Sunday, March 22, 2015

Looking in the Rearview Mirror

Hi friends,

The spring semester is flying by and I am only a few short weeks away from graduation. The last month and a half has been very busy for me with graduate school visits, capstone project presentations, exams, extracurricular events, and a much needed spring break trip to the Smoky Mountains. I do know where I am going for graduate school now but since the paperwork isn't all finished I am going to keep it a surprise for my final post, so stay tuned! I thought I would take this opportunity to provide a personal testimony for any students who can't make it for a visit to Purdue. Hopefully by sharing my experiences and thoughts on Purdue Agronomy and Agriculture, any prospective students out there can have a better sense for what it would be like to be a student in our department.

Academic excellence

I truly feel that I have received world class education at Purdue, which is really the first objective of anyone going to college. I have been taught by award winning faculty, including a World Food Prize winner, who genuinely care about the success and learning of students. These professors know my name and still greet me as I walk down the Agronomy or Botany hallway. I have been challenged in my coursework and have been able to simultaneously quench my thirst for knowledge and discover new academic passions. Good grades at Purdue do not come easily and I have worked hard to get to where I am today in terms of grades. I have been afforded the opportunity to conduct undergraduate research which has enhanced many skills I learned in the classroom or lab. I have learned about the inner workings of the scientific community and presented my research. I have made mistakes. Lots of them. However, I have had the support system to help me learn from those mistakes so I do not repeat them. My agronomy classes in particular have always been enjoyable and very interesting; I know I chose the right major because studying for agronomy exams never seems like work.  I know that I am well prepared for the next step of graduate school with a Purdue Agronomy degree.

Professional development

Looking back to when I was a freshman, I would never have imagined the involvements and opportunities I have had in the College of Agriculture and Agronomy Department. I have had three internships with three different companies and through career fairs, speakers, and ambassador events, I have connections all over the agriculture industry. I learned that I really enjoy networking events and meeting people; coupled with my involvement in extracurricular organizations on campus, I have found a love of leadership and a desire to make an impact. I wanted to be a departmental and college ambassador not because it looked good on my resume, but because I genuinely wanted to help other students find their niche and have a phenomenal collegiate experience like I have had. I want to be an inspiration to my peers so that they may go on to do great things for their own personal fulfillment and the betterment of the world. My leadership and professional development journeys have not always been smooth, but I have again learned from my mistakes.Through the mentorship of many outstanding individuals I have grown into a scientist, agriculture advocate, and leader. Agronomy Club in particular gave me a great jumpstart as a freshman. I was able to meet lots of students in the department, go to the national SASES conference, and take on responsibility for the business side of the club. Meeting agronomy alumni at recruiting events has added to my network.


My experience as an agronomy student has been outstanding solely considering the academics and professional development opportunities. What has really made my four years at Purdue something I will forever cherish are the people and relationships I have built. No place is this more evident than in the Agronomy Department and College of Agriculture. The people in this department care about each individual and make you feel like you are a part of a family. The people whom I have worked with are genuine, friendly, and of excellent character. I am proud to be associated with them. I have formed relationships in my lab, with my professors, my club advisors, and in my classes that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my life. I don't think students at other institutions have quite the same experience as Purdue Ag students, and I know that it is not just me that feels this way. For the people I have had the privilege of learning from, the people whom I am honored to call my friends and mentors, and for the people who brought me to the College of Agriculture and the Agronomy Department at Purdue University, I am ever grateful, ever true. 

Daniel Sweeney, Senior- Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Study Abroad Australia!

Veronica in Queenstown, New Zealand.
G'day to all my fell bloggers,

This semester I applied and was accepted to study abroad in tropical Townsville, Australia at James Cook University. I am currently a 2nd year student in the Purdue University Agronomy department. I am majoring in Natural Resource and Environmental Science and currently working on picking up a Wildlife minor.
New Zealand landscape. 

Choosing to study abroad has been on of the best decisions that I have ever made. Being abroad has taught me more about myself then I could have even imagined. I have became more independent, capitalized on my strengths, improved my weaknesses, became a better communicator, learned to step out of my comfort zone, and so much more!

I left the USA on January 9th with a fellow Purdue mate to travel early before starting my semester at James Cook University (JCU). I spent two weeks traveling in New Zealand on a Contiki tour before starting my Aussie adventures. New Zealand was incredible. I took part in some crazy activities including bungy jumping, skydiving, jet boat riding, horseback riding, and mountain climbing. I made so many unforgettable memories and friendships in the matter on a few days!

When in Frans Josef, NZ I took a helicopter to the
top of a glacier where I went hiking. 
134m Nevis Bungy Jump in Queenstown, NZ.

After leaving NZ, I began my travels down under. I stated off in Sydney were I did the Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb and stayed at a hostel on Bondi Beach for Australia Day (like the American 4th of July) before taking a 12hr train ride to Melbourne. After spending 6 nights in Melbourne, I took a 9hr bus ride to Canberra to stay with my new friend Stephaine that I meet in New Zealand and here family. Canberra is the capital city of Australia, and Steph and her family gave me a grand tour of the nations capitol.
Australian Parliament House with Stephanie and her father in Canberra. 

Sydney Harbor Bridge Climb wit fellow Purdue travel partner.
Stephaine and I took a two day road trip to the Snowy Mountains were I got to live out my dream of riding horses in the "Man from Snow River" country. This was truly and incredible experience. I then flew out of Canberra and into Townsville to where I would be stating "uni" on February 23rd, as the Aussies call it.

Riding horses in the Snowy Mountains.

My first week in Townsville was a blast. I did the new student orientation program where I got to know the campus and my fellow students. I am taking four courses at JCU: Wildlife Ecology Management, Australian Landscape and Processes, Conserving Marine Wildlife: Mammals, Sea, Birds, and Reptiles, and Tourism and the Environment.  JCU has an incredible library that I am taking full advantage of it for my research.

I am really enjoying my classes and it actually feels nice to get back into the swing of school again. My classes are all extremely interesting and involve a lot of fieldwork and practical experience. All of my courses but one have field trip off campus for further study and fieldwork. For my Wildlife and Ecology Management course I will be going a cattle station in central Queensland on mid semester break to run field test on the impacts of wildlife and invasive species on different pastures at the station.

On the weekends I go over to Magnetic Island where I work at Horseshoe Bay Ranch as a trail guide/ranch hand.

Swimming horses in the ocean at Horseshoe Bay on Magnetic Island.
I cannot wait to see what the rest of the semester has in store for me!

Until next time.


Veronica Yager

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Stop the Stone Quarry!

I am a double major in Natural Resources and Environmental Science, as well as Film and Video Studies.  This semester I have embarked on my first short documentary film.  I chose to do it on an environmental issue affecting the surrounding area.  The film focuses on the proposed stone quarry in Americus, IN.  It covers topics such as the law, the voice of the people in the community, and the issue of building a quarry right next to the Wabash River floodplain.

I am learning a lot about how environmental action and research is necessary in law and bettering communities.  The conflict is that Stone Quarries provide a necessary resource to society and the company is expecting a large return from the quarry operation, however having a quarry in an area with upwards of 100 homes within a mile could be devastation to their community.  

(This is a photo of the couple leading the community action in stopping the stone quarry)

It is my last semester here at Purdue and I am so grateful for all that I have learned in my time here.  It is always a great feeling when everything seems to come together and as I look to the future, I feel prepared and excited to continue working in environmental filmmaking.


Colleen Harvey

Saturday, February 21, 2015

No, I'm not on Breaking Bad

            When you graduate with an NRES degree from Purdue and you enter the working world, there is a high chance that your job will be working with dangerous chemicals and their cleanup. To be able to properly and safely handle these chemicals, you need to be trained and certified in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) through OSHA. This is a 40-hour course that your workplace normally pays for and the training process would take up your entire first week. However, through the NRES program at Purdue, you can receive this training and certification at no cost in your last semester. This is very attractive two potential employers because it saves them money and reduces the amount of training you need as an employee.
            The course that offers this certification, NRES 280, meets twice a week for an hour and fifteen minutes during the first ten weeks of the semester. However, there are two lab days where you take what you learn and find out what it’s actually like to be under certain conditions. Today was our first lab day, where we learned what it’s like to be in full HAZMAT suits and respirators (breathing devices). While we didn’t actually deal with any dangerous chemicals, we still learned a lot about what it’s like to be fully suited up. It’s definitely different! In the suits and respirators (and heavy boots) we had to do several different tasks while breathing and maintain composure. These include walking on a treadmill or elliptical for five minutes, looking up information on hazardous materials in the dark, and performing pH tests. All of these tasks were done with a normal respirator that simply filtered the air. However, for our last task we had to wear an oxygen tank that pumped air into our mouths. This was a lot different! We also had to wear two layers of gloves that reduced our dexterity to do one final task: put together a Lego car. When you have a heavy tank on your back and grasping tiny pieces is challenging, putting together Legos is incredibly difficult. However, I had a lot of fun doing it.
            This course demonstrates on of my favorite things about the NRES program at Purdue. Not only do you do a lot of learning inside the classroom, you also get hands on experience doing things very relevant to your future careers. The skills and information that I have learned in my years here will definitely continue to be useful in my future career path.
            I have no pictures right now, but if I get any I will definitely post some!

-          Steve Lira

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Purdue University Dance Marathon

While at Purdue University one thing that I have grown extremely passionate about is the Purdue University Dance Marathon (throughout this blog I will refer to it as PUDM for short). PUDM is the largest student organization at Purdue and the mission of this organization is to raise as much money possible for Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. Throughout the year they participate in various fundraising events such as date auctions, canning dates outside of WalMart, online donations, and many other things. All of these events lead up to the main event, a dance marathon where everyone who has participated in fundraising stands for 18 hours for those children at Riley who can't. I know it sounds crazy, not only do you have to stay awake for that long but you also have to stand the entire time you're there; let me be the first to tell you that I had no idea what I was getting into my freshman year when I did it. My freshman year I participated as a dancer, my sophomore and junior year I participated as a member of the Greek Relations Committee, and this year (my senior year) I participated as a member of the Riley Development Committee. As a freshman I pretty much just raised money for Riley online and went to the marathon. The event was still very young at Purdue and we managed to raise around $300,000 as an organization. While still pretty good, I knew this organization was going to grow and do much better before my time at Purdue was done. As I said above my sophomore and junior year I was on the Greek Relations committee. The job of this committee was to get the Greek system involved as much as possible. After participating for 3 years, my senior year I  got the opportunity to be a part of the Riley Development committee. Throughout the marathon we actually bring in Riley families to hang out at the marathon, meet some of the dancers, and share their stories from Riley Hospital as a reminder to everyone standing for 18 hours why we're doing it. The job of the Riley D committee is to "buddy up" with a Riley family. Everyone on the committee gets paired with a family and throughout the year at various events you get to know the family (particularly the kid who has been in Riley), exchange emails and phone numbers, and become friends with this family so they are comfortable with you at the marathon. For me this was one of the most humbling experiences of my life. Getting to hang out with a 13 year old kid who's had more surgeries and hospital stays than everyone in my family combined makes you realize how lucky you are. This year we were able to raise over $1 million for Riley Hospital, this is the second year in a row we've been able to do that. While I still believe there is a lot of room to grow this organization has managed to grow by $700,000 in just two years. In closing, if you're looking to get involved right away at Purdue when you get here, while there are all kinds of opportunities in the school of Agriculture as well as the Agronomy Department (which i highly encourage you to take advantage of as well), PUDM is a great way to raise money for a great cause as well as get to know students from all over the University.  Below are some pictures from my marathon last year.

My Riley D Commitee

We couldn't sit for 18 hours, but that doesn't mean we didn't try to rest our legs

Relief after standing for 18 hours 

Until next time!

John Hettinga

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Haiti Study Abroad: 10 Days That Changed My Life

While at Purdue I have been offered so many amazing opportunities. Studying abroad in Haiti on Purdue’s Animal and Food Security Service Learning Trip was one of the best opportunities here that I have pursued. It was ten days that changed my life forever.

Just a few days after Christmas, I left home to travel across the ocean to Cap Haitian, Haiti for a trip I had been preparing for all semester. I went with a group of twenty students and two professors. Our main project was partnering with two universities in Haiti and putting on a two day symposium teaching student about sustainable agriculture. Our group broke into five different teams- Poultry, Chemistry, Crops, Bio-digester, Food and Water, and Goats. I was on the crops team. Each team prepared all semester for what they were going to lecture on and do demonstrations over. The symposium went so well! My group focused on planting practices, irrigation, soil, and seed storage. It was amazing how interested everyone was in the information that we taught them. Unlike most students in the U.S., everyone in Haiti was so eager to learn! 

Though the symposium was our main project, but we also did a variety of different things on our trip. One of my favorite things was visiting an orphanage in Haiti. We walked to the orphanage, opened the gates, and got tackled by a heard of little kids wanting us to play and love on ‘em. It was the sweetest thing I have ever experienced, and leaving those sweet kids was also the hardest thing I have ever had to do. At the orphanage I donated a huge suitcase full of hygiene items, my friend donated fifty shirts, and we all put money together to buy them about three months’ worth of food. 

One day we were solely tourists. We traveled south of Cap-Haitian to visit the Citadelle. The Citadelle is a large mountaintop fortress.  Before climbing to the top of this very large mountain we examined the horses at bottom. These horses were in terrible shape. They were dehydrated, malnourished, and had huge sores on them that will never heal because they had no medicine to treat them.  We talked to the owners and asked questions about their management programs and learned more about how we can help them in the future. We are thinking about starting a horse team in the future. Finally we started climbing. It was very difficult, and I thought I was going to die. I did talk my professor into letting me ride a motorcycle up part way. Though the hike made my body ache and ache the view at the top was incredibly beautiful.

On the last day in Haiti we visited Heifer International, and they took us to one of the poorest villages in Haiti’s countryside. I have never seen such poverty. They showed us their goat programs that they are starting in the village, and we toured a cattle pasture and saw Heifer International teaching veterinary practices and how they work their cattle. It was much different from how we do things in the US, but it was exciting to see them making efforts in taking care of their livestock. This was not a common practice in Haiti.

While in Haiti I ate food that I thought I would never try. I played with sweet little kids on the street every day and not one of them could speak English. I climbed to the top of a huge mountain. I built relationships that will last a lifetime, learned and taught about agriculture, and took a huge leap out of my comfort zone. I saw devastation that I thought could never exist. This trip impacted my life in many ways. Haiti is so beautiful and so devastating at the same time. The biggest thing that I learned while I was there is that life is not about making money; it is about using your talent to serve the world. I went to Haiti to serve others. I am not sure that I changed any lives while I was there, but I know for a fact that they changed mine.

Purdue has many study abroad trips. If you decide to come to Purdue I highly encourage you to take a step out of your comfort zone and become a little more cultured. 

~Michaela Turner 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The beginning of the end as a Boilermaker.. or not?

Hello again!

I am in a bittersweet mood as I sit down to write my second to last blog as an ambassador (I will write another one toward the end of the semester when I have finalized my plans post-graduation). I would say that my last semester is one of a typical NRES student; having the majority my credits covered, I am tying up loose ends with my classes this spring. That is not to say they are less interesting than previous courses, though. I am taking a world crop distribution class as well as a hazardous waste handling class. The hazardous waste handling class is one that I have been looking forward since I transferred into NRES. The course is no longer required for all NRES students but because my concentration is land resources, it is something I definitely should experience. The highlights of this class (which is very much focused on real world application) is the labs in which we get to suit up and work through hazardous waste handling scenarios. Woohoo! I would say it will be one of the most interesting lab experiences I will have at Purdue.

Aside from my classes this semester, I am continuing my undergraduate research project, working with Dr. Keith Johnson, and for a little extra cash, I am a barista at Starbucks. We will be conducting the greenhouse segment of the project this semester, and we hope to observe some interesting results and produce a case study from it.

My work with Dr. Johnson has slowed since I last posted. At this point in the project, the grasses have been harvested, data have been recorded, and the remainder of my duties include grinding the harvested samples. Let me be the first to tell you this is not the quickest of tasks, but it will all be worth it when we send the samples off for testing, concluding my journey working with the bioenergy grass project.

Now, you may be curious of the title I chose. My plans post-graduation are currently to attend graduate school, and as you might have guessed by the title, I have applied to Purdue. So, as I sit and write my last blog post, I am uncertain if I will continue as a Boilermaker or switch to something else! The excitement of my undergraduate career winding down is balanced by the stresses of graduate school application deadlines. Alas, upon my next blog post, I will be able to tell you what school I will be calling home for the next two years of my life! One thing is for certain, though. I can reflect on my journey as an NRES student and smile, knowing it has allowed me to realize my passions and given me the courage to set high goals for myself, and be confident that I will achieve them! I am getting a little emotional writing this.. I guess all good things must come to an end.

I will share a few photos as to what I have been up to lately (besides, who doesn't like pictures!)

Dr. Johnson has shown me an appreciation for forages, and just how special they are. Here are some pictures, and I hope you see the beauty in the grasses like I do!

                                 Morning Frost on switchgrass in Peru, IN in mid December

Another adventure since the last time I checked in was this January, when I went to Aspen, CO with the Ski and Snowboard Club. We stayed at Snowmass, the largest of the four mountains. We hiked the ridge of the Highlands Bowl, and let me tell you, there is no better feeling of accomplishment!
 This is me at the sign for the first entry of the Highland Bowl. From this point, we had an hour hike up the ridge to reach the top, which is shown below. 
 This is the top of the Highlands Bowl; the final stop before the last gate to snowboard down. 
 On the third day we travelled to Aspen Mountain, and found this wall of skis. I decided to add my snowboard to the "wall of fame". 
And finally, being the environmental scientist I am, I went to the Nature Center on Snowmass Mountain. The girl working recommended I go check out ACES (Aspen center for Environmental Sciences), which is what is shown in the picture above. It was a 30 acre nature preserve downtown Aspen. There, we got to see an owl eat a mouse, a Golden Eagle, and plenty of ducks. It was a gorgeous evening! 

Unitl next time!