UD students spend winter in Hawaii studying whales

March 17, 2014 under CANR News

Rebecca Moeller spent her winter break in Hawaii studying whalesWhile most Delawareans were inundated with cold and snow this winter, using shovels and plows to get out of their driveways, University of Delaware student Rebecca Moeller was busy working in the warm sunshine with whales in a place known as something of a tropical paradise: Hawaii.

Working in Maui through an internship with the Ocean Mammal Institute, Moeller, a senior majoring in animal science and minoring in wildlife conservation in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said she spent three weeks tracking pods of humpback whales to see what effect boats had on their behavior.

She explained that during four-hour shifts, either from 8 a.m.-noon or 1-5 p.m., she and her team would be stationed on a cliff about a half a mile offshore, or at another location right on the shore, equipped with binoculars and looking for pods of whales.

“We would try to find one pod and then we would keep track of that pod for 20 minutes. Once we had a 20-minute period without a boat near the pod, we would keep track of the behaviors when there was a boat within half a mile, and then again once the boat was out of range for 20 minutes,” explained Moeller.

Tracking behavior wasn’t the only thing Moeller did during her internship, however; she also learned how to use a theodolite — a surveying instrument used to track coordinates — in order to pinpoint the locations where they spotted the pods.

Moeller said that team members would usually work with four or five pods a day and they would do an analysis of the pods at the end of every day.

“We would map them and then record how much down time there was and how many surface behaviors there were,” said Moeller. “Then at the end of the internship, we had to write a research paper using all of the data that we had collected.”

The interns also had to take a three-hour class every night after completing all of their work. So while it’s natural for everyone to hear Hawaii and automatically think of rest and relaxation, Moeller stressed that she spent the majority of her time hard at work.

“We were able to go snorkeling, but that was about the only thing that we had time for. I mean, the condos that we stayed at were right on the beach so we were able to appreciate the beauty of it, but we didn’t get much down time,” said Moeller.

Not that that was a bad thing, especially since she was able to fulfill a lifelong dream. “Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a dolphin trainer. A lot of people have that phase, only I never really grew out of it. I’ve always just really loved marine mammals,” said Moeller.

She added that the internship would also help her after graduation as she enters the career field.

“In my future endeavors I really want to work in conservation biology for marine mammals and this definitely helped push me in that direction because I always knew that I wanted to be involved with dolphins and whales and porpoises,” she said. “Having this experience kind of showed me that conservation biology is definitely the direction that I want to go.”

Moeller was joined on the trip by another UD student, Alessandra Fantuzzi, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


NASA funds UD-led research on carbon dynamics in Mexico

October 8, 2013 under CANR News

Rodrgio Vargas works with NASA on REDD+ activitiesWorking with a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) grant, University of Delaware researcher Rodrigo Vargas is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service and multiple institutions in Mexico to provide information to support implementation of the international program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) by improving forest management, carbon stock enhancement and conservation.

It has been estimated that greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation around the world may contribute up to 20 percent of global emissions. A key REDD+ goal is to make forests more valuable standing than they would be through logging by creating a financial value for carbon that is stored, or sequestered, in vegetation.

Vargas, assistant professor in the College of Agriculture and Natural ResourcesDepartment of Plant and Soil Sciences, is working as the principal investigator on the three-year project with a team that includes members from UD, the U.S. Forest Service, six different Mexican institutions and the National Forestry Commission of Mexico (CONAFOR).

The overarching goal of the project is to analyze carbon stocks and dynamics from ecosystems to the regional-scale to improve a framework for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) to support implementation of REDD+ in Mexican forests.

The project could lead to UD becoming a key research institution on REDD+ initiatives and an important repository of information about carbon dynamics in Mexico to be made available throughout the scientific community.

The work builds on research that Vargas started as an assistant professor at a national research center in Baja California, Mexico, where he worked with scientists to establish the Mexican network of eddy covariance sites (MexFlux). The eddy covariance technique allows measuring the exchange of mass (e.g., carbon dioxide and methane) and energy between terrestrial ecosystems and the atmosphere; in other words it is possible to measure how ecosystems “breathe”.

In that past work, Vargas was able to facilitate collaboration between a network of 11 eddy covariance sites across Mexico in different vegetation types.

“Some of them are in forests and in those specific sites, we want to create intensive monitoring sites in collaboration with the participating institutions,” said Vargas, explaining that those intensive monitoring sites would provide the research team fundamental information of how the forests are growing and breathing.

The research will consider data from NASA satellites, the MexFlux sites, as well as intensive forest inventory plots that CONAFOR has established, for information on MRV of REDD+ activities.

“REDD+ is an initiative for the reduction of emissions by deforestation and degradation and includes conservation and sustainable management of forests and the enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries,” Vargas said, and the MRV models are important as they lend credibility to REDD+ activities concerning forest dynamics and carbon sequestration potential.”

Many nations would be interested in being a part of REDD+ activities so monitoring systems towards credible measurements are critical if they are going to implement the program — which is where the MRV models come in.

Providing important assistance to the project is Richard Birdsey, distinguished scientist with the U.S. Forest Service. Birdsey is a specialist in quantitative methods for large-scale forest inventories and has pioneered the development of methods to estimate national carbon budgets for forest lands from forest inventory data.

“He has led the establishment of several intensive monitoring sites in Mexico and has coordinated a USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) program there which aims to improve monitoring of forests for REDD+ and biodiversity conservation, among other objectives,” Vargas said.

The group will be using capabilities from NASA’s carbon monitoring systems program and Vargas said the agency is very interested to test those capabilities in verifying these specific issues.

IMG_4295The research team will be using information from NASA satellites, which can provide data related to photosynthesis of forests. “Remote sensing platforms provide such information and we can validate and cross-validate those estimates from direct forest measurements and using ecosystem process based models,” Vargas said.

The team will start the research looking at a few specific sites that had already been selected by CONAFOR, and then hope to scale the research to encompass a gradient of forests across Mexico.

Vargas said that the project has a strong collaborative component with scientists across Mexican institutions. “Our collaborators know their sites and are critical partners for day-to-day activities at the study sites. In collaboration with them we will work to produce value-added products and synthesis studies about carbon dynamics across forests in Mexico,” Vargas said.

Working in Mexico provides a great opportunity to look at different types of ecosystems and gradients. Mexico is a mega-diverse country where nearly 40 percent of its territory is covered by forests. The long-term impacts of land use and anthropogenic changes have fragmented and fundamentally transformed the nation’s landscapes, creating a challenge to measure and estimate the carbon sequestration potential of these forests.

“It is a mega-diverse country and highly heterogeneous in terms of climates and ecosystems. If you go to the northern part of Mexico, there you will have arid and semi-arid ecosystems similar to the southwest of the United States — like in Arizona, Texas and southern California,” Vargas said. “But as you move south, then you have coniferous forests, tropical dry forests and tropical wet forests mixed within a matrix of agricultural and urban developments.”

Vargas said that the spatial heterogeneity proves challenging as it pushes the models and the satellite observations to the limit. “We can’t measure everywhere all the time but we can identify some ecosystems and some sites from which we can get intensive information, and from that we hope to upscale to similar sites — specifically in this case to identify potential for REDD+ activities and verify the information retrieved from satellites and predicted by models.”

Because of the wealth of information available, Vargas said the team can “ask very high level questions about carbon dynamics in Mexico. Hopefully with that information we can understand how the systems works with the goal that similar methodologies can be applied in other places. Mexico is a test bed but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be applied in other places, specifically across forest in Latin America for implementation of REDD+ initiatives.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley and courtesy of Rodrigo Vargas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Rodrigo Vargas joins CANR faculty

August 29, 2013 under CANR News

Rodrigo Bargas joins CANR facultyIn October of 2012, Rodrigo Vargas joined the community of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Since joining UD, Vargas has successfully secured over $1 million in grants as a principal investigator supported by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the University of Delaware Research Foundation (UDRF). His research group has active study sites in Baja California, Delaware, and Maryland and collaborates with scientists across the United States, Asia, Europe and Mexico to understand how land ecosystems respond to climate variability, extreme events, and global environmental change.

Working at CANR, he has actively taken on multiple research endeavors. First, supported by a NASA grant, he is testing different approaches to improve a framework for monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) to support implementation of Reduction of Emissions by Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) across a gradient of forests in Mexico. This research involves collaboration with the US Forest Service, the Mexican Forest Service (CONAFOR) and multiple research institutions in Mexico.

Secondly, funded by a USDA grant, he is investigating the effect of extreme climate events on greenhouse gas fluxes in a watershed near UD’s campus by using state-of-the-art instrumentation for continuous measurements of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide fluxes from soils. This research involves collaboration with Shreeram Inamdar, associate professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences.

Lastly, funded by a UDRF grant, he is looking at the size, age, and use of nonstructural carbon reserves (NSC’s) in long-lived plants in the deserts of Baja California, Mexico.  His results are providing insights about the physiological mechanisms of carbohydrate allocation and long-term plant survival in water-limited ecosystems.

“Several plant species in the central desert of Baja California can live for over 400 years under limited water availability and climate variability including decadal droughts,” said Vargas.

Preliminarily results show that new fine roots of desert palms and cactus are produced using “old” NSC reserves that are more than 20 years old. Vargas’ group has also found that the age of NSC reserves inside the plants can have a mean age of over 60 years.

“This means that these plants can store NSC reserves and keep them for a long time and then use them to produce new structures such as fine roots,” said Vargas.

Vargas said he is extremely lucky to have rapidly found friends among the UD community who support him and have made him feel welcome in Newark. His time here has already afforded him the opportunity to be exposed to and apply an array of various research techniques from multiple disciplines such as computer science, micrometeorology, remote sensing, and soil ecology.

Offering a sincere thanks to all of his new friends here at the CANR, he said “I have found amazing colleagues, leaders, and students across UD, and the working atmosphere is excellent to nourish and develop high quality research.”

As an undergraduate, Vargas studied biology in Mexico at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), one of the largest universities in the world with over 350,000 students. It was there that he began his research career, studying nitrogen fixation of microbial mats in a tropical wetland at the Yucatan Peninsula.

He went on to earn a PhD at the University of California-Riverside where his research focused on how extreme events such as fires and hurricanes influenced carbon dynamics in regenerating forests. Through a combination of biometric forest measurements and experimental forest management techniques, he demonstrated the large capability of these forests to store carbon above and below ground.

Vargas also studied the effects of hurricane disturbance on CO2 fluxes within the soil, finding unprecedented rates of CO2 emissions from soil to atmosphere. Lastly, he demonstrated the unexpected capacity of plants to allocate old stored carbon to produce fine roots following a hurricane disturbance. In light of the east coasts’ late experience with Hurricane Sandy, Vargas’ past work shows the implications these weather phenomena’s have on the fate of stored carbon in plants.

In addition to this work, Vargas also worked on a side-project funded by the National Science Foundation studying belowground carbon dynamics in the San Jacinto Mountains of Southern California. This study allowed him to use a wireless network of soil sensors to measure CO2 fluxes and the relations with fine root dynamics.  “One of the most exciting results is that we demonstrated that fast and continuous fine root measurements (daily and sub-daily) are needed to quantify and understand belowground carbon dynamics,” said Vargas.

Following his PhD, Vargas was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California-Berkeley where he interacted with scientists around the world within FLUXNET, the international consortium of eddy covariance scientists.  “My work focused on regional and global synthesis studies on water and CO2 fluxes of terrestrial ecosystems, combining measurements and ecological process-based models,” said Vargas.

Before arriving at UD, Vargas returned to Mexico to work as an assistant research professor at a national research center in Baja California, Mexico (CICESE). Here he led synthesis studies on ocean-to-atmosphere CO2 fluxes while also continuing measurements of water and CO2 fluxes in a shrub land ecosystem in Baja California. His interest in the effects of land use change on such fluxes also led him to coordinate the consolidation of the Mexican eddy covariance network (MexFlux), where his research group is working on a first generation of nationwide synthesis studies.

Article by Angela Carcione


UD graduate Acciacca serves as military veterinarian at Camp Lejeune

August 26, 2013 under CANR News

Rachel Acciacca serves as a military veterinarianBefore enrolling at the University of Delaware, Rachel Acciacca knew that she wanted to accomplish two things in her professional life — serve the nation in the military and become a veterinarian. Once she heard about the Army Veterinary Corps, she knew her path was set.

Acciacca, a Veterinary Corps officer in the U.S. Army, was a UD Honors Program student who studied animal science as a pre-veterinary major in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR). She also minored in biology and completed four years in Army ROTC.

At CANR, Capt. Acciacca served as an Ag Ambassador, was a member of Sigma Alpha and assisted with Ag Day. She was also a member of the women’s ice hockey club team and rode and trained horses and competed in eventing, an equestrian sport that involves dressage, cross-country and show jumping.

After being commissioned as a second lieutenant out of ROTC and receiving an educational delay to postpone her active duty service obligation until after veterinary school, Acciacca earned her doctor of veterinary medicine degree from North Carolina State University in 2011.

Following graduation, she was assigned to the Department of Defense Military Working Dog Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, and after completing her internship she was assigned to her current position as branch chief of Veterinary Services at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C.

As a military veterinarian, she provides around the clock emergency, medical, and surgical support to the military working dogs (MWDs) throughout coastal North Carolina. “I am responsible for ensuring that these MWDs are medically fit for short-notice deployment, and managing their routine preventive care,” said Acciacca. “I am also responsible for managing our veterinary treatment facility, which provides routine veterinary care for service members’ privately owned animals.”

Acciacca said that she also provides veterinary support to the base horse stables and works closely with the installation’s public health and preventive medicine teams on issues such as “disease control, rabies prevention and control, animal control, and epidemiological studies.”

Being an Army veterinarian is not simply limited to taking care of animals, as Acciacca explained there are many facets to the job.

“Military veterinarians need to be prepared to manage and respond to an extremely wide variety of mission requirements, environments and unpredictable situations,” she said. “You may get tasked with developing an agricultural support mission in a developing country, respond to a food-borne disease outbreak in your area of operations, develop casualty evacuation procedures, or respond to a foreign animal disease risk.”

In her role as branch chief at Camp Lejeune, her overall mission is to lead and supervise military and civilian staff.

“I oversee our unit’s training and mission readiness to ensure that all soldiers are competent in the basic soldier skills and their job-specific tasks. Our veterinary services mission here at Camp Lejeune has two main categories — veterinary medical services and public health and veterinary food inspection and quality assurance for the surrounding installations.”

Their food inspection and quality assurance mission involves inspecting all sustenance that is delivered and sold on base to ensure that it is wholesome and safe for the consumers.

While Acciacca has no set day-to-day routine, as each day presents its own unique challenges, she does try to dedicate one day a week to privately owned animal surgeries, two days a week to military working dog medicine and surgery, and a day to handle managerial and branch leadership issues.

The soldiers of Camp Lejeune veterinary services also dedicate one day a week to training to ensure they stay up-to-date on general military skills such as marksmanship, land navigation, leadership skills, and resiliency training.

Experience at UD

Acciacca said she enjoyed her time at UD, and said that CANR helped set her on the road to success. “The close-knit community at CANR was very supportive and encouraging,” she said. “I still remember individual professors who went out of their way to support me and prepare me for veterinary school. Everyone there was always so approachable, and I truly felt that they were dedicated to seeing me succeed.”

For any UD students currently interested in applying to veterinary school after graduation, Acciacca said, “Don’t ever doubt your ability to become a veterinarian — if you want it badly enough, you will make it happen. Work hard, seek out many different types of animal or veterinary-related experience you can, and keep your mind open. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a blast and I wouldn’t trade my job for anything.”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Seniors Kramer and Allen recognized with UDAA’s Taylor, Warner awards

May 9, 2013 under CANR News

Warner/Taylor award winnersUniversity of Delaware seniors Max Logan Kramer and Melanie Allen have been selected as the recipients of the Alexander J. Taylor Sr. and Emalea Pusey Warner awards, respectively, as the outstanding man and woman of the 2013 graduating class.

The awards are given annually by the UD Alumni Association to recognize the senior man and woman who most exemplify leadership, academic success and community service.

Melanie Allen

Warner Award recipient Melanie Allen, of Uniondale, N.Y., is an Honors Program student and double major in wildlife conservation and agriculture and natural resources, with a minor in public policy.

Her areas of academic interest include ecology, conservation biology, wildlife management, community-based conservation and environmental policy.

Allen, who maintains a 3.64 grade point average (GPA), has received more than half a dozen academic awards and distinctions, including Dean’s List, Honors Enrichment Award, U.S. Forest Service Sustainability Fellowship and the African American Student of Distinction.

A member of the Alpha Lambda Delta honor society, Allen has studied abroad in Costa Rica and Ghana, leading community service projects and presenting research findings in those countries, and soon plans to travel to Brazil.

A budding leader in sustainability and conservation, Allen has held many volunteer and leadership roles, including serving as a volunteer for the Center for Environmental Impact Analysis in Ghana.

She has been a leader in UD’s Alternative Spring Break program, in which she led two groups in trail restoration and maintenance in South Carolina and Tennessee, and as a representative for the Green Liaison Committee of the UD Sustainability Task Force. She also was a volunteer intern at the Wildlife Hospital at Caumsett State Historic Park in Lloyd Harbor, N.Y.

Allen also served as an Honors Program Writing Fellow and as an Ag Ambassador for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Kristin Bennighoff, associate director of the UD Honors Program who nominated Allen, said the senior is a first-generation American as well as a first-generation college student. “Just as Mrs. Warner was a leader in education for women at the University of Delaware … Melanie has been a leader utilizing service and research to provide educational outreach both here in the United States and abroad,” Bennighoff said in her nomination letter.

Raymond I. Peters III, coordinator of the Writing Fellows Program, said Allen is a “highly motivated young woman who has already made a difference at the University of Delaware.”

To read about Max Logan Kramer, check out the full article on UDaily.


UD’s Hanson lands internship at Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research

April 16, 2013 under CANR News

UD student Sierra Hanson interns at Tri-State Bird Rescue and ResearchUniversity of Delaware student Sierra Hanson likes to vary her interests each semester and now, having volunteered at and secured a summer internship with Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research, that interest is birds.

Hanson, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said that while last spring she was interested in herpetology — doing a lot of hands-on work in her class with salamanders, snakes and turtles — she is now in full bird mode. “Birds are definitely right up there in my interests, it really just depends on what I’m doing at the moment,” said Hanson.

Volunteering for Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research since last fall, Hanson — who is also an Ag Ambassador, a Blue Hen Ambassador and a founding member of the Entomology Club at UD — said that she is at the Newark center most Saturdays and Sundays from 1-6 p.m. Hanson admits that while she hasn’t “been volunteering there for very long, I still feel like I know my way around because I’ve been there so frequently.”

While on the job, Hanson does a lot of husbandry work, cleaning up cages and scrubbing down equipment, but she also gets to do many activities directly with the birds.

Among the more memorable experiences for Hanson were when she got to handle a red-shouldered hawk, and when she traveled into Pennsylvania to rescue an owl that had lodged itself in the chimney of a house.

“I took all my gear out there and I caught their screech owl. They had made it seem like it was a great horned owl so I was really prepared for this giant monster, and then there’s just like this little tiny owl,” said Hanson. “There was nothing wrong with him but we took him back [to the organization’s center] and made sure he was all good because in a chimney he could have inhaled ash and his whole plumage could have been messed up. We gave him the once over, he was good and I brought him back to that neighborhood that week and released him.”

Hanson was also recently trained as a bird care assistant, so she is now able to tube feed the birds and administer medication to those in need.

Even when she is doing the husbandry work, Hanson said she likes it because she knows “even if I’m only mopping floors one week, I’ve indirectly helped that bird to get back on the wing.”

Her favorite part of the job is when she gets to help release a bird that has been in the rescue center. “We released an eagle in January and that was just really cool to put the eagle down in the field and then watch it fly away,” said Hanson. “It’s kind of bittersweet because you’re like, ‘Oh, I loved you, but now you’re better and you can go and fly and that’s great.’ But I think that’s the best part, just making a difference and making the birds able to go back out into the wild and live their full lives.”

Hanson is also learning her fair share about birds, specifically that old sayings and habits may not always be correct. For instance, Hanson said that the phrase “eats like a bird” is misleading as it implies that birds eat very little when “in reality, birds eat a ton. They have to expend a lot of energy when they’re flying.”

Hanson said that with hatching season right around the corner, usually lasting from late spring to late summer, she will get to see firsthand how much they eat as there will be baby birds who must be fed every 20 minutes.

She also has come to realize through her work that when she and her mother used to feed ducks at the local library, they may not having been helping the ducks as much as they thought. While feeding the ducks was fun she now understands one “should never feed ducks bread because it’s really unhealthy for them.”

The amount of care that goes into an animal rehabilitation center was also eye opening for Hanson. “You just don’t realize the wide variety of foods that the birds eat and then also the different types of care that you have to give them while they’re in human custody and are being rehabilitated.”

She said that it’s not just Tri-State but other rehabilitation centers that need all sorts of help and various donations to keep them going. “A lot of different work and different donations go into these places, so they really do need as much help as we can give them.”

For UD students interested in volunteering, Hanson said that she would recommend it. “I wish I had started when I was a freshman or a sophomore because I’m a junior now and I’m getting a lot of experience. I wish that I had started earlier just so I could be further into the process at this point,” said Hanson.

She noted that the center is only about four miles from the UD main campus, off Possum Park Road near the Paper Mill Road intersection, so students can reach it easily.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


Ag Day to feature interactive exhibits, demonstration, music, food and more

April 10, 2013 under CANR News, Events

AG Day 2013 set for April 27Ag Day, the annual event held by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), is once again fast approaching. Students, faculty and the greater Newark community are encouraged to come out from 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, April 27, for great food, music and, of course, interactive educational exhibits and demonstrations about agriculture and natural resources.

Organized by staff and students of CANR, Ag Day works with more than 90 organizations to bring hands-on exhibits, demonstrations and activities for kids and adults alike. From petting a farm animal or racing cockroaches, to listening to local bands and enjoying the UDairy Creamery’s newest flavors, there is plenty to keep visitors busy all day.

Ag Day will be held at CANR’s Townsend Hall, located at 531 South College Ave. in Newark. Admission and parking are free, with minimal charges for food, crafts, vendor sales and hayrides, with the profits going back to student and community organizations.

Those who attend are encouraged to visit the popular Ag Day plant sales offered by the UD Botanic Gardens, New Castle County Master Gardeners and Horticulture Club.

New this year are an Insect Zoo offered by the UD Entomology Club, horse=drawn wagon rides, a live herpetology display and more demonstrations than ever before. Live demonstrations throughout the day include two free-flight bird demonstrations from Behavior and Training Solutions, tree-climbing demonstrations from Bartlett Tree Services, dairy cow showmanship, sheep shearing, beekeeping, food canning and preservation, Seeing Eye dog demonstrations, gardening tips and more.

Bands performing all include at least one member who works for the college, and include Tater Patch, Dodging Cupid, The Hook and The Essentials.

Visitors are encouraged to use parking lots at UD’s Science and Technology Campus, ice arenas, Delaware Field House and Delaware Stadium, and also to use SEPTA/DART parking lots. Please use cross walks and obey all signs and signals. Those with handicapped tags are encouraged to enter near the Delaware Field House and proceed toward the UDairy Creamery for designated parking.

For the safety of the live animal exhibits, visitors are asked to leave their pets at home.

Ag Day 2013 is made possible through the support of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ag College Council, Delaware Livable Lawns and additional sponsors.

For general information, FAQs, a full list of exhibitors and the day’s music and demonstration schedule, visit the Ag Day website.


University and Herr’s renew commitment

February 22, 2013 under CANR News

The University of Delaware and Herr’s have renewed their commitment, assuring that a longstanding and fruitful relationship will remain strong into the future.

The agreement will see Herr’s products return to the UD campus beginning this spring and includes opportunities for tours of the Herr’s plant and cattle farm for students and faculty in support of the education mission of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Herr's and UD continue their relationshipAlso, the agreement provides for the consideration of qualified CANR students to participate in formal internships at Herr’s; continued support for other UD educational activities, including workshops on topics such as beef cattle quality assurance; participation of Herr’s representatives at UD career fairs, and consideration of qualified UD students for employment opportunities.

Herr’s has been extremely helpful to UD over the years, especially when it comes to CANR, college officials said.

According to Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Herr’s was instrumental in helping equip UD with an Angus cattle herd. In particular, she cited the efforts of Dennis Byrne, manager of Herr Angus Farm and a 1977 UD graduate who was recently named an Ag Distinguished Alumni.

“I came to UD in the late 1980s, and I was tasked with oversight of the beef cattle herd,” said Griffiths. She explained that at the time, UD’s herd consisted of a half-dozen crossbred animals that were not suitable to tell students were representative of beef cattle.

Griffiths looked at various farms, planning to purchase cattle in order to start the new program, and met Byrne. “Through Dennis, Herr’s was very instrumental in providing us with some of our initial breeding stock,” said Griffiths. “So, essentially, the Angus cattle herd at UD was started with the assistance of Dennis Byrne and Herr’s.”

Byrne said he has had great experiences working with CANR and noted that when he returned to campus to receive the Distinguished Alumni Award, he was excited to see both the research being done at CANR and the job opportunities afforded to those who graduate from the college.

“The opportunities that [CANR] is creating for people in that field is really impressive,” Byrne said. “In my opinion, they’re going to continue to be on the cutting edge in the agriculture world.”

In addition to the cattle herd, Herr’s has also helped CANR in other ways. The company, for instance, has a working cattle operation with 1,000 head of Angus that includes a feedlot, something that Griffiths stressed is very rare in the eastern part of the United States.

“Herr’s has a feedlot that is utilizing byproduct feeds from the manufacturing plant. They have very strict environmental standards to follow because they are dealing with not only the waste from the snack food manufacturing but also waste from the cattle operation,” said Griffiths. “So it’s a great place for students to go to look at all of the different things that are in place to deal with the environment and sustainability.”

Daryl Thomas, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Herr’s, explained that the students have also learned about how Herr’s recycles its wastewater, about its irrigation program, how the company utilizes recycled packaging and about its state of the art fuel saving program — the Herr’s plant is equipped with a steam recovery system.

Nutrition and food science classes have also toured the Herr’s plant, and students have participated in workshops. One such workshop, Griffiths pointed out, was a beef quality assurance workshop at which Byrne showed students how to handle beef cattle, using a load of cattle Herr’s had just brought in from Virginia as an example of how to give vaccines and to see what happens in an intake situation with a large number of livestock arriving at a new farm.

But it isn’t just CANR that benefits from the relationship with Herr’s. Thomas explained that he has also been able to give presentations to many business and marketing students, as well.

“I have been a guest lecturer, and I was trying to calculate how long I have lectured for over the years — if it was 100 hours, it wouldn’t be an exaggeration,” said Thomas.

Thomas said that Herr’s is always receptive to doing events with UD, whether it be a company representative speaking at a class, UD students using Herr’s as part of their class projects, or CANR students from touring the Herr’s farm to learn about sustainability practices.

“I would just say that we’ve been really good neighbors,” said Thomas. “We obviously have done business with UD in terms of selling our products on campus and so many of our employees reside in Delaware. We’ve had members of our management team get their master of business administration (MBA) degrees from UD, and we have also provided internships, so it’s the kind of an agreement in which the door is open and the receptivity is very warm.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD Embarks on New Study Abroad to Cambodia, Vietnam

December 18, 2012 under CANR News

January 2013 marks the beginning of an exciting journey for 12 adventurous students at the University of Delaware. In their Winter Study Abroad session, these students will embark on the University’s first expedition to Cambodia and Vietnam. The goal of this 27-day program is to give students the opportunity to explore the rich wildlife and unique history of Cambodia and Vietnam, while at the same time fulfilling two Wildlife Conservation courses: Conservation of Southeast Asian Wildlife and People and Wildlife of Southeast Asia. The students will venture on this journey with an Art study abroad program fulfilling–Indigenous Arts of Southeast Asia and Documentary Photography–led by Jon Cox, assistant professor of art.

The students will be blogging about their experience throughout winter session.

“All of our [conservation] programs have a human component, and look at how humans impact conservation. South East Asia has a long history, dating back much farther than most areas of the world,” says Jacob Bowman, associate professor of wildlife ecology, and one of the faculty members leading the study abroad session.

According to Bowman, these war-torn countries offer students an unusual view on culture and wildlife, as many of the region’s mountainous areas have been mostly untouched by humans (other than guerillas) throughout the war, thereby preserving the habitats of the indigenous animals.

“There are still tigers, elephants, leopards and a lot of large mammals left in some of these remote areas, partially because for a long time it was dangerous for people to go into these areas,” Bowman explains.

The program begins in Vietnam, where students visit ancient temples of Angkor Wat, journey through the Mekong River and the dated tunnels used in the Vietnam War. Next, in Cambodia, students will experience unique wildlife and learn first-hand about conservation issues. Students will study Cambodia’s history and people by visiting various locations, including sacred temples and the historical killing fields, where large numbers of people were killed after the Cambodian Civil War. It is from this visit to the killing fields that Bowman expects students to be the most affected.

“When you go there and see a tower of skulls from all the people that have been killed, it’s a powerful experience. Hopefully students walk away realizing how bad humans can be, and how we continue to not learn from our own historical mistakes.”

A strong conservation issue to be examined is how overpopulated countries over-hunt their wildlife, and how these countries could benefit from developing an eco-friendly balance. Says Bowman, “Because it [Asia] has such a large population, it tends to overexploit its resources. There is almost no wildlife here because of the economic dilemma. People care about the wildlife, but their situation prevents them from conserving. They are just trying to feed their families and survive day to day.”

While Bowman says the University supported his choice of studying in Cambodia and Vietnam, the group is still being careful in these areas. UD students will interact with students from The Royal University of Phnom Penh and will predominantly stay in hotels throughout the trip, as it is safer than camping.

Bowman, who along with Cox, has run numerous study abroad programs to Tanzania, Australia, and Antarctica, is very excited for this new trip, and for the students. “Being able to interact with the students in a way where you can get them thinking about things cognitively instead of just strict classroom assignments is very satisfying. If something happens, the group is small enough to talk about it.” He relates a story that on one of his trips to Africa, he came face to face with a lion at night. “Stuff like that is hard to put into words, but particular things happen on every trip, and that is what builds impressions.”

What Bowman really hopes each student walks away with is a new point of view. He hopes this journey will open their eyes about the challenges of conservation on an international arena, where they will witness a form of living very different from their own.

According to Carly Costello, a UD junior majoring in animal science and taking this in-demand program, “It’s all about the first-hand experience. I’m excited to experience another culture; everyday things that we think are ordinary are so different to them, and vice versa.”

Article by Samantha Walsh, UD Wildlife Conservation and Communication junior


Interfraternity Council, 4-H club assist Blue Hens CAN food drive

November 14, 2012 under CANR News

Blue Hens CAN — a joint venture of the University of Delaware’s College of Health Sciences (CHS), the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) and the Food Bank of Delaware — features a UD food collection bus parked at a different campus location each day of this week to accept items donated by the campus community and transport them to the Food Bank of Delaware at the end of the day.

With the Interfraternity Council accepting donations Tuesday at the drop off location at the Laird Campus, several fraternities and individual members of the UD community combined to donate more than 600 canned goods to the Food Bank of Delaware.

In addition to the contributions made by members of the UD community on the Newark campus, members of the UD community in southern Delaware got involved, as well. The Sussex County Clover Knights 4-H Club pooled their efforts and dropped off their donation to Blue Hens CAN collection site at the Carvel Research and Education Center in Georgetown.

The total on Tuesday came to 737 pounds of food donated, according to a representative of the Food Bank of Delaware.

“The fact that we are getting donations not only from the Newark campus but also from UD sites in southern Delaware is phenomenal,” said Adam Thomas, communications specialist in CANR. “It really speaks volumes about the UD community’s willingness to give to those in need.”

Blue Hens CAN continues Wednesday, Nov. 14, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m., with the collection bus to be parked at Mentors’ Circle in the same location as on Monday.

The Occupational Therapy Club will be on hand volunteering to collect donations.

Photo by Bo Waller

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.