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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.

BLawrence

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…)

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

CAHNR in the news

newspaper readersThe Westerly Sun included an article by Dawn Pettinelli called “Tips for growing and harvesting cilantro and its seeds.” Pettinelli is an assistant cooperative extension educator in plant science and landscape architecture.

Consumer Reports quoted Professor Douglas Casa, who gave safety advice for people working or exercising in the heat. Casa is on the faculty of the Department of Kinesiology.

UConn Today referred to UConn Extension Bug Week and posted photos of the AntU Day portion of the event.

ESPN pointed out the Korey Stringer Institute‘s work in preventing and treating heat stroke, such as a study with WHOOP, the manufacturer of a device to measure athletic performance, sleep quality and other health-related data. Department of Kinesiology Professor Douglas Casa was quoted in the article. See also Business Wire.

By Patsy Evans

Meet graduate student Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee

Cora McGehee is a master’s degree student studying horticulture in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture. She is researching the use of non-chemical options on plant pathogens in hydroponic systems.

Where did you study as an undergraduate?

I went to Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge.

What was your major?

My major was environmental horticulture and I minored in history.

Why did you decide to go to graduate school?

I was working with a horticultural crop pathologist during my last year at LSU and really enjoyed applied research. I was using biological fungicides to suppress plant pathogens, such as bacterial leaf spot and downy mildew, in the field. Then I found an applied research graduate student position at UConn working with suppressing plant pathogens in hydroponic leafy greens. It was a great fit and I’m glad I made the decision to come to UConn! (more…)