Catching Up with CALS — July 24, 2019
Dean's Message — Learning Opportunities
It is mid-July, and summer is passing quickly. A bustle of activity kept life interesting on the first floor of the Iddings Agricultural Science Building last week as plant pathologist Brenda Schroeder oversaw moving equipment and supplies into the modernized microbiology lab.
Located in Ag Sci 141, the entomology laboratory in the 1973 wing of the ag sciences buildings played a large role in educating generations of students.
Like many of our facilities, however, it was showing its age. Imagine if we still had the technology used in 1973: rotary-dial phones, cameras that used film and typewriters dominated the scene.
Last week’s work to install new equipment in the lab signaled the completion of nearly a year’s worth of plumbing, electrical and other upgrades.
We in the dean’s office, and anyone who visited, will no doubt recall the plastic sheeting on the floor, the relocation of workspaces and other signs of the work in progress.
We all knew the renovations would pay off in better opportunities for students.
These days the rewards are becoming apparent, but the real value will become realized in less than four weeks when students return.
The new lab will help entomology, plant pathology and nematology professor Schroeder and other faculty in plant sciences, animal and veterinary science and food science offer better learning opportunities.
We plan to show off the new lab Oct. 4-6 as part of our Ag Days and Celebrating Idaho Agriculture events.
Of course, summer offers a full menu of developments, some long-standing like the Twilight Tour held at the Aberdeen Research and Extension Center last week.
Also last week, U of I and CALS successfully closed the deal on the purchase of six acres at the Crossroads Point Business Center in Jerome County. Located near the Interstate 84–U.S. Highway 93 interchange, the site will provide an ideal location for faculty and students associated with the Idaho Center for Agriculture, Food and the Environment (CAFE).
Beyond that, the Crossroads Point location will provide the storefront for CAFE’s education and outreach efforts designed to tell the dairy story in Idaho — but it will be more than that. The Crossroads Point Location will be called the Idaho CAFE Discovery Complex and will tell the story of Idaho agriculture and where our food comes from.
The land purchase, supported by a donation from Crossroads Point developer Arlen Crouch, gives us a location on which to build both the partnerships and the physical presence to better serve agriculture and the communities in southern Idaho.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
93 percent of Idaho’s spring wheat crop had headed by Sunday, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. It’s a sign the growing season is near normal for some crops. Through the same day last summer, 91 percent had headed, behind the 5-year average of 94 percent. The cool, wet spring is still being felt for other crops. 48 percent of 2nd-cutting alfalfa is in this year, compared with 62 percent last year and 65 percent of the 5-year average. The winter wheat harvest still lags at 2 percent harvested, behind last year’s and the 5-year average tally of 11 percent.
Our Stories — A lab reborn to benefit students
The door still says Entomology Teaching Lab, but the equipment inside Ag Sciences 141 rivals the best equipped research laboratories on campus.
“We’re stacked, racked and ready to go,” plant pathologist Brenda Schroeder said in mid-July. Around her, a crew of workers from several CALS departments unpacked boxes and organized equipment and supplies.
Schroeder will teach the entomology, plant pathology and nematology department’s EPPN 154, Introduction to Microbiology and the World Around Us, class. In addition to serving CALS students from at least six departments, U of I students interested in the general education core class will also queue up.
Schroeder’s class was recently approved as the university's 100-level introduction to microbiology.
The equipment now in the room and ready for the start of classes less than four weeks away was purchased with year-end funding for the past two years. Multiple departments including EPPN, plant sciences, animal and veterinary science and food science contributed.
The collaboration is fitting, Schroeder said, because their majors will take lab sections in the room to supplement lectures.
The lab will support classes from freshmen level through graduate courses in microbiology, biotechnology, entomology, plant pathology, food science, virology and other disciplines.
“There are a lot of researchers, including me, who do not have equipment as advanced as what we put in this teaching lab,” she said. “Our goal is to offer students the opportunity to learn by using modern technology, so when they get out and get a job, they’re already up to speed.”
Like the Agricultural Biotechnology Laboratory dedicated in 2001, the lab is designed and equipped with a common core to support an array of disciplines.
For many, the laboratory renovation that began last fall was out of sight and barely apparent — unless they needed to visit the dean’s suite of offices, just under the lab in the northwest corner of the Iddings Ag Science Building.
Visitors found a suite covered in plastic sheeting and college leaders working in temporary offices.
That’s one of the challenges of refitting a 50-year-old building, said Redgy Erb, the project architect from facilities.
The lab gives students at all levels first-rate equipment to provide educational experiences in microbiology, a foundational discipline across the agricultural sciences. Schroeder said the lab also fulfills a more essential purpose, helping students appreciate the roles microbes play in our lives.
Unlike a chemistry lab where instructors can demonstrate reactions in minutes, biological processes take longer. Think fermentation to produce wine, beer and yogurt.
Other long-range microbiological processes include beneficial bacteria to help plants fend off diseases. Probiotics in the milk biome all are on the agenda, too.
The new lab will provide hands-on educational opportunities. In plant pathology, for example, students will be able to isolate and identify an organism, then reintroduce it to confirm it is the disease agent.
Soft rot is one of her favorite lab organisms. Students will work with rotten potatoes to isolate and identify the bacteria, then inoculate healthy spuds to confirm they found the bad actor. “We have equipment that will promote soft rot of potatoes really well,” she said.
“We know that every student won’t become an expert in microbiology, but we want to help them gain an understanding of their importance and the many roles microbes can play,” Schroeder said.
INBRE Draws Crowd from 11 Idaho Institutions
The annual INBRE research conference for the statewide biomedical network of 11 institutions and led by the U of I is planned in Moscow next week, July 29-31.
The Idaho INBRE or IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence conference will attract some 230 participants and include presentations by students and faculty from throughout Idaho.
A leading researcher who studies how people’s genes make them susceptible or help them resist infectious disease will speak Tuesday, July 30, at 9:30 a.m. in the University Inn Best Western Plus Gold Room.
A gathering including university presidents and other top-level administrators involved in the network is also planned, said Carolyn Hovde Bohach, the CALS microbiology professor who directs the network.
The scientific keynote will be given by Dr. Samuel I. Miller, a physician and University of Washington researcher. He will focus on Salmonella bacteria and how some people have an innate immunity to bacterial infection, said Sam Minnich, a CALS microbiology professor and INBRE associate director.
This year’s 18th annual research conference marks the fourth successful five-year renewal of funding for INBRE, which is based in the College of Science. The $17 million grant was announced in May.
The network has received $74 million through the National Institutes of Health Institutional Development Award program since 2001.
More information about the conference is online.
Faces and Places
Lori Wahl, Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences instructor, and Melissa Hamilton, an Extension educator in Valley County, won a National Association of Community Development Extension Professionals 2019 national award for their Know the Land, Save the Land scarves and bandanas that are available online through the U of I Marketplace.
- July 29-31 — Idaho INBRE 2019 Research Conference July 29-31, University Inn Best Western Plus, Moscow
- July 31 — Retirement reception for Paula Heaton of Animal and Veterinary Science Department. Ag Biotech Interaction Court. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org, 3 p.m.
- Sept. 6 — Pomology Field Day, Parma Research and Extension Center orchards and vineyards, 31727 Parma Rd, Parma, ID 83660, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
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