Department of Plant and Soil Sciences cultivates next leaders

November 28, 2011 under CANR News

University of Delaware-trained plant and soil scientists continue to build on the institution’s stellar reputation, with six winning recent national honors.

One graduate student and five graduate alumni of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) were presented awards by the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) and the American Society of Agronomy (ASA) at the national meetings of the societies in San Antonio, Texas.

Honorees are alumni Josh McGrath, Chad Penn and Amy Shober, who were advised by Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean and T.A. Baker Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry; Daniel Strawn and Kirk Scheckel, who were advised by Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Professor of Soil and Environmental Chemistry and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute; and Sudarshan Dutta, who recently completed his doctorate under the direction of Shreeram Inamdar, associate professor of plant and soil sciences.

Josh McGrath, a distinguished young CANR alumnus who earned his doctorate degree in plant and soil sciences in 2004, received the SSSA S6 Young Scholar Award, which recognizes young scientists who have made an outstanding contribution in Soil and Water Management and Conservation within seven years of completing their Ph.D.

McGrath is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, and his research interests include nutrient management and environmental sustainability. McGrath leads an active research and extension program aimed at providing science-based, reliable and cutting-edge information in the arena of agricultural nutrient management, nutrient use efficiency, non-point source nutrient pollution and water quality protection.

In just a few short years, McGrath’s work has become widely recognized for its impact on sustaining agricultural productivity and improving environmental quality in the mid-Atlantic region.

Chad Penn, who earned his master’s degree in 2001, received the SSSA S-11 Young Investigator Award, which recognizes worthy professionals who have made an outstanding contribution in soils and environmental quality research within seven years of completing their terminal degree. The award comes with a certificate of recognition and $500.

Penn has worked at Oklahoma State University since 2005 as an assistant professor of soil and environmental chemistry. His current research is focused on water quality, the re-use of industrial by-products in agriculture and for environmental protection, nutrient and animal waste management, transport of phosphorus to surface waters, and thermodynamics of sorption and other soil chemical processes via isothermal titration calorimetry.

Amy Shober, who received her doctorate in plant and soil sciences from UD in 2006, won the ASA Environmental Quality Section Inspiring Young Scientist Award, which is awarded to professionals who have made an outstanding contribution toward sustaining agriculture through environmental quality research, teaching, extension or industry activity within seven years of completing their terminal degree.

Shober works as an assistant professor of landscape soil and nutrient management in the Soil and Water Science Department at the University of Florida. Her research and Cooperative Extension appointments focus on nutrient management in Florida’s urban landscapes.

Daniel Strawn, who received his doctorate from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences in 1999, received the Marion L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Science Award. Strawn is a professor of soil chemistry at the University of Idaho and his program focuses on research and teaching of soil chemistry and mineralogy with a special emphasis on the discovery of chemical and mineral speciation in soils. He is an associate editor for the Soil Science Society of America Journal.

Strawn joins a long list of UD plant and soil sciences graduates who have received the Marion L. and Chrystie M. Jackson award. Sparks was the first recipient of the award in 1991 and since then five graduates of the department have received the distinguished award.

Kirk Scheckel, who received his doctorate from UD in 2000 and won the Marion L. and Chrystie M. Jackson award in 2010, was named a fellow of the ASA and SSSA.

Scheckel is a research soil scientist in the National Risk Management Research Laboratory of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. He is an adjunct faculty member at Ohio State University and his research focuses on element speciation in soils, sediments and water to elucidate reaction mechanisms that influence fate in the natural environment. He served as associate editor for the Journal of Environmental Quality and as chair of S-11, a division of SSSA. He is active in SSSA, ASA and the American Chemical Society.

Sudarshan Dutta, who recently completed his doctorate in the department, was awarded the SSSA S-11 Soil and Environmental Quality Graduate Student Award.

Dutta received a certificate and $500 for his achievement, and impressed the award committee with his research record and the contributions he has made in the area of soil and environmental quality.

Sparks said of the awards and what they mean to the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, “They’re just a testament to the quality of our graduate studies programs and the training the students get. It also indicates the reputation the University’s programs have built — people recognize that those who come out of these programs are really first rate. Over the years we’ve developed a strong program in soil science that is recognized nationally and internationally.”

Part of this strength, according to Sparks, is derived from the ability to attract outstanding students to the graduate program. “You attract good students and then you give them a fair amount of freedom,” he said. “It is a combination of having bright students working on significant research problems, and giving them the flexibility and the freedom to pursue knowledge.”

Sparks also pointed out the outstanding equipment, facilities, grant support and faculty members who have been “good role models and mentors for these students.”

Sims said of the awards, “We’re very proud of the accomplishments of the graduates of our soil science program. It’s rewarding to see so many of our former graduate students become very successful faculty at top-ranked universities and to have their successes recognized by these prestigious awards. Their research and extension programs are cutting-edge and address some of the most important areas we face today as we to ensure a safe and secure food supply for more than 7 billion people worldwide and protect our environment for future generations.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily > >

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UD Extension Professionals Honored at National Conference

November 14, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Four University of Delaware Cooperative Extension professionals were recognized at the National Extension Association for Family and Consumer Sciences conference, which was held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, earlier this fall.

Kathleen Splane receiving the National Early Childhood Childcare Training Award from the NEAFCS 2011 President Marsha Lockard

Kathleen Splane received the National Early Childhood Child Care Training Award and an editing team consisting of Maria Pippidis, Margo McDonough and Sandy Peralta received an Eastern Region Newsletter Communication Award.

Splane is Extension’s family and consumer science educator for Kent County. The child care training award recognizes Splane’s innovative online program, “Healthy Habits, Healthy Start.” Splane received funding from the state Division of Public Health for the program, which is designed for providers throughout the state who serve preschoolers. Some curriculum content was provided by Nemours Health & Prevention Services.

“There is a critical need for training materials about childhood nutrition and exercise,” says Splane. “Delaware has a very high percentage of children who are obese or overweight. In a state by state ranking, we rank 16th highest. Child care providers, in conjunction with parents, can play an important role in giving young children a healthy start.”

The Extension editing team, led by Maria Pippidis, was recognized for Two Cent Tips for Delaware, an email newsletter that focuses on consumer money management skills. Recent issues have covered such topics as retirement planning, getting along and saving money in multigenerational households, reducing the cost of holiday travel, and helping teenagers and young adults become credit savvy. Pippidis is the director of the New Castle County Cooperative Extension office, Peralta is an administrative assistant in that office and McDonough is a UD communications specialist.

Maria Pippidis receiving the Eastern Region Newsletter Communication Award from the NEAFCS Eastern Regional Director Theresa Mayhew

To learn more about “Healthy Habits, Healthy Start,” contact Splane at ksplane@udel.ed or 302-731-4000. To subscribe to Two Cent Tips for Delaware, send an email to TwoCentTips@udel.edu.

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Barber awarded honorary FFA Degree

November 1, 2011 under CANR News

Patricia Barber, associate professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, was awarded an Honorary American FFA Degree at the 84th National FFA Convention that took place in Indianapolis from Oct. 19-22.

The award is given to those who advance agricultural education and FFA, formerly Future Farmers of America, through outstanding personal commitment. All recipients will receive a certificate and medal and their names will be permanently recorded.

In a release accompanying the announcement of her honorary degree, Barber was cited as having a huge influence on the training of current agricultural teachers in Delaware and other states. The assistance that she has provided to the Delaware FFA through acting as a judge and through hosting state and national officer visits during her time at UD was also highlighted.

Always wanting to help make her students better teachers, the release states that her students consider her much more than a teacher. “They consider her a mentor and someone they can call on outside the classroom. Many continue to call on Pat as they begin their teaching careers. Her easy manner, upbeat, and caring attitude have helped many a beginning teacher get through that first year. Many stay in touch with her as they get married and begin their own families. This is a testament as to how much she cares for students.”

The National FFA Organization works to enhance the lives of youth through agricultural education. Without the efforts of highly dedicated individuals, thousands of young people would not be able to achieve success that, in turn, contributes directly to the overall wellbeing of the national organization. The Honorary American FFA Degree is an opportunity to recognize those who have gone beyond the valuable daily contributions to make an extraordinary long-term difference in the lives of students, inspiring confidence in a new generation of agriculturists.

The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 523,309 student members—all preparing for leadership and careers in the science, business, and technology of agriculture—as part of 7,487 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The National FFA Organization changed to its present name in 1988, in recognition of the growth and diversity of agriculture and agricultural education. The 84th National FFA Convention drew over 50,000 FFA members, advisors, and guests from across the country. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth, and career success through agricultural education. Visit www.ffa.org for more information.

Members of the National FFA Board of Directors approved the nomination.

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CANR Students Honored

November 1, 2011 under CANR News

CANR students were among those honored at the UD Office of Equity and Inclusion‘s annual Women of Promise dinner and Students of Distinction Awards Breakfast.

Kasia Dinekloo (PLSC), Laruen Stewart-Brown (ANR), and Shanetta Walker (ANS) were named Undergraduate Women of Promise.  Kun Huang was named a Graduate Student Woman of Promise.  They join more than 100 other UD women students, nominated by UD faculty as exceptional students.

Shani Craighead (PVAB) was named an African American Student of Distinction and Kyle McCormick (PVAB) was named a Latino Student of Distinction. Students were honored based on a grade point average of 3.6 or higher.

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Master Gardeners Win International Award

October 24, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Gail Hermenau, New Castle County Master Gardener, of Middletown, Delaware, accepts the Search for Excellence Award at the International Master Gardener Conference on behalf of the entire organization.

Three University of Delaware New Castle County Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners—Suzanne Baron (of Middletown), Gail Hermenau (also of Middletown), and Eva Rotmann-Oehler (of North Wilmington)—and Horticulture Educator and Master Gardener Coordinator, Carrie Murphy, attended the International Master Gardener Conference in Charleston, West Virginia, October 11 – 14, 2011. During the conference, Gail Hermenau accepted the 2011 International Search for Excellence Award presented to the Master Gardeners for their small scale Grow your own Food themed home gardener workshops, demonstrations, and tours in the teaching gardens.

In 2009 and 2010, the New Castle County Master Gardeners responded to community need for information on how to grow your own food.  Master Gardeners worked together with their coordinator to develop opportunities that responded directly to this need.  The topics that Master Gardeners developed as part of their workshops and demonstrations included site and soil preparation, composting, plant selection, seeds and transplants, tips for growing vegetables, companion planting, beneficial insects, integrated pest management (IPM), fall gardening, harvest to table, growing berries, and putting your garden to bed.  In total, there were more than 20 events focused on the Grow your own Food theme, educating more than 300 community members.

This is the third Search for Excellence Award presented to the New Castle County Master Gardeners at the International Master Gardener Conference in just four years.

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Cooperative Extension Annual Conference

October 19, 2011 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Cooperative Extension professionals from University of Delaware and Delaware State University met on Tues. Oct. 18, for their annual conference in Dover, to celebrate their unique partnership and excellence in Extension outreach programing that serves Delaware’s families and agricultural constituents.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Linda Kay Benning, executive director of Northeast Cooperative Extension Director and associate director for Extension and Outreach at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, located in Washington, D.C. Benning remarked on Extension’s rich history, the value of its current programming and the future of Extension funding at regional and national levels in the 21st century. Benning addressed the importance in raising awareness of the diverse programming that Cooperative Extension delivers to families, farmers, businesses and industry.

In recognition of Delaware’s Extension contribution the past year, the 2011 Cooperative Extension Awards of Excellence were announced:

Integration of Extension and Research Award:

  • Gordon Johnson, Maggie Moor-Orth, Richard Taylor, Phillip Sylvester, Rose Ogutu, Brigid McCrea, Megan, John Clendaniel, Dahlia O’Brien, Mike Wasylkowski, Lakhe Paudel, and Joann Walston.

Positively Outrageous Service Award for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Individual:

  • Carol Scott – 4-H Educator Afterschool program “Moving Youth Ahead.”
  • Mary Argo – 4-H Educator in Sussex County.

Positively Outrageous Service Award for Innovative Marketing of Extension – Team:

  • Tracy Wootten, Maggi Moor-Orth, and Sussex County Master Gardeners:  Brent Marsh, Jessica Clark, Jane Casazza, Susan Trone, Tracy Mulvaney, Mary Perkins, Mary Noel, Mary Hall, Marge Lewis and Linda Peters for:  “Peter Rabbit’s Adventure in Farmer McGregor’s Vegetable Garden,” a mobile theatrical presentation for children.

Outstanding Programming Award:

  • Tracy Wootten, Laurie Wolinski, and Maria Pippidis – for “Annie’s Project” which supports and empowers women in agriculture.
  • Maggie Moor-Orth, Tracy Wootten, and Brian Kunkel – “How Do You Like Me Now – Insects and Their Damage” and;
  • Gordon Johnson, Maria Pippidis, Kathleen Splane, Phillip Sylvester, Anne Camasso, Tracy Wootten, and Cory Whaley – “Food Safety on the Farm”
  • Karen Johnston, Michelle Ernst, and Amelia Uffelman – “4-H Health Rocks Program – Youth tobacco prevention program.”
  • Bill McGowan, “The Resourceful Leader”-Community development and economic gardening initiative.

Recipients of the Director’s Spirit of Extension Awards: Ernesto López, Rhonda Martell, Kathleen Splane and Albert Essel.

Epsilon Sigma Phi (ESP) the association of Extension professionals presented the following awards:

  • Adult Outstanding Volunteer Award- Hetty Francke.
  • Youth Outstanding Volunteer Award- Terra Tatman.
  • Group Outstanding Volunteer Award- Emerson Farms.
  • Friend of Extension- Agilent Technologies.
  • Meritorious Support Service Award- Sharon Webb.

Delaware State University recognized two Extension professionals:

  • Bridget McCrea – “1890 Administrator’s Award” for Extension Agriculture and Youth. Development.
  • Andy Wetherhill – “1890 Administrator’s Award for Diversity” in Agricultural Extension programs.

Earlier in the morning, the conference’s 100 attendees separated into agriculture, family and consumer science and 4-H youth development groups and discussed initiatives and exchanged new ideas on how to effectively reach their constituents’ future needs.

The ag group focused on how to enhance an $8 billion agriculture industry given current economic challenges.  Items of note included the ability to understand and anticipate the needs of the ag community, the capacity to engage those needs in a timely fashion and development and implementation of a strategy that creates an understanding and support for the value of Cooperative Extension.

Family and consumer science and EFNEP agents discussed what they see as emerging issues in nutrition, food safety, financial management and family well-being and how best to effectively communicate revised guidelines and research to local constituencies.

Through their diverse programming, 4-H reaffirmed that effective outreach to Delaware’s youth must rest on eight principles: a positive relationship with a caring adult, a safe emotional and physical environment, an inclusive environment, engagement in learning, opportunity for mastery, opportunity to see oneself as an active participant in the future, opportunity for self-determination and opportunity to value and practice service to others.

Tuesday’s gathering marked the last Extension Conference under the tenure of UD Associate Dean and Director of Cooperative Extension, Janice Seitz, who is retiring in April 2012. The ninth conference however, will not be Seitz’s last. In 2003, Seitz established the Lighthouse Award as a special honor bestowed to an Extension professional who “lights the way for others.” Each year, the holder of the Extension beacon has the responsibility to pass the award onto a deserving colleague. Doug Crouse, 2010 recipient, carefully considered his many options but concluded on one obvious choice, Dr. Jan Seitz, the founder of the award.

The award assures Seitz’s continued involvement in outreach programming and a return to next year’s conference to once again confer the award. But Seitz’s future participation was never in any doubt.  Though stepping out of her leadership role, Seitz plans to lend support and resources whenever needed.   “This is the greatest job I have ever had,” Seitz said. “I love Extension so much.”

Images of the conference are available on the UD Carvel Research and Education Center Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com/photos/carvel/sets/72157627800614733/

Article submitted by Michele Walfred.

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Nominations for 2012 Worrilow Award

September 21, 2011 under CANR News

Given in honor of the dean of the college from 1954 to 1965, the George M. Worrilow award recognizes a CANR alumnus who has made significant contributions professionally in an agriculture related field. Past honorees include producers, educators, and industry leaders. Three finalists are nominated for the award by a committee consisting of past award winners, and the Ag Alumni Board of Directors chooses one recipient annually.

Nominations are requested at this time. Please complete this nomination form (WorrilowAwardNominationForm) and provide a current resume or CV of the nominee to Maria Pautler at mpautler@udel.edu or UD/PLSC, 152 Townsend Hall, Newark, DE 19716-2170 by Wednesday, October 5, 2011. Please feel free to email Maria with any questions.

The award will be presented at the Friends of Ag Breakfast in January 2012.

A list of past Worrilow Award recipients is available on the Ag Alumni website.

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PLSC doctoral student receives prestigious scholarship

September 9, 2011 under CANR News

Josh LeMonte, a first-year doctoral student in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciencesat the University of Delaware, has been awarded a prestigious Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship.

The SMART Scholarship for Service Program, part of the National Defense Education Program of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and administered by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the Naval Postgraduate School, provides opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students to pursue degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and be gainfully employed upon graduation.

LeMonte, who arrived at UD in May to work in the lab of Donald L. Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair of Soil and Environmental Chemistry, says his research is still in its infancy.

“So far, I’ve been doing a lot of literature review. I’ll be trying to fit together Dr. Sparks’ expertise with Dr. Chappell’s needs, and he needs someone who can work on the organic-metal interface in soils,” LeMonte said. “So right now I am planning on doing research focused on the role of manganese in the carbon cycle.”

This work will make LeMonte an active member of the Christina River Basin Critical Zone Observatory research team, which is examining human impacts on the movement of carbon atoms through the watershed ecosystem. It will also require him to travel occasionally to national laboratories to use the synchrotron spectroscopy instrumentation available there.

“We are very fortunate to have Josh join our research group,” said Sparks. “He is an extremely capable student and researcher, and I’m really looking forward to his contributions to knowledge in this field.”

Article by Beth Chajes and reproduced here with permission

For the full original article please visit UDaily.

Photo by Ambre Alexander

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Undergraduate Research

August 12, 2011 under CANR News

Undergraduate researchers were busy at the University of Delaware this summer, and the results of their research were on display during the second annual Undergraduate Research and Service Celebratory Symposium, held Wednesday, Aug. 10, in Clayton Hall.

Representing every UD college and discipline, some 330 undergraduate research and service scholars and visiting scholars participated. The event featured 243 poster presentations and 87 oral presentations.

CANR student Matthew Fischel won first place in the first-ever Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Research in Sustainability Prize.  His topic of study was “Kinetics of Arsenite Exodation by Manganese Oxide Minerals:  Importance for Water Quality and Environmental Sustainability”, and his faculty sponsor was Don Sparks.

For the full UDaily article click here.

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CANR alumni honored on UD Wall of Fame

June 20, 2011 under CANR News, Events

At the Alumni Wall of Fame induction ceremony are (seated, from left) Patricia Orris Robertson, Rita Mariani Landgraf, Nancy Karibjanian and Suzanne McMahon Sears; and (standing, from left) Alumni Association President Alan Brayman, Edgar N. Johnson Jr., Theresa Catherine Adams Masek, who spoke on behalf of her late father Leon W. Adams Sr., Douglas Blonsky and UD President Patrick T. Harker. Not present were John E. Eckerson, James H. Miller and John W. Morgan III.

Two CANR alumni were among ten University of Delaware alumni who were honored for their exceptional achievements by being inducted into the Alumni Wall of Fame in a ceremony on June 4, 2011 as part of Alumni Weekend festivities. Leon W. Adams Sr. earned his bachelor’s degree in agriculture in 1941. After serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps, he returned to Delaware, eventually opening an insurance agency in Newark. In 1986, he earned the industry’s highest honor, “Agent of the Year” by the Travelers Insurance. He was a lifelong supporter of the University and Blue Hen football. Mr. Adams died in 2009. Douglas Blonsky earned his bachelor’s degree in plant science from UD in 1981. Since 2004, he has served as president of New York City’s Central Park Conservancy, with official oversight of the park’s day-to-day operations and maintenance, including $350 million in capital projects. Under his leadership, a number of noteworthy restoration projects have been completed at the park. He serves as host to UD students and faculty visiting Central Park and has returned to campus several times to meet with students.

Learn more about the honorees by reading the full UDaily article posted online.

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