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

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Breakthrough research increases drought tolerance in vital crops

Foundation Professor John Cushman awarded two patents for biotechnology research

Hannah Alfaro

John Cushman surrounded by cacti.
Professor John Cushman and his team were awarded two patents for their work on improving drought tolerance and water-use efficiency in crops. Photo by David Calvert.

John Cushman, foundation professor with the College’s Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, has been awarded two patents for his research on improving drought tolerance and water-use efficiency of plants. This work, which showed a significant breakthrough in research for crop improvement, will help to preserve agricultural productivity during periods of intense heat or extended drought.

  • S. Patent 11,053,512 addresses the process of increasing tissue succulence in plants. Plants with high tissue succulence, such as the saguaro cactus, are more adapted to surviving in arid climates.
  • S. Patent 10,858,404, with Assistant Professor Won Cheol Yim, outlined a synthetic biology approach that allows the transfer of the drought-tolerant trait called crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) from desert-adapted plants to major crops.

Cushman and his team are testing both processes on soybean to improve productivity, water-use efficiency, and drought and salinity tolerance under hotter and drier environments. Once testing on soybean is complete, the engineering could potentially be used to target other vital crops, such as corn.

Improving vital crops

“We wanted to file these patents because we thought this could be important and applicable to a number of crop species. We chose to test this process on soybean because it’s a vital crop, and it suffers a lot of loss due to drought stress. We’re hoping we can eventually continue this work with other vital crops as well.” –Professor John Cushman


Southern Nevada water supply faces Colorado River restrictions

Creative strategies needed to address long-term shortages, say three University professors

Mike Wolterbeek

Lake Mead low water.
Lake Mead water levels are rivaling the low water levels as seen here in the climate.gov photo taken in 2014.

Southern Nevada will be getting at least 7% less water from the Colorado River, as the federal government restricts water allocations due to falling water supply. Scientists expect temperatures to continue to rise and water supply to decrease. Creative strategies and approaches will need to be applied to address the reduced supplies.

The West will need a variety of strategies to sustain this important resource

Steph McAfee, Geography and Extension

Drought on the Colorado River has been in the news. But, steadily dropping river flows and reservoir levels are not a surprise. Scientists have long warned that higher temperatures, especially if they coincide with a drought, could stress water supply and force us to be more thoughtful and creative in how we use and manage water.

To meet Nevada’s current and new water demands, we will need innovation in water policy and management, new technology and conservation strategies, and the research to support those changes.

Changes to water policy needed as time runs out

Elizabeth Koebele, Political Science, and
Max Robinson, Hydrologic Science

In a first-of-its-kind decision, the federal government declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, which provides 90% of southern Nevada’s water supply. Paired with expectations of a drier climate, these cuts have catalyzed a conversation about how the region’s water policies – and assumptions about future water availability – must be adapted.

University researchers are leading efforts to better understand how collaborative water sharing processes may provide insight into the renegotiation process and the development of long-term solutions.

Large-scale water reuse investments are key to the future

Kerri Jean Ormerod, Geography and Extension

Each Nevadan uses about 197 gallons of potable water per day (compared to the national average of 82 gallons per day). As drought threatens urban water supplies, there are two basic water management strategies: reduce demand and/or increase supplies. Reuse of reclaimed water or recycled water is becoming a more common supply-side solution to water scarcity.

University researchers are collaborating with local agencies to explore the feasibility of a potable water reuse project. This is just one of the creative ways that reclaimed water can augment urban water supplies.

Working diligently to support change

“Many scientists (myself included) have worked diligently to better understand how changes in climate affect water resources in the Southwest. As it warms, the overall amount of water available will drop and droughts will be worse. We will need innovation, technology and conservation strategies, and the research to support those changes.” –Extension Associate Professor Steph McAfee


University celebrates remodeled space for promoting nutrition knowledge and healthy living

Modernized lab increases future nutrition professionals' expertise, community impact

Ashley Andrews

A professor and students around a lab table with water activity of foods supplies, including cheese, fruit and crackers.
In the newly remodeled Nutritional Science Laboratory, students develop through experiential learning the food science expertise to make an impact in their fields.

The College unveiled its newly renovated Nutritional Science Laboratory this semester, a facility designed to develop future nutrition professionals' knowledge of our food systems and how nutrition can be used to prevent and help manage preventable chronic diseases. This is important because low food literacy is associated with diet-related chronic diseases, and preventable chronic disease continues to be Nevada’s leading cause of death.

“At least half of the typical American food budget is spent on food that's prepared away from home,” Nutrition Instructor Maureen Molini said. “The collateral damage is that we have less engagement with our food. We don't prepare it, much less understand where it comes from. Being in the lab helps our students get that exposure and learn about our food systems and about our food, itself.”

In the lab, students explore topics such as the scientific method; nutrition’s role in health, chronic-disease prevention, and fitness and sports; and issues impacting the food industry and public safety.

The facility features eight powered lab stations, as well as high-definition video monitors and improved climate control. The changes, led by Department of Nutrition Chair Jamie Benedict and built on work by Experiment Station Director Chris Pritsos, foster a hands-on and collaborative environment in which students engage with nutrition in an exciting and effective way.

Providing first-class experiences for future nutrition professionals

“The original Nutritional Science Laboratory project’s goal was to provide a first-class laboratory experience for students interested in learning about the science of nutrition. The current remodel takes the laboratory experience to the next level and allows us to continue to provide our students with state-of-the-art experiences.” - Experiment Station Director Chris Pritsos


University-grown meat and produce now available to those in need through on-campus food pantry

Pack Provisions partners with Wolf Pack Meats and Desert Farming Initiative to provide ground beef, fruits and vegetables year-round

Jessica Lozada

A bag full of fresh ground beef, greens and other food items sits on a table next to a bagged loaf of bread and two clementines and a stack of two packages of ground beef.
Pack Provisions provides perishable and nonperishable food items and additional resources to University community members experiencing food insecurity.

Members of the University community experiencing food insecurity can now access ground beef and produce through the University’s on-campus food pantry, Pack Provisions. The meat and produce is supplied by Wolf Pack Meats and Desert Farming Initiative, programs of the College’s Experiment Station unit.

Pack partnerships

The pantry began its new partnership with Wolf Pack Meats in January 2022. Located at the Main Station Field Lab in east Reno, Wolf Pack Meats provides U.S. Department of Agriculture-inspected harvesting and processing services to local farmers and maintains its own herd, which it uses to study ways to produce meat in greater quantities with higher quality. It offers students the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of meat technology while using the industry’s best machinery. The pantry currently purchases around 150 pounds of ground beef a month from Wolf Pack Meats.

Farm to food pantry

The pantry has been partnering with Desert Farming Initiative for three years. The Initiative, located at the University’s Valley Road Field Lab near campus, runs a commercial farm, including orchards, open fields, hoop houses and a greenhouse, and seeks to advance climate-smart farming and food sovereignty in the region through demonstration, education, research and outreach. The partnership between Pack Provisions and the Initiative is supported by grants and donations. The Initiative also sells fresh produce on-campus, with Pack Provisions providing other food items to create a dish.

Fighting food insecurity

“With the addition of fresh meat, it has expanded the opportunity for students to cook a balanced meal at home. It is hard for students to study and be successful in the classroom if they are hungry, so we are thankful for these partnerships to help fight food insecurity.” – Pack Provisions Coordinator Hanin Abboud Rodriguez


Extension hires personnel to help improve nutrition and health in Nevada

Positions aim to boost impacts of programs for SNAP-Ed recipients and others with low incomes

Molly Malloy

Macy Helm and Brian Luckey.
Macy Helm (left) serves as SNAP-Ed coordinator. Photo by James Guiry. Brian Luckey serves as SNAP-Ed evaluation coordinator. Photo by Robert Moore.

Extension recently named Macy Helm as SNAP-Ed coordinator and Brian Luckey as SNAP-Ed evaluation coordinator to assist in increasing the health and nutrition program’s impact throughout Nevada. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budgets of those with lower incomes to help improve their nutritional well-being. SNAP-Ed is the program's educational outreach to teach people how to:

  • Make their benefits stretch further
  • Shop for and cook healthy meals
  • Stay physically active

In Nevada, Extension conducts several SNAP-Ed evidenced-based educational and outreach programs. Together, Helm and Luckey are working to ensure the programming is comprehensive and achieving the goals of SNAP-Ed.

Helm coordinates statewide efforts

Helm oversees the administration of the SNAP-Ed grant award, coordinates statewide nutrition education, and helps to identify ways an organization can improve the health and nutrition of its participants. She also oversees the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, which brings hands-on nutrition education to low-income families.

Helm is working to:

  • Complete a needs assessment of Nevada's SNAP-eligible population with the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.
  • Develop a programming guide for agencies and nutrition education curriculum with Extension nutrition faculty in Clark County.

Luckey ensures effectiveness

In addition to working with Helm, Luckey works in collaboration with Extension Evaluation Specialist Najat Elgeberi to design, develop, implement and coordinate Nevada SNAP-Ed program needs assessments and evaluations.

The goal of his role is to learn more about how to improve Extension’s programming and to identify the programs’ successes.

Improving Nevadan's healthy eating and physical activity

“Together, we will be able to see how well we are doing and determine what needs to be done to continually improve healthy eating and physical activity for SNAP-eligible Nevadans.” - SNAP-Ed Coordinator Macy Helm


Upcoming events

An aerial view of Desert Farming Initiative showing fields in the foreground with Reno's skyline and mountains in the background.

Desert Farming Initiative Tours are available to anyone in the community interested in seeing the farm, learning about agricultural practices and food sovereignty, or meeting the crew:

Person holding soil in their hand.

Gardening in Small Places workshops are for southern Nevada gardeners:

Extension's botanic garden's yellow roses in bloom.

Heritage Park Community Garden Sessions are short educational talks followed by a question-and-answer session:

Man harvesting in Initiative hoop house.

Desert Farming Initiative Volunteer Days are opportunities for anyone in the community to join us on the farm to learn, lend a hand and connect:

Freshly harvested ears of corn.

Grow Your Own, Nevada! Series classes are for anyone in Nevada who wants to grow and preserve more of their own food:

  • April, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6-8 p.m.
  • Online via Zoom

Meeting community needs

“The classes, which vary by year according to the needs of the local community, offer the why’s and how’s from people who live, grow and harvest here.” -Master Gardener Coordinator Rachel McClure

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.

Researching critical issues Experiment Station faculty conduct research at experiment stations, labs and research facilities across the state, as well as teach classes and share and conduct research with students. The state-federal partnership tackles issues affecting Nevada's citizens, communities and economy.
student researcher with plants in greenhouse
Teaching University students We offer 17 undergraduate and graduate degrees to prepare students for high-paying, in-demand careers in agriculture, rangeland & veterinary sciences; biochemistry & molecular biology; natural resources & environmental science; and nutrition.
students taking notes in the field
Engaging Nevada communities Extension is engaged in Nevada communities, presenting research-based knowledge to address critical community needs. The county-state-federal partnership provides practical education to people, businesses and communities, fulfilling the University's land-grant mission.
parents with children