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2018: CALS Year in Review

The end of the year is a great time to look back and reflect on the accomplishments of the CALS community. Here are some of the stories that made 2018 a memorable year for the college.

Scientists identify corn that fixes its own nitrogen, needing less fertilizer

In August, Jean-Michel Ané, professor of bacteriology and agronomy, along with researchers at the University of California, Davis and Mars, Inc., announced they had identified varieties of tropical corn from Oaxaca, Mexico that can acquire nitrogen from the air by cooperating with bacteria. This finding opens the door to developing commercial corn varieties with a reduced need for fertilizer. Dean VandenBosch penned an op-ed in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel championing the discovery.


New summer early-start program, QuickStart, helps incoming freshmen 

Over the summer months, 103 incoming freshmen were part of the inaugural CALS QuickStart class, starting their coursework early and having the opportunity to earn two credits before the official start of the fall semester. The students received tailored academic and career planning, and took part in early networking opportunities. The goal of the program is to help students earn their degrees on time and on budget, make the most of their college experiences, and get a swift start to their careers.


Celebration marks launch of Babcock Hall construction project

In September, CALS hosted a celebration to mark the launch of a major construction project for campus’ Babcock Hall. The $47M project involves the renovation of the Babcock Hall Dairy Plant, as well as a new, three-story addition for the Center for Dairy Research (CDR). In August, UW–Madison bid farewell to Science House to make way for the project.


Study identifies factors associated with rural “brain gain”

Community and environmental sociology’s Randy Stoecker led a study exploring 12 communities that are managing to grow their young adult population, looking for the keys to their successes. The findings, which indicate success comes from proximity to cities as well as housing, schools and outdoor amenities, were shared with the state’s rural community leaders through a Gaining and Maintaining Young People in Wisconsin Communities report.


CALS student helps lead beekeeping project in Uganda

Microbiology major Ciara Michel is one of few people who can say she has led a beekeeping operation in Uganda. Michel, along with two of her peer undergraduates, spent part of a summer in Uganda managing The Apiary Project, which benefits communities affected by civil war in Uganda. So far, the project has reached 169 households. The residents use the beekeeping income for food, medical bills, school fees, livestock and apiary expansion.


Study shows yogurt may dampen chronic inflammation linked to multiple diseases

Food science’s Brad Bolling published findings that contribute new evidence to the ongoing scientific debate about whether dairy reduces or promotes inflammation. The results of the study, which looked at yogurt consumption among 120 premenopausal women, half obese and half non-obese, indicate that yogurt may help dampen chronic inflammation. While some of the biomarkers remained steady over the duration of the study, the group assigned to eat yogurt experienced significant improvements in certain key markers.


CALS experts involved in Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0

This summer marked the launch of the Wisconsin Dairy Task Force 2.0, a group tasked with studying the Wisconsin dairy industry and making recommendations on how to maintain a vibrant dairy industry in the state. A number of CALS personnel were called on to participate, including the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics’ Mark Stephenson, who was named chair of the group. The effort aims to help the state’s dairy producers, who, like other farmers in the state, are facing tough decisions as they deal with ongoing low commodity prices and new market uncertainties.


New Cryo-EM facility, led by biochemistry’s Elizabeth Wright, a powerful imaging resource for campus

In July, the Department of Biochemistry welcomed Elizabeth Wright to lead the department’s cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) facility, a new resource for campus researchers. Cryo-EM is a technique that helps researchers obtain atomic or near-atomic level resolution images of biological molecules by imaging with electrons. Using the technology, scientists can make new contributions to areas of enzymology, virology, cell biology and medicine.


CALS welcomes Blazek, Reinemann, Wassarman to leadership roles

In 2018, the college welcomed a number of individuals to CALS leadership roles, including Jennifer Blazek (left), director of Farm and Industry Short Course, in June; Doug Reinemann (center), associate dean for outreach and extension, in January; and Karen Wassarman (right), associate dean for academic affairs, in June.


Laura Hernandez awarded NIH grant to study impacts of antidepressants and breastfeeding on bone health

Dairy Science’s Laura Hernandez was part of a team awarded a five-year, $1.5M R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health to study how selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) may affect bone health in breastfeeding mothers. In her work with cows, Hernandez found that higher levels of circulating serotonin led to higher levels of calcium in the blood for some breeds. This raised concerns that breastfeeding mothers taking SSRIs to treat depression could be having calcium pulled from their bones. The research will explore this issue and ways to conserve bone calcium.


Marshfield Agricultural Research Station improves safety and accessibility of wagons

In July, a new wheelchair-accessible tour wagon debuted at the 2018 Farm Technology Days agricultural trade show, thanks to the efforts of equipment operators at Marshfield Agricultural Research Station (MARS) who transformed a couple of old bleacher-style tour wagons to be safer and more accessible. The wagons are just one part of a broader effort by the college to respond to a USDA civil rights review and make information and research generated by the college accessible to as many people as possible.


Popular on social media: UW helps communities create cleaner, greener wastewater

A phosphorus removal process, developed and commercialized by soil science’s Phillip Barak, is now being used at Madison’s regional sewage plant. The advance is designed to reduce the cost and environmental consequences of wastewater treatment, including reducing algae growth in local waterways. The pilot project was installed by Barak’s Nutrient Upcycling and Recovery company. This story resonated on CALS’ social media accounts and was among the college’s top performing Facebook posts.


Gift establishes $1.7M professorship in soil science

In April, the Department of Soil Science celebrated a new professorship established through a generous gift from emeritus professor Marv Beatty (center of photo, with Soil Science Chair Alfred Hartemink and Dean Kate VandenBosch). Beatty received his Ph.D. from the UW-Madison Department of Soil Science in 1955, and then went on to serve the department and UW-Extension for a total of 32 years.

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