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Meet graduate student Yayu Li

Yayu Li

Yayu Li

Yayu Li grew up in a small village in rural China. The school in her village closed in 2002 due to a declining population and lack of funding. With limited employment opportunities, many young people had left for jobs in cities. Having to travel to neighboring villages for school and living in a dorm by age 12 to attend middle school, Li realized the value of education.

In 2008, Li started college. Through scholarships and part-time jobs, she supported her studies and went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. Arriving at UConn in 2015, Li is now a PhD student in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She describes coming to UConn as the moment the “impossible became possible.” Here is what she said in an interview:

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I earned my bachelor’s degree from Huazhong Agriculture University, Wuhan, China.

What was your major?

My major was environmental science with an emphasis in soil science. I also completed a master’s degree program at Huazhong in environmental science.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I chose environmental science as my major because I love nature. As an undergraduate, I applied to a graduate research group and worked as a research assistant during my junior and senior years in order to learn more about the field. I had opportunities to do lab work with graduate students, attend academic seminars and discuss scientific problems with advisors. I was impressed by how dedicated the advisors and graduate students were to get precise measurements and accurate results from experiments. They wanted to find truth and reality. I wanted to be one of them and explore the unknown. Therefore, I decided to apply for graduate school. (more…)

NRE faculty member and students researching effects of salinization on wetlands

Connecticut now has a fraction of the forested wetlands that used to cover the state. Until the middle of the twentieth century, clearing land, constructing roads, building infrastructure and introducing irrigation and drainage systems did not require an assessment or mitigation of potential environmental impacts. Amidst growing concern for wetlands, the US Fish and Wildlife Service conducted a nationwide wetlands inventory in 1954. In the decades that followed, further scientific studies helped raise awareness of the benefits of wetlands for habitat, improving water quality and providing flood protection. The change of public opinion from approving of wetlands use for residential and industrial improvements and landfills towards conservation led to the adoption of legislation throughout the 1960s and ‘70s to safeguard wetlands. The volume of forested wetlands in Connecticut has since remained relatively consistent, with small losses due to natural conversion, typically becoming ponds, and from development projects. The embrace of wetlands research helped ensure the passage of federal and state laws and regulatory controls that stabilized the loss of these important ecosystems.


Beth Lawrence

Forested wetlands are now facing new threats. The application of road salt is salinizing freshwater areas, affecting the ecosystem services these swamps provide. Beth Lawrence, an assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) with a joint appointment in UConn’s Center for Environmental Sciences and Engineering, is taking a closer look at the impact of salinization on forested wetlands. Forested wetlands represent over two-thirds of all wetlands in the state.

“The application of road salt and its effects on these swamps are an emerging issue of concern,” says Lawrence.

“The aim of my research is to better understand and quantify the numerous ecosystem services forested wetlands provide. My focus is on how plant community composition, carbon storage and carbon dynamics are affected by salinization. I’m also looking at the effects of experimental road salt applications. We know that wetlands benefit people in a variety of ways, but we do not have a good understanding of the capacity of these ecosystem services and how their functioning may be impacted across environmental gradients,” says Lawrence. (more…)

Image of the week: NIFA director Sonny Ramaswamy on “Transformative Innovations for 21st Century Food and Agriculture”

SRamaswamyDr. Sonny Ramaswamy (at right in above photo), director of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), visited the College Monday August 14. He was hosted by Mike O’Neill, the College’s associate dean and associate director of UConn Extension (left, facing camera). During his presentation entitled “Transformative Innovations for 21st Century Food and Agriculture,” Ramaswamy spoke about NIFA’s efforts to catalyze discoveries to address agricultural challenges through education and engagement. He described NIFA-funded projects  at the cellular, organismal and community levels to address nutritional security, food waste and efforts to decrease the ecological footprint of agricultural production. He emphasized the need for sustainable consumption as well as sustainable production. Following his talk, Ramaswamy met with faculty and administrators from the College and the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and representatives from other New England land-grant universities. The discussion covered a variety of topics, including the challenges faced by smaller land-grant institutions. Earlier in the day, the group met for breakfast with Vice Provost for Research Radenka Maric before touring the Innovation Partnership Building on Discovery Drive.



CAHNR in the news

newsprintForbes cited Human Performance Laboratory studies that showed mild dehydration can alter a person’s mood, energy level and ability to think clearly.

U.S. News & World Report reported that UConn’s Board of Trustees voted to transfer the former Torrington satellite campus to the city with the caveat that UConn will continue to have an extension office on the site until at least 2026. See also the Register Citizen News.

Meriden Record-Journal ran a story about the removal of an old sycamore tree in Meriden, Connecticut. It included comments by Department of Extension Senior Cooperative Extension Educator Robert Ricard about a tree warden’s responsibilities related to older trees and some facts about native sycamore trees.

By Patsy Evans

Historical image of the week

Room In Grove Cottage, Connecticut Agricultural College

Room In Grove Cottage, Connecticut Agricultural College. View of “typical” women’s dorm room showing bed with embroidered pillows, dresser with mirror, candles, knick-knacks, keys and multiple photographs and school flag hung on the wall. By Jerauld A. Manter, 1912. From the University of Connecticut Photograph Collection.