Catching Up with CALS — May 6, 2020
Dean's Message — CALS Expertise
CALS researchers Shelley and Mark McGuire launched an important new project this week to test mothers’ milk for novel coronavirus.
They will use a $315,000 award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to work with colleagues at the University of Rochester and elsewhere across the country.
The work will help international scientific organizations improve their guidance for breastfeeding mothers who test positive for COVID-19.
As dean I am always amazed at the diverse nature and interests of our faculty within the departments that make up the college. An excellent example of our diversity is represented by the activity of faculty in the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences.
Nutrition is one of the foundations of agricultural research. The Gates funding recognizes the vital need for Shelley McGuire’s work. As FCS director, her research led to funding from the National Institutes of Health and recognition for the school.
Mark McGuire, her husband and collaborator, spent much of his career focused on lactation research to serve the dairy industry, which in turn led to his role as Idaho Agricultural Experiment Station director.
This is the season for U of I Excellence awards. FCS apparel, textiles and design instructor Lori Wahl brought more recognition to the school with her Outreach and Engagement Excellence Award.
Congratulations to CALS’ other excellence award recipients: Arash Rashed, Sanford Eigenbrode, Gordon Murdoch, Natasha Wingerter and Stacey Doumit. They also reflect the breadth of our expertise.
People outside the college sometimes fail to correctly link CALS to the U of I Clean Water Machine developed by environmental chemist Greg Moller, soil scientist Dan Strawn and engineer Martin Baker.
Focused on protecting Idaho’s water quality, the technology offers a promising new way to address extraction of phosphorus (and other elements) from waste streams associated with food processing and other agricultural activities.
When engineer Jae Ryu talks about novel uses of drones to monitor irrigation, listeners tend to focus on his profession as an engineer and less than his expertise regarding water and agriculture. Jae is not in the College of Engineering, but is in CALS in the Department of Soil and Water Systems.
With so many talented faculty and staff who represent so many disciplines, CALS’ work is widely valued for good reason. Our new class of graduates now finishing their studies (remotely) are well prepared to address important issues. We expect they will do great things in the years ahead.
Michael P. Parrella
College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
By the Numbers
78% of Idaho’s spring wheat was planted through May 3, ahead of last year’s total and the 5-year average for the date, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. Growing conditions are generally good across the state. 38% of the potato crop was planted, compared to 51% for the 5-year average. Barley plantings stood at 74%, shy of the 5-year 77% average.
Our Stories — CALS Leads National Human Milk Study
CALS researchers will help lead a national effort to test whether the milk of women who test positive for novel coronavirus might contain the virus.
The U of I laboratory headed by scientists Mark and Michelle “Shelley” McGuire will work with colleagues at the University of Rochester in New York to test human milk samples through a project funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The $315,000 project will provide the most comprehensive testing of human milk for the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It will help health officials better advise breastfeeding mothers who test positive for COVID-19. Women who want to volunteer can find more information at www.uidaho.edu/breastmilk.
Current advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization differs. While the academy recommends considering separating mothers and infants after a positive test, the CDC and WHO recommend mothers continue breastfeeding as normal while practicing heightened hygiene.
Despite preliminary tests, no study offered definitive evidence that human milk contains the virus, said Shelley McGuire, who directs the Margaret Ritchie School of Family and Consumer Sciences. A nutrition researcher, her work with human milk is funded by the National Institutes of Health.
“The question is whether the novel coronavirus is in mothers’ milk,” she said. “In limited studies, COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk, but we want to provide a reliable answer. I really hope the virus isn’t in milk, but hope doesn’t make for good science.”
Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best form of nutrition for most infants, according to the CDC.
A critical part of the study will be validating the test to determine if the virus is present in milk. The University of Rochester will play a key role in that effort, which will benefit from having two independent labs testing the same samples, Shelley McGuire said.
The U of I team will divide and ship a portion of each sample to the University of Rochester team led by another married research duo — Dr. Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo and Antti Seppo at the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The Gates funding provides the opportunity to address a critical question for which federal funding was not available on an emergency basis, the McGuires said. In addition, the Medela company has donated breast pumps that will be used in the study — equipment valued at $9,000.
The U of I team will oversee obtaining samples from 50 women nationwide who test positive for COVID-19. Volunteers must submit samples within 48 hours of receiving the test results.
“We need to gather samples from women who are still in the active phase of the disease,” Mark McGuire said.
The U of I — Rochester team is also collaborating with a University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Los Angeles team working on a separately funded project to test women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
The researchers also plan to work with colleagues from New Orleans, New York City, Seattle, Spokane, Boston, Chicago and other major cities.
UI Extension Offers Online Finance Classes
Personal finances during the coronavirus pandemic will be the focus of a series of eight free online programs planned in May by a team of University of Idaho Extension finance specialists.
The “Don’t Corona My Cash” series is designed to help Idaho residents deal with financial issues due to the outbreak.
Topics range from ways to make the most of federal stimulus payments to how to respond to financial stress and family income drops.
Details are at www.uidaho.edu/extension-finance.
The hour-long sessions will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays each week in May at 1 p.m. PDT (2 p.m. MDT).
Extension faculty members teaching the classes include: Luke Erickson, personal finance specialist in Caldwell, Karen Richel in Moscow, Lance Hansen in Rexburg and Andrew Bingham in Boise.
Together, the team conducts face-to-face and online finance training for thousands of Idahoans each year.
“The team turned to a public survey to adjust their topics to people’s interests based on more than 50 anonymous responses,” Erickson said.
The series title came from a survey suggestion.
“It was a perfect fit because they wanted to address some serious issues, but do it in a light-hearted way to convey the overarching message of the series: that Idahoans are strong and they can get through this,” he said.
Faces and Places
Food science professor Gulhan Unlu has been selected as a contributing editor for Food Technology magazine, published by the Institute of Food Technologists and distributed to members worldwide.
Several CALS students participated in the Western Regional Dairy Challenge in February in Modesto, California. Anthony Buzzetti and Alex Kelly were on first-place teams and Mykaela Owens and Kylee Elmore were on second-place teams.
CALS faculty and students who won U of I Excellence Awards this spring included Lori Wahl, Arash Rashed, Sanford Eigenbrode, Gordon Murdoch, Natasha Wingerter and Stacey Doumit.
CALS Awards faculty, student and staff recipients included Jack Brown, Joe Kuhl, Elizabeth Ropski, Kimberley Davenport, Marianne Milander, Katy Doumit, Lydia Waterman, Heather Carbon, Danny Baldwin, Student Idaho Cattle Association, Ying Wu, Renee Hanson, Luc Leblanc, Calvin Annis, Jamie Frausto, Corilyn Rice, Jacob Shumaker and Terry Saunders.
- May 12 — Agricultural and Extension Education Department student-teacher final presentations via Zoom. For more info: firstname.lastname@example.org. 4-6 p.m.
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