‘Dairy Challenge’ Offers More than Competition

There’s no better place than America’s Dairyland for a dairy farm management competition that helps undergraduates learn firsthand about the industry.

The Badger Dairy Challenge, hosted by the Department of Dairy Science, brings teams of four or five students together to analyze real farm records, cow management data, and nutritional information. After a site visit, the teams then develop suggestions for improvement and present them to a panel of industry professionals. The challenge was last held in fall 2015 in partnership with the University of Minnesota and will make its return to campus later this year.

After seeing the benefits of the North American Intercollegiate Dairy Challenge for many years, faculty associate Ted Halbach established the Badger Dairy Challenge in 2012 to give a broader range of students an early opportunity to immerse themselves in the field.

“The idea is for beginning-level dairy science students to get involved,” Halbach says. “Students starting their education in dairy management have an opportunity to be mentored in the Badger Dairy Challenge, and it’s less about competition and more about experience and learning.”

Senior dairy science major Anthony Schmitz BSx’18 competed in his sophomore year and is hoping to gain a spot on the national team this year. “You have to work your way up and try out,” Schmitz says. “It’s competitive, actually, because a lot of students are interested in it, and it’s a good way to use the skills and the knowledge that we have learned in the classroom in a practical, real-life situation.”

While there are similar programs at schools across the country, as well as regional and national dairy challenges, Halbach believes that Wisconsin is best positioned to provide a positive impact on the careers of these students.

“Within a half-hour [drive from campus], we have multiple farms that we can call on that are different than [those that participated] a year ago,” Halbach says. “There aren’t many schools that have that resource, so we’re very fortunate for the willingness of those farms to participate.”

Halbach puts a lot of work into it, but it takes more than human resources to sustain the program. The challenge receives funding from a mix of dairy organizations and CALS alumni. For example, an annual golf outing raises between $25,000 and $30,000 each year for scholarships and high-impact learning opportunities.

“Our alums have either financially supported the program or they’re very willing to contribute their time to serve as officials or mentors for the students during the events, which is every bit as valuable,” Halbach says.

There are also incentives for people in the dairy industry to be involved in the competition. According to Schmitz, the program provides a convenient opportunity for employers to make connections with potential hires, and vice versa.

“It’s a great way to get your name out there because the contests are officiated by industry professionals, so it’s a really good way for you to make an impression on that kind of person,” Schmitz says. “Most of the students competing have already been locked in by somebody because they are sought-after talent.”

You can support the Badger Dairy Challenge with a gift to the Dairy Science Department Fund. (NOTE: Please add “support for Dairy Challenge” in the text field.) Or contact Development Director Jodi Wickham at jodi.wickham@supportuw.org or (608) 308-5315.

Give: Cultivating Student Success at Allen Centennial Garden

Allen Centennial Garden may be one of the most beautiful places on the UW–Madison campus, but it’s also becoming one of its most comprehensive classrooms.

Dedicated in 1989, Allen Garden (as it’s known informally) replaced the former instructional gardens attached to the Plant Sciences Building, which were removed in 1979 to make room for a facility expansion. Located just one block to the north, Allen Garden has served as a living laboratory ever since its debut. But recently, students have become more involved in its operation through a growing internship program initiated by director Benjamin Futa.

Futa became director of Allen Centennial Garden in 2015 and quickly developed a strategic plan to strengthen engagement between the garden and campus life. He focused on developing a dynamic internship program based on co-ownership, initiative, and responsibility.

“We give our interns the title of student directors to represent how instrumental they are to the garden’s success,” Futa says. “They’re deeply involved with everything we do here.”

Will Olson’s duties as an intern at Allen Centennial Garden include beekeeping. (Photo by Nik Hawkins)

Just two years later, his vision has come to life. Allen Garden now employs six interns and a growing professional staff. Students’ majors range from landscape architecture and horticulture to sociology and art, and how they apply their academics to the garden is limited only by their imaginations.

“If any student approaches me with an interest or idea that is even in the realm of possibility, we try to make it happen,” Futa says.

This inclusive mentality has led to the implementation of art installations, beehives, and public events, including the “Best. Friday. Ever.” events in summer 2017. It also assures student directors will graduate with a well-rounded skill set. Peter Hauser, a current student director of horticulture, envisions a career in plant research and appreciates the doors that the garden has opened for him in the last two years.

“It has given me the proper prerequisites to explore vast opportunities not only in horticulture, but also in botany, agriculture, and agronomy,” Hauser says.

Regardless of their titles, all students maintain a portion of the garden and take part in incredible field trips that focus on hands-on learning, networking, and professional development.

These internship experiences would be impossible without the generosity of others, Futa notes. “Beyond day-to-day work in the garden and the salary support it requires, private gifts allow us to support students’ pursuit of their own interests through independent projects and field trips. These experiences are curated to provide meaningful, authentic, and empowering learning experiences for our students.”

Would you like to help provide internship opportunities for students? You can make a gift to the Allen Centennial Garden Community Fund.

Into the Woods with FWE

Regal hemlocks tower overhead, fragile ferns blanket the forest floors and ribbons of sunlight break through the canopy. That may sound like paradise, but for CALS forest and wildlife ecology students, it’s a school day—with the forest as a classroom.

Every summer the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology offers students a weeks-long opportunity to learn among the trees at the CALS-based Kemp Natural Resource Station in Woodruff. In odd-numbered years, a field camp focuses on wildlife ecology. And in even years students can participate in a Forest Resources Practicum, affectionately known as “Forestry Camp.” The three-week course allows young foresters to see what a career in forestry entails while learning essential skills from forestry professionals.

Last summer’s Forestry Camp followed the established tradition. The class is divided into teams of four, and each is assigned a “compartment,” a 200-acre tract of rich woodland in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest. Throughout the course, teams learn all about their plot—essentially, forest ecosystem structure, function, processes and services—by surveying the vegetation, soil, animals and, of course, the trees.

Along the way students develop the knowledge to conduct a comprehensive forest resource assessment. Subject areas include basic field skills, plant identification, GPS & GIS, timber cruising, forest soils, wildlife identification and survey methods and forest habitat classification.

Instructors guide students as they work, visiting individual teams in the woods.

“Field visits often take an hour or two because they become deeper conversations about the history of the forests and the various components of the ecosystem,” says professor Volker Radeloff. “Camp days end up being long days!”

All of that work pays off with invaluable experience and a slew of lifelong memories. Student John Joutras recalls the day he and his team got stuck in the middle of the forest during a rainstorm.

“One of my teammates said, ‘You know you’re a real forester when you’re bushwhacking through the woods in the pouring rain.’ Sure, that might sound kind of miserable, but it was actually really fun,” says Joutras.

Hiking from dawn to dusk would feel like a full day to most, but students refused to stop there. After dinner, activities continued with canoeing, campfires and even more hiking.

During the final week, students summarized their results and conducted a final project based on their own and other teams’ data. But the true value of the course can’t be quantified through a final project or grade, students say. Rather, forestry camp motivates students and fuels their passion for the outdoors while they build lasting relationships with instructors and, of course, each other.

“The real challenge isn’t any individual part but finding a way to tackle it all as a team,” says Joutras. “I found that invaluable.”

-Gilliane Davison

Interested in supporting this program? You can make a gift to the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology Field Camps and Experiences Fund.

Daughters of Demeter Celebrate 100

In Greek mythology, Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and agriculture, presiding over the fertility of the earth. And in that spirit, members of a century-old nonprofit called Daughters of Demeter perform community service and award scholarships and grants to CALS students to ensure that agriculture and the college remain strong.

Daughters of Demeter was formed in 1917 by a group of women whose spouses were on CALS faculty. Since then, the organization has expanded membership to welcome all faculty, staff and friends of the college and recently invited its first male member. The group now has some 120 members and hopes to increase membership during its centennial year.

A Daughters of Demeter loan fund was established in 1944 with a $25 gift; soon after, the group established a scholarship fund. Student scholarship support has grown over the years, and, in the last decade, the organization has awarded more than $300,000 in scholarships and grants to CALS students and student organizations.

“The Daughters of Demeter are consistently one of the most generous annual donors to CALS scholarship funds, and a subgroup has sewn thousands of hats and scarves annually donated to University of Wisconsin cancer patients,” notes Daughters of Demeter president Liz Henry BS’83, an emeritus CALS academic staff member.

But there’s no pressure for members to participate in all activities, notes Henry: “Members can join and be as involved as they choose and are not held to any more or less involvement than they are comfortable with.”

Janice Martin has been a member since 1983, became president in 1988 and has since chaired numerous committees, including the Annual Corn Roast Committee. She currently chairs a bulb-planting committee that plants more than 1,500 bulbs at Allen Centennial Garden each fall.

“I find the friendship and camaraderie in this organization, from working on committees to sewing cancer scarves once a month, to be a very important part of my life while serving UW–Madison,” says Martin, whose husband, A. Jeff Martin, is an emeritus professor of forest and wildlife ecology. “These members are a dedicated group, very generous in giving to our scholarships and grants, very dependable and willing to help when needed to provide the students in CALS with funds to continue their education. We also have a good time!”

Centennial events this spring include the Annual Meeting and Spring Luncheon on Wednesday, April 12 at Blackhawk Country Club (featuring CALS emeritus biochemistry professor David Nelson speaking on CALS history) and a Centennial Gala on Thursday, May 18 at Allen Centennial Garden. You can find more information about upcoming events on the group’s Facebook page.

To donate to Daughters of Demeter, visit http://supportuw.org/giveto/demeter

Give: A Light, Airy Space for Soil Science

“Soil is the hidden, secret friend, which is the root domain of lively darkness and silence.”
—Francis D. Hole (d. 2002), CALS professor of soil science

Francis D. Hole’s poetic description of soil rings true. But those who study soil also need friends who are neither “hidden” nor “secret”—and they also need to break the silence.

“Science is both a solitary and a social activity,” notes soil science professor and former department chair Bill Bland. “The social side of this is both formal, through meetings and publications, and informal—casual discussions in which ideas are gently improved and new understandings emerge serendipitously.”

The Soils and King Hall buildings, the home of soil science at CALS, are both cherished and historic, but they were designed nearly a century before architects understood how workspaces can foster such crucial interaction.

Plans are under way now to address that need by creating a light-infused space where soil science faculty, staff, graduate students and their collaborators can interact informally in a relaxed and pleasing environment.

The Jackson–Tanner Commons, as it is called—named after Marion Jackson and Champ Tanner, the first two soil science faculty members at CALS to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences—will be located in room 360 of the Soils Building. The room sits at the northeast corner of Soils, with views of the Lakeshore dorms and Lake Mendota to the north and the savannah and Elizabeth Waters dorm to the east, through five large windows. The room reveals wonderful architectural details of the Soils Building with its gabled ceiling and exposed steel column (see illustration of the planned renovated space).

Renovating the space will include removing two interior partitions, constructing a kitchenette area with running water and covering exposed electrical conduits. Furnishings, lighting, painting and carpet—and, possibly, the installation of air conditioning—will complete the job.

Faculty and staff are already envisioning how the presence of the Jackson–Tanner Commons will enhance their work.

“The informal setting of the Commons will create a space for conversations, creativity and community building,” says soil science professor and department chair Alfred Hartemink.

To contribute to the project, please visit http://supportuw.org/giveto/Jackson-TannerCommons or contact development director Jodi Wickham at (608) 308-5315, jodi.wickham@supportuw.org.

IMAGE: Illustration of Jackson-Tanner Commons, now in planning.

Give: Hands-On Fieldwork

Before last summer, Vera Swanson’s only exposure to plant sciences had been through classes in introductory biology. That changed big-time when Swanson, a junior majoring in environmental sciences and Russian, signed on to intern at the CALS-based Arlington Agricultural Research Station as a crop scout.

Crop scouts are used in agricultural management to diagnose stress factors in a field—such elements as potentially negative soil and climate conditions, the presence of pests, and threatened crop performance—and determine which management practices are appropriate for the goals of a specific plot. As part of her training, Swanson spent copious hours learning to identify weeds by walking through the fields and the Weed Garden, which displays dozens of invasive plants accompanied by their names.

Swanson paired her internship, which was run through the Department of Agronomy, with an independent research project involving biofuel crops being tested at Arlington. For that work Swanson drew on her growing knowledge of weeds to test the effect of three biofuel crop systems—native prairie, switchgrass and continuous corn—on the soil’s weed seed bank, or the viable seeds present in the soil and its surface. The project involved working one-on-one with research scientists in Randy Jackson’s grassland ecology lab. Jackson is running the crop trials through his affiliation with the UW’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center, housed in the Wisconsin Energy Institute.

The intense focus on plants got Swanson thinking a lot more about soil. “It is such a finite resource, yet so much of what we depend on comes from it—our food, clothing and the materials that we build with,” says Swanson.

It also got her more interested in food systems, to the point where she chose to make horticulture a disciplinary focus within her major and a possible new career direction. “I’d love to work for an organization where I would be able to complement my interests in agriculture, development and language within a global context,” she says.

Swanson’s path exemplifies the power of “beyond classroom” experiences to dramatically shape, and in many cases transform, a student’s education and career goals. These experiences—which include internships, research projects, study abroad, honors thesis stipends, field courses and more—are the hallmark of a CALS education.

“They’re a big part of what makes CALS CALS—and they offer our students a major advantage in both their personal and professional development,” says Sarah Pfatteicher, the college’s associate dean for academic affairs. “Our goal is to ensure that each student can participate in at least four of these important opportunities.”

To help support the CALS Student Experience Fund, visit: http://go.wisc.edu/student-experience

Science for Citizens

Entomology professors Walter Goodman and David Hogg

Entomology professors Walter Goodman and David Hogg

CALS is acclaimed as one of the best schools in the nation for training top-notch researchers and practitioners. Less known is the fact that CALS offers challenging, creative courses to undergraduates from outside of the natural sciences as well—in keeping with the college’s mission to cultivate science literacy as a vital component of good citizenship. For many students, these classes may be their only exposure to college-level science.

Two classes exemplifying that mission are Entomology 201—“Insects and Human Culture” —and Plant Pathology 123, “Plants, Parasites and People.” Both are highly popular classes that use insects and plants as ways to connect students with essential information about the natural world.

“It offers a window to science as it relates to their everyday lives,” says plant pathology professor Mehdi Kabbage.

“This is really biology with insects on top of it,” says entomology professor Walter Goodman, who’s been teaching Ent 201 for more than 20 years. “We use insects as a vehicle for describing biology and looking at the practical aspects of biology, like agricultural entomology as well as medical entomology.”

Both classes engage students in a range of hands-on activities. In Entmology 201, students take home the tiny eggs of a tobacco hornworm, or Manduca sexta, and over a period of two months raise it to maturation, keeping a daily logbook in which they describe its metamorphosis from fat turquoise caterpillar to large brown moth. In Plant Pathology 123, each student is given a “mystery microbe” in a petri dish—a Pseudomonas aureofaciens bacterium, for example, or a Fusarium oxysporum fungus—and devise various experiments to determine which microbe they have.

The students are having fun—but they’re also sharpening their observational skills and learning about the scientific process as well as how to make and critique a scientific argument. Their engagement with science often has deep and far-reaching consequences.

Education major Tess Bashaw signed up for Entomology 201 simply to fulfill her science requirement— and instead, “It opened up so many roads to me,” she says. In addition to gaining new skills and information—“learning how to catch and pin insects, how to collect leeches in floods, how camouflage really works”—the course made her grow as a writer, she says.

The lessons stuck. And as a teacher of lowincome children, she’s been sharing those lessons in her classroom for the past decade. “I love teaching writing, and science is a favorite of mine,” Bashaw says.

Given the important mission and high student demand for this signature style of science education, CALS would like to expand offerings to more departments and more students.

To learn more about supporting those efforts, please contact Sarah Pfatteicher, CALS’ associate dean for academic affairs, at sarah.pfatteicher@wisc.edu, tel. (608) 262-3003. To make a gift, please visit supportuw.org/giveto/calssignature.

Give: Pay It Forward

Growing up on a family dairy farm didn’t allow much time for slacking off, recalls Jennifer Holle.

“Since I’ve been able to carry a small bucket, I’ve been out in the barn helping with chores,” says Holle, who comes from Baldwin, a small town near River Falls. “Between feeding and caring for calves, milking cows and assisting the vet, I learned the value of a hard day’s work.”

Holle brought that work ethic from the farm to CALS, where she’s majoring in dairy science. She plans to start veterinary school in Madison this fall.

Besides hard work, another key to Holle’s success has been crucial financial assistance. Holle is a two-time recipient of a Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarship, a program that CALS set up in 2009 specifically for young people like her—promising students whose financial circumstances pose a barrier to education. So far CALS has awarded 34 such scholarships totaling $56,000—assistance made possible by CALS alumni who contribute to the program.

Wisconsin’s rural young people need that help. Rural per capita income is 20 percent less than in metropolitan areas, and 40 percent of CALS students demonstrate significant financial need. Rising tuition costs make their distress even more acute.

Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships make a difference. “Before receiving the scholarship I was working almost 30 hours a week while going to school full time. This ultimately led to spending less time on school,” says Jacob Salzman, a recent landscape architecture graduate from Fall River. Getting the scholarship in his senior year allowed him to focus on studies and projects that helped him land a job upon graduating.

But it’s not just the kids who benefit. In the long run, educating rural youth can have a profound effect on their home communities. “I already have committed myself to a career in food animal veterinary medicine here on Wisconsin’s dairy farms while being involved in and committed to the dairy industry,” says Holle.

In other words, Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships aren’t just cash awards—they’re an investment in Wisconsin’s future.

The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational and research activities of CALS. To help support Wisconsin Rural Youth Scholarships, visit: http://www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=8105

Give: A Very Dairy Future

“I hope to pursue a career as a dairy geneticist or research the human genome,” says Bethany Dado, 17, of Amery, who plans to double major in dairy science and genetics. And at the Wisconsin Junior State Fair in August, the high school senior won a statewide award to help her achieve those goals.

While 15 young people received the James W. Crowley State 4-H Dairy Leadership Award for their outstanding dairy projects, Dado was one of only two top winners—along with Morgan Behnke, of New Glarus—to also receive a $500 scholarship toward her dairy education.

“It’s really a privilege to interview these young people who all wear their passion for the dairy industry on their sleeves,” says award judge Ted Halbach, director of CALS’ Farm and Industry Short Course. “Doc Crowley would be pleased with the leadership skills these young people have demonstrated both in school and with their 4-H project.”

The award program is offered in memory of James W. Crowley, a longtime UW–Extension dairy specialist and a strong supporter of youth in dairy. In addition to the awards, the James W. Crowley Dairy Management and Extension Fund supports a robust summer internship program offering outstanding UW–Madison students a chance to work under the supervision of UW–Extension agents. Nearly two dozen students have benefited from this experience over the past 11 years.

Recipients of Crowley awards or internships often go on to become leaders in the dairy industry. Dado describes her award experience as highly motivating.

“Although I always try to do my best during my dairy activities, the Crowley award did motivate me to take it to the next level,” she says.

“It was always in the back of my mind as I served as a leader in 4-H activities.”

The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational and research activities of CALS. To help support the James W. Crowley Dairy Management and Extension Fund, visit: http://www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=13137

Creepy Crawlers

Just ask Erinn Powell, who has introduced dozens of them to squealing schoolchildren as an Insect Ambassador. The CALS entomology program sends undergrads and graduate students on show-and-tell missions to area schools, clubs and organizations to teach audiences about where insects live, how they survive and the positive things they do for our environment.
The encounters are transformational, says Powell—especially when it comes to scary-looking creatures like the cockroaches. “I love the moment when at first a child is stiffly holding the cockroach with her eyes closed,” she says, “and then suddenly she loosens up and smiles when she realizes that its exoskeleton is really very smooth and interesting to look at. Her friends gather around and they take turns petting the cockroach.”
Other favorites include Goliath and Hercules beetles, walking sticks, butterflies and hornworms. All insects are reared in the lab, ensuring cleanliness, and none can sting, bite or transmit disease. Private gifts help the Ambassadors maintain the insects and pay for supplies.
The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational activities of the college. To help support the Charles F. and Patricia R. Koval Insect Ambassadors Program and programs like it, visit www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=2410

Nothing perks up a classroom like the presence of a Madagascar hissing cockroach.Just ask Erinn Powell, who has introduced dozens of them to squealing schoolchildren as an Insect Ambassador. The CALS entomology program sends undergrads and graduate students on show-and-tell missions to area schools, clubs and organizations to teach audiences about where insects live, how they survive and the positive things they do for our environment.The encounters are transformational, says Powell—especially when it comes to scary-looking creatures like the cockroaches. “I love the moment when at first a child is stiffly holding the cockroach with her eyes closed,” she says, “and then suddenly she loosens up and smiles when she realizes that its exoskeleton is really very smooth and interesting to look at. Her friends gather around and they take turns petting the cockroach.”Other favorites include Goliath and Hercules beetles, walking sticks, butterflies and hornworms. All insects are reared in the lab, ensuring cleanliness, and none can sting, bite or transmit disease. Private gifts help the Ambassadors maintain the insects and pay for supplies. The UW Foundation maintains more than 6,000 gift funds that provide critical resources for the educational activities of the college. To help support the Charles F. and Patricia R. Koval Insect Ambassadors Program and programs like it, visit www.supportuw.org/giving?seq=2410