University of Delaware plant and soil sciences chair named AAAS Fellow

December 3, 2012 under CANR News

Blake C. Meyers, chair of the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences and the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at the University of Delaware, has been named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Designation as a fellow of AAAS is an honor bestowed upon members by their peers.

Meyers received the award in large part because of his contributions to bioinformatics and plant functional genomics of model and crop plants, especially in the area of small RNA biology.

Meyers explained that he has been involved in the field of plant genomics for more than 15 years, with the most intensive research taking place at the laboratory he established at UD’s Delaware Biotechnology Institute.

Noting that he has an ongoing and long-running collaboration with Pamela J. Green, the Crawford H. Greenewalt Endowed Chair in Plant Molecular Biology, Meyers said that the collaboration helped him to focus on small RNAs as a particularly productive field in which to apply his work on “next-generation” DNA sequencing technologies.

“Collaborative research is key to our success, as we’ve worked with experts in rice, maize, soybean, model plants such as Arabidopsis thaliana and Medicago truncatula, tomato, numerous other plants, fungi and even chickens, contributing our expertise and tools, and learning from our collaborators, their biological materials, and the comparisons we’ve made across organisms and their genomes,” said Meyers.

Meyers said of the AAAS announcement, “It is really a tremendous honor, because it reflects a recognition by my scientific peers of the quality and impact of both the work of my lab and my own contributions to science. The AAAS is a remarkable organization so I’m really thankful to be elected a fellow.”

He also said the honor would not have been possible without the help of the many researchers with whom he has collaborated over the years. “The honor should be shared with my past and present lab members, as I’ve been lucky to work with excellent lab members over the 10 years that I’ve been at the University of Delaware.”

Meyers said the recognition is to be shared by UD as well, as he has had “strong institutional encouragement and support from the University, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and my department, including excellent peers, top-tier facilities in which to carry out our work and access and support with the latest generation of technologies that my lab requires to carry out its work.”

Meyers has also participated in activities shaping the future of bioinformatics in plant biology.

“Like many plant biologists, I feel a responsibility to help advance agriculture which has tremendous challenges due to population growth, environmental pressures and climate change, and increasing demands on natural resources,” said Meyers. “The AAAS has long promoted science as the means to help address issues such as these, so their recognition of my work is quite gratifying.”

Mark Rieger, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, said of Meyers, “Dr. Meyers’ work in plant genetics and molecular biology is known around the world and reflects extremely well on the college and the University of Delaware.”

Rieger added he is “thrilled that AAAS has recognized his research. He is one of the youngest faculty that I know to have received this recognition, and I predict he’ll have an even greater impact on his discipline in the coming years.”

About Blake C. Meyers

Blake C. Meyers received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago and his master’s degree and doctorate from the University of California Davis.

He joined the UD faculty in 2002 and was named the Edward F. and Elizabeth Goodman Rosenberg Professor of Plants and Soil Sciences in 2010.

Meyers’ lab has pioneered the application to mRNA and small RNA analyses of what was the first of the now-popular “next-generation” DNA sequencing technologies. Research in his laboratory is supported by the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and industry.

About AAAS

The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization dedicated to advancing science around the world by serving as an educator, leader, spokesperson and professional association. In addition to organizing membership activities, AAAS publishes the journal Science, as well as many scientific newsletters, books and reports, and spearheads programs that raise the bar of understanding for science worldwide.

Founded in 1848, AAAS serves some 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million. The non-profit AAAS is open to all and fulfills its mission to “advance science and serve society” through initiatives in science policy, international programs, science education, and more.

Article by Adam Thomas

Photo by Evan Krape

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Don Tilmon receives College of the Ozarks Meritorious Award

November 5, 2012 under CANR News

Don Tilmon, professor in the Department of Applied Economics and Statistics (APEC), has received the 2012 Meritorious Award for Distinguished Achievement from the College of the Ozarks where he earned his associate degree in 1963.

Tilmon received his master’s degree at the University of Delaware and then eventually returned to UD, where he has worked for 34 years. He served as the Cooperative Extension farm management specialist and the director of the Northeast Center for Risk Management Education, which was established at UD in 2001. It is one of four regional centers that conduct the Extension Risk Management Education Program. Tilmon provided leadership for developing the program while he was serving as the national program leader for risk management education, during one of three separate one-year Inter-Agency Personnel assignments at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Tilmon also received a bachelor of science degree from the University of Missouri in 1965 and his doctorate from Purdue University in 1971.

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UD’s Jaisi wins ORAU Powe Award to track down nutrient pollutant in Chesapeake

May 9, 2012 under CANR News

Too much of a good thing can kill you, the saying goes.

Such is the case in the Chesapeake Bay, North America’s largest estuary, where an overabundance of nutrients fosters the formation of an oxygen-starved “dead zone” every summer. In its annual health report card last year, the bay earned only a D+.

Deb Jaisi, an assistant professor of plant and soil sciences at the University of Delaware, wants to seek out the sources of a key nutrient so excessive that it has become a pollutant in the Chesapeake Bay — phosphorus (P).

Jaisi wants to literally get to the bottom of this nutrient’s influx by analyzing the phosphorus present in a set of sediment cores extracted from the seafloor of the upper bay, middle bay and lower bay. The cores offer a glimpse into the geological and environmental record of approximately the past 75 years.

The Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), a consortium of 105 major Ph.D.-granting academic institutions, has high hopes for Jaisi’s research. Recently, Jaisi was one of 30 scientists selected nationwide to receive ORAU’s Ralph E. Powe Junior Faculty Enhancement Award. The award is intended to enrich the research and professional growth of young faculty and result in new funding opportunities.

Jaisi will receive $5,000 in seed funding from ORAU and $5,000 in matching funding from UD to launch his Chesapeake study.

According to Jaisi, phosphorus in the bay comes from three primary sources: the land, the ocean, and the buried sediments from where phosphorus is remobilized and reintroduced into the bay. However, current nutrient management efforts focus solely on reducing inputs from land.

“The contribution of these three major sources of phosphorus has varied since colonial times,” says Jaisi, who joined the UD faculty last year. “The prevailing notion that the increase in terrestrial phosphorus alone is the tipping point for the bay’s eutrophication is questionable.”

When his new state-of-the-art isotope lab is completed in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources this summer, Jaisi and his team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers will begin using a prized new instrument called a thermo-chemical elemental analyzer (TC/EA) coupled to an isotope mass spectrometer (IRMS) to assess the presence and levels of the distinctively different forms, or isotopes, of phosphorus.

Each phosphorus source, from fertilizers used on land, to wastewater effluents, seafloor sediments, or the ocean, usually has a distinctive isotope composition or “signature” retained in the sediment cores. By comparing data from the same historical period in the sediment cores, Jaisi and his research group will be able to identify the relative contributions of different phosphorus sources over time.

“The strength of this work is that it applies the natural abundance of stable isotopes to ‘fingerprint’ the phosphorus sources for the first time in the Chesapeake Bay,” Jaisi notes. “We’ll be able to see how much phosphorus is derived from the land versus from the ocean. Over time, the analysis will reveal the real culprit in the Chesapeake Bay’s nutrient overenrichment.”

Jaisi says he hopes the work will expand knowledge of the estuary’s nutrient diet and provide information useful to resource managers in controlling phosphorus overloads. He envisions the eventual development of detailed nutrient maps of the bay, as well as the rivers that drain into it.

Originally from Nepal, home of Mount Everest, Jaisi began using isotopes to explore nutrient issues as a postdoctoral fellow at Yale University. He says the University of Delaware has provided a perfect fit for his research.

“This is an area where phosphorus is a big and hot issue,” he says. “Here, the bay and my laboratory are side by side.”

Article by Tracey Bryant

Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson

This article can also be viewed on UDaily

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