The past few mornings, I’ve definitely felt autumn in the air, as days grow shorter and cold fronts bring crisp, Canadian air to Delaware. I took the blog with me on a trip to Europe during the first two weeks of October, so the stark change in weather and fall color were more amplified for me than in most years. Halloween décor seemed to appear all of a sudden given that when I left, there were still signs of summer around the neighborhood. I did not know that Halloween was also celebrated in Europe, at least in the few countries that I was able to visit. I was in a department store in Switzerland, and one entire section was devoted to Halloween costumes and clothing – it looked like I could have been at the Christiana Mall. In Austria, I ran across a Starbucks with a sign for “pumpkin spiced latte”, and saw pumpkin being used in all sorts of snacks and desserts. I really thought that I could avoid all-things-pumpkin by being out of the USA in October, but no, the Europeans seem to have latched on to the pumpkin craze as much as we have. All in all, it made me reflect on how similar we are, even though we speak different languages, wear different clothes, drive different cars, and often adopt different worldviews. Halloween is something we can all relate to.
But I wasn’t in Europe just to observe the culture. I attended the 3rd Global Risk Forum on “One Health” in Davos, Switzerland. “One Health” is the label for a new paradigm in which the health of humans, animals and ecosystems is considered to be strongly interrelated. It follows that tomorrow’s human health solutions have to be developed in much broader contexts by highly interdisciplinary teams, including the types of researchers you find in our college. In the 2013 strategic plan, we declared One Health as one of our unique research strengths. While the end-game for us is not necessarily curing cancer in humans, the One Health paradigm challenges us to work more collaboratively with folks in medicine, biology and public health. I’ll say more about the conference below, but my belief that CANR is at the center of One Health was reinforced ten-fold after hearing speakers from all over the world describe research and outreach that sounded a lot like us.
Please, feel free to get yourself a pumpkin-spiced snack or a piece of Halloween candy and allow the blog to bring you up to speed on a few things happening in the college.
One Health in CANR. I’ve been to a lot of conferences in my career, but never one that opened with a live performance by opera singers and a keynote speech by a princess (I took a picture of the soprano singer because I didn’t think people would believe me). By the third performance, I knew I wasn’t just going to see a bunch of talks and posters. The keynote was given by Her Royal Highness Princess Chulabhorn of Thailand. She is a professor of chemistry and an honorary member of the Royal Society of Chemistry of England. Not your typical monarch! She gave a talk on human health as a key factor in sustainable development, in which she showed that people from urban environments in Bangkok, Thailand had a significantly higher cancer risk than rural people. The poor air and water quality of the city environment had resulted in higher levels of carcinogens and greater DNA damage in people from the city when compared to rural populations. That’s One Health – an unhealthy environment correlates directly with greater health risk, and in this case the human health solution lies at least partly in the realm of environmental sciences. She speculated that these issues have to be dealt with in order for cities like Bangkok to develop sustainably. That’s the way the rest of the conference went; talks from people all over the world studying zoonotic diseases like Ebola and rabies, avian influenza, vector-borne diseases like chikungunya and malaria, associations between environmental health and wildlife health, antibiotic resistance in animal production and consequences for human health, and so on.
In most every talk, I could see relevant programs in CANR. In fact, our faculty easily could have given presentations at this conference. Obviously, we have strength in avian health and are at the forefront of avian influenza surveillance and management. Our food scientists are working on ways to reduce food-borne illness in people. Our soil scientists are studying ways to reduce arsenic content in rice and by extension, human health issues associated with arsenic. Our animal nutrition folks are studying metabolism in animals with implications for humans. Our entomologists are studying bee and pollinator health by looking at the plants they forage, and in turn how this might affect ecosystems and agriculture. Our natural resource economists are studying the policy and economic issues surrounding viable ecosystems and agricultural lands, with implications for the health of everything. Extension family and consumer scientists are teaching people about healthy diets, exercise and handling food safely. Ryan Arsenault, one of our newest faculty in animal science, is working on a course in One Health. I could go on, but the blog is telling me I’ve made my point (!). The College is clearly at the center of the One Health movement. But one thing is lacking – an awareness of our integral role in One Health – by both internal and external constituencies. So please tell someone today about One Health and how the College is at the forefront of this emerging area of study.
Homecoming festivities. Homecoming is a great fall tradition at UD, and is the time that the College recognizes some of its most distinctive alumni through presentation of our Distinguished Alumni and Worrilow awards. We’ll do that on Friday, November 6, in the Townsend Commons. Homecoming is Saturday, November 7, when our awardees will attend a special tailgate followed by Blue Hen football. Join us in the Commons if you can! This year’s recipients are:
- Mary Denigan-Macauley, ANFS ‘88, Assistant Director, Natural Resources and Environment, U.S. Government
- Devan Mehrotra, STAT ‘91, Executive Director, Clinical Biostatistics, Merck
- Kenneth Raffa, ENTO ’76, Beers-Bascom Professor of Conservation, University of Wisconsin
- Don Tilmon, APEC ‘67, Professor, Retired, University of Delaware
Distinguished Young Alumni:
- Jared Ali, ENTO ‘08, Assistant Professor of Entomology, Michigan State University.
George M. Worrilow Award:
- Charles C. Allen, III, AGRI ‘71, Past President, Allen Family Foods
I thank everyone who nominated individuals for these awards and those who have worked very hard to organize the event.
Staff reclassifications. Congratulations to several people on our staff who were reclassified and/or received adjustments in the past month. Annually, we nominate staff members for reclassification and/or salary adjustments that have experienced substantial changes to their roles over the years. The latest group includes: Albert Nojunas, Charlie Willis and Wayne Bartsch (Newark Farm); Melinda Litvinas (UDairy Creamery); Tammy Schirmer and Sharon Webb (Carvel Center); Alice Moore (Extension) and Cindy Rechsteiner (Plant and Soil Sciences). We absolutely, positively could not operate the College without the valiant efforts of our staff, and I am glad that we can properly recognize their efforts. I thank Kawkab Rasheed, Kathryn Thoroughgood, and Chris Towers who spent a lot of time preparing and reviewing the cases.
Worrilow Hall. As many of you know, we have been considering a renovation and possible expansion of our primary laboratory building, Worrilow Hall, for several years. This week at the Dean’s Council meeting, the topic of Worrilow came up in the context of capital priorities across campus. The good news is that Worrilow is officially listed as a “project under consideration” in the UD four-year capital plan, which is the first time I’ve actually seen this in writing. It is just one of many projects that will be presented to the Board of Trustees in the coming weeks as a potential capital project to undertake. One major change to the thinking about the renovation has occurred – Worrilow is being envisioned as a multi-college, interdisciplinary science building, and I agreed to chair a group including the vice president for research and deans of Arts & Sciences, Health Sciences, Engineering and Earth, Ocean and Environment to develop a concept for a broader, larger Worrilow expansion and renovation. Of course, I’ll be advocating strongly that all of CANR’s proposed needs be met through the project. That’s a given. Having faculty and students from other colleges collaborating with our folks in new, state-of-the-art space is one of many positive outcomes. I could see problem-based learning classrooms in the new Worrilow given the success of this approach in the Harker ISE lab; why not extend that success to south campus? I’m sure you can think of other benefits as we conceptualize what Worrilow could become, not just for our College, but for all life sciences at the University. I’ll be reaching out to you for input over the next several weeks.
Awards and minigrants coming soon. Attention faculty, staff and students! We have three awards and two intramural minigrant opportunities coming soon. The award categories are staff excellence, excellence in research by faculty, and excellence in Extension. Each carries a monetary award, recognition at the 2016 CANR graduation ceremony, and a brick engraved with the awardee’s name in the Dunham Garden patio (south end of Townsend Hall). Please nominate deserving individuals for these awards. On minigrants, Associate Dean Eric Wommack is launching a round of research minigrants and I am launching a teaching minigrant RFP very soon. All proposals must tie in strongly to the Master Plan, the College strategic plan. More details will follow, but please get your teams together and get your ideas on paper!
Happy Halloween, and enjoy this wonderful October weather while it lasts. The blog will return in December prior to another set of holidays.