Extension News from the West

Faculty feature: Amit Dhingra

Washington State University Extension News - Wed, 06/28/2017 - 8:43am

This is the second summer we’ve run a series on influential faculty in our college, as nominated by our CAHNRS Ambassadors. A very small number professors were nominated both years. Since they already answered the basic questions, we felt like this would be a good chance for them to talk about the mentors that influenced them when they were students.

Amit Dhingra

The first double-nominee is Amit Dhingra, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture. Here is his submission on the role of mentors:

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
― Plutarch (AD 46 – AD 120), Greek historian, biographer, and essayist

I am grateful to the students for the nomination second year in a row. As part of this, I was asked to write about an influential teacher/mentor that led me to my career, and what that person did that makes him/her standout to me.

It is hard to write about one influential teacher or mentor, so right at the outset, I would state that it takes a village – at least that has been my experience. When it comes to the realm of mentoring, often the cliché of ‘pass it forward’ is used. However, the truth is the process is not simply a linear chain but a network, and while one gets influenced by several mentors, a mentor also ends up being one of the many influences in the lives of their protégés.

As I find myself on the other side of the equation to teach and mentor students, I channel the influence of not one but several mentors. The folks who took me under their wing, in their immense generosity, overlooked my ignorance and magnanimously directed me to exploit my potential. I learnt from my ‘Mentoratti’, the mafia of mentors (pun intended), that the role of a teacher and mentor is similar to a coach – identify the factors that hold an individual back, making the person aware of that and give them the tools to grow and succeed.   

Mentors are people. They come in all packages. I learnt not to ignore the ones that taught me what not to do – sometimes that is far more important than knowing what to do. The common denominator of all good mentors is their humility. I remain grateful to the several humble and generous mentors who taught me that everything we do is not about us but it is about others and the next generation.

I salute all my past mentors but a special shout out to the current ones that includes the students, who through their participation in my research and classes, their constant feedback and friendship, continue to help me in discovering myself in not just being a better mentor but a better person.

To all my dear students – this recognition is dedicated to all of you!

Wine and science thrive in partnership

Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 8:24am

By: Taryn Phaneuf

Contact: Kaury Balcom, WSU Viticulture & Enology Communications Coordinator, 509-372-7223, kaury.balcom@wsu.edu

At the heart of the flourishing Washington wine industry is a fundamental relationship. And the simple truth of a great bottle of wine is also true of this relationship: it only gets better with age.

Washington’s land-grant university and its wine industry partnered up half a century ago in a landscape ripe with opportunity.

Hugging the Oregon border, the Washington state triad known as the Tri-Cities sits among steep, endless hills where the Columbia, Snake, and Yakima rivers meet. The combination of long, sunny days, rich soil, and available water for irrigation has produced a large share of the state’s wine grapes since before the Prohibition era.

“The wine that was made way back when was mostly jug wine. Pretty raunchy stuff, actually,” says Kevin Corliss, vice president of vineyards at Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. “Not something you’d associate with the wine industry now.”

But in the 1960s, Dr. Walter Clore, a horticulturist working at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center in Prosser, worked with Dr. Charles Nagel, a microbiologist from the Napa Valley, to test which European wine grape varieties would grow best in the state—and where. This research changed the trajectory of Washington’s wine industry and forged an early bond between the university and the industry.

“When we started, there wasn’t a lot of information about growing wine grapes in the state of Washington—period. The only information was from WSU,” Corliss says. “Prior to the 1960s when people started to grow European wine grapes, there wasn’t any body of knowledge—no industry knowledge, no scholarly knowledge. It was just, well, where do you get your ag information? From WSU.”

Dr. Jim Harbertson sorts donated grapes that will be used for his research.

Dr. Jim Harbertson, a chemist, jokes about the days he made wine in buckets and garbage cans when he first joined WSU more than a decade ago. Now, he has a state-of-the-art research winery and laboratories, thanks to industry partners.

In December, Harbertson was one of three wine scientists recognized for shaping the wine industry in Wine Business Monthly’s 50 Top Leaders. His role in developing a way to measure wine’s astringency transformed winemakers’ ability to make decisions. Evaluating wine this way—measuring and using data—eliminates a lot of the subjectivity and errors that come along with the human palate.
This leads to a more precise, consistent product.

This is the type of difference that WSU science is making for growers and wine, and what industry partners are invested in.

“We’re a good size company but we’re still a company,” Corliss says. “Research would always be a secondary consideration for us. So, knowing this, we have to focus on our relationship with WSU.”

Ste. Michelle not only helps fund but also relies on WSU’s work. And scientists like Harbertson know that significant buy-in from the industry makes their research possible, forecasting major benefits for the industry. The relationship is symbiotic.

“Having these kinds of tools helps put us in a position of knowing what will happen—like a crystal ball—to help the industry make choices. Our research is driven by what they need to know,” Harbertson says. “We’re not just solving low-level problems. We’re asking big questions. We want to move the bar.”

Research fuels growth

Diverse climates and soils, climate extremes, grape physiology, forest fires, pests, disease, and microbial populations: all these environmental elements inevitably influence the wine industry. These elements, and what effect they have on the wine, are under constant analysis at the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center in Richland and the Irrigated Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Prosser. There, the state’s wine industry has equal share in research and development. From which grapes to grow and when and how to pick them, to how a toasted barrel affects flavor, each step in the process that creates the experience of a glass of wine is given its due attention. The result is art informed by science.

In Washington, the second-largest wine-producing state in the country, production doubled in the last decade. WSU research has played a major role in this growth and that’s due in large part to partners like Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, the largest producer in the state, who’ve contributed millions of dollars to fund research.

Dr. Tom Collins prepares the smoker for the first round of smoke taint trials.

“In industry research, the key is identifying what’s happening and taking steps to embrace or change it. It’s supposed

to lead to action,” says Tom Collins, an agricultural and environmental chemist at WSU. “At the Wine Science Center, our programs are academic, but the research has the same drive. Scientists here are racking their brains to empower our industry partners.”

Sitting behind his desk on a quiet, wintry morning at the end of the semester, a stack of uncorrected papers towering in front of him, Collins became a professor of wine science after 20 years in the California wine industry. While he’s quick to point out the gin cocktail that shares his name, admitting his interest in distilling spirits, wine comes first for Collins. And wine science—that’s his passion. Whether in the lab or in the field, Collins is looking for the kind of results that help growers and producers do their jobs even better.

This work started while earning his Ph.D. at the University of California, Davis, where he studied wine chemistry and the sensory impact of oak barrels on wine.  His research helped explain what the coopering process is capable of doing for wine, how consistent the process is, and what flavor profile the varied degrees of toasting impact.

“The structure of the wine has a lot to do with the barrel, but there’s no industry standard when it comes to coopering,” Collins says.

As Collins researched this common tool of the winemaking trade, he used that knowledge to teach winemakers what to look for in a barrel and how it influences aroma and flavor. Collins still looks inside as many barrels as he can since joining the faculty at the Wine Science Center in 2015, but his research has shifted to the effect of smoke taint on wine, the sensory impact and how to reverse these effects.

Smoke hanging over fields, orchards, and vineyards, can taint crops in ways winemakers don’t yet fully understand. In 2012, WSU wine scientists warned that high concentrations of smoke taint compounds accumulate in the grapes’ skin and flesh, eventually showing up in the wine. Unfortunately, rather than imparting an appealing smokiness some winemakers aim for, the flavor of smoke taint is stale, smelling like an ashtray.

In an initial round of field experiments last summer, Collins exposed Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling vines to 18 hours of smoke, burning materials that would be common in an actual forest fire. During the fall, winemakers at the Wine Science Center made wine from the grapes and analyzed it to determine how smoke taint transfers from the fruit to the wine. In the coming months, a subsequent round of experiments will expose vines to smoke for two to three days. In the end, Collins will be able to address winemakers’ biggest question: “Once I have it in my wine, what should I do about it?”

Partnership, collaboration, experience

A group of interns work with WSU researchers to do canopy management at the research station in Prosser, Wash. Intern labor was donated by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates to support WSU’s research efforts.

With 50 years of experience behind them, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates has learned what another 50 years of growth will look like. The company understands the importance of sharing research with other growers and producers.

When Ste. Michelle had trouble with climbing cutworms, a pest that infests grapevines and tree fruit, the company asked WSU for help. Doug Walsh, an entomologist at the IAREC, had the idea to use a common pesticide, but only spray the spot where the vine trunk and trellis meet the soil. Acting as a barrier, the localized spray method worked to keep the pest off the plants. Walsh’s work not only addressed Ste. Michelle’s problem but also quickly and completely altered how growers deal with cutworms industry-wide, saving millions of dollars and dramatically reducing chemical use.

Since Clore and Nagel began testing varieties in the ‘60s, wine science has continued in Prosser and, now, at the Wine Science Center at WSU Tri-Cities. Dedicated in 2015, the center established winemaking and research resources that match the ambitions of the WSU Viticulture and Enology Program. The center is an investment in the state’s wine research; it’s an investment in keeping pace with the growing industry, which now includes more than 900 wineries producing 16 million cases of wine produced by more than 350 growers cultivating nearly 60,000 acres of wine grapes.

“It just makes so much sense for us to cooperate with the university as much as we can in order to raise the bar in terms of the skills of grape growers in the state. Most of them are our own growers,” Corliss says.

Though Ste. Michelle doesn’t outsource all of its research and development to WSU, there came a point when the company made a conscious choice to work more openly and closely with the university, he says.

“There’s an understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats,” Corliss says.


Washington State University Extension News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 7:51am
Toasting WSU Viticulture & Enology donors and newsmakers! WSU students receive ASEV scholarships

The American Society for Enology and Viticulture awarded scholarships to seven WSU students for the 2017-2018 academic year.  ASEV awards scholarships annually to students pursuing a degree in enology, viticulture, or in a curriculum emphasizing a science basic to the wine and grape industry.  Applicants are required to supply academic transcripts, questionnaire, statement of intent, list of planned courses for the upcoming academic year and two letters of recommendation.  Selections are made by the scholarship committee and approved by the ASEV Board of Directors.  Congratulations to the following recipients:

  • Robert Beezer, Pullman
  • Zachary Cartwright, Pullman
  • Katherine East, Prosser
  • Xiaochi Ma, Pullman
  • Curtis Merrick, Pullman
  • Xuefei Wang, Pullman
  • Margaret McCoy, Prosser



CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Kevin Murphy

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/23/2017 - 8:41am

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.

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Desmond Layne

Washington State University Extension News - Thu, 06/15/2017 - 12:11pm

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 - 4:24pm

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 - 10:45am
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 - 10:35am

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 - 8:57am

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 - 2:53pm

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 - 7:35am

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

CAHNRS Faculty Feature: Kara Whitman

Washington State University Extension News - Fri, 06/02/2017 - 9:23am

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 - 8:11am
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 - 12:51pm

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 - 12:49pm

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 - 12:38pm
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 - 9:55am
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 - 2:34pm
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 - 2:01pm

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.

Into the Alaskan wilderness to help coastal bears

Washington State University Extension News - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:07am
By Joy Erlenbach

Coastal areas within Katmai National Park in Alaska are home to dense populations of iconic brown bears, which are an important part of the ecosystem, the viewing experience of park visitors, and the economy of the region. Yet habitats used by bears within the park are faced with impacts from tourism, the potential for oil spills, increasing ocean acidification, and other threats, which all have the capacity to severely alter the habitat and food resources available to coastal bears.

Joy Erlenbach and a colleague scan the Alaskan horizon for bears. Photo courtesy Joy Erlenbach

This summer is the third and final field season for my collaborative project with the National Park Service and US Geological Survey studying the potential effects of oil spills, increases in visitation, and ocean acidification on Katmai’s bears.

The project involves using Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) collars to track bear movements, determine which habitats they prefer, and understand how their habitat-use affects body composition (mass and fat gains). We are also characterizing diets of coastal bears using stable isotope analysis to understand the magnitude and breadth of marine-derived foods in bear diets (clams, mussels, otters, seals, salmon), as well as their effects on the body composition of bears.

Other areas of our study include using video collars to further understand bear diet and habitat selection, conducting behavioral observations to document foraging rates on different food resources, and using activity sensors to elucidate what bears are doing in different habitats. All of this work will aid in the management of park resources for bears, visitors, and other wildlife.

This summer, as in previous summers, my time will be spent finding bears using a helicopter, collecting measurements from the bears, and fitting them with a GPS collar. The remainder of my time will be spent camping in remote areas of Katmai collecting observations of non-collared bears and their foraging preferences.

The Changing Tides team puts a GPS collar and gets info on a bear in the Katmai National Park in Alaska. Photo courtesy Joy Erlenbach

The project is challenging: living in a tent for 60 days each summer, being so remote your only rescue is by plane, not showering for weeks at a time, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes, having to put on the same damp socks and pants you’ve worn for the last week, among other things… But it has also been rewarding. The chance to get to live with and learn to understand bears at such a deep level is something that has not only been a dream of mine but also important for helping people understand the true nature of bears as well as some of the ways bears have been misrepresented in popular media.

You can learn more about the Changing Tides project here: