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June 2021 Edition of the Official Newsletter of the
School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences
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AgDiscovery 2021 is a wrap!
AgDiscovery Photo Gallery
Anderson makes UMES' case on Capitol Hill
Congratulations to SANS faculty promoted
Pitula named UMES Director of Research 
UMES researcher awarded $1 million U.S. Navy Minority Serving Institution Grant
Message from the SANS Dean
COVID-19-UMES Updates & CDC Fact Sheet

USDA grant funds research on aquaculture and pathogens in oysters 
UMES President attends local leaders luncheon with Gov. Hogan
Pitula receives USDA grant to study impact of "forever chemicals"
Mitra among first graduates of medical cannabis science degree in U.S.
Clinton-Scott receives "Closing the Gap" grant from fashion industry
UMES Land-grant Scholarship Program
Ingenuity, Spring 2020
Subscribe to Extension's Connections newsletter
New! Spring 2021-The Living Sea-LMRCSC newsletter
AgDiscovery 2021 is a wrap!
A group of 19 middle and high school students from the Mid-Atlantic were fortunate that COVID-19 restrictions eased for them to experience an in-person AgDiscovery summer program (June 13-26) this year at UMES.  As with many activities, the 2020 edition was canceled.

“We are so happy that conditions allowed for participants to reside in dorms and have the opportunity to see what it is like living on a college campus,” said Corrie Cotton, a research assistant professor in UMES’ Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences and one of the program directors.  “Everything was a little different this year due to COVID modifications, but we were still able to provide an educational and enjoyable program.”

Sponsored by the USDA- Animal and Plant Inspection Service, AgDiscovery is a free opportunity for young minds to explore agricultural sciences and gain knowledge about related careers.  UMES’ program is in its ninth year and has introduced over 150 students to the diverse careers and opportunities in the field. 

“Agriculture is so much more than farming,” Cotton said.  “It touches every aspect of our lives.”

Top left: .An AgDiscovery summer program participant does an experiment related to water quality.

Top right: The "patient" looks pretty relaxed as a student learns about animal care.

Bottom left:  Students ponder the direction to take during a GPS scavenger hunt on campus.

Bottom right:  Dr. Amy Collick, an assistant research professor at UMES, leads a soil health and water quality activity.

This year's participants have been involved in informative and fun-filled agriculture-related activities. Take a look at the photos above and click on the button below to enjoy a photo gallery by Ag Communications photographer Todd Dudek.
AgDiscovery Photo Gallery
Anderson makes UMES' case on Capitol Hill
UMES President Heidi Anderson testified before a U.S. House Committee on Agriculture hearing June 16, voicing support for the federal government to make long-term investments in historically black, land-grant institutions.

Anderson was joined by fellow leaders from 1890 institutions who drew attention to aging buildings that house agriculture programs, the absence of reliable internet service in rural areas for farmers and other citizens, and a need for financial aid as an incentive to make farming an attractive career choice.

“It cannot be overemphasized that the 1890 universities, like UMES, have a pivotal role that we have to uphold,” Anderson said in her opening statement.

The panel, chaired by Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., asked for input on shaping a congressional strategy that would address daunting financial needs that go back generations.  Scott is credited with successfully advocating three years ago to provide $80 million in short-term scholarship funding for college students who want to pursue a degree in a broad spectrum of agricultural fields.

Anderson, testifying virtually from campus, told the committee that investment has helped UMES boost student enrollment in its agriculture studies and urged Congress to continue that support.  
                     Read More>


Congratulations to SANS faculty promoted
Drs. Victoria Volkis and Meng Xia  were promoted to full professor in the UMES Department of Natural Sciences for 2020-21.  
Dr. Victoria Volkis is an outstanding researcher at UMES with $1,600,000 in current external research funding, including a recent $1 million award from the U.S. Navy related to the use of specialty super crops in antifouling formulations (see article below).  Roughly half of the award designates Volkis as a U.S. Navy Distinguished Faculty Fellow.  She will set aside her teaching responsibilities for the next three years to devote her attention to overseeing graduate students in her lab as they assist her in researching sea platform environmental quality, corrosion control and advanced naval materials.

Volkis, a professor of chemistry and director of UMES’ Master of Science program, holds seven patents and has more than $600,000 in completed grant projects.  She has been engaged in research related to the use of seafood industry waste for reversible carbon sequestration, herbal extracts for pest control formulations and the phytochemistry of specialty crops, berries and medical herbs, especially their antioxidants, terpenes and essential oils.

She has been active in the early involvement of undergraduate students, particularly from minority-serving institutions, in research through activities such as the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative-Research and Extension Experiences for Undergraduates.  As director of the American Chemical Society’s Project SEED summer program at UMES, Volkis has also served to help steer high school upperclassmen to chemistry-related research, degrees and careers.

Volkis holds master’s and doctoral degrees in chemistry from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, Israel.

A researcher with $1.6M in grants awarded over a decade-long career at UMES, Dr. Meng Xia is also a teaching faculty member of environmental sciences in the Department of Natural Sciences and in the Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Sciences program.  He advises undergraduate, graduate and visiting international scholars. 

Xia is principal investigator for a grant project focusing on the Maryland Coastal Bays that received nearly half a million in funding by the National Science Foundation.  The project is ongoing until the end of June 2022. The research is titled, “Excellence in Research:  Wave Effects on the Dynamics of a Multiple-Inlet Bay System During Storms.” 

He has recently lent his expertise to scientists at the University of Maryland College Park for a project (Great Lakes model) published by the American Geophysical Union and provided Chesapeake Bay modeling support to Johns Hopkins University professors for work submitted to Environmental Microbiology. Xia is also partnering with the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science to investigate how the sediment dispersion impacts blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay. 

Xia’s research interests involve river plume and estuary dynamics; ecological, biogeochemistry and larval transport process (TMDL) modeling; nearshore wave-current dynamics and sediment transport process; and river watershed modeling. 

Xia holds a doctorate in physical oceanography from North Carolina State University and a master's degree in physical oceanography from the First Institute of Oceanography in China.
Pitula named UMES Director of Research
in the Office of Research
Dr. Joseph Pitula, professor of parasitology and molecular biology, marked his 17-year career at UMES with an announcement June 16 from President Heidi Anderson that he will serve as the director of research in the Office of Sponsored Research. 

He is an experienced researcher who has brought more than $2 million dollars in external funding to UMES.   His research interests focus on disease-causing protozoan parasites. His current projects are devoted to studying marine parasites in blue crabs and oysters, two vital food resources essential to the economic health of the Chesapeake Bay region.  (See article below).

Pitula came to the university in 2004 as a lecturer in the department of natural sciences and was promoted to associate professor with tenure (2011) and full professor (2019).  For the past eight years, he has acted as director of the Marine, Estuarine and Environmental Sciences graduate program. Pitula is also the project director of UMES' National Science Foundation Bridge to Doctorate Program and director of the UMES unit of the National Park Service North Atlantic Coast Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit.

Pitula has master's and doctoral degrees in microbiology from the State University of New York at Buffalo.     
UMES researcher awarded $1 million U.S. Navy Minority Serving Institution Grant

Dr. Victoria Volkis aims to combat biofilms on submerged surfaces while training students for careers in science
A UMES researcher and students from underrepresented minorities in STEM who are majoring in natural sciences will be tackling one of the U.S. Navy’s most costly problems –biofilm formation, or fouling.  Biofilms, which lead to attachment of barnacles, cause millions of dollars of damage to naval ships and platforms each year and contribute to ecological changes with the potential to cause fish mortality and algal blooms.

The U.S. Navy has awarded Dr. Victoria Volkis, a professor of chemistry and director of UMES’ Master of Science Program, $1 million to study the use of natural plants for antifouling protection, under the “Sea platform environmental quality, corrosion control and advanced naval materials” field of interest.  Not only will she serve as the principal investigator of a U.S. Navy Minority Serving Institution Program grant, she will also devote all of her academic time to the project as the recipient of a Distinguished Faculty Fellow award for the next three years.  


Dear SANS Stakeholders,
Summer is finally here! As I drive to campus each day, I marvel at how the fields have been transformed. Much of the winter wheat has been harvested, and corn and soybeans are flourishing. Farmers are busy doing what they do to ensure we have enough food. For most of us, we take this availability for granted, yet there are so many people working assiduously behind the scenes to ensure the different components of the food system function properly and that the food supply remains steady.
With this said, among the key roles that land-grant universities such as UMES play is to conduct research with a view to develop innovations that address the many challenges affecting the food system. Additionally, we train students to fulfil the nation’s workforce needs and conduct extension programs to ensure the knowledge generated through research is effectively applied. To do this successfully, we need resources. It was therefore exciting when leaders of the 1890 Council of Presidents, including our own Dr. Heidi Anderson, were afforded the opportunity to give testimony to the House Agriculture Committee on July 16, 2021. In her testimony, President Anderson spoke about the many programs we implement here at UMES in support of the land-grant mission. She highlighted how the support that we receive from Congress through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, helps us to address challenges facing farmers and the community here in Maryland. We could not do what we do without that support; and for this, we thank our congressional leaders for their continued support of these programs.
In this digest, you will read about a few examples of how our researchers are conducting research to address challenges to the food system. You will also read about the AgDiscovery program, which is focused on strengthening the pipeline of young people interested in careers in the food and agricultural science areas. Let me also take this opportunity to salute our illustrious faculty who received promotion. Thank you for all you do to support our mission Drs. Volkis and Xia and congratulations to Dr. Joseph Pitula on his new position as Director of Research.
With very best wishes for an enjoyable and productive summer.
Moses T. Kairo

SANS Professor and Dean

The health and well-being of our campus and the community is our highest priority. The University's Task Force is working diligently to stay informed of changing dynamics in the coronavirus outbreak. 
UMES Updates
CDC Guidelines
USDA grant provides for researching how weather and environmental conditions affect aquaculture and pathogens
Aquaculture in the Chesapeake and Delaware Inland bays offers hope for restoring oyster populations vital to improving water quality and a sustainable shellfish industry.  In Maryland, the total annual harvest from shellfish aquaculture leases has continued to increase over the past five years.  Growers reported harvesting approximately 64,609 bushels of oysters from their leases last year.  This year’s harvest is expected to increase as more acreage is brought into production and oysters previously planted reach market size.  Delaware is experiencing a similar trend. 

“More needs to be learned, though, about pathogens and microbiomes in oysters and seawater and how aquaculture practices, weather events and environmental factors influence them,” said Salina Parveen, a professor in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Sciences.  Parveen recently received a three-year, $600,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture as the project director for a multi-institutional study to address these concerns. 

UMES President Heidi Anderson attends local leaders luncheon with Gov. Hogan
Governor Larry Hogan visited local leaders from Somerset County, including UMES President Heidi Anderson, in Princess Anne June 26, during several stops on the Eastern Shore. President Anderson was able to share information about UMES' agriculture assistance to local farmers among other topics.  Photo by Patrick Seibert, Office of Gov. Larry Hogan.
Pitula receives USDA grant to study environmental impact of "forever chemicals" 
According to a January mapping study by the Environmental Working Group, significant levels of “forever chemicals” have been detected in 2,330 water systems in the U.S., including Delmarva.  A UMES researcher was recently awarded a $600,000 capacity building grant from the USDA to study the consequences of bio-accumulation of these compounds during acute and long-term exposure.

“Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, better known as PFAS, are a class of persistent organic contaminants widely used in consumer products and industrial applications for the past six decades,” said Dr. Joseph Pitula, UMES Director of Research, professor of natural sciences and principal investigator for the grant.  “Once they leach out of these materials, they partition into surface and ground water and then distribute in the environment.  Irrigation of crops with PFAS-contaminated water can lead to contamination of soils and several studies have shown its translocation and accumulation in plants.” Exposure to PFAS, he said, is suggested to lead to adverse health outcomes in humans and animals.

“Ultimately, understanding the environmental effects of PFAS at the molecular level could provide valuable information for pest management interventions of key insect pests of fresh produce for farmers on Delmarva,” Pitula said.
Mitra is among first graduates of medical cannabis science degree in the U.S.
As medical cannabis has made its way from the debate floor to federal and state legislation, a UMES professor has joined an elite group of scientists, health care professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs who have earned the first master’s degrees in medical cannabis science in the nation.  The program aims to set standards for clinical information and assist in continued research to build the science behind the fast-growing industry.

Dr. Madhumi Mitra, a tenured professor of biological and environmental sciences, graduated from the two-year, project-based program at the University of Maryland School  of Pharmacy in Baltimore on May 21.  She was among 132 members of the first cohort of the program offered virtually through the school’s Shady Grove campus in Rockville. 

Mitra will share her knowledge with her home university conducting research and teaching an experimental course, “Cannabis:  Medicine, Culture, and Law,” for the Fall 2021 semester.  The course is geared primarily to seniors in the departments of natural sciences, and agriculture, food and resources sciences.  It may also appeal to students in the university’s physical therapy, pharmacy and physician assistant programs, she said, and to graduate students working on hemp-related projects.

Clinton-Scott receives $50,000 "Closing the Gap" grant from fashion industry non-profit

Dr. Bridgett Clinton-Scott has been educating and mentoring the next generation of talent entering the field of fashion design and merchandising for the past four years at UMES.  She will use a recent award of $50,000 to expand on her activities to connect fashion students in UMES' Department of Human Ecology with successful alumni.  The "Closing the Gap" grant grant is part of $510,000 that will be shared among 10 historically black colleges and universities that house fashion design and merchandising departments.

"Closing the Gap" is an initiative of a non-profit subsidiary of Harlem's Fashion Row, an agency for underrepresented African American and Latino designers.  The non-profit  represents a consortium of American apparel companies, including Gap Inc., Icon360 and Harlem's Fashion Row.  The inaugural effort is designed to "bridge the gap between education and the new generation of fashion leaders who are black, indigenous and other people of color."

Ingenuity, Spring 2020

The official research magazine of the University of Maryland Eastern Shore School of Agricultural and Natural Sciences.

In this edition of Ingenuity, you will find stories about  research and key linkages we hold with our community.  It means we care about what's important to you.  From one story, you will learn how UMES is paving the way to a newly legalized hemp industry. And as usual, we like to tell you about outcomes concerning some of the activities of our students, faculty, alumni and Extension agents over the last year.

Read all about it ►

UMES Extension launched its e-newsletter Connections in November last year! 

Subscribers will be privy to opportunities available to the public as well as those only available to our subscribers.

To get your copy, subscribe today!
The NOAA Living Marine Resources Cooperative Science Center (LMRCSC) trains and graduates students from underrepresented communities in marine science for careers in research, management, and public policy that support the sustainable harvest and conservation of our nation's living marine resources. With its partner institutions, the LMRCSC conducts research on marine and estuarine systems congruent with the interests of NOAA Fisheries. The Center is supported by the NOAA Education Partnership Program with Minority-Serving Institutions (EPP/MSI). Click on the image to read its latest newsletter.
Upcoming Events

UMES Ag Showcase-FREE!

 as UMES Extension and Atlantic Tractor team up to host a fun-filled and informative day, including a 90-acre soybean test plot, John Deere Operations Center classroom training,  alternative and specialty crop demonstrations, interactive booths, exhibitors and agriculture vendors, farm and agriculture equipment for large and small farm operations, and agriculture diversification opportunities.

Registration and details will be forthcoming.

SANS in the News

University of Maryland Eastern Shore's 2021 AgDiscovery summer camp in full swing, June 29, 2021

Dr. Mitra receives first medical cannabis science degree
Bay to, Somerset County News, Delaware State News, June 28, 2021

Delmarva Chicken Association awards four community allies
Cape Gazette, June 28, 2021

Meet 2 Female Celebrities Born To Chinese Mothers And Nigerian Fathers   Before modeling, Adesuwa Aighewi was a 15-year-old chemistry student at UMES,  She interned for NASA and her parents are environmental scientists.

'Make Fruits Available to All' program, addressing food security on the Eastern Shore
WMDT, June 7, 2021

Professor Rosemary Jagus recognized for efforts to increase diversity in marine sciences, June 1, 2021

Mujib Centenary seminar held at DU
The Financial Express, June 1, 2021

Mujib birth centenary seminar held at Dhaka University
Bangladesh Post, May 31, 2021

Navigating Maryland’s open burn laws (Ag Law)
The Delmarva Farmer, May 21, 2021

Grants or Gifts of Interest to African Americans in Higher Education
Journal of Blacks in Higher Ed., May 19, 2021
Outgoing IRSD Teacher of the Year Brandon McCabe helps plan futures
Coastal Point, May 13, 2021

New Research Publications

Silva, L.V.D., Ossai, S., Chigbu P., and Parveen, S. 2021. Antimicrobial and genetic profiles of Vibrio vulnificus and Vibrio parahaemolyticus isolated from the Maryland Coastal Bays, US.  Frontier in  Microbiology. 12:676249. doi: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.676249.

Anderson-Coughlin, B., Craighead, S., Kelly, A., Gartley, S., Vanore, A., Johnson, G., Jiang, C., Haymaker, J., White, C., Foust, D., Duncan, R., East, C., Handy, E., Bradshaw, R., Murray, R., Kulkarni, P., Callahan, M., Solaiman, S., Betancourt, W., Gerba, C., Allard, S., Parveen, S., Hashem, F., Micallef, S., Sapkota, A., Sapkota, A., Sharma, M., and Kniel, K. 2021. Applied and Environmental Microbiology. doi: 10.1128/AEM.00211-21

Almuhaideb. E., Chintapenta,L.K., Abbott, A., Parveen, S., Ozbay, G. 2020. Assessment of. Vibrio parahaemolyticus levels in oysters (Crassostrea virginica) and seawater in Delaware  Bay in relation to environmental conditions and the prevalence of molecular markers to identify pathogenic Vibrio parahaemolyticus strains. PLoS ONE 15(12):e0242229 .

Previous Editions . . .

The SANS Monthly Digest-May 2021
The SANS Monthly Digest-April 2021
The SANS Monthly Digest-March 2021
The SANS Monthly Digest-February 2021
The SANS Monthly Digest-January 2021

The SANS Monthly Digest-December 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest-November 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest-October 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest-September 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest- August 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest - June 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest- May 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest - April 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest- March 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest - February 2020
The SANS Monthly Digest - January 2020

The SANS Monthly Digest - December 2019
The SANS Monthly Digest - November 2019
The SANS Monthly Digest - October 2019
The SANS Monthly Digest - September 2019
The SANS Monthly Digest - August 2019
The SANS Monthly Digest - July 2019
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