Messer named Unidel environmental chair

August 19, 2013 under CANR News

Kent Messer - EconomicsThree University of Delaware faculty members have been appointed to new chairs for environmental research through the generous support of the Unidel Foundation. Kent Messer has been named the Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment, Holly Michael has been named the Unidel Fraser Russell Chair for the Environment, and Adam Rome has been named the Unidel Helen Gouldner Chair for the Environment.

Interim Provost Nancy Brickhouse announced the positions, all of which are five-year career development chairs, today. The positions are effective Sept. 1.

“I am pleased to announce these well-deserved appointments, which recognize the accomplishments of three outstanding faculty members who are doing valuable work in the field of environmental research,” Brickhouse said. “Kent Messer is making important contributions in the study of land use and sustainable development, Holly Michael has received national attention for her work in coastal groundwater and its significance for understanding and protecting the environment, and Adam Rome has won praise for his research and writing on the history of the environmental movement.”

Brickhouse added that the University is deeply appreciative of the Unidel Foundation for its funding of the chairs, which support “The Initiative for the Planet” milestone in UD’s Path to Prominence strategic plan.

In addition, Brickhouse thanked the committee that reviewed the candidates for the career development chairs. Donald L. Sparks, director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), chaired the group, which also included Dominic DiToro, Edward C. Davis Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering; McKay Jenkins, Cornelius A. Tilghman Sr. Professor of English; James Kendra, director of the Disaster Research Center; George Luther, Maxwell P. and Mildred H. Harrington Professor of Marine Studies; and Cathy Wu, Unidel Edward G. Jefferson Chair of Bioinformatics and Computational Biology.

Kent Messer

Messer’s research interests include environmental conservation with a focus on land use and sustainable development.

He is managing editor of the journal Agricultural and Resource Economics Review and co-author of the 2011 textbook Mathematical Programming for Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics.

Messer is co-principal investigator on a three-year, $6-million National Science Foundation grant to establish a regional water resources network, as the Delaware Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) partners with similar programs in Rhode Island and Vermont.

Messer, who joined the UD faculty in 2007, is an associate professor in the Department of Applied Economic and Statistics in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources with joint appointments in the Department of Economics in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics and the School of Marine Science and Policy in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.

He is director of UD’s Laboratory for Experimental and Applied Economics and an affiliate of the Delaware Environmental Institute.

Messer received his doctorate in resource economics from Cornell University in 2003.

The Unidel Howard Cosgrove Chair for the Environment is a five-year career development chair named in honor of the former chairman of the University’s Board of Trustees.

To read more about the Unidel environmental chairs, check out the full article on UDaily.


CANR’s Thompson interns at Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia

October 23, 2012 under CANR News

Like all summer internships, once the calendar turned to August, Terrell Thompson knew that his time at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia was coming to a close. Unlike most summer internships, Thompson said that he felt like he was leaving both a job and a family behind.

“It was a phenomenal experience. My whole department was very nice. It was a heart-warming atmosphere and basically it was a family-like culture,” said Thompson. “If I ever needed help, they were always there, they always extended a hand.”

Thompson, a senior majoring in food and agribusiness marketing and management, which is housed in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), and minoring in business administration, said that getting the internship was a huge honor, as he was one of only 34 interns chosen out of a pool of over 1,600.

Working in the supervision, regulation and credit department, Thompson said that his main job involved inputting data from banks into Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. He also dealt with projects that involved the Community Reinvestment Act, a federal law that encourages financial institutions to help meet the credit needs of the communities in which they operate, including low and moderate income neighborhoods.

Hard pressed to pinpoint one particular thing that he liked best about his time at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Thompson simply said that he liked it all. “It was just so good to wake up in the morning, get dressed in a nice outfit, go to work and just enjoy your work and enjoy the people that you’re working with. Then just go home, relax for a little bit, and then do it the next day. It was a great experience.”

As for whether he would like to pursue it as a career, Thompson said that he would definitely like to work at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, but that he is also looking into options that are more suited to his area of study. Thompson explained that people who major in food and agribusiness marketing and management usually go to work for food retailing companies like Campbell’s or Kellogg’s. He also said that working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is another option he would explore.

Originally an engineering major, Thompson said that he decided to switch to CANR after his sophomore year. After a lot of consideration, Thompson ultimately decided that he was best suited for the business field. He explained that he looked at some of the business areas on campus and ultimately decided on food and agribusiness because, “Hey, everyone has to eat. It seemed like a new and big thing so I said ‘I’ll try it,’ and I’ve loved it ever since.”

At CANR, Thompson is advised by Ulrich Toensmeyer, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, who he said is a “great” adviser and professor. He said of CANR in general, “I love it here at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Everyone is so helpful here, it reminds me so much of the Federal Reserve Bank.”

In other words, like family.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


UD’s Keenan one of 50 students named a New Century Farmer

September 12, 2012 under CANR News

Jacqueline Keenan didn’t find out about the FFA’s New Century Farmer program until her senior year at the University of Delaware, which happened to be the last year of her eligibility. Better late than never.

Through an email forwarded to her from Arba Henry, instructor in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ Department of Applied Economics and Statistics, Keenan learned about the program and decided to enroll, eventually ending up as one of only 50 students from across the country accepted.

She said that it was a life-changing experience. “If anybody is really serious about going back to production agriculture after graduating, they really need to look into it. I learned so much in that week,” said Keenan.

Having grown up on her family’s farm — Vincent Farms in Laurel, Del. — Keenan, who graduated in 2012 and majored in agricultural education and agriculture and natural resources, was able to learn from and network with industry professionals at the New Century Farmer conference held in Des Moines, Iowa, in July.

As part of the workshop, Keenan and her fellow New Century Farmers learned about topics such as discovering how producers can profit from value-added products and the use of technology and toured facilities including the DuPont Pioneer campus.

Perhaps the best part about the conference, however, was the lasting relationships she created with her fellow farmers from all over the United States.

“Probably half of the kids that were there, I still talk to on a regular basis, whether it’s through Facebook or email. Several of them became close friends and we text almost every day,” said Keenan.

She also added that the networking aspect of the conference was incredibly helpful, as she got the opportunity to pick the brains of industry professionals. “Talking to people who have been there and done it just really added a huge amount to my education.”

In addition to this year’s conference, there are other future opportunities afforded to alumni of the program and Keenan said she plans to take advantage of them. “Every year, they have an alumni conference, and then they have other activities scattered throughout the year,” said Keenan. “So you’re constantly going to learn more and go back and network, and that’s such a great thing that you need.”

Though she went to school for agricultural education, Keenan said that she now realizes that the place she is meant to be working is not in a school but on her family farm.

“Honestly, when I was graduating, I was so gung-ho that I was going to be an agricultural teacher, but as soon as the packing shed opened up and we got into full swing back into the melon season and the corn season, I realized I don’t want to do anything else,” said Keenan, a decision that she said will no doubt please her father.

“I know my father, he was devastated, saying, ‘So you’re really serious about being a teacher? Who’s going to work for me now?’ He wants me to be here, and I just feel like this is where I’m supposed to be. I went to school for it, I really enjoy this, I want to do nothing else. I love it.”

For those interested in the New Century Farmer program, visit this website.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.


CANR Summer Institute starts scholars on road to success

August 23, 2012 under CANR News

As the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Summer Institute comes to a close, this year’s participants, Bianca Riddick and Walker Jones, are heading home having completed research projects and gotten a feel for the UD campus.

“I think it’s going to be bittersweet,” said Riddick. “I’m going to miss it when I’m ready to go home. It’s grown on me.”

The 10-week Summer Institute is designed for underrepresented populations of undergraduate students who have an interest in pursuing graduate degrees in the agricultural and natural resource sciences. It is intended to provide these students with an opportunity to learn about the varied and exciting opportunities available in graduate education at the college.

Bianca Riddick

Riddick, who will be a junior at Norfolk (Va.) State University as a pre-med student majoring in biology with a minor in chemistry, said that her time at the Summer Institute was instructive as she conducted research for the first time on a subject out of her normal area of study: rice.

“I never thought I’d be working with rice,” said Riddick. “I really don’t care too much for rice, but some people depend on rice so it’s good to contribute to the research of this disease.”

The disease in question is known as “rice blast” and Riddick studied the interaction between the rice blast fungus and a bacterium that has the potential to be a bio-control agent for the disease. Specifically, Riddick looked at a handful of fungal genes in rice blast to see how they react — if they turn on or off — to the bacterium in order to get a better idea of how the disease-causing agent is defending itself against the bio-control agent.

The reason behind looking for a bio-control solution to the rice blast problem is that it has the potential to be more cost efficient and environmentally friendly than applying pesticides.

Riddick is studying in the laboratory of Nicole Donofrio, who said that she has been amazed at how quickly Riddick picks things up, especially since this is her first time conducting research.

Donofrio, assistant professor in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, said of Riddick, “she is one of those people who just gets it. A lot of people, when they first start research, and this was the case with me too when I was an undergrad, have a pretty shallow learning curve. I had to make a lot of mistakes and Bianca is a rare student because she retains all of this information we’re throwing at her on the first try.”

Donofrio said that she has been so impressed with Riddick this year that she is going to ask her to come back next summer.

Riddick said that she has really enjoyed her time at the Summer Institute, calling it “a really good experience. It has everything laid out for you, you just have to come here and give your time. And I think that it’s a really good eye-opener.”

She also said that she has enjoyed the UDairy Creamery, with her favorite flavor being Cookies and Cream.

Walker Jones

Like Riddick, Jones also had to conduct research in an area outside of his wheelhouse.

As a senior at Virginia State University, Jones studies agricultural business and economics, but he spent the summer with Kent Messer helping him conduct a study on how beachgoers at Cape Henlopen and Rehoboth Beach would behave if there were offshore energy production providing renewable or lower energy costs but also affecting the aesthetics of the beach.

While conducting a study on the beach may sound like a summer job that is every undergraduate’s dream, Messer explained that Jones’ job was tougher than it sounds.

“This is actually really hard work. Going to the beach sounds really fun until you spend six days standing on the beach being told, ‘No, we will not participate in your study.’ And it’s 95 degrees, and you’re sweating and your relief is that you get to go hang out inside of a tent,” said Messer, associate professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics.

Messer said that Jones was integral in getting the study conducted, as he conversed directly with state officials from the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, getting the permission for the group to set up their tent at Cape Henlopen. Messer credited Jones with securing a “great spot” for the research project and said that it was a huge help to be able to give Jones such a high level of responsibility.

The research project involved having a computer simulation show participants images of wind turbines and oil drilling platforms as options for offshore energy. The participants were able to move the turbines or platforms closer or farther away from the beach, with the idea being that the closer the objects got, especially the wind turbines, the energy costs would be lower but the aesthetics of the beach would be affected.

Jones said that the group found that more people were open to the idea of having wind turbines present and closer to the shore, rather than oil platforms. “The (Gulf of Mexico) oil spill tragedy is still ringing true with some people and they don’t want that to happen again so when they see the picture of an oil platform they’d say, ‘No, I don’t like it,’” said Jones.

Jones said that he has enjoyed his time at UD, especially the fact that there are so many researchers on campus conducting a wide range of research in different departments.

He also said that he “really enjoyed how cooperative things went here, and how easily approachable the administration is around here.”

Tom Sims, CANR deputy dean and the T.A. Baker Professor of Plant and Soil Science, said that the Summer Institute was launched four years ago to “provide outstanding students such as Walker and Bianca with the opportunity to work with faculty mentors and learn more about graduate education in the agricultural and natural resource sciences.”

Sims continued that many of the 16 Summer Institute participants have “since entered graduate or professional schools both at UD and other top graduate programs. I’m sure that Walker’s exposure to the exciting new field of experimental economics and Bianca’s experiences in plant molecular biology have better prepared them for similar opportunities — we wish them well and look forward to continuing to work with similar dedicated students in the future.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photos by Danielle Quigley and courtesy Kent Messer

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.