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CAHNRS Coug Connections: Megan Whited

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Megan Whited, a junior from Buckley, Wash.

Formal profile photo of Megan Whited
Megan Whited

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agricultural Education.

Why did you choose WSU?

After participating in FFA State Conventions at WSU throughout high school, and then taking a year off after high school to serve as a Washington FFA State Officer, I found myself already connected to the Cougar Community and CAHNRS Family, so the transition felt very comfortable. I really appreciate that it is a land-grant institution and that they had a great Agricultural Education Program!

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

CAHNRS consistently offers opportunities that push you out of your comfort zone and into your growth zone so that you can discover your talents, thrive in your education, enhance your experiences, and connect with your community and world.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Soil Science 201 because it was really interesting to learn about soil and how it is literally the foundation of all things on earth: building, growing, filtering, collecting, decomposing, etc.! Soil is more interesting than you think, and this class helped me discover more about it!

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Andrew McCubbin from Biology 120, Plant Botany was really fun and engaging because of his accent and cool plant music videos that illustrates the topics he is teaching us!

Kevin Murphy from AFS 201 was really interesting to learn from because of his extensive work with quinoa and explicit passion for international agriculture.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

Agriculture Future of America, National Association for Agricultural Educators, President of WSU Young Farmers & Ranchers, Agricultural Education Club, Student Experience Advisory Council, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Hunting, and working at CAHNRS Academic Programs.

What is a fun fact about you?

I used to have the goal of working at the Library of Congress and being the person to take care of preserving the Declaration of Independence and Constitution…just in case there was a hidden treasure map you know!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Take a deep breath! Write down encouraging words/sayings on a paper and hang it where you will see it every day to motivate you to keep going. Also, pick something you have been meaning to do and do it! Put it in your calendar!

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Huckleberry Ripple is the best flavor on this planet! And the cheese curds are divine!

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Alec Solemslie

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Alec Solemslie, a junior from Big Lake, Wash.

Formal profile photo of Alec Solemslie
Alec Solemslie

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Forestry, with a minor in Geospatial Analysis.

Why did you choose WSU?

I chose WSU for its community and small town feel. While debating between UW and WSU, I decided WSU would provide a chance to be an individual and to connect with others while having a voice.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

A CAHNRS Coug means being a part of a community/family working together as a collective, and as individuals, to better and support one another, and the future of our fields.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

NATRS 305, Silviculture with Dr. Mark Swanson. He is very passionate about the class, giving us energy and passion. Hands-on experience with field trips connects lecture material to the real world.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Dr. Mark Swanson is immensely relatable and passionate about his work. Every conversation is entertaining and I always walk away feeling inspired.

Dr. Benjamin Zamora is a huge resource in terms of knowledge and research. He cares about his students and brings passion to his subject.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

I am involved with Horticulture Club, Forestry Club, Residence Hall Association, and ASWSU Environmental Sustainability Alliance.

What is a fun fact about you?

I have a bad habit of collecting plant seeds and materials from other people’s gardens and arboretums.

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Get involved and find your community. It is your responsibility to find events and activities. You will build lifelong friendships and a support group and be able to explore your passions.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Huckleberry and Cougar Gold


CAHNRS Coug Connections: Jesus Rodriguez

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Jesus Rodriguez, a senior from Chelan, Wash.

Formal profile photo of Jesus Rodriguez
Jesus Rodriguez

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Fruit and Vegetable Management, with a minor in Horticulture.

Why did you choose WSU?

I chose WSU because it offered a major/field of study I am interested in and passionate about. Additionally, WSU is a premier university for agricultural studies.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

You are part of a community that care about each other and are passionate about their majors and want to make a difference in their respective career industry.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

I enjoyed Crop Growth and Development (HORT 202) because I had the opportunity to conduct a research project about a crop of interest.

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

I admire Dr. Layne for his knowledge of fruit and crop production, and his engaging teaching style. I aspire to attain the knowledge that he has about tree fruit.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

I play intramural soccer in the recreational league.

What is a fun fact about you?

I get a haircut every week—the fade has to be on point!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Get involved, attend events, and make new friends. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek help—there are many resources available and people happy to help.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?


CAHNRS Cougs in the Capitol

By Maya Wahl, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Rebecca Foote, a junior studying Agricultural Education, spent last spring semester working in our state Capitol as a legislative intern for Senate Majority Leader Mark Schoesler.

Foote sitting at the desk of Senator Schoesler, with Schoesler standing next to her
WSU student Rebecca Foote at the desk of Washington Senator Mark Schoesler

During her semester-long internship, she worked as a full-time staff member while the Legislature was in session from January to April of 2017. Rebecca worked together with other interns on mock committee hearings and floor debates on real issues currently happening in the State of Washington.

“The most interesting task I had was researching the cherry trees that were a gift from the Japanese government in the 1920s,” she said. “I wrote the inscription for the portrait we gave to the Japanese Ambassador. It’s an incredible feeling knowing that something that I did will be seen by important people around the world.”

While this was Rebecca’s first time working in the Senate, she had previous experience in the Capitol advocating for various causes as the 2014 – 2015 Washington FFA State Vice President. While she does not plan to work in politics for the rest of her life, Rebecca gained an understanding of how important policy is and the impact that it makes on the lives of the public.

“After this experience I want to become an agriculture teacher that is civically involved and politically aware. This was a wake-up call for me on how important it is to know what is going on rather than simply talking about it after the fact,” she said. “I want to show my students how easy it can be to make a positive difference in their community as well as the state level.”

While she was in the Capitol, Rebecca worked with some incredible people who genuinely care about the work they do.

“The people from the district calling in to voice their opinions, the interest groups that drive across the state for a fifteen minute meeting, the aides taking the time to teach you, and the other interns sharing tips on how to survive. That was my favorite part, all the people that care,” she said.

She received overwhelming support from her fellow interns and supervisors and always found help when she needed it.

“The hill is a tough place to work and most days feel like the next meeting can change everything. So when Senators take the time to sit with you and help you write your final, or when a legislative aide sends you an article that helps answer a constituent email, it makes all the difference,” she added.

The opportunity to work on the Capitol is available each year. WSU students travel to Olympia to build upon their knowledge of the legislative process.

“I would absolutely encourage CAHNRS Cougs to apply for this internship, no matter their major,” she said. “As students, it can be easy to fall into a certain area of focus and not really branch out. This is an opportunity to learn first-hand how agriculturalists are responding to new ag policies as well as why they were created in the first place.”

Rebecca learned not only about how the agricultural industry is affected by lawmakers’ decisions but also how her major is a springboard, not a boundary.

“This experience helped me to realize that my major does not put restrictions on what I am capable of doing.”

To find more information about the Legislative Internship Program, visit

For other internship opportunities, visit the Center for Transformational Learning and Leadership website:

Extension broadband efforts lead to national Rural Summit

Photo of Extension leaders meeting Sen. Patty Murray.

Local broadband planning work by WSU Stevens County Extensionand its director, Debra Hansen, and statewide efforts by Monica Babine, Senior Associate, Program for Digital Initiatives with Extension’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services, prompted an invitation by U.S. Senator Patty Murray to take part in the Senate Democratic Rural Summit, held Sept. 13 in Washington, DC.

At the Summit, more than 200 state and national leaders met for panel discussions on issues such as health care, critical infrastructures including broadband and economic growth.

While in the nation’s capital, Hansen and Babine met with members of the state’s congressional delegation and federal agencies. Building on WSU Extension’s work on local, regional and national rural broadband initiatives, the Division of Governmental Studies and Services is lending its expertise with the new WSU Economic Development Council and its priority initiative to expand broadband access in underserved areas of Washington.

Bears feast on fats, reveal health insights

Grizzlies show no clinical signs of disease following short-term consumption of saturated fats, but scientists question long-term health

By Natalie Sopinka, Communications Coordinator, Canadian Science Publishing

Campgrounds and cottages are getaways for humans. They are also locations where grizzly bears acquire appetites for human foods high in saturated fats—foods associated with many diseases. A new study published today in the Canadian Journal of Zoology found that, unlike humans, bears do not show symptoms of disease when fed foods high in saturated fats.

A grizzly bear with her cubs at the WSU bear center.

Researchers from Washington State University (WSU) fed adult bears one of two diets prior to hibernation: one of oats and salmon, high in “healthy” polyunsaturated fats, and one of beef and cheese, high in “unhealthy” saturated fats. From May to the end of October, the bears maintained their prescribed diet and then hibernated over winter. When they awoke in spring, it was time for a check-up.

Bears on a short-term high saturated fat diet got a relatively clean bill of health—their cholesterol and insulin levels were the same as the bears that ate the diet high in healthy fats. But what about a long-term diet? Evidence of mild inflammation and heart strain raised questions about long-term health.

“While grizzly bears were relatively resistant to developing severe metabolic imbalances or overt clinical disease due to a high saturated fat diet, it is important to note that this study occurred only over a single feeding season,” says Danielle Rivet, who led the study during her graduate studies at WSU. “The heart and inflammation abnormalities detected could manifest into objective symptoms of disease, such as insulin resistance, high cholesterol, or chronic hypertension, in bears relying heavily on garbage in dumpsters or bears in captive facilities over a longer term.”

In autumn, bears feed voraciously, building up body fat that they will metabolize and survive on throughout winter hibernation. Bears can accumulate 30 to 40 percent body fat, percentages considered obese or morbidly obese by human standards.

“Obesity as defined by human standards may be healthy or even necessary for this species to thrive and reproduce,” says Rivet. “But certain types of fats may be better or healthier than others for foraging bears.”

Rivet recommends that the availability of food waste in natural areas inhabited by bears should be eliminated for the health and safety of both bears and humans. Diets of captive bears should be carefully selected to avoid high saturated fat content, she added.

The article, “Systemic effects of a high saturated fat diet in grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis)” by Danielle Rivet, Lynne Nelson, Chantal Vella, Heiko Jansen, and Charles Robbins was published today in the Canadian Journal of Zoology.


October enrichment videos

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.

Earlier this month, a generous group donated several elk legs for the bears. As you can see, they enjoyed the extra protein.

Here, Luna searches this hanging log for hidden treats. The bits of cut up fruit were hidden in holes drilled into the log, then covered in cream cheese. This log was clean within minutes.

Measuring the mighty bear sense of smell

“The bear’s sense of smell is the stuff of legend,” said Heiko Jansen, associate professor of integrative physiology and neuroscience at WSU. “Stories abound about them smelling things from miles away.”

a grizzly bear sniffs at one plastic tube and ignores another tube.
A bear at the WSU Bear Center takes an interest in one of the scents placed in a plastic tube as part of the olfactory experiment.

But legend and science are very different things, so Jansen and colleagues are working to quantify just how sensitive a bear’s sense of smell is, how it works, and what it may or may not be attracted to.

All through October, Jansen and his team have been exposing the bears at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation to a variety of different scents and measuring their reactions. The goal? Building a better bear spray.

“Current bear sprays can be harmful to bears and people,” Jansen said. “They’re pretty caustic. So, if we find something that just smells unpleasant to them and makes them think twice about approaching camp sites, for example, that would be really beneficial.”

White tubes are hung on fences at the Center, one with a scent and the other completely empty. They measure if a bear is attracted to, ignores, or is repelled by the scented tube. They also track how close or far away each bear goes.

Currently, each tube has five holes in it, allowing the scent to escape and spread quickly. Next year, once the bears wake up from hibernation, they’ll continue the experiment by gradually reducing the number of holes in each tube. This reduction will indicate how much odor is needed for a bear to catch the scent.

The study actually began two years ago, when they worked with the four cubs.

“We wanted to see if they had an innate reaction to certain scents,” Jansen said. “Since they were born at the Center, we knew they hadn’t been exposed to certain scents, like bear lure. So their reactions wouldn’t be biased by previous experiences.”

This month, they’re working with all 11 grizzlies at the Center to capture more data.

“If the adults respond similarly to the way the cubs did earlier, then we can be more confident that the response is innate,” Jansen said. “It gives us more confidence in our findings.”

Two years ago, the cubs responded most positively to eucalyptus, which contains pinene, a scent found in pine sap. Bear lure, which is made from blood gone rancid, also attracted the cubs. They avoided musk odors.

Ultimately, Jansen hopes this research will help to develop a scent that humans can tolerate but bears actively avoid—benefitting both.

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Serena Ranney

Each week, we showcase one of our CAHNRS Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that encourages students to pursue higher education and serves as a liaison between the college and the greater community. This week, we’re featuring Serena Ranney, a senior from Shelton, Wash.

Serena Ranney

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Food Science.

Why did you choose WSU?

I was very strategic in my university planning. I applied to several schools, visited campuses, and did my research. WSU’s community, focus on student support (while also promoting student independence), and environment were unbeatable.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

CAHNRS has a strong focus on opportunity for students to lead and experience. In the classroom, through research, with internships and clubs: every component will have you feeling prepared to continue on in your field after college.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

Dairy Products Evaluation! This was a one-credit elective through Food Science. There were six people in the class, so we got really close throughout the semester. At the end, we travelled to Wisconsin to compete as a team, which was so fun! Plus who wouldn’t love the chance to taste ice cream, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, and butter?

Who are influential professors that you’ve had, and how did they impact your life?

Frank Younce is so passionate about what he does. His excitement for Food Science and processing is infectious, and I was always happy to be in class.

Helen Joyner genuinely cares about student learning. Her classes pushed me to be a better teammate, student, and professional.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

I’m the Food Science Club President and a member of the Food Science Product Development Team. I’m also Vice-President of WSU Circle K International, a community service club in the Kiwanis Family. I have worked in the CAHNRS Academic Programs Office since my freshman year and I started getting involved in research last spring.

What is a fun fact about you?

I’m a member of the Metal Detecting Association of Washington!

What advice would you give an incoming freshman/high school senior to help them adjust to college?

Relax! Coming to college is an exciting experience, but for many (including myself) it can take a while to adjust and realize you’re where you’re supposed to be. I spent a lot of time my freshman year worried about making friends, how I compared to others academically (especially coming from a rural area with few AP/IB options), and if I had picked the totally wrong place. But after a while, those fears go away and you hit your stride and find your place in the WSU community.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Tin Lizzy

Students travel to national conference, receive honors

By Maya Wahl, CAHNRS Academic Programs

The dairy industry plays a vital role in hundreds of communities around our state and Washington State University takes pride in its dairy research and facilities. Many students come to WSU to pursue a career in the dairy industry, ranging from operating a dairy, to processing dairy products, to understanding the marketing and economics that make the dairy industry possible.

A group of seven people standing against a railing overlooking a river and the city of Pittsburgh in the background.
WSU Dairy Club students in Pittsburgh this summer at the American Dairy Association annual conference.

The Pullman campus offers countless opportunities for students from all walks of life to learn and grow in their passions, including chances for them to travel and collaborate with other passionate students from around the country.

The WSU Dairy Club has been offering these opportunities for years and this summer seven students traveled to Pittsburgh for the American Dairy Association annual conference. The Dairy Club has made this trip for many years and it’s become a tradition for students from WSU to be well represented on a national level.

During the conference students have the opportunity to network with fellow dairy students from universities scattering the United States, hear from industry professionals on the latest technology and advancements, and observe student research being conducted around the country.

This year, WSU sent a Quiz Bowl team consisting of Chris Mandella, Marcy Bartelheimer, Nicole Buell, Farrahn O’Hara and Melissa Rauch. They studied diligently in preparation for the conference. It is a competitive process to be selected to compete on the Quiz Bowl team. In June, our WSU Quiz Bowl team received 5th place in the nation after competing in several rounds of knowledge testing. These students are required to have a firm understanding of dairy management from genetics to feed rations. There isn’t much that is off limits during the competition and our CAHNRS Cougs proved to be well versed, dairy professionals after their hard work and dedication in the months leading up to the ADSA conference.

WSU stood out on multiple occasions the conference, a part from the Quiz Bowl competition. WSU’s Chris Mandella was elected as the national president of the student affiliate division of the ADSA. He says, “I was really just hoping for an office, I didn’t expect to be elected as president.”

Chris’s commitment and love for the dairy industry shined through during the election process and he is continuing the legacy of leadership that his fellow CAHNRS Cougs left before him. For the last five years, WSU had a student representative on the national officer team. This alone proves that the WSU supports and promotes the dairy industry and helps build professionals who are not only knowledgeable about the dairy industry but have an inborn passion for it. We congratulate Chris on his accomplishment and look forward to hearing about his leadership during his year in office.

Heather Young traveled to Pittsburg as well to showcase her research that she has been conducting at WSU. Her research poster titled, “Comparison of two housing systems and dairy calf physiological responses during hot weather,” displayed two trials over two summers in which she compared various factors including temperature, body temperature, and average daily gain of pre-weaned holstein calves housed in stalls versus hutches.

Heather Young stand next to poster with statistical graphics on it.
WSU Dairy Club member Heather Young stands next to her poster at the American Dairy Association annual conference this summer.

Heather has presented this research at WSU’s Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) twice before, but this was the first time she had the opportunity to present her research on a national level. She says, “I received a lot of valuable feedback from the judges that will help me improve the way I present my research in the future.” The overall experience was positive and Heather hopes to attend the conference again next year.

The honors don’t stop at the student level. Dr. Larry Fox, the advisor to the Dairy Club and professor at WSU, also received an award during the ADSA conference. Recognized for his dedication to the dairy industry, in and out of the classroom, Dr. Fox received the Purina Animal Nutrition Teaching Award in Dairy Production. He advised the WSU Dairy Club for the last 32 years and inspired countless students to pursue careers in the dairy industry as well as encourage them to go above and beyond their academic expectations. This includes supporting club members as they prepare for and attend the annual ADSA conference. Dr. Fox nominated two students for the Outstanding Member Award.

Chris Mandella and Nicole Buell received this much deserved award. The club was also recognized for traveling the most miles to the conference, showing our CAHNRS Cougs’ dedication and commitment to hands-on, experiential learning.

Dairy Club members hope to have a larger presence on campus this year and encourage anyone who is interested in the dairy industry to get involved.