Deb Jaisi joins the CANR faculty

June 8, 2011 under CANR News

Deb Jaisi, assistant professor of environmental biogeochemistry, has joined the faculty at the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Jaisi said that he decided to come to the University of Delaware because he was looking for a university that was well established but also tries to promote new ideas with new faculty where it feels like a fresh start. His particular area of research expertise also meshed well with what is currently going on in the state of Delaware and the surrounding area.

“My research is primarily in phosphorous geochemistry, and when I talked to Dr. Sparks during my interview I realized, ‘phosphorous is such a big issue here in DE’ with regards to the agricultural farms, Chesapeake and Delaware Bays.”

Jaisi also said that, “Sometimes a job interview becomes an important experience that invigorates your idea and instills more scientific curiosity on what you have done or are doing. That makes this particular job even more exciting. My science, which is isotope geochemistry, can really help to explore more and identify how and why the phosphorous has been released to the surface water and ground water. With that being said, the ‘applied’ aspect of my research aims to find out the culprit of phosphorus release in these areas.”

Another big reason that influenced Jaisi’s decision to come to UD was the fact that he wanted to collaborate with renowned professors, such as Donald Sparks, S. Hallock DuPont Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, professor of chemistry and biochemistry and professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Tom Sims, deputy dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the T.A. Baker Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, and potentially with other professors in the area of plant-soil interactions. Said Jaisi, “To be at a college with Dr. Sparks, whose legacy I highly respect, is a rather great opportunity.”

Jaisi also said that Delaware is a great place to raise kids, “it’s very close to big cities, but it’s not suffocating like staying in big cities. It’s a very, very nice place.”

After growing up in Nepal and earning his undergraduate degree in geology from Tribhuvan University, Jaisi went on to Thailand where he received his Master’s degree in engineering from the Asian Institute of Technology, before traveling to Miami University in Ohio to receive his Ph.D. Jaisi also conducted his post-graduate work at Yale University.

Jaisi did not teach a course last semester and explained that his appointment is mostly for research. He does, however, plan to teach one course each year on his own and co-teach another course with a fellow faculty member.

As for the research side, Jaisi has plans to establish a stable isotopes laboratory, which he describes as a “very intensive process” that he expects will take up to about a year to complete, with the laboratory hopefully being set up by the end of 2011.

Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Alumni Weekend June 3-5

May 18, 2011 under CANR News, Events

The University’s third annual Alumni Weekend is just around the corner, June 3-5. From college receptions, to a 5K, the ever popular Mug Night and special reunion events, to events sponsored by each college and a picnic on the green, the weekend is sure to be a great place to reconnect with former students, classmates and friends.

The college has already SOLD OUT of its three behind the scenes UDairy Creamery tours/tastings on Saturday, but the Creamery will be open and anyone showing their Alumni Weekend badge will receive a discount that weekend.

Ten UD alumni (2 from CANR) will be inducted into the UD Wall of Fame at a ceremony on Saturday.

The College of Agriculture and Natural Resources specifically welcomes you to the college’s Alumni Reception on Friday night from 6-8pm at Kildare’s Irish Pub on Main Street in Newark.  The reception is free, but you must pre-register.

Registration for faculty members wishing to attend any portion of Alumni Weekend is available at www.UDconnection.com/faculty.  Alumni, staff, and friends can register at www.udel.edu/alumniweekend.

We hope to see you there!

 

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CANR Hosts 2011 Northeastern Corn Improvement Conference

March 21, 2011 under CANR News, Events

The 65th Northeastern Corn Improvement Conference (NEC-029), co-organized by scientists at the University of Delaware, was held February 17 and 18 at the Embassy Suites in Newark, DE.

NEC-029 is one of three regional scientific groups that focus on corn improvement. The group has met annually since 1945, with participants from public and private sectors engaged in research and extension work on corn breeding and genetics, agronomy, plant pathology, and others in the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. The annual meetings have provided a forum for sharing and discussing research results related to corn improvement and public policy issues affecting corn research.

The NEC-029 conference has directed the focus of several research initiatives including one initiative to combat gray leaf spot, a disease that threatens Northeastern U.S. corn production. As a result, researchers at University of Delaware, Cornell University, Pennsylvania State University, and Virginia Polytechnic and State University have collaborated to develop new gray leaf spot resistant corn lines.

Teclemariam Weldekidan, scientist in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has previously served as secretary and president of the NEC-029 and organized this year’s conference. There were 45 attendees at the conference from northeast and mid-west states and Ottawa, Canada. Twenty-one scientific papers on corn improvement were presented by invited and volunteered speakers, including graduate students. Attendees were thrilled with all aspects of this year’s conference. Several noted the meeting as the best in recent history in terms of the attendance, agenda, and venue.

Blake Meyers, the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor and Chairperson of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, opened the meeting with remarks about UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources structure, mission, and philosophy and its academic, research, and cooperative extension programs. Meyers discussed the value of agriculture in Delaware and contributions from UD’s corn breeding program including a productive UD-Pioneer Hi-Bred (a DuPont company) collaboration that led to the identification of a gene for corn disease resistance. This was followed by sessions on a range of topics including breeding and genetics, corn grain and silage composition management, new product development, crop management/ protection, and disease and insect resistance.

A special report was presented by Erick Erickson, the special assistant for planning and evaluation for the U.S. Grains Council, who discussed “World and U.S. Corn Supply and Demand Outlook.” Erickson reported the USDA’s long term projection for U.S. corn area planted to rise from 86.5 to 92 million acres, yields to climb from 164.7 to 180 bushels per acre, production to rise from 13.1 to 15.3 billion bushels, and ethanol use to rise from 4.57 to 5.53 billion bushels by the year 2020.

The new biotechnology events combined with advanced breeding and crop production techniques may push U.S. corn yields to more than 200 bushels per acre. Since the world must double food production while using less water and land, this requires progress in increasing genetic potential, increasing water use efficiency, and reducing losses due to disease and pests and post-harvest. 

For more information on Weldekidan’s work with corn, visit [http://www.udel.edu/PR/UDaily/2007/aug/corn080906.html].

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Blake Meyers appointed Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences

December 1, 2010 under CANR News, Events

Blake C. Meyers, a faculty member in the University of Delaware’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences since 2002, has been named the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences, UD Provost Tom Apple has announced.

“Named professorships honor faculty members who have achieved distinction in their disciplines, both on this campus and in the greater world of academia,” Apple said. “It is a pleasure to add Dr. Meyers’ name to this select and important group of UD faculty.”

Meyers, who is currently serving as the chairperson of the department, also holds a joint appointment in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences.

He will present his inaugural lecture as Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 7, in Room 102 of the Delaware Biotechnology Institute. His topic will be “Plant Genomes and Their RNA Products: Insights from Advances in DNA Sequencing.” Those planning to attend are asked to RSVP by calling (302) 831-2502.

The full article with photo can be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

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CANR Summer Institute offers glimpse of graduate student life

July 20, 2010 under CANR News

This summer five undergraduate students are conducting research with faculty mentors in the University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR), experiencing the challenges and rewards of what a graduate education at UD might be like.

As participants in the Summer Institute in the Agricultural and Natural Resources Sciences, hosted by the college, these students are taking part in ongoing research projects guided by personal faculty mentors, networking with current graduate students and other staff within CANR, and interacting with industry professionals.

“The Summer Institute is a team effort by faculty from all departments in our college,” said Tom Sims, deputy dean of the college. “It provides these five outstanding undergraduate students the opportunity to conduct hands-on research and learn about the range of graduate education opportunities available in the agricultural and natural resources sciences.”

Now in its second year, the 10-week program — funded by the college and a Graduate Innovation and Improvement Grant from UD’s Office of Graduate and Professional Education – draws students from under-represented populations who are interested in a graduate degree in agriculture and natural resource sciences.

Maria Pautler, the program’s coordinator, said the Summer Institute was expanded from 4 to 10 weeks after last year’s participants suggested a longer program. The extended program allows students to become more involved with their research projects and present their findings at a campus-wide symposium at the end of the summer, she said.

“This, coupled with opportunities to attend seminars, workshops, and panelist luncheons, is exposing the students to facts and opinions on preparation for, and life in and beyond, graduate school,” Paulter said.

The 2010 CANR Summer Institute participants are:

Kamedra McNeil, of Forestville, Md., is a molecular biology major at Winston-Salem State University in North Carolina. McNeil is involved in the Winston-Salem Student Government Association, Tri-Beta Biological Honors Society, NSCS Scholars and Pre-Marc Scholars. She is interested in a career in forensic biology. During her time at the Summer Institute, McNeil is studying different genes associated with photoperiod in plants. Her faculty mentor is Randall Wisser, assistant professor of plant and soil sciences.

Shurnevia Strickland, of Philadelphia, is a senior applied animal science major at UD. Strickland is secretary and webmaster for Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS). She is interested in future research with genetics. At the Summer Institute, Strickland is studying the endothelin 3 gene in the silkie chicken. Her faculty mentor is Carl Schmidt, associate professor of animal and food sciences.

Rochelle Day, of Laurel, Del., is a senior pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major at UD. Day is a member of Puppy Raisers of UD (PROUD) and MANRRS, and is looking toward a career in animal pathology. At the Summer Institute, Day is mapping the genome of the Infectious Laryngotracheitis Virus (ILTV), an upper respiratory disease in birds that causes economic losses for the poultry industry. Her faculty mentor is Calvin Keeler, professor of animal and food sciences.

Rothman Reyes, of Long Island, N.Y., is a sophomore pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences major at UD with minors in sexuality and gender studies, and women’s studies. Reyes raises puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind and is a member of the LEARN mentor program. He also serves as co-president of the PROUD special interest community. Reyes hopes to practice veterinary medicine at a zoo. At the Summer Institute, Reyes is creating a fosmid library, where he will induce a mutation onto the Infectious Laryngotracheitis Virus (ILTV) to create a vaccine. His faculty mentor is also Calvin Keeler.

Kristina Barr, of Kingstree, SC., is a senior biology major at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C. She is a member of the Environmental Awareness Club at her school and plans to pursue a career as an ecologist. Her research at the Summer Institute involves the effects of rose bushes on birds’ ability to forage for food. Her faculty mentors are Jacob Bowman, associate professor, and Greg Shriver, assistant professor, both of entomology and wildlife ecology.

Article by Chelsea Caltuna

Read the article on UDaily by clicking here.

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Carvel Research and Education Center beats the heat with UDairy Ice Cream

June 30, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Making a three hour trip just to get ice cream may seem a bit over the top, but after hearing and reading great reviews about the delicious ice cream from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources’ UDairy Creamery, Barbara Stephens didn’t mind the round trip from Georgetown to Newark to share the best of Townsend’s sweet cuisine with her colleagues. Stephens works at the Elbert N. and Ann V. Carvel Research and Education Center, home of Sussex County Cooperative Extension and satellite agriculture research campus.

And the Carvel staff, many of whom work outside in the research fields, were very happy she did!

Stephens suggested to Carvel Director Dr. Mark Isaacs that an Ice Cream Social might be a nice alternative to their recent practice of getting together each summer for a staff – family picnic. The change to tradition couldn’t have been timed better, considering the persistent heat wave.

“Barbara’s idea of an ice cream social was excellent!” said Isaacs. “It gave our staff an opportunity to sample the delicious UD ice cream from our college, and provided a much welcomed treat from the heat and humidity.”

All three flavors featured at the ice cream social – chocolate marshmallow, strawberry, and traditional vanilla, were a big hit. Several people tried a three scoop sampler – most took advantage of the wide variety of toppings – but some enjoyed their ice cream in its pure, delicious state.

The creamy, cool delights, made from UD’s 100 Holstein cows, were a welcome respite to those who have been working outside in temperatures nearing 100 degrees in the past week. Thursday, June 24, the day of the social, was the hottest day of the week.

UD alumna Corryn Barnes, currently a science teacher in Harrington, is working her second summer with Extension IPM Specialist Joanne Whalen. Barnes enjoyed the break in her outside duties and for the opportunity to relax.

“This was the perfect day for a nice summer treat,” Barnes said. “It’s very nice to get together with the different departments and meet people you normally don’t get to meet. Are they going to have it again?”

That seemed to be the question on everyone’s mind. The general consensus among the 60 or so in attendance was the hope that the ice cream social would be repeated often during the summer. Some even suggested once a week would be ideal.

“I’ll take that into serious consideration,” Isaacs said, with a wink.

For photos of the ice cream social visit the REC’s Flickr page by clicking here.

Article by Michele Walfred

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DelDOT, UD announce New Route 72 Pedestrian Crossing

June 30, 2010 under CANR News, Events

After years of concern being voiced about pedestrian safety from the main UD Farm to the Webb Farm, the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT) and the University of Delaware, a solution is now on the horizon.

This summer, DelDOT will install an experimental traffic light, called a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (HAWK), at the intersection of Route 72 and Farm/Webb Lane.

Route 72 separates two areas of the farm used by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Robin Morgan, dean of the CANR, said students and faculty often have trouble crossing the intersection, which currently does not have traffic signals or a crosswalk.

“This project really belongs to our students,” Morgan said.

The project gathered momentum in 2008 when members of the Ag College Council presented a petition to DelDOT of concerned students and local citizens. They then worked with DelDOT to devise a plan that would make the intersection safer for pedestrians.

Luszcz, who worked with UD on the project, said the HAWK signal has been experimentally used across the country for 10 years, with impressive results. The device received approval for national use in January.

The new traffic light will be the first of its kind in Delaware. The device is activated when a pedestrian presses the button to cross. A flashing yellow light followed by a solid yellow light, signals drivers to slow down. A traditional red light stops traffic while the pedestrian crosses the street. The last step is a flashing red light, equivalent to a stop sign, which allows cars to move through the intersection if no pedestrians are coming. When not activated, the signal is dark and traffic can move freely.

“It gives you the solid red indication, but it’s less disruptive to traffic,” said Mark Luszcz, assistant chief traffic engineer for DelDOT.

He said they hope to break ground on the signal in July and be operational by the beginning of the fall semester. The signal will hang overhead on both sides of the intersection and be accompanied by a striped crosswalk and modified signs.

An event for students, faculty, and staff will be held at the start of the fall semester to demonstrate the new technology.

If the HAWK signal is successful, Luszcz said, DelDOT will consider using them in other locations throughout the state.

“We feel this is a good place for us to start with these devices,” he said.

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Don Sparks to receive Liebig Medal from International Union of Soil Sciences

June 21, 2010 under CANR News

This summer, Donald Sparks, S. Hallock du Pont Chair in Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware and director of the Delaware Environmental Institute (DENIN), will receive the Liebig Award from the International Union of Soil Sciences for outstanding contributions in soil science research, revealing new discoveries, techniques, inventions, or materials related to soils and the environment.

The award, which consists of an engraved medal, a certificate, and honorarium, will be presented to Sparks on Aug. 5 at the 19th World Congress of Soil Science in Brisbane, Australia. It will mark only the second time the award has been given by the 150,000-member society, which was founded in 1924.

“This is thoroughly deserved and recognizes the very substantial and outstanding contributions you have made to the advancement of soil science and, in particular, the application of sound science to the study of soils throughout your career,” noted Roger S. Swift, president of the International Union of Soil Sciences, in the official award letter.

Sparks’ research focuses on soil and environmental chemistry — specifically the reaction rates of metals and nutrients with mineral surfaces and soils and impacts on bioavailability and transport in soils and water.

The Sparks lab utilizes high-tech tools to reveal the basic mechanisms behind these interactions. Recently, Sparks and his research team developed a new analytical method using quick-scanning X-ray absorption spectroscopy (Q-XAS) that scientists can use to pinpoint, at the millisecond level, what happens as harmful environmental contaminants such as arsenic begin to react with soil and water under various conditions.

“I am very honored to be recognized with the Liebig Medal because it is an award for which you must be nominated by your peers and also because of its distinguished namesake,” Sparks says.

Justus von Liebig, after whom the award is named, was a German chemist and professor (1803-1873) who discovered that nitrogen is an essential nutrient in plants. Liebig made significant contributions to agricultural chemistry and is regarded as one of the greatest chemistry teachers of all time, having developed the modern laboratory method of teaching the subject.

Since joining the UD faculty 31 years ago, Sparks has created an internationally prominent graduate program in environmental soil chemistry in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, authored more than 284 scientific publications and three textbooks, mentored 50 graduate students and 25 postdoctoral researchers, and served as an invitational speaker at 79 universities and institutes on four continents.

He has successfully competed for more than $31 million in research contracts and grants and won numerous awards and honors, including the University’s highest academic recognition, the Francis Alison Award, and UD’s Doctoral Student Advising and Mentoring Award, of which he was the first recipient.

Earlier this year, Sparks won the Geoffrey Marshall Mentoring Award from the Northeastern Association of Graduate Schools for outstanding mentoring support of graduate students.

Among his many accolades, Sparks is the recipient of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Sterling B. Hendricks Medal, a McMaster Fellowship from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO), the Soil Science Research and M. L. and Chrystie M. Jackson Soil Chemistry/Mineralogy Awards, and the Environmental Quality Research Award. He also is an ISI Highly Cited Researcher.

Sparks is a fellow of the Soil Science Society of America, the American Society of Agronomy, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Geochemical Society, and the European Association of Geochemists. He serves on the editorial boards of seven soil science, environmental science, and geochemistry journals.

Sparks served as the chair of UD’s Department of Plant and Soil Sciences for 20 years and is past president of the Soil Science Society of America and the International Union of Soil Sciences.

Article by Tracey Bryant

View the original story with photos on UDaily by clicking here.

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Center for Managed Ecosystems puts past urban forest research into new FRAME

June 8, 2010 under CANR News

Greg Shriver, assistant professor of wildlife ecology in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and research scientist with the Center for Managed Ecosystems at the University of Delaware, is collaborating with the U.S. Forest Service to continue work on a project that focuses on assessing the conditions of urban forests and explores ways in which to improve those conditions.

The project is known as Forest Fragments in Managed Ecosystems, or FRAME, and it has its origins in a study titled “Wildlife Ecology and Urban Impact” conducted 45 years ago at UD by scientists in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology and the Forest Service.

The 1965 study was continued by Roland Roth, UD professor emeritus of wildlife ecology, beginning in 1972. Although Roth could not have known at the time, Shriver said that his work — conducted on the UD Farm — became the longest running study on the demographics of the wood thrush, a neotropical migratory bird.

Shriver, who subsequently picked up the mantle, called the wood thrush the “hallmark species” for this research and said FRAME builds on Roth’s earlier studies. The FRAME project was initiated as a collaborative effort between Shriver; Vincent D’Amico, a Forest Service scientist stationed at UD; Jake Bowman, associate professor of entomology and wildlife ecology; and Jeff Buler, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology.

Shriver said FRAME is “a fairly large-scale forest fragmentation study aimed at assessing the condition of urban forest fragments to see if we can increase their quality.”

These forest patches dotting the developed landscape “are providing the some of the only remaining habitat for neotropical migratory birds, small mammals, and insects,” he said.

The group is currently establishing long-term plots and surveying the condition of Mid-Atlantic forest fragments.

After assessing the overall health of the forest fragments, Shriver said he and his colleagues will research ways to improve them. “The big picture is that these fragments are providing important ecosystem services — air, water, things required to make the area livable,” he said. “The goal of the FRAME project is to better understand the interactions between soil, water, plants and the animals dependent on them within urban and suburban environments.”

Shriver, who will be aided by graduate students, said the study will be multifaceted, with the first part focusing on multitrophic effects of soil acidification and biodiversity.

“There has been some concern that acidification in soils, especially here in the Northeast, could be limiting the availability of calcium-rich prey — such as snails and isopods — that birds need during the breeding season to make eggshells and feed their nestlings, because the nestlings’ growth rate is so fast and they need so much calcium,” Shriver said. “Studies have shown that if you have limited calcium availability, you have limited calcium-rich prey, which then limits the breeding density and reproductive success of some bird species.”

The FRAME study has broken the Newark area’s urban forest fragments into grids using GPS systems, starting with the original study patch from the Roth study and adding 19 other woodlots.

In each of the fragments, Shriver said he and his students plan to “estimate breeding bird territory density, nest survival, a measure of reproductive success, and species diversity. We’re also taking soil samples and then litter samples to see if we can link the soil pH to calcium-rich prey.”

Shriver explained that a low pH means that the soil has a high amount of acidification, and that “the acidification comes mostly from acid rain, which has been greatly reduced since the height of the Industrial Revolution, but the soils have likely not recovered. Once you push a soil into an acidic state, unless it has some buffering capacity, it is very hard to get it back.”

What happens with soil that has been pushed to an acidic state, he said, is a reduction in calcium-rich prey, which in turn limits food for breeding birds. The birds either have lowered reproductive success or leave that forest fragment.

The first two years of the FRAME study are dedicated to gathering the pre-data, showing the present condition of the soil. Shriver said the research team then plans to “lime the forest patches to see if we can increase their quality, which will raise the pH and release the calcium,” thereby improving biodiversity.

They plan to treat 10 sites with lime and leave another 10 sites untreated in order to compare differences in soil quality. He said he is confident that “changing the pH is going to change a lot to these forest fragments.”

The research team is partnering with the Newark Department of Parks and Recreation, New Castle County Parks, and Delaware State Parks. Shriver said that “without the cooperation and enthusiasm we’ve received from all the partners, this project would not be possible.”

Shriver received a bachelor of science degree in wildlife management from the University of Maine, a master’s degree in wildlife conservation from the University of Massachusetts and a doctorate in environmental forest biology from the State University of New York (SUNY). He joined the UD faculty in 2005.

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CANR Alumnus named to UD Wall of Fame

June 8, 2010 under CANR News

As part of the Forum & Reunion Weekend, 10 University of Delaware graduates, including Ted Karski (Ph.D. AG ’86) were recognized for their outstanding professional and public service achievements by being inducted into the University Alumni Association Wall of Fame.

Carski receive his doctorate in plant and soil sciences with an emphasis on the area of environmental soil chemistry. After graduating from UD, he joined the team at DuPont as a research chemist but rose to his current position as DuPont’s Global Registration Product Manager. Carski also serves as an adjunct professor at UD.

Read the full article about the Wall of Fame inductees on UDaily by clicking here.

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