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CAFNR Research Digest
CAFNR Office of Research Newsletter // Nov. 16, 2023 // 5(23)
Feature Story
A Sustaining Force: MU Researcher Looks to Re-Establish ‘Fire Culture’ with New Funding »

As the wildfire crisis intensifies across North America, resident scientists are working on sustainable solutions to protect forests with a $1.2 million grant.

Although fire is often thought of as a force of danger and destruction, University of Missouri professor and forest fire expert Michael Stambaugh sees its potential to protect forests as climate change threatens to increase both the frequency and intensity of wildfires.

Research Highlights
How the Tiger's Nose Knows »

The tiger doesn’t know it, but a difference deep in its genome sets it apart from other cats. This big cat preserved a distinct sense of smell thanks to a few chromosomes it uniquely retained over millennia of evolution that other feline species did not.

A study published in the journal Nature Genetics details this finding where scientists from the University of Missouri partnered with Texas A&M University and others to compare, for the first time, nearly gapless cat genomes across multiple species and with humans.

Grant Spotlight
Midwest Bumble Bee Atlas

PI: Deborah Finke, professor of plant science and technology

Granting Agency: Missouri Department of Conservation

Grant Amount: $46,367

What is the main objective of this project?

The Missouri Bumble Bee Atlas is a statewide community science project aimed at tracking and conserving Missouri’s native bumble bees. The Missouri Atlas was established as a collaboration between The Xerces Society, Missouri Department of Conservation, Pheasants/Quail Forever and my lab. The current project is to establish a new Midwest Bumble Bee Atlas to coordinate efforts across states. Funding to our program will be used to support volunteer outreach in Missouri, expert verification of identification of submitted bumble bee specimens and targeted sampling of sites around Missouri for rare species.

What is the potential impact of this project?

Several native bumble bee species are in decline. By taking advantage of the efforts of community scientists around the state, we can rapidly grow our understanding of Missouri’s bumble bees. We can use the information to assess species distribution, population shifts and habitat associations. We can identify regions in Missouri that are supporting healthy populations, as well as those in need of restoration or management, and highlight landscape features that are associated with bumble bee habitat. Understanding how species distributions have changed over time, in conjunction with habitat change, will help form accurate predictions as to what we should expect in the future and aid in the design of effective conservation measures.

Are there any graduate students or lab workers you would like to recognize in relation to this this project?

Jared Brabant, Ph.D. student, is the primary MU contributor to the project. He is the expert who verifies the identifications of the bumble bees submitted to the site. He also leads volunteer training events and samples for bumble bees around the state.

Grad Student Spotlight
Alyssa Smolensky

Program: M.S. in Natural Resources
Advisor: Samniqueka Halsey

What is your research focus?
My research focuses on building models that measure the efficacy of new conservation strategies. My current model tests the effects of urban afforestation on endangered wildlife species. Using the city of Chicago as a case study, the model simulates “planting” millions of new trees across the city, then measures how habitat quality, habitat connectivity, and wildlife populations are impacted.

Why does this field interest you? 
Cities are becoming increasingly vulnerable to dangerous effects of climate change, while biodiversity continues to decline worldwide at alarming rates. I saw urban afforestation as a potential solution to address both issues, and I wanted to create a tool capable of empowering other scientists and local governments to evaluate the benefits of urban afforestation in their own cities. I also wanted to challenge the narrative that wildlife conservation should only happen in areas of remote wilderness. As the global population grows and the world becomes increasingly urbanized, conservationists need to focus on preserving natural resources within communities, not in-spite of them.

Why did you decide to come to Mizzou? 
From our very first conversation, my advisor, Dr. Samniqueka Halsey, showed so much support and enthusiasm for my research interests that I knew I’d be at home in her lab. I was also very impressed by the forward-thinking research happening in the School of Natural Resources. From Agroforestry to Urban Ecology, there is a lot of expertise on some very niche but powerful topics that have underutilized applications for global well-being and conservation.

What are your future career plans? 
I started my master’s program with a clear picture of the career I wanted to pursue after graduating. Now, I enjoy exploring all the potential opportunities that are available to me in different fields, and I am less certain which will be the path I choose. If my graduate journey has taught me anything, it’s that I can forge my own path through life as long as I lean on my strengths and passions along the way.

CAFNR Research Council
CRC Webinar Series Resumes

The CAFNR Office of Research is pleased to announce the continuation of the CAFNR Research Council Webinar Series featuring speakers discussing a timely topic. The next installment of the series will be held at 3:30 p.m. Nov. 27 on Zoom. It will feature Gary Wheeler and his presentation, The Strength of Partnerships: How farmers impact short-and long-term investments into research.

Wheeler serves as the Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director for the Missouri Soybean Association, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and Foundation for Soy Innovation. Wheeler is an innovative and committed servant leader with the farmer always in mind. His focus on partnerships and the power of forward-thinking has successfully led Missouri’s soybean organizations through significant operational and strategic challenges.

Wheeler holds an M.B.A. from William Woods University and a B.S. in agricultural business from Murray State University. He previously served the Missouri agricultural industry in roles with the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri Corn Growers Association and Missouri Corn Merchandising Council. Wheeler also served in the Missouri Army National Guard for more than a decade.

Watch the webinar on Zoom.

Research Roars

Animal Sciences Professor Named 2024 Rising Star by the Society for the Study of Reproduction

Amanda Patterson, assistant professor of animal sciences, was recently named at a 2024 Rising Star by the Society for the Study of Reproduction (SSR). The Rising Stars in Reproductive Biology webinar series is designed to introduce and highlight research from new investigators to the SSR membership and broader reproductive biology research community.

CAFNR faculty members have received the following recent grants (listed by Principal Investigator):

Michael Stambaugh, Talladega Division Dendrochronology Research, U.S. Forest Service, 9/25/23-9/18/28, $10,000

Tim Reinbott, Identifying Soil Health Deficiencies in Soybean Production To Develop a “One Health” Sustainable Soybean Production System, United Soybean Board, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $227,056

Shuangyu Xu, A service-oriented local food value chain for small farms: Aligning small farms, food services, and consumers, University of Illinios Urbana Champaign (NIFA), 6/1/23-5/31/24, $73,585

Matthew Lucy, The Fellowship Program, St. Louis Zoo, 10/1/23-9/1/25, $39,773.

Bradley Wilson, Pix management in Cotton Comparing Aggressive and Passive Cultivars, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $16,000

Bradley Wilson, Cotton tolerance to early season weed control utilizing post-emergent herbicides tank mixed with residual herbicides, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $12,000

Andrew Scaboo, Development and Deployment of High Oleic/Low Linolenic Acid Soybean, Smith Bucklin/United Soybean Board, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $645,000

Grover Shannon, Development and Deployment of High Oleic/Low Linolenic Acid Soybean, Smith Bucklin/United Soybean Board, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $105,000

Felix Fritschi, Root system contributions to sustainable soybean production, United Soybean Board, 10/1/23-9/30/24, $297,660

Henry Nguyen, Increasing the Value of U.S. Soybean by Combining High Meal Protein, High Yield and Other Valuable Traits, Agricultural Research Service, 10/1/23-12/31/23, $20,000

Felix Fritschi, Identification of genomic regions underpinning soybean phosphorus uptake and use efficiency to improve sustainability of soybean production, United Soybean Board, 10/1/23-9/30/2024, $192,530

Chase Floyd, Economic Evaluation of Cotton Bt Technology Traits in the Missouri Cotton, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $20,000

Chase Floyd, Comparison of two spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) infestations on common Missouri cotton varieties, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $18,000

Chase Floyd, Evaluating Termination Timing of Insecticides for Cotton Production in Missouri, Cotton, Inc., 1/1/24-12/31/24, $11,000

Robin Rotman, Assessment after Engagement, Education & Experiential-learning, U.S. Department of Energy, 9/27/23-9/26/25, $199,997

Jianfeng Zhou, Improving soybean production, seed quality and soil health using digital agriculture technologies, United Soybean Board, 4/1/24-3/31/25, $105,019

Gurbir Singh, Assess Soil Water Chemistry Impacts following Application of Anhydrous Ammonia with CENTURO® Nitrogen Stabilizer in Corn – 2024, Koch Agronomic Services, 11/1/23-3/31/25, $30,058

In the News

Mizzou researchers found the antibiotic that fought bubonic plague. That work goes on
The Kansas City Star

Farmers get billions in government aid. Some of that money could also fight climate change
USA Today

How a delayed farm bill would affect the agriculture sector
NPR’s Marketplace

Veteran and Urban Groups Team Up to Grow Produce and Peace of Mind
Morning Ag Clips

Missouri Foundation Seed Moving Forward with Modernization Project

Feral hog sightings among the highest in Missouri, research finds

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