Dutch elm disease claims “Elmer,” a campus tree more than a century old

The elm tree in 2012, with the Hector F. DeLuca Biochemistry Building. PHOTO BY STEVE HALL

The University of Wisconsin–Madison campus is saying goodbye to a beloved natural landmark. An elm tree that has stood for more than 100 years fell victim to Dutch elm disease and is in the process of being removed from the Hector F. DeLuca (HFD) Biochemical Sciences Complex by UW–Madison grounds staff.

The tree – often known informally as Elmer – has a rich past with the Department of Biochemistry and surrounding departments in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), such as the Department of Horticulture. Thousands of students who have taken biochemistry courses or frequented that area of campus have gazed up at the old elm or enjoyed breaks in the shade it provided.

Many staff members and scientists on the upper floors of labs or offices overlooking Elmer have spent decades watching the seasons through the tree – leaves falling in autumn, snow coating its sturdy branches, leaves returning in spring. They’ve watched birds come and go, including famed campus hawks, and some students say finches, perched among Elmer’s limbs, watched them work in lab.

When construction on buildings in the HFD Biochemical Sciences Complex took place in the late 1990s and again in 2012, crews took extreme care not to disturb the tree to which so many students, faculty, and staff had become attached.

“In our two major recent projects, I think that protection of the tree was the first item in the program, and it was discussed at the first construction meeting before the contractors got to work,” says Biochemistry Professor Mike Cox, who was faculty leader for much of the construction. “It is more than sad to see it go.”

Elmer dates back to a time well before the HFD Biochemistry Laboratories, when the area was covered with greenhouses, says Horticulture Chair Irwin Goldman. For decades, the tree was used as a teaching tool and was even a stop on a campus tree walk for students.

“Our department is 129 years old, one of the four original departments in CALS, and since it started we have used the tree to teach students about woody plants,” Goldman says. “I’d bet that tree was there from the beginning, although we aren’t sure exactly when it was planted.”

Please continue reading this story here.

Yandell awarded Round 4 Funding for Data Science Hub

This project will launch a campus-wide Data Science Hub (DSHub), paving the way for an eventual Data Science Institute. The​ ​goal​ ​of​ ​DSHub​ ​is​ ​to​ ​coordinate​ ​and​ ​execute​ ​a​ ​campus-wide​ ​data​ ​science​ ​strategy​ ​that​ ​fills​ ​critical​ ​gaps​ ​and supports​ ​data​ ​science​ ​growth​ ​and​ ​cross-fertilization.​

In the last decade, data science has gone from the “big data” fad to a mission-critical enterprise need. DSHub will increase visibility of UW–Madison as a major data science destination, provide unified leadership to advance campus expertise in data science, enable big funding opportunities, foster researcher training in data science, coordinate and strategize development of educational tools for data science degree programs, support domain scientists doing data science, foster cross-disciplinary methodological research in data science, and develop data science outreach to Wisconsin.

Seventeen  innovative projects ranging from personalizing diabetes prevention and treatment, to transforming wood into a renewable electronic material, to improving outcomes for incarcerated parents and their children, to fusion energy research that integrates optimized plasma confinement, and establishing a UWLandLab and a forecast-based flood and health disaster preparedness system, have been chosen to join the UW2020: WARF Discovery Initiative cohort.

The projects were reviewed by faculty from across the university, ultimately involving 102 reviewers. Funded projects include 125 faculty and academic staff investigators from 10 schools and colleges. The UW2020 Council, a group of faculty from all divisions of the university, evaluated the merits of each project based on the reviews and their potential for making significant contributions to their fields.

Project Description and Participants

 

Back to Farming Basics in Guatemala

When Claudia Calderón touched down in the fertile highlands of western Guatemala, she was stepping into a sociological experiment already afoot.

What brought her to the verdant country in Central America in 2016 was a collaborative study conducted alongside her peers from Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala. The group wanted to determine how two different types of small-holder farms (less than about 2.5 acres) perform in two key areas of sustainability — food security and climatic resilience.

The study compares semiconventional farms (those that use agrochemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers and grow a comparatively limited array of crops) and agroecology-adopting farms, which largely eschew modern pesticides for organic alternatives and are characterized by a sense of self-reliance, a concern for community well-being, a deeply rooted land ethic, and a tightly knit “solidarity economy” where food production and exchange occur for reasons beyond capital accumulation.

“They’re really focusing on the well-being of their families, of their communities,” says Calderón, an assistant faculty associate in the Department of Horticulture. “And not just the individual profit, but also the community profit.”

The first thrust of the study — food security — is a prominent issue in Guatemala. Large parts of the country lack the proper infrastructure to transport excess goods to market in time, and most rural households need to buy more food than they can produce. Combine this shortage with high levels of poverty, and malnutrition follows.

The group also investigated the agroecological method’s adoption and resilience to climate change. Agroecological farmers tend to grow a greater diversity of crops, including maize, bean, brassicas, leafy greens, potatoes, carrots, and fruits. This allows them to bounce back even if one crop is devastated by drought or rain. They also utilize terraces, contour planting, and live fences to mitigate the effects that washouts can have on their steep hillside plots.

“The whole world is talking about climate change, but particular regions of the world are especially vulnerable to the effects,” Calderón says.

Both agroecological and semiconventional agricultural methods are not without their challenges. Political will is fragmented. Property rights are murky or altogether absent. Extractive industries take advantage of this, hoping to ply the ground for valuable minerals in the soil.

But Calderón is intrigued by the symbiotic relationship between Guatemalan small-scale farmers and their land. She notes that women have become more involved in decisions about crop management. The takeaway? A set of farming practices aimed at optimizing yields, rather than maximizing them, may hold promise for the future of farming in Guatemala.

“What consequences are coming from particular ways of doing agriculture?” says Calderón. “We need to see the whole picture and recognize the role that small-holder farmers play for food security around the world.”

This article was originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Grow magazine.

2018 Study Abroad Program in Guatemala

UW Community-Based Learning and Sustainable Food Systems in Guatemala offers academics in the areas of Horticulture, Sociology, Environmental Studies, and more. Gain an in-depth understanding of different food systems on a local and global scale.
Develop cultural competency by participating in a community-based project, addressing a community-identified need. Explore the indigenous cultures of Guatemala by interacting with the residents of San Marcos La Laguna.
PROGRAM DETAILS:
• Earn 2 credits of Horticulture 375 or 2 credits of Nutritional Sciences 421.
• Contrast farming and consumer practices in Wisconsin and in Guatemala.
• Contribute to communities locally and internationally by engaging in community-based learning.
• Fulfills the Undergraduate Certificate in Global Health field experience requirement.

Deadline is December 1, 2017.  Program Details

Hort Department Graduate Develops Edible Campus Garden Program

A note from Jessica Kemper, 2014 grad

I wanted to reach out and share a new event happening at the University of Utah!

I graduated in 2014 with a horticulture degree from UW-Madison and am delighted to share that I’ve been working on developing the Edible Campus Garden program situated in the University of Utah Office of Sustainability.

Most recently, our Produce Pickup has been a huge hit! Thanks to inspiration from FH King and their Harvest Handouts and the Campus Food Shed (which I hope we can start to move towards) we’ve begun, on a small scale, to get free and fresh produce into students hands. So far there have been three Produce Pickups and we’ve donated about 50 lbs. of produce a week which has served about 20-25 students. We have a fairly small garden and also sell our produce to restaurants on campus and at the University Farmers Market. The program’s goal is to place 300+ pounds of produce grown on campus into students hands. Got to start somewhere!

I also wanted to share a bit of gratitude for the education I received at UW-Madison, and that the mission is being shared. I am so thankful to find myself in a position where I am making a difference, and I couldn’t do it without my experience at UW!  

Here is a brief story featured in the universities newsletter this week: @theU

Campus Food Sheds Stocked With Research Excess

Hannah DePorter

UW-Madison student Hannah DePorter stocks a refrigerator in the university’s Student Activity Center with vegetables grown for campus research projects. DePorter founded an initiative called the Campus Food Shed that aims to find a better use for the surplus produce faculty and students grow as part of their agriculture research. Photo by John Hart, State Journal

When Hannah DePorter’s plant breeding and genetics lab at UW-Madison grows beets, only a fraction of what the students harvest winds up being used for research.

Some of the rest goes to local food pantries and to students such as DePorter, who takes beets home to cook and give to friends. But there’s always plenty left over.

“So many of the beets were left in the field to compost,” she said.

DePorter, who will be a senior this fall, wants to change that, so she has started a new program that aims to address twin problems: The food waste that occurs when researchers in agriculture programs throw out or compost the excess produce they grow and the food insecurity that leaves some low-income college students hungry.

Her solution is called the Campus Food Shed, and it will take the form of four refrigerators stationed around UW-Madison that will be stocked with left-over produce for anyone who needs or wants free, nutritious and locally grown fruits and vegetables.

The first location opened in the Student Activity Center on Friday.

In an interesting juxtaposition, the refrigerator sits right next to a bank of vending machines — giving students a choice, DePorter said, between “fresh vegetables for free” and “processed foods that cost money.”

There should be plenty of produce to supply the refrigerators. The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences alone has a dozen research stations around Wisconsin where faculty grow crops. F.H. King Students for Sustainable Agriculture, a campus group DePorter is a member of, also has a two-acre plot, and researchers grow produce on space they rent from private farms as well.

The needs of research projects vary, said Irwin Goldman, a professor in the Department of Horticulture, but in some cases they only require half of what fields produce, if not less.

Without a formal system for what’s left over, researchers often just leave piles of free produce on tables in the halls of the Horticulture Building, Goldman said.

He credited DePorter for saying, “Let’s do something with this.”

Goldman said six researchers have signed on to contribute their crops to the Campus Food Shed, and he and DePorter are looking for others who will join the effort.

‘Great, local food’

Along with the Student Activity Center, on the third floor of 333 East Campus Mall, refrigerators will be stationed in Science Hall, 550 N. Park St.; Moore Hall, 1575 Linden Drive; and the Allen Centennial Garden, 620 Babcock Drive.Campus Food Shed,

Labels will tell visitors what the food is and when it was picked, DePorter said, and volunteers will make the rounds to toss any produce that goes bad.

The refrigerators are open whenever the campus buildings are, and are available to students or anyone else who wants the free produce, she said. There’s no limit to what people can take, and the new initiative won’t reduce how much produce goes to local food pantries, DePorter said.

“We’re hoping that this reaches as many people as possible,” she said.

The fact that they are stocked with locally grown produce means the fridges won’t have much to offer when they first open, since it’s still early in Wisconsin’s growing season, and will probably be less full during the depths of winter.

But organizers say the produce will provide a source of free and healthy food on a campus in which students have directed more attention to the plight of less wealthy peers who sometimes struggle to find enough to eat. A campus food pantry, The Open Seat, opened last year on a floor above the first Campus Food Shed refrigerator.

“It’s relatively small,” Goldman said of the effort, “but it’s great, local food.”

 Story Source:  Wisconsin State Journal, June 17, 2017

IPM and NPM Programs Honored for Display

John Shutske, Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Board chair, presents the 2016 Donald R. Peterson Award to Roger Schmidt and Mimi Broeske.

It’s not often that people can have their picture taken with a ten foot tall goat or be able to pose in a pen with pigs and not get dirty, but it was possible for people who visited the University of Wisconsin Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Nutrient Management Programs (NPM) booth at the 2016 Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.

Using an iPad and some creativity to run a photo booth where visitors could pose and interact with images of farm animals, IPM/NPM staff demonstrated the computer power that simple mobile devices have and explained how the University of Wisconsin-Extension uses digital technology to be flexible and relevant to the needs of farmers, including developing apps for farmers.

“UW-Extension doesn’t manufacture giant farm machinery,” said Roger Schmidt, UW-Extension computer specialist at UW-Madison, “But we do create research and foster community relationships that help farmers reap bountiful harvests, earn more money and allow people to eat the best food the earth can grow sustainably.”

The IPM and NPM exhibit, which provided information about free smartphone apps developed for agriculture by these two programs, received the 2016 Donald R. Peterson Technology Transfer Award. Individuals recognized for their efforts with this display were Roger Schmidt, UW-Extension computer specialist at UW-Madison and Mimi Broeske, UW-Madison senior editor.

NPM and IPM mobile apps include Wisconsin’s Corn N Rate Calculator, N Price Calculator, Crop Calculators for Corn, NPK Credits – Manure and Legume Nutrient Credit Calculator, Soybean Replant Calculator, and an IPM toolkit. The apps are available for both Apple and Android devices.

The award was presented at the annual Wisconsin Farm Technology Days Board of Directors meeting in April 2017.

The Donald R. Peterson Award recognizes outstanding educational effectiveness and impact via an interactive exhibit and activities at Wisconsin Farm Technology Days. To receive this award, groups must successfully engage audiences around topics such as: effectively using new management tools, processes, or concepts; incorporating new technologies into a modern farm operation; or issues that challenge contemporary agriculture and our natural resource base.

The Donald R. Peterson Wisconsin Farm Technology (Progress) Days Technology Transfer Award was established in honor of Don Peterson, UW-Madison College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Professor and Associate Dean. Peterson was Chair of the Board of Directors from 1975-1993 and Executive Director of Wisconsin Farm Progress Days from 1993-1998.

The Award memorializes Peterson’s diligent efforts to encourage CALS faculty and staff to convey the fruits of College research and knowledge to the public through Wisconsin Farm Technology Days.

This post originally published on the UW Extension Website

Supporting Young Women in Science

Sharon Gray’s work in Ethiopia is not done.

The 30-year-old UC Davis postdoc had gone to the African nation to discuss the start of a plant biology research project. She and others — including Associate Professor Siobhan Brady — were in a car, driving on the outskirts of the capital city, Addis Ababa, when a rock came crashing through a window, striking and killing Gray. Brady was not injured.

Now, to preserve her legacy of mentorship, and hopefully bring this scientist to the United States,Gray’s family is raising money via GoFundMe to mentor women in science. “The mission of this current campaign is to make something positive out of this tragedy,” Markelz wrote for the GoFundMe site.

He said the family is discussing the exchange proposal with multiple institutions, including UC Davis and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Gray received her Ph.D. Meanwhile, as of around 12:45 p.m. today (Oct. 11), the GoFundMe drive had raised more than $63,000 toward its $200,000 goal.

Memorial Fund: https://www.gofundme.com/sharonbethgray

Article detailing Sharon’s life and mentoring: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/sharon-grays-mentorship-lives-on

Boys Scouts earn Plant Sciences merit badges

Reported in eCALS on 8/22/2016 by Caroline Schneider, CALS Office of External Relations

Last Saturday, Aug. 20, Kevin Cope, a graduate student in Jean-Michel Ané’s lab, organized a Plant Science Merit Badge Workshop for Boy Scouts. The workshop was held in conjunction with the Plant Sciences Graduate Student Council (PSGSC) with help from PSGSC president Chris D’Angelo, a graduate student in Irwin Goldman’s lab. Boy Scouts from across Wisconsin and parts of Illinois attended, and 48 scouts earned the badge. More than 15 graduate student volunteers from several different departments and programs helped with the workshop.

Scouts attending the workshop took part in lectures, hands-on experiments, and tours of the D.C. Smith Greenhouse and the Allen Centennial Gardens. Said one parent who attended the workshop, “My son commented on how much they learned and came home in very good spirits after a long day. We’ve been to many different merit badge workshops…[This] was one of the best run and highest-quality workshops we’ve seen.”

This is the second time Kevin, who serves as vice president of PSGSC, has organized this workshop with the student council. They plan to continue offering this merit badge workshop in the future so that young men interested in plant science can learn more and enjoy the facilities that UW–Madison has to offer. They are also interested in expanding the workshop to involve young women and welcome ideas about how to do that. Contact Kevin at kcope@wisc.edu with any questions or suggestions.

Horticulture Grad Student Wins Writing Contest

This past spring, CALS agroecology graduate student Kitt Healy won second place in the Water Sustainability and Climate Project’s Our Waters, Our Future writing contest, which sought short stories about positive futures for water and people in south-central Wisconsin. As part of Healy’s award, her story, “The Incarnation of Nelmi Jane,” is featured in Madison Magazine’s June online issue.

The contest was an effort to encourage imaginative thinking about desirable and possible futures for the region. It was a collaboration of the UW-Madison’s Water Sustainability and Climate Project and Center for Limnology, Sustain Dane, the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters, and Madison Magazine.

Contest submissions came from all over Wisconsin and were judged in part based on their scientific plausibility, a call made by a team of four scientists from UW-Madison.

Wisconsin-based literary leaders Peter Annin, journalist and author of Great Lakes Water Wars, and poet Fabu, Madison’s third poet laureate, along with Madison Magazine, made the final decision on the first- and second-place winners.

“The Incarnation of Nelmi Jane has beautiful poetic lines woven throughout the story. It combines the realities of not taking good care of our water with the hope that new life and better understanding bring,” said Fabu of Healy’s story.

The contest ran from November 2015 through January 2016, and the winners were announced in March.

Read Healy’s story here.

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