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Archive for the ‘Faculty’ Category

Physical therapy students’ challenge aims to prevent distracted driving

UConn DPT student Elle Stark.

UConn DPT student Elle Stark.

Laurie Devaney, clinical instructor in the Department of Kinesiology, was listening to NPR when she heard about a new app called JoyRyde, designed to give incentives for safe driving in an attempt to reduce injuries and deaths from distracted driving.

“I teach the spine component of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program, and one of our modules is injury resulting from car accidents,” Devaney says. “Instead of just treating injuries, we are trying to get our physical therapists more involved in health, wellness and prevention of injury.”

“When I learned about this app, I challenged our students to take an active role in preventing injuries from car crashes. There’s a big movement toward using the term car crash instead of motor vehicle accident,  because people are doing things intentionally that put them at risk.”

The JoyRyde idea was the brainchild of Terry Goguen, CEO and founder of JoyRyde. The free app encourages people to take responsibility for their driving and for the safety of others. The app keeps track of miles driven without using a cell phone, drivers earning points redeemable at various fast food chains and e-commerce sites. The app promotes behavior change through rewards, with the goal of changing bad habits permanently.

By involving her students, Devaney hoped they might change their own behaviors and consequently encourage their patients to change as well. “As physical therapists we need to model healthy behaviors,” she says. “Distracted driving is a big public health problem.”

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Website relays native plant info

Native plants website

Homepage of New England Native Plants Initiatives website

New England native plants have a new ally with the creation of a website dedicated to disseminating information about them.

The New England Native Plants Initiatives site highlights “the important role native plants play in our ecology,” said Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture graduate student John Campanelli. He and his advisor, Associate Professor Julia Kuzovkina, co-initiated the website while working on a related DOT native grasses project.

Campanelli adds that the site acts as a clearinghouse to “direct people to organizations and businesses related to native plants in our region,” with the goal of increasing use of the plants. The new CAHNR website has several potential audiences from amateur gardeners to government and industry professionals to conservationists.

Native plants benefit ecosystems and the environment. For example, forbs, or wildflowers, provide ideal forage (pollen and nectar) for native pollinators like bees and butterflies. With the increased use of native forbs, there is the potential to reverse the decline of pollinator populations in the region, says Campanelli. The website has a page devoted to pollinators, and it includes links to fact sheets and research articles.

Campanelli points out an additional bonus, “Native plants are better adapted to a region’s ecological parameters. They require fewer inputs, such as water and fertilizers, to thrive.” This fact and the ability of natives to provide habitats for many species of wildlife, such as birds, reptiles and amphibians, contribute to a cleaner environment and conservation efforts, according to Campanelli. (more…)

Sustainable landscape program works with practitioners to decrease inputs while meeting the needs of users

Victoria Wallace talks with participants at a school IPM workshop in Hamden.

Victoria Wallace talks with participants at a school IPM workshop in Hamden.

According to the American Society of Landscape Architects, sustainable landscapes are responsive to the environment, are re-generative and can actively contribute to the development of healthy communities. In practice, this means developing a program that incorporates the use of cultural practices that maintain and protect the environment while meeting the needs of users and adding to the value of the community.

Sustainable landscapes require the least amount of inputs (water, fertilizer, pesticides) necessary to support the managed area. Over-fertilizing is costly and contributes to excess nutrient runoff that affects water systems; changes in weather have illuminated the need for more drought-resistant turfgrass cultivars and landscape plants; and pesticides need to be used thoughtfully to protect the environment.

Victoria Wallace, extension educator in sustainable turf and landscapes, works with the College’s faculty in turf and plant science, particularly members of the integrated pest management (IPM) team, to provide educational programs in sustainable landscape management for grounds managers for municipalities and schools and professionals in the landscape industry.

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CAHNR in the news

newsprintSome of CAHNR’s people, places and programs made the news recently. The bolded topics are linked to initial media coverage. The roman text links go to additional information.

UConn Magazine. Summer ’17. Highlighted many facets of CAHNR and UConn Extension in “The Next Generation of Farming” article. CAHNR Interim Dean and Director Cameron Faustman and Department of Extension Associate Cooperative Extension Educator Jiff Martin were quoted. A photo of students Marisa Kaplita and Macario Rodrigues illustrated the piece. In addition, students Anthony Chiozzi, Gabriel DeRosa, Marisa Kaplita, Nick Laskos, Tierney Lawlor and Macario Rodrigues were introduced as the “new faces of farming.” See also UConn Today. 6-20-17.

UConn Magazine. Summer ’17. Put James Gagliardi, a plant science and landscape architecture alumnus, in its alumni spotlight. The article described Gagliardi’s horticultural career at the Smithsonian Gardens in Washington, DC and mentioned Ruby Ribbons™ switch grass, a patented and trademarked ornamental grass bred by Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture Professor Mark Brand. (more…)

College faculty plan international collaborations at networking event in Cuba

While the future of US foreign policy remains unclear, the warming of relations with Cuba under the Obama administration produced an opportunity for US scientists and researchers to connect with their Cuban neighbors. Associate Professor Tania Huedo-Medina of the Department of Allied Health Sciences recognized the benefit of shared knowledge and the advancements that could be achieved through the formation of partnerships with Cuba. She created the Cuba Research Initiative to pair the University of Connecticut with several Cuban institutions to facilitate an exchange of ideas and establish joint research ventures. Multiple trips by UConn representatives have forged memoranda of understanding and these formalized relationships are now shaping into potential projects.

The UConn faculty at ICA

Ana Legrand, Guillermo Risatti, Steven Zinn and Hedley Freake (left to right) at the Institute of Animal Science.

College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) faculty members spent a week in Cuba in January 2017 for a networking event to outline possible partnerships. Guillermo Risatti, an associate professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Veterinary Science, led the group. He was accompanied by Professor Ana Legrand of the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and UConn Extension, Professor Hedley Freake of the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Professor Steven Zinn, head of the Department of Animal Science. Aviana Rosen, former project coordinator for the Cuba Research Initiative, also traveled with the group. With a focus on agriculture and animal science, they met with representatives from the Institute of Animal Science (ICA) National Center for Agricultural Health (CENSA), National Institute for Agricultural Sciences (INCA) and the Agrarian University of Havana (UNAH). The group discussed specific areas in their respective disciplines that would benefit from collaboration as well as broad initiatives, including forming study abroad opportunities and assisting with the publication of journals to share US and Cuban research. The individual CAHNR departments and UConn Global Affairs provided funding for the trip. (more…)