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Student quinoa project selected for global summit

Cristina Ocana Gallegos, a master’s student in crop soil sciences in the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, showcased her quinoa project at the Youth Ag Summit by Bayer.

Cristina Ocana Gallegos stands in a browning field of quinoa against a blue sky.
Gallegos stands in a field of quinoa in Kunururra, Western Australia.

On November 16 and 17, 100 young leaders were brought together for a virtual summit with the goal of empowering attendees with networking, skills training, and project development for agriculture-focused projects.

Despite getting rejected the first time she applied, Gallegos decided to try again. She reached out to her colleagues in the lab and her advisor for guidance in helping to shape the project proposal the second time around, and said she benefitted from the extra guidance.

Gallegos was one of 100 delegates from 44 countries brought together to share ideas and projects, and work with mentors and small groups during the summit to further ideas that could help feed the world.

“It was very inspiring to see so many people in industry, academia, and government come together to improve our food systems,” she said.

Gallegos’ project focuses on breeding a new varieties of quinoa and how to optimize the growth of quinoa as commercial crop, but also “the social aspect of it, how we can empower our communities to have better nutrition,” she said.

High in protein and full of fiber and essential amino acids, quinoa is a hearty crop able to tolerate salty water, high winds, frosts, and droughts, allowing it to be cultivated in a variety of climates. It is native to the Andes Mountain region, and later spread throughout South America where it was cultivated by the Incas.

Four people stand in a quinoa field beside a forested hill in Ecuador.
Gallegos and Murphy in Cañar, Ecuador with community collaborators.

Today, quinoa production has spread to over 50 countries, and quinoa crop prices tripled between 2006 and 2014.

Kevin Murphy, associate professor in crop and soil sciences, said Gallegos’ research focuses on one of the most critical issues for quinoa farmers worldwide.

“Pre-harvest sprouting due to late season rains causes significant crop losses each year, and Cristina is working to find varieties that possess genetic resistance to this sprouting,” he said.

Gallegos said because she is from Ecuador, she enjoys studying a crop that shares her cultural roots. “I feel a really strong connection with the plant and the crop,” she said.

Gallegos said the summit was a chance to learn about new initiatives in agriculture at the international level. “For me, it’s not so much about profit as it is providing healthy food for everyone.”

 

 

WSU bee center filling up, honey extractor moves in

Delicious honey will soon be made at Washington State University’s Honey Bee & Pollinator Research, Extension, and Education Facility in Othello after a large equipment move.

The WSU pollinator research program continues to move equipment and materials from the Pullman campus to the Othello location, the latest being the honey extractor. It’s a large piece of machinery that separates honey from the honey combs.

Large equipment sits on a trailer in a parking lot. The trailer is attached to a pickup truck.
The honey extraction machinery sitting on a trailer, ready for its move to Othello.

“It took a lot of work getting it disconnected and loaded up,” said Brandon Hopkins, assistant research professor in WSU’s Department of Entomology.

The extractor consists of four main components bolted to the concrete floor when it was installed 20 years ago, Hopkins said.

The machinery was disassembled, loaded onto a wooden structure to support its weight, and trucked on a large trailer for the two-hour journey west. It’s now at Othello, awaiting installation.

“We still have to make some decisions,” Hopkins said. “We’ll ideally cut a giant hole in the concrete to install a heated pump. We never had that in the original location, and it’s a standard piece of equipment for honey extraction. It will definitely make the process easier for us when we’re collecting honey.”

Hopkins hopes to have everything in place by the time the team begins extracting honey next summer. The team moved the equipment after they finished bottling the 2021 honey.

The honey is extracted once or twice a year when the bees fill boxes of honeycomb. The team removes rectangular frames of comb, leaving some behind for the bees. Frames are spun at high speeds in a centrifuge, extracting honey. The new heated pump allows gravity to do more of the work, as the honey is pumped higher to filter out impurities.

The empty spot where the honey extractor lived for 20 years. Some of the equipment sits on dollies, ready to move.

The new building has more space and is closer to a large population of WSU bees and important pollinator-dependent agriculture. The team has about 200 hives near Othello. The extractor will have its own space and won’t get in the way of other experiments and work being done, as it did in the previous location.

Honey is sold at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe on the WSU Pullman campus, and online. Proceeds support the bee program, allowing students to work as they learn about bees, and funding infrastructure that allows research to happen.

Economic Sciences faculty publish new textbook on shared resources

Faculty in the School of Economic Sciences have published a new textbook introducing students to key issues in the field of common pool resources—shared assets that we all benefit from.

Ana and Felix
School of Economic Sciences faculty members and co-authors Ana Espinola-Arredondo and Felix Munoz-Garcia.

Ana Espinola-Arredondo, professor and associate director in the School of Economic Sciences, and Felix Munoz-Garcia, professor of economics, co-authored “Common Pool Resources: Strategic Behavior, Inefficiencies, and Incomplete Information,” published this fall by Cambridge University Press.

This textbook introduces students of economics, business and policy studies to the key issues surrounding common pool resources, which can include fishing grounds, irrigation systems, forests, and our atmosphere.

“Now more than ever, how people responsibly share and use those goods is a vital issue,” authors wrote.

Common Pool Resources cover“Common Pool Resources” uses game theory to help readers understand the mathematics involved in economic studies of this field. Algebra and calculus steps are clearly explained, so students can more easily reproduce analysis and apply it in their own research.

Using a clear, engaging writing style, the book also summarizes experimental studies that tested theoretical results in controlled environments, introducing readers to a literature that has expanded over the last decades, and provides references for further reading.

Find out more on the publisher’s website.

Espinola-Arredondo’s research at WSU focuses on environmental economics and game theory. She studies the strategic effects of environmental regulation on firms’ profit and consumers’ behavior.

Munoz-Garcia examines industrial organization, game theory, and their applications to environmental regulation in contexts where firms as well as government agencies may be imperfectly informed.

WSU Extension’s Trevor Lane honored as part of tech Innovator Awards

Trevor Lane

Congratulations to Ferry County Extension Director Trevor Lane, who was one of more than 30 educators, entrepreneurs, students, and technology leaders honored as part of North Central Washington Tech Alliance’s Annual Innovator Awards.

Lane was one of 10 nominees for the Alliance’s STEM Champion of the Year award, which recognizes educators who are pursuing innovative approaches to learning through STEM experiences.

An assistant professor of community and economic development, Lane helps bridge digital divides and supports communities and rural businesses through outreach and education in technology, agritourism, and small business ecosystems. He co-founded the Community Intelligence Lab (CIL), a rural community think-tank that combines open data, machine learning, and science and citizen inquiry to address rural problems.

Lane was nominated for his work with 4-H Tech Changemakers, a national program that empowers 4-H members to teach digital skills and tools and find technological solutions to real world problems, as well as his efforts with Broadband Action Teams—county-based groups working to expand rural access to broadband Internet in partnership with Governor Jay Inslee’s Washington State Broadband Office.

The Annual Innovator Awards celebrates the drive, passion, and spirit of innovators in North Central Washington while inspiring those who are just starting their journey. Nominees were honored during a virtual award session on Sept. 29, 2021, presented by Microsoft, Peoples Bank, Equilus Capital Partners, and Ogden Murphy Wallace.

Other award categories included Entrepreneur of the Year, Future Technology Leader of the Year, STEM College Student Innovator of the Year, and Newcomer in Technology. Learn more about the 2021 Virtual Innovator Awards at ncwtech.org/innovators.

Formerly known as GWATA and founded in 1999, NCW Tech Alliance is a nonprofit organization supporting technology companies and entrepreneurs to create a thriving community. Learn about the Alliance at www.ncwtech.org

Wine students marked by industry experience

By Julia Layland, CAHNRS Academic Programs

A word of caution for those interested: a possible result of a hands-on major with access to internships is purple hands. WSU Viticulture and Enology student Megan Meharg experienced this grape juice staining directly.

A woman rides an ATV past a vineyard.
Megan Meharg while working as an intern at Vintage Vineyard this summer.

“My most exciting semester was my junior year, Fall 2020, because I was working at my hometown winery and was involved in the 2020 Vintage where my hands turned very purple,” Megan said. 

The WSU wine program encompasses education, research, and outreach, with degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level for viticulture and enology and wine business management.

“I didn’t start in Viticulture & Enology. I came to WSU for Pre-Veterinary Sciences, but after taking an animal science course, I found out quickly that wasn’t the place for me,” Megan said. “I switched over to V&E where I fell in love with the combination of biology, chemistry, business, communications, etc. All these things combine to prepare students for the workplace.”

She has enjoyed the versatility and opportunities within the program and within WSU’s College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences (CAHNRS).

Fellow V&E major and CAHNRS Ambassador, Jordan Culpepper, explained her experiences as a first-generation college student when discussing the program. She worked as a Viticulture Tech Intern for Constellation Brands.

“I was surprised by how cohesive the industry is, and I got to play an integral role in grape harvest for a large company,” Jordan said. “I came to WSU as a first-generation college student and had no clue what to expect. I grew into a new lifestyle, made awesome friends, and truly had a great time. I was able to build better self-confidence while excelling at the things I love to do. It’s hands-on, it’s diverse, and you meet amazing people along the away.”

Internships provide part of the hands-on aspect to the development of skills and insight into the industry.

The WSU Tri-Cities campus is essential to the V&E program due to the Ste. Michelle Wine Estates WSU Wine Science Center located on campus and its close proximity to much of the Washington wine industry. Both Megan and Jordan transferred to the WSU Tri-Cities campus during their senior year, which was both exciting and nerve-wracking. While the move can be a large hurdle for students, they felt it was worth the added stress.

“WSU Tri-Cities gives many opportunities for students to get internships and research to familiarize themselves with equipment and all the processes that go into vineyard management and winemaking,” Megan said. “Students should be prepared to move over to the Tri-Cities when entering the program. It sounds scary, but it’s not! It truly is the best place to jumpstart your career before graduating.”

Jordan echoed those suggestions.

“Eastern Washington is the heart of the winemaking and grape growing industry and living here has provided me more opportunities for professional growth. The campus is close-knit, and the V&E professors here are phenomenal,” Jordan said.

Megan, the 2021 Wine Spectator Wine Student of the Year, intends to intern internationally after graduation. Purple hands will keep happening around the world.

“After working my way through college and with three internships under my belt, I feel very prepared to enter the workforce,” Megan said. “After graduation I’m planning on interning for a few months at different wineries in California, Italy, and New Zealand until I’m ready to go back to graduate school.”

WSU researcher engages communities in tree health research with Forest Health Watch

A scientist with Washington State University’s Department of Plant Pathology launched the Forest Health Watch program in 2020 to engage communities in research about tree health.

Members of the public are accelerating research by engaging in program events and sharing their observations online.

Joseph Hulbert, WSU Postdoctoral Fellow, founded Forest Health Watch.

“Through Forest Health Watch, we’re building a valuable network of community scientists enthusiastic to accelerate research and keep trees healthy,” said Program Director Joseph Hulbert, a postdoctoral researcher and WSU plant pathologist.

More than 100 individuals have registered as community scientists through Forest Health Watch, and more than 400 individuals have specifically joined the Western Redcedar Dieback Map project on iNaturalist. Together, more than 170 of these individuals have shared about 1200 observations of redcedar trees. Their efforts support research to identify important environmental parameters, such as climate, soil, and topography, to determine where trees are vulnerable.

Hulbert notes there are many areas that are poorly represented by the western redcedar observations, and seeks to engage more communities on the east side of the Cascades.

The Forest Health Watch program was established through support from the USDA NIFA Education and Workforce Development Postgraduate Fellowship Program. It has also benefitted from support provided by the US Department of Agriculture, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, McIntire Stennis project WNP00009.

Forest Health Watch offers many opportunities for communities to learn more about keeping trees healthy. Each month, the program offers virtual research updates, biosurveillance training presentations, and occasional presentations about the specific issues, such as emergence of sooty bark disease. The program hosts virtual office hours for anyone to ask questions or learn to use iNaturalist, an online platform for science observation, and dedicates time specifically for tribal members for discussions about forest health issues.

Hulbert has given more than 50 different invited virtual presentations for stakeholders and public audiences and organized in person educational events with volunteer groups and tribal youth. Groups or individuals interested in learning more about local forest health issues and the program are encouraged to contact him.

To learn more, contact Hulbert at hulbe@wsu.edu or by phone at (541) 908-5129.

New, revised guides from WSU Extension: Spray Nozzle Curriculum, and more

Nozzle output test The latest free guides from WSU Extension include a new training curriculum aimed at tree fruit growers and other agricultural producers, as well as a study materials form for spray users and professionals.

Spray Nozzle Demonstration Curriculum (EC010E)
WSU educators developed this curriculum as a resource for growers and their employees, exploring function and challenges associated with different nozzles used in common agricultural sprayers. Readers will learn the difference between types, and how nozzle wear leads to deviations in spray pattern and rate. This curriculum is used in conjunction with Common Interchangeable Nozzles for Perennial Crop Canopy Sprayers (FS352E).  Authored by WSU Department of Horticulture Research Assistant Margaret McCoy, Regional Extension Specialist Gwen Hoheisel, and Viticulture Extension Specialist Michelle Moyer.

WSU Pesticide Study Materials Order Form (C0886)
This is a revised order form showing current titles and prices of study materials; it helps professionals and spray users prepare for Washington State Department of Agriculture pesticide licensing examinations.

See all recent WSU Extension Publications here.

Confirmation of monarch butterfly breeding in winter shows hope for western population

A new study led by Washington State University has found western monarch butterflies can successfully breed and maintain populations on ornamental milkweeds during winter at urban sites in the South Bay of San Francisco.

Butterfly sits almost upside down close to the ground near green leaves.
A female Monarch lays eggs in the San Francisco bay area in February, 2021.

Western monarch breeding traditionally happens in the Pacific Northwest after the butterflies migrate there from California in the spring. Prior to this paper, published in the journal Insects, significant winter breeding had not been confirmed in the San Francisco Bay area.

The population of western monarchs has dropped from around 300,000 counted three years ago to fewer than 2,000 in the 2020-21 overwintering season. It’s hoped the adaptation to winter breeding in California will give the struggling insects a better chance at survival.

“We found that monarchs can breed well in the South Bay area during winter supported by availability of non-native milkweeds that stay green,” said David James, an associate professor in Washington State University’s Department of Entomology and lead author of the paper. “We also showed some evidence that the population may join the migrant population in spring heading north into the PNW.  So, this shift in strategy by monarchs may not be a population ‘sink’ as some scientists have feared.”

The paper is confirmation of a commentary article James wrote earlier in 2021 that was based on multiple observations.

The new paper relied on citizen scientists living in the cities like Palo Alto and Mountain View, California for data collections. The citizen scientists include paper co-authors Maria Schaefer, Karen Kimmer Easton, and Annie Carl.

Additional observations in the Pacific Northwest this summer showed that monarch populations were much higher than anticipated.

“Current estimates suggest there are already five times as many as there were last year,” James said. “This unexpected rebound in population size may have something to do with the winter breeding population contributing to the overall population.”

A previous article written about the commentary that James published in May includes more detail about the importance of these findings.

Collaborative research demonstrates ways to overcome barriers to rural mental healthcare access

Access to mental health services can be a struggle for residents of rural areas. A recent study conducted by the University of Washington with help from Washington State University demonstrated that telepsychiatry can be beneficial for patients with bi-polar disorder and PTSD.

A man in a blue jean shirt stands in a green field with a silver laptop and mountains in the distance.
Specialized healthcare can be hard to come by in Washington’s remote rural communities, but telepsychiatry can be an option.

Outcomes of a five-year Study to Promote Innovation in Rural Integrated Telepsychiatry (SPIRIT) were published August 25, 2021 in  JAMA Psychiatry.  Dr. Danna L. Moore, associate research Professor in WSU’s School of Economic Sciences was a co-author. University of Washington’s lead investigator John Fortney ask Dr. Moore to join his research to help develop high quality data collections using cutting-edge survey methodologies.

Funded by the Patient Centered Outcome Research Institute (PCORI), the project used a randomized control trial to compare Telepsychiatry Collaborative Care treatment with Telepsychiatry Enhanced Referral. More than 1,000 people from 12 federally qualified health centers and 19 clinics took part and received services for a year.

The WSU team helped develop and implement mixed web, telephone, and mail data collection using  incentives for participation. The team also coordinated with UW researchers and clinics to monitor and document outcomes for specialty mental health services and to establish efficacy of treatments.

Dr. Nick Ponomarev, scientist at WSU’s Social and Economic Sciences Research Center (SESRC), collaborated with Moore and UW researchers to design a tailored research portal which collected participant status in recruitment, enrollment, randomization, treatment assignment, surveys, and customized reports. Dan Vakoch, also an SESRC scientist, was the survey data manager.

Through the portal, messages could be automated in real time in case a safety intervention was needed. “This worked to help keep patients safe,” said Moore.

Two interactive video approaches for remote specialty mental health services were studied at participating clinics, including one-on-one referral services with a psychiatrist or licensed clinical psychologist, and collaborative services with a tele-psychiatrist and care manager who supported visits with a primary care provider. The model was pioneered at the UW School of Medicine to allow a psychiatrist to manage more patients than a traditional referral model.

The study found patients who screened positive for PTSD and bi-polar disorders were treated successfully with both types of telepsychiatry treatments in rural, federally qualified health centers.

Patients in both groups of the study reported substantial improvements in perceived access to care, decreases in their mental health symptoms and medication side effects, and improvements in their quality of life. The positive outcomes were the same across age, gender, and ethnic demographics.

Results are important for federally qualified health centers, which receive funds from the Health Resources & Services Administration Health Center Program to provide primary care services in underserved areas.

WSU co-organizes first annual Pacific Northwest Citizen and Community Science Summit

PNW Citizen Science LogoLearn how anyone can make an impact on discovery at the first Pacific Northwest Citizen and Community Science Summit, to be held virtually, Tuesday and Wednesday, Oct. 26 and 27. Registration closes Oct. 22.

Co-organized by scientists at Washington State University, the summit will feature more than 30 presentations from communities and individuals leading citizen or community science projects in the Pacific Northwest. Partner organizations include the Washington Invasive Species Council and Western Invasives Network.

Jennifer Marquis, Joey Hulbert
Jennifer Marquis; Joey Hulbert

Presenters include Jennifer Marquis, program leader for WSU Extension Master Gardeners, and Joseph Hulbert, postdoctoral fellow in WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology, and co-founder of Forest Health Watch.

Marquis’ talk, “Retaining Citizen Science Volunteer,” defines skills and character traits needed in citizen science volunteers, and explores strategies to keep them engaged throughout the entire project.

Hulbert’s presentation, “So you want to start a citizen science project?”, highlights varied approaches and shares tips for launching projects.

Other anticipated sessions include strategies to connect researchers, volunteers, and community organizations; identifying opportunities for research; case studies of successful collaborations; evaluating the impacts and benefits of citizen science; and more.

The summit is free to attend. Find details and registration at the event website, https://pnwcitsci.org/