Fall 2011

Working Life

Francisco J. Arriaga PhD Soil Science

Arriaga is a research soil scientist with the USDA National Soil Dynamics Laboratory in Auburn, Alabama, where he works to develop row crop management systems that improve soil physical properties and overall soil quality. “The main goal is to increase organic matter content in the soil,” says Arriaga. Arriaga also is an affiliate assistant professor at Auburn University—his research interests include bioenergy crops—and serves as an associate editor with the Agronomy Journal and the Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. Arriaga, who grew up in Puerto Rico, comes to Wisconsin often to visit his in-laws. His wife, Julie Sue Studnicka Arriaga MS Soil Science, was raised on a dairy farm in Muscoda.

Nancy Bohl Bormann MS Soil Science

As an agronomist in Iowa with Maschhoff Environmental Inc., Bohl Bormann helps swine producers with manure management planning and environmental compliance. “I enjoy working with farmers, and the variety and challenges the position brings,” she says. In her spare time, Bohl Bormann is a farmer herself. She and her husband farm 1,100 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa hay along with raising and marketing about 1,500 hogs per year.

Jaslyn Dobrahner BS Soil Science and Agricultural Engineering, MS Soil Science

Among the satisfactions of Dobrahner’s job as a Denver-based environmental protection specialist with the EPA is seeing the results of her work firsthand—for example, she says, “Witnessing a school go from having many pest problems and using a lot of pesticides to having very few pest problems with little to no pesticide use—that is rewarding to see!” In addition to reducing chemical pesticide use in schools, Dobrahner has worked to protect farmworkers and endangered species from pesticide exposure.

Peter J. Huettle MS Soil Science PhD Soil Science

Huettl is a principal scientist/engineer with Applied Science, Inc., a Madison-based engineering consulting firm that primarily serves agribusinesses (clients include food, feed and fuel producers and processors). The company creates systems for the sustainable treatment and utilization of by-products associated with processing and specializes in soil treatment and cropland recovery of plant nutrients. “Our philosophy is to achieve maximum economic recovery and reuse of production residuals and minimize the mass or concentration of residuals that enter the atmosphere, groundwater or surface water,” says Huettl.

Michael D. Johnson MS Soil Science

Johnson is head of biological research and development for Syngenta Crop Protection, part of a global agribusiness company that markets seeds and pesticides. Johnson’s department designs and conducts the efficacy and crop safety field-testing of research and developmental products for Syngenta’s crop protection business in the U.S. “I enjoy being able to identify technical issues or opportunities facing Syngenta or our growers and then enable our talented team of field scientists to objectively break them into actionable pieces and address them,” says Johnson.

Terry Kurth BS Agronomy

“Turfgrass is the Rodney Dangerfield of the environment. It gets no respect,” Terry Kurth humorously observes. That said, Kurth has had a highly respectable career managing turfgrass, which he regards as a “simple environmental hero” for its properties as a soil pollutant sponge and filter of air impurities. He is currently the director of development for U.S. operations of Weed Man lawn care. Prior to that he spent decades building and expanding franchises of Barefoot Grass Lawn Service, which he operated in Wisconsin, Illinois, Kentucky and Texas before selling the business to TruGreen/Chemlawn. Kurth shows his dedication to quality research by partnering with the Wisconsin Landscape Federation to fund the Terry and Kathleen Kurth Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in Turfgrass Management.

Sabrina R. Mueller-Spitz BS Soil Science, MS Soil Science

Mueller-Spitz’s interest in soil led to a fascination with the microbial communities found there—and to a Ph.D. in microbiology. As a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Oshkosh, Mueller-Spitz imparts those interests to her students. “My favorite part of teaching is fostering wonder and providing a wider understanding of new topics in microbiology, environmental problems that threaten human health and understanding how epidemiology is used to assess and improve human health,” she says.

Donald W. Owens BS Soil Science, MS Soil Science

For 34 years Owens has headed Earth Dimensions, Inc., a soils and environmental consulting firm based in upstate New York. In one of his earliest projects, he conducted soil sampling at the Love Canal chemical waste dump that shed light on the seriousness of contamination there and helped lead to a national overhaul of sampling protocol at contaminated sites. Besides running his business, Owens is an avid traveler, often melding trips with his interest in soils. On a recent bird-watching tour in Antarctica he had hoped to get his first glimpse of gelisol (soils formed in permafrost), the only soil order that he has not yet seen, but that didn’t happen. “What a great excuse for a tour to the Arctic in the future!” he says.

Zachary Reineking BS Soil Science

Reineking is head superintendent and project manager at Erin Hills Golf Course in Hartford, which in August hosted the U.S. Amateur Championship—the first to be played in Wisconsin—and in 2017 will host the U.S. Open, an honor that marks the course’s “meteoric rise” in the golf world, noted the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Coordinating preparation with the U.S. Golf Association is part of Reineking’s job, along with overseeing a staff of 35 in all ground maintenance and construction projects (recently he coordinated and supervised a $4 million course renovation). “On a daily basis I am required to be an HR director, accountant, plant pathologist, entomologist and soil scientist. Not many fields can give you that variety,” Reineking says.

Matthew Repking MS Soil Science

Repking’s “office” is the sprawling 2,000-acre complex that comprises CALS’ Arlington Agricultural Research Station, where Repking works as assistant superintendent. As with the 11 other research stations, Arlington serves as an outdoor laboratory, classroom and community education center. Repking is responsible for nutrient management planning, soil fertility, crop rotations, crop production, assisting researchers and Wisconsin Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (WPDES) compliance. “My favorite part of the position is to see how things continually evolve and the wide variety of research that is performed at Arlington,” he says.

Amy Sausen BS Horticulture, Soil Science

As a landscape and environmental projects coordinator for the Bruce Company, a landscape company and garden center in Middleton, Sausen wears a few different hats. On the landscape side, she designs and coordinates the installation of mostly residential landscape projects. On the environmental side, she oversees the company’s organic product lines, which include rain garden design and construction and creating “living walls,” which she calls “a green alternative to conventional slope stabilization.” Sausen remains grateful that in her junior year she added a soil science degree to her degree in horticulture: “The extra knowledge I gained from learning about soil chemistry, soil physics and nutrition has been absolutely invaluable in my career,” she says.

Caroline van Schaik MS Soil Science

As a community-based food systems program organizer for the Minnesota nonprofit Land Stewardship Project, van Schaik catalyzes farmer initiatives related to buying and selling good food grown close to home, focusing on distribution and infrastructure. She coordinates events that encourage eaters to buy that food—as parents, school cooks, food service workers and chefs—and trains farmers to take better advantage of the national interest in buying from them. “My driver is land use fueled by a zeal for practical applications that work for ordinary people and the myriad of small- and mid-sized farmers who raise a lot of food we ought to be eating,” she says. In her free time, van Schaik and her family raise grass-fed sheep.

About the Dozen

These 12 alumni represent the depth and breadth of CALS graduates’ accomplishments. Selections for the list are made by the Grow staff and are intended to reflect a sample of alumni stories. It is not a ranking or a comprehensive list. To read more about CALS alumni, go to

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