Where the Weeds Are: Plant Biodiversity in Rutgers Parking Lots

Rutgers undergraduate Alisa Sharma and doctoral student Lauren Frazee examine weeds in a parking lot on the George H. Cook Campus.

Rutgers undergraduate Alisa Sharma and doctoral student Lauren Frazee examine weeds in a parking lot on the George H. Cook Campus. Photo: Paula Walcott-Quintin.

The idea of investigating weeds in a parking lot may not look very exciting, but to a botanist –and especially to an urban ecologist interested in plants and biodiversity – this car-filled area represents an extreme, urban treasure trove of thriving and flowering plants. These are mostly the same species as those pesky weeds that spring up in the cracks of our driveways at home that we can’t wait to remove with the latest weed killer. Yes, those very weeds. Hundreds of species bear seeds, produce flowers and propagate in parking lots all over the country, but not much is known about their survival and persistence.

In the spring of 2014, Lauren Frazee, Ph.D. student in the graduate program of Ecology and Evolution, found herself taking on a project investigating the biodiversity of weeds in Rutgers parking lots that was launched in 2012 by Lena Struwe, associate professor in the departments of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources as well as Plant Biology and Pathology, and her other graduate student, Jennifer Blake-Mahmud. A global botanist, Struwe is one of two co-advisors to Frazee in her doctoral program, along with Steven Handel, professor in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources.

Frazee’s interest is in urban plants and how urbanization affects plant life. “Parking lots are fascinating, since they can serve as a proxy for answering many questions about extremely disturbed urban ecosystems.” [Read more...]

Rutgers Wraps Up Annual STEM Enrichment Program for Underserved Youth

Participants enjoy the closing luncheon of the sixth annual Rutgers Summer Science Program.

Participants gather before the start of the closing luncheon for this year’s Rutgers Summer Science Program.

The sixth annual Rutgers Summer Science Program, sponsored by Samsung, held its closing luncheon on July 11 at the Neilson Dining Hall on the George H. Cook Campus in New Brunswick, wrapping up a weeklong campus enrichment experience for over 60 high school students, grades 9 to 12, from across New Jersey. This year’s cohort was drawn from Essex, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic and Union counties.

It’s hard to imagine when you experience this smoothly-run luncheon for the teens and their families, complete with student poster presentation lining the walls of the dining hall that this pre-college residential program for teens from underserved communities across New Jersey did not exist six years ago.

Chad Ripberger, Rutgers 4-H agent from Mercer County, co-founded this program with his colleague Janice McDonnell, 4-H SET agent, creating an active, hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) environment for youth in a campus setting. Following a week of activities, taught by Rutgers faculty and graduate students on a range of topics, the teens return to their local communities as newly-minted Ambassadors, armed with a number of skills that they will pass on to other youths in their home communities. [Read more...]

Annual Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days Draws Record Attendance

Participants in "Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days" listen to a Rutgers research discuss new varieties of turfgrass durign the annual program held at Hort Farm II.

Participants in “Rutgers Turfgrass Research Field Days” listen to a Rutgers researcher discuss new varieties of turfgrass during the annual program held at Hort Farm II.

On July 29-30, Rutgers held its annual Turfgrass Research Field Days at the Turf Research Farm – Hort Farm II, off Ryders Lane in North Brunswick, NJ. Over 800 industry professionals attended this record-breaking, two-day event, which has its roots in the 1920s, although regular turf field days in New Jersey did not occur annually until after World War II.

In what may well be the largest “outdoor classroom” event at the university, the latest field research was passed on to industry practitioners in highly-interactive sessions in which the researchers summarized their research and the attendees listened and asked questions. Attendees also qualified for Golf Course Superintendents Association of America education points as well as pesticide applicator re-certification credits from New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. [Read more...]

Rutgers Cooperative Extension Welcomes Back Retirees to Celebrate 100th Anniversary

Former and current Rutgers Cooperative Extension directors, John Gerwig (left) and Larry Katz cut the cake commemorating the 100th anniversary of Extension.

Former and current Rutgers Cooperative Extension directors John Gerwig (left) and Larry Katz cut the cake at the retiree event commemorating the 100th anniversary of Extension.

This year, as Rutgers Cooperative Extension (RCE) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Smith-Lever Act of 1914 that created the Cooperative Extension Service, what better way to commemorate its history than to invite back those who were part of its past? To this end, a luncheon for RCE retirees was held at Neilson Dining Hall on the Cook/Douglass campus on June 20. Fifty retirees and their guests attended the event, reuniting with former and current RCE colleagues.

The retirees were former faculty and staff that represented all facets of RCE administration, its extension specialists and the ARMA, FCHS and 4-H departments. Current RCE department heads were on hand to provide updates on institutional activities while Executive Dean Bob Goodman and RCE Director Larry Katz discussed extension’s anniversary and the current state of affairs.

While the retirees appeared to enjoy active and fulfilling retirements, a few never strayed far from Rutgers, continuing work in their respective fields. Retired Extension Specialist in Vegetable Crops Mel Henninger coordinates the educational program for the annual New Jersey Vegetable Meeting (Atlantic Coast Ag Convention and Trade Show) in Atlantic City and is also working with Agricultural Agent Dave Lee on corn and soybean trials at Rutgers Snyder Farm. Recently retired Agricultural Agent Rich Obal (GSNB ’77) teaches courses for the Rutgers Office of Continuing Professional Education and continues his involvement with the Rutgers Master Gardener program. [Read more...]

Student Stormchasers Share Their Adventures in Infamous Tornado Alley

Stormchaser Joe Slezak's (SEBS 2015) blog shows a rotating line of storms in Kansas.

Stormchaser Joe Slezak’s (SEBS ’15) blog shows a rotating line of storms in Kansas.

Is it the thrill of the chase or the chance to witness the development of storm cells that lures students to SEBS meteorology professor Steve Decker’s storm chasing class? The two-week, “Severe Weather Forecasting Field Trip,” allows students to predict, observe and analyze storms to better understand the dynamics and thermodynamics that lead to some of the most beautiful yet complex atmospheric circulations on Earth. [Read more...]