Two SEBS Faculty Receive Prestigious NSF CAREER Awards

Associate professor Ning Zhang, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, and Associate Professor Siobain Duffy, Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources, received prestigious Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) awards from the NSF. The CAREER award is NSF’s “most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.”

Siobain Duffy

Siobain Duffy

Duffy’s CAREER project, “Can a virus get there from here? Mapping the pathways of RNA virus emergence,” is supported by $675,000 over five years. RNA viruses are known to frequently host-shift to infect new hosts, but improving infectivity on any single host species tends to hurt the virus when it tries to infect a different host. With a benign RNA virus that only infects bacteria, Duffy’s lab is determining how much adaptation to one host restricts the virus’ ability to emerge on new host species. Using experimental evolution, she will determine how often an RNA virus’ host specialization bends its evolutionary trajectory of emerging on novel hosts and how often it leads to dead ends that cause the virus to back track (revert mutations) before successfully adapting to new hosts. [Read more…]

NJAES Researchers Receive Grant for Consumer Study to Enable Growers to Capitalize on Organic Market

Fresh vegetable display at the local Farmer's Market

While small farms represent the dominant form of production agriculture in the world, typical agricultural knowledge and technology development models have often failed to improve small farm productivity, enhance resource conservation, reduce rural poverty, or improve regional food security.

A new research study in organic farming–a unique value-added form of agriculture–has been undertaken to help address inadequacies in the current knowledge of the organic market as well as provide innovative new options for struggling small farmers. Rutgers, in partnership with the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New Jersey and the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, was awarded a $99,803 grant for the study of consumer perceptions and behaviors in the Mid-Atlantic region in order to enable growers to capitalize on the organic market. The grant was awarded through the USDA’s Federal-State Marketing Improvement Program, which provides matching funds to state departments of Agriculture, state agricultural experiment stations, and other state agencies to assist in exploring new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products, and to encourage research and innovation aimed at improving the efficiency and performance of the marketing system.

Rutgers faculty participating in the project are Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics members, Professor Ramu Govindasamy (Principal Investigator), Instructor Isaac Vellangany, and Postdoctoral Associate Surendran Arumugam; Extension Specialist in Soil Science Joseph Heckman, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology; and Rutgers Cooperative Extension Agricultural Agents Rick Vanvranken, Atlantic County; Meredith Melendez, Mercer County; Wes Kline, Cumberland County; and Jenny Carleo, Cape May County. The goal of this research is to enhance both the net profits and the sustainability of small farms choosing to service the organic niche market.

Rutgers Dedicates N.J. Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health

Rutgers’ new hub for interdisciplinary research in food, nutrition and health aims to make New Jersey the "healthy state" and a model for the nation… The $55 million New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health on the George H. Cook Campus formally was dedicated Tuesday as college, state and private officials looked on. Financing came from a $35 million grant from the Building Our Future Bond Act and a $10 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation… Students in the building will study the country’s major nutrition-related health issues, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease. The building, designed with nature in mind and an open-space concept, also boasts New Jersey’s largest interior living wall. There also is space for conferences, meetings, laboratories, "smart" classrooms and offices.

Read the entire article at www.mycentraljersey.com »

Cognitive Decline May Move Faster In People With Low Vitamin D

There have been suggestions that low levels of vitamin D might be a factor in cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, but there’s no proof that the lack of D is actually causing the problems… A study published Monday doesn’t prove that link, but it does find that people with low levels of vitamin D lost key thinking skills more quickly that people with enough… "We’re relatively cautious in how we say this," Joshua Miller, chair of the department of nutrition in the school of environmental and biological sciences at Rutgers University, said. He’s the study’s lead author, and worked on it while he was at the University of California, Davis… "We always say, in consultation with your doctor we suggest that older adults have their vitamin D status measured," Miller says. "If it’s low, in consultation with their doctor, they might consider taking vitamin D supplements."

Read the entire article at www.npr.org »

Sweeney, Smith Tour New Facilities at Rutgers

Senators Steven Sweeney and Bob Smith toured new facilities at Rutgers and met with Honors College students. The experience left both impressed with the direction of higher education in the state… Sweeney and Smith joined Rutgers University President Robert Barchi on an exclusive tour Thursday of some of the new, state-of-the-art facilities at Rutgers, including the school’s soon-to-be-opened New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health and the Rutgers Honors College… The senators first visited Rutgers’ new New Jersey Institute for Food Nutrition and Health on Cook Campus. The $55 million dollar project was financed by a $35 million dollar grant from the Building Our Future Bond Act and a $10 million dollar grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. It will officially open Oct. 27.

Read the entire article at www.mycentraljersey.com »

Fast-Growing Fish Risk Dramatic Fall in Population

In a counterintuitive discovery, scientists have found that ocean fish species that grow quickly and reproduce frequently are more likely to experience dramatic plunges in population than larger, slower growing fish such as sharks or tuna… "Rabbits are doing pretty well compared to rhinos. Mice thrive while lions, tigers and elephants are endangered," said Malin Pinsky, assistant professor of ecology and evolution in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University in US… After studying population changes in 154 species of fish worldwide over 60 years, Pinsky was surprised to see marine equivalents of rabbits and mice collapsing to low levels – still shy of extinction but serious enough to disrupt ocean food chains or fishing-based societies… In his research, Pinsky found that in nearly all of the cases, overfishing was the culprit.

Read the entire article at www.economictimes.com »

Will declining funding stunt scientific discovery in the U.S.?

As federal funding for biomedical research has been declining in real dollars over the past 13 years, getting a grant for many scientists who depend on government money has become more difficult. Now, many say this hypercompetitive atmosphere may stunt not only the careers of promising scientists but also America’s preeminent role in global science research. Features Assistant Professor, Dept. of Food Science, Loredana Quadro and Co-director of the Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences, Judith Storch.

Read the entire article at PBS NewsHour »

Warren County Celebrates ‘National Nutrition Month’ and Recent Grant Award

March is National Nutrition Month and the Warren County Board of Chosen Freeholders has issued an official proclamation in support of its designation, while highlighting the recent Shaping NJ Healthy Community Grant awarded to the Warren County Community Health Improvement Coalition (WC CHIC)… Sarah Shoemaker, Public Health Planner at the Warren County Health Department, and Sherri Cirignano, Family and Community Health Sciences Educator/Agent with Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Warren County, accepted the proclamation and expressed excitement about the upcoming programs… The recent grant, awarded to a community partnership between the county Health Department and Rutgers Cooperative Extension, will fund nutrition and physical activity programs throughout the county. Grant activities will also involve the collaboration and support of the Warren County Planning Department, the Warren County Health and Recreation Partnership, NORWESCAP, the Hackettstown BID, and municipal leaders.

Read the entire article at www.nj.com »

Rutgers’ New Nursery Specialist Wins Grant Award From Horticultural Research Institute

Raul Cabrera

Raul Cabrera

The New England Nursery Association (NENA), in cooperation with the Horticultural Research Institute (HRI), announced that Associate Extension Specialist in Nursery Production and Management Raul Cabrera is the first recipient of the association’s Industry Growth Fund grant award. After a review of 60+ grant applications, NENA selected Cabrera’s research project, “Use of Alternative Irrigation Water Sources for Urban Landscapes and Nursery Crops,” as its top recommendation for funding. Read more from New Jersey Nursery and Landscape Association.

RCE Collaborates with Hillsborough Township and Watershed Association to Win $175K DEP Grant

Volunteers planting a curb-cut rain garden in with the RCE Water Resources Program. RCE Water Resources Program.

Volunteers planting a curb-cut rain garden with the RCE Water Resources Program.     Photo: RCE Water Resources Program.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) continues to expand its efforts in urban extension by securing funding to work directly with municipalities and their residents to address important issues affecting New Jersey’s towns.

In one such effort, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Somerset County has partnered with Hillsborough Township and Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (SBMWA) to obtain a $175,539 grant from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to address flooding problems that are associated with Royce Brook. [Read more…]