Extension News from the West
Ron Mittelhammer would like to thank you for joining him at the CAHNRS Holiday Gathering last Thursday. We had a wonderful turnout with abundant holiday cheer. There aren’t many opportunities for everyone in the magnificent CAHNRS family to gather, from emeritus and active faculty, through graduate and undergraduate students, as well as their children and guests – we are very pleased that so many of you could join us! A tasty spread of food catered by Banyan’s nourished us all, while Northwest beers and Washington wines, donated by CAHNRS Associate Deans Kim Kidwell, Rich Koenig, Jim Moyer, and our Director of Business Operations, Don Holbrook, along with soft drinks were merrily consumed. Over 40 lucky guests had their names chosen for holiday gift items, the photo-with-Butch area was very active throughout the gathering, and activity at the blackjack tables was brisk! See if you can spot yourself in pictures from the party in the CAHNRS Holiday Party 2013 photo album on Facebook. Check out some of the cougar-spirit prizes and lucky winners here.Friday last day to donate to the CAHNRS and WSU Extension annual food drive
As you may know, a main focus of our annual gathering is giving, especially to those in need in our own communities. Thank you to all who contributed goods for our local food banks. If you couldn’t attend, you can still donate to our annual food drive through Friday, Dec 20. Bring canned and nonperishable food, toiletries or paper products for area food banks to 421 Hulbert Hall. Ron and Linda Mittelhammer will make a matching contribution to the donations received. Last year CAHNRS and WSU Extension delivered over 2,600 pounds of goods to food banks in our communities. There is still time to challenge that record level of donations!Researchers uncover secrets of destructive plant virus
PULLMAN, Wash.— A Washington State University professor and a colleague from Australia have deciphered the inner workings of one of the world’s most destructive crop viruses.
Tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is a global pest estimated to cause more than $1 billion in crop losses each year. Like the other 25 known tospoviruses, TSWV is spread by thrips, a tiny black-winged insect that feeds on the sap of many food, fiber and feed plants, including bean, lettuce, peanut, pepper, potato and tomato.
The strategy for reducing the damage caused by TSWV is to grow virus-resistant crop varieties. However, viruses are notorious for overcoming resistance. Scientists have known that TSWV carries a gene that overcomes a plant’s defenses, but what part of the gene has remained a mystery until now.
After applying highly sophisticated total genome sequencing technologies and bioinformatics analysis, “the virus finally started giving away its secrets,” said project leader Hanu Pappu, whose lab at WSU focuses on virus genomics and biotechnology.
Pappu, the Sam Smith Distinguished Professor of Plant Virology at WSU, collaborated with Neena Mitter, an associate professor at the University of Queensland in Brisbane and authority on silencing suppressors coded by plant viruses. The researchers identified the regions of the viral genome that are most vulnerable to interference and therefore can be manipulated into suppressing virus replication.
The collaborative effort began in 2011, when Mitter spent three months as a visiting faculty in Pappu’s lab.
Pappu has studied the tospovirus family of viruses for nearly two decades. His research focus is on understanding the biology and molecular biology of the thrips-tospovirus pest complex in order to develop effective and novel virus suppression strategies in both plant hosts and insect vectors.
-Kate WilhiteShanna Pumphrey awarded outstanding advisor
PULLMAN, Wash. — Shanna Pumphrey, an academic and internship coordinator for the Department of Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles (AMDT) in CAHNRS, received the Outstanding Advisor Award from the local chapter of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).
“I am very honored to win this award,” said Pumphrey. “I know there are so many deserving advisors on this campus who are also such positive peers, it is overwhelming.”
Pumphrey currently advises and mentors more than 250 undergraduates and 9 graduate students. “The energy level Shanna maintains in working with her students, constantly amazes me,” wrote Karla Makus, academic coordinator and advisor in the School of Economic Sciences, in her letter nominating Pumphrey for the award. “Shanna is doing a wonderful job as advisor for AMDT. Her students are lucky to have her.”
Pumphrey has been able to strike a balance between providing students with support and tough love, said Brooke Whiting, chair of the awards committee for WSU ACADA. “We were really impressed with the initiative Shanna has taken with helping teach students to be accountable,” Whiting said.
“Shanna Pumphrey raises the bar and sets a new standard for what an academic advisor should be,” wrote Gordon Stumpo, a senior double majoring in Apparel Design and Chinese, in a letter recommending Pumphrey for the award.
Pumphrey joined the AMDT team in 2011. Prior to that she served as an academic advisor in the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering in the College of Engineering and Architecture. She also held advising positions at her alma mater, Kansas State University, where she earned a B.S. in Human Resource Management.
Winning this award qualifies Pumphrey to be entered into the NACADA award competition in spring.Call for Abstracts: Faculty, Staff, Graduate Students, and Professional Students
Leverage the power of your ideas by sharing them with WSU colleagues at the 2014 Academic Showcase.
Submit your abstract of up to 250 words and your contact information no later than Tuesday, January 28. Detailed information about WSU Showcase, the Academic Showcase, and Abstract Submission Guidelines can be found online.
Academic Showcase is a celebration of original scholarship, research, and creative expression by members of the WSU community and will be held Friday, March 28, 2014, on the Pullman campus.Organic Turkeys available at the WSU Organic Farm
The WSU Organic Farm will be offering organic pastured raised Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys from Pacific Foods for sale on Friday, Dec. 20 from 3 to 5 p.m. The frozen turkeys range in size from 19 to 30 pounds and will be $4.00/#. The sales of the turkeys will go towards the development of the farm’s livestock program which hopes to raise pastured turkeys in the future. The sale will be at the WSU Tukey Horticultural Orchard on the corner of Terra View and Airport Rd. Cash or check only.Kudos
Congratulations to WSU Crop and Soil Science graduate student Tai McClellan Maaz for being awarded one of the 2013 International Plant Nutrition Institute Scholar Awards. http://www.ipni.net/article/IPNI-3340
Dr. Craig F. Morris, Director of the USDA ARS Western Wheat Quality Lab, and Adjunct Professor in Crop & Soil Sciences and the School of Food Science was awarded an OECD Research Fellowship to study “Farm to Fork” local development of soft durum wheat in Viterbo, Italy at the University of Tuscia. Dr. Morris’ Fellowship runs from March 1 through April 19, 2014.
Gary Chastagner made the national news this month with a story on root rot attacking Christmas trees in the U.S. See the article on NBC News, here.In eNewsletters
Dec. 18 - WSU’s Green Times- Harvest Time, Sustaining Generations This edition features a look back at this year’s quinoa harvests at the WSU Organic Farm with Hannah Walters and Adam Peterson, research on organic milk by Chuck Benbrook, and a look at passing sustainable farming through generations with David Grantastein.
Dec. 20- WSU’s Voice of the Vine- Science and Sensibility, Student Wine Label, Raise a Glass This edition features the second part of the Jim Holmes story and growing grapes on Red Mountain and a feature on the first WSU student wine label, Blended Learning.
Nov. 13- WSU’s On Solid Ground- Christmas Trees and Cranberries This edition features a story about cranberry research at WSU Mt. Vernon Research and Extension Center and christmas tree research at WSU Puyallup Research and Extension Center.Connect with CAHNRS and WSU Puyallup on Facebook
Check out the latest updates on the CAHNRS Facebook page: http://facebook.com/cahnrs.
Be sure to connect with the the NEW WSU Wine Science Center page here.
Have an item to share for the next CAHNRS News? E-mail email@example.com.
As the largest dam removal in U.S. history brought Pacific salmon back to Washington State’s Elwha River for the first time in nearly a century, scientists were also thinking about how the changing ecosystem would impact what they consider the most important foundational group of Elwha Valley dwellers: insects.
Video by Matt Haugen/WSU News.
Last spring, entomology professor Richard Zack returned from Seattle to Washington State University with what is likely millions of specimens collected prior to the removal of the 100-year-old dam in Olympic National Park. He is leading a project to help sort, curate, identify, and create a database of the insects to provide insight into how the Elwha Valley ecosystem will change in the next several decades. Changes in insects will play a key role in how the new ecosystem develops.
“The Elwha is a fabulous research opportunity because it is a rare before and after study,” Zack said. “Understanding what is expected to be a 30 to 40 year trajectory of recovery will require comparing the pre-removal ecosystem with species changes and their abundances as recovery proceeds.”Bioblitz for Bugs
The insect collection was part of a long-term, large scale project conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and the National Park Service, explains Jerry Freilich, research coordinator for Olympic National Park and partner on the project. The ATBI, or all taxa biotic inventory, aimed to collect aquatic and riparian invertebrates and non-vascular plants in the Elwha drainage.
“When the removal of the dams began we knew everything was going to start changing,” Freilich said. Park Service biologists were already looking at larger plants and animals in the Elwha Valley “but a study was needed to find and identify the smaller, often overlooked organisms that make up the ecosystems foundation.” This is one of the first studies that will not only look at the more “charismatic meagafauna,” Freilich said, but “also the microfauna.”
After the collections were made, Freilich connected with Zack to begin classifying the insects. “If you want entomology experts in the Pacific Northwest, WSU is where you go,” he said.Training Future Scientists
But where do you start when you have hundreds of thousands of bugs to organize? With the beetles, said WSU biology student Laura Hamada, who plans to pursue insect taxonomy. Hamada and fellow student Noah Austin, a WSU student double majoring in physics and music, work in a lab in the entomology department where they are beginning to sort, prepare and identify the aquatic bugs, caddisflies, mayflies, stoneflies, true flies, and beetles. Eventually, most of these specimens will be sent to specialists for specific identification.
“Noah is a pinning machine,” Hamada says as they work in the lab. While still in the beginning stages of sorting the insects by order or family, they have each pinned hundreds of insects.
The project serves as a training opportunity for young scientists and a resource for observing the changing biodiversity of the Elwha region. The collection will also be the first to provide information on the biodiversity of Olympic National Park, one of the most geographically interesting regions of the US, said Zack.Preparing to Look Back
The dams, built in the 1900s, created still reservoirs of water that changed the Pacific Northwest system dramatically. Now that the water is again free-flowing, river and stream-dwelling insects are expected to return to the valley, Zack said.
This spring at Elwha, Zack will meet with entomologists, biologists, researchers and other partners on the project, including those classifying butterflies and spiders, to discuss how they can best use the collections to understand the impacts that removing dams have on ecosystems.
The insects collected for the project will join the 3 million specimens already housed at the M.T. James Entomological Collection at WSU. The project is funded by a two-year $30,000 grant from the Katz Memorial Foundation and conducted through the WSU Agricultural Research Center in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Learn more about entomology at Washington State University at http://www.entomology.wsu.edu.
In an effort to educate the green industry and arborist community on tree care and best practices, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension presents the Annual Professional Tree Care Seminar and Workshop in English and in Spanish. This year, the emphasis will be urban tree care: best practices-the mature years. The seminar will be held at Cooperative Extension’s Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, LV 89123.
Other topics covered include: How To Kill a Tree Without Even Trying! (Early Bird Session at 7 a.m.); Drought and Trees; Cycling of Soil Nutrients in Urban Environments: Opportunities and Challenges; Tree Health and Soil Aeration; Trees and Construction and Tree Safety and Power Lines.
Afternoon, hands-on sessions are offered from 2—3:20 p.m. covering topics of choice: Lowering the Canopy; Thinning Pines; Tools and Tool Safety; and Palms.
The English language seminar will be held on January 31 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with early registration beginning at 6 a.m. The Spanish language seminar will be held on February 7 from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with early registration also beginning at 6 a.m.
Guest lecturers and speakers for both seminars include Russ Thompson, Sunkissed Horticulture Consultants; Lisa Ortega, City of Henderson; David Howlett, NV Division of Forestry; Cleto Acero, NV Energy; and Dennis Swartzel, private consultant.
The cost of the full day seminar which includes handouts, coffee, beverages and lunch is $20 if you pre-register and $25 at the door. For the English seminar, email Chelle Reed or call 702-257-5536. For the Spanish seminar, email Martha Barajas or call 702-257-5522.
In “Science and Sensibility: Part One,” Jim Holmes, known as the first to plant grapes on Red Mountain, shared his experience getting started in the wine industry in the early 1980s. You can read part one in November’s Voice of the Vine, here.
In the early days, Jim Holmes struck a deal with a regional winemaker to purchase their crop, but because there was little brand value for Washington grapes, the sales price was low. “We knew that our grapes were [worth more] than what we were being offered, so we started making our own wine.” The move towards vertical integration meant that Holmes also became the lead salesman for the operation. Holmes utilized a small Seattle startup wine distributor to get things started in the big city as well as in the local market.
Successful local distribution reinforced what Holmes knew all along—he had an exceptional product and it wouldn’t be long before others realized the potential of the area and competition rolled in.
Holmes and Williams were hauling their product to Seattle, selling to restaurants and businesses that were interested in local wines. Demand was on the rise and they recognized the need to acquire more land, develop partnerships with the wineries that now coveted their grapes, and shift from a hobby to full-time work. At that time Holmes and Williams amicably ended their partnership and Holmes began to focus on growing “new and adventurous varieties.” He has since settled on three broad types of grapes—Bordeux, Rhone, and Italian—that he believes are ideal for the region.
After more than four decades as a leader in Washington’s wine industry, Holmes’ recipe for success was simple. “Every time we encountered a roadblock, we just did what seemed to be the sensible thing to do.” That sensibility is based on more than intuition and Holmes credits WSU for contributions to the industry, including Dr. Walter Clore’s groundbreaking report.
Holmes frequently refers to the art of grape growing, but he also acknowledges the science that informed his techniques and decisions. “We used to take water from alfalfa fields but research at (WSU) showed that we were over-watering and not stressing the vines. Growers now irrigate with much less water, which preserves this natural resource.”
Holmes praises WSU for another major contribution that not only saved his grapes, but his employees: “We had problems with cutworms climbing up and attacking the buds on our vines.” Growers would spray their entire plants with troublesome chemicals. “WSU research determined that if we just sprayed the base of the vines the larvae wouldn’t climb [past that].”
Although he’s not a WSU alum, Holmes has become an ardent supporter of WSU and its research in viticulture and enology. His support, and the support of others like him, are making WSU projects like the WSU Wine Science Center possible. And Washington wine, Holmes’ wine, is no longer being tasted and peddled solely in a local garage—it’s gained international recognition, thanks to both science and sensibility.
Catch this full story in print, along with a series of features on WSU wine science and the Washington wine industry, in the January 2014 ReConnect alumni magazine for the WSU College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. Subscribe to ReConnect here.
-Joshua PaulsenIntroducing The First WSU Student-made Wine Label
Pour a glass of Riesling from the tall, sleek green bottle labeled Blended Learning, and out comes not only a unique blend of white wine grapes from the Yakima Valley, but the story of six WSU students finding opportunity and education in the heart of Washington wine country.
Robb Zimmel, a senior in the WSU Viticulture and Enology program, was working as a LifeFlight paramedic in Portland when he discovered an interest in fermentation science and decided to move to Tri-Cities with his wife and children two years ago. Now in his final year at WSU, when he talks about his favorite part of winemaking, he waxes poetic.
“It’s that pinnacle moment,” he says. “After the grapes have been crushed, the soak is done, the yeast is ready, and you’re waiting to see if the fermentation will take off like a freight train or be sluggish…it’s that next day when you come into the winery. There is an intoxicating wine smell, and you’re just hoping and praying that the ferment is working, and you’re waiting for the sugars to drop,” he said. ”From that point forward the birth of your wine begins and you watch it all the way through to its maturity, and guide it.”
Zimmel and five fellow students began planning for what would be the first WSU student-made wine back in spring 2012 when the project was launched by Viticulture and Enology Program director Thomas Henick-Kling. With support and mentorship from their professors, Henick-Kling and Bhaskar Bondada, from Charlie Hoppes at Fidelitas winery in Richland, Washington, and the winemaking team at Hogue Cellars in Prosser, Washington, students chose their grape varieties, harvested, crushed, barreled, and, in the summer of 2013, bottled their finished product. They worked with Noir Designs to develop a marketable label design, released 100 cases of the Riesling in Fall 2013 through Wine By Cougars, and made it available at the new WSU Visitor’s Center and WSU Connections in Seattle.
Student winemakers Dane Day and Joe Perez began the Riesling project during their first semester in the program, along with Zimmel, Colin Hickey, Garrett Grover, and Lora Morgan. Going into their final semesters of the program last summer, Day and Perez began pouring at wine shows and tastings, shaking hands with alumni and buyers, and developing an online presence to promote the wine. Meanwhile, they had another premium wine project underway. Two Cabernet Sauvignon wines are currently in the works at Barnard Griffin winery in Richland, Perez said.
“The ability to ask questions and soak up knowledge on a regular basis is fantastic and the Griffins are such a nice family—they make very good wine,” said Perez, who decided to pursue an education in wine after serving in the Marine Corps. “Luckily for us, what we are learning in the wineries is also what we are learning in the classes. The two work in concert with each other.”Launching a Legacy
Some of the student winemakers have graduated since the launch of the Riesling, but while finishing up the program, Zimmel has already begun to develop his own label in partnership with Fidelitas and incredible support from Hillary Sjolund in her winery laboratory, Enomama, he said. Perez and Day are heading into their final semesters with what Perez describes as an “enormity” of options and connections within the wine industry. But their wine certainly won’t be the last of the student-made wines coming from the WSU Viticulture and Enology program.
Les Walker graduated from WSU in 1984 with a degree in geology and returned to WSU Tri-Cities two years ago looking to make a change in his career path. Along with Jeff Thompson, a Navy veteran who, while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail decided to study agriculture, and fellow student Dave Balsz, the three began harvesting Chenin Blanc grapes and Barbera grapes this last fall. They also learned about bottling with the red wine blend the first group of student winemakers left at the barreling stage at Columbia Crest Winery. In spring 2014, the Chenic Blanc will be ready to bottle. Other blends of 2012 reds prepared last fall will soon be ready for bottling.
This spring, when the bustling atmosphere in the wineries has settled down and the new crew’s wines are aging in the barrels, they will discuss the design for a label and take the next steps in marketing their product. In the future, students will continue create their wines in collaboration with local wineries so they can learn in a hands-on atmosphere with staff. With a vision of creating a series of wines from the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program, the new group is already helping establish a new tradition of blended learning — bringing together students, alumni, winemakers, growers, and wine enthusiasts to uncork possibilities.
Learn more about viticulture and enology at WSU at http://wine.wsu.edu.
-Rachel WebberRaise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship
Chateau Ste. Michelle is proud to partner with Washington restaurants to support the sixth annual “Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship” program to benefit viticulture and enology programs at Washington State University and other Northwest universities.
Nearly 200 restaurants in Washington participate in this annual program, which runs through the end of December 2013. Since the program started in 2008, together we have raised over $250,000 for future wine industry professional scholarships. Participating in this cause is simple. Next time your plans call for dining out, we hope you select one of the participating restaurants and Raise a Glass, Fund a Scholarship.
On Solid Ground is a bi-weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the Agricultural Research Center with an emphasis on natural resources sciences and agriculture. Subscribe here.
Green Times is a monthly electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the Agricultural Research Center with a focus on sustainability and organics. Subscribe here.
Visit the new WSU Wine Science Center page for updates on Facebook here.
Growing quinoa where few have grown before, Hannah Walters and Adam Peterson are learning a lot about how the protein-packed seed crop fares in the Pacific Northwest: the importance of starting small in unfamiliar territory, using proper irrigation, understanding how much heat the plant can take. At a test plot in northern Idaho, they even discovered how much deer like to eat the purple kind.
“This year’s harvest was a little stressful,” said Walters, a master’s student in crop and soil sciences working with assistant professor and WSU quinoa research leader Kevin Murphy. “It all ended up pretty perfect, but early rains threw us a curveball.”
As the United Nations’ International Year of the Quinoa comes to an end this month, the two reflected back on quinoa harvests at trial plots in eastern Washington and western Washington. Two of the team’s quinoa plots on the Olympic Peninsula succumbed to early pre-harvest sprouting due to heavy rainfall. Peterson, a doctoral student also in crop and soil sciences, observed that while the rains caused some pre-harvest sprouting, the more water the plant had, the more colorful the flowers.
Quinoa grows in a rainbow of colors other than green, said Walters, from yellow and orange, to pink, red, and even purple. In eastern Washington, however, most of the plants Walter works with are simply green and dry up quickly by time they are ready for harvest.
Walters hand-harvested five successful quinoa variety lines (breeding material that is being improved by breeders before released to growers) at the WSU Organic Farm that were developed by researchers at Brigham Young University. Her graduate research involves phenotyping the varieties, that is, documenting the physical traits exhibited by the plants. She explained that plants that are genetically the same may look very different when grown in different environments. For example, a drought-resistant plant might be short and compact in a low-rainfall area, but in a high-rainfall area, it could be twice as tall.
“It was really different (weather)-wise this summer, compared to last summer,” she said. “The plants produced a lot less seed than last year due to insect pressure and hotter temperatures.”
At the WSU Organic Farm, Walters has also established irrigation trials to see if different methods of irrigation influence the dryland crop’s yield potential. In Pullman, she found that irrigated plants have a better yield than those in the unirrigated plots. While this year’s plants weren’t ideally dry by the time harvest rolled around, between rainy days she was able to use a combine to harvest the two plots and get the seeds ready for cleaning.Soapy saponins
When you get a bag of quinoa from the store, it will usually come with instructions to wash or rinse before preparing. This is because quinoa seeds have an outer layer of a soapy substance called saponin. While most of this is removed in processing, washing helps remove any possible remaining saponins. Compared to last year’s yield, this year’s seeds had more chaff and dirt, Walters said. She says it’s still a mystery as to the best way to clean the seed, but some quinoa growers are experimenting with different methods, including using a household washing machine to remove the outer layer.
Part of Peterson’s research includes making crosses of different quinoa varieties. One of the features he is breeding for is a clean, or saponin-free, seed. Saponin-free seed is referred to as ‘sweet’ quinoa, while those with saponins are called ‘bitter’ quinoa.A matching game
Peterson first worked with Kevin Murphy as a field trial manager at Evergreen State College. In 2010, they grew 44 varieties from the USDA seed bank at Evergreen in Olympia, at the WSU Organic Farm in Pullman, and in Port Townsend.
“When Kevin took me on as a grad student and I came to Pullman in 2011, I started working with the 11 varieties of the 44 that produced seed at the WSU Organic Farm in Pullman. We’ve added many varieties since then, currently working with about 35 or so. In total, we’ve probably grown out 60-70,” he said.
“It’s almost like a game of match your climate. When we got our original 44 varieties, they were from all over South America: Ecuador, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Argentina. The only ones that really grow here from seed are from southern and central Chile. That area has a similar latitude to ours.”
He talks about microclimate— the difference in climate even within just a few square feet—as factoring into quinoa growth, too. At the Clark Farm near Palouse, Washington, Ian Clark is growing two acres of quinoa as part of the team’s research on quinoa. While he is still working on cleaning the quinoa, he produced about 600 pounds this year.
“It was interesting to see large differences in plants at the Clark Farm due to water and heat stress,” Peterson said. “Plots further up on the hill where soil was deeper had much greater seed set than plots at the bottom of the hill, where soil was shallow. Heat and the local growing environment appear to be crucial factors for quinoa’s success.”
Next year Clark plans to grow quinoa in a lower spot on his farm where subsurface water is more accessible to the plants.Making a mark
While the International Year of Quinoa may come to an end this month, Peterson is looking ahead to the next steps in understanding more about quinoa.
He hopes to pinpoint the crucial moment at which heat begins affecting quinoa and to look at the effect of drought on seed set, as well as the issue of sprouting tolerance, to identify the best varieties for the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s all in its infancy, but those are the major challenges,” Peterson said.
Walters will graduate in May, but the lines from BYU will continue to grow on the WSU Organic Farm for another year, providing the research team with further material to select for breeding.
“It’s really a unique opportunity to be on the frontlines of the whole breeding program for a crop,” Walters said. “Some of these lines look really promising for the Pacific Northwest.”
Learn more about crop and soil sciences at http://css.wsu.edu/.
-Rachel WebberResearchers see added nutritional benefits in organic milk
A team led by a Washington State University researcher has found that organic milk contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms. While all types of milk fat can help improve an individual’s fatty acid profile, the team concludes that organic whole milk does so even better. The study is the first large-scale, U.S.-wide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing nearly 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over an 18-month period. Conventional milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 5.8, more than twice that of organic milk’s ratio of 2.3.
The researchers say the far healthier ratio of fatty acids in organic milk is brought about by a greater reliance on pasture and forage-based feeds on organic dairy farms.
A large body of research has shown that grass and legume forages promote cow health and improve the fatty acid profile in organic dairy products. Still,said WSU researcher Charles Benbrook, the study’s lead author, “We were surprised by the magnitude of the nutritional quality differences we documented in this study.” Read more>>Passing the torch
What does it take to continue the work of changing our food system?
This was the question Anne Schwartz, owner of Blue Heron Farm and Nursery, posed during Washington state’s largest annual gathering of organic growers and sustainable agriculturists at the 2013 Tilth Conference, in Yakima. The “Organic Elders” workshop was part of the three-day conference, “Nourishing the Future: Cultivating our Farming Legacy.”
The conference kicked off with a WSU-sponsored symposium about managing and marketing poultry and small-scale livestock, featured tours of local high tunnels, and a coming together of people to enjoy meals and networking within the organic industry.
“That’s what brings so many of us together,” Schwartz said. “This dream and this goal of making our food system better than we found it.”
Schwartz was one of six “Organic Elders,” pioneers in Washington state’s organic industry, to share her personal story and skillsets–driving forces behind her participation in the effort to redesign the food system– with up-and-coming and established growers in the organic community. While attending Washington State University in the mid-1970s, she became concerned about livestock practices, she said. She has served in several capacities for WSU and has helped establish policies and laws for organic livestock production in Washington state.
David Granatstein, WSU sustainable agriculture specialist in Wenatchee, also shared his journey and experience as a pioneer in the organic food industry. He studied environmental science at Cornell University and later moved to Ellensburg. Little did he know that his first week in town he would be attending the Alternative Farming Conference in 1974, which became the foundation for today’s Tilth Producers organization and annual conference.
Granatstein also lived in Okanogan County (Libby Creek) and farmed alongside people and mentors who came out of the Civil Rights movement. It was here and throughout his experience that he learned the importance and the value of bridge building.
“We weren’t just about farming, we were about educating and impacting attitudes and actions,” he recalls. While farming, he became involved with research at WSU and later earned a Masters degree there. He has been serving the university in various capacities for the last 25 years.
Some of the skills he identified that helped him develop relationships and bring about change were managing conflict, being open to new ideas and perspectives, and identifying proven consequences of actions.
“One of the key events for me was attending a field day at the Dick Thompson Farm in Iowa,” he said. “He was [organic pioneer J.I.] Rodale’s poster child and he would host field days with over 1000 people. People flocked from around the world to find out what he was doing. He would stand on some hay bales on a trailer to welcome people, and say, ‘The best way to farm has not been invented. What I tell you today is based on what I know today, but I reserve the right to change my mind tomorrow.’”
The workshop culminated in an inter-generational conversation among attendees that included discussion of personal skillsets, values, and the future of sustainable farming. Third-generation organic farmer, Bill Razey, one of the six “organic elders” who shared during the workshop, also read his poem, “Ode to the Living Market.”
Conference keynote speakers and organic farmers, David Mas Masumoto and his daughter Nikiko Masumoto, addressed participants and equipped them with a toolkit for the transfer of knowledge and the transformation of experience from one generation to the next.
“A lot of the lessons of farming are unspoken,” Nikiko said. “Things you have to learn by experience…by mistakes. So remember the next time you pick up a shovel…you are picking up a whole new kind of pedagogy.”
The Shovel was just one tool and metaphor she used to equip future and established farmers. Learn more about the 10 tools the Masumoto’s shared, including: The Shovel, Old Farm Tools, The Plate, Art, Finances, Social Media, and more at the Tilth Producers of Washington web site, here.
-Rachel WebberEnjoy what you read in Green Times? You might also want to receive these newsletters:
On Solid Ground is a bi-weekly, electronic newsletter for the friends and stakeholders of the Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), WSU Extension and the Agricultural Research Center. Subscribe here.
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On a lark, when I was a college student I took a class in field biology. It sounded romantic and I was young, so even though it didn’t really make any sense for a geology student to take the senior level class in another discipline, I was there bright and early on the first day of the semester.
One week everyone in the course walked to a grove of old hardwood trees near the edge of campus. We had “boring tools”- – drills with long, hollow bits — with us. The idea was to sink the bit into the trunk of the tree. When the bit reached the middle of the tree, we used a narrow spatula to extract a thin “dowel” of wood from within the hollow bit.
These elegant little samples give you access to the life history of the tree as recorded in its growth rings. As every school child knows, counting the rings tells you how old the tree is.
But some samples of trees can tell you much more than age. That’s because some trees live in difficult environments. They grow best only when there is a good year in terms of precipitation, temperature, and the like, so they have growth rings that are quite uneven. Some rings are thick, representing good years for growth, while others are quite thin from when times were tough for the tree. This means that tree rings can tell us about variations in past weather and climate.
In the southwest U.S., a lot of work has been done with tree rings. Indeed, the whole science of what’s called dendrochronology was worked out in that region in the early and mid 20th century. But since then, scientists around the world have also used basic ideas about tree rings to do several different things.
Earlier this year, National Geographic Daily News ran a story about dendrochronologists in New Zealand. In the 1980s a researcher named John Ogden and his students started what has become a truly significant tree ring record. By matching the thin-thick-thin patterns of wood samples taken from kauri trees of varying ages, they started to establish a chronology for the local area. More recently, dendrochronologist Gretel Boswijk has been updating and extending that record. The kauri trees of New Zealand include some quite old individuals. Using living trees and wood from buildings, Boswijk was able to record the patterns in the wood going back to the 1200s.
Using wood found in old — even ancient — buildings is a clever approach on the part of the tree-ring crowd. Here in the U.S., dendrochronologists were able to date the age of the Pueblo Bonito civilization in New Mexico. They did this by matching the old parts of living trees with the younger parts of the ancient samples in ruins, thus extending the record back in time.
Happily, archaeological samples are not the only ancient wood available. In parts of New Zealand there are swamps that preserve kauri trees that have fallen into the muck and been sealed off from air. Using those samples, Boswijk and people working with her were able to establish a record going back nearly 4,500 years. That’s a great record of local conditions over a long period of time, going back pretty far into what geologists call the Holocene Epoch.
Anthony Fowler, who works with Boswijk at New Zealand’s Tree-Ring Laboratory, specializes in looking at climate change, with part of his interest being how climate change has been recorded in tree samples. Specifically, some of the information he can deduce from the patterns of tree-ring widths in New Zealand relate to El Niños — the recurring weather patterns related to changing ocean temperatures in the Pacific. Looking at the evidence of the wood samples, Fowler has determined that El Niños in the southern hemisphere have been getting more intense in the last 500 years. We don’t yet know why that might be the case, but that’s the evidence given to us by the trees.
It’s impressive what specialists can deduce from simple samples of wood, both living and ancient. It will be interesting to see what other natural secrets can be decoded with the help of tree rings.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension will offer the Child Safety and Welfare program during the winter session at the Valley View Recreation Center. This program is designed for parents to increase their awareness and knowledge of all safety and welfare issues: Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), Child Abuse Awareness, Anger Management and Positive Guidance.
The Child Safety and Welfare program is scheduled for Wednesday afternoons beginning January 15 from 3-5 p.m. This is a 4 week session. The Valley View Recreation Center is located at 500 Harris Street, Henderson, NV 89015.
Shaken Baby Syndrome increases participants’ (parents or other caregivers) awareness and knowledge of SBS. Child Abuse Awareness helps parents or other caregivers recognize child abuse and neglect. Anger Management provides parents with research-based information related to anger management and child abuse prevention. Positive Guidance helps build parents positive guidance skills. The materials are also available in Spanish.
For more information, contact email Olga Soto or call 702-257-5567.
PULLMAN, Wash. – A team led by a Washington State University researcher has found that organic milk contains significantly higher concentrations of heart-healthy fatty acids compared to milk from cows on conventionally managed dairy farms. While all types of milk fat can help improve an individual’s fatty acid profile, the team concludes that organic whole milk does so even better.
The study is the first large-scale, U.S.-wide comparison of organic and conventional milk, testing nearly 400 samples of organic and conventional milk over an 18-month period. Conventional milk had an average omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of 5.8, more than twice that of organic milk’s ratio of 2.3. The researchers say the far healthier ratio of fatty acids in organic milk is brought about by a greater reliance on pasture and forage-based feeds on organic dairy farms.
A large body of research has shown that grass and legume forages promote cow health and improve the fatty acid profile in organic dairy products. Still, said WSU researcher Charles Benbrook, the study’s lead author, “We were surprised by the magnitude of the nutritional quality differences we documented in this study.”
After fruits and vegetables, dairy products are the largest category of the growing, $29 billion organic food sector, according to the Organic Trade Association’s 2013 Organic Industry Survey. Organic milk and cream sales were worth $2.622 billion, the survey found. Overall, organic milk accounted for 4 percent of fluid milk sales last year, according to the Milk Processor Education Program.
The consumption of more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids is a well-known risk factor for a variety of health problems, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, excessive inflammation and autoimmune diseases. The higher the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3, the greater the associated health risk.
Western diets typically have a ratio of about 10-to-1 to 15-to-1, while a ratio of 2.3-to-1 is thought to maximize heart health. The team modeled a hypothetical diet for adult women with a baseline omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of 11.3 and looked at how far three interventions could go in reducing the ratio to 2.3.
They found that almost 40 percent of the needed nine-point drop could be achieved by switching from three daily servings of conventional dairy products to 4.5 daily servings of mostly full-fat organic dairy products. Women who also avoid a few foods each day that are high in omega-6 fatty acids can lower their fatty acid ratio to around 4, 80 percent of the way to the 2.3 goal.
“Surprisingly simple food choices can lead to much better levels of the healthier fats we see in organic milk,” said Benbrook.
The team also compared the fatty acids in dairy products to those in fish.“We were surprised to find that recommended intakes of full-fat milk products supply far more of the major omega-3 fatty acid, ALA, than recommended servings of fish,” said co-author and WSU research associate Donald R. Davis. Conventional milk had about nine times more ALA than fish while organic milk had 14 times more, he said. Organic milk is also a significant source of two other omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DPA, but not DHA.
The study was published Dec. 9 in the online journal PLOS ONE. It analyzed organic milk from cows managed by farmer-owners of the Cooperative Regions of Organic Producer Pools, or CROPP, which markets through the Organic Valley brand. The two organizations helped fund the study but had no role in its design or analysis, which was funded by the Measure to Manage program in the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.
Chuck Benbrook, WSU research professor, 541-828-7918, firstname.lastname@example.org
Did you know that the average American gains four to eight pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s?
Here are a few things you can do to help yourself maintain your weight during the holidays.
Make time for some exercise. If you usually walk for exercise, keep it up during the holidays. If you don’t exercise, it’s a good time to start. It’s best to check with your physician before starting an exercise plan.
Keep a food record. Research shows that many people actually curb their eating if they know they will have to include it in a food record.
Don’t skip meals. Before leaving for a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite. You will be less tempted to over-indulge.
Go easy on the alcohol. Sometimes people forget alcohol has calories. Drink bottled water, diet soda, tomato juice or other low-calorie cocktails at parties.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension has expert registered dietitians and nutritionist on staff to answer your questions and offer suggestions. For more information call 702-257-5516.
Left to right: Ann Edmunds, Master Gardener
Coordinator; Richard Leifried; Dr. Angela
O’Callaghan, Social Horticulture Specialist
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Richard Leifried was honored for contributing over 20,000 volunteer hours on Master Gardener projects. Richard has been a Master Gardener in the Las Vegas program since 1994. He volunteers regularly on the Home Gardening Help Line and helps organize the monthly membership meetings.
Leifried was instrumental in bringing the International Master Gardener Conference to Las Vegas in 2009, and has worked on numerous community projects throughout his volunteer "career," including at Old Mormon Fort, Red Rock, Spring Mountain Ranch, Desert Green and Winchester Park.
The Master Gardeners of Southern Nevada salute Richard Leifried for his generosity and commitment to the community!
Master Gardeners are University-trained community volunteers who share their knowledge and desert gardening skills via community projects. Master Gardeners are experienced in successfully growing plants in the harsh (hot, dry, windy) climate of the Mojave Desert. This is an environment unfamiliar to many newcomers. By teaching what to plant and how to properly care for their landscapes or gardens, the Master Gardeners save people money — on water, soil amendments, plant materials, etc.
Since 1992 over 1200 community members have taken the UNCE Master Gardener horticulture training course with the understanding that they are not to keep this information to themselves — that they will become the University’s unpaid ambassadors and share the science of good desert gardening with others. An average of 300 volunteers remains active in the program each year.
The Master Gardener volunteer commitment is for a minimum of 50 hours annually on community service projects. In 2011 Master Gardeners in Las Vegas contributed 33,900 volunteer hours—valued at $724,104. The Master Gardener Home Gardening Help Line (702-257-5555) is staffed Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. — 5 p.m.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s All 4 Kids: Healthy, Happy, Active, Fit program was recently highlighted in International Innovation for its outstanding contributions to the childhood obesity epidemic.
All 4 Kids© was developed in 2008 to target childhood obesity issues within the US, and encourage preschool children to make positive nutritional choices and enjoy physical activities on a regular basis as part of a healthy lifestyle. Over the past five years, the project has expanded considerably and is now receiving nationwide recognition.
Cooperative Extension faculty members, Anne Lindsay, exercise physiologist, along with Drs. Madeleine Sigman-Grant, child nutrition and breastfeeding education specialist, and Teresa Byington, early childhood education specialist, collaborated to create this unique program in 2008. Since its inception, All 4 Kids© has reached close to 5,000 preschool children, teachers and families in Nevada, Oklahoma, Connecticut and New Jersey.
In the All 4 Kids© International Innovation article, topics addressed include: an overview of problems associated with childhood obesity; the main components of the “Ecological Model” that the program implemented; the long term plans for the program; the program structure; and information on the YouTube videos developed to compliment other established health and nutrition programs.
Read the entire International Innovation article. International Innovation, published by Research Media, is the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level. More information and a complimentary subscription offer to the publication can be found at: www.international-innovation-northamerica.com.
I know we are still only in Advent. But at this point in December, my mind starts to turn toward Christmas. It just can’t be helped, especially in light of all the ads featuring Santa.
Christmas is about tradition: traditional foods, traditional songs, traditional church services. For a few geeks, Christmas is also an ideal time to get in a little bit of scientific research. What could be better than to combine some of the traditional activities of the season with the chance to learn a bit more about the natural world?
Katie McKeever is a graduate student in plant pathology at the Washington State University Research and Extension Center (REC) in Puyallup, Washington. She has been hard at work in recent weeks learning about how moisture is lost or retained from a truly mega-Christmas tree. An 88-foot-tall Engelmann spruce was recently shipped from north-central Washington State to what we natives of the Northwest call the “other Washington,” namely the District of Columbia.
It took some 25 days for the spruce to move from its home in Washington State to a place of pride at the capitol in D.C. The 2013 National Christmas Tree was harvested from the Colville National Forest in Pend Oreille County. The last time Washington State gave the capitol its Christmas tree was in 2006. That one came from the Olympic National Forest in the northwestern part of the state.
Once this year’s tree was cut, McKeever placed three small sensors in the canopy of the great tree as it lay on the bed of the semi that would haul it across the country.
“The sensors are data loggers that automatically record temperature every 15 minutes to provide statistics about the ambient environment inside the tree canopy,” McKeever told me.
Professor Gary Chastagner, also at the Puyallup REC, has long worked on various Christmas tree issues. He’s an expert on what’s called the post-harvest moisture and retention of needles of Christmas trees. To be sure, most Christmas trees are not 88 feet tall, but some of the issues with mega-trees and the kind in your living room are similar.
In general, helping Christmas trees retain moisture can help them keep their needles. If you are tired of trying to get a lot of needles out of your living room carpet each January (one tradition I would gladly skip), you might wish McKeever and Chastagner well with their work.
The research on the National Christmas Tree involves cooperation between the U.S. Forest Service and WSU. Forest Service technicians from the Colville National Forest who have accompanied the tree are taking periodic samples of small twigs from the enormous tannenbaum. The samples are sent to Puyallup where they are carefully weighed, dried thoroughly in an oven, and then reweighed to determine how much moisture was in the twigs.
The data the WSU researchers are gathering is part of their on-going work to make recommendations that can help improve the quality of Christmas trees for consumers. That’s the technical challenge for the tree specialists. For the rest of us, their work is just a way of improving our live tannenbaum tradition, year after year.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University.
Listen to the story by the Northwest Farm and Ranch Report
Susan Howe, radon program director; and Jamie
Roice-Gomes, radon education coordinator; give
a radon test kit to an attendee at a community event.
Free radon test kits available through Feb. 28
Free radon test kits are available from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offices and partner offices statewide. Nevadans are encouraged to take advantage of this free offer to test their homes for this dangerous gas. The tests are extremely easy to conduct.
Radon is a radioactive, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas that comes from the ground. It accumulates in homes and can cause lung cancer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates 21,000 Americans die each year from radon-induced lung cancer, killing more people than secondhand smoke, drunk driving, falls in the home, drowning or house fires. This type of lung cancer is preventable, and the only way to know if a home has elevated levels is to test it.
Cooperative Extension has been working to raise awareness of the dangers of radon in the home since 2007. They have distributed radon test kits since 2008. Since that time, more than 16,000 homes have been tested in Nevada, and results indicate that one in four found potentially hazardous radon levels. Once detected, there are fairly easy, inexpensive ways to reduce the radon exposure to safe levels.
January is also National Radon Action Month, and to better help communities comprehend the dangers of radon, the Nevada Radon Education Program will offer presentations at various locations. Test kits will also be available at the presentations.
Scheduled presentations for Reno, Sparks, Carson, Tahoe and Douglas are:
- Jan. 2 — Washoe County Cooperative Extension, 4955 Energy Way, Reno, at 6 p.m. (Radon Poster Contest Awards after program)
- Jan. 7 — Spanish Springs Library, 7100A Pyramid Lake Highway, Reno, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 8 — Northwest Reno Library, 2325 Robb Drive, Reno, at 5 p.m.
- Jan. 9 — Sierra View Library, 4001 S. Virginia St., Reno, at 3:30 p.m.
- Jan. 11 — North Valleys Library, 1075 N. Hills Blvd. #340, Reno, at 11 a.m.
- Jan. 22 — South Valleys Library, 15650A Wedge Parkway, Reno, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 27 — Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 128 Market St., Stateline, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 28 — UC Davis/Tahoe Environmental Research Center (TERC) at Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences, 291 Country Club Drive, Incline Village, at 6 p.m. (with a reception at 5:30 p.m.)
- Jan. 29 — CVIC Hall, 1604 Esmeralda Ave., Minden, at 6 p.m. (Radon Poster Contest Awards after program)
- Jan. 30 — Carson City Sheriff’s Office, 911 E. Musser St., Carson City, at 6 p.m.
The presentation for Las Vegas is Jan. 16 at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, at 6 p.m.
Scheduled presentations in the other communities are:
- Jan. 6 — White Pine County Library, 950 Campton St., Ely, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 7 — Eureka Opera House, 31 S. Main St., Eureka, at 5 p.m.
- Jan. 13 — Elko County Library, 720 Court St., Elko, at 12:00 p.m.
- Jan. 14 — Humboldt County UNCE, 1085 Fairgrounds Road, Winnemucca, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 15 — Churchill County Multi-purpose building, 225 Sheckler Road, Fallon, at 6:30 p.m.
- Jan. 21 — Pershing County Community Center, 820 Sixth St., Lovelock, at 6:30 p.m.
- Jan. 22 — Mineral County Cooperative Extension, 205 S. A St., Hawthorne, at 6 p.m.
- Jan. 23 — Lyon County UNCE, 504 S. Main St., Yerington, at 6 p.m.
Cooperative Extension, the EPA and the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health urge all Nevadans to get their homes tested for radon. For more information, visit the Nevada Radon Education Program website at www.RadonNV.com, call the Radon Hotline at 888-RADON10 (888-723-6610), or contact Nevada Radon Education Program Director Susan Howe at email@example.com or at 775-336-0248.
Join University of Nevada Cooperative Extension on Saturday, January 11, 2014, for a workshop on Gardening in Small Places-Pruning from 9 a.m. to noon. The class, taught by Dr. Angela O’Callaghan, is designed to demonstrate pruning techniques for the desert. The class will cover pruning fruit trees, ornamentals and desert plants. Homeowners and other interested parties are welcome to attend.
Class space is limited and pre-registration is required. There is a $25 fee which includes class materials.
The workshop will be held at the Lifelong Learning Center (8050 Paradise Road, LV 89123). For more information and to register, email Elaine Fagin at or call 702-257-5573.
Mark your calendar for upcoming Gardening in Small Places workshop dates: February 15, vegetable gardening and March 8, composting.
Six students won cash prizes for creating posters urging their communities to test for radon
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s Radon Education Program has announced the winners of the Nevada Radon Poster Contest. Each winner receives a cash prize, and the first, second and third place winners won cash prizes for their teachers to use for classroom supplies.
Hannah Corgan, an eighth-grade student at Carson Valley Middle School in Minden, took first with her poster, "Radon Bites." She won $75, and her teacher, Lin Falkner, will receive $60.
There was a tie for second: Taylor Sullivan, an eighth-grader at Carson Valley Middle School, with her poster, "Test Your Home for Radon," and Ashlee Bengston, a sixth-grader grader at Kendyl Depoali Middle School with her poster, "Are You Living with a Killer?" each won $60. Their teachers, Lin Falkner and Joana Wu, will each receive $45.
Second Place (tie)
Suzannah Canderle, an eighth-grader from Carson Valley Middle School, took third with her poster, "Radon, It Is Not Good News." She won $45, and her teacher, Lin Falkner, will receive $30.
Piper Bell, a sixth-grader at Roy Martin Middle School in Las Vegas, took fourth and won $25 with her poster, "It’s Never Too Late!".
Kaya Wilson, an eighth-grader at Carson Valley Middle School, also won $25 and placed fifth with her poster, "Radon is a Monster."
Second Place (tie)
Poster-contest-winning students will receive award checks and certificates at awards ceremonies in their respective towns. The winning teachers will also receive their award checks at the ceremonies. An awards ceremony for the Reno student and her teacher will take place following the 6 p.m. radon presentation on Thursday, Jan. 2, at the Washoe County Cooperative Extension office, 4955 Energy Way.
The Minden students and their teacher will be recognized at an awards ceremony following the 6 p.m. radon presentation on Wednesday, Jan. 29, at the CVIC Hall, 1604 Esmeralda Ave. in Minden.
The Las Vegas student will be recognized following the radon presentation at 6 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 16, at the Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road.
This is the fifth year that the Nevada Radon Education Program has participated in the Radon Poster Contest that is open to children, ages 9 to 14. The contest is part of the Nevada Radon Education Program and is sponsored by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Kansas State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the contest is to raise awareness of the harmful effects of elevated levels of indoor radon gas in homes.
This year’s contest had 77 poster entries. Entrants chose from five poster topics: "What is radon?" "Where does radon come from?" "How does radon get into our homes?" "Radon can cause lung cancer," and "Test your home for radon." Posters were judged on content accuracy of the information presented in the poster, as well as the visual communication of the topic, reproducibility and originality.
Votes were compiled for the top nine posters submitted. Voting took place by several methods, including "Likes" on the Nevada Radon Education’s Facebook page, and by polling Cooperative Extension faculty and staff, representatives from the Radiation Control Program of the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, Nevada radon industry professionals and representatives from the Nevada Radon Education Program.
The top four Nevada posters were entered into the national poster contest, sponsored by Kansas State University and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The first-, second- and third-place national contest winners, as well as a special online winner, will receive cash prizes.
When I was a younger and more sprightly woman, I spent part of my life investigating unusual hot springs in rural California. They were salty and quite stinky springs out in the middle of nowhere, and several of them occurred right in the center of an old gold-laced mercury deposit.
No one was actively mining the small area where the springs are found – there just wasn’t enough ore to make the project economic. But the rocks of the location had small veins of chalcedony, calcite and other minerals that had elevated values of both gold and mercury in them. Working with a couple of colleagues, I took samples of the spring waters, the gases bubbling out of the springs, the precipitates forming around them, and anything that looked interesting in the nearby rocks.
The fieldwork had its challenges. In the afternoon it was routinely over 100 degrees, and the sun was relentless. One afternoon I even flirted with heat stroke. Another problem was that the rattlesnakes were numerous and big.
I spent a lot of time in the laboratory back east analyzing the waters of the springs. They were transporting gold, and the question was how. Gold is normally quite insoluble – that’s why it can be used to crown a tooth. Even in an environment rich in warm spit and sips of hot coffee, a golden tooth won’t dissolve away because gold is quite insoluble under most conditions. But clearly the hot springs were different. In the end, I concluded that sulfur in the spring waters was keeping the gold in solution until the waters broke to the surface and the gold precipitated out as temperature and gas concentrations changed.
There were some other interesting things about the strange springs, too. Some of the cooler ones had the larval stage of an insect living in them. I took samples of the wiggling little creatures and gave them to a biologist to identify. The insect normally lives around the ocean in salt-marshes, but it was making use of the salty springs even though they were well inland.
The area where I worked in California hadn’t played a direct role in the Gold Rush of 1849. There just wasn’t enough gold around the hot springs to have caught the attention of the Old Timers who made fortunes elsewhere in California. But the place where I worked had been mined for mercury, including back in the old days. That was because mercury was used to concentrate gold in materials miners elsewhere were processing.
In the old days, miners worked with pans, hydraulic hoses, and sluices to remove and concentrate gold-rich sediment. Because gold is attracted to mercury, the miners poured liquid mercury on the earthen material they had concentrated. The gold moved into the mercury. The miners could then heat the mercury and boil it away, leaving a concentrated “button” of gold behind.
There was a lot of mercury being slopped around in the old processes the miners used. Much of it went into the air when the miners heated the mercury-gold mixture, but some of the mercury stayed behind, in the sediments.
New research is highlighting the environmental challenges those old mining techniques continue to create for us today. As explained in a recent piece on the website Inside Science, one of the key places at issue is the Yuba Fan, a volume of sediment built up around the Yuba River, a tributary of the Sacramento River.
“The Yuba Fan is totally artificial, created by humans,” Michael Singer of the University of St. Andrews said to Inside Science.
The Yuba Fan contains more than a billion cubic yards of sediment. Terraces in the fan act like small dams, keeping the material from moving downstream. But about once every ten years there is a substantial flood that kicks loose materials that then move downhill toward the lowlands – which include agricultural areas like California’s rice fields.
The recent research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which is a measure of its importance. In part because California’s agricultural bounty is a keystone to all of us who like to eat, I’m sure more follow-up research will be done.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University