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Author Archives: Sara Putnam

About Sara Putnam

Sara is director of the College’s Office of Communications. She has a BA and an MA, both in English, from UConn. She is also assistant to the dean for human resources.

Meet graduate student Leticia Riva

Leticia Riva

Leticia Riva

Leticia Riva was born in Uruguay and moved to Spain at eighteen. She received her master’s degree in resource economics from the College’s Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, where she is currently a Ph.D. candidate. Riva has studied in Spain, Germany, England and the United States. These experiences opened her eyes to the circumstances of people in various parts of the world, inspiring Riva to study economics as a way to understand and improve the lives of others. Her research focuses on topics related to trust, poverty and communities. Here is what she said in an interview.

Where did you study as an undergraduate? What was your major? I studied as an undergraduate in Málaga, Spain. My major was economics.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school? I decided to go to graduate school because I liked (and I like) economics and I wanted to acquire more knowledge. I also think that nowadays it is one of the paths to follow if we want to work in positions where we can have more freedom to develop ideas and study them.

Who is your advisor? What is your field of research? My advisor is Nathan Fiala, and my field of research is economic development.

Name one aspect of your work that you like. What I like is the possibility of developing ideas and trying to implement them. This work allows me to research topics that I am interested in and study them deeper while I am in an environment with people who give me feedback and have experience in related topics. This is great. (more…)

4-H then and now: Tradition and innovation combine to help children grow in skills, interests and experience

4-H Environmental Science Day.

4-H Environmental Science Day.

The 4-H program was established more than a century ago as a way to reach rural children with educational programs, opportunities to expand their horizons and develop self-confidence and competence. Although many things have changed over the years, the program continues to help children grow in skills, interests and experience.

4-H is a global network of organizations that provide youth development experiential learning programs with the goal of developing citizenship, leadership, responsibility and life skills. In the United States, 4-H is administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and its programs are conducted in partnership with the Cooperative Extension System. UConn Extension is housed in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. In Connecticut, 4-H is as diverse as the population it serves, according to Bonnie Burr, assistant director of UConn Extension.


Image of the week: Eclipse party on Horsebarn Hill!

Kids, adults, dogs, bikes, frisbees, ice cream, soap bubbles, great weather and all manner of viewing devices, from cereal box pinhole cameras to the telescopes provided by UConn’s Department of Physics, made for a joyous celebration of the celestial event of the year.

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.



Course demystifies chemical processes in the study of soil science

Cristian Schulthess

Cristian Schulthess

Every other fall, Cristian Schulthess, associate professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, offers a class called Soil Chemistry Processes. The course description may sound intimidating, but Schulthess says that studying chemistry with an environmental twist fits with many majors from plant science to environmental engineering.

“Most students are quite afraid of chemistry,” Schulthess says. “I’m taking them through the components of soil chemistry and teaching them chemistry principles through the environment. Studying the environment involves three components—physics, biology and chemistry—and they are all intertwined.”

There are three major sections to the course. The first covers oxidation-reduction reactions through environmental examples such as the degradation of organic material. Climate, moisture, soil composition, and soil contaminants all affect oxidation. Students observe the differences in soil color and how they relate to reactions at a cellular level. For instance, if an environment is highly oxidizing, the soil becomes redder; if the opposite occurs, the soil turns gray. Students learn the biology of photosynthesis and the environmental consequences to these reactions.

The second section of the course focuses on measuring pH (hydrogen concentration) in the environment. “There is a lot of nuance to pH and salt concentrations and how particles interact with each other,” Schulthess points out. This section covers measuring techniques, pH properties and particle interaction.

During the third part of the course, students study soil fertility and soil contamination control, including reactions between contaminants in liquid and solid forms, contaminant movement within the environment and retention reactions. Students learn the process of extracting materials from soil.