Sunday, September 21, 2014

Summer as an Interpretative Naturalist- Veronica Yager

Hello All,

Covered bridge at the entrance to Versailles State Park.
This summer I had the amazing opportunity to work at Versailles State Park in southeastern Indiana as the Interpretative Naturalist. I came across this wonderful opportunity while attending a career fair sponsored by the Forestry and Natural Resource department in the Spring of 2014.
Versailles State Park had hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding trails. In order to make sure I could answer questions about all aspects of our park and explore our large property, I was able to bring my horse in and ride the horseback trails.  

My position at the park as the seasonal naturalist allowed me to start my job at the end of May after finals and work through the middle of August before coming back to Purdue to start the fall semester of my sophomore year. My main roles at the park included running the nature center, organizing interpretative programs, assisting in volunteer efforts, and communicating with the general public. This position allowed me grow as leader and develop effective communication skills.

Interpretative program with the ringneck snake. The ringneck snake will only grow in be about 12'' long at maximum. 

Throughout the summer I did a variety of different programs including the following: snakes, turtles, mammals, tracks, flowers, insects, landforms, tree identification, healthy stream identification, hiking, kayaking, horseback riding, recycling, and more. I learned more during the summer of 2014 then I could have ever imagined about several different aspects of nature.

Buddy park visit at Clifty Falls State Park.
 I was also able to make connections with individuals across the state who worked for the Department of Natural Resources during my interpretative training sessions and inservice training sessions. Thanks to the summer spent working at Versailles, I was able to meet individuals working in state parks all across the state of Indiana and form relationships that will be extremely beneficial when building my career.

The connections and experience that I gained this summer definitely made me realize that Natural Resources and Environmental Science is the right field for me.

Until next time,

Veronica Yager

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Genetic Engineering with Purdue iGEM

Hello, everybody! Hope everyone has enjoyed the first month of what will hopefully be a great semester. Just to quickly introduce myself, my name is Hailey Edmondson and I am a sophomore in Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology in the Agronomy Department.

This, while most students were enjoying some time away from Purdue, exciting things were happening on campus! I had the incredible opportunity to work as a research intern for the Purdue iGEM Team. iGEM, International Genetically Engineered Machine, is an international organization of collegiate and high school genetic engineering teams doing research projects each year and helping to further education and development surrounding the field of genetic engineering and synthetic biology. Purdue’s iGEM Team is expanding each year—more members, more complex projects, more recognition. Each year, teams present their research findings at a competitive conference called the iGEM Jamboree. Last year, the Purdue iGEM Team placed third in North America at the regional jamboree in Vancouver, and this year’s team hopes to continue the trend at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center for the International Jamboree this November.

Some of our corn plants growing                                             iGEM's lab space is in Bindley Bioscience Center.
in the greenhouse.

This year, Purdue iGEM aimed to tackle an issue that’s critical in today’s world, and I’m sure we’ve all heard of as people involved in the agriculture sector—global malnutrition. Our goal was to increase nutrient uptake in important crops in order to combat extensive malnutrition that leads to health issues worldwide. Specifically, we targeted iron uptake in corn and rice plants. In order to do this, we engineered Bacillus subtilis, a naturally occurring type of soil bacteria, to produce the chemical compound that corn and rice use to fix and uptake iron from the soil. Our project focused on exploring a paradigm shift related to modifying microbial soil ecologies, which is a different approach than directly engineering the plants themselves.

iGEM interns at a barbecue at Westwood, President Daniels' esate.

I worked with 7 other undergraduate interns from a variety of majors throughout my 10-week internship to create and execute this project. It was an incredible experience learning about experimental design, collaboration with faculty and professionals, and teamwork. In addition to working hard in the lab, we also did some fun social events including a PSUB Summer Barbecue at President Mitch Daniels’ estate! We are continuing this project and collecting data up until we go to Boston this November, I’m looking forward to representing Purdue University and the Agronomy Department!

Members of iGEM representing the team at the College of Agriculture Ice Cream Social.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First ambassador meeting of the year!

Hi all,

I just wanted to give everyone a look into a typical (the first this year) ambassador meeting! 

Until next time!

-Kole Kamman

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hello all, I hope everyone’s summer was as great as mine! I was an agronomy sales and marketing intern with Helena Chemical Company out of Eastern Illinois. Helena is an ag retail supplier. They sell seed, fertilizer, chemicals and other crop protectant products. On top of that, Helena has a wide variety of proprietary products that are produced by Helena themselves.
This summer I did a little bit of everything. I rode with several different Helena salespeople each week for the entire summer. On those rides we would either be out on a customer complaint, checking fields to see if they were able to be sprayed, if the product we applied was working, and to talk to growers. This opened my eyes to the ag retail side and how dependent and trusting customers are to their salespeople. This summer I also did a fair share of scouting and tissue sampling. It was fun to apply what I learned the spring semester in my plant pathology and weed science classes to real life experiences when scouting.
Throughout the three months I worked for Helena I was given a project to create a Helena proprietary high yield soybean program. For this, I identified and worked with 2 growers on about 175 acres where we implemented a high yielding plan. This included two applications of 4 different Helena products that would help reduce stress, promote flowering, provide a nutritional, or was a plant growth regulator. These trails will be taken to yield in the fall to see any benefits that the application may have provided.

            Working for Helena was a great experience. I received a large amount of hands on training from the guys I worked with and from many different field days I attended. This internship allowed me to get a feel for many different pieces of the agriculture industry whether it was sales, agronomy, marketing, or custom application.

--Kathryn Graf

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

An Indiana Summer

Greeting, all!

Here's to the end of a great summer and the beginning of an even better school year. As I reflect back on my summer experiences I am overwhelmed by all the basic agriculture practices I learned (for instance, driving a tractor).

I spent my summer working within the Agronomy department with Dr. Keith Johnson, a forage specialist and an extension educator. He is part of a much bigger research project headed by CenUSA bioenergy. The idea of the project is to test three different types of native prairie grasses (switchgrass, indiangrass, and big bluestem) for success in marginal land settings. Grasses were chosen for this project based on their potential for bioenergy use. As you can imagine, West Lafayette and the majority of surrounding areas aren't necessarily considered "marginal" land. This being said, a lot of my summer with Dr. Johnson was spent the traveling to our destinations. We had plots in Peru, Trafalgar, and Oakland City, Indiana.

Each location had it's identifier that made it qualify as "marginal land", but the most interesting one (being an environmental scientist) was in Oakland City. It is located north of Evansville on a farm who's land we're renting for the project. Across the street from the grass plot is a working coal mine. HOW COOL! (well not really, but you know what I mean). The irony of growing bioenergy grasses across from a working coal mine is something else.

A photo of the truck at the plots during planting with the coal mine in the background

Now for a little bit about my role in the research. I was Dr. Johnson's right hand girl, helping with planting, fertilizing and spraying herbicide, plot care, data collection and recording, and most importantly, observing and learning the process. One thing I learned this summer, and in my personal opinion, is that not many people out there are as dedicated and will work as hard as a farmer, especially Dr. Johnson. Work wasn't always easy, especially with the hot dusty weather we experienced in Oakland City. Another lesson is that no matter how long it takes, always do something right. We worked in Oakland city from sun up to sun down delineating plots, calibrating the seeder, sowing the seed, and even sowing a specific variety twice to make sure it was done right. 

Overall this summer was nothing short of awesome. I hope to aid in the harvest process this fall to further my experience and see the cycle completed. 
My advice to all who read this is to never pass up an opportunity to learn. 

Sending good wishes for new school year and am looking forward to serving as an Agronomy/NRES Ambassador!!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Australia to Indiana

This is my first time posting as an Agronomy Ambassador, but I am not a new Agronomy Ambassador. My name is Daniel Sweeney and I am a senior in Plant Genetics, Breeding, and Biotechnology and have been an Ambassador since my sophomore year. I manage to stay pretty busy on campus between being an Agronomy Ambassador and involvement in College of Agriculture Ambassadors, Ag Week Task Force, Agronomy Club, Old Masters, my fraternity, undergraduate research, and Mortarboard leadership honorary. Not to mention applying for graduate school and being on the Homecoming Court this fall! Last semester I decided to take a bit of a break and take a semester to study abroad at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, Australia.  I had never been overseas before so traveling to Australia for five months was a completely new endeavor for me. I would not trade my experience in Australia for anything; I experienced a totally new level of independence, met incredible people from all over the world, and witnessed some of the most beautiful places on Earth. I chose the University of Adelaide for the quality of its agriculture program and took some very interesting courses. My plant health course looked at integrated pest management and offered a different take on pest control than I had received previously. I also took a wine science course which was fascinating. The area around Adelaide is home to some of the finest wine producing regions in Australia and the world. My class covered viticulture, wine making, and sensory evaluation (tasting). It was a bit of a change to learn about a crop that produces a higher quality product in stony sloped ground and where low yield is desirable, but I thoroughly enjoyed learning about a new facet of agriculture. Wheat and barley are the two major row crops grown in the state of South Australia; canola is more prevalent across Victoria and pastureland is ubiquitous to the country. Aussie cropping systems are very different than Midwestern cropping systems but they do share some similarities. South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent in the world so heat and drought resistance are very important in Australia. Disease resistance and salinity tolerance are also paramount. Many South Australian soils are saline and nutrient poor. No-till has become the norm in order to reduce water loss and conserve soils, but herbicide resistant weeds are becoming a large problem.  In my travels to northern Queensland, I also saw large sugarcane fields which were really interesting. Unfortunately I didn’t learn too much about that cropping system. I was able to meet with an Aussie wheat breeder and learn about the Australian wheat industry and I did some lab work for a durum wheat breeder at uni. As much as I learned in an academic setting, I learned so much more outside of the classroom and lab. Traveling opens one’s eyes to the incredible world around them and makes them approach and evaluate decisions much differently. My travels to New Zealand, the Great Barrier Reef, Melbourne, Brisbane and the Gold Coast, and all around South Australia increased my wonder for the natural world and conviction that each person is a treasure with a story to tell. Take a look at some of the pictures posted below for a sampling of my adventures!

Upon returning to the United States on July 5th, I had a week at home and then I moved back to campus and worked for Dow AgroSciences at their Fowler station. I led a crew of seasonal employees in the breeding nursery and later assisted with plant and ear height measurements. I had done similar work the last two summers but I was happy just to have a half internship after returning from studying abroad. I had previously worked for Dow AgroSciences at their Indianapolis labs in January before departing for Australia and I was really impressed with their research program and company culture. I look forward to writing for you all in the future! Boiler Up and Hail Purdue!

Daniel Sweeney

Michaela Turner- 2014 Beck's Superior Hybrids Production Intern

This summer, I lived in Atlanta, Indiana and worked for Beck's Hybrids Seed Company as a Production Intern. During the summer I worked very independently inspecting fields for top quality seed production.. I also worked with another intern conducting a project that we presented to the company on our last week.

The first week of my internship all the interns participated in Beck's On-Boarding program. During this we learned all about the company, and each department within the company. They took us on tours and introduced us to some of the top leaders within the company.

After On-Boarding,  I had some short training and was sent to my first field. I had my own truck and would travel to corn and soybean fields all over. In the beginning, I took stand counts and growth stages, identified weeds then monitored for bugs and diseases, eventually deficiencies and lastly took yield estimates. We recorded all of our information in an iPad Mini that would sync to our bosses computer. We would say what we saw, the pressure of the problem, and what we thought needed to be done. For instance one thing I might enter would be "Hemp Dogbane, medium patchy pressure, spray in 3-5 days."

During the summer, I also had to make sure that I made time to work on my summer project. Paige, another production intern, and I conducted pivot audits on 11 of Beck's pivots. We measured the amount of water each sprinkler was putting on using a catch can based test. Using the amount of water that we collected, we would then calculate the coefficient of uniformity. This simply gave each pivot a score on how uniform and efficient it was. We would then make graphs that identified where each pivot needed maintenance work. This project will help Beck's improve their pivot quality immensely. On our last week, we presented our project to the other interns and some of the leaders of the company. This was a great experience because I have never worked with irrigation before.

At this internship, I enjoyed learning about how the processes of seed production work. I also liked trying to identify problems in the fields and finding solutions to fix those problems. Most of all, it was the people that I got to work with that made such a great summer. This summer was a great learning experience. Internships help me identify where my skills and talents can best be utilized in the future when I look for a full time job. I would encourage everyone to get an internship each summer.