Recent CALS Spotlights

  • The University of Arizona's Tierra Seca Club placed 5th overall in the 21 universities represented by student chapters at the 67th Annual Meeting of the Society for Range Management. The meeting was held Feb. 8-14, 2014 in Orlando, Fla.

    Tierra Seca is the University of Arizona's student chapter of the International Society for Range Management. Mitch McClaran, assistant director of the Arizona Experiment Station, serves as Tierra Seca student advisor.

    All eight Terra Seca students who took part in the meeting participated in the Undergraduate Range Management Exam, a test of knowledge for range ecology and management. With the help of advisor Larry Howery, specialist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, every member placed individually in the top half out of 153 students. Three of them placed in the top ten: Alanna Riggs and Anna Collins tied in 8th place; Mike McIntire earned in 9th place.

  • At the University of Arizona, students aren't simply learning the skills they need to head into the working world. They're also getting the opportunity to put those lessons to work through hands-on experiences that build a foundation for the day they leave the UA and begin their careers.

    Thousands of new graduates, the members of the Class of 2014, moved their tassels on Saturday. Some will enter the workforce while other will continue on to pursue advanced degrees. Whatever their next step, numerous UA programs have helped prepare them for whatever happens next.

    Readying students to meet statewide and national demands for a highly skilled workforce is one of the goals of Never Settle, the UA's strategic plan.

  • Bats, let's face it, are kind of creepy. But they're vitally important, not only to their ecosystems, but also to local economies.

    There are more than 1,200 different bat species in existence, and about two-thirds of them eat insects. By chowing down on bugs, they provide free pest-control services that save farmers tons of cash — in the billions of dollars, according to one estimate — in crop damage and insecticide costs.

    That's great for farmers, but also good for the bats. The services they render give people an economic incentive to protect them and their environments. There are plenty of reasons to protect a given species, such as the role it plays in a healthy ecosystem, as well as its intrinsic value as a member of Earth's colorful panoply of beasts. But if those don't warm your heart, it's hard to argue with an animal that saves humans a lot of money.

  • Arizona Assurance, the University of Arizona's promise to financially support Arizona families experiencing barriers to higher education, is graduating its third cohort of students on Saturday.

    The donor-supported institutional financial aid and student retention program helps ensure that low-income Arizona students can get a UA education debt-free.

    The program's third graduating class began in 2010, earning their degrees within four years, representing a promise the UA made to the state in 2008 that it would support low-income Arizona families so students could have an opportunity to graduate without student loans.

  • With underrepresented minority students comprising 17 percent of all graduate students, the University of Arizona's graduate student body is now the most ethnically diverse among all peer Association of American Universities institutions.

    As of this past fall, 17 percent of the UA's graduate enrollment of more than 7,400 students were underrepresented minority students.

    In 2002, underrepresented minority students comprised 12 percent of overall graduate student enrollment. By 2013, that number grew 41 percent. Since 2002, the percentage increase in enrollment for African Americans at the UA was 70 percent. For American Indian students it was 52 percent and for Hispanic students it was 28 percent.

  • High-throughput phenotyping, a new area of research, is key to achieving progress in crop improvements. And in order to make future advancements, there is a need for training graduate students and scientists in this emerging field.

    “Over the past decade, we have seen phenomenal advancements in crop genomics enabled by developments in high-throughput DNA sequencing. This automated technology in the laboratory has made understanding the genetics of crop plants very tractable,” said Jesse Poland, assistant professor in Plant Pathology at Kansas State University.  Unfortunately, these same advancements in high-throughput automation have not been realized in the field for the physical appearances of the crop such as height, disease resistance or grain yield.

    Thirty-five researchers, graduate students and industry representatives from around the world participated in an innovative field-based phenotyping workshop at the Maricopa Agricultural Center in Maricopa, Ariz., April 7-10, 2014.

  • Kids are usually told to not throw their food.

    But this year, in a nationwide 4-H youth science experiment, kids across the country will not only be encouraged to throw their food, they’ll be taught how to build a rocket to launch it into the sky.

    Arizona 4-H, a program of Cooperative Extension in the University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has won a competition among state 4-H organizations to design a science experiment for the 4-H 2014 National Youth Science Day, happening Oct. 8. Along with national recognition, the Arizona team receives a $20,000 cash prize.

  • Arizona Project WET is challenging families and student groups to make new discoveries about nature with the help of smartphone technology.

    The project's Discovery Program, recently installed at Phoenix's Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, encourages visitors to embark on one of four color-coded QR code journeys intended to spark questions about their local natural environment.

    "We want people to explore and think through a question that starts with 'I wonder …' and then hopefully learn something new about the nature in their own community," said Kerry Schwartz, Arizona Project WET director. "The Discovery Program presents a unique opportunity for students, teachers and families to think through questions about their surroundings in a systematic, scientific way by taking advantage of a new technology."

  • Professor James Knight is a big believer in the maxim that little things mean a lot.

    That’s what students say they’ll miss most now that he’s retiring as one of the University of Arizona’s most popular educators.

    Balloons, bouquets and best wishes greeted the professor’s last lecture Wednesday at the campus where he spent much of his career.

    "I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who cares more about his students," said sophomore Ethan Reiter, 20, a Texan majoring in biomedical science.

  • A University of Arizona professor is headed to Spain this fall to focus on developing a model for collaboration between researchers, stakeholders and citizens – an undeveloped concept in areas of Europe. At the UA, and in the U.S., the idea has been institutionalized through Cooperative Extension. 

    Barron Orr, professor and geospatial extension specialist in the School of Natural Resources and the Environment, within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, has won a  Marie Curie Actions International Incoming Fellowship, a prestigious fellowship that allows scholars from outside Europe to contribute unique and novel ideas to European nations, encouraging multidisciplinary collaborations.

    “2014 is the hundred-year-anniversary of the act of Congress that created Cooperative Extension,” said Orr. “We’ve institutionalized the connection between science and stakeholders over the past one hundred years.”