StatLab available to provide help with statistical analysis

September 23, 2011 under CANR News

The Department of Food and Resource Economics (FREC) in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) has announced the opening of the Statistical Laboratory (StatLab) for the fall semester.

StatLab provides statistical consulting services to graduate students, faculty, staff and researchers throughout the University, as well as non-university agencies and companies. It will be open Mondays from 1-5 p.m. and Tuesdays from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in room 201 or 214 Townsend Hall.

The laboratory is staffed with a director and an experienced graduate student as well as an advisory committee, consisting of University statisticians, research methodologists from various disciplines and subject matter specialists from industry, to provide additional support.

The goal of the StatLab is to train students of the Statistics Program to interact effectively with investigators from a variety of disciplines, to enhance the quality of experimental and other research at the University by providing high-quality statistical advice and to encourage collaborative research between statisticians and investigators from other disciplines both within and outside UD.

Researchers are strongly encouraged to visit the StatLab prior to collecting their data or attempting to conduct an analysis. Initial consultation lasts one hour maximum and is free for UD personnel. Subsequent consultation will require fees. StateLab reserves the right to charge the client for additional work.

Statistical consultation is available only by appointment. Users are requested to submit a brief written statement of the problem and file a form prior to scheduling an appointment. The form is available online.

To schedule an appointment and to file the forms, visit this website, send email to rejto@udel.edu or send a fax 302-831-6243.

For additional information, contact Lidia Rejto, professor of statistics, Statistics Program, in the Department of Food and Resource Economics, at 302-831-8034, or Maggie Brumit, assistant to the department chair, at 302-831-2511 or mbrumit@udel.edu.

This article was originally published on UDaily.

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Awokuse named chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics

September 1, 2011 under CANR News

Titus Awokuse, professor of food and resource economics and professor of economics, has been named chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics (FREC) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources effective Sept. 1. As chair, Awokuse will have administrative oversight for research and teaching activities of the faculty, staff, and students and have responsibility for leading department-wide initiatives and day-to-day management of the department’s academic programs and personnel affairs.

Awokuse will succeed Thomas Ilvento, professor of food and resource economics, and he noted that Ilvento has been a great help to him as he prepares for his new role.

“The outgoing chair, Thomas Ilvento, has been extremely helpful in showing me the ropes and helping to achieve a smooth transition. He has been incredible,” Awokuse said. He also mentioned Blake Meyers, Edward and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor and chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, as being a great help in getting him prepared to chair the department.

Robin Morgan, dean of CANR, said of the appointment, “Titus Awokuse is an exceptionally talented scholar and teacher, and UD is very fortunate that he will lead the Food and Resource Economics Department going forward. Under Awokuse’s leadership, I look forward to seeing the department’s bold plans and bright future unfold.”

After earning a bachelor of science degree in economics from Berea College, Awokuse went on to get his master’s in economics from Murray State University and his doctorate in agricultural and applied economics from Texas A & M University.

Awokuse joined the department in August 2000, and he said that he looks forward to the challenge of being chair of FREC and stressed that he hopes the position will allow him to collaborate with his fellow departmental colleagues and staff as FREC continues to move in a positive direction.

“My philosophy is that being the chair of a department is not like being the leader of a business venture. This is more of a group effort. The chair should be a visionary and facilitator who works collaboratively with others to achieve set goals and objectives of the unit. So it should not be just the chair doing all the work. An effective leader must respect and genuinely care for people’s needs, be an active listener, set clear goals and priorities, and share the load by delegating responsibilities to others. It’s basically trying to get the group to work more cohesively so everybody has a role to play.”

Awokuse said that one of his goals as department chair is to make FREC more competitive in terms of research, teaching and outreach on both a national and international level. “I want us to have stronger visibility nationally and internationally. We have some excellent faculty doing great work and we need to showcase that more, we want to continue to attract strong students for both our undergraduate and graduate programs.”

He also wants to increase FREC’s interactions and partnerships with other departments and colleges within the University. “We have worked really well with other departments on campus, and we want to strengthen those linkages and continue to do that.”

Another subject that Awokuse feels passionate about is leading by example. He hopes to remain active in research even with his new responsibilities as department chair.

“Although the administrative demands of being chair will be time consuming, I still intend to carve out quality time to engage in my research work and mentoring graduate students.”

Awokuse conducts empirical research on policy issues related to the economics of international trade and investment, economic growth and international development, agricultural markets and food security. He recently served as the editor, with Joshua M. Duke, for a national peer-reviewed journal, Agricultural and Resource Economics Review. He also co-authored a project report titled “The Impact of Agriculture on Delaware’s Economy,” with Thomas Ilvento and Zachary Johnston, which cited Delaware’s agricultural economic impact to be roughly $8 billion, much higher than the previously reported figure of $1 billion.

Awokuse said that he is humbled by the opportunity to chair the department.

“I thank Dean Robin Morgan for providing me with the opportunity to serve and I’m looking forward to working with the faculty and students and taking the Department of Food and Resource Economics to the next stage of its growth and development.”

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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CANR awards help University graduate students with research

May 26, 2011 under CANR News

The William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards and the Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Fellowship Award have been helping University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) graduate students with their research since 2007, and this year’s winners are no exception.

Sudarshan Dutta in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences has been awarded the 2011 W.J. Benton Graduate Student Award for doctoral students and Jacob Fooks in the Department of Food and Resource Economics has been awarded the Benton Award for master’s students.

Matt Siebecker, a doctoral level student in the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, has received the 2011 Donald L. and Joy G. Sparks Graduate Fellowship Award.

William J. Benton Graduate Student Awards

The awards were established in honor of William J. Benton, former CANR associate dean of research and professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences.

Dutta is researching the transport of hormones in agricultural runoff from soils receiving poultry manure. Dutta explained that in many U.S. states, land application of poultry manure is a common practice and that it is important to make sure that this agricultural management practice is safe for the environment in all aspects.

Of the award, Dutta said, “I consider this award very motivating and helpful for a young researcher like me who wants to continue his career in research in an academic setting.”

Fooks’ primary research focuses on behavioral and experimental economics, revolving around the behavior of landowners in voluntary conservation programs. Fooks has also done work to reduce stigma towards individuals with HIV in Kenya and India, and he said that he is currently working on a project that measures the visual impact of offshore wind farms.

Fooks said that he was “very honored to be chosen for this award,” and credited his adviser, Kent Messer, assistant professor of food and resource economics, and the rest of the food and resource economics faculty for giving him support.

Read more at UDaily > >

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Danielle Quigley

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Delaware agriculture is an $8 billion industry, according to new UD study

March 24, 2011 under CANR News

Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, according to a recent study published by the Department of Food and Resource Economics in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The study — conducted by UD faculty members Titus Awokuse and Tom Ilvento, with help from graduate student Zachary Johnston — used input-output analysis, taking into account the market value of products sold from on-farm production, revenue from processing and manufacturing of agricultural products, and inter-industry linkages to determine the value added to the economy.

A study of this magnitude had not been conducted since the early 1980s. According to the authors, this new report is much more accurate in its calculations for the true impact of agriculture in Delaware.

Historically, $1.1 billion has been the most commonly cited number for the impact of agriculture in Delaware. “But this is the total market value of agricultural products sold at the farm level, just a small piece of the picture,” according to Awokuse, associate professor and director of graduate studies for food and resource economics.

The new report shows that the processing of farm products adds a previously unaccounted for $3.8 billion. Forestry production and processing add an additional $831 million, with ag-related services (i.e. crop dusting, ditch digging) adding $28 million.

The research project was commissioned by Robin Morgan, dean of the college. “This study was needed because the impact of agriculture in Delaware is much larger than farm receipts and (the impact) should account for processing of agricultural products. Agriculture is a large and vital part of Delaware’s economy, and our understanding of its impact needs to be as accurate as possible,” says Morgan.

In addition to the total industry impact, the report provides separate results by county and for several key agricultural commodities: poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, corn, soybeans, wheat, greenhouse, nursery and horticultural products.

With Delaware’s long history of poultry production, it was no surprise to the authors that the majority of the economic value of agriculture comes from the production and processing of poultry products, with an industry output of $3.2 billion and over 13,000 jobs.

The report also provides a summary of statistics relative to the changing face of agriculture in Delaware, noting there are fewer farms in Delaware, but the size and productivity of farming operations has increased over time.

Awokuse notes that this trend is in large part because “both technological and biological innovations within agriculture now allow a single operator to be more productive and maintain a larger operation, hence the consolidation of farms across the state.”

And, according to the authors, the state of Delaware agriculture will continue to change.

“Farmers are being asked to produce more on less and less acreage and they turn to science and technology to make that happen. Agriculture is a modern, efficient, technologically advanced industry, even if the image is still rooted in a 19th century image of farming,” says Ilvento, professor and chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics. “Changing that image, assisting farmers to find modern solutions, and promoting the importance of agriculture — that’s what our college is all about.”

A full version of the report can be viewed online.

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

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Kent Messer co-authors new book

February 17, 2011 under CANR News

Kent Messer, assistant professor of food and resource economics and assistant professor of economics, has written a book on Mathematical Programming for Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics. The book is co-authored by Harry M. Kaiser of Cornell University.

Finding that many mathematical programming textbooks don’t cover natural resource and environmental issues, Messer said that he and Kaiser decided to write a book that would address these. “My passion is the world of environmental and resource economics and I also work in agricultural economics, and so while there are many books on operations research and math programming, they end up being targeted towards MBA students. I thought that there are some unique applications to natural resource and environmental problems that these books just don’t cover. And those are the areas that I am most interested in.”

Messer said that Kaiser does a lot of work on agricultural marketing, and since he had an interest in the subject too, they both decided to combine their interests and turn them into a book. “We were really pleased to have Wiley and Sons, a top flight publisher, be willing to publish this book, which will provide a global distribution network.”

The book is divided into two parts, with 13 chapters total. Each chapter contains at least 20 exercises and several research examples.

Messer said that the goal was “to make a reader-friendly textbook that would be great in the classroom and would develop the foundation of quantitative skills needed for research. Thus, the textbook doesn’t just cover theory, but also provides instruction on how to bridge the gap between ‘here are the techniques and here’s how you apply them to research.’”

The book is geared toward graduate students as well as upper level undergraduates who might be looking at doing research in the area.

Messer said he plans to use the book in his future classes but also notes that he has been using parts of the book in his course in a paper version for the past four years. “My previous students have been great at ‘proofing’ the chapters and testing problems.”

For more information about the book, see the website.

This article is an excerpt from a larger UDaily article “Books in Brief.”  Books in Brief is a roundup of recent books by University of Delaware faculty, staff and alumni. For the full article, click here.

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Operations Research grad student helps Newark optimize trash collection

January 3, 2011 under CANR News

Priyanka Jain, a master’s degree student in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, is working with the city of Newark to study ways to optimize residential trash pick-up and save costs.

Jain, who is in CANR’s operations research program, explained that the main goal of her work is to “enhance waste collection practices in the city of Newark in terms of minimizing fleet size, total transportation and operational cost, and avoiding time imbalance in between different routes.”

The study has two main parts. First, Jain looked at assigning different capacity trucks to various routes to help cut down on the number of trips taken by each truck. The city has trucks of varying capacity and Jain saw that specific types of trucks worked better on certain routes.

Jain found that a smaller model of truck was making two trips to pick up the same amount of waste that could be handled by a larger truck in one trip. She said she would like to cut the number of trips to save on fuel, operational costs and overtime pay.

Because there is less trash to pick up in the winter, Jain said she believes the city can collect all the trash successfully with four trucks rather than the five they currently use.

By decreasing the number of trips taken by each truck on their routes, Jain’s research showed a 19 percent reduction in yearly transportation and drivers’ labor costs.

The second part of the study concerned route optimization to save on fuel and overtime costs.

To determine the optimal route depending on the average waste to be collected, Jain used Network Analyst, an ArcGIS extension for problems such as shortest route, closest facility, location allocation and vehicle routing.

Jain said of the city’s current routing plan, “They have a good scheme, but still there are some trucks that have to do multiple trips because there are uncovered remaining houses. I’m trying to make routes, different routes, so that they have very optimal collection schemes and they don’t have to go back.”

Using optimal route solutions for the city, the ArcGIS computed using traffic directions, turn restrictions, average speeds for local roads and highways and average time for serving each bin. It included geocoding of the city’s customers on GIS maps, which can be helpful in the future if more customers need to be added. City historical data was used to calculate average drop off time at the transfer station, the area where the trucks transfer their waste. Field observations were also conducted to assess the average turn times and service time for bins.

When these optimized routes were compared to the current ones, the results showed that distance would be decreased between 4-15 percent on each route, with an average of a 9 percent reduction in mileage, leading to an estimated decrease of fuel costs by $1,500 and maintenance costs of $7,000 per year per route.

Cost is not the only benefit from Jain’s research, however, as she says another plus that comes from route optimization will be public safety.

Jain said she is “trying to optimize their routes so they do fewer U-turns, which is critical in terms of safety. They are huge trucks and when they back up, if they make a three-point turn, it is a main concern especially in terms of safety. They don’t want the trucks to make many U-turns or three-point turns.”

With fewer trucks running more efficient routes, there will be an environmental benefit to the research as well, as fewer trucks driving fewer miles will help Newark reduce its carbon footprint.

The study originated in a class taught by Kent Messer, assistant professor of food and resource economics and assistant professor of economics, and Messer says Jain was “just a wonderful example of someone going above and beyond and demonstrating her passion and knowledge. She obviously did a great job.”

Messer also said that the city of Newark was very helpful to Jain throughout her research. “They are a great team, and I give them kudos for doing it because they have to get a lot of data to run these things,” he said. “They’re very data intensive to get good meaningful results. So I just think that it’s a beautiful relationship between the University of Delaware and a student and the city.

“I think her analysis was great, and the thing that I like about it is that I think they’re going to do it. From what I can tell, they’re going to go try it out, run some of these routes, get feedback and see whether it’s actually going to get put on the ground. And that’s so much better than a study by itself.”

Along with Messer, Jain credited Rich Lapointe, the director of public works for the city; Patrick Bartling, public works superintendent for providing a lot of support, information and data; and Benjamin Mearns, information resources consultant with the University’s IT-Client Support and Services, for helping her with ArcGIS.

Jain will continue her study into next semester, adding things such as more detailed traffic data and recycling into her analysis.

Article by Adam Thomas
Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

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CANR Students Conduct Community Service

November 8, 2010 under CANR News

CANR students have been spending time this fall volunteering for community service organizations.

In October, Alpha Zeta went to the Brandywine Zoo for two hours for our community service project. Most of the members raked leaves to help keep the zoo looking neat. The leaves that we raked were also used for bedding for the animals in the winter. Other members helped renovate an animal holding pen area.

UD students in Kent Messer’s FREC100 class volunteered for The Nature Conservancy on November 7th.  “This is the second year where my students have volunteered with The Nature Conservancy and it appears to be developing into a long-term partnership as its seems to be beneficial to all involved,” Messer said.

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CANR to Celebrate UD Homecoming

November 1, 2010 under CANR News, Events

The University of Delaware College of Agriculture and Natural Resources invites you to Homecoming Weekend, November 5-7!

The CANR will recognize our Distinguished Alumni on Friday, November 5th at a college-wide luncheon, to be held at noon in the Townsend Hall Commons. The luncheon is open to faculty, staff, award winners and their guests. Please RSVP to the luncheon to Alice Moore at ammoore@udel.edu. The alumni winners will be visiting with their respective departments that day as well.

The 2010 CANR Distinguished Alumni Award winners are:

Stewart Ramsey, Principal and Senior Economist, U.S. Agriculture Services, IHSGLOBAL INSIGHT INC.
Nominated by the Department of Food and Resource Economics (Drs. Ilvento and Hastings)

Steven Leath, Vice President for Research, University of North Carolina
Nominated by the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences (Drs. Jim Hawk and Blake Myers)

J. Dennis Byrne, Manager, Herr Angus Farm
Nominated by Dr. Lesa Griffiths, Department of Animal and Food Sciences

In addition, we would like to recognize Natalie Crawford, a CANR alumnae, who will receive a 2010 Presidential Citation Award from UD’s Office of Alumni Relations.

For a listing of all past CANR Alumni Award winners visit http://ag.udel.edu/alumni/honorsandawards.html.

Join UD College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni, faculty, students and friends for a pre-game lunch with UDairy Creamery ice cream in celebration of Homecoming on Saturday, November 6 at 12:30 p.m. in the Townsend Hall Commons. During the event attendees will hear from Dean Robin Morgan about CANR’s latest achievements and reconnect your classmates and former faculty members! UD President Dr. Patrick Harker will be joining us.

To attend the brunch, register online by clicking here.

Hope to see you at UD Homecoming Weekend! For a full listing of all UD Homecoming events visit www.udel.edu/homecoming.

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Natural resource management internships sprout successful alumni

September 16, 2010 under CANR News

For students with an interest in the environment, the natural resource management (NRM) major, introduced in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1997, opened up a cutting-edge program that combined science, economics, and public policy.

Now, current students and graduates in the NRM major are relaying their skills into successful internships and employment with companies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Delaware Water Resources Center, IFC International and the Peace Corps.

“At that time (in 1997), the college didn’t have an interdisciplinary major, where you learned a little economics, a little plant science, a little entomology and wildlife ecology, and then took that background into the job market,” said Steven Hastings, professor of food and resource economics.

“The students in NRM are very good students, they’re very motivated students, and they have a passion for the environment,” he added. “They’ve got a lot of initiative. I think that’s what employers look for in potential interns today.”

NRM students have also continued their education in graduate programs all over the country, studying urban planning, zoology, environmental law, coastal zone management and more. The diverse and demanding major, which also includes courses on communications and ethics, gives students a foundation for advanced degrees in a variety of subjects, Hastings said.

“It’s a fairly rigorous major,” he said. “We had a student this past semester who applied to six very good graduate programs and was accepted at all six.”

Jennifer Popkin, a former NRM major, interned with the United Nations as the climate change coordinator after she graduated from the University in 2009. She served as the project manager of their global climate change project for six months.

Popkin said the intimate nature of the NRM program allowed her to interact closely with professors and other students, which led to numerous opportunities including an intensive research project.

“I spent the fall of my senior year studying how the trade and economic policy of India affect watershed development,” she said. “There were four students in total on this research project, and we each studied a different aspect of development. Part of the research included a trip to India.”

Kristen Loughery, also a graduate of the program, completed internships at the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), AmeriCorps, and a private environmental consulting firm while at the university.

“NRM provided me with a broad education, which prepared me to work towards my goals as an environmentalist,” Loughery said.

After receiving a master’s degree in natural resource economics, Loughery was hired by the EPA, where she said “it is extremely important to apply my education in policy, human behavior as it relates to incentives, and general scientific knowledge, all of which I attained through NRM.”

Hastings said internships are vital in helping students to explore career paths and see the real world implications of the issues they study at UD.

“Two interns that were working for me this summer, I found them out in the marsh one day, covered in mud, swatting mosquitoes,” Hastings said. “I think it’s very good for them to get out and get their hands dirty.”

Article by Chelsea Caltuna

This article can also be viewed on UDaily by clicking here.

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South Dakota State president a CANR Blue Hen

September 8, 2010 under CANR News

When the South Dakota State University football team ventures east to take on the University of Delaware on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 11, at Delaware Stadium, the Jackrabbits will bring with them a Blue Hen.

South Dakota State President David L. Chicoine earned a master’s degree in agricultural economics from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 1971. He also received a bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State in 1969, a master’s in economics from Western Illinois University in 1978 and a doctorate in agricultural economics from the University of Illinois in 1979.

Chicoine, who was named president of South Dakota State in 2007, said he and his wife, Marcia, have fond memories of their time spent in Delaware.

He said the move to Delaware in 1969 marked their first time east of the Mississippi River and proved to be an “interesting and exciting life experience.” They brought with them a one-month-old son and arrived at a time of unrest, with Wilmington only recently removed from the watch of the Delaware National Guard following riots.

Chicoine said their first connections were with the faculty and fellow graduate students, and he cited Raymond C. Smith, then the chair of his department, as well as Ulrich C. Toensmeyer and Joachim Elterich. He also said his thesis adviser, Gerald L. Cole, “was first rate.”

Working both in Newark and Southern Delaware, Chicoine said the young family enjoyed seeing the Atlantic Ocean — the first time they had viewed an ocean beach — and eating soft shell crabs. They enjoyed the Delaware and Chesapeake bays, learned about the Delmarva Peninsula and visited many sites in the Brandywine Valley.

“It was a transformational period for us — a great, great experience,” Chicoine said. “We liked the campus, which was larger and very different from the northern Great Plain prairie landscape of South Dakota State.”

Chicoine said his thesis research project was funded by a regional project on the economic impact of seasonal residents on bay and shore communities, and included the collection of original attitudinal data from permanent residents and seasonal residents of those communities.

He spent the summer of 1970 collecting data in Southern Delaware, and said “the focus of the project was on financing the needed infrastructure to accommodate the growth in seasonal residents — sewer, water, roads, public safety — and the efficiency for such given the several jurisdictions in play, the impact on the bay and shore aesthetics and natural environment, and then, of course, methods for funding the capital costs of infrastructure and the annual operating costs.”

Away from the beaches, Chicoine said Southern Delaware was “similar to rural South Dakota but with more poultry operations and specialty crops.”

Chicoine said UD graduate school “prepared us well for the work world, for additional studies and for life.”

He entertained several fine job offers after graduating, accepting a position at the University of Illinois as a regional economist working on rural economic development. He remained at Urbana-Champaign for more than 30 years, receiving his doctorate and serving as a faculty member, department head, dean and vice president.

He returned to his home state and alma mater in January 2007 as president of South Dakota State.

Chicoine said he and Marcia returned to UD about 20 years ago while in the Washington, D.C., area on business. “The University, of course, was significantly different than when we were on campus,” he said. “I am looking forward to seeing the campus and the changes that have occurred.”

Chicoine added, “And we are excited about the football game. UD has been an established football FCS program for years, competing in postseason play routinely. I took in a few games in fall of ’69 and fall of ’70. South Dakota State is a new kid on the FCS block, having our first postseason experience in 2009, but we play good football. The game-day experience will be great for our players, our coaches and staff and our alumni in the Philadelphia, Baltimore and D.C. region. It will be exciting, but UD will have a game under their belt and the Jacks will be lining up for their opener. I look forward to seeing a great football game, seeing the UD campus again and reminiscing a little of the terrific times.”

The Blue Hens defeated West Chester University 31-0 in the season opener Sept. 2. South Dakota State is ranked No. 9 nationally.

To follow University of Delaware athletics, see BlueHens.com.

For the full story with photo on UDaily, click here.

Article by Neil Thomas

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