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Thursday, April 24, 2014

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Breast Cancer Gene Protects Against Obesity, Diabetes

March 11, 2014
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418
Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The gene known to be associated with breast cancer susceptibility, BRCA 1, plays a critical role in the normal metabolic function of skeletal muscle, according to a new study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health researchers. Dr. Espen Spangenburg, associate professor of kinesiology, and his laboratory team are the first to identify that the BRCA1 protein is expressed in the skeletal muscle of both mice and humans, and that it plays a key role in fat storage, insulin response and mitochondrial function in skeletal muscle cells. The research is published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

“Our findings suggest that certain mutations in the BRCA1 gene may put people at increased risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Spangenburg. “Without BRCA1, muscle cells store excess fat and start to look diabetic. We believe that the significance of the BRCA1 gene goes well beyond breast cancer risk.”

“Our findings suggest that certain mutations in the BRCA1 gene may put people at increased risk for metabolic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes,” said Dr. Spangenburg. “Without BRCA1, muscle cells store excess fat and start to look diabetic. We believe that the significance of the BRCA1 gene goes well beyond breast cancer risk.”
Dr. Spangenburg and colleagues, including researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, Brigham Young University, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and East Carolina University, found that the BRCA1 protein exists in both mouse and in human skeletal muscle. This is the first evidence since the discovery of BRCA1 in 1994 that the gene is expressed in human muscle cells.

They further established that the protein produced by the BRCA 1 gene binds with a protein known to play an important role in the metabolism of fat in muscle cells known as Acetyl-CoA carboxylase or ACC. After a period of exercise, the BRCA 1 protein binds to ACC, which helps “turns it off.” This deactivation of ACC encourages the utilization of fatty acids by the muscle.  

Once they established that the two proteins complex together, they sought to answer if BRCA1 plays a critical role in regulating muscle metabolic function. To do so, they “knocked out” the gene so that it was no longer being expressed in the muscle cells cultured from healthy, active and lean female subjects. This was done using shRNA technology specific for BRCA1 in human myotubes (skeletal muscle fiber cells).

The result was that the muscle cells started to look diseased. The removal of BRCA1 from the cells, which simulated what could happen in the cells of a person with a BRCA1 mutation, resulted in increased lipid storage, decreased insulin signaling, reduced mitochondrial function and increased oxidative stress. These are all key risk factors for the development of metabolic diseases, such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings make it clear that BRCA1 plays a protective role against the development of metabolic disease,” Dr. Spangenburg explains. “This gene needs to be there, and should be considered a target to consider in the treatment of type 2 diabetes and/or obesity.”

UMD Receives High Marks in 2015 Grad School Rankings

March 11, 2014
Contacts: 

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland was once again highly ranked by U.S. News & World Report's 2015 Best Graduate Schools – with 19 programs and specialties ranked in the top 10, and 46 programs and specialties ranked in the top 25. The College of Education's counseling and personnel services program and the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences' criminology specialty were once again ranked best in the country.

Some additional top 25 highlights from the university include:

  • The Robert H. Smith School of Business' information systems and part-time MBA specialties both ranked in the top 25, at No. 6 and No. 22, respectively.
  • The College of Education's educational psychology specialty was highly ranked at No. 8, and the school's special education, higher education administration, and rehabilitation counseling specialties all made the top 25 list.
  • The A. James Clark School of Engineering ranked 22nd, with four top 25 programs – aerospace engineering, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering.
  • The School of Public Policy's social policy, environmental policy, public finance and budget, public policy analysis, and public management and administration specialties were all ranked in the top 25.
  • The College of Behavioral and Social Sciences had three top 10 programs and specialties – criminology, and the sex and gender, and sociology of population specialties. Speech language pathology, audiology, economics, and sociology were all ranked in the top 25.
  • The College of Information Studies was ranked No. 10 in the country. The school's archives and preservation, school library media, services for children and youth, and information systems programs all made the top 10 list. The digital librarianship specialty was also ranked highly at No. 12.
  • The College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences had an impressive 13 programs and specialties in the top 25. Those include six in the top 10 – Physics' plasma, atomic/molecular/optical, quantum, and condensed matter specialties; the applied math specialty; and earth sciences' geochemistry specialty.
  • The College of Arts and Humanities had two top 10 specialties – African American literature, and American literature before 1865 – and one additional specialty in the top 25 – African American history.

The University of Maryland's full Best Graduate School rankings are available here.

Animals Key to Biodiversity of Over-Fertilized Prairies

March 10, 2014
Contacts: 

Heather Dewar 301-405-9267

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A comparative study of grasslands on six continents suggests there may be a way to counteract the human-made overdose of fertilizer that threatens to permanently alter the biodiversity of the world's native prairies, says a global research cooperative that includes the University of Maryland.

The solution is one that nature devised: let grazing animals crop the excess growth of fast growing grasses that can out-compete native plants in an over-fertilized world. And grazing works in a way that is also natural and simple. The herbivores, or grazing and browsing animals, feed on tall grasses that block sunlight from reaching the ground, making the light available to other plants.

That's the key finding of a five-year study carried out at 40 different sites around the world by the Nutrient Network, a cooperative of scientists who are studying grasslands worldwide.  More than 50 Nutrient Network scientists co-authored the study, which was published in Nature on March 9.

"This study has tremendous significance because human activities are changing grasslands everywhere," said study co-author Daniel S. Gruner, associate professor of entomology at UMD. "We're over-fertilizing them, and we're adding and subtracting herbivores. We have a worldwide experiment going on, but it's completely uncontrolled."

Gruner, a member of the Nutrient Network (which participants have nicknamed NutNet) since its founding in 2006, helped plan the worldwide study and analyze its results. Elizabeth Borer of the University of Minnesota was the study's lead author. 

The U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization estimates that grasslands cover between one-fifth and two-fifths of the planet's land area and are home to more than one-tenth of humankind. But like all plant communities, grasslands are suffering from too much fertilizer.

As humans burn fossil fuels, dose crops with chemical fertilizers, and dispose of manure from livestock, they introduce extra nitrogen and other nutrients into the soil, air and water. The excess is a special problem for grasslands, where many plants, like annual wildflowers and others, have adapted to low nutrient levels. They often struggle to compete against grasses that use the extra nutrients to grow faster and bigger.

At the same time, grasslands worldwide are being converted to pastures for domestic animals, with native grazers like elk and antelope giving way to cattle and sheep.

Ecological theory asserts that grazers can counteract the effects of over-fertilizing in most cases, but the theory has never been broadly tested, Gruner said. To do that, the NutNet scientists ran essentially the same experiment worldwide, marking off test plots in groups of four at each of 40 sites. In each group, one plot was fenced to keep grazing animals out. One was treated with a set dose of fertilizers, to mimic the effect of excess nutrients from human sources, but was not fenced so the animals could graze. One was both fenced and fertilized. And one was left alone.

The researchers did not try to alter the test sites' animal populations. In some places native animals were abundant. At others they'd been mostly replaced by domestic animals like cattle, goats and sheep. And still others were former pastures where livestock had browsed in the past, but were no longer there.

In general, where fertilizer was added and grazing animals were kept out, the variety of plants in the experimental plots decreased. Where animals were allowed to graze in the fertilized plots, plant diversity generally increased. The researchers' data analysis concluded that the grazers improved biodiversity by increasing the amount of light reaching ground level.

Grassland plants have evolved a variety of strategies to take advantage of a setting where nutrients are in short supply and inconsistently available. They may be ground-hugging, or ephemeral, or shoot up when they capture a nutrient pulse, Gruner explained. These differing strategies create a diverse grassland ecosystem.

In the human-altered world where nutrients are always plentiful, plants that put their effort into growing tall to capture sunlight have an advantage. They block the sunlight from reaching most other plant species, which cannot grow or reproduce. But grazing animals cut down the light-blocking plants and give the others a chance to bloom.

"Where we see a change in light, we see a change in diversity," said Borer, the lead author. "Our work suggests that two factors which humans have changed globally, grazing and fertilization, can control ground-level light. Light appears to be very important in maintaining or losing biodiversity in grasslands."

The effect was greatest where large animals, wild and domesticated, grazed on the test plots: cattle, pronghorn and elk on North America's Great Plains; wildebeests and impala on Africa's Serengeti; and horses, sheep and ibex in rural India. In places where the only grazers were small animals like rabbits, voles and gophers, the grazers' effect was weak and variable.

UMD Recognized for Excellence, Value, Global Reputation

March 7, 2014
Contacts: 

Alana Carchedi 301-405-0235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The University of Maryland has been recognized twice this month for its excellence, value and global reputation.

University of MarylandUMD has claimed the top spot on Kiplinger’s list of 30 Best College Values in the Mid-Atlantic. According to Kiplinger’s, these rankings are a companion to the magazine’s annual ranking of Best Values in Public Colleges, which ranked UMD as the 7th best value for 2014. The rankings are also part of Kiplinger’s new interactive college finder tool, which reveals the best college values in each region, best values among different-sized campuses, and best values under $30,000 a year.

The university also made Times Higher Education’s 2014 top 100 World Reputation Rankings list. The World Reputation Rankings recognizes the top 100 global universities, based on the results of the world’s largest invitation-only academic opinion survey, which received 10,536 responses from 133 countries. The survey targets experienced, published scholars, who offer their views on excellence in research and teaching within their disciplines and at institutions with which they are familiar.

Lockheed Martin, UMD Partner on Quantum Computing

March 5, 2014
Contacts: 

Pamela R. Morse 301-226-6266

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Lockheed Martin and the University of Maryland are partnering to develop an integrated quantum computing platform that has the potential to enhance fields ranging from drug discovery and communications to logistics.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding today establishing the Quantum Engineering Center at the University of Maryland, College Park.  

Lockheed Martin and the University of Maryland are partnering to develop an integrated quantum computing platform that has the potential to enhance fields ranging from drug discovery and communications to logistics."Classical computing can only take us so far," said Dr. Ray O. Johnson, Lockheed Martin senior vice president and chief technology officer. "In the future, critical systems will become so complex that problems will take too long or become too expensive to solve using even our most powerful supercomputers. We believe the next computational revolution will stem from applied quantum science—a discipline that connects physics, information science, and engineering."

Building on more than 60 years of collaboration, Lockheed Martin and the University of Maryland signed a formal strategic framework in 2010 to jointly pursue research and development projects and business opportunities. The Quantum Engineering Center is the most recent opportunity to push the boundaries of scientific discovery and innovation.

"By building on our world-class research expertise, the University of Maryland will transform the study of quantum mechanics into the practice of quantum engineering through this unique partnership with Lockheed Martin," said Dr. Mary Ann Rankin, senior vice president and provost of the University of Maryland, College Park. "Together, we will bring multidisciplinary methods to an area that has the potential to transform the lives of citizens around the globe."

The initial goal of the Quantum Engineering Center is to demonstrate a quantum platform that features reliable, well-characterized operation without requiring a user to have a deep understanding of the internal workings of the system—just like conventional computers work today. To achieve this will require close cooperation between scientists and engineers.

"In the case of quantum components, it's like we're back in 1947 working with the first semiconductor transistors," said Dr. Chris Monroe, Bice Zorn professor of physics at the University of Maryland. "We are talking about unusual systems— specially tuned laser and microwave fields trained with exquisite precision onto individual atoms suspended with electrical fields and immersed in a vacuum chamber a million times less dense than outer space. Each aspect is challenging in its own way, but we understand exactly how every piece works. Our focus now is integrating these systems to consistently and reliably work in harmony, much like engineering a complex aircraft, so that the device is more than just a sum of its parts."

Students Assist with Births in "Lamb Watch" Course

March 5, 2014
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Although winter may seem never-ending this year, the births of 29 lambs so far at the University of Maryland's Campus Farm provide a reassuring sign that spring will eventually arrive in College Park.

Lamb WatchA course offered every spring semester popularly known as "Lamb Watch," teaches animal science students the pre- and post-natal care of ewes and lambs through both lectures and direct, hands-on involvement in the birthing process.

"It's in the barn doing the watches and lamb parenting where they now use the book knowledge and skills and actually take care of our flock – with lots of supervision," says Sarah Balcom, who leads the lecture portion of the course. Campus Farm manager Crystal Caldwell teaches the lab portion and says students play a large role in all the lambs' births.

Students are paired up into teams of "lamb parents," who work together to care for their ewe prior to her lambing. They then watch and assist with their lamb's birth, name their lambs, and assist with post-natal care of both the lambs and ewes.

Students perform a total of nine physicals on their lambs after they are born, allowing them to identify and resolve any problems that may arise. It is the closest thing to a true farm experience that the university can offer, Balcom says.

"Once the lambs are born, you have to go to the barn every day for a week to make sure the ewe and lambs are healthy and doing well," freshman animal science major Jessica Wooleyhand says. "It requires a lot of effort, but it is an amazing responsibility."

Lamb WatchThe lambs are certainly cute, as they follow students around and jump on their boots. When the weather becomes warmer this spring, the lambs and ewes will be outside, and any student walking on Farm Drive will be able to see the sheep grazing in the pasture.

Senior agriculture and resource economics major Christine Bernstein says she has become attached to her lambs. "I wish I had a farm because there are several that I would want to take home with me," she says.

Not surprisingly, Lamb Watch is one of the most popular courses in the animal science department, says senior animal science major Kayla Miner. "Animal Science students love to apply what they are learning in the classroom right away, and lamb watch provides that opportunity."

In total, students and faculty are looking forward to the births of more than 30 lambs at the Campus Farm this spring.

Study Links Abuser Arrests to Early Death in Victims

March 4, 2014
Contacts: 

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Researchers at the University of Maryland and the University of Cambridge have shed new light on a major randomized experiment conducted from 1987 to 1988, finding that domestic violence victims whose partners were arrested on misdemeanor charges – mostly without causing injury – were 64 percent more likely to have died early, compared to victims whose partners were warned but not removed by police. 

Effect of Suspect Arrest on Victim Mortality by Race of VictimAmong black victims, arrest of their offender increased early mortality by a staggering 98 percent. This is in contrast to white victims, for whom there was only a 9 percent increase in mortality associated with offender arrest.  The research also found that employed victims suffered the worst effects of their partners' arrests.

Employed black victims with arrested partners suffered a death rate more than four times higher than those whose partners received a warning at the scene. No such link was found for white victims. 

This study—authored by Professor Lawrence Sherman, a Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland and the director of the Institute of Criminology of the University of Cambridge; and Heather M. Harris, a doctoral student and graduate assistant at the University of Maryland—will appear in the Journal of Experimental Criminology later this spring.

The vast majority of victim deaths in the aftermath of the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment were not murders, accidents or suicides. Rather, the victims died from the more common causes of death, including heart disease, cancer and other internal illnesses.

The original study on which this new research builds, the Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment took place between 1987 and 1988, with support from the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. Sherman, who at the time led that study from the University of Maryland, described its 98 percent accurate delivery of randomly assigned police decisions as "arguably the most rigorous test ever conducted of the effects of arrest."  

Previous studies have shown post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) to be prevalent in victims of domestic violence, and that low but chronic PTSS has been linked to premature death from coronary heart disease and to other health problems. However, Sherman and Harris observed that the impact of seeing a partner arrested could create a traumatic event for victims, one that raises their risk of death. Moreover, an arrest may cause more trauma to victims, especially working victims, in concentrated black poverty areas than in white working-class neighborhoods, for reasons not yet understood.    

The exact cause of these surprising results still remains a "medical mystery," Sherman said. But whatever the explanation, the harmful effects of mandatory arrest poses a challenge to arrest policies that have "been on the books" in most U.S. states, and across the United Kingdom, for decades.

"The evidence shows that black women are dying at a much higher rate than white women from a policy that was intended to protect all victims of domestic violence, regardless of race," Sherman said. "It is now clear that a pro-arrest policy has failed to protect all victims, and that a robust review of these policies is urgently needed.

"Because all the victims had an equal chance of having their partners arrested by random assignment, there is no other likely explanation for this difference except that it was caused by seeing their partners arrested," Sherman continued. "It remains to be seen whether democracies can accept these facts as they are, rather than as we might wish them to be."

More than half of all U.S. states require police to make warrantless arrests for domestic assault when they have probable cause to believe it occurred, in laws enacted in the 1980s after Sherman's first experiment in Minneapolis showed in 1983 that arrest had a short-term deterrent effect on repeat misdemeanors. While five subsequent studies showed mixed results, especially in relation to high unemployment as a correlate of arrest increasing violence, the laws have remained largely unchallenged. Hundreds of thousands of arrests are made annually in the United States for misdemeanor domestic assault, with higher rates of assault arrests among black men than among whites.  

The Milwaukee Domestic Violence Experiment enrolled 1,125 victims of domestic violence whose average age was 30 years. Each case was the subject of an equal probability "lottery" of random assignment. Two-thirds of the suspects were arrested with immediate jailing. One-third received a warning at the scene with no arrest. In 2012–13, Sherman and Harris searched state and national records for the names of every one of the victims.

The record search showed that a total of 91 victims had died over the 23 years after their offenders were randomly assigned to arrest or a warning. Of these, 70 had been in the group whose partners were arrested, with 21 whose partners had been warned. This translated into 93 deaths per 1,000 victims in the arrest group, versus 57 deaths per 1,000 in the warning group. For the 791 black victims (70 percent of the sample), the rates were 98 per 1,000 for the arrest group, versus 50 per 1,000 for the warned group.  These deaths accumulated slowly, with most of the deaths occurring more than ten years after the police response.

"These differences are too large to be due to chance," Sherman said. "They are also too large to be ignored."

Most Children Unaware of Cigarette Warning Labels

February 27, 2014
Contacts: 

Kelly Blake 301-405-9418

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - An international study of children’s perceptions of cigarette package warning labels found that the majority of children are unaware that they exist. Children in countries where larger warning labels are used, and which include a compelling graphic image of the negative health impacts of smoking, were more likely to be aware of and understand the health risks of tobacco products.

A Brazilian child looks at a cigarette warning label: Children in countries where larger, graphic cigarette warning labels are used (such as Brazil) were more likely to be aware of and understand the health risks of tobacco products.The study, led by Dina Borzekowski, Ed.D, in the University of Maryland School of Public Health (UMD), and Joanna Cohen, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHU), showed that only 38 percent of children had any awareness of warning labels currently being featured on cigarette packages. Even after showing warning labels to participating children, around two-thirds (62 percent) of the children were unable to explain what the health warnings were about.  Among the six countries studied, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was greatest among children in Brazil, where graphic warning labels, often featuring extremely gruesome pictures, have been featured since 2002 and cover 100 percent of either the front or back of the cigarette package.

Their findings, published in the Journal of Public Health, offer data from a sample of 2,423 five and six year-old children interviewed in Brazil, China, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Russia about their awareness and understanding of cigarette health warning labels.

“Pro-smoking messages are reaching the world’s most susceptible audiences,” explains Borzekowski, research professor in the UMD's Department of Behavioral and Community Health.  “We need to do a better job globally to reach children with anti-smoking messages. To do this, health warning messages should be big and clear, especially for low-literacy populations, children and young people.” According to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), tobacco product packages and labeling should effectively communicate the health risks associated with tobacco use, and that the effectiveness of these health warnings and messages increases with their prominence and with the use of pictures.

This new study follows recent work by Borzekowski and Cohen published in the journal Pediatrics in October 2013.  The earlier piece, drawn from the same sample of five and six year olds, provided evidence that young children recognize cigarette brands.  More than two-thirds could identify cigarette brand logos, with the highest percentages in the sample from China (86 percent could identify at least one brand). 

In contrast to the higher awareness among children in Brazil, where tobacco warning labels and large and graphic, awareness and understanding of health warning labels was lowest among children from India and Nigeria. The Indian warning label shows an image of a symbolic scorpion and the Nigerian warning label uses only a vague text message (“The Federal Ministry of Health warns that smokers are liable to die young.”)

“Heath warning labels on cigarette packs are an important medium for communicating about the serious health effects caused by tobacco products,” said Cohen, director of the JHU Institute for Global Tobacco Control.  “These messages are most effective when the labels are large and include pictures that evoke an emotional response.”

This work was supported by the Institute for Global Tobacco Control’s (IGTC) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, with funding from the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use.  

UMD Students Help Revitalize Eastern Shore Community

February 26, 2014
Contacts: 

Salisbury Design Project First Venue for the University's Program for Action Learning in Sustainability

This semester, 58 UMD architecture students are closely collaborating with the residents of Salisbury, Md., as they make steps towards a master plan for revitalization.COLLEGE PARK, Md. – This semester, 58 graduate and undergraduate students from the University of Maryland's architecture program are closely collaborating with the residents of Salisbury, Md., as they make steps towards a master plan for revitalization. The project, which is also a beta test for the university's forthcoming Program for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS), is pairing student expertise with the institutional knowledge of Salisbury's residents in a reciprocal partnership that the university hopes will set an example for future learning projects in Maryland. 

Three previous architecture research projects led by UMD students—a master plan in North Beach last spring and pre-emptive sea-level predictor plans in Cambridge and Vienna—garnered positive results and feedback, prompting Salisbury Council President Jake Day (B.S. Arch '04) to contact Assistant Professors of Architecture Luis Quiros and Jana Vandergoot about assisting Salisbury in refining their master plan.

Under the guidance of both professors, students are working to identify areas of opportunity and generate ideas through careful consideration of the town's needs and obstacles. This includes careful examination of physical growth, consideration of social, economic and environmental issues facing Salisbury, as well as wide-angle and micro-views of the town, what Quiros refers to as "multi-scalar planning ideas: to generate ideas and projects from the city to sidewalk."

"The project definitely focuses on revitalization strategies, but it's not just about attracting business or improving the look of the waterfront area," said Adam Chamy, a graduate student on the project. "It's environmental, it's social and even policy-driven. Some of the project will be figuring out solutions to that and integrating them into the design."

This semester, 58 UMD architecture students are closely collaborating with the residents of Salisbury, Md., as they make steps towards a master plan for revitalization.What makes the project unique, however, is its methodology. In addition to the traditional exploration conducted in a research design studio—site plans, demographics and economics—the students are closely adhering to the principals of participatory design: community engagement on all levels to gather a variety of perspectives of the challenges and needs of the community. This extends beyond polling residents and asking for ideas, according to Quiros, and is more like an exercise in "mutual knowledge."

"We know that as professionals, we have a certain type of knowledge that we can offer," explains Quiros, "but more importantly we can't deny that no one knows the town, its history and its issues, better than the community itself. We are not just note takers; the way in which these two groups inform each other will generate a better solution to the problem than just working alone."

Students launched their efforts earlier this month by hosting a walking tour and design workshop with the public, a first step in gaining a better understand of what can work—and what doesn't—in Salisbury. They have also developed a website, www.salisbury.md, which tracks their work while offering residents a platform for communicating with the team. Students will make more visits throughout the semester as well as engage in deep-dive examinations of the town's economy, site plans and environmental trends, such as the frequent flooding brought on by coastal storms.

Although Quiros and Vandergoot initially developed the project as part of a continued outreach initiative in the Chesapeake Bay area, the principles behind the Salisbury project have incited UMD's National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) to adopt the project for its impending 2014 PALS initiative. The PALS' mission is to move students beyond textbook case studies by engaging them in real community challenges. With the PALS initiative launching in earnest this fall, Gerrit Knaap, director of NCSG, and other program administrators are offering the Center's support while paying close attention to project outcomes and feedback, treating the project as a pilot project for the program.

"The holistic philosophy that serves as the framework for the Salisbury project really epitomizes our goals for the Program for Action Learning in Sustainability," says Knaap. "Luis and Jana have developed a project that provides both an important learning exercise for our students and a crucial framework for Salisbury by involving the community in the process. We hope to replicate that this fall with other municipalities."

At project's end, Quiros hopes that Salisbury will walk away not just with design renderings, but with the urban, architectural, policy and planning ideas that will ignite the debate needed to revitalize Salisbury.

"It would be naive to think we can solve Salisbury's problems in one semester," says Quiros, "but generating design ideas will hopefully guide the future of the town and, more importantly, empower the community to keep thinking and working on these issues. Community participation is a huge piece of that puzzle. It is crucial to the future of the profession."

Campus Farm Welcomes First Foal of the Year

February 25, 2014
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin 301-405-9235

COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- On a frigid February night, as a snowstorm descended upon the College Park campus, students gathered inside the horse barn on the University of Maryland Campus Farm to witness the birth of a thoroughbred foal. They watched in wonder as the healthy baby colt, the first foal born on campus this year, arrived just before 11 p.m. on February 12. Students appropriately nicknamed the colt “Pax,” the name given to the snowstorm occurring the night of his birth.

The Best Sister and her little foal stay warm and comfortable in the Campus Farm. Image Credit: Edwin Remsberg

Pax’s mother, The Best Sister (known as “Bess” in the stable), came to campus about two weeks before her due date. Led by equine reproduction instructor Dr. Charlie Apter, students monitored her udder’s milk production to determine when the mare was ready to foal. When Bess seemed ready, students went on “foal watch” and watched her closely for signs of labor. 

In the past, students have spent the night in the farm’s tack room, but this year, frigid temperatures and the impending storm kept students inside the animal science building to monitor Bess’ progress through a webcam. The mare gave birth on the second night of foal watch in what Apter described as a "textbook" foaling.

“At 10 p.m. Wednesday, Bess appeared restless, pawed at her bedding, looked frequently at her belly and laid down once. At that point we were rushing to don our warm clothes and hurried down to the barn,” said Hannah Gorrie, a senior animal science major in UMD's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “When we got there, there were already two front feet and a nose protruding.”

Students said that before they left the barn, Pax was running circles around his mother, before eventually tiring himself out and lying down for a nap.

“Many of the students, including myself, had never witnessed a birth before, so it was a very unique and educational experience,” Gorrie said. “We have all worked very hard to care for our pregnant mares, and it is very rewarding to witness the end result: a healthy, bouncing baby.” 

Foaling returned to the university’s Campus Farm last year, when two foals were born on campus for the first time in three decades. Before the mid-80s, the Campus Farm had more acreage and the practice was somewhat common.

Dr. Amy Burk, associate professor and extension horse specialist in the Department of Animal and Avian Sciences, said that bringing the foal births back to campus has given the equine studies program, department and College a lot of visibility in the community.

“When you’re trying to teach what it’s like to raise animals, sell them, and care for them, it really helps to have your own breeding herd,” Burk said. “It’s also uplifting because every year you have the excitement of new life.”

Equine reproduction students plan to go back on foal watch in early April, when a second thoroughbred foal is due."I gave the students the option to only come to one foaling, which would have split the class into two groups, or the option for everyone to come to both foalings," Apter said. "The students unanimously voted to attend both births, an indication of the level of interest in this whole process."

This foal will be the offspring of Fresian Fire and Daylight Lassie – a sibling to the colt born on the Campus Farm last spring nicknamed “Rebel” by students and eventually given the racing name “Diamondback Fire” by the UMD community.

“I am really excited for the second foal because this was such a great experience,” senior criminology and criminal justice major Corey Willett said. “Now that I have been through it once, I sort of know what to expect, and hopefully the second birth will go as smoothly as Bess’ did.”  

Pages

April 3
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April 3
The University of Maryland will offer a new master's degree program in technology entrepreneurship starting this fall. Read
March 28
UMD is launching the Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability, a new university-wide initiative to offer a... Read
March 28
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