In this edition
- Research aims to increase crop drought tolerance using biotechnology
- Nevada’s Chris Pritsos takes on national leadership position of Experiment Stations
- Extension Director search process begins
- Nevada celebrates National 4-H Week October 3-9
- Rangeland scientist researching solutions to land management challenges in Nevada
- Extension provides free bilingual virtual resources for small business owners
About our College
A founding college of the University, we have a long tradition of excellence in teaching, research and engagement programs that benefit the health and economic vitality of Nevada. We offer programs in:
- agriculture, horticulture, rangeland and veterinary sciences
- biochemistry and molecular biology
- children, youth and families
- community and economic development
- health and nutrition
- natural resources and environmental science
Research aims to increase crop drought tolerance using biotechnology
Professor awarded $1.55 million grant to improve water-use efficiency in plants
Professor John Cushman is researching ways to improve drought tolerance and water-use efficiency in crops by using traits from certain plants such as cactus. Photo by David Calvert.
As droughts are becoming more frequent and severe and crop productivity is declining at an accelerated rate, Foundation Professor John Cushman and Assistant Professor Won Yim, both from our Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, and Assistant Professor Sung Lim at Sangji University, South Korea are working to create drought-tolerant crops to aid global food production.
The team, as part of our Experiment Station unit, is conducting work on a synthetic biology approach to allow the transfer of drought-tolerant traits, including an alternative form of photosynthesis and biotechnology-increased tissue succulence, from certain plants to major crops.
They are looking to test both traits alone and in combination in soybean. The combination, when applied to soybean, should improve productivity, water-use efficiency and drought- and salinity-tolerance under hotter and drier environments.
Other goals of this work include:
- Training and diversifying the future scientific workforce by training graduate students and postdoctoral scholars in University biotechnology labs, with a special emphasis on recruiting and training historically underrepresented groups.
- Improve future scientists’ ability to communicate complex scientific discoveries and biotechnology solutions to the public by developing a new course on science communication with the University’s Reynold’s School of Journalism.
- Showcasing the societal benefit of creating more climate-resilient crops by creating a series of outreach videos discussing the importance of this work.
Innovating food production despite climate change
“We’re going to be seeing a lot more drought and increased heat due to climate change, but we can address these production barriers through basic biotechnology innovation. This project is a great example of what synthetic biology can offer.” -Foundation Professor John Cushman
College's Chris Pritsos takes on national leadership position of Experiment Stations
Director of the University's Experiment Station named chair of the national Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy
Chris Pritsos (left) received the gavel as the new chair of the Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy at the annual meeting held this year at Palisades Tahoe. Photo by Robert Moore.
Chris Pritsos, director of our College’s Experiment Station unit, is now the chair of the national Experiment Station Committee on Organization and Policy (ESCOP) and will be providing support to Experiment Station directors across the country. As chair, Pritsos has proposed a set of initiatives that he plans to focus on, including:
- Assessing how agriculture is being affected by and affects climate change, and what can be done to continue to produce food to feed the world in these changing conditions.
- Studying the impact of fire and drought on agriculture and natural resources.
ESCOP is the governing body of the Experiment Station Section and makes recommendations on budgets and policy to federal agencies and lawmakers related to food, agriculture, and natural resources on behalf of the state agricultural Experiment Station directors and administrators. Pritsos will help ESCOP to ensure Experiment Stations across the country have the support needed to conduct work and research.
Pritsos hosted the National Experiment Station Section Annual Meeting last month on Disruptive Innovation at Palisades Tahoe. He became director of our Experiment Station in 2016. Our Experiment Station maintains a network of field stations, laboratories, and ranches throughout the state, where research is conducted on issues important to the entire state, and the country.
Leading Experiment Station work and research nationwide
“This position goes hand in hand with my work in the College. ESCOP works on the budget and policy issues at the federal level that directly impact all state Experiment Stations across the U.S. and its territories, and I’m excited to keep being a part of that.” -Director of Experiment Station Chris Pritsos
Extension Director search process begins
Interim Director appointed, committee being formed, search firm hired
Shannon Horrillo has been appointed Interim Associate Dean for Engagement and Director of Extension after serving as Associate Director of Extension for the past two years.
Professor and State Specialist Teresa Byington will chair the search committee for the director's position.
The search committee composition will include elected Extension academic and administrative faculty members and classified staff, as well as county commissioners and community stakeholders, as consistent with Extension bylaws. The chair of Extension’s Advisory Council and the Executive Director of the Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) will also serve on the committee.
Elections are underway for Extension committee members in the following categories, facilitated by the search coordinator and Executive Assistant Denise Haynie:
- Faculty – northern area (academic or administrative)
- Faculty – southern area (academic or administrative)
- Faculty – campus/joint appointment (academic or administrative)
- Faculty – rural area (academic or administrative)
- Classified staff – northern area
- Classified staff – southern area
Additionally, the recruiting firm Academic Search has been hired, and faculty, staff and stakeholders will be invited in the near future to participate in a listening session to share feedback on priorities for the next Director of Extension/Associate Dean for Engagement.
Ensuring Extension's future
"I am pleased Dr. Shannon Horrillo will serve as interim associate dean for engagement and director of Extension. Dr. Horrillo’s experience, knowledge of land-grant universities, and reputation for meticulous organization and follow-up will serve the organization well during this transition." -Dean Bill Payne
Nevada celebrates National 4-H Week October 3-9
Extension working to reach youth with educational and civic programs, seeking additional volunteers
Besides STEM and other learning activities, 4-H incorporates physical activities into many of their camps and programs to encourage healthy living and teach teamwork. Photo by Robert Moore.
Extension and its 4-H Youth Development Program are celebrating the accomplishments of 4-H youth and the many positive youth development opportunities offered by 4-H during National 4-H Week, Oct. 3-9. In Nevada, 4-H provides programs statewide that aim to develop citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills in youth through experiential learning.
Research shows that 4-H youth are four times more likely to contribute to their communities, and two times as likely to plan to go to college and pursue STEM opportunities outside of school. They also report better grades, higher levels of academic competence, and an elevated level of engagement at school.
A call for more 4-H volunteers
But, in order to reach more youth in Nevada with 4-H programs, more volunteers are needed. Serving as a club leader or helping with 4-H programs in other ways can be a very rewarding experience.
Nevada 4-H Volunteer Joni Test said, “Being a 4-H leader has given me the opportunity to help youth grow and develop, and it’s amazing to see it happen.”
Celebrating 4-H’s positive impacts
Just one of many 4-H alumni now in leadership positions includes the University’s current president and former Nevada governor, Brian Sandoval, who participated in 4-H in Nevada as a youth.
Join Nevada 4-H youth, their families, and volunteers in celebrating National 4-H Week by participating in the annual 4-H STEM Challenge. This year’s challenge focuses on the mysteries and adventures of space exploration and is offered throughout October.
Developing Nevada's future leaders
“We’re reaching about 65,000 youth with our 4-H programs here in Nevada each year. Doing so benefits not only the youth participants, but also our society as a whole, by helping to develop more true leaders prepared and engaged to take on critical challenges facing families, communities and businesses today.” -Nevada 4-H Director Carrie Stark
Rangeland scientist researching solutions to land management challenges in Nevada
Amanda Gearhart joins the University’s Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences
Amanda Gearhart has joined the College as an assistant professor, focusing her research and teaching on restoring Nevada rangelands.
As a part of the College’s Experiment Station unit, and building on some past research done by the University, Gearhart is conducting a research project in Washoe Valley using sheep to reduce weeds on land acquired by the Bureau of Land Management. Since this area is overgrown with various weed species, Gearhart is hoping introducing sheep to the area will control the weed growth while avoiding overgrazing. During this project, she also wants to focus on genetic components, such as looking at which sheep are eating certain weeds and why, to gather data for future weed control in the valley.
In addition to research, Gearhart is also preparing to teach two courses in the Department of Agriculture, Veterinary & Rangeland Sciences, which will include a restoration ecology course. These courses will give Gearhart the chance to share her knowledge of conducting rangeland assessment and monitoring with students.
Gearhart is also hoping to conduct research on ricegrass restoration by looking at seed coatings. Her goal is to help Indian ricegrass, a native grass that is notoriously difficult to germinate and establish, grow to provide food for wildlife and range livestock.
Solving big problems for Nevada
“I really enjoyed the work I was doing with wild horses and burros, but I wanted to focus more on the research and teaching aspects of the job. I’m excited to be at the University to conduct some research that will help solve big land management problems in Nevada.” -Assistant Professor Amanda Gearhart
Extension provides free bilingual virtual resources for small business owners
Small Business Education Program meets the needs of Nevada businesses
Extension recently launched a virtual classroom to deliver free learning resources to current and future small business owners in Nevada to provide information on fundamental business concepts. The virtual classroom, which is part of Extension’s Small Business Education Program, includes a fully stocked digital library of educational video content and is available in both English and Spanish.
The virtual classroom library, which is all video-based learning, includes full-length classes, as well as shorter videos that explain particular topics relevant to small businesses. The content of each video falls into one of five categories or “pillars,” which include finance, marketing, operations, management and startup.
Currently, there are more than 100 videos housed within the virtual classroom library, with more planned for the future. Small business owners will find full-length videos developed from classes, as well as quick tips and how-tos that explain a singular topic, allowing users to select content that is convenient for the time that they have available.
Making education accessible to small business owners
“We believe that education should be accessible to all small businesses at all times, and, by teaching in both English and Spanish, small business owners can benefit from educational opportunities and awareness of all the business network resources at any stage of development.” -Associate Professor Buddy Borden
Innovating for Nevada
Our programs work together to make an impact
Our teaching, research and engagement programs are intertwined and complement one another. Faculty who teach on campus also conduct research as part of our Experiment Station, allowing students to learn about and participate in research. Extension faculty engaging with communities identify research needs, as well as join Experiment Station faculty to conduct research. Faculty on campus help to develop Extension programs in communities.
Want to help innovate for Nevada?
Consider making a contribution in support of classroom, lab or office space; graduate assistantships; student scholarships; or upgrades to Nevada 4-H Camp. To learn more, please contact Executive Director of Development Zack Madonick.