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WSU’s On Solid Ground – Student Scientists, Fish Science, Butterflies in Prison – July 18, 2012

Posted by | July 18, 2012

Student Food Product Development Team Wins National Competition

WSU/UI food product development team members, L-R, front row: Jenny Lim (Moscow, Idaho), Lauren Schopp (Highland Ranch, Colo.), Amir Golmohamadi (Tehran, Iran), Rossana Villa-Rojas (San Andres Cholula Puebla, Mexico); back row: Alex Fredrickson (Kennewick, Wash.), Anne Secor (Fort Dodge, Iowa), Jesse Zuehlke (E. Lansing, Mich.), Ford Childs (Centennial, Colo.). Photo courtesy Washington State University.

A food product development team from the Washington State University and University of Idaho School of Food Science won first place at a national competition sponsored by the Institute of Food Technology at the 2012 annual meeting in Las Vegas. The WSU/UI team’s challenge was to develop a mango-based food product that addresses common Kenyan nutrient deficiencies and can be produced rapidly to realize the full potential of this crop during its short harvest season.

The food product the joint WSU/UI team developed is called “mango maandazi.” Maandazi is a popular fried bread product snack in Kenya. Mango maandazi represents a comprehensive approach to improving mango utilization in Kenya.

The team’s vision for the winning product includes reducing post-harvest mango losses by incorporating their use in maandazi, creating opportunities for greater farm and rural income by processing dehydrated mangos, and incorporating these into a profitable food product. The WSU/UI team developed a supply-chain plan in which mangos would be purchased from farms and transported to regional processing centers where the fruit would be cleaned, sliced, and dehydrated for retail and wholesale distribution or incorporation into a dry-mix product for maandazis. Using community-appropriate technology, Kenyans would create a safe, high-quality product that requires minimal capital expenditure or energy costs to produce and distribute, and that will provide jobs in economically challenged communities.

Read the rest of this story by Brian Clark on WSU’s ag news website »

Fish-Chucking Science Helps Researcher Track Nutrients through the Food Chain

By feeding on salmon, grizzly bears and black bears (pictured) help distribute nutrients into the forest. Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

A slender, dark-haired woman in her forties shoulders a backpack loaded with dead fish as she hikes a long, rocky trail to a mountain stream in southern Idaho. Arriving on the bank, she drops the pack and starts winging fish carcasses into the water.

This is science, conducted by Laura Felicetti, a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Charles Robbins, professor in the School of the Environment and School of Biological Sciences at WSU. Felicetti is a member of a team trying to quantify the success of nutrient replacement in an area where dams have stopped salmon and steelhead from migrating.

For thousands of years, nutrient-rich salmon and steelhead spawned in the area’s streams. When those same fish returned to the streams, some became food for bears. Bears are great fertilizer factories, processing fish through digestion, into a form that plants can readily use.

After construction of dams such as Arrowrock and Black Canyon in the early 1900s, salmon and steelhead could no longer complete their migration and were thus largely eliminated from the local bear menu. Many suspect that forest health and productivity have declined as a result, like a garden that is never fertilized. To address the loss of this nutrient flow, mitigation efforts include distributing dead fish into the streams.

Read the rest of this story by Bob Hoffmannon WSU’s ag news website »

WSU Monarch Butterfly Project Gets Lift from Penitentiary Inmates

Washington State Penitentiary inmate Gilbert London stands next to a poster detailing the life cycle of a Monarch butterfly. London is one of six inmates helping to raise Monarch butterflies for WSU entomologist David James. Photo by Nella Letizia.

Gilbert London stood in front of a blue plastic food-storage barrel converted into a Monarch butterfly-rearing cage. Inside, roughly two dozen opaque-green chrysalises hung from milkweed plants like living jewels. Soon, the chrysalises London helped to raise will yield the iconic adult butterflies with orange and black wings. He and five other Washington State Penitentiary inmates will tag the butterflies soon after that, readying them for their release as part of a study by WSU entomologist David James. The Monarchs will then be free to leave; London will not.

London has been locked up at the Walla Walla penitentiary for 25 years of a life sentence. He didn’t say what he did to get there. Instead, he talked about what he likes best about raising the Monarchs. He referred to a passage in the Bible that describes shedding an old skin to become a new creature. London pointed to a small, shriveled, black husk at the bottom of the blue barrel that would be easy for anyone to overlook. Except that the Monarch once occupied this skin and then shed it to become something else. Something better.

“And that’s what a lot of us are trying to do too,” London says.

Read the rest of this story by Nella Letizia on WSU’s ag news website »