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Tsui to secure research advances on Plant Variety Protection Board

Portrait photo of Albert Tsui
Albert Tsui is a new member of the USDA Plant Variety Protection Board.

Albert Tsui, Business Development Specialist and patent attorney in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences’ Office of Research, was appointed this week to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Plant Variety Protection Board.

Named to the 14-member board by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, Tsui will advise the Secretary on decisions involving the Plant Variety Protection Act, which secures intellectual property rights for breeders of new varieties of plants.

“Innovation in the plant and seed industry has always been vital to agriculture, making it possible for us to meet the needs for food, clothing and other goods that American families, and the world need,” said Perdue. “With their great experience as farmers and in the plant breeding seed industry, these board members will help continue the tradition of this robust American agricultural sector.”

Members serve for two years, and represent farmers, seed industry, trade and professional associations, and public and private research institutions.

“I am proud to represent Washington State University and its academic breeding programs for this very important law protecting new plant varieties” said Tsui. “Membership on the Board helps ensure that WSU has a voice in intellectual property matters surrounding seed-propagated plants and that discoveries made at WSU and elsewhere benefit communities, growers and society to the greatest, fairest and most meaningful extent.”

Read the full announcement here.

Researchers share future of ag tech in Consortium tour

Tour participants check out an automated weather station's equipment.
Participants in the University and Industry Consortium spring tour check out an AgWeatherNet station.

Scientists from Washington State University shared the latest technologies for specialty crops like apples, wine grapes, cherries and organic blueberries at the spring meeting of the University and Industry Consortium, April 23-26 in the Tri-Cities.

Co-hosted this year by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and WSU’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), the consortium was founded in 1992 to connect university researchers with agricultural tech companies, showcasing innovations and leading-edge practices in agriculture.

This year, more than 74 participants from 24 universities, 21 companies, and several associations and government agencies, as well as representatives from Canada and Germany, saw the latest agricultural technology in action.

Groups toured Washington Fruit and Produce Company, Zirkle Fruit Company, the WSU Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center (IAREC), the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates/Washington State University Wine Science Center.

Tour members look at equipment and hear a tour guide speak at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
Consortium participants get an inside tour at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash.

In “The Future of Robotics in Agriculture,” presenters showed how farming is being transformed to match the need of robotic automation. An afternoon panel on organic farming shared perspectives by researchers including John Reganold, Regents Professor of Soil Science & Agroecology, and Lindsey du Toit, WSU Vegetable Seed Pathologist, as well as industry, policymakers, and growers on organic agriculture.

Other presenters, including Professor of Bioinformatics Dorrie Main, shared the state of research on soil heath and genomic editing, and how businesses are managing this technology for better farm and economic productivity.

Also representing CAHNRS were former Associate Dean of Research Jim Moyer; WSU Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural Systems faculty members Manoj Karkee and Lav Khot; IAREC Director Gary Grove; Biological Systems Engineering Assistant Research Professor Melba Salazar-Gutierrez; and many graduate students.

June 14: Crop advances for Washington’s drylands focus of Lind Field Day

Visitors to Lind Field Day walk through and feel test test plots of wheat.
Visitors to Lind Field Day inspect wheat varieties being tested for use in Washington’s drylands.

Farmers can learn about the newest crop varieties and practices for Washington’s drylands, and meet the new dean of Washington State University’s College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS), at WSU’s Lind Field Day, Thursday, June 14.

Hosting a tour of the Lind Dryland Research Station, WSU and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers will share the latest information on winter and spring wheat breeding efforts; glyphosate and soil microbes; winter pea varieties, agronomy, markets, and weed control; and production of winter triticale versus winter wheat.

André-Denis Girard Wright, new dean of CAHNRS, will attend the field day, meet stakeholders, and discuss the future of WSU agricultural research and partnerships.

A world-renowned researcher in animal sciences, Wright is the former director of the School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the University of Arizona. For more than 20 years, he has researched ways to help animals use nutrients more efficiently, reduce methane, and increase food production, sustainably. Wright uses next-generation techniques to understand the link between genetics, microbes and our immune system, helping improve human and animal health and fighting diseases like colon cancer and Crohn’s disease. Wright begins his duties as CAHNRS dean June 1.

Xianming Chen handles a stalk of grain in a test plot.
WSU researcher Xianming Chen examines triticale at the Lind Field Day.

In addition to Wright, leaders from Washington Grain Commission, Washington Association of Wheat Growers, Pacific Northwest Canola Association, and the Washington State Legislature will provide industry-relevant updates at this popular field day.

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

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

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 and director at Lind Station, at (509) 235-1933 or by email at william.schillinger@wsu.edu.

April enrichment video

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 is a new pulley toy that Luna figures out really quickly.

 

Measuring bear energy goal of summer research project

This summer at the WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center, energy use is the order of the day.

From cardiac monitors to special collars to foraging experiments, WSU researchers are trying to figure how bears gather energy and then spend it.

A grizzly bear with a bright pink energy monitoring collar around its neck.
An energy monitoring collar, in place.

“Bears in the wild have a very short time window to make their living,” said Tony Carnahan, a WSU Ph.D. student studying bear energy usage. “They have to make sure they have enough fat stores in their body to make it through winter. We want to figure out where and how they determine what to spend their energy on.”

To figure that out on wild bears, they’re first starting with our bears to get a baseline understanding.

The collars, worn by 9 of the 11 bears at the center, have accelerometers that measure acceleration data in three directions. The collars allow the researchers to tell when a bear is walking, running, grazing, or basically any movement the bears make. They collect 30 data samples each second, and it’s stored in a box on each collar. Every two weeks, the box is swapped out for a new one and the data is downloaded.

“It’s a lot of information to go through,” Carnahan said. “But we’ll combine it with other data and hope to figure out just how much energy the bears are using.”

Another wrinkle that’s new this year is allowing bears to primarily get energy from foraging in the exercise yard. For two weeks, two bears will have 24-hour access to the yard. One bear will be randomly selected to receive supplemental food with approximately twice the calories of a maintenance diet. The other bear will receive a supplement below a maintenance diet.

The hypothesis is that the bear on the minimal diet will spend a greater proportion of their time grazing and resting than the bear on the high calorie diet, Carnahan said.

The bears will also receive water that contains markers that can measure energy usage, a method that’s been proven for decades on a variety of animals.

In addition to the collars, nine bears at the center have an implanted cardiac monitor that feeds data to researchers regularly. So over the course of the two weeks that a bear is out in the yard, they’ll know the average heart rate for each bear and how closely heart rate correlates to energy expenditure.

Combine that with the collar data and researchers will have an excellent overview of what each bear did at any given moment, and how much energy they used altogether, Carnahan said.

The overall goal is to use the energetic values from the water to validate the cardiac monitors and accelerometers to predict energy expenditure in wild bears. Then they hope to move on and do similar work on wild bears.

Energy collection is important to learn because bears’ environments are changing rapidly. If they’re no longer able to collect energy at the same rate, or at the same time of year, that could impact their long-term survival.

“It’s all about energy collection, from the bears’ point of view,” Carnahan said. “We want to make sure they can continue doing everything they need to make it through the winters.”

Students design potential bear center

Giving students a real-world assignment makes their classwork feel more worthwhile and can let their passions come through in a way a stock assignment may not.

This past academic year, two WSU School of Design and Construction courses had students design a new WSU Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center as class projects.

A schematic plan for a new Bear Center, including a list of plants and three separate outdoor enclosures.
Jaime Kemple’s plan for the landscape architecture for a potential new WSU Bear Center.

In the fall of 2017, interior design students came up with various ideas for the center’s main building. Then, this spring, landscape architecture students took some of those ideas, or created some of their own, to produce complete designs for a new Bear Center.

Each student created an infographic on the bears and their needs, another infographic focused on the inventory and analysis of the potential new site. Then they generated plan renderings for the new facility, said Landscape Architecture Assistant Professor Michael Sánchez.

“We spent a lot of time thinking about ‘What if I was a bear, what would I want?’” said Jaime Kemple, a second-year landscape architecture student in the class. “We were all really passionate about the project, and it was so intriguing and exciting that I wish we had more time to work on it.”

Many of the designs included multiple, separated outdoor enclosures, allowing more bears to spend more time in grassy open areas. The designs included water in the form of ponds or small pools for the bears to relax and cool down in.

They also included permanent, built-in enrichment structures: items for the bears to interact with that stimulate their physical and mental abilities.

The students also included more learning experiences and viewing opportunities for the public, without being intrusive on the bears’ space.

The class spoke with WSU bear experts who either work or have worked at the current Bear Center.

The major consideration for each project was the well-being of the bears.

One of the WSU bears running in their current enclosure.

The hope is the students can take their renderings and use them in their portfolios when applying for internships or future jobs.

“Part of our mission is to combine community learning projects into our studio work,” Sánchez said. “We like to incorporate real-world solutions that will benefit the community. This project fit that that mission.”

These projects were designed for a space in the WSU Arboretum. The students’ designs included between 20 and 40 acres of space to lay out.

“It’s a huge step up for our students, whose previous projects were on the level of a small city block or smaller,” Sánchez said. “I was impressed by how well they met the challenge and learned how to incorporate real-world issues like the current landscape and the people involved.”

In addition to speaking with bear experts, students also took a trip to a large-animal sanctuary in Spokane to see how they designed their facilities to care for their animals.

“It was good for them to see that first-hand,” Sánchez said. “They needed to see an example for how to work with the space and environment that is available and to do the absolute best you can within those constraints.”

The landscape architecture students also became emotionally invested in their work.

“We were so impressed by how passionate and dedicated the people who work with the bears are,” Kemple said. “It’s inspiring to see people who care so much about what they’re doing that you want to do your best to help them do their jobs. And to help the bears have the best possible facilities as well.”

Into the wild to study grizzlies

There’s camping, then there’s Alaska back-country, grizzly bear scientific research camping.

Two yellow tents in a field, surrounded by white posts with orange electrical wires. Huge snow-capped mountains loom in the background.
Joy Erlenbach and her research partner spend up to a month completely isolated in the Alaskan wilderness. Here, they set up their campsite with electric fencing to ward off bears.

That’s how WSU Ph.D. student Joy Erlenbach has spent the past three summers, and where she is right now.

“We get dropped off in the middle of Katmai National Park by a float plane, then we’re on our own for a month,” Erlenbach said before she left this year.

No showers, only one other person to talk to, and surrounded by beautiful mountains, rivers, wildlife, and waterfront. Oh, and bears. Plenty of bears.

“We’ve got two tents, surrounded by an electric fence, with maybe 20-30 bears in the meadow right outside the tent,” she said. “You can’t let your guard down. I mean, bears aren’t there to get you, but you have to always be aware of your surroundings.”

After a month, they get picked up, go shower, re-supply themselves, then head back out.

This year, Erlenbach left in April and will return to Pullman in October. She’s working on a research project with rangers at the national park to see how climate change is affecting bear behavior.

Her job is to take samples, count bears in various habitats, and see if particular kinds of bears are attracted to certain habitats.

“We want to know if females with cubs are using one kind of habitat that maybe adult males don’t use,” Erlenbach said. “We’ve noticed females with cubs often feed in the intertidal areas, land that’s under water at high tide. I can’t remember seeing a male bear out there digging for clams. It’s probably not worth it, nutritionally, for them.”

Joy Erlenbach kneels down next to a anesthetized grizzly bear in an open field with mountains in the background.
Erlenbach takes a blood sample from a bear in Alaska.

Erlenbach cherishes her time spent out in the Alaskan wilderness, becoming familiar with the bears and waking up every morning to stunning scenery. It’s not without its difficulties, however.

“I miss sleeping on a bed and having clothes that can dry out after a storm, but it’s just so beautiful and such an amazing experience,” she said.

Erlenbach got involved in this project as part of her Ph.D. program at WSU. She also earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at WSU.

“I started as a volunteer at the WSU Bear Center,” Erlenbach said. “I used to jog down to the center from my sorority to clean out the pens.”

After graduating, Erlenbach, a native of Burlington, Wash., moved to California for a few years. But she returned to start graduate school and hasn’t stopped wanting to work with grizzlies.

“It’s a little scary, but once you know how to read their behavior, it gets much easier,” Erlenbach said. “I can tell when a bear is agitated and doesn’t want me around. And you have to respect that. But for the most part, I’m living out a dream and enjoying these amazing experiences.”

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Eliana Bolt

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 Eliana Bolt, a senior from Custer, Wash.

Formal portrait picture of Eliana Bolt
Eliana Bolt

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agricultural and Food Business Economics.

Why did you choose WSU?

I knew for an agriculture degree in Washington State, this is the best place for high caliber research and learning opportunities.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

Feeling the value being place in you as a student.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

AFS 201 was the first class I got to take with many other agriculture majors. The perspective we gained in that class from each other is something I will always carry forward.

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

Mark Gibson is a hilarious professor who works hard to see students succeed.

Rebecca Liao is my advisor but has been a support system every step of the way for me, especially as a transfer student.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

President of Econ Club, clerical worker in the School of Economic Sciences, assistant for CAHNRS Alumni and Development

What is a fun fact about you?

I do a lot of calligraphy!

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

Follow your passions and opportunities will follow

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Lemon Chiffon when they make it in the summer. Yum!

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Macy Hagler

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 Macy Hagler, a junior from Kuna, Idaho.

Formal portrait picture of Macy Hagler
Macy Hagler

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Agriculture and Food Security. I’m minoring in Crop Science, Business Administration, and Spanish.

Why did you choose WSU?

As an out-of-state student, WSU provided me with many scholarships and ways to connect with new people. I’m close to Idaho, but I still get to experience the diverse WSU culture. Besides that, you can’t beat the Coug community. The best fans in the world!

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

I love being a CAHNRS Coug because I’m a part of something bigger than myself. I have opportunities and a community to inspire me. I would never have become the person I am without my CAHNRS Family.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

The agroecology course taught by Kevin Murphy in Ecuador broadened my perspective and was a pivotal moment in my education. After studying the systems of agriculture in a totally new place, I switched my major to Agriculture and Food Security.

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

Arron Carter gave me an opportunity to gain hands-on lab experience as a freshman. I grew so much in this role and developed an appreciation for the winter wheat grown on the Palouse.

Kevin Murphy organized the most incredible study abroad experience that covered so many subjects from Organic Agriculture to irrigation technologies to biodiversity. This experience opened my eyes to another world and I’m so grateful for the work that was put into it.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

CAHNRS Student Senate, Agriculture Future of America, Ag. Professional Development Club, WSU Alpine Ski Team, International Development Club

What is a fun fact about you?

I like to team rope.

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

Always ask for what you want. Tell everyone you meet what you are passionate about and what you want to accomplish, you never know who might be willing to help you reach your goals. The worst thing that can happen is they say no.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Sweet Basil Cheese and Mint Chip Ice Cream.

CAHNRS Coug Connections: Lauren Rooney

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 Lauren Rooney, a sophomore from Gig Harbor, Wash.

Formal portrait of Lauren Rooney
Lauren Rooney

What are you studying?

I’m majoring in Food Science.

Why did you choose WSU?

I chose WSU because of the amazing atmosphere and the many opportunities it has to offer.

What is special about being a CAHNRS Coug?

Being in CAHNRS you are a part of a tight knit community. Everyone is very friendly, helpful, and kind. My professors and advisors in CAHNRS have been super approachable and caring.

What is your favorite CAHNRS class so far and why?

My favorite class so far was Food Science 101 with Dr. Ryu. It was a great introduction into my major! It was a great mixture of the different topics in Food Science while being fun and interesting!

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

Dr. Ryu was an amazing professor because he met with all of us one on one and was great at explaining all of the topics in a fun and exciting way. He made me feel confident going forward in Food Science, and I would recommend anyone who is interested in Food Science to take it.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in besides ambassadors?

Alpha Delta Pi, Ignite Undergraduate Research Program (Food Safety Lab)

What is a fun fact about you?

I was a 4-H member for 8 years.

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

Stay organized and get involved in your first year to meet new people.

Favorite item/flavor at Ferdinand’s?

Cookies and Cream