UD group visits New Zealand to learn about differences in agriculture

April 1, 2014 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

Students study in New Zealand learning about pasture growth through cooperative extension and classroom learningA study abroad program in New Zealand during Winter Session brought together undergraduate learning and Cooperative Extension experience, two major aspects emphasized by the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

This unique study abroad program blended classroom, experiential and extension education to deliver a unique discovery learning experience focused on New Zealand agriculture.

The five-week trip was led by Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and Susan Garey, animal science extension agent, who explained that the students divided their time between classroom learning and field experience as they traveled to farms and dairies to learn about the differences in farming and agriculture practices between the United States and New Zealand.

Garey said that she liked how the trip tied together the extension and undergraduate aspects of education. “We have the formal lecture in the classroom but getting out to the farm and looking at the blades of grass and seeing how pastures yields are measured and how you determine where to move the cows next in the grazing system, I just think really drives the point home to students.”

The students learned so much about New Zealand dairy and agriculture that two who went on the trip were able to present at Middletown High School at the annual meeting of the Delaware Holstein Association. The students talked about New Zealand agriculture and more specifically, about the dairy industry, such as typical farm size, how milk is marketed and the main products of the industry.

Pasture growth

Griffiths explained that the UD students learned a lot about pasture growth on their trip, both inside and outside of the classroom. Because the animals consume the grass available to them from pasture on farms in New Zealand, rather than being fed grain or harvested feeds, as is the case in America, understanding pasture growth is vital for that nation’s farmers.

The students stayed at Lincoln University in New Zealand, where they visited a 600-cow demonstration farm built to serve as a model for dairy farmers in the region.

Griffiths said the demonstration farm “serves more of an extension role — a place to try new pasture species, closely monitor pasture growth and animal performance, determine environmental impacts and share information with dairy farmers.”

Students learned from the farm manager about the concept of a pasture feed wedge, a graph of the current pasture status by ranking each paddock’s average pasture cover, she said.

“While the graph made it easy to see how much grass is out there for cows to consume, it was not so easy for students to visualize how the farmer gets his/her data on pasture grass production,” said Griffiths. To help farmers and students understand this, the farm staff would walk the pastures every Tuesday.

We showed up at the dairy and walked and measured weekly growth in each of the 21 paddocks. We stopped along the way and learned to evaluate the grass itself,” said Griffiths.

Jenna Wilson, a sophomore majoring in pre-veterinary medicine and animal biosciences, said it was clear that the farmers cared dearly about their grass. “They really want the grass to produce well so that the animals produce well. They talked about when they cut it and when they grow it, where they grow it, and how they divide up the pasture.”

Garey added that the need for animals to feed themselves through pasture originated out of necessity because the farmers “don’t have the soil types to grow as much grain as we do here.”

Dairy differences

One of the biggest differences the group learned about was in the management of dairy farms. “New Zealand exports a lot of milk but one of the big cultural differences is New Zealanders are not large consumers of fluid milk,” said Garey, who explained that a majority of that nation’s dairy production is exported in milk powders that are headed to Asia, as well as in baby formula and in products such as cheese and butter.

Garey added that while dairies in America tend to milk their cows 305 out of 365 days of the year, the New Zealand dairies milk their cows around 223 days a year.

Wilson explained that a big difference between the two countries is that New Zealand farms tend to be more hands off and have fewer buildings for the animals.

“They don’t really interact as much with the animals as we do — except for dairying, obviously, because they have to bring them in twice a day. But a lot of the time, they just put the animals out in the pasture and leave them there until they need to shear them or breed them,” said Wilson.

Deer farms

Another difference between the two nations is that in New Zealand there are deer farms.

“At the deer farm that we went to, the farmer was raising them for the velvet. Antlers in the velveting stage get shipped to Asia for medicinal purposes. When they get older they use the deer for meat,” said Wilson, who added that these farms are easy to spot because they have very high fences to prevent the animals from jumping out.

Garey added that the deer on those farms are red deer, which differ from the white tailed deer found in Delaware.

Garey said the deer farms are what she calls a sign of “Kiwi ingenuity,” explaining that because deer — along with other animals — were brought to New Zealand from England, they had no known natural predators and their population exploded. Some New Zealanders decided to trap the animals and farm them in order to harvest either their velvet or their meat, usually focusing on one or the other.

“They do well in the harsher country so it’s a way to use the variability of land,” said Garey. “The south island of New Zealand is very diverse from the flat plains to high country and hill country. The high country environment is much harsher and that would not be good land, necessarily, for milking dairy cattle, but deer can do well in those environments.”

Because of the variability of the land, the farms also have multiple uses, sometimes housing sheep, deer and cattle, instead of focusing on one species.

Article by Adam Thomas

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


Diamond combines military background with veterinary passion

February 8, 2012 under CANR News

Growing up in a military family, University of Delaware graduate Danielle Diamond always told her parents — specifically her father, who had a career in the Navy — that she would join ROTC if it weren’t for her love of animals and her interest in veterinary medicine. Now, as she serves as a military veterinarian stationed in England, Diamond gets to experience the best of both worlds.

Diamond, who graduated from UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2005, said she was first made aware of the opportunity to combine the two fields through the Army Health Professions Scholarship Program, which she discovered while attending the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University.

She said that the program is “a bit like the ROTC program.  I received a two-year scholarship and owed back three years of active duty service once I graduated.  I completed vet school, was commissioned as a captain in the United States Army and pretty much put a uniform on for the first time on June 1, 2009.”

Diamond is now serving as the officer in charge of the veterinary treatment facility at the Royal Air Force (RAF) Feltwell facility, and she explained that there are many facets to her job as a veterinarian in the military.

“Our primary concern is the military working dogs.  I oversee two kennels here with roughly 20 dogs.  We provide their routine and emergency care,” said Diamond, explaining that she also examines the animals that are owned by military personnel or retirees, administering preventive medicines to the animals — such as vaccines, flea and tick control — and spaying and neutering the animals.

Though her main focus is the military working dogs, Diamond helps out with food audits, as well, making sure the food and water that is distributed to the military base is safe to consume. She also works closely with the public health department to manage potential rabies cases, although she notes that the United Kingdom is considered “rabies-free.”

Because she works at “the only veterinary treatment facility in the U.K. for military members” other than pricey private practices, Diamond explained that she makes quarterly trips to three neighboring military bases to look at their animals. She and her staff also go to child development centers to monitor the health of their pets, and volunteer with scouting and school-age groups to “expand animal awareness and provide education.”

Of all her duties, Diamond said that working with the military working dogs is her favorite part of the job. “Those dogs are at the top of my priority list, 24/7.  When anything happens with one of those dogs, from vaccines to an emergency surgery, I’m the one who will be called in to handle it.”

Keeping the dogs in top physical form is key to their success, as Diamond explains that if a dog is sick or misses a routine veterinarian appointment, that dog is not going to work out as well or could even “miss out on the opportunity to deploy.”

Diamond said that watching the dogs work together as a team is “an awesome thing.  It’s especially rewarding when you see some of these young enlisted folks come in and take responsibility for their dog and work out the kinks in their performance.  Those dogs and their handlers save lives, and I want those dogs that are patrolling for drugs or explosives to be at their best physical being in order to keep our American military members safe at all times.”

In the end, Diamond says that what matters most to her is making sure that her patients stay healthy and alert. “It doesn’t matter if that dog’s job is making a small, safe base even safer or joining a Navy SEAL team to take down a bad guy like Osama Bin Laden — I want to be able to say I did the best job at keeping that dog healthy and capable of doing a great job.”

Time at UD

Before she even realized that she could combine her military background with her interest in veterinary medicine, Diamond was an undergraduate in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Diamond graduated from UD in 2005, with a bachelor of science degree in animal science, and a concentration in pre-veterinary medicine and minors in wildlife conservation and biological sciences.

Diamond was an active Ag Ambassador, a program with which she wanted to get involved after being shown around the campus by an ambassador when she visited UD as a high school student.

“When I came and interviewed at UD, I spent a day there with an Ag Ambassador and I got to go to some classes and spend some time out on the farm, and that kind of sealed the deal for me when I was going to visit schools, because it was such an interpersonal relationship and I really got to see the school and talk to somebody one on one,” Diamond said.

She added that once she became an Ag Ambassador, she was heavily involved with the program, “I did a lot of events when I was there. I think we had to do four events a semester and I think I did about 75 by the time I graduated.”

Besides the fond memories of working with Karen Aniunas, director in University Development and an instructor in CANR, and the Ag Ambassadors, Diamond recalls fondly traveling to New Zealand during a Winter Session study abroad trip with Lesa Griffiths, professor in the Department of Animal and Food Sciences, and working with Limin Kung, professor of animal and food sciences, in the Ruminant Nutrition Lab. “Dr. Kung took me on for a research lab position to earn some extra money, linked me up to a local large animal veterinarian to gain experience, and ultimately became my adviser and a good friend.”

She encourages current UD students to go out and get involved in both the campus and the community. “There are a ton of opportunities both on the campus as well as at your fingertips, as Delaware is a very agricultural state,” Diamond said. “It will benefit you, your school, and the community.”

Diamond does have one regret, however, and that is graduating before the UDairy Creamery opened for business.

“I just want to make it known that I’m a bitter alumni in that the UD Creamery opened after I had graduated!” Diamond joked, adding that she made the mistake of one day perusing the UDairy Creamery menu on the website and longed for a taste. “Guess I need to plan a visit back…”

Article by Adam Thomas

This article was originally published on UDaily


Winter in New Zealand leads to summer in Germany for CANR student

January 30, 2012 under CANR News

University of Delaware student Shaw Civitarese had wanted to find an internship in New Zealand for the summer but, unfortunately for him, his summer was their winter.

So instead of heading to New Zealand, Communicating for Agriculture Education Programs (CAEP), the organization through which Civitarese found his internship, suggested that he go to Germany for the summer to work on a swine and produce farm.

Civitarese agreed and was assigned to work on the Bauernhof Keller farm in Rodgau, Germany, which is a suburb of Frankfurt.

It turned out to be a great situation for the junior, who is majoring in agricultural and natural resources with a minor in food and resource economics.

Civitarese described the farm as “the story-book farm that you would imagine it would be. Everybody in the family worked on the farm. The mom did all the finances and the father and the kids did all the farming work. They mainly grew small grains but potatoes were also a big crop that they sold. And we would deliver the potatoes to lots of different restaurants and markets.”

Of his duties on the farm, Civitarese explained that his daily routine, if it wasn’t harvest time, usually involved being out in the fields at 7 a.m. followed by a long lunch around 11. He said that the German farmer’s lunch is comparable to an American dinner, and after eating and resting for about two or three hours, he would head back out in the fields from 3 p.m. to 9 or 10 p.m.

The time in the field was usually spent gathering small grains, like wheat, barley and straw, the latter of which ended up as bedding for the pigs.

Civitarese noted that this was a little unusual. “Their pig farm was actually unique — they bedded down their pigs in straw, which is kind of unheard of but I guess it’s good for the pigs’ morale.”

He said the straw is much softer than the usual bedding of concrete slabs.

If it was a harvest day, however, the schedule became more intense. “The harvesting was so tough because we would get up at daybreak, and it would be light out at 6 o’clock in the morning because you’re so far north. And we wouldn’t stop,” said Civitarese. “At one point, we were definitely in the combines harvesting for over 24 hours straight. So, it was rough but it was a great learning experience.”

After growing up on a farm in Baltimore County, Maryland, Civitarese was able to ease into the farming aspect of his internship. It was the cultural aspects of the internship that took a little while for him to grasp.

Civitarese had one big obstacle in his path right away as he made his way to Europe: he didn’t speak a word of German.

Luckily for him, Tobi Keller, the son of the farm’s owner, Robert Keller, was fluent in English and took him under his wing, helping him out whenever a language barrier stood in his way. Though he got help from Keller, who is 21 and learned English as part of his schooling, Civitarese did have trouble communicating with some of the older members of the community, specifically, his roommate.

“I lived with the grandfather because they didn’t have any extra room in the house, and the grandfather is very old school German, so he didn’t care to learn any English,” Civtarese said, joking, “He just yelled at me in German the whole time.”

Civitarese formed such a close bond with the younger Keller that he and his girlfriend flew over to America from Germany to visit Civitarese and experience their first Thanksgiving.

Civitarese also plans on heading back to Germany this summer to attend a rock festival.

Perhaps the greatest thing the internship accomplished is that it opened Civitarese up to a world of possibilities once he graduates. “I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but now I want to do something with a more global impact with agriculture,” he said. “I was thinking either an international job in agriculture with a marketing firm or something not specific to the U.S. I want to do something with a more global reach. The trip opened my eyes to other ways of thinking in agriculture.”

He also offered up some words of wisdom for any student planning to spend time abroad. “If you’re going by yourself, make sure you learn the local language before you go and do some background information on the place.”

He did say, however, that anybody who has a chance to study in a foreign country should jump at the opportunity. “I would definitely encourage anybody to get out there and do it because it changed the whole direction that I want to go with my degree.”

Civitarese added, “It gives you a more global perspective of what agriculture is outside of the United States, and how other countries view U.S. agriculture.”

After hours spent searching on Google trying to find an international internship that was right for him, Civitarese is forever grateful that winter in New Zealand led to an unforgettable summer in Germany.

Article by Adam Thomas

This article was originally published on UDaily


CANR Study Abroad Blogs

January 10, 2012 under CANR News

Many of our CANR students are spending winter session studying abroad.  Follow them on their journeys through the blogs that they and/or their faculty leaders are writing.

Brazil http://udbrazil.blogspot.com (Plant and Soil Sciences)

Dominica http://dominica2012.wordpress.com/ (Food and Resources Economics/Geography)

Singapore and Indonesia http://agdev.anr.udel.edu/longwoodgradblog/ (Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture)

Tanzania http://udtanzania2012.blogspot.com/ (Entomology and Wildlife Ecology/Art)

In addition, there is another CANR study abroad program traveling to Ecuador and the Galpagos (Plant and Soil Sciences/Biology). For more information about University of Delaware study abroad programs, visit UD’s Institute for Global Studies website.


Applications accepted for study abroad program in Galapagos Islands

April 28, 2011 under CANR News

A once-in-a lifetime academic adventure is in store for students participating in the January, 2012, study-abroad program in the Galápagos Islands and Ecuador. Applications are being accepted until June 30.

The program, set for Jan. 3-25, 2012, will be led by Thomas Evans, professor of plant and soil sciences, and Rebekah Helton, research associate with the Delaware Biotechnology Institute Bio-Imaging Center and the Center for Translational Cancer Research Core Facility.

“This three-week academic journey will offer students the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin and study evolution and endemism in one of the most unique places on the planet,” Helton said.

For the first 12 days in the Galápagos Islands, students will live and learn aboard the 131-foot motor yacht Coral I, owned and operated by Kleintours. Evans and Helton will lead field trips on land each morning and afternoon, moving through the Galápagos Archipelago, hiking on the trails of each island and studying the plants, animals and ecosystems.

In the Andean region of Ecuador, the group will study the ecology of the highlands at Cotopaxi National Park, following the path of Alexander von Humboldt, the German naturalist who in the early 1800s traveled the mountainous region studying its natural history and volcanoes while mapping the equator.

All students will take two courses during the program — “Plants of Ecuador” (PLSC340) and “Tropical Ecology” (PLSC367) — and will work together learning about Ecuador’s diversity of plants, native species of plants, local use and applications. Students will learn field techniques for observation or actual hands-on study in Cotopaxi National Park, as well as in the Galápagos Islands.

“On this trip, students will gain a perspective on preservation of unique and fragile ecosystems in a developing country,” Evans said. “Students will learn about tropical ecology at the extremes, on islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and on volcanic peaks at elevations between 12,000 and 15,000 feet. And through cultural events, they will learn about the people of this wonderful country.”

All majors are accepted for the program, which is offered by the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Students from animal science, plant science, exercise science, environmental sciences and entomology have been accepted into the program so far. A blog will showcase student activities and adventures when the program is under way.

Evans, a botanist and plant pathologist, has been working in Ecuador since 1989, and launched UD’s first study abroad program in South America when he took a group to Ecuador and the Galápagos Islands in 1998. Since then, Evans has led or co-led nine study-abroad trips to these locations.

Helton is a microbial ecologist and previously worked in Ecuador in 2005 studying the microbial ecology and diversity of the benthic environment. She has experience conducting research in marine environments, from the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays aboard UD’s research vessel, to the depths of the Pacific Ocean exploring hydrothermal vents in the submersible Alvin.

See the website for grade point average requirements, program costs and application guidelines. For more information, contact Thomas Evans at tomevans@udel.edu, 831-1066, or Rebekah Helton at rrhelton@udel.edu, 831-6100.

For full article and more photos, visit UDaily


CANR highlighted in new UD virtual tour

February 17, 2011 under CANR News

The University of Delaware has unveiled a virtual tour of the campus for prospective students and their families, and for anyone else who might be interested in learning more about UD.

The tour is less of a map and more of a tour through UD’s new “pillars” (discovery learning, talent magnet, smart money, east coast classic, idea leadership, citizen university).

Below is a listing of the video segments that highlight CANR faculty and students, so that you can more easily find them.  There are also photos and video shots scattered throughout all of the pieces.

When the page opens, click on Discover the University of Delaware.
Discovery Learning tab: Hands on Experience
Talent Magnet tab: Undergraduate Research
East Coast Classic tab: Access to Internships
Smart Money tab: Career Focus
Citizen University tab: Study Abroad; Go Global; Feeding the world, protecting the planet

Many thanks to the CANR faculty and students who contributed to this project.

For the complete UDaily story about the new tour, click here.

To learn more about video capabilities at UD and to learn how YOU can be involved in projects like this at UD and CANR, please contact Katy O’Connell, CANR Communications Manager, at kvo@udel.edu.


UD Study Abroad sends 1,103 Students Around the World

January 25, 2010 under CANR News

CANR students are among the 1,103 UD students abroad this winter session. Many groups are writing about their experiences on blogs.  Plant and soil science students are blogging from Brazil. Wildlife ecology and nature photography students are blogging from the Australian Outback.  Longwood Graduate Program students are blogging from South Africa

Read the full story on UDaily.