Extension News from the West

Economic development in rural communities boosted by USDA continued funding

Ely, Nevada is just one of 16 communities researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno have worked with as part of the ASAP project to help strengthen its rural economy.

$500,000 grant renewal will assist communities throughout the West with regional development strategies that could extend throughout the U.S.

Researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, along with researchers at Utah State University and University of Idaho, are assisting rural communities across the West by applying economic, environmental and social factors to community economic development planning.

The University Center for Economic Development located in the College of Business recently led the charge to renew a $500,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture under its Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.

Tom Harris, University foundation professor in the College of Business, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension specialist and principal investigator on the grant, describes the work as a tool used to better identify compatible intersections of community preferences and asset structures with industry production requirements and targeted community support.

“It’s very much like a dating service,” Harris said. “We pair what communities want along with information about their asset inventory. Then we interview businesses and discover who has similar goals and priorities to that of rural communities.”

The method is called Area Sector Analysis Process, or “ASAP,” and with the renewed funding from the USDA, Harris and his team plan to expand the project across western states while focusing on four specific objectives:

  1. Operationalize the existing ASAP model;
  2. Develop procedures to encourage and sustain community comparative advantages;
  3. Expand ASAP implementations; and
  4. Analyze ASAP primary data to better understand the process of sustainable rural development over time and across various rural communities and industries.

“At the end of the day, we come up with industries that are desirable to the community and vice versa,” Harris said. “We also show rural communities what assets they can improve upon to make their long-term goals for growth and sustainability attainable. From training a workforce to building highways and infrastructure, ASAP informs communities as to what type of industry they are best matched for.”

Harris, who, along with Malieka Landis, research manager in the University Center for Economic Development, first received the grant in 2014. The 2017 grant is the first renewal. To date, the grant has allowed the team, including colleagues in Utah and Idaho, to formalize the implementation procedure for ASAP, formalize data, and seek representation from firms in every state.

Harris and Landis have worked with Nevada communities in White Pine and Lander Counties. They are currently considering the economic impacts to Washington County, Utah, which is part of the Las Vegas “megapolitan.”

“Especially in Nevada, rural community focus has been on agriculture, mining and tourism — all industries that have volatile business cycles,” Harris said. “We encourage these communities to look for sectors that are more stable with fewer peaks and valleys, as we know this will help even out their economic cycle.”

According to Landis, ASAP brings a quantitative analysis to rural communities — helping the people living and working there to think about competitive advantages.

“It’s about compatibility,” Landis said. “We’re trying to help communities with declining populations and services, strengthen rather than struggle over time. With this grant renewal we will look at not just community assets, but also the labor skills and education required to meet industry needs.”

Since federal funding was received in March 2014, ASAP has been implemented in 16 communities across Idaho, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah. Along with Harris and Landis, Economic Development Specialist Buddy Borden, who works in the Southern Clark County University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office, also plays a key role with the grant.

“From my experience delivering the ASAP program, I found it to be a very effective research and outreach program that enables communities to better understand the many factors that influence community and economic development,” Borden said. “More importantly, is provides communities with local data, expertise and resources that are necessary when developing and implementing strategic economic development plans.”

The process for rural communities engaged with ASAP takes about six months. Communities first work through an Extension educator, who then gathers a cross section of both business and community leaders.

“We are also developing a post-ASAP follow-up process,” Landis said. “The idea behind ASAP is for the community to take leadership in the project. In order for it to be sustainable, it has to be a community-led process. Community groups are working towards solutions and, while it may not be immediate, progress is being made to strengthen their economies.”

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Kevin Murphy

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 9:41am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.

Kevin Murphy

Today we’re showcasing Kevin Murphy, assistant professor in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and head of WSU’s barley and alternative crop breeding program. Here are his answers to a few questions:

Where are you from?

I was born and mostly raised in the Philippines. My dad worked at the International Rice Research Institute.

Where did you go to school?

I earned a B.A. in Biology from Colorado College, an M.S. in Crop Science from WSU, and a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics from WSU.

How did you become interested in your field?

After college I farmed for 7 years and we grew a some crops for seed. I started working with plant breeders as a part of this process and fell in love with the work. I wanted to learn as much as I could about plant breeding, so I started graduate school at WSU when I was 30 years old.

Why did you want to become a professor?

So I could share my passion about plant breeding specifically and sustainable agriculture in general with students and hopefully motivate them to pursue careers in agriculture

What is your favorite thing about working with college students?

Grading their essays. Ha! Just kidding. Two things here. First, I really enjoy talking to college students person to person about their ideas, motivation, personal stories and plans for the future. I’d encourage undergraduates to spend more time engaging in conversations with the faculty and graduate students they find interesting.

Second, I appreciate the opportunity CAHNRS has provided for undergraduate student research internships. Through this program, I’ve worked with several students over the years, some of whom have published their undergraduate research in peer reviewed journals and gone on to get a graduate degree, and others who have gone on to exciting work and entrepreneurial opportunities in the agricultural field.

What advice would you pass along to students?

 When deciding what to do with your life, find and pursue your passion, follow your heart, and be willing to work extremely hard to reach your life goals.

Growing Under the Stars with Master Gardeners

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners offer evening classes

Master Gardener Glenda Bona with culinary herbs, lavender and bee balm.

Since gardening is a year-round activity in Las Vegas, the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program is offering a free evening speaker series—Growing under the Stars—beginning in July. Each month the speaker and topic will change depending on the gardening issue for that month.

Master Gardener Glenda Bona begins the evening speaker series on Wednesday, July 26. Bona, herb garden committee chair, will discuss how easy it is to grow culinary herbs in the desert. The session runs from 6 - 7:30 p.m. at the Lifelong Learning Center located at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev.

For more information, email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

Show off your award winning roses at the fall rose show

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension assists rose show participants

Classes to prepare for the fall rose show.

If you believe you have award-winning prize roses in your garden, plan to attend the first-ever rose show this fall. On Nov. 18, in partnership with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, the South Valley Rose Society is hosting their First American Rose Society (ARS) Rose Show at Cooperative Extension’s Lifelong Learning Center.

The rose society is offering free, open to the public, training classes in preparation for their fall rose show. The Saturday prep classes are from 8 a.m. to noon.

On July 15, Master Gardener Marie Kaplan will discuss rose arrangement. Kaplan is also an ARS judge and blue ribbon arranger. On Aug. 26 and Sept. 9, Master Gardeners and ARS Consulting Rosarians Christina Ropeter and Judith Kafantaris will review the content and rules for the Rose Horticulture Section and on Oct. 21, Larry Kaplan, blue ribbon photography winner, will review the content and rules for the Nov. rose show.

The classes and the rose show are at 8050 Paradise Road, Las Vegas, Nev. For more information, email or call the Master Gardener Help Desk at 702-257-5555.

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Desmond Layne

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 1:11pm

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.

Desmond Layne

Today we’re showcasing Desmond Layne, professor of pomology in the Department of Horticulture and director of the CAHNRS AFS and IPS degree programs. Here are his answers to a few questions:

Where are you from?

My childhood home is on the shore of Lake Erie in southern Ontario, Canada. I grew up in a small, rural farming community. Because of the lake-effect and local climate moderation there, we could grow tender fruits, vinifera grapes, and other high-value horticultural crops. My high school summers were spent as a laborer on local fruit and vegetable farms in the area.

Where did you go to school?

I completed a B.Sc. in Agriculture at Ontario Agricultural College (part of the University of Guelph). My emphasis area was horticulture. I completed a M.S. and Ph.D. in Horticulture at Michigan State University. The disciplinary emphasis of my graduate degrees was pomology (fruit science). The crop focus of my graduate research was tart cherry. Michigan is the #1 tart cherry producer in the U.S.

How did you become interested in your field?

My father was a fruit breeder and scientist for Agriculture Canada (similar to the U.S. Department of Agriculture). I developed a love for science and tree fruit crops because of his influence. Working as a summer student on fruit farms in high school and later as a research assistant and IPM scout while in college cemented the desire to do research to help solve the problems of commercial fruit growers and to find effective ways to teach and advise them.  

Why did you want to become a professor?

I wanted to become a professor for the following reasons: First, I wanted to help commercial fruit growers by providing research-based solutions to their problems so that they could make informed decisions to improve their operations and enhance their profitability. Second, I wanted to be able to take my passion for horticulture (and fruit crops, in particular) to teach students about the fascinating and delicious world of fruit so that they could understand its’ complexity, history, global, national and local impact. Students with a plant-science related degree need to know something about this multi-billion-dollar industry and they need to explore the delicious diversity there is for their palate and their good health. Third, I wanted to be able to help people in other countries.

What is your favorite thing about working with college students?

I remember being an undergraduate student and having a fabulous professor who taught my undergraduate “Plant Propagation” course. He always came to class well-prepared, enthusiastic, passionate and had a way of making difficult concepts seem easier and interesting. He was warm, an excellent communicator, and he genuinely cared about the students. It showed. I loved that class. He’s retired now but I wrote to him a few weeks ago to thank him for the positive influence he had on my life. He remembered me!

I really enjoy providing real-world scenarios so that students can better understand the concepts I am trying to teach. I am energized when a student comes to talk to me after class and it is obvious that they are really thinking about something we talked about and they are interested to learn more. Students are the future. To the extent that I can, I want to positively impact their life for what short time I am given with them like my Plant Propagation professor did for me in 1984.

What advice would you pass along to students?

Link your natural giftedness to your curiosity and interests. Discover your passion and pursue it with vigor.  Find an experienced mentor and be a good listener. Never stop learning and seeking to grow personally and professionally. Be willing to step outside of your comfort zone. Be humble and serve others with a heart of compassion.

Vineyard, WSU scientists team up to battle new virus threat

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 5:24pm

Teja Narta, a postdoctoral researcher, and Daniel Hottell, and undergraduate intern at Washington State University, collect soil samples to identify dagger nematodes in a vineyard affected by TRSV (WSU photo).

Something in the soil was destroying Andrew Schultz’ grapevines.

Naidu Rayapati, a virologist with Washington State University’s Viticulture and Enology program, was determined to find out what.

At first, the Grenache vines, planted in a former pear orchard near Wapato, Wash., had been productive and healthy. But over time, a mysterious infection had taken hold.

Mottled, stunted and sickly, the infected vines were producing only tiny, miniature clusters—or no fruit at all. Infected leaves, crisscrossed with white lines, looked as if they had been munched by insects, but Schultz, the vineyard manager, could see no bugs.

“It was unlike anything I’d seen before,” said Schultz. “You should take a look at this,” he told Rayapati, his former professor and an expert on grapevine diseases at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) in Prosser.

After several tests, Rayapati discovered that the grapevines suffered from a damaging syndrome caused by Tobacco Ringspot Virus (TRSV), a pathogen never before seen in Washington state.

“That was a huge surprise,” said Rayapati. “It was a revelation that we have a new problem here.”

Discovered 90 years ago in Virginia, TRSV affects a wide variety of crops, from grapes, apples and cherries to common weeds. It is spread by microscopic worms in the soil called nematodes—specifically, a species called the dagger nematode, Xiphinema americanum. Like the virus, this species of dagger nematodes was also previously unknown in Washington.

Rayapati and Schultz aren’t sure how the virus and its nematode vector arrived here, but Rayapati suspects they may have hitched a ride with pears or other crops years ago.

Damaging virus, hardy vector

TRSV causes vines to become totally unproductive with time.

Large grape clusters from healthy Granache vines compare with very small grape clusters from vines damaged by TRSV (WSU photo).

“In about ten years, you lose everything and the land becomes useless,” Rayapati said. “It’s a very serious problem.”

Since that first discovery, in 2013, the virus remains isolated on that single vineyard block in Wapato. Rayapati, his team of graduate students, and Schultz have been working together on techniques to contain and defeat it.

Grape growers typically get rid of viruses by removing infected plants and replacing them with healthy, virus-free ones.

“Tobacco Ringspot is a totally different beast,” Rayapati said. “Removing and replanting doesn’t stop it.”

That’s because the virus also infects dagger nematodes living in the soil, and those creatures are difficult to kill.

Chemicals can kill the nematodes, but daggers are hardy, and their populations spring back within a season or two.

Rayapati’s research has shown that the dagger nematode species in this vineyard block can spread TRSV from infected to healthy grapevines.

Rayapati and Schultz are testing different combinations of rootstocks and grafts, as well as own-rooted vines, to find grape plants that resist the virus or are unpalatable to nematodes. Schultz is also looking at predatory nematodes that eat the ones spreading the virus.

Best defense is knowledge, soil test

Right now, the best defense against TRSV is knowing when you’re at risk.

“TRSV has a broad host range, and can jump easily from one plant species to another. That’s why we’re trying to alert growers,” said Rayapati. “If you’re planning to switch crops, it’s a good idea to get your soil tested to see if you’re at risk of these nematode vectors.”

Andrew Schultz and Naidu Rayapati partner to keep Schultz’ Wapato vineyards healthy (WSU photo).

“We’re farming 50-year-old pear blocks that pre-date modern clean plant materials, and may someday go to grapes,” said Schultz. “We don’t know what viruses may be in the ground that do not affect pears, but may pop up when we go to grapes.”

WSU IAREC is home to the Clean Plant Center Northwest, which helps growers plant virus-free trees, grapes and hops. Rayapati urges growers to always plant clean vines from a reputable source, reducing their risk of accidentally spreading a virus.

“Once you introduce these diseases, the rest is history,” he said.

Rayapati also urges growers to meet and talk about virus defense.

“On Red Mountain, for example, where grape acreage is expanding, we’re trying to assemble growers of new and existing plantings to discuss the risks,” he said.

Wine is a $4.8 billion industry in Washington. Sixty thousand acres of wine grapes are grown here, with more planted every year.

“It’s important to nip this problem in the bud,” said Rayapati. “Tobacco Ringspot isn’t something that will wipe out the industry, but we need to make sure growers plant virus-free materials and there are no risks in the soil itself.”

For Schultz, researching the virus means saving not just his vines, and the investment they represent, but the Northwest industry—for years to come.

“We could take the vines out and replant with something else, or just fallow the land,” said Schultz. “But, with Naidu, we’re providing answers to other growers who may run into this virus.”

  • Soil testing is available commercially, and Rayapati’s team offers plant testing services. Learn more about WSU IAREC here. Learn about the WSU Viticulture and Enology here.
  • Contact: Naidu Rayapati, Associate Professor, WSU Viticulture and Enology Program, Department of Plant Pathology, (509) 786-9215, naidu.rayapati@wsu.edu.

Studying fat production and circadian rhythms in grizzlies

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:45am
By Kaylie Shaver, WSU veterinary student, research scholar and summer research fellow

During their active season, bears’ fat cells are sensitive to a hormone called insulin which helps them to convert glucose in their food into fat that will fuel them during winter hibernation. During hibernation, the fat cells lose this sensitivity to insulin, allowing them to utilize their fat stores for energy.

Kaylie Shaver in the lab.

When they finish hibernation, they regain that insulin sensitivity. The bears do not seem to exhibit any ill effects during this period of insulin resistance. However, if a human or a pet were to become insulin resistant, they would be considered diabetic and would experience symptoms such as extreme hunger and thirst, frequent urination and blurred vision to name a few.

Without treatment for diabetes, they may even die from complications. This phenomenon has led researchers to ask: how do bears tolerate their insulin resistance without negative side effects? And how do they reverse their essentially diabetic state every spring?

The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, plays an important role in regulating metabolism and preventing the development of metabolic diseases like obesity and diabetes. Circadian rhythms are an evolutionary adaptation that help to coordinate physiological processes (hormone production, immune function, fat storage, etc.) with external environmental cues such as daylight.

These rhythms are generated in various tissues throughout the body by a group of genes aptly named ‘clock’ genes. It has become abundantly clear that disruption to circadian rhythms can alter metabolism and lead to weight gain and related health problems.

These health problems are commonly seen in people who are awake and functioning during the time their body’s clock would prefer them to be asleep, like shift workers. However, nighttime exposure to light (phones, computers, tvs, etc.), late bedtimes, and midnight snacks can be just as detrimental to a body’s circadian rhythm. Interestingly, veterinarians are seeing an increase in obesity and diabetes in pets as well, likely because a pet’s lifestyle mirrors that of its owner.

Our research at the WSU Bear Center this summer will investigate whether the grizzlies’ fat cells exhibit a circadian rhythm of glucose uptake and how this rhythm differs between cells from the active season versus hibernation. Fat and serum samples are collected from the bears during their active season as well as during hibernation, and then processed in the lab and cultured for experiments.

By investigating the role of circadian rhythms in grizzly bear metabolism, we hope to better understand how bears avoid developing diabetes and other metabolic diseases despite their unique lifestyle. This may lead to new and improved methods for treating or preventing these diseases in humans and companion animals.

Scientific bling on WSU bears

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 11:35am

If you haven’t noticed, several of our bears at the Washington State University Bear Center have some new brightly colored jewelry: energy-monitoring collars.

An energy monitoring collar, in place.

The collars will collect vital information from the bears and contribute to a research project run by WSU doctoral student Tony Carnahan.

“These basically work like fancy FitBits,” Carnahan said. “They’re way more complex than that, but they do give us all sorts of feedback on the energy used when the bears are initially walking on the treadmill and engaged in various activities in the yard. Once calibrated, they will ultimately tell us the energetic costs for wild bears living in different environments.”

This research, part of his doctoral dissertation, will compare the results compiled from our bears to results taken from collared grizzlies in the wild.

“We want to see what it costs bears to live on the landscape,” he said. “Different bears have different behaviors and foraging strategies based on where they live. The treadmill will give us a baseline to use with wild bears that live near the Alaska coast or in the Rocky Mountains.”

To get those baseline readings, our bears will walk at different speeds and have their energy usage measured at each pace. Results will be correlated to each bear’s heart rate.

Our bears have been training on the treadmill for over a month now, and measurements for Carnahan’s project will start around June 19. Seven of the center’s 11 bears will take part in the study.

Another goal for the study is to link wild grizzly behavior with their movement and energy usage, Carnahan said. For example, he noted that some bears in Alaska will travel incredible distances to get to salmon streams. He wants to see what the energy tradeoff is for bears that travel these distances to find prolific feeding grounds versus if they simply stayed put.

“It must be worth the energetic cost to travel that far,” Carnahan said. “But we want to see what that cost is, and if small changes in their environment would alter their movements.”

The WSU Children’s Center visits the Bear Center

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/13/2017 - 9:57am

The WSU Children’s Center, located on the Pullman campus, has several classes that take field trips to the Bear Center. One class was lucky enough to visit during enrichment preparation. These two- and three-year-old toddlers watched as center manager Brandon Hutzenbiler put out frozen cantaloupe and cherries in the exercise yard.

Here are a few pictures of the kids checking out the grizzlies, and vice versa!




June enrichment photos and video

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 3:53pm

At the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center, we have an enrichment program aimed at keeping our bears physically healthy and mentally stimulated. Every month, we’ll showcase the new or different activities and physical challenges our bears can tackle.

Here, center manager Brandon Evans Hutzenbiler prepares the enrichment ‘toys’ by stuffing them full of cut fresh fruit and other treats for the bears. Then, the objects are hung up or spread around. The bears then have to figure out how to get to the hidden treats.

Here, Brandon partially fills the tube with raisins and other dry food. He’ll hang it in a pen and the bears will have to determine how to access the food by lifting the blue ball on the end.


Finding the hidden treats


And here is one of our bears figuring out how to access the hidden food rather quickly.

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: John Fellman

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/09/2017 - 8:35am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.

John Fellman

Today we’re showcasing John Fellman, professor of postharvest physiology in the Department of Horticulture. Here are his answers to a few questions:

Where are you from?
Born and Raised in St. Louis MO

Where did you go to school?
B.S. from Clemson, Ph.D. from the University of Idaho.

How did you become interested in your field?
I was always interested in Chemistry, and I like plants (and plant products) so the merged interests are obvious! My areas of expertise are plant physiology and biochemistry, bioanalytical chemistry, tree fruit horticulture, postharvest biology, and technology of high-value perishable horticultural crops. I was trained in biochemistry, had expertise in analytical chemistry of foods, and after a postdoctoral stint in plant biochemistry, it seemed like the next logical career path. I was always interested in apples while growing up in Missouri.

Why did you want to become a professor?
Easy-I like people and I like sharing knowledge. It’s only work if you would rather be doing something else. Every day I ask myself ‘would I rather be doing something else?’ And I can’t think of something else, as most of my hobbies involve acquiring new knowledge about plants and plant products like food and fermented beverages.

What is your favorite thing about working with college students?
It is really fun and rewarding to see “the lights go on” inside of someone’s head when they grasp what it is you are trying to teach them! Also, when they stop in later (sometimes years later!) and thank me for my efforts. I never know when some offhand comment I make somehow influences people around me. Who knew?

What advice would you pass along to students?
The late Woody Hayes ( legendary Ohio State Football Coach) said “Anything easy ain’t worth a damn!” So challenge yourself! It’s never too late to learn something new.

“The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool.”
—William Shakespeare

Earn your Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2018!

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension trains childhood providers

Child Development Associate graduate, Morgan Turner.

People working in childcare centers need training to provide quality childcare to our children and help make them ready for elementary school. One of the most recognized quality training programs is the Infant Toddler Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential that University of Nevada Cooperative Extension offers in Nevada.

“The CDA Credential is the most widely recognized national credential in early childhood education,” stated Teresa Byington, early childhood education specialist for Cooperative Extension. The CDA is based on a core set of competency standards designed to guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified teachers of young children.

Morgan Turner is the first participant in the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension’s 2017 Infant Toddler CDA/Coaching program to receive her Infant Toddler CDA Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition. Turner is a toddler teacher at Faith Lutheran Preschool.

“This program has taught me so much, not only to be a great teacher for my children but a better person,” explained Turner. “It’s an amazing program, take advantage of this opportunity! I loved everyone I worked with in the program.”

The next Infant Toddler CDA/Coaching Program, offered statewide, will begin in September 2017 and conclude in April 2018. The program is funded by the Office of Early Learning and Development. Cooperative Extension will also be offering the CDA Program for preschool teachers in southern Nevada. There is limited space for both programs. Apply by July 7. For more information, email or call contact Sarah Wright at 702-257-5563.

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Kara Whitman

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 10:23am

We asked several CAHNRS Ambassadors, excellent students who love WSU and their college, to name their favorite or most influential professors. And now we’re featuring those nominated educators in this weekly series, which runs through the summer.

Kara Whitman

Today we’re showcasing Kara Whitman, project coordinator for the Ruckelshaus Center and instructor in the WSU School of the Environment. Here are her answers to a few questions:

Where are you from?

I have lived many places in the US, as my father was in the military. However, the bulk of my formative years were in Northern Idaho where my dad was a caretaker of a boy scout camp called Camp Easton on Coeur d’Alene Lake. This is where I fell in love with the natural world.

Where did you go to school? (bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D., if applicable)

2013    Ph.D. in Environmental and Natural Resource Science, Washington State University, Pullman, WA. 

2007    MS in Environmental Science, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

2003    BLA in Landscape Architecture, University of Idaho, Moscow, ID.

1996    AS (Mechanical Engineering), North Idaho College, Coeur d’Alene, ID.

How did you become interested in your field?

My undergraduate degree was in Landscape Architecture. I was very interested in the connection of people to place, how we use spaces, and how design can be influenced by natural process. This led me to attend Washington State University, where I intended to get a Masters degree and become an environmental planner. Once at WSU, I had the opportunity to work with amazing professors who inspired me to work on complex environmental problems that involve multiple stakeholder groups. This has shaped my interest into a focus on collaborative policy work for addressing regional scale environmental problems. 

Why did you want to become an instructor?

As a graduate student, I had the opportunity to teach both labs and summer school, and completely fell in love with it. 

What is your favorite thing about working with college students?

I am constantly surprised and inspired by my students. It is incredibly rewarding to have rich dialogue with students, be present when inspiration takes root, and see students find their path.  I love being a part of this journey. 

What advice would you pass along to students?

1.) Get to know your professors/instructors by introducing yourself, and by meeting with them and having meaningful dialogue
2.) Get involved with undergraduate research.
3.) See and experience the world (people, culture, environments) outside of the United States/Developed World. 

Learn about falling numbers, wheat, pea varieties at Lind Field Day

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 05/24/2017 - 9:11am
Farmers examine spring wheat at the 2016 Lind Field Day.

LIND, Wash. –Farmers can learn about the latest Washington State University discoveries in solving low falling numbers, perennial wheat, pea varieties, and more at the annual Lind Field Day, Thursday, June 15, at the WSU Dryland Research Station.

Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. with the field tour starting at 9 a.m. A complimentary lunch and program will follow the field tour.

Research presentations focus on perennial wheat; winter, club and spring wheat breeding; winter pea breeding; application of biosolids; and falling numbers in wheat. WSU administrators, state legislature and wheat industry leaders will provide updates during the noon program.

An ice cream social follows the noon program. 5

The Lind Field Day is free and open to the public. Washington pesticide credits have been requested.

For more information, contact Bill Schillinger, WSU research agronomist, at (509) 235-1933 or by e-mail at william.schillinger@wsu.edu.

Lind Dryland Research Station is located at 781 E Experiment Station Road, Lind, Wash.

Wine and Music Festival supports WSU wine research

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 1:51pm

RICHLAND, Wash. – Washington State University and the Auction of Washington Wines are partnering to host the 3rd Annual Tri-Cities Wine and Music Festival on Saturday, June 10.

Ticket prices range from $85 per person for the festival to $950 for a weekend package for two that includes the Col Solare Vintner Dinner on Friday and hotel accommodations through the weekend. Tickets are available online at the Auction of Washington Wines website, auctionofwashingtonwines.org.

Proceeds from the event benefit WSU viticulture and enology research that helps the Northwest region stay competitive in the national and global wine market, while providing sustainable growth in the industry. Research projects funded through Auction of Washington Wines provide solutions to grape growing and winemaking practice and innovations in industry practice. These projects also provide students with hands-on learning experience, creating a qualified workforce to meet the growing needs of the grape and wine industry.

The Wine and Music Festival starts at 6 p.m. at the WSU Tri-Cities campus in Richland. The event will include classic rock from Arny Bailey and Friends, featuring Peter Rivera, formerly of Rare Earth, along with food from the Olive Café in Walla Walla and wine tasting from more than 20 Washington wineries. The festival is sponsored by Numerica Credit Union, Russ Dean RV and URock Radio.

Since its inception in 1988, the Auction of Washington Wines has raised more than $37 million. The distinguished fundraising events give wine lovers the chance to support the Washington wine industry and families in the communities around the region.

WSDA dedicates new, state-of-the-art greenhouse at WSU center

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 1:49pm

The Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) dedicated the agency’s new state-of-the-art greenhouse, built to support the state’s tree fruit industry, at a ribbon cutting ceremony May 11 in Prosser.

Inside the new WSDA greenhouse, which is located at WSU’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center in Prosser.

“We now have a modern greenhouse that will make it easier to protect the fruit tree industry from virus diseases,” WSDA Director Derek Sandison said. “This larger greenhouse, with its automated features, improved temperature controls and watering system, will give us an increased capacity to test registered mother trees at a rate greater than we’ve been able to do in the past.”

The greenhouse, which measures about 156 feet by 30 feet, is located at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (WSU-IAREC). The greenhouse is nearly 4,800 square feet and is built on 7.5 acres leased from WSU.

It includes three separate growing bays with individual temperature controls that better duplicate temperature ranges where fruit tree viruses can thrive. This makes symptoms readily discernable, increasing the effectiveness of virus indexing. The facility also features work areas for potting and a walk-in cooler. A separate storage building houses equipment.

It replaces a smaller, traditional, WSU-owned greenhouse that had minimal temperature control and was used by WSDA staff for decades.

The Fruit Tree Planting Stock Certification Program has nearly 35,000 registered mother trees that serve as a source for the propagation of trees that will provide millions of high quality trees to the tree fruit industry each year. The trees are grown by WSDA-certified nurseries that acquire stock from the Clean Plant Center- Northwest, also located at WSU’s IAREC, which is part of the National Clean Plant Network. It is one of only three clean plant centers for fruit trees in the U.S.

Washington fruit trees are sold worldwide. Producing nursery trees free of viruses is key to the success of Washington’s fruit trees, including apple, pear and cherry industries. Viruses can reduce yields, affect fruit quality and impact trade.

Construction of the greenhouse and installation of specialized equipment took more than two years to complete. The project cost $750,000 using funds provided through assessments on nurseries that sell Washington-grown fruit trees.

Fruit tree nursery growers and representatives from WSU and WSDA attended the dedication.

The new greenhouse is located at 24106 N. Bunn Rd., Prosser, on the WSU IAREC site.

First Dean’s Excellence winner breaks down education barriers

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 1:38pm
Doctoral student Shima Bibi accepts the first CAHNRS Dean’s Excellence Scholarship from Dean Ron Mittelhammer.

Shima Bibi is a pioneer and a scientist. From rural Pakistan to Washington State University, she is pursuing her passion for discovery, working to improve global health and help girls in her home country reach their potential.

The first recipient of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences Dean’s Excellence Scholarship, Bibi will earn her doctorate in food science this fall. She is the first woman in her family and her home village to earn a PhD.

She grew up in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which is under constant watch, and sometimes attack, by the Taliban.

But Bibi’s scientific mind, and desire to use that science to help others, pushed her to harness her courage and break down barriers.

Determined to learn more

“As a child, I was deeply interested in learning new things,” said Bibi, who was raised in a small village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, formerly the Northwest Frontier Province. “Curiosity came first. Then I asked, how can I apply my science to help people?”

Growing up, she watched her fellow girls drop out of primary school, while boys stayed in class.

“I realized boys had freedom to realize their dreams, while girls’ desires to succeed were encumbered by societal expectations and gender norms,” Bibi said. “This did not seem right to me. I was determined to make a difference.”

After primary school, she was one of just three girls in her village class to apply and move up to middle school. Her teachers urged Bibi to continue her education, and with the support of her family, she traveled daily to a nearby village to attend a government girls’ high school.

From primary school through high school, Bibi led her classes in grades, and earned the highest score to date at her girls’ high school.

Bibi, in her lab at the School of Food Science, researches how purple potato and raspberry could protect digestive health.

Attending university in the large city of Peshawar, Pakistan, Bibi’s exploration of antibiotic qualities in honey led her to antioxidants—chemicals that protect the body from deterioration, found in foods like berries, purple potatoes and chocolate.

Spurred in part by her father’s bout with an intestinal ailment, Bibi set out to learn how antioxidants affect chronic disease. Winning a Fulbright scholarship, she applied to programs across the United States to find the best place to advance her ideas. The Washington State University–University of Idaho School of Food Science won out.

For the past four years, Bibi has worked alongside advisor Meijun Zhu, associate professor in the School of Food Science.

“Shima braved many hardships to finish her education,” said Zhu. “She comes from a region where fewer than one in ten women learn to read.”

Bibi’s dedication and perseverance helped her break boundaries, both to gain an education at home and to match her peers at WSU, added Zhu.

“She worked hard to reach this level, and has improved dramatically to become one of the top graduate students in my lab,” she said. “I see Shima becoming a leader in the field in Central Asia, and a role model for young people aspiring to a career in food and health.”

Today, Bibi is completing research on the beneficial effects of two antioxidant foods, raspberries and purple potatoes, on digestive health, a critically important research area.

“I want to see if these foods can protect against diseases like colon cancer and colitis,” she said.

First Excellence Scholarship

The CAHNRS Dean’s Excellence Fund was created by many donations over several years. Academic departments nominate students for the award, and the dean of the college chooses one undergraduate and one graduate scholarship recipient annually.

“The Dean’s Excellence Scholarship provides financial support for students who have a passion and determination for their chosen major in the face of hardships and challenges in their personal lives, and who exhibit dedication to applying their knowledge and expertise to assist and improve the lives of others,” said CAHNRS Dean Ron Mittelhammer. “Shima epitomizes these qualities, and CAHNRS is proud to present her with the first award.”

The $1,000 scholarship supports Bibi’s continuing doctoral studies.

A proud Coug, she will return home after graduation as a research officer for Pakistan’s agricultural research service in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. There, she aims to improve food security and health in her community.

“In Pakistan, girls are now going to universities and seeking every professional degree,” said Bibi. “I will work for women’s education, and bring shining minds to the forefront. I’m not afraid of any hardship. I’m a Fulbrighter and a Coug, and I have a Fulbright and Coug family all over the globe.”

Forestry Club Returns, Receives 2017 CAHNRS Superior Club Award

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 05/19/2017 - 10:55am
By Maya Wahl, CAHNRS Academic Programs

CAHNRS offers many extracurricular opportunities for students, ranging from the Viticulture and Enology Club to the Agriculture Technology & Production Management Club. Of the many extracurricular opportunities CAHNRS offers to support students, the Forestry Club stood out as one that’s gone above and beyond this year. The 2017 Superior Club award was presented to the Forestry Club at the CAHNRS Honors event this spring. Forestry recently returned as a major in the School of Environment and has since revitalized the club.

Forestry Club officers receive the Superior Club award at CAHNRS Honors 2017.

The Forestry Club’s purpose is to create professional skill building opportunities, fundraise for future opportunities, and give back to the community through ecological restoration projects. The club offers these opportunities to all students, not just those seeking a major in Forestry. The inclusive environment and number of opportunities offered has created a space for students to come together, share ideas, and work towards bettering themselves for their future careers.

Forestry Club members receive many chances to build their professional skills through weekend trainings and guest speaker appearances at meetings. These speakers come from a variety of backgrounds and regions, ranging from the University of Vermont to the Idaho Department of Lands, to discuss what it takes to be successful in the forestry industry. The club facilitates trainings for its members on how to use chainsaws, splitting mauls, and heavily loaded trucks. These trainings also cover the usage of variable radius forest management tools, which are the industry standard for timber inventory.

But, it’s not all business for the Forestry Club members. The club also hosts bon fire socials for special events like Dad’s Weekend. In order to continue the informational trainings and fun socials, the club fundraises by selling firewood on football game days.

The club works in conjunction with other organizations on campus, including the Wildlife Society Student Chapter and the Environmental Sustainability Alliance. They also seek networking opportunities through the Society of American Foresters. There is no question that the Forestry Club offers members numerous opportunities for growth.

Its members are proud of the club’s service to the community and the environment. The club has started a restoration project of the West Unit of WSU’s Magpie Forest Preserve. They were awarded funding from the Environmental Sustainability Alliance to conduct their project in conjunction with the Wildlife Society. Since its beginning, the project has resulted in the clearing and planting of native shrubs and grasses while working to reestablish a healthy ponderosa pine population. Volunteers from outside organizations like Gamma Iota Omicron fraternity, the Center for Civic Engagement, and the local Cub Scouts have helped make this project a reality as well. Not only has the Forestry Club brought its own members together, but it also created opportunities for the entire Pullman community members to make a difference.

Daniel Molina, club president, says that his favorite part about being a member is listening to the guest speakers because he learns vital skills for his future career. The classroom provides the framework for students to apply skills that are necessary for success. He says, “One thing I wish I knew when I was a freshman was to just join clubs I was interested in.” His involvement has paid off and he has become a well-rounded student who is constantly contributing to WSU and the Pullman community.

Molina encourages all majors to look into joining the Forestry Club, it’s not just for Wildlife and Ecology or those interested in Forestry. The club is open to all WSU students who wish to broaden their horizons and learn something new. They are guaranteed to be provided with opportunities to stay active doing projects and to hopefully start a project that satisfies their own interests. Join the Forestry Club  and get in on all of the fun!


Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:34pm
WSU researchers awarded 2017 best enology paper by ASEV WSU researchers Dr. James Harbertson, left, and Richard Larsen, right.

WSU researchers Dr. James F. Harbertson, Richard Larsen and former WSU graduate student L. Federico Casassa of California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, were recently awarded “best enology paper” by the American Society for Enology and Viticulture for their paper “Effects of Vineyard and Winemaking Practices Impacting Berry Size on Evolution of Phenolics During Winemaking.

Each year the ASEV Best Paper Committee reviews all papers published in the journal over the past year and selects them most outstanding papers—one in viticulture and one in enology.  The winning papers are recognized for outstanding research and substantial contributions to the field.

The authors have been invited to present their papers at ASEV’s national conference in Bellevue, Wash., June 26-29, where they will also receive their award.


Viticulture, enology student wins national honor

Connor Eck, a senior at Washington State University Tri-Cities and originally from Del Mar, Calif., has been named a national Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a Boston-based nonprofit organization working to advance the public purposes of higher education.

The fellowship provides learning and networking opportunities to teach students leadership and how to bring communities

WSU V&E student Connor Eck

together for positive change. As a student winemaker in WSU’s Blended Learning program, Eck worked with local growers and winemakers to develop leadership skills, gain hands-on experience and exercise environmentally friendly winemaking practices.

“I aim to find a way to limit the amount of water used in the farming of grapes and during the winemaking process, while still producing a high-quality product,” he said.

“The cultivation of community-committed leaders has never been more crucial,” said Andrew Seligsohn, Campus Compact president. “Our country needs more people who know how to bring communities together.”

The fellowship, named for Campus Compact co-founder Frank Newman, chose 273 students for the 2017 cohort. It is supported by the KPMG Foundation and Newman’s Own Foundation.


V&E graduate Dennis Bonilla, right, receives his diploma from WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Dr. Keith Moo-Young Congratulations 2016-2017 V&E Graduates

Carina Ocampo

Dennis Bonilla

Logan Roehm

Melanie Ford

Michael Stiekema

Stevie-Jean Luke

Joby Shields

V&E graduate, Stevie-Jean Luke celebrates after receiving her diploma

Jordan Torres

Koty McCrory

Jordin Stephenson

Ken Corliss

Brad Schroeder

Trevor Powers

Melinda Garza

Dr. Caroline Merrell, left, poses with her Ph.D advisor, Dr. Jim Harbertson

Justin Skoczylas

Cary Wilton

Chris Jenkins, MS

Caroline Merrell, Ph.D

Wanted: Volunteer wine tasters

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 05/16/2017 - 3:01pm

Researchers with the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program seek volunteer panelists in the Tri-Cities, Wash. area to assist with wine sensory evaluation.  Three sensory panels will be held summer 2017:

A sensory panelist evaluates research wines at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland, Wash.
  • Panel 1-Red Wine Color and Astringency/Mouthfeel (June)
  • Panel 2-Red Wine Aroma and Mouthfeel (July)
  • Panel 3-White Wine Aroma and Mouthfeel (August)

Ideal candidates are wine-consuming adults 21 and older with basic wine knowledge.  Volunteers will be asked to attend a series of hour-long group training sessions where they will learn about wine characteristics and be taught how to evaluate wines.

Once the training is complete, panelists will schedule a time to conduct independent sensory evaluations.

Training and evaluations will be held at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center at 359 University Drive in Richland, Wash.

Results from the sensory panels will support ongoing WSU viticulture and enology research that helps the Northwest region stay competitive in the national and global wine market, while providing sustainable growth in the industry.

Space on each panel is limited.  To participate, email caroline.merrell@wsu.edu and indicate which panel(s) you would like to join.