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Common Ground

Welcome to our CASNR and CVM students as they begin classes this week. We are glad to have them as a part of our family.

More than one hundred UTIA faculty and staff came together yesterday for a Setting Bold Priorities Forum. This forum is a part of a strategic priority setting exercise designed to determine future programs and faculty positions for advancing UTIA.

The effort is being led by a team composed of Parwinder Grewal, Joseph Donaldson, David Anderson, Connie Heiskell, Mike McEntee, Neal Schrick, Scott Senseman, and Bobby Simpson. As a part of the forum, speakers from around the country addressed trends within land-grant universities, global food challenges, USDA priorities, and Tennessee priorities related to the Governor's Rural Challenge. Faculty and staff were asked to work in small groups to identify grand challenges we must address in the future. Almost 200 of our faculty, staff, and stakeholders responded to a survey prior to the forum. The discussion will now move to the departments, centers, and counties for further analysis. Please visit this website to keep up with the important activity. The forum speakers were recorded and will be posted on the website in the near future. The summary results from the survey will also be posted.

Thank you to Dr. Carrie Stephens for serving as chair of the UTIA Advisory Committee. Dr. Kevin Thompson will assume leadership of this group. The UTIA Advisory Committee is currently reviewing the results of the Modern Think employee survey and will be making recommendations for follow-up activities.

Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd recently announced the creation of a Rural Development Task Force that will bring resources together from a wide range of organizations to advance rural communities and economic development throughout Tennessee. UTIA will be a key part of the task force with Dr. Tim Cross serving as a member.

Here's to a great year ahead.


P.S. Be sure to follow me and the latest Institute developments on Twitter at @UTIAChancellor.


Bob Trigiano Celebrated as Institute Professor
More Than Thirty Presented Awards



UTIA has named Bob Trigiano the Institute Professor of 2015. The title is given annually to faculty members who demonstrate high achievement in teaching, research, and service. Trigiano is a professor in the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Trigiano's career at the Institute spans more than thirty years. He's served in numerous leadership roles across UTIA, including interim department head for Entomology and Plant Pathology, Plant Sciences, and the former department of Ornamental Horticulture and Landscape Design. He is a Fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science and has been recognized nationally for his contributions to horticulture.

Trigiano is among thirty-two top faculty, staff, researchers, and outreach experts UTIA honored with a number of prestigious awards at a recent luncheon. Many were recognized with gifts sponsored by past faculty, alumni, and friends of the Institute. See the full list of those recognized here.


UTIA Promotes Thirty-one Faculty and Staff



Among the members of the UTIA family receiving promotions this year were eight individuals elevated to the rank of professor. Front row from left, are Professors Feng Chen of Plant Sciences; Philip Ye of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science; and Shigetoshi Eda of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries with AgResearch Dean Bill Brown. Second row, Chancellor Larry Arrington with Professor Michael Jones of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Third row, CASNR Associate Dean John Stier with Professor John Sorochan of Plant Sciences. Back row, CVM Dean Jim Thompson. Not pictured are Professors Christopher Clark of Agricultural and Resource Economics; Michael Fry of Biomedical and Diagnostic Sciences; and Kurt Lamour of Entomology and Plant Pathology.

Also promoted this July were Robert Burns of UT Extension and John Stier of CASNR from the rank of assistant to associate dean.

Click here to see a list of everyone promoted this year.


The Indisputable Value of Internships

Hands-on learning is a key part of CASNR's strategy for producing ready-for-the-workplace graduates, and placing students in internships is one of the most effective of the approaches we use, says Dean Caula Beyl. The tremendous value that internships provide is often difficult to quantify, but the positive impact on the student of finishing one successfully can be profound.

For many of our students, this is the first real exposure to the professional workplace. Through the experience, they gain a deeper understanding of what the employer expects. They also acquire soft skills such as communicating effectively, working in teams, dealing with ambiguity, and really understanding (and confirming) expectations. Read more about internships and their impact on our students in a column by Dean Beyl.


Professors Help Launch Biosurveillance System



Professors Debra Miller and Matthew Gray with the UTIA Center for Wildlife Health were instrumental in creating a new online portal for scientists studying a disease that is threatening the global populations of amphibians, reptiles, and fish.

The new portal is called the Global Ranavirus Reporting System (GRRS) and it can be found online at mantle.io/grrs. Ranaviruses are emerging pathogens capable of causing systemic hemorrhaging in amphibians, reptiles, and fish that has been characterized as the "Ebola of ectothermic vertebrate species." Experts believe the GRRS will become a model for infectious disease reporting and biosurveillance. More ...


Tennessee 4-H'ers Take Home Two National Wins

Teams of Tennessee 4-H'ers won national titles in forestry and wildlife competitions this summer.

Emily Palacios and Julia Palacios from Thompson's Station and Rebekah Meese from Columbia (pictured) placed first among fourteen state teams in the thirty-sixth annual National 4-H Forestry Invitational. More ...

A Lincoln County 4-H wildlife team consisting of Bethany Avilla, Evan Buck, and Maren Thompson won the 2015 National Wildlife Habitat Educational Program Invitational held August 2-5 at the Alabama 4-H Center in Columbiana, Alabama. More ...


PhD Student Places Second in International Competition

Entomology and Plant Pathology doctoral student Gary Phillips received the second place oral paper award at the fifty-fourth annual meeting of the Society of Nematologists July 19-24 at Michigan State University.

Phillips' presentation explored how parasitic nematodes may affect millipede species in North America. Global climate change is leading to northern migration of tropical species of millipedes. Nematodes crossing from one species to another may trigger decline of native species, an issue of concern since millipedes are the first stage in breaking down leaf litter and wood matter in making nutrients available to plants.

Phillips competed against very stiff competition of ten other outstanding students from North America, Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. His major professor, Ernest Bernard, says the audience and membership in general was most impressed by his scanning electron microscopy images and detailed molecular analysis of a diverse group of nematodes that remains largely unknown, even to nematologists. (Photo credit: Gary Phillips)


Don't Miss Ag Day October 3!



Ag Day will take place on Saturday, October 3, in Brehm Animal Science Arena four hours before the Vols take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Neyland Stadium. This year's theme is "Magic Moments." Guests will enjoy all of their favorite Ag Day festivities and also learn about a new statewide ag awareness campaign that will highlight the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives. For more information or to purchase tickets to the game, visit tiny.utk.edu/AgDay.


Cotton, Landscaping Events Ahead in Jackson

The West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center is the site for two big events in early September. On Wednesday, September 3, cotton producers can tour research plots and hear recommendations from UTIA specialists at the annual Cotton Tour Field Day.

The following day, Thursday, September 4, greenhouse/nursery industry professionals who wish to stay current on best management practices for landscape and turf can attend Landscape Review.


PROPEL Your Entrepreneurial Business Ideas

Join us at PROPEL—A Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) Grant Workshop being held on Wednesday, September 2, at the UT Research Foundation Business Incubator Building located at the corner of Joe Johnson and E. J. Chapman drives on the Institute's campus.

Cohosted by UTIA, UTRF, and UT Institute for Public Service, this workshop will present information on how to successfully acquire federal SBIR and STTR funding. These grants are among the largest sources of early-stage funding for entrepreneurial technologies and companies. Additionally, a pre-workshop session will provide a preview of UTRF's upcoming OPPORTUNITY NOW, an idea to market analysis presented by Tech 2020. Commercialization basics will be covered, including identifying market potential and your customer base, and learning how to scale your idea for your target market. Participants will be invited to apply for a free six-week guided program. Top ideas will qualify to compete for proof-of-concept funding up to $20,000. More information and a link to registration can be found at utrf.tennessee.edu/news/propel-sbirsttr-grant-workshop.


New Advancement Director Brings Legal Expertise to Team

UT Institute of Agriculture welcomes Angelia Nystrom, J.D., as director of specialty programs to the Office of Institutional Advancement staff. Nystrom served previously as the director of the Office of Planned Giving for the system UT Foundation office.

At UTIA, she will be helping Institute members and friends with planned giving, real estate gifts, and corporate and foundation relations. For more information, call 865-974-1928 or email her at anystrom@tennessee.edu. Nystrom is located in
109 Morgan Hall.


Veterinary College Names Outstanding Employee

Dependable, responsible, willing to do what is asked of her, and delivering significant contributions are just a few reasons DeAnne Gibbs has been named the Spring 2015 Outstanding Employee at the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Gibbs, a senior laboratory technologist, has worked in the college's Endocrinology Laboratory for about twelve years. The lab provides adrenal, thyroid, and reproductive hormone testing for dogs and cats, as well as for several other species, and receives more than 8,000 submissions each year from across the United States and other countries.

During the final months of 2014, many of the hormone analysis kits used in the lab were discontinued by the manufacturer without adequate time to search for alternatives. The discontinuation created a state of emergency in the lab. In order to keep the service functioning on such short notice, Gibbs toiled tirelessly and evaluated kits from other manufacturers as well as evaluated a different methodology to determine the best substitute. Gibbs was instrumental in keeping the laboratory functioning.


Second Quarter External Funding Totals $11.8M

Sponsored projects and Extension county billings for the second quarter of 2015 total $11,842,670. Congratulations to the principal and coprincipal investigators, and Extension county directors and agents! Download the report.

External funding is vital to our overall program, and we appreciate the support and efforts of everyone engaged in enhancing our external funding.


AgrAbility to Host Conference in Knoxville
August 24-27
Helping Farmers and Others Confront Arthritis and Disabilities

Getting around with arthritis or a disability is tough. Getting around a farm or a garden with arthritis or a disability poses an extra set of obstacles, and for farmers those obstacles jeopardize their livelihood.

The National AgrAbility Project can help farmers overcome obstacles and get back to doing what they love. On August 24-27, specialists with the project as well as rural health professionals, farmers, and others interested in mobility issues will gather in Knoxville to learn more about how people can maintain their independence and be successful despite a disability. More ...


In Knoxville, Meet Neal Eash, Professor,
Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science



What do you do as professor?

My appointment is currently 45 percent teaching and 55 percent research. Over my fifteen years at UT (twelve as teaching and research), I have had more than 2,500 students in my soil science classroom. Over my teaching career, I have taught introductory biology, introduction to animal science, introduction to soil science, soil fertility, soil conservation, soil genesis, and the senior capstone. Currently I teach a general education course titled Soils and Civilizations (240 students each fall and spring semester) and Soil Fertility (fall semester, 30 students).

My current research is on real-time carbon sequestration based upon land use practices. My team has four research instruments in Zimbabwe and two on a farm in Ohio where we use contrasting tillage practices to evaluate impacts on soil and soil carbon. The research uses micro meteorology to make measurements in the crop canopy and just above it. My team just finished up two USAID projects in Lesotho, Mozambique, and Ethiopia that provided data that impact the livelihoods of the 1 billion people on our planet who go to bed hungry each night. These results are finding their way into the literature; it is not uncommon to find farmers that farm an area less than the size of a football field that now can feed their family due to the work that has come out of these projects. With appropriate seed selection, good agronomic practices, taking care of their soils, and judicious use of fertilizer yields on farmers’ fields are five to tenfold greater. This work has been extremely satisfying and made an impact.

How long have you been with UTIA?

I have been with UT fifteen years, three as the Extension environmental soils specialist and twelve years with a research/teaching appointment.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part is that I love to come to work every day! UT allows faculty to develop their research and teaching programs within broad guidelines. The work of my team impacts not only the citizens of our great state of Tennessee but also the people in need across the planet. UT allows me to try to make a difference, to make an impact through knowledge creation and sharing. I think that is pretty cool.


Animal-assisted Therapy Program
Holds Meeting for Potential Volunteers



A free informational meeting for those interested in becoming volunteers with Human Animal Bond in Tennessee (H.A.B.I.T.), an animal-assisted therapy program, will be held at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine Saturday, September 26, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for registration.

H.A.B.I.T. is a nonprofit group of volunteers working together to promote the bond between people and animals. As a program of the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, H.A.B.I.T. sponsors animal-assisted therapy programs for all ages in a variety of settings such as nursing and retirement homes, assisted living centers, hospitals, physical rehabilitation centers, and area schools. Read a Knoxville News Sentinel article about how a H.A.B.I.T. dog helped de-stress returning students. More about the volunteer session.



To help pet owners celebrate the lives of their companion animals, living and dead, Veterinary Social Work is offering its ninth annual Pet Memorial Day, Sunday, September 13. The free event allows people to reflect on the impact pets have on their lives. Call 865-755-8839 or email vetsocialwork@utk.edu for more information. Please RSVP by Thursday, September 10.



The Fall Gardeners' Festival just keeps growing. Last year's event attracted more than 800 gardening enthusiasts, and organizers expect the crowd this year to exceed 1,000. This is the seventh year for the festival, which will be held Tuesday, August 25, at the Plateau AgResearch and Education Center in Crossville. More ...



Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction is a course used to teach mindfulness practice techniques for the alleviation of accumulated daily stress; chronic pain; anxiety; high blood pressure; depression; and many other conditions exacerbated by stress. Veterinary Social Work is offering a fall program in MBSR. More ...


A Tiger a Week



Tiger surgeries at the UT Veterinary Medical Center are surprisingly common. Dr. Ed Ramsay says exotic specialists with the Center operate on a tiger a week. But when the cat has teeth this big, the procedures are anything but routine. Watch a WVLT news story about one recent surgery and see Ramsay and his team in action.

Common Ground is published monthly by the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture. Send comments and suggestions to commonground@tennessee.edu. The University of Tennessee is an EEO/AA/Title VI/Title IX/Section 504/ADA/ADEA institution in the provision of its education and employment programs and services. All qualified applicants will receive equal consideration for employment without regard to race, color, national origin, religion, sex, pregnancy, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, physical or mental disability, or covered veteran status.


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