the years in relation to one another.

Schmidt’s effort is part of a National Science Foundation-funded project being conducted by a team of researchers assembled by David Ray, an evolutionary biologist at Mississippi State University.

Schmidt, a professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), explained that his role in the study is to receive DNA sequences from researchers who collect samples from the three species.

Instead of trekking through the wetlands tracking down alligators, crocodiles and gharials — a crocodilian native to the Indian subcontinent — Schmidt is conducting all of his research on dry land in the safe confines of CANR’s Charles C. Allen Laboratory, with much of the DNA sequencing being done at the Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI). “They don’t let me chase the crocodiles,” he joked.

Along with Colin Kern, a UD doctoral student in the College of Engineering, Schmidt receives the DNA sequences and then uses different informatics approaches to identify the genes.

By identifying the genes that are commonly found in the DNA of the three creatures, Schmidt said that the researchers are able to predict where the genomic changes may have taken place.

This is particularly important when it comes to the gharial, which is an endangered species whose total world wide population numbers in the hundreds. “One of the things that I think is still a little unclear is the relationship of the gharials to the other crocodilians,” said Schmidt. “So one of the things we’re trying to tease out is the actual relationship between the gharials and the crocodiles.”

Because the gharial is so scarce, researchers have only been able to collect blood samples from the creature. In the case of the other two species, scientists have a variety of tissue samples, which allows for a broader array of DNA to be studied.

Despite the lack of tissue samples, the researchers are still confident that they will be able to discover the genomic changes, which in turn could lead to better conservation efforts to help the gharials avoid extinction.

Birds as Relatives

Schmidt’s work will eventually dovetail with a study being headed by Erich Jarvis, associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University Medical Center, and Mississippi State’s Ray that focuses on the genetic evolution of the closest living relative of the crocodilian family — birds.

Of the relationship between birds and crocodiles, Schmidt said, “It goes back to evolution in terms of crocodiles appearing to be the closest existing relatives of the birds, and the birds being modern dinosaurs, basically.”

Schmidt said that he is interested to see what genes are shared between birds and crocodiles, and which ones are unique to each creature — such as feathers for the birds — and he is hoping that they will be able to tie the results from the two studies together.

“A lot of it relates to how evolution has affected these two different lines of animals that share a fairly recent common ancestor,” Schmidt said, adding, “One of the things that I’m curious to find out is what the genome of that common ancestor looked like.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily