Faculty Notes

Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

Travis Smith, assistant professor, studied whether school food programs improve the quality of children’s diets, and the American Journal of Agricultural Economics published an article about his work on Dec. 15, 2016. There is not much improvement on average, according to Smith. He found large boosts in diet quality from school meals for children who typically eat poorly at home, whereas those who typically eat well at home see no improvements. Improvements to diet quality from school meals are exceptionally pronounced for vulnerable subpopulations, such as children from low-income or food-insecure households.

Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communication

Abigail Borron, assistant professor, authored an article called “Closing the Professional Gap Between Journalism and Civic Engagement Using the Culture-Centered Approach” that received top paper honors from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and the Kettering Foundation. Both organizations joined to challenge communication scholars nationwide to address civic responsibility in journalism.

Nick Fuhrman, associate professor, collaborates with the Georgia Farm Bureau to produce an environmental education television series titled “Ranger Nick.” Episodes air on 13 television stations in Georgia and on national television through the RFD-TV network. They reach more than 12 million people annually.

Department of Animal and Dairy Science

Steve Nickerson, professor and lactation physiologist and mastitis control expert based on the University of Georgia Athens campus, organized a major conference of the Southeast Quality Milk Initiative (SQMI) on the UGA Tifton campus in fall 2016. SQMI is composed of scientists from six Southeastern land-grant universities, and is designed to provide research and Cooperative Extension programs to enable dairy farmers to improve milk quality and move profitability toward production practices compatible with a sustainable dairy industry. Over 80 people attended the conference, including dairy producers, veterinarians, dairy industry and government representatives, and university faculty and students.

Jacob Segers, assistant professor and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension beef specialist based on the UGA Tifton campus, received the Outstanding Junior Specialist Award from the Georgia Association of County Agricultural Agents.

Steve Stice, a D.W. Brooks Distinguished Professor, received the 2017 Georgia Bio Industry Growth Award from Georgia’s life sciences industry association, Georgia Bio. This is the highest honor bestowed annually by Georgia Bio. Stice was recognized for his commitment to advancing the life science industry and regenerative medicine research and commercialization in Georgia.

Department of Crop and Soil Sciences

William K. Vencill, professor, was named the University of Georgia associate vice president for instruction in October 2016. In this position, he will “design and implement new instructional initiatives and improve levels of support for students,” according to a university-wide press release. Vencill started at UGA as a College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences faculty member in 1989.

Department of Entomology

David Buntin, professor, has been chosen to receive the Southern Region IPM Center’s 2017 Friends of IPM Lifetime Achievement Award. This award is given to individuals to recognize their history of achievement and involvement in the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM). Buntin has made outstanding contributions to IPM implementation in the Southern region and has been a key leader in the IPM community for several decades.

Department of Food Science and Technology

Ronald B. Pegg, professor, is the recipient of the 2016 Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) William V. Cruess Award for Excellence in Teaching. Pegg was honored at the IFT Annual Meeting held in Chicago in July 2016.

Department of Horticulture

Matthew Chappell, associate professor, accepted the position of editor at large for Ball Publishing’s “Nursery and Landscape Insider” newsletter in July 2016. With a combined readership of more than 150,000 subscribers, Ball Publishing is the nation’s largest commercial horticulture publisher. Chappell’s newsletter focuses on timely news and product information for ornamental horticulture producers and commercial landscape contractors worldwide.

Patrick Conner, professor, and Lenny Wells, associate professor, were part of a multistate team that received a five-year, $4.3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The grant will enable the researchers to develop resources to identify genetic elements in pecans that control various traits like disease resistance, drought tolerance and nut quality.

John M. Ruter, the Allan M. Armitage Endowed Professor of Horticulture and director of the Trial Gardens, was recognized as a Fellow by the International Plant Propagators’ Society. This recognition is given to an individual who made outstanding contributions to plant propagation and the nursery industry.

Department of Plant Pathology

Phil Brannen, professor; Harald Scherm, professor and department head; and Marin Brewer, assistant professor, authored or co-authored a total of six chapters on blueberry diseases for the second edition of the “Compendium of Blueberry, Cranberry, and Lingonberry Diseases and Pests,” published by the American Phytopathological Society in early 2017. This compendium is a key resource for identifying, managing and understanding the biology of blueberry pests and is used by growers, advisory services and consultants worldwide.

Marin Brewer, assistant professor, was one of three University of Georgia faculty members named 2016-2017 Public Service and Outreach Fellows. Brewer is collaborating with the State Botanical Garden of Georgia, one the university’s eight public service and outreach units, to develop programs for the public focused on mushroom and fungi identification in the garden. The collaboration is also conducting a pilot study on the effects of Chinese privet removal on fungal diversity.

Ron Gitaitis, professor, received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Onion Association (NOA) at the NOA Convention and Allium Research Conference in Savannah, Georgia, in December 2016. The award recognizes Gitaitis’ long-standing efforts to improve the onion industry in Georgia and beyond by communicating the ecology, epidemiology, pathogen biology and management of bacterial diseases of onions.

Department of Poultry Science

Woo Kyun Kim, assistant professor, was awarded a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to examine strategies involving nutrients and bioactive molecules in the regulation of bone, muscle and fat formation in chickens. His primary research focus is to optimize bone and muscle development and reduce excess fat accumulation.

Casey Ritz, professor, is leading the revision of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service’s “Poultry Water Quality Handbook.” The handbook centers on how air, water and soil relate to poultry production residuals, mortality management, alternative waste management technologies and more. He received partner funds from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service for work with the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Southeast Poultry Research Laboratory to assess viral inactivation and potential dissipation during composting of mass poultry mortality after avian influenza depopulation. 

Manpreet Singh, professor and University of Georgia Cooperative Extension specialist, joined the poultry science faculty in January. Singh held prior faculty appointments in food science at Purdue University and poultry science at Auburn University. He will work with stakeholders on food safety programs and regulatory guidelines throughout Georgia. His work focuses on the development and validation of pre- and post-harvest food safety strategies to control foodborne pathogens and enhance public health.