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WSU economists Jill McCluskey and Tom Marsh named Western Agricultural Economics Association Fellows

Head shots of both faculty members
Jill McCluskey and Tom Marsh

Recognized for making enduring contributions over their careers to agricultural, resource, and environmental economics in the Western United States, the Western Agricultural Economics Association recognized Jill McCluskey and Tom Marsh as 2019 Fellows.

The announcement came as part of the association’s annual meeting, held this year in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho, and recognizes the impact that both Marsh and McCluskey have had in their field. Fellow is the association’s highest award, and recipients are chosen by a vote of Fellows.

“It’s always humbling to receive this kind of honor,” said Marsh, a professor in WSU’s School of Economic Sciences and the Paul G. Allen School for Global Animal Health. “Many of my personal mentors are also WAEA fellows, and so this award is very satisfying.”

Marsh, whose research focuses on identifying empirical problems in agriculture, global health, and natural resource use to help inform economic and public policy across the world, joined WSU economics faculty in 2004. He was previously on the faculty at Kansas State University.

McCluskey, Regents Professor and incoming director of the School of Economic Sciences, joined WSU in 1998. Her research on product quality and reputation, sustainable labeling, consumer preferences for new technology, and representation of women in STEM, has garnered international acclaim and won numerous awards.

“The WAEA was my first professional association,” said McCluskey. “It’s where I first got involved in leadership, and so it feels very special that they have recognized my research, teaching, and service.”

Comprised of professional economists working across academia, government, and industry the goals of the Western Agricultural Economics Association include fostering the study and understanding of economics and its application to problems in the western United States and Canada and increasing the contribution of agricultural economics to human welfare.

As Fellows, Marsh and McCluskey join a celebrated list of current and emeriti WSU faculty including Ken Casavant, Vicki McCracken, Ron Mittelhammer, Richard Shumway, Norm Whittlesey, and Doug Young.

More information about the Western Agricultural Economics Association can be found here.

Student’s research into heat-resistant enzyme earns award at International Wheat Congress

Kaviraj standing with large academic poster
Studying improved heat tolerance of vital enzymes in wheat, Kaviraj Singh earned a best poster award at the International Wheat Congress.


Recognized for pioneering work that could help vital food crops survive a changing climate, Kaviraj Singh, doctoral student at Washington State University’s Department of Crop and Soil Sciences, won an award for the best research poster at the First International Wheat Congress, July 21-26 in Saskatoon, Canada.

The congress drew hundreds of scientists from around the world to discuss wheat research, production, and improvements.

Changing climate poses a threat to photosynthesis—plants’ method of turning sunlight into energy—in important crops like wheat. That’s because heat stress affects photosynthesis in wheat, causing significant losses in yield and biomass.

Working in Professor Kulvinder Gill’s laboratory, Singh researches improving heat tolerance of important wheat enzymes through genetic engineering. He also studies the molecular makeup of Rubisco activase, an important activating enzyme used in photosynthesis.

Under heat stress, Rubisco can’t keep pace, and photosynthesis declines and eventually stops as temperatures rise.

Looking at closely related, heat-adapted crops, Singh is working to find or create an ideal form of the enzyme for better photosynthesis in hot conditions.

His work could help grow more and better wheat crops, benefiting farmers and people worldwide.

Llewellyn to share Extension advances as journal editor

Head shot of Llewellyn
Don Llewellyn

Curating and sharing information that helps Extension agents across the nation improve their communities, Don Llewellyn, associate professor with the WSU Department of Animal Sciences and Livestock Extension Specialist with WSU Extension, has been named editor of the Journal of the National Association of County Agricultural Agents (NACAA).

A scientist who helps eastern Washington producers improve nutrition and management for their herds, Llewellyn will assume editorship for the December 2019 issue.

NACAA helps Extension agents and specialists in agriculture exchange ideas, develop their profession, and recognize professional excellence.

The association’s biannual journal shares research and program updates from agents across the U.S., exploring the breadth of agriculture and Extension. Recent topics include agritourism, animal agriculture, forage, weed control, soil health, improving scientific literacy, farm management courses, small farm marketing, apiculture, fish raising, and more.

Duties during his three-year term include formal calls for submissions, managing the peer review process, editing reviewed manuscripts, and making the final decision on accepted papers.

As editor, Llewellyn hopes to help support a high-quality Extension journal, building on the progress made by previous editors, and looking ahead to increase readership and the number of manuscripts published.

“Extension is unique, because it includes so many ways to define scholarly activity,” he said. “Extension professionals benefit by having a journal that places value on the variety of work that they do.”

Learn more about the Association and its journal here.

Rayapati helps Hispanic, Native American students grow STEM careers through $2.5 million grant

Head shot of Rayapati
Dr. Naidu Rayapati

Naidu Rayapati, scientist and director at Washington State University’s Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC) at Prosser, has joined a $2.5 million effort helping Hispanic and Native American students build careers in STEM.

Led by educators in the Yakima Valley, the $2.5 million National Science Foundation-funded project, called “Culturally Responsive Education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics” seeks to increase the number of Hispanic and Native American students in the science, technology, engineering and math workforce.

Headed by scientists at Heritage University, an Hispanic Serving Institution at Toppenish, Wash., the project begins this September and runs through summer 2024.

It combines professional development of STEM faculty, curriculum enhancement through institutional partnerships, hands-on research experiences and community outreach, and development of support services to grow the number and diversity of students pursuing higher education in STEM.

“WSU’s Prosser-based research center is well placed to introduce science and discovery to students of all ages,” Rayapati said. “Working with partners at Heritage University, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Yakima Valley Community College, we hope to offer learning experiences that give under-represented students a confident start to STEM careers that can build communities, serve industries, and change lives.”

The project will also offer graduate students at IAREC an opportunity to improve teaching, mentoring, and other essential life skills for advancing their career prospects in research and academics, Rayapati added. On a broader scale, this project will lay a strong foundation to expand the university’s foot-print across the Yakima Valley, helping advance its land-grant mission.

Learn more about the project here.

Learn more about IAREC here.


CAHNRS team wins award for donor postcard

Postcard image with Butch mascot, ice cream and graphics of college life

Members of the CAHNRS Alumni & Development and Communications teams won a first place award this summer from the National Agricultural Alumni and Development Association (NAADA), for their eye-catching, creative postcard aimed at first-time donors to the college.

The colorful postcard reminds donors of quintessential campus experiences, and thanks them for support that helps new generations of students have the same life-changing moments.

The card was developed by Jessica Munson, CAHNRS Assistant Director of Development, to support stewardship, and was designed by Gerald Steffen, CAHNRS Creative Manager.

The award was presented at the association’s annual conference, June 13 in Baton Rouge, La.

Learn more about NAADA here.

Training helps Nepal plant scientists defend against viral disease

Nepal and participants in a trellised urban field.
Naidu Rayapati, right, views plants in the field at a Nepal workshop.

Helping scientists and farmers in Nepal, Naidu Rayapati, professor of plant pathology and director of the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research & Extension Center, co-led a hands-on training course on viral diseases that harm vegetable crops.

More than 20 early-career scientists from the Nepal Agricultural Research Council, academic institutions and non-profits learned how to identify symptoms and detect viruses in the field, in a three-day course held this spring in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The course was funded by USAID’s Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Integrated Pest Management (IPM IL), managed by Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. Rayapati co-led the course with Amer Fayad, Associate Director of IPM IL at Virginia Tech.

Course participants came away with better knowledge to protect their crops.

Learn more about WSU efforts to stop the spread of plant diseases here.

Rayapati speaking a workshop at the head of a table surrounded by listeners.

Wheat scientist Tim Murray to chair Plant Pathology

Tim Murray head shot
Tim Murray, new chair of WSU’s plant pathology department.

PULLMAN, Wash. —Professor and Extension Plant Pathologist Tim Murray has been named chair of Washington State University’s plant pathology department.

Renowned for his research in wheat disease management and pathogen resistance, Murray’s appointment marks the second time that he has served as department chair.

Effective July 1, 2019, Murray succeeds Interim Department Chair Lori Carris.

“Tim Murray is an experienced leader and a highly respected scientist whose research has profoundly impacted wheat disease management in the state of Washington and far beyond,” said André-Denis Wright, Dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences. “We’re thankful to outgoing chair Lori Carris for her effective leadership and for raising the impact and standing of WSU Plant Pathology at the national and international levels, and to Tim for his willingness to carry the torch of leadership once again.”

Recent retirements mean that Murray will help lead the department in hiring new faculty. It’s an opportunity he looks forward to.

“It’s always exciting to bring in new faculty,” he said, “to be part of shaping the future of the department.”

The next few years could see as many as six new faculty hires, including a new potato pathologist.

“These positions are important to agriculture in our communities and in our state, and it’s a privilege to be part of the decision-making process as department chair,” Murray said.

A WSU alumnus and career-long Coug, Murray received his bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California, Davis in 1979, his master’s in plant pathology from WSU in 1980, and his doctorate in plant pathology from WSU in 1983. He joined the WSU faculty that same year and served as chair of the department of plant pathology from 2000-2008.

His research focuses on wheat diseases, pathogen resistance, and sustainable methods of disease management. He is a fellow and former president of the American Phytopathological Society.

WSU senior prepares for career in international agriculture with DC fellowship

By Sarah Appel, CAHNRS Academic Programs

Esther Rugoli did not want her summer to start off slow.

Between online classes and research with USDA wheat breeder Kimberly Garland-Campbell and molecular geneticist Camille Steber, the senior Agricultural Biotechnology major wanted to use her free time to develop professionally and further her investment in international agriculture.

Group photo with college age students dressed formally, flanked by older people wearing suits.
Esther Rugoli, yellow shirt, and the other Future Leaders Fellow of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development pose with their mentors and instructors.

Esther was selected as a Future Leaders Fellow of the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD). This position and the AIARD awarded her a scholarship to attend the AIARD Annual Meeting and Future Leaders Forum last month in Washington D.C.

Esther was one of the 12 students, and the only undergraduate student, selected from around the United States into the forum. This year’s conference theme, Resilience in Global Food Systems, accurately reflected Esther’s commitment to not only her own education but also her future career and current passions.

As a member of WSU’s chapter of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences, Esther already understood the importance of diversity in both national and international agriculture, but wanted to learn more. This conference was one more step in that journey. The first two days of the trip were the National Conference itself and the latter two days consisted of tours for the AIARD Future Leaders. Both showcased the importance of international agriculture and the food supply.

“The food is going down, and the population is increasing. We have to talk about how to recover from the shock,” Esther said, describing the conference theme.

To solidify this theme, the Future Leaders Forum members visited a variety of companies in Washington D.C. that work in national and international food security.

Future goals from past experiences

From a young age, food security has been important to Esther. A native of Rwanda, she grew up on her family farm and her village faced food insecurity. The hunger problems she saw that plagued her friends and family inspired her to commit herself to solve the problem through plant breeding and genetics.

Selfie photo of Cory Booker smiling at the camera surrounded by college age students at night on a street. There's a sign for CNN in the background.
Esther Rugoli, in yellow, met Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) in Washington DC with her fellow Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development Future Leaders.

She came to WSU in 2016 with a set path in mind: Bachelor’s Degree, then Masters, then off to the workforce. This conference shook up those plans and opened her eyes to the vast horizon of possibilities.

“For me to get where I want to be, it’s not a straight line. That was a big takeaway from the forum: reaching where you want to reach doesn’t always mean it’s going to be straight, and sometimes doesn’t always go how you plan it,” Esther said. “But you have to fake it till you make it to reach where you want to reach.”

She was referencing a speaker at the forum that explained the importance of flexibility.

“As long as I want something, I will do anything to achieve that thing. And that requires endurance and persistence,” she said.

Helping where it’s needed

And where Esther wants to be is an African country, preferably Rwanda, working to improve plant genetics and breeding. She hopes to take crops that are already grown in Rwanda and modify them to contain more minerals and micronutrients. To achieve this, Esther is now considering the idea of pursuing a Master’s Degree in plant genetics or breeding and a Ph.D. in a policy-related field.

Esther is grateful for the opportunity to participate within an organization that emphasizes international agriculture and teaches resiliency even when the path isn’t straight. Esther advises any student who has an interest in international agriculture to apply for next year’s conference.

“It was really life-changing. I came back more energized, more focused, and more ambitious,” Esther said. She feels ready, more now than ever, to work for what she wants.

As an added bonus, the Future Leaders ran into Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) while exploring the streets of Washington D.C. He was surprised and pleased with what this group of young adults were doing while visiting the city. He asked the group to take a selfie with him, which they excitedly agreed to. His support only solidified Esther’s commitment to her newfound ambition.

Townsend, 4-institution team earns top score at Extension summit

Group photo of team members with poster.
Members of the National Sustainability Summit team, representing the University of Florida, WSU, North Dakota State University, and Florida A&M University, took first among national projects at the Impact Collaborative Summit’s LaunchFest competition. From left are Linda Seals, Jennison Kipp-Searcy, Kimberly Davis, Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Patricia Townsend, David Ripplinger, and Jennifer Taylor.

Patricia Townsend, a WSU Extension specialist in renewable energy and green infrastructure, was honored this spring as part of a team of extension agents creating opportunities for sustainability and change.

Townsend took part in the eXtension Foundation’s Impact Collaborative Summit this spring, as part of the National Sustainability Summit team, representing Washington State University, the University of Florida, North Dakota State University, and Florida A&M University.

Her team received the top score for the national project category during the LaunchFest portion of the Summit, an opportunity for teams to pitch their projects and programs to a panel of Cooperative Extension leaders and external partners. The group, which includes Townsend, Jennison Kipp-Searcy, Ramona Madhosingh-Hector, Linda Seals, Jennifer Taylor, Kimberly Davis, and David Ripplinger, received a $5,000 grant.

The team’s project, the National Sustainability Summit, is a meeting for Extension professionals, researchers, practitioners, and partners working on the urgent issues of climate, energy, water, food, land, and community engagement. The Summit provides tools and strategies to change behaviors, driving innovation in industry and research to improve community vitality and build resilient communities.

Head and shoulders photo of Townsend
Patricia Townsend, WSU Extension specialist.

Team members are currently preparing for the launch of the summit in 2021, identifying and beginning conversations with partners, exploring innovative approaches, and inviting proposals for the next host community. They plan to attract new attendees, particularly from land grant and Hispanic-serving institutions, who will take ideas home to ensure that impacts are felt in all communities.

A research fellow with WSU Extension’s Metropolitan Center for Applied Research & Extension, Townsend works with stakeholders throughout the Pacific Northwest on issues related to renewable energy, ecosystem services, sustainable urban systems, earth abundant materials, and green infrastructure.

Townsend leads outreach for Advanced Hardwood Biofuels Northwest, which includes energy literacy, stakeholder research, and connecting poplar growers with market opportunities. Townsend is also conducting outreach with the Joint Center for Deployment and Research in Earth Abundant Materials, or JCDREAM, a new WSU center focused on earth-abundant materials, which can be more sustainably harnessed than rare materials.

The fall Impact Collaborative Summit will be held October 15-17, 2019, in Atlanta, Ga.

Students, advisor travel to national conference

By Sarah Appel, CAHNRS Academic Programs

WSU students had an opportunity to learn about professional networking in the agricultural world, compete in national contests, and enjoy all that Overland Park, Kansas had to offer at last month’s Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) national conference.

Nine students wearing identical black shirts hold a WSU flag in an airport.
Most the WSU students on their way to attend the MANRRS National Conference in Kansas.

MANRRS is a non-profit organization that “promotes academic and professional advancement by empowering minorities in agriculture, natural resources, and related sciences.” MANRRS is impacting students across the United States through countless opportunities including the annual MANRRS National Career Fair & Training Conference.

Colette Casavant, an academic coordinator and advisor in CAHNRS, and 10 WSU students attended the 34th annual MANRRS conference in Kansas where they gained skills for the professional world, participated in the career fair, and much more.

Senior Letty Trejo said the workshops that she attended and the chances to learn about post-graduation opportunities stood out to her and helped her the most throughout the event. For students interested in graduate school, there were opportunities to learn more about graduate programs and speak with graduate students during mixers and networking events throughout the week.

“My biggest takeaway from the National Conference was definitely all the new skills I got to learn,” said freshman Nicole Snyder. “I got the chance to attend the National Conference in conjunction with another conference for the NAAE (National Association of Agricultural Educators), which meant that I got to expand my professionalism in multiple ways. I was able to learn professionalism for my future classroom setting as well as in the industry setting.”

Grace Murekatete, who came to Pullman from Rwanda, said the National Conference, and MANRRS in general, is a great way to get to know a variety of people, both students and faculty.

MANRRS emphasizes the importance of professional connections while providing resources to help all students advance professionally and academically.

“You’re going to make some great connections that you’ll be able to hold on to during your college experience that will benefit you in the future,” said senior Adrian Lopez.

Overall, students had an incredible experience while at the conference. They look forward to the year to come and all the opportunities they will have the chance to take advantage of through this organization.