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COWBOY OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources Volume 22 Number 1 • Winter/Spring 2020


Proud to continue our long-standing tradition of helping tomorrow’s leaders find success today.

AFRYouth /AFRYouth

@AFRYouth www.afrcoop.org 405.218.5400

Through our new fundraising campaign, the boundaries for the future of OSU Agriculture will be limitless. Join us online January 15 at ostate.tv for an exciting campaign announcement!

C O N G R AT U L AT I O N S T O O U R 2 0 1 9 H O N O R E E S D I ST I N G U I S H E D A LU M N I



B.S. Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, 1961



Ph.D. Agricultural Economics, 1978


B.S. Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership, 2001 M.S. Entomology and Plant Pathology, 2003


B.S. Agricultural Economics, 1988

dasnrhonors.okstate.edu Austin Kenyon, Kathy Noltensmeyer, Clint Roush, David Watts: Photos by Todd Johnson Tererai Trent: Photo by Nick Onken, Susanne Wasson: Photo courtesy of Susanne Wasson




In agricultural communications, we tell the stories of the people, places and innovations that make the industry of agriculture thrive. This issue is the culmination of 19 individuals’ voices and talents. Our team worked to create an informative, creative and “neato” publication filled with crisp design, magnetic photography and captivating stories. We are honored to have had the opportunity to capture a snapshot of CASNR and share it with you, our loyal readers. To our CJ staff, thank you for not giving up in the midst of difficulty and to striving for excellence as a team. Without your hard work, dedication and creativity, this publication would not be what it is today. To Holly Blakey, Peyton Haley, Katelyn Miller, Melissa Mourer, Samantha Siler and Kristin Young, thank you for your behind-the-scenes suggestions and contributions. To Samantha Blackwell, Dwayne Cartmell, Ruth Inman, Angel Riggs and Quisto Settle, thank you for providing

insights and mentorship throughout the production of this issue. Most importantly, thank you for teaching us the skills and work ethic essential to success in our future careers. To Tanner Lopez, our California Cowboy, thank you for being the best problem solver and supporter. Your uplifting smile and willingness to jump in helped make this issue possible. To Shelly Sitton, thank you for encouraging us to be our best and for challenging us to become a family. You pushed us to reach our full potential as we enter into the professional world. You have helped to develop us not only into good communicators but also into remarkable people. To the reader, thank you for taking the time to dive into this publication and catch a glimpse inside CASNR. We hope you find a connection to the people, places and innovations of agriculture we have woven into these next pages. Go, Pokes!

— Ashley and JoMarie

Oklahoma State University, as an equal opportunity employer, complies with all applicable federal and state laws regarding non-discrimination and affirmative action. Oklahoma State University is committed to a policy of equal opportunity for all individuals and does not discriminate based on race, religion, age, sex, color, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability, or veteran status with regard to employment, educational programs and activities, and/or admissions. For more information, visit https:///eeo.okstate.edu. This publication, issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President of the Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, was printed at no cost to the taxpayers of Oklahoma. This publication is printed and issued by Oklahoma State University as authorized by the Vice President of the Division of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources and has been prepared and distributed at no cost to the taxpayers of Oklahoma.



JoMarie Hickerson Ashley Hurd

Managing Editor

Shelly Peper Sitton, Ph.D.

Assistant Managing Editors Samantha Blackwell, M.S. Dwayne Cartmell, Ph.D. Ruth Inman, Ph.D. Tanner Lopez, B.S. Angel Riggs, Ph.D. Quisto Settle, Ph.D.

Graphic Coordinators Macee Hammack Jamie Johnson Kane Kinion

Sponsorship Coordinator Caitlin Stehr

Social Media Coordinators Chelsea Dinterman Alicia Maldonado

Fact Checker Makala Navarro


Makenzee Castanon | Harrison Hill McKenna Knight | Maci Morton Kyle Rea | Katy Ronck Avery Schnoor | Mason Seelke Kristyn Smith | Bailey Teakell



EST 1957


TOM LARRY SCOTT BRIAN 580-726-3220 580-726-5882 580-530-2208 580-530-0279 VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 5













Grain Rising of the First Lady from the Water

Eyes to the Sky

Out of the Sun and into the Future OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Volume 22 Number 1 • Winter/Spring 2020

ON THE COVER The Greenhouse Learning Center provides state-ofthe-art facilities for DASNR. Photo by Makala Navarro.


CLUES to Success

Expanding STEM's Reach

Keeping FIT

Enjoy the Ride

Rooted in Success

In With the New










Small Sheep. Big Answers.

Collision Control

Mastering Sustainability

Steps to Giving

The Heart of the Matter

A New Way to Relax

What's in Your Water?

Expedition Mexico

A Work of Art


Eyes s the sun rises and people begin their morning, Les Imboden waits in Babcock Park. One of the estimated 60 million bird watchers in the United States, Imboden takes advantage of the early hours in the day to watch and listen for birds. “It goes without saying that birds are my hobby,” Imboden said. “I’m not an ornithologist. I’m just a bird enthusiast.” Imboden, an Oklahoma State University alumnus, was 11 years old when his passion for bird watching was ignited, he said. “I’ve heard so many stories from fellow birders that it was a parent, relative or neighbor who introduced them to birds and got them interested,” Imboden said. “But, that’s not my story.” As a child, Imboden’s parents had little understanding of nature, but his sixth-grade teacher, Eunice Hoskins, introduced him to birds, he said. “Eunice was the vintage, classic school teacher,” Imboden said. “She was a real sweetheart, and her life was the kids she taught.” During the school day, Hoskins would instruct her students to go outside to find birds and report back to her what they found, Imboden said. “At first, to a kid, this was a game,” Imboden said. “She made it to be that way. It was a fun competition.” While in Hoskins’ class, Imboden Les Imboden begins his mornings by watching for birds in Babcock Park. Photo by Katy Ronck. 8 | COWBOY JOURNAL

s to the Sky OSU alumnus donates to NREM department

pursued bird watching, but his passion “fizzled out” once he moved to junior high and then high school, he said. Years later, Imboden graduated from OSU with a bachelor’s degree in romantic languages. He worked for Tinker Air Force Base and then transferred to the Federal National Relations Board as a field agent in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “I was living in Tulsa and had a house with a nice, big backyard,” Imboden said. “I decided one day that I should get a bird feeder.” Imboden enjoyed seeing birds in his backyard that he typically would see in any city but never thought much about them, he said. “One day, I looked out the window and saw a bird that was different from the ones I always saw, and to my surprise, I knew what it was,” Imboden said. The bird was a painted bunting, which he learned back in Hoskins’ sixth-grade class, he said. “I started paying a little more attention to birds, and in time, I got to looking for them more often,” Imboden said. One year later, he said he got involved with the Audubon Society of Tulsa, the local chapter of the national nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of birds. By the time he moved from Tulsa to Stillwater in 2004, Imboden had rekindled his passion for birding and was encouraged by a neighbor to join the executive board of Audubon Society of Payne County, he said. Through the society’s meetings,

ornithological research at OSU,” Imboden met Tim O’Connell, OSU O’Connell said. associate professor of natural resource The short-term program allows ecology and management. scholars to conduct ornithology research “I’ve worked with Les for 10 years without other responsibilities, he said. on the board for the Audubon Society of “This will be for scholars who know Payne County,” O’Connell said. exactly what to do,” O’Connell said. In 2017, Imboden said he approached “They can be scientists for a few years.” O’Connell after an Audubon Society He said the funding from Imboden’s excursion to schedule a meeting with estate gift also will give current NREM him. Imboden said he had exciting news faculty at OSU the opportunity to colawaiting O’Connell. laborate with the “Les said he Eunice ignited a spark that scholars. wanted to invest “Not only will in strengthening I never would have known we be publishing ornithology at without her. more research, OSU,” O’Connell but also we’ll be said. “He then Les Imboden putting in more stopped me and grant proposals,” O’Connell said. “That said, ‘And let me answer the question means we’re generating more research you’re too polite to ask. It’s going to be dollars for the university. When we do in excess of $1 million.’” that, we become much more attractive to Imboden plans to set up an endowelite graduate students who might want ment at his death, said Heidi Williams, to do their master’s or doctorate at OSU. OSU Foundation senior director of It’s a snowball effect.” principle gifts. Imboden was happy with what his “The money he gives will be put into estate gift would fund, but he had one an endowment fund, and the interest condition, O’Connell said. earnings off of that every year is what “Les wanted the scholar who is the NREM department will be able to conducting research at OSU to sit on the use,” Williams said. board of the Audubon Society of Payne The opportunities with this funding County,” O’Connell said. seemed limitless to O’Connell, so he Since Imboden joined, he has adand Imboden, alongside staff at the OSU vocated for OSU students to be on the Foundation, spent two years assessing Audubon Society of Payne County’s the best way to use the funds for orniboard, he said. thology at OSU. “It’s important to have that fresh “Ultimately, we found the best use thinking and young energy that comes of the funding would be for bringwith students,” he said. ing post-doctoral scholars to conduct VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 9

Above: Les Imboden commemorates Eunice Hoskins by keeping a yearbook from the year she was his sixth-grade teacher. Below: Les Imboden uses his binoculars and the Sibley Guide to Birds book regularly during bird watching excursions. Photos by Katy Ronck.

Imboden said a scholar will enhance the board and will enjoy the community of the club just as he has. “Les is incredibly passionate about our chapter and wanted to ensure that this scholar has a voice,” O’Connell said. “That voice also legitimizes the Audubon Society of Payne County.” The scholar’s involvement in the local society would make him or her more aware of conservation issues identified by the National Audubon Society as most pressing for wild birds, O’Connell said. “Although Les didn’t graduate from the NREM program, his involvement in the Audubon Society of Payne County connected him with the NREM faculty at OSU and gave him a community of people who enjoyed birds as much as he does,” Williams said. Hoskins started Imboden’s love of birds, and he said he felt honoring her with his estate gift was important. “Eunice ignited a spark that I never would have known without her,” Imboden said. “She was the first person 10 | COWBOY JOURNAL

who got me interested in birds, and that’s why the Eunice Hoskins Fellowship Study of Ornithology is named that.” He said his estate gift is his way of sharing his passion and strengthening ornithology at OSU. “The fact that he wanted to name the estate gift after Eunice just goes to show how much of an impact she had on Les,” Williams said. “It’s a really powerful way to honor someone.” Hoskins died in 1970, but Imboden said he is confident she knew what she meant to him. “If they’re lucky, everyone has a teacher who inspired them and got them interested in what they’re passionate about,” Imboden said. “This is my tribute to the lady who did that for me.”




405.235.9887 | nationallivestock.com

Out of the hile studying drought stress and other diseases in peanut varieties, researchers from Oklahoma State University and the U.S. Department of Agriculture endured plenty of heat stress themselves. The challenging heat environment led to the initiation of an innovative project involving the OSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “It has to be the hottest months, especially if you're working on drought stress,” said Rebecca Bennett, research plant pathologist with the USDA Agricultural Research Service. “That's what you're looking for.” During Oklahoma’s three hottest months — ­ July, August and September — data from peanuts were measured by researchers crawling through the rows on hands and knees at the research site in Fort Cobb, Oklahoma, Bennett said. Ning Wang, professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, began


Sun and into th

working with a team to develop a machine that could do a bulk of the most strenuous labor so the researchers could reduce their time in the heat. “Traditionally, all the measurements are taken by hand,” Wang said. “It takes a lot of time.” Bennett said she learned an improved way to measure canopy architecture, count flowers on the canopies, and gauge the amount of heat stress while working with Wang, a group of students and visiting scholars. “I was particularly interested in canopy architecture because peanuts can have a wide range of canopy architectures,” Bennett said. “That trait influences how much disease occurs in the field.” The hope is plant breeders will benefit from the advancements made with this machine and the drought stress research, Bennett said. “The technology will help breeders evaluate genetic lines faster,” she said. If the breeders have greater ease evaluating the characteristics of their plants,

growers also will reap the benefits, Bennett said. Growers will have access to plants containing more of the traits they want, like drought and disease resistance, she added. The design idea for the machine came from a previous project in which Wang designed a cart to measure individual corn plants, Bennett said. The project inspired her to try a similar design to gather data from the peanut plants, she added. Wang and her team designed and built a machine operated by remote control to drive over rows of growing peanuts and gather all of the measurements Bennett would have had to capture by hand. “They went out with a laser sensor and took scans of the field, and I took manual measurements,” Bennett said. “It took me all day to measure all my plots,” she added. “They were able to take four scans of the field in less time than it took me to measure the whole field myself.” The machine can be driven over the

o the


CASNR researchers design a machine for peanut research top of the peanut rows and gather 3D images, RGB images, thermal images and GPS data video streams while a drone flies overhead to collect aerial images, Wang said. “We use the Kinect sensor to measure the height, width and density of the peanut canopy,” Wang said. “The ultrasonic sensor gives us a line reference to know where the machine has gone.” The thermal camera provides temperature data from the plants, and the under-canopy video stream assists with counting flowers in canopies, she added. With the images and videos taken by the cart, researchers can count the

number of flowers on the plant without having to spend as much time in the heat, said Peyman Nematzadeh, a biosystems and agricultural engineering doctoral student. Researchers can approximate the height of the plant, see exactly where the machine was in the field, and identify which plant the machine was measuring, he added. “By using the machine, you are helping people to at least get out of the sun,” Nematzadeh said. The process of collecting and analyzing the data will be faster once the cart

Oklahoma is one of only 15 states where peanuts are produced commercially. Photo by Makala Navarro.


has been proven accurate and effective, Wang said. Wang and her team are in the third year of collecting data and improving the machine, she said. The next phase is making the machine smaller while still being engineered to not impede the peanut canopy, she added. “We are covering two crop rows with the machine,” Wang said. “We want to shrink the machine’s coverage to one row so the machine is easier to transport and maneuver.” Once the machine is optimized, it has potential to be used in Texas and Virginia, two other states taking part in similar peanut research, Wang said. In addition to reducing the amount of time spent in the field manually collecting the data, the machine is intended to eliminate the likelihood of human error from fatigue, as well, Wang said. “Fatigue and heat stress could be an issue,” Bennett said. “There's also, as

with anything, potential measurement error with human measurements.” The relationship between Wang’s team and Bennett’s lab staff is a valuable one, Bennett said. “Working with Dr. Wang and other engineers gives us ways to answer questions we would not be able to answer ourselves,” Bennett said. “They have a skill set that I can’t imagine having.” Bennett used a family analogy to describe the value Wang and the other engineers bring. “Everybody wants to have a lawyer or a doctor and a handyman in the family,” Bennett said. “To me, engineers are like handymen, who have so many skills that can be applied to many disciplines.”


A ground sensor machine designed by CASNR faculty and students collects data from a USDA peanut research plot. Photo courtesy of Ning Wang.

PIG FARMERS CARE As pig farmers, our commitment extends beyond our farms into our communities. We provide a safe, healthy source of protein for our neighbors, but it goes way beyond the center of the plate. We contribute to local youth organizations and serve on town councils and in civic groups. We give back through statewide blood drives and local fundraisers. We do this not to bring recognition to ourselves, but because it’s the right thing to do and because WE CARE. © 2019 Funded by America’s Pork Producers and The Pork Checkoff.

www.okpork.org 14 | COWBOY JOURNAL




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Baker’s Ann emerges as a top-yielding wheat variety n July 2019, the Oklahoma State University wheat breeding program had a non-irrigated wheat variety reach 100 bushels per acre during a variety trial. “This was an average yield across trial replicates,” said Brett Carver, OSU wheat breeder. “When you run the trial scientifically, it’s not just one little plot. Baker’s Ann is truly averaging 100 bushels per acre across a field at Goodwell, and I don’t recall that ever happening.” Baker’s Ann is a top-tier wheat variety, combining high, consistent yields and excellent milling and baking qualities, said Travis Schnaithman, an agribusiness alumnus and wheat producer near Garber, Oklahoma. “Every wheat variety has its unique features,” Carver said. “The whole idea of breeding new varieties is you just keep getting better and better.” The development process for Baker’s Ann began by breeding together two varieties with desirable characteristics, Carver said. The process then transitioned into a five-year stage in which 16 | COWBOY JOURNAL

the experimental line of the variety was developed, he said. Once the experimental line was stable, the variety went through yield testing and quality testing for an additional five years, Carver said. The development of Baker’s Ann, from beginning to end, took 11 years, he added. Part of the development process is deciding on a name for the variety. This can be one of the more difficult parts, Carver said. “Baker’s Ann is like our beacon of strength,” Carver said, “and that’s what inspired the name of Ann Hargis, wife of OSU president Burns Hargis. She’s a beacon for this university. She’s a face of the university. “Ann Hargis is an important and sophisticated [beacon] to me, and this is a more sophisticated variety, compared to most,” he added. Baker’s Ann seedlings are beginning to emerge at the Agronomy Research Station, where all new varieties begin. Photo by Ashley Hurd.


“However, I couldn’t figure out how to bring Ann Hargis into the name until I was on a run one day,” Carver said, “and the nursery rhyme came to me, ‘Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man.’ So, obviously Baker’s Ann just fit.” The name is a perfect fit because Hargis has taken an active interest in the wheat breeding program, said Mike Schulte, Oklahoma Wheat Commission executive director. She is curious about what OSU is doing in the wheat industry from planting through production, Schulte said. “The thoughtfulness, the planning, the execution, it’s all incredibly exciting,” said Ann Hargis, OSU First Cowgirl. “I am still learning all plant breeding entails, and I am fascinated by the process, the testing, nature’s challenges, the patents, the production, and everything else involved.” Hargis has built rapport with producers in Oklahoma based on her involvement with variety trials and field days, Schulte said. The name Baker’s Ann represents the stamina and strength of the variety, he added. “When I first learned a wheat variety had been named after me, I was so flattered,” Hargis said. “However, as I began to understand what all a new variety actually meant, and the number of years it takes to develop, I was completely and totally overwhelmed. “I have so much respect for the agricultural focus we have at OSU,” she said. “It is so meaningful to me that I would be selected for such an incredible honor.” When people breed wheat, they focus on the field performance, Carver said. Field performance is measured by bushels per acre, but producers have to achieve good performance beyond the field, he added. “Farmers want to see what’s the highest yielding variety,” Carver said. “But in doing that, we leave behind what’s important, and that is this is a food crop. “We have to make a food product out of it, and the food is going to be leavened bread,” he added. “Baker’s Ann is not just a step above other varieties but several steps.” The Baker’s Ann variety has golden 18 | COWBOY JOURNAL

grain and grazing grain distinctions, Schulte said. A golden grain distinction means the wheat variety has the best milling and baking characteristics a miller or baker would be looking for, Schulte said. A grazing grain distinction means the wheat variety would be a good dual-purpose crop to use for grazing purposes in the field, he added. “The most important thing is it’s appealing to wheat producers,” said Mark Hodges, Oklahoma Genetics Inc. executive director, “because it does have yield and characteristics that wheat producers would be interested in from the production side.

“But Baker’s Ann is unique in the sense that while we’ve got all of those strengths for the production side, it’s also got a lot of strength on the milling and baking side when you look at the dough properties,” Hodges said. Wheat is ground, sifted, and tested in the milling process. The flour produced after the processing is used primarily to make bread products, Carver said. A wheat variety with strong baking characteristics will have more stability when mixed into dough, Hodges said. Stability is the time dough maintains maximum consistency and is an indication of how much gluten is in flour, he said. Dough with more stability allows

OSU President Burns Hargis (second from left) and First Cowgirl Ann Hargis (third from left) join farm owners Cecelia (left) and Don Schieber as well as Brett Carver, OSU wheat breeder, at the Kildare wheat trial field day. Photo by Don Atkinson.

the baker to have flexibility in their production line, he added. Testing is done on hard red winter wheat varieties being developed, Hodges said. The stability average of those during the past five years was 10 minutes in a mixing bowl, Hodges said. Baker’s Ann has exceeded 30 minutes in some of the testing being done, which is phenomenal, he added. “It’s a testament not only to its strength but also to its value in the industry,” Hodges said. “If they can do blending to get that kind of stability in combination with other varieties, it will be a highly valuable variety.” Overall, the wheat industry is

changing to a non-commodity market, Carver said, because certain varieties are grown and marketed to take advantage of their unique characteristics and qualities. “The idea for doing that is you keep certain quality characteristics of certain varieties, like Baker’s Ann, separate from others so the millers and bakers can access that quality directly,” Carver said. Baker’s Ann has shifted the focus from field performance to milling and baking characteristics because it has exemplified both, Schulte said. This shift has the potential to influence how producers throughout the industry source and market their varieties, he said. The variety’s baking and milling

qualities can reduce the number of additives needed to bake bread, Carver said. Additives help the baker produce a quality loaf of bread, he said. Baker’s Ann gives bakers the opportunity to reduce the number of complicated ingredients in the loaves, he added. “Consumers want to see fewer ingredients in their food products,” Carver said. “They especially want to see ingredients they can understand, not chemical-sounding names.” Baker’s Ann is a success within the industry so far, Carver said. Archer Daniels Midland Milling sends a preferred variety list providing the names of their preferred wheat varieties, and Baker’s Ann was on the most recent one. “The OSU wheat breeding program is highly respected by the milling industry in the United States,” Schulte said. “Grain Craft is the largest independent milling company, and they have released a list of their preferred products. On the latest one, there are 25 varieties on the list. Nine of the 25 came out of the Oklahoma State breeding program. That’s pretty impressive.” The OSU wheat breeding program is a top program and the dedication of Carver and the team is unmatched, Schnaithman said. Seeing the efforts of the wheat breeding program reward producers is satisfying, he added. “Dr. Carver and the wheat breeding team are focused on quality but not to the detriment of yield and other factors that influence production,” Hodges said. “I know of no other breeding program in the United States that focuses and puts as much value on the quality side of it like the breeding team at Oklahoma State.”




CLUES to success AGLE alumna guides youth to their futures

sther Cortez cultivates community by building relationships as she leads younger generations toward their future career paths. Known for her dedication to her work and the people around her, Cortez is pursuing a career at Land O’Lakes Inc. as a business analyst and serving as a mentor for the Comunidades Latinas Unidas En Servicio, or CLUES. Growing up in the rural town of Davidson, Oklahoma, Cortez continued her education at Oklahoma State University after high school, where in 2014, she earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural leadership. “The friendliness and family feel of the community and people on campus attracted me to OSU,” Cortez said. “Coming from a small town, Oklahoma State had that small-town feel.” As a student, Cortez found her niche being a member of a multicultural sorority, Sigma Lambda Gamma. Cortez said she gained service and social experience by volunteering for service projects that helped her network with people across OSU’s campus and the City of Stillwater. “The biggest impact I took away from my agricultural leadership courses was learning how different personalities work together,” Cortez said. “We did quite a Esther Cortez serves as a business analyst at Land O’Lakes Inc. Photo by Erin Larson.

few group projects together, so you really have to pay attention to personality types while still achieving the goal to complete a project by working together.” The agricultural leadership faculty encouraged Cortez to be an intern at Land O’Lakes Inc., which is located in the Twin Cities: Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. “I met Esther in the community relations department when we both interned at Land O’Lakes,” said Taylor Coffin, Cortez’s best friend and former co-worker. “From there, we just clicked and became really good friends who had each other’s back. It was even better for both of us to have a job with Land O’Lakes after we completed the internship.” Coffin became the company’s volunteer event coordinator. Finding volunteers was tough, she said, but volunteers like Cortez have a talent that can lead others to complete any task. Coffin said when she coordinated big events requiring more hands-on volunteers, Cortez was always willing to give support. Even if an event was not a part of Cortez’s job, she was willing to help, Coffin added. “Esther likes to take charge in such a great way when we need support, and nothing but generosity comes from her,” Coffin said. “She would always want to stay and help set up and clean up before and after an event.” Three years ago, Cortez created a VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 21

Land O’Lakes, along with their partners, strive to feed human progress by product research, which expands the company’s consumer markets. Photo by Erin Larson.

partnership between Land O’Lakes and CLUES, the No. 1 Latino-Hispanic nonprofit in Minnesota. “The Youth in Action program at CLUES is a college access and mentoring program for Latino high school students,” said Tanya Zwald, Youth in Action program manager. CLUES hosts monthly meetings to include mentors in student workshops. The workshops include college preparation, interview skills, résumé building and how to prepare for a career. “We really love having mentors be part of our program,” Zwald said. “They are role models for our students.” Having monthly meetings establishes a bond between the mentor and mentee, Zwald added. “Being in the CLUES program has made me more confident in school,” said Arianna Martinez, Cortez’s mentee. “I am a huge procrastinator, and by having Esther as a mentor, I was able to learn about time management so I wouldn’t be a last-minute person.” The program also assists with leadership skills and confidence-building activities, Zwald said. For civic engagement, students participate in community service projects throughout the year. “It’s touching to know each of our students have an extra caring adult in his or her life,” Zwald said. “We’re able to 22 | COWBOY JOURNAL

After visiting Esther at Land O’Lakes, it motivated me to work even harder in school and life. Arianna Martinez Cortez’s Mentee

help them navigate their own individual journey through high school and toward college, so we really appreciate all our mentors do to support the program.” Martinez said she sees Cortez as a mentor as well as an older sister she can look up to. “My volleyball team and I recently won a city conference tournament,” Martinez said. “During the entire tournament, Esther was in the stands cheering us on. It really means a lot to me to see someone who isn’t family take time out of her day to come watch me play.” Martinez said she visited Cortez at Land O’Lakes to learn more of what Cortez’s career includes. “After visiting Esther at Land O’Lakes, it motivated me to work even harder in school and life,” Martinez said. “I want to work somewhere that relates to all my interests, and I can better my opportunities for the future.” Cortez said she got involved in Land O’Lakes’ Hispanic-Latino employee resource group and led the group for three years, but she stepped down this past year from the role she held. As a member of the group, Cortez received the Young Hispanic Corporate Achiever award from the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility, or HACR. “The award is recognized nationally across more than 400 different

companies like McDonald’s, AT&T, GM, Google and Apple,” Cortez said. “Hundreds apply for this award, and they pick up to 35 people a year.” Cortez uses resources she has available at her fingertips, which makes her a powerhouse, Zwald said. “As Land O’Lakes continues to create new products to expand their Latino markets, Esther took the opportunity to model product research and development for the Youth in Action students,” Zwald said. “They were able to see behind-thescenes business processes.” Zwald said by involving the students in focus groups, Cortez helps inform Land O’Lakes about its new products before they hit the shelves. “What really strikes me in awe and inspires me is that Esther really embodies what it means to be a mentor and really wants to be involved,” Coffin said. “She’s not just going to show up when it’s mandatory. She goes above and beyond because her ambition is so driven. Esther truly makes a difference to those around her by leading the way.”


Expanding ST rom complicated formulas to math equations, science can be scary to some students. Oklahoma State University College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources students involved in Collegiate 4-H are working to create a different perspective of science for 4-H members across Oklahoma. These CASNR students are known as 24 | COWBOY JOURNAL

4-H STEMists. They travel throughout the state during the summer to teach science, technology, engineering and math at camps, libraries, workshops and local 4-H meetings. “The STEMist program started in 2017 and has been thriving ever since,” said Carrie Winslett, Oklahoma 4-H STEM coordinator. “This past summer, Oklahoma 4-H hired two full-time

STEMists to conduct more than one event per day.” The STEMists conduct workshops for 10 weeks during the summer. The 4-H clubs or county educators will contact the STEMists to schedule a location and time to teach, said Jeff Sallee, Oklahoma 4-H extension specialist. The STEMists have a different set of lessons every summer, Sallee said.

STEM’S reach CASNR students teach 4-H members about STEM

The STEMists annually offer lessons about wind power because Enel Green Power, a wind energy company, is one of the main funders for the STEMist program, Sallee said. Agriculture always can be tied back to energy, Sallee added. The STEMists teach kids something new and introduce them to career opportunities at a young age, he said.

“We did an activity with hot air balloons — which also tied back into the weather — solar ovens and rainwater harvesting,” Sallee said. “We have even presented activities with solar cars.” The students also participated in activities in which they made slime and launched straw and stomp rockets. One of the STEMists’ most popular workshops shows participants how

JinYu Burnham, an agricutural leadership senior, presents a lesson about wind turbines and wind energy at a summer camp. Five CASNR students taught eight curriculum units about STEM in 40 counties within 41 days at 42 educational events. The STEMists taught 125 STEM workshops and reached 2,369 youth in fewer than four months. Photo by Laura Wood. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 25

DNA can be extracted from strawberries, favorite workshop is the strawberry DNA Sallee said. extraction. Not many kids know they can The 4-H’ers like the DNA workshop get DNA from strawberries, he said. because they get to see and touch the Much of the curriculum is based on DNA from strawberries, Sallee said. the STEMists’ interests and what they STEMists focus on teaching the excel at, Sallee said. 4-H’ers about the Agricultural inter-working of education You don’t have to be an genetics, tying the graduate stuengineer or scientist to workshop back to Steven learn about STEM because dent animal science and Baringer trained it is all around us. teaching the imporSTEMists in tance of how DNA photography. As Courtney Wiedenmann affects everything, a molecular biolSallee said. ogy senior, Aubrey Schultz trained others Michael Wetherell, an agricultural about DNA so they could teach the 4-H education senior and STEMist, said his members, Sallee said.

“My favorite part of being a STEMist is being able to work with the kids and teach them something they don’t know,” Wetherell said. Teaching the kids something they might want to turn into a future career is rewarding, Wetherell said. Courtney Wiedenmann, an agricultural education senior, said the most rewarding part of being a STEMist was interacting with the young 4-H members and contradicting the misconceptions about STEM. “You don’t have to be an engineer or scientist to learn about STEM because it is all around us,” Wiedenmann said. “Seeing the 4-H’ers be creative and

Madison Deeds (right), CASNR student and 4-H STEMist, helps Kilee Blehm, a Mulhall-Orlando 4-H member, do a lesson on rockets. The 4-H members designed their own rockets using PVC pipe and paper, and the STEMists assisted them with launching their rockets. Photo by Kristin Young. 26 | COWBOY JOURNAL

Abby Pettijohn, a member of the Alex 4-H Club, puts together a wind turbine for a workshop. In the workshop, the kids design their turbines by experimenting with the number and the angle of blades to make the most efficient turbine. Photo by Laura Wood.

bounce ideas off of each other on how to make their project better is something I enjoy.” When the summer is over, some of the STEMists will request to continue offering workshops because they love teaching the young kids, Sallee said. “They have made contacts with counties and built relationships with county educators,” Sallee said. “They’ve fallen in love with teaching the workshops and want to do more.” One challenge STEMists face is

teaching varying ages at the same time, Winslett said, and the STEMists have to work around those dynamics. “This program is important for our county extension educators because they might not have the funding or enough staff to put on these workshops,” Winslett said. “The program gives the extension educators a break, and it also gives the kids a new face. The 4-H’ers are always excited to hang out with a college kid.” In 2019, the STEMists visited 40

counties and taught more than 2,300 4-H members, Winslett said. “This program gets our agricultural education students who want to be future educators the opportunity to do some hands-on teaching while learning at the same time,” Winslett said.



ultivating an environment for lifelong friendships and learning, the Oklahoma State University College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources provides a home away from home for a group of students living in Village CASNR. This residential facility houses the college’s Freshmen in Transition program, the first living-learning program on OSU’s campus. For the last 20 years, FIT’s goal has been to make a positive impact on 28 | COWBOY JOURNAL

freshmen in their transition to college life, said Ed Miller, former CASNR associate dean of academic programs. “The key objective of FIT was to increase retention of freshmen,” Miller said, “and FIT has done that.” FIT continues to be successful because it teaches students how to take advantage of their unique qualities and to support their fellow students, he said. Since its creation, FIT has exemplified the values of the total CASNR family, said Melissa Mourer, who was a

2000-01 FIT Student Academic Mentor and now serves as the CASNR communications and marketing manager. “The college took the idea of a living-learning community and put a CASNR spin on it,” Mourer said. “CASNR goes the extra step. The students are not just living together. They’re also interacting in different experiences.” Students in FIT become like a family because of the friendships they develop, said Megan Baggarly, 2006-07 FIT member and 2007-08 FIT SAM.

20 years of helping freshmen thrive “I was thankful the FIT staff invested in me and opened my eyes to all OSU could offer,” Baggarly said. “Older FIT members showed me how to get involved with CASNR and the university, so I took their initiative and taught younger students after me.” Taw Scaff, 2015-16 FIT member and 2016-17 FIT SAM, said he formed lifelong friendships with people from across the nation, people he still interacts with today. “FIT had a tremendous impact on my

college experience, giving me access to network with people who I would never have crossed paths with had it not been for the program,” Scaff said. As freshmen make adjustments during this new chapter in their lives, the FIT program offers resources to help them face any challenges they may encounter, said Amber McGee, FIT director. “The key components of FIT are the people available to support the students during their freshmen year,” McGee said. “Not only do we have student academic

mentors who live in Village CASNR, but also we have faculty associates who work with and visit the students throughout the school year.” In total, eight FIT SAMs and eight faculty associates work together to provide quality experiences for the students, including community service, leadership, career development, personal wellness and diversity activities, McGee said. “The relationships I made during my time in FIT occurred from all of those small moments with fellow FIT VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 29

During the last 20 years, the FIT program has grown 68%. The 2019-20 FIT class has 106 students participating in the program. Photo by Amber McGee.

participants,” Baggarly said. “People believed in me and helped me be confident so I could succeed.” FIT coordinators go the extra mile to give freshmen students a program that incorporates the resources to thrive, McGee said. “FIT made me get out of my comfort zone and participate in things I would have never done,” said Rhett Meyer, 2016-17 FIT member. “It kept me on track with my grades and helped me network and meet the people who helped me succeed.” More than 1,600 CASNR students from all walks of life and all CASNR majors have been represented in the program, McGee said. Even with a few similar experiences, students have interests that vary from production agriculture to natural resources or from agricultural communications and environmental sciences, she said. Some FIT students may not have 30| COWBOY JOURNAL

grown up on an agricultural operation or been involved in 4-H or FFA, but they have a passion for agriculture and natural resources, said Katherine Bezner, 201718 FIT member and 2018-19 FIT SAM. “There is not a right or wrong in terms of who fits in at Village CASNR,” Bezner said. The blending of each member’s unique skills, abilities and experiences is inspiring, Baggarly said. “FIT allows students the opportunity to not only live together but also to share their passion and drive for the industry,” McGee said. Through faculty mentorships and various professional development events, students learn how to advocate for themselves in both the collegiate and professional worlds, said Colton Kersey, 2014-15 FIT member. “The programs offered within FIT taught me professional skills that have extended beyond my college experience,”

Kersey said. “I will never be able to fully put into words the major impact FIT had on my life. “I am thankful for the friendships, skills and connections I made during one short year in FIT that have allowed me to not only succeed in college, but also now in my career,” Kersey said. All freshmen should consider applying for FIT, Kersey said. The experience is life changing, he said. “One thing I expected when I joined FIT was a lot of students with an agricultural background,” said Hoyt Nebgen, 2019-20 FIT member. “But honestly, it goes so much broader than that. This program is completely unique.”





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AGEC alumnus retires after more than three decades of service rom the small-town streets of Alma, Arkansas, to the Great Wall of China, Mike Woods has worked to leave a lasting impact on the students and faculty in the Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Economics. In Woods’ small Arkansas community, the only job available to him as a teen was working for farmers around town. Little did Woods know the experience he gained on the farm would lead him to the Cowboy family, he said. In 1975, Woods graduated from Arkansas Tech University with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance. While attending ATU, Woods met his wife, Mary. “Mary was working on a degree in commercial art from the University of Arkansas, and I would make my way over to the art building when I could,” Mike Woods said. “I even took a photography class with her once.” After the couple married, Mike Woods found a new opportunity at UArk as a graduate research assistant in the agricultural economics department. He earned his master’s in agricultural 32 | COWBOY JOURNAL

economics in 1978 and knew he wanted to get his doctoral degree in agricultural economics, as well. He applied to several universities, but he decided to attend his adviser’s alma mater, OSU. Mike Woods received his doctorate in agricultural economics from OSU in 1981 before becoming an assistant professor and extension economist at Texas A&M University. Five years later, Mike Woods came back to OSU as an associate professor and extension economist, serving the department for the past 33 years. “I have always liked Stillwater,” Mary Woods said. “I was excited when Mike wanted to come back to Stillwater. The agricultural economics department is just like a family.” Mike Woods was promoted to professor in 1991 and department head in 2007. He also served as the interim vice president, dean and director for the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from 2012 to 2014. “Mike loved his job,” Mary Woods said. “He would get up very early in the morning and get to work before everybody else did so he could get things

done, and he would stay very late with a lot of activities with the department.” Joe Schatzer, professor and interim head of the agricultural economics department, said Mike Woods transitioned well into the position of department head because of his experience and connections in extension. “Mike had very good relationships with people around the state and country already,” Schatzer said. “He was able to facilitate outside relationships in the department from his extension role.” Mike Woods continued to learn throughout his career and sought help when needed for the best interest of the department, Schatzer said. Mike Woods did strategic planning exercises regularly to keep the department moving forward, Schatzer added. “Administratively, I made a point of seeing if I could help students and faculty by finding resources for them and always being supportive of academic Mike Woods reflects on his time at OSU as the head of the agricultural economics department for more than a dozen years. Photo by Maci Morton.


activities and events they might be involved with,” Mike Woods said. Mike Woods has interacted with many alumni from the agricultural economics department and said many of them reflect positively on the time they spent at the university and the time they spent being involved in Aggie-X, the department’s student organization. During his time in DASNR administration, Mike Woods became a great encourager and supporter for every member of the Cowboy family, said Amanda Higgins, an agricultural economics master’s student. She said the department has always been known as a family and Woods was the center of this family. “Dr. Woods had a tremendous amount of impact on me and my decision to go into the graduate program,” Higgins said. “He has helped lead me to so many opportunities that I would have never had without his advice and support.” Mike Woods taught students how to plan for a career while having realistic expectations, Higgins said. He also explained financial planning tools in preparation for their next chapters in life, she said. Mike Woods was dedicated to giving the students every opportunity to gain experience, she said. “Before getting to know Dr. Woods, I was intimidated by him because he was the head of the department and a successful guy,” Higgins said. “But the more I got to know him, he became someone I could go to when I needed advice.” Higgins got to know Mike Woods personally through a study-abroad trip to China and through the Aggie-X Club when Mike Woods served as an adviser. “When I began at OSU, I did not have a teaching appointment, but I wanted to interact with students,” Mike Woods said. “So, I decided I would volunteer to be the faculty adviser for Aggie-X.” The club offers opportunities for students to network and build relationships with future employers and alumni, Higgins said. “I took happiness and joy into seeing other people be successful,” Mike Woods said. “I have enjoyed trying to be supportive of faculty members and students so they can be successful.” 34 | COWBOY JOURNAL

Mike Woods (right) and his students Chun Du (left) and Maddie Morris take a selfie to capture the memories made on a study-abroad trip in China. Photo by Mary Woods.

During Mike Woods’ time as head of the department, he helped organize and lead three groups of students to studyabroad trips in China. On these trips, he took many students who had never had a passport before, Mike Woods said. “It is fun to take students and see their eyes when they see phenomenal things, such as the Great Wall of China,” Mike Woods said. “It is also a great relief when I get them all back into the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport.” Mike Woods would always tell students to expect something to go wrong, Mary Woods said, so he was organized and prepared the students for anything. While Mike Woods traveled a lot for his job, Mary Woods said China is the best place they have visited. The Woodses celebrated an anniversary during a trip to China, and the students surprised them with a cake to celebrate. “We were very fortunate to have great students and great travelers,” Mike Woods said. “The students were great ambassadors for OSU.”

Mike Woods loved to have fun with the students, Mary Woods said. One time the students found straw hats that matched the one her husband had and they all wore them with Hawaiian shirts to take pictures, she added. A former student of Mike Woods once drove eight hours to visit him and the student group traveling in China, Mary Woods said. Mike Woods loved getting to talk to his past students, Mary Woods said. He enjoyed watching the students grow their careers and be successful. “I do not give a whole lot of advice, but if someone were to ask me, I would say enjoy the ride and make sure our faculty and students are given every tool to use their talents to be as successful as they can,” Mike Woods said.


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Success OSU alumnus plants a life in horticulture


hile growing up, Austin Kenyon worked in his father’s nursery in Dover, Oklahoma, not realizing horticulture would become his way of life. Kenyon graduated from OSU in 1961 with a degree in horticulture. He said he went to OSU to be a veterinarian and play basketball for Coach Henry Iba, but he changed his major because the horticulture department head convinced him to do so. “I had a large background in horticulture,” Kenyon said, “so the horticulture major would place me ahead of everyone else. It would have been silly for me to go into another field.” Horticulture has always been a part of his life because his father worked in agriculture and in the irrigation business, Kenyon said. His mother did the record keeping for the business. He also remembers working with his father in his plant nursery, he said. “I am the third generation to work with a nursery,” Kenyon said. “My grandfather was in the nursery business, and my father was, too.” Kenyon said he made the right choice

when he decided to pursue his bachelor’s degree in horticulture. After he graduated, he earned his master’s degree at Iowa State University and then returned to OSU for a teaching position in the horticulture and landscape architecture department. “I worked at OSU for 2 1/2 years from 1963 to 1966,” Kenyon said. “I had a degree, and I loved OSU. The chance to work there was great. “I created OSU’s nursery production course, but after a while I found out teaching was not for me,” he continued. “After the 1966 fall semester, I went to work for Greenleaf Nursery.” John Nickel, founder of Greenleaf Nursery, said he met Kenyon when he came to Greenleaf Nursery on an OSU field trip. Kenyon showed promise and dedication to horticulture even as an OSU student, he added. “Of all the students, he asked the right questions,” Nickel said. “After that day, I always thought about him working for me at Greenleaf.” When Kenyon began working for Greenleaf Nursery as a production and general manager, he became a huge help

to the company by solving some problems with the plants, Nickel said. “One of the first problems he solved when he started was with the pH levels of the plants,” Nickel said. “Austin figured out our pH levels were higher than they needed to be.” Kenyon worked for Greenleaf Nursery for about 54 years and was president from 1977 to 1988. During his time as president, he faced challenges, he added. During 1983, Kenyon was in Delaware when the temperature dropped below zero in Oklahoma and below freezing in Texas. The temperature drop was destructive to the nursery industry, he said. “I called the general manager at the El Campo, Texas, location,” Kenyon said. “I told him as soon as the temperature rose above freezing turn the water on, but it didn’t for seven days.” If Greenleaf’s nurseries were hurt, so were the nurseries in states nearby, he added. On the fourth day, Kenyon returned to Texas and discovered about 90 percent of the crops were dead. He said he flew to California to buy plants to save Greenleaf Nursery. “It took me two weeks,” Kenyon said.

Above: Austin Kenyon (right) lives in Park Hill, Oklahoma, with his wife, Betsy. He displays the plaque he received for serving nine years on the Oklahoma A&M Board of Regents. Photo by Todd Johnson. Below: A Greenleaf Nursery facility as well as corporate offices are located in Park Hill, Oklahoma. Photo by Makenzee Castanon.


Greenhouse Learning Center provides state-of-the-art facilities for multiple departments. Photo by Makenzee Castanon.

CASNR opens Greenhouse Learning Center The Oklahoma State University College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources opened the Greenhouse Learning Center with a celebration Aug. 24. Austin Kenyon and Greenleaf Nursery were the main donors for the facility, contributing $1 million of the center’s $6 million construction costs.

“I had to visit nurseries, buy liners and plants, load the plants into semis, and ship them to Texas.” Nickel said Kenyon is competitive, always striving for success, and is a special individual. Kenyon was a hard-working president, perhaps Greenleaf’s best, who left some big shoes to fill when he retired, he added. “I still stay busy to this day,” Kenyon said. “I have never been one to just sit down and do nothing. I go to the nursery a couple days a week for about three hours at a time because I am co-chairman of the nursery.” Kara Stead, Kenyon’s granddaughter, said he has been active in her and her siblings’ lives by attending their sporting events to cheer them on. 38 | COWBOY JOURNAL

The Greenhouse Learning Center houses six different greenhouses for CASNR’s faculty and students as well as for researchers within the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources to use. The center includes multiple features: • Isolated entomology greenhouse • Space for student club meetings

“My grandpa likes to be active,” Stead said. “He’s always been that way. He currently owns about 200 head of commercial cattle. He is always trying to teach us new things.” Learning is an important part of life, Kenyon said. To that end, he donated funds for the Greenhouse Learning Center, which was new this fall to the OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources. “It was a no-brainer,” Kenyon said. “Randy Davis, the Greenleaf president, and I along with about 12 other people have OSU horticulture degrees. OSU does a great job helping us with problems, and we donate plants to them.” Kenyon wanted to improve the education of the students in the horticulture

• Fertilizer and pest-management materials • Progressive irrigation systems • Intense climate and humidity control To learn more about the facility or about the OSU Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, visit hortla.okstate.edu.

and landscape architecture department, he said, so the new greenhouse should be a great addition to the program. Many people tend to overlook horticulture, he added, but it offers a great field for jobs. “I’ve been an OSU student, part of the faculty, on the Board of Regents, and a Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, so my involvement with OSU runs deep,” Kenyon said. “We have fantastic alumni doing unbelievable things, and I am proud to be a part of that.”



NEW OSU alumna operates Oklahoma’s first 24-hour veterinary hospital

rowing up surrounded by her animals, Tina Neel developed a devotion to them that led her to a life focused on veterinary medicine. Neel grew up on her parents’ diversified farming operation near Lawton, Oklahoma. After high school, Neel attended Oklahoma State University where she completed her bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1978. She attended veterinary school at OSU while getting her master’s in physiology. During her graduate degree programs, Neel welcomed her first son, Scott, to the family. “My life has been like a pinball machine,” Neel said. “Things just come out of nowhere and change things, but they have a way of working themselves out.” Like many college graduates, Neel had planned her life’s work with a job she secured after graduation, but her plans changed, she said. Neel’s first job was for the first veterinary emergency hospital in Oklahoma City, she said. Neel then changed jobs to a smallanimal hospital in Bethany, Oklahoma. Goose, a 1-year-old miniature longhaired dachshund, receives periodic treatments from Dr. Tina Neel. Photo by Macee Hammack. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 39

“I did everything right,” Neel said. other veterinarians fed our children,” “I brought in new customers as well as she added. “So, I called them back and helped with existing ones.” accepted the offer to put the practices in After the oil boom of the early 1980s the OKC Metro area.” ended, the practice employing Neel and After multiple deaths occurred within the owner only had enough work for one, her family, Tina Neel sold the PetSmart so Neel was laid off in 1987, she said. practices after only 4 1/2 years and used “I had two little boys and a husband the money to build her own hospital, who had just gone back to school,” Neel Neel said. said. “I The practice Tina What makes Dr. Neel so decided that Neel opened became the day that I special is she never stayed first 24-hour veterinary never wanted stagnant with her abilities hospital in Oklahoma. to work for “One of Tina’s best and technologies she uses. anyone else qualities is her fearlessthe rest of ness,” said Sam Neel, Katy Hawkins my life.” who serves as the chief After that bump in the road, Neel took financial officer at Neel Veterinary matters in her own hands and started her Hospital. “She decided having restricted own business, she said. hours was not working for her clients. “I made up a few thousand business “She told me she wanted to go 24 cards and put a camper on the back of hours and a week later we were,” he my pickup,” Neel said. “I started making added. “In the beginning of the 24-hour house calls and got customers through transition, she was sleeping at the hospichurch, our community and word-oftal so it could stay open.” mouth referrals.” After finding success with this hosNeel made investments to begin her pital, Tina Neel opened three other day business, which allowed her to make practices in Oklahoma. Her sons help enough money to survive, she said. manage the day-to-day operations with “I figured out how much money we all the practices. needed to live on, and I lined up that “I tell people when they get laid off much in work each month,” Neel said. or lose their job, it is the best thing that As a family business, most of her happened to me because otherwise I house calls included her husband, Sam would still be working for someone Neel, and her two sons, Scott and Hank else,” Tina Neel said. Buchanan, she said. Neel Veterinary Hospital’s main During the last 10 days in October location has 15 veterinarians on staff and 1987, no phone calls came for house vismore than 100 employees who help keep its. As a result, Tina Neel expected her the 24-hour hospital open. business to go under because of the lack These veterinarians see up to 150 of customers, she said. patients every single day, Tina Neel said. Once November rolled around, The 14,000-square-foot hospital is however, the phone started ringing again filled with high-end, modern technology, and has not stopped ringing since, Tina which has helped with efficiency and Neel said. productivity, said Katy Hawkins, managAfter gaining support throughout the er of recruitment, hiring and marketing community, word spread about Tina for Neel Veterinary Hospital. Neel’s talent, she said. PetSmart apOklahoma City clinics send referrals proached Tina Neel about opening her to the Neel Veterinary Hospital because own veterinary practice in some stores in Oklahoma. Dr. Tina Neel provides care for Koi, who “I told them no at first,” Tina Neel was treated in the clinic’s hyperbaric said. “Other veterinarians don’t like oxygen chamber twice a day for two PetSmart because they are competition. weeks to increase healing time. Photo “Then, my husband asked if those by Macee Hammack. 40 | COWBOY JOURNAL

of its state-of-the-art, in-house diagnostics, testing and scans, Tina Neel said. “I do not believe there is another veterinarian in Oklahoma who has the vision for bringing veterinary medicine past the 21st century as Dr. Neel does,” said Dr. Chris Logan, co-owner and chief of staff at Neel Veterinary Hospital. “The doctors at Neel Veterinary Hospital will never settle for antiquated methods. We always look for new technology.” With new technology also comes resistance from those in the field, Tina Neel said. She said people in the field question her because she is an early adopter of new methods.

“What makes Dr. Neel so special is she has never stayed stagnant with her abilities and technologies she uses,” Hawkins said. Tina Neel has implemented new technology in the hospital, including the first small animal hyperbaric oxygen chamber in Oklahoma. “I just tend to embrace new technologies earlier,” Tina Neel said. “Plus, I have the client base and a large enough case load coming through the doors to justify spending the money to learn and purchase the technology.” The hospital averages about $100,000 a year to stay current with equipment,

Tina Neel said. Other years could be upwards of $300,000 with the addition of new technology, like the hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Research also is important when it comes to new technology, Tina Neel said. She recently partnered with the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine research program to learn about the effects of high radiation ultrasounds to help kill tumor cells in small animals. Tina Neel also has collaborated with the University of Tennessee to learn about the effects of snake bites and the healing process using the hyperbaric oxygen chamber.

Neel Veterinary Hospital is a great spot to conduct research and see actual results because of its new technology and high volume of patients, she said. “Hopefully, our veterinary medicine research will translate into human medicine, too,” Tina Neel said, “so whatever results we see here can eventually be used to help humans.”






CASNR alumnus rebuilds after Arkansas River floods

ith plans for a great harvest season, the Sheffield family of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, was gearing up for another profitable year on the farm. Then came the floods of May 2019. A fourth-generation farmer, family man and Oklahoma State University alumnus, Brian Sheffield grew up on his family’s farm and has played an active role on it since his childhood, said Jessica Wilcox, Sheffield’s sister. “There are pictures of Brian and me in the vegetable fields at the ages 4 and 5, riding around on the tractors with our dad, David, and grandpa, Dick,” Wilcox said. “I still remember my dad used to have us haul the antique Amtrol air tank on our bicycles to air up their tires to keep us busy when we were not in school.” After graduating from Fort Gibson High School in 2006, Sheffield continued his education at OSU as a plant and soil science major in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 2011. Brian Sheffield, a producer in Fort Gibson, Oklahoma, grows grains, fruits and vegetables. Photo Kristyn Smith.


Brian Sheffield checks his soybean crops to ensure they are on track for fall harvest. Photo by Kristyn Smith. 44 | COWBOY JOURNAL

“During Brian’s junior year at OSU, our father passed away, and Brian took over the farm,” Wilcox said. “We are so fortunate that our grandpa stepped in to help Brian keep the farm afloat while he finished out his degree.” During the last 50 years, the Sheffield family farm has transitioned from a dairy operation to growing a wide range of fruits, vegetables and grains, including watermelons, cantaloupe, squash, zucchini, field corn, sweet corn and soybeans. “Because of the big farm-to-table movement over the last couple of years, people want to know where their food is being produced,” Wilcox said. “Brian has shifted more acres to fruits and vegetables for those consumers who are seeking local produce.” Along with adding fresh market crops, Sheffield was one of the first producers in his area to use cover crops. He plants a variety of wheat, radishes, millet and sudan grass to keep nutrients in the field to improve his soil’s physical and biological properties and to maximize the soil water availability for the next crop, Wilcox said. At the time of the floods, however, Sheffield was preparing for harvest. “We were less than one month from picking sweet corn, melons, and all of the vegetables that were planted in March when the Arkansas River water came and wiped it all out,” Sheffield said. The entire 800-acre Sheffield farm was under up to 16 feet of water, destroying the spring crops and early fall crops and a shop that housed equipment, Sheffield said. He and his wife, Carly, also lost their home in the flood. “This year, there was a very strong current throughout Eastern Oklahoma due to the large amount of water that was pouring in,” said Brian Pugh, area agronomy specialist for the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service. “Everything that was already in the ground was either just established or already starting to grow,” Pugh said. “We’ve pretty much had to start over because some producers were in standing water for four to six weeks.”

Sediment built up and covered the surfaces of plant tissue with 2 to 4 feet of silt deposits in some places, Pugh said. The area was devastating to see because if crops were not drowned from the water, they were killed by the silt deposits, Pugh said. “Our first priority after the water receded was to attend to the equipment that had been flooded and drain all of the water before corrosion set in,” Sheffield said. “Once we were able to stabilize all of the equipment, I was able to clean up the fields and see if I could plant any late crops for the fall season. “We’ve had minor floods in the past, but nothing ever to that effect,” Sheffield said. “It was very unexpected. We really didn’t have any warning or have any idea that it would ever get to that magnitude.” After Sheffield cleared the debris from his fields, he planted a late soybean crop. He got back on track for the rest of the year because of his land management efforts prior to the floods, Wilcox said. “The soybeans will be late because by the time we could get back into the field and get a crop planted, it was quite a bit later than we normally plant,” Sheffield said. “But, for being planted the first week of July, they look very good.” From tractors and farming equipment to their home, the Sheffield family will have to rebuild their lives, Wilcox said. Sheffield’s soil weathered the flood better than expected, Wilcox said. “I really attribute that to his being so pragmatic with the soil health and cover crops,” she added. “Without his attention to detail, he wouldn’t have been able to plant anything after the floods passed.” Rebuilding will be a slow process, Wilcox said, but her brother has a positive attitude and strong work ethic. “I know that they will be OK,” Wilcox said. “I cannot wait to see what the crop next year will look like.”


Brian Sheffield planted 500 acres of soybeans during late July. Photo by Kristyn Smith. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 45

From bus shelters to radars, a DASNR researcher and his team work to keep birds safer indows provide a source of natural light in man-made structures. They also allow for unique and beautiful architecture, but windows can be fatal to birds. At Oklahoma State University, researchers are working to predict and prevent bird-window collisions, which are one of the biggest threats for migrating birds. As lead researcher, Scott Loss, associate professor in natural resource ecology and management, has focused his team’s efforts toward reducing these collisions. “Relatively few researchers are working on bird-window collisions today especially in comparison to other threats like wind energy, communication towers and structures that cause collisions,” Loss said. “Windows are the No. 1 collision threat, causing up to a billion bird fatalities in the U.S. a year.” Part of the reason for the collisions is the difference in eye structure between birds and humans, Loss said. “In our eyes, we have only one kind of rod and a couple of kinds of cones,” Loss said. “Birds have an extra type of cone in their eyes, and in many species it’s sensitive to the UV spectrum. “They’re actually seeing in a way we can’t understand or envision,” he added. To reduce the rate of bird collisions, windows simply need to be more visible to birds, Loss said. Incorporating how a 46 | COWBOY JOURNAL

bird sees into building design would be a more effective strategy than focusing only on how humans see, he added. “Ultimately, if you have that understanding of how birds see a building, then you could tweak the building in ways to help the birds see the windows,” Loss said. Adding a visual barrier to the window is one way to accomplish this, Loss said. Georgia Riggs, NREM master’s student, uses the bus shelters at OSU to test one type of visual barrier. “A grid of individual markers is placed on a sheet pane of glass,” Riggs said. “The markers break the reflectivity and transparency of the glass, so birds can detect it as a barrier.” The markers are developed by the company, Feather Friendly, Riggs said. They are round, white dots placed in a grid pattern. “There was a baseline study done here in Stillwater in 2016 looking at the bus shelters to see how many birds collide with shelters,” Riggs said. “It found that a lot of birds were colliding with these glass-walled bus shelters.” Riggs used this data to decide which shelters to treat. She had the grid applied In her research that may help minimize bird-window collisions, Georgia Riggs uses a grid of dots on OSU bus stops. Photo by Harrison Hill.


American robins are one of the more common types of birds to collide with buildings on OSU’s campus. Birds like this robin contribute to the eco-tourism industry of bird watching. In 2006, birding contributed more than $36 billion to the U.S. economy. Photo by Alan B. Schroeder. 48 | COWBOY JOURNAL

to 18 shelters in Stillwater, leaving 18 others as a control group. The shelters have glass walls on their three closed sides. The treated shelters have the markers applied completely around their exterior surfaces. “The American Bird Conservancy tested the markers in controlled conditions,” Riggs said. “They have a lot of anecdotal evidence that the markers work in field conditions, but few studies have tested it in field conditions.” Riggs chose the bus stops for several reasons, she said. “There have been a lot more studies done on various buildings,” Riggs said. “This is the only study that’s been done at bus shelters.” This is a different way to look at collisions since they can happen anywhere, Riggs said. “A good number of collisions happen at people’s homes, which I would imagine is more like a bus shelter than a tall building,” Riggs said. Riggs alternates the shelters she checks each morning. At each shelter, she first checks for any birds on the ground, she said. Then, she looks for signs of a collision and records the data in a notepad. Her main goal is to reduce the mortality rate from bird-window collisions, Riggs said. All glass can be deadly to a bird, she added. “As our human population grows, our urban settings are going to grow, so it’s important that we consider how wildlife is affected,” Riggs said. “There’s a lot of value to be had in integration of humans and wildlife.” Integration of birds into modern human society is what got Riggs interested in urban ecology, she said “I don’t think it has to be so black and white,” Riggs said. “We do not have to have an area where no people are allowed and then have cities where we do not want wildlife. I really think that we can all coexist.” Not all collision research happens in the field. Jared Elmore, NREM doctoral student, uses computer and radar data to better understand and predict bird movements and when collisions will occur.

“There has been an explosion of research from a couple of labs that are using radar to understand bird migration,” Loss said. “Radar has definitely come more into the forefront of bird ecology in the last few years.” Elmore uses data from the NEXRAD network, a system of 143 radars across the continental U.S. mainly used to collect weather data, he said. But these radars also bounce off flying birds and insects, he said. A meteorologist would remove any data that is not weather but Elmore does the opposite. “The radar sends out energy and when the energy reflects off of an object, that comes back to the radar,” Elmore said. “It collects information about how reflective the object was, its location and some data about the size and direction it was going.” Besides removing weather data, Elmore removes information about Jared Elmore studies NEXRAD radar system data to predict bird movements. On the objects too small or too large to be birds. screen, red areas indicate weather while the blue/green areas indicate birds and The result allows Elmore to see when a insects. Photo by Harrison Hill. large population of migratory birds fly important because birds serve a vital role birds fewer than in 1970, Loss said. over an area. “There are all sorts of different things in both the economy and the ecosystem, “Any time you have a lot of birds contributing to that, from habitat loss to Elmore said. flying in the air, you are more likely these more direct threats like collisions,” “One example: How many people to get collisions,” Elmore said. “That’s Loss said. hate insects?” Elmore asked. “If you had common sense. The problem is no one’s Loss is optimistic bird conservation huge declines in birds, which eat a large ever paired what we actually see on the number of insects, then your insect popu- will enter more into the public consciousground, in terms of numbers of colliness soon, he said. He and his team hope lation is going to increase.” sions, with what is in the airspace.” to see bird-friendly building design as a Birds’ economic value can be meaAdvances in radar and computer recurrent topic of conversation, he added. sured through processing As our human population “Can we find a way to balance winbirders, people during the past dows and bird populations?” Loss asked. few years allow grows and our urban settings who enjoy “We should have windows, but there are recreational Elmore to predict are going to grow, it’s ways to design buildings and windows to bird watching, bird movements, important that we consider be less deadly to birds.” Elmore said. he said. how wildlife is affected. A lot of people see birds daily but do They will travel Migratory not think much about it, Riggs said. and spend birds fall victim Georgia Riggs “Birds provide a lot of services for money just to to collisions at a us,” Riggs added. “They are really see different birds, he added. higher frequency than others, Loss said. important for ecosystems, and they are “If you include birding as a sport, it Radars help to quantify these migrations, something we need to pay attention to would be the most popular sport in the he added. and protect.” world,” Elmore said. “Think about how Radar and machine predictions many people have bird feeders and sit in linked with ground observations help the morning, drinking their coffee and researchers understand bird movements, watching birds.” Loss said. Documenting this link would Recently, a group of scientists estiinform policy and building plans to better HARRISON HILL mated the size of the North American prevent collisions, he added. breeding bird population was 3 billion OKLAHOMA CITY Paying attention to these things is VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 49


small sheep.

BIG ANSWERS. OSU researchers find dwarf gene in sheep

s people walk down the aisles at most livestock shows, they might not notice some sheep look different than the others. However, sheep breeders will. The short sheep catching the breeders’ attention are lower at their shoulders than at their hips, making them look unbalanced. “I had seen some lambs that were different at county fairs that I had judged,” said Darin Annuschat, herd manager for the sheep and goat unit in the OSU Department of Animal and Food Sciences. “I thought to myself, ‘Something doesn’t look quite right.'

Sheep identified as dwarfs show a smaller skeleton and appear to be younger. These lambs were born one day apart. Photo by Kane Kinion. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 51

A blood test allows producers to confirm if stock has the dwarfism gene. Photo by Kane Kinion.

really cool undergraduate research opThose things were little, and they were portunity,” Catron said. bucked over in their knees. I didn't think AFS funded the research because the that was how those sheep were supposed faculty wanted to get to the bottom of the to look." These unusual sheep are the result of a matter, Catron said. “The biggest isgenetic mutaI thought it would be a sue we ran into was tion, causing really cool undergraduate all breeders talk a lot them to be research opportunity. about the sire side smaller in their of the pedigree, but stature, or what Wyatt Catron they don’t talk about some might the dam side,” Catron said. consider a dwarf, Annuschat said. But, the research was useful in In 2017, AFS received a phone call identifying the mode of inheritance was from a concerned sheep owner who recessive, said Darren Hagen, AFS assishad a lamb that had not grown since he purchased it. This sparked a new research tant professor. “We traced the parentage back to effort at OSU, Annuschat said. the point that we identified the ram that When AFS faculty learned this issue we think started the original mutation,” existed in the club lamb industry, they Hagen said. immediately wanted to discover the root He said because the staff knew the of the problem, Annuschat said. gene was a recessive trait, he was confiAnnuschat and Wyatt Catron, AFS dent they could sequence the genomes of alumnus and OSU veterinary medicine some of the known dwarf sheep and their student, traced the lineage of the club parents to determine where the mutation lamb industry as far as they could. was occurring. “When Darren and I started talking Gene sequencing identifies the order about the issue, I thought it would be a 52 | COWBOY JOURNAL

of the four chemical building blocks that make up the DNA molecule, Hagen said. Sequencing genomes is used to find the order of the bases in the DNA, Hagen said. The process is done with an organism's chromosomal DNA, he added. “If you have a recessive trait that your parents don’t have, that means they have to be heterozygous,” he said. “So, they have to have one copy of the original base and one copy of the mutated base.” Sheep have 3.2 billion base pairs in their genome. Of those base pairs, the change in one allele causes dwarfism, Hagen added. Catron, Hagen and Anna Goldkamp, animal science master's student, found producers who thought they had dwarf sheep, he said. “We drew blood from the dwarfs, and we drew blood from their parents,” he said. “Then, we sequenced their genomes. In the end, we sequenced the genomes of 10 sheep.” Hagen sequenced each genome 20 times in total. After sequencing, they narrowed the scope of the study from 3.2

billion base pairs to 20 potential candidates for the mutation, he added. “Wyatt and Anna started going into the lab and sequencing those very specific places,” he said. “We started asking ourselves, ‘In the other dwarfs that we didn’t sequence, what do they have?’ And we narrowed it down to one base pair.” After they found the base pair in which the mutation was occurring, they contacted a producer who thought he had dwarfs to get blood samples of 20 of his sheep. They blind-tested the samples they received with known dwarfs and nondwarfs. The tests were 100% accurate on identifying dwarfism, Hagen said. “The most important thing to note is this is a normal gene that has one base change,” Hagen said. “It still makes a protein, but there is just something a little bit different about that protein in that it doesn’t work right. And it just leads to a slightly smaller body in the sheep.” The sector that will see the most impact from the dwarf gene is the club lamb industry, said Jerry Fitch, professor and state sheep extension specialist.

“I don’t think dwarfism is going to have any effect on the commercial side of things,” Fitch said. “The carrier sheep out there are being used mostly in the club lamb industry.” This discovery provides a tool producers can use in making breeding decisions to minimize the number of dwarfs they get each year, Fitch added. “If you have a lot of carrier ewes and you purchase a clean ram, you know you’re not going to get any dwarfs,” he said. “If you have carrier ewes and clean ewes, you can breed accordingly to make sure you’re not going to get any dwarfs. So, it is strictly a breeding tool.” This research is the most significant finding in the sheep industry since the spider mutation was discovered in the 1980s, he said. The difference between the discovery of this mutation and the discovery of the spider mutation is the lambs with the dwarf mutation are still marketable, Fitch said. With the spider mutation, which causes bone and cartilage growth issues, the sheep were not marketable, Fitch said. “Some of the dwarfs are marketable, some of them grow to an earlier end point, and some of them show well at lighter weights,” he said. “With spider gene, every one would die. They couldn't make it to five or six months of age.” Most of the dwarf sheep survive and may thrive, Fitch said. Their growth stalls, he added, and they mature faster than non-dwarf sheep. The test for dwarfism is only available through GeneCheck Inc. in Greeley,

Colorado. Since the test’s release March 22, 2019, the company has performed 7,000 dwarfism tests. “A sheep that is a confirmed dwarf will have the allele definition of DD,” Annuschat said. “If they are a heterozygous recessive carrier, they will have the definition of FD. If they are clean from the gene, their definition will be FF.” Thus far, the gene has shown up only in black-faced sheep, he added. The only way white-faced sheep receive the mutation is through crossbreeding with black-faced sheep, Annuschat said. “If you have speckle-faced sheep, they could be potential carriers,” he said. “Or if you have white-faced sheep that are seven-eighths Dorset or Southdown and one-eighth black-faced, it has the potential to be a carrier.” The lineage shows the mutation occurred somewhere between the late 1990s and the early 2000s. So, the mutation has had 20 to 25 years to show itself more frequently, Annuschat said. “This mutation can be used to make breeding decisions for all producers,” Annuschat said. “But, if you ignore it, we can have a real problem on our hands.” “We don't want to scare people,” he said. “We want people to be able to make sound breeding decisions for their situation, whatever that may be.”


Moving Forward

Sheep producers now can begin checking the status of their breeding flocks. GeneCheck processes all tests for the dwarf gene, and each test costs $13 per lamb. For GeneCheck to run a test, a producer must send a vial of blood in a purple top EDTA tube or a tissue sample with a GeneCheck tag. The tube has a strong anticoagulant and is generally used when whole blood is needed for analysis.

To draw blood from sheep, producers will need tubes and an intravenous syringe. Producers will find the vein in the sheep’s neck, insert the syringe and draw 2 to 3 cc of blood. The samples must be kept cool until shipment. During the hot months, the tubes must be packaged with an ice pack when shipped. However, during the winter months, the ice is no longer needed, according to GeneCheck.


attling the rocky, sandy terrain of an Afghan desert, a man has cultivated a learning environment through his educational experience to bring the practice of permaculture to soldiers in the Middle East. Staff Sgt. Nicholas Cassell joined the U.S. Army Reserves in 2009 while working on his bachelor’s degree in political science and applied sociology at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois. 54 | COWBOY JOURNAL

He said he always wanted to join the military because he could serve his country while deciding what he wanted to do in the future. “I joined the Army Reserves so if it wasn’t the right fit for myself I could still do something different on the civilian side,” Cassell said. A combat medic position was open when Cassell joined the Army Reserves, and he said he decided to give it a

try, which led to him completing both combat medic school and nursing school with the military. In 2014, during his first deployment to Afghanistan, Cassell met a physician who ran an organization that provided medical and surgical care in Haiti for several years. He said this physician encouraged him to go to Gonaïves, Haiti. Cassell said he realized the importance of agriculture after helping

MIAP student educates others while fighting for freedom perform more than 100 surgeries in nine days and learning about the food insecurity in Haiti. Cassell said before his trip to Haiti, he thought medicine was the most important service that could be provided, but after witnessing the malnourishment in Haiti, he recognized medicine won’t help if people do not have enough food to eat. “I had a respect for both food security and medicine,” Cassell said. “That was

kind of my mind-awakening moment that, ‘Hey, this agriculture thing is the real deal. It’s just as important as medicine is, if not more important.’” Cassell said he decided he wanted to continue his education and researched schools that would allow him to learn more about the agricultural sector. He chose to get an advanced degree through Oklahoma State University’s Master of International Agriculture Program.

“I learned about MIAP, and I said, ‘Oh, this is perfect. I can blend my love for international development and traveling with agriculture and maybe make a real difference,’” Cassell said. Cassell is completing his Master of International Agriculture degree Nicholas Cassell serves in the U.S. Army Reserves in the 909th Forward Surgical Team. Photo by Bailey Teakell. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 55

Left: Tumwebaze Bosco, Ugandan government contractor, collects a soil sample to analyze its texture. Photo by Nicholas Cassell. Right: Nicholas Cassell leads a Golden Hour Off-Set Surgical Team supporting special operations. Photo by Dr. Stephen Lawson.

online through OSU while deployed as a noncommissioned officer in charge of a Golden Hour Off-Set Surgical Trauma Team in Afghanistan. The degree requires students to have an international experience, so Cassell decided to teach a 72-hour permaculture course to fulfill his requirement while deployed, he said. Permaculture is using sustainable methods for agricultural and environmental practices, Cassell said. Cassell had a total of 18 students from the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. Cassell said he enjoyed learning from their diverse backgrounds. To prepare for the course, Cassell said he researched soil types and plants native to the regions his students came from to ensure he had the knowledge to make the course applicable to each of them. “My favorite moment teaching this course has probably been learning about 56 | COWBOY JOURNAL

the resourcefulness of students in other countries in what they’re doing in agriculture compared to the traditional things we do in the U.S.,” Cassell said. When Cassell taught a lesson on compost piles, his Ugandan students told him they check the temperature of a pile by putting a stick in the middle because they cannot afford to buy thermometers. They know their compost is ready when the stick is warm to the touch, he said. Capt. Antonio Tamayo-Melgoza, officer in charge and one of Cassell’s students, said Cassell did a great job engaging people from diverse backgrounds and keeping them excited about the course. “It is interesting to see the uniqueness he brings out in each individual,” Tamayo-Melgoza said. Cassell said teaching students skills they can utilize when they return home was exciting.

“It’s just been amazing hearing their stories of how they practice agriculture,” Cassell said, “and how the things you’re teaching them are going to change the way they’re doing something.” Cassell tried to make the course similar to a traditional class, he said, but a lack of resources was the biggest difference between this class and a typical permaculture design course taught in the United States. For example, to complete a contour lines activity, students used water bottles as markers and scraps of wood to build an A-frame, Cassell said. They did not have the typical resources used to measure contour lines, he added. “We ended up finding unique ways that I can get the message across and still have the hands-on learning,” Cassell said. For six weeks, Cassell’s students met four days a week for four hours each day. Originally, students met for two hours

each day, Cassell said, but mission requirements caused the end date of the class to move up. Students who completed the course received a permaculture design certificate, Cassell said. Tamayo-Melgoza said this course was a nice distraction while deployed. He plans to use what he learned from this course to improve his plans for the house he recently bought in Virginia, he said. “Cassell’s very passionate about what he does,” Tamayo-Melgoza said. “He does get very excited, and he will put 100% into what he’s actually doing.” The class ended Sept. 17 with students presenting their own permaculture designs. Cassell said most of the students made designs specific to their plans for their own properties. “He is willing to help someone who is not quite understanding something,” said Carole Cassell, Nick Cassell’s grandmother. “He will go into detail and explain everything really well.” Carole Cassell said she has seen videos of her grandson teaching his permaculture course. He is a good and

patient teacher, she said, and she is proud of his service in the Army Reserves. “I’m proud that he is serving our country,” Carole Cassell said. “I’m very proud of him and that he chose to do that even though I hate the fact he’s gone.” Carole Cassell said he has always been dedicated to his endeavors. “He won’t let you down,” Carole Cassell said. “If there’s any way possible to do what he promised to do or what needs to be done, Nick will do that. He’s just a very dependable person.” Nick Cassell goes out of his way to help others and always follows through on his word, said Heather Ratlieff, a former co-worker of Nick Cassell’s. He has an ability to focus and excel at everything he puts his mind to, she added. Nick Cassell will complete his master’s degree in December 2019. Pam Bay, MIAP coordinator, said Nick Cassell’s drive to teach a course while deployed benefits his learning experience as well as his students. “He will leave this program ready to do anything he wants to do,” Bay said.

“He’ll be ready to take on any challenge he wants to and will be successful.” Nick Cassell knows what he wants, Bay said, and his discipline and forward thinking sets him apart from other students in MIAP. “I knew right away that he was going to be successful and he was going to stick it out,” Bay said. “He was going to finish no matter where he was, if he was deployed or if he was here.” Nick Cassell said he plans to pursue a doctoral degree in 2020, but he has not decided where he will go to school. “He could do whatever he put his mind to because that’s the kind of guy he is,” Ratlieff said. “If he really wants to do something, he does the absolute best he can. That’s just Nick.”



Heart The of the Ma Environmental science students write plan to fight invasive species

rom a distance, the yellow floatthe plant and found it was increasing at a ing heart might seem like the rate close to two acres a year.” perfect ornamental plant for your The plant, which had covered up to pond. But just below the water’s sur53 acres of the lake’s 3,350 acre surface, the lily grows thick roots, develops face area, was resistant to treatments of mattes dense enough to stop a boat’s aquatic glyphosate, commonly known as propeller, and outcompetes native plants. aquatic Roundup, Hickman said. The yellow floating heart plant “There were concerns about treating originated in Eastern Asia and the the aquatic plant with a chemical because Mediterranean, according to the U.S. it had the potential to contaminate a body Geological Survey. This lily is characterof water that could be drinking water,” ized by floating, heart-shaped leaves and Hickman said. “When the glyphosate bright yellow flowers. wasn’t very effective, OSU had to find Oklahoma State University became something else.” concerned with the yellow floating heart Hickman decided to make the yellow when it started growing in Lake Carl floating heart issue a project option in Blackwell, said Karen Hickman, OSU her environmental science capstone Environmental Science Program director. course. In the year-long course, students “Lake Carl spend the fall The students identified the Blackwell is semester reowned and mantreatment. They came up with searching their aged by OSU,” the plan on how and when to topics. During Hickman said. the spring semestreat it. “It provides the ter, students drinking water develop potential Karen Hickman for the university plans of action. campus and recreation, so it’s a vitally Four students were assigned to the important body of water for OSU.” yellow floating heart project: Heath OSU students in the environmental McDonald, Dallas Ladd, Shannon science graduate program were the first Wilson and Luis Martinez. to conduct research on the plant. “There’s not a lot of detailed infor“It was assessed about three to five mation on how to control the yellow years ago,” Hickman said. “They mapped floating heart plants, so we had to reach 58 | COWBOY JOURNAL

out to industry professionals and get their ideas of what they’d do in this situation,” McDonald said. “We did a lot of reading on the OSU library databases.” Lack of information was the team’s biggest challenge, McDonald said. They based their idea on research of similar lily species. Collaboration with departments across campus, such as the environmental science graduate program, gave the student team the opportunity to improve their communications skills, Wilson said. “We had to learn how to communicate with not only our peers, but also with professors and important people who had a lot of influence on the project,” Wilson said. “They were people who had a lot of knowledge about the yellow floating heart. So, learning how to communicate was a big thing.” The undergraduate student team worked with the graduate students to gather data, Wilson said. “They were the ones going out and collecting samples, taking pictures and gathering data,” Wilson said. “So, we had to communicate with them to get the research from them.” The plant in Lake Carl Blackwell was tracked through satellite and drone images to determine surface area coverage, said Andrew Dzialowski, associate

Matter professor of integrated biology and an aquatic ecologist involved in the project. Eventually, the students’ research led them to organizations in Wisconsin and Washington that had successfully dealt with the yellow floating heart plant, Hickman said. “They were able to connect with a company that had a chemical approved for use — ProcellaCor,” Hickman said. ProcellaCor, a selective herbicide, “specifically targets a hormone mechanism that is unique to the plant,” which allows the user to kill nuisance plants while protecting wanted plants, according to SePro, producers of the chemical. According to SePro, the product has less risk than other products and requires less product to control nuisance plants. By the end of the capstone course, the students had written a comprehensive plan for dealing with the plant. “The students identified the treatment,” Hickman said. “They came up with a proposal on how and when to treat it, how much it would cost and compared it to other treatment options. Then, OSU treated the yellow floating heart infestation this summer, incorporating some of the students’ recommendations.” Before application of the herbicide, the university staff took precautions to ensure the safety of the water and

The yellow floating heart plant is characterized by its yellow flower made of five petals and heart-shaped leaves. Photo by Chelsea Dinterman. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 59

The yellow floating heart plant forms dense mattes that have hindered recreation at Lake Carl Blackwell. The plant roots in the soil and can spread in water up to 12 feet deep. Photo by Harrison Hill.

natural ecosystems throughout Stillwater, Dzialowski said. “The management at Lake Carl Blackwell worked with a certified applicator in the state,” Dzialowski said. “The planning brought in people of different expertise, including the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation.” The biggest precaution taken was temporarily changing the campus’ source of water while treatments were applied to Lake Carl Blackwell, Dzialowski said. “That wasn’t required by law, but OSU 60 | COWBOY JOURNAL

thought it was appropriate,” Dzialowski said. “We did some water-quality testing. We collected samples at the water intake structure and point of entry for the water distribution system, and all samples were below detection limits for ProcellaCor in the water during treatment.” After the ProcellaCor application, a significant reduction occurred in yellow floating heart coverage, Dzialowski said. “The last time I checked, yellow floating heart covered between 2 and 3 acres of surface area,” Dzialowski said. “So, the treatment worked really well.” Despite the treatment’s success, OSU

will continue to monitor plant regrowth to determine next steps, Dzialowski said. “The treatments were really successful, but it’s going to grow back in some places,” Dzialowski said. “There will probably be some need for additional applications, but I think we’re all really surprised at the success.”









CASNR alumni give back to their roots ith their farm truck and a picnic lunch, two agricultural economics alumni spent many Saturdays atop a South Dakota hill listening to Oklahoma State University sports on the radio. Claudia and Gary Humphreys, who earned their degrees in the early 1980s, moved eight times in their first seven years of marriage, but they found ways to support their alma mater no matter the location. Whether they drove up a South Dakota hill, down to Stillwater for a football game, or over to Omaha, Nebraska, for the College World Series, the couple cheered on their Cowboys. Gary and Claudia Humphreys support OSU during America’s Greatest Homecoming Celebration at Walkaround. Photo by Jamie Johnson.


“What I enjoyed most from my time at OSU was making new connections with people and all things sports-related,” Gary Humphreys said. “OSU is our family and the reason I am successful today.” Gary Humphreys grew up in Pond Creek, Oklahoma, and Claudia Embry Humphreys in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Being OSU Cowboys was a dream for both of them, Claudia Humphreys said. “I loved OSU from the time I was in junior high,” she said. “It’s where I always knew I wanted to go to school.” Once on campus, the Humphreys developed a friend group that turned into family in college, said Karen Eifert Jones, a fellow agricultural economics alumna. Every Sunday, they went to 64 | COWBOY JOURNAL

has continued through their professional church, studied in the afternoon and had lives, Jones said. Sunday dinners together. Gary Humphreys’ first job after gradThis friend group developed when uating from OSU was with Iowa Beef Jones and Claudia Humphreys started Processors. He made their freshman year his IBP interviewers and Gary Humphreys Gary has always laugh when he told was a junior at OSU. been a visionary. … them he wanted to The couple put great Every goal he set, he be CEO, but he was importance on helping expected to achieve. serious, Claudia each other and their Humphreys said. friends get through Claudia Humphreys “Gary has always school, Jones said. been a visionary,” Claudia Humphreys “I just remember being very imsaid. “He has always had high goals and pressed with Claudia,” Jones said. “I always saw her as a go-getter who wasn’t expectations, but not so high they were unachievable. Every goal he set, he exafraid to achieve anything.” pected to achieve.” The couple’s get-it-done attitude Gary Humphreys worked for IBP for started with their agricultural roots and

a few years, Claudia Humphreys said, before the couple moved from Iowa to South Dakota to Kansas to Nebraska. Moving meant opportunities were limited for Claudia Humphreys, she said, but she learned to adapt and keep going. She was not afraid to try something new, she added, because she knew her skill set and what she was good at. As the couple moved across the country, Claudia Humphreys acquired her license to sell life, health and disability insurance. Ever the adapter, she also received her realty license. After working and moving together for a few years, the time came for Gary Humphreys to leave IBP, Claudia Humphreys said.

“I was told because I had been promoted so rapidly, I could not be promoted for five more years,” Gary Humphreys said. “The same job for five years was not on my career path.” Gary Humphreys was driven to have his own business and to amass capital, Jones said. He was always looking for the better deal, she added. After Gary Humphreys left IBP, a new law in the early 1990s meant tires could not be placed in landfills. The change created a chance to start his own business in the tire recycling industry called Able Tire, Claudia Humphreys said. “I took a leap at the new opportunity,” Gary Humphreys said. “It was timing.” Since then, the Humphreys have

The days following the death of T. Boone Pickens, a tribute was displayed on the video board donated by the Humphreys. Photo by Chelsea Alexander.

diversified into different industries including in logistics, realty, restaurants and ranching. The center of their business enterprises is Vista Proppants and Logistics, which provides materials and transportation services to oil-producing regions in Texas and Oklahoma. Gary Humphreys said his favorite part about running his own businesses is closing the deal — taking an idea and getting it to the finish line. Most deals are difficult to make, so when it happens it is exciting, he added. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 65

Gary and Claudia Humpherys, owners of Coney Island Stillwater and The Storm Cellar enjoy cheering on the OSU Cowboys in Boone Pickens Stadium. Photo by Bruce Waterfield

Jones said Gary Humphreys was always a deal maker. Even in college, whether he was buying a pizza or a used car, he was always trying to a make a good deal and that is something that has never changed, she added. The Humphreys both grew up in the livestock industry, so it seemed fitting for them to start their own ranch. Humphreys Farm and Ranch started when their sons, Eric and Jake Humphreys, started showing cattle in 4-H. The family was passionate about raising good Hereford cattle on the ranch because Gary Humphreys wanted to make a difference in the Hereford breed, Jones said. “The happiest I see Gary, nowadays, is when he is out with his cattle,” Jones said, “especially when he is driving around the ranch, checking on cattle, dog along with him.” Even after years of building businesses around the country, the couple still makes time for innovation in Stillwater, Claudia Humphreys said. Coney Island Stillwater is one of 66 | COWBOY JOURNAL

Claudia Humphreys’ recent projects and the couple’s new business venture. They were looking to purchase something on Washington Street because they wanted to be a part of Stillwater again, Claudia Humphreys said. They renovated one of the oldest restaurants on the The Strip and added a rooftop bar, The Storm Cellar. Thankful for their success, the Humphreys have given back to OSU, said Heidi Williams, OSU Foundation senior director of principle gifts. The first donation the couple made to OSU was a scholarship to honor Claudia Humphreys’ father, the Eugene Embry Scholarship for Children with Dyslexia. The Humphreys decided to create the scholarship after their older child, Eric, who is dyslexic, started at OSU and no scholarships or aid were available for students with dyslexia, she added. In addition to the scholarship, the couple has supported OSU in other ways. Claudia Humphreys purchased a bench in the Welcome Plaza east of the

Student Union in her husband’s name for their anniversary. Their most recent donation was the video board inside Boone Pickens Stadium. This year, the couple received OSU Alumni Association 2019 Distinguished Alumni awards. This award recognizes alumni who achieve success in their chosen professional field and provide outstanding service to their community, according to the OSUAA. Gary Humphreys said they donate in multiple areas at OSU because if their contributions can help someone graduate, then he has paid back the people who helped him. “OSU is our family,” Gary Humphreys said. “OSU is the reason I am successful today, and I want to help other students accomplish their goals.”



A New Way

to Relax

OSU seniors invent chewing gum to promote relaxation ong days in the office, the week leading up to a big exam, and turbulence on a flight all create a common issue: increased stress. What if chewing gum could reduce that stress? Will Petty, Oklahoma State University accounting senior, and Walter Bowser, OSU economics senior, invented Bubble Calm, a chewing gum to relieve stress and promote relaxation. “We wanted to figure out a problem in society that doesn’t go away easily,” Petty said. The Bubble Calm gum concept was born late one night after a group of friends talked about their shared struggle with anxiety. “We turned a bad situation into a good situation,” Petty said. “We started looking into it, and there was no chewing gum out there that promoted relaxation.” The pair of entrepreneurs saw a niche market and decided to pursue it, he said. “Everything just worked out because 68 | COWBOY JOURNAL

functional gums are a growing industry and anxiety relief products are a growing industry,” Bowser said. “Even the action of chewing helps calm you down. It’s just a perfect storm.” Bowser and Petty created the first batch of Bubble Calm with a gum base, herbs extracted from tea bags and powder from commercial vitamin capsules, Bowser said. The concept was there, but the product had plenty of room to grow, he said. The Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center, a part of the OSU Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, played a large role in the business development process of Bubble Calm, Bowser said. “It’s a hybridized situation,” said Bubble Calm was invented to help alleviate the anxiety and stress symptoms affecting 40 million American adults. Photo by Avery Schnoor.

Rickie Fowler swings a golf club while displaying his tattoos. Every person needs a name in the caption. Photo by someone with an incredible job. VOLUME2222NUMBER NUMBER1 1| 69 |9 VOLUME

Chuck Willoughby, FAPC marketing relations manager. “Walter Bowser used to work upstairs as a student employee, so he’s familiar with the area. It wasn’t your traditional situation, where someone has an idea and he contacts the center.” Despite the unusual business connection, the creators of Bubble Calm have benefited immensely from the help received from FAPC, Bowser said. “They’ve helped us a lot,” Bowser said. “FAPC helped us find the equipment that we will use in production.” FAPC also helped improve the palatability of the gum as well as assisted in masking the flavor of the active ingredients, Bowser said. “Everybody in FAPC has had a hand in it,” said Tim Bowser, FAPC food engineer and Walter’s father. “Everyone from our labeling and marketing people to some of the staff in finance.” Others helped prepare business plans, manage the pilot plant production, and develop nutrition labels, he said.

Initially, Walter Bowser and Petty wanted to keep the Bubble Calm recipe a secret, but they quickly learned consumers prefer complete transparency in a product, Petty said. After Bubble Calm’s launch in October 2018, Walter Bowser and Petty received numerous emails asking what caused the gum to be relaxing, Petty said. After responding to emails to share the gum’s ingredients, the entrepreneurs added the Bubble Calm gum recipe to their website, he said. Bubble Calm’s ingredients come from multiple places, Walter Bowser said. “We order bulk supplements and the gum base from Spain, flavors come from the UK, and everything else is purchased online through Amazon,” Petty said. The gum’s active ingredients are valerian root, chamomile and gamma aminobutyric acid. “These ingredients interact with your GABA receptors in your brain,” Petty said, “relaxing the hyperactivity that

Will Petty (left) and Walter Bowser are developing a website for customers to buy Bubble Calm directly. Photo by Avery Schnoor. 70 | COWBOY JOURNAL

you experience whenever you’re in an anxious or stressful situation.” The natural active ingredients are intended to promote relaxation in a healthy way, Petty said. All ingredients used are identified as generally regarded as safe, or GRAS, products by the FDA, Petty said. “These ingredients interact with the same receptors in your brain that prescription medications react with, but on a much lower level,” Petty said. While Bubble Calm is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, the active ingredients promote relaxation and a clear mind when one is feeling stressed, Walter Bowser said. The pair use social media to promote their product to reach potential customers, Petty said. “The Bubble Calm team’s top priority is having the production capacity to fulfill orders at high volumes,” Walter Bowser said. Petty and Walter Bowser now use the Center for Business Development incubator at Meridian Technology Center to make their product and grow their business, Petty said. The Center for Business Development incubator is an office environment designed with younger, developing companies in mind, Walter Bowser said. “There are other young companies with you in the same building, but you have your own space,” he added. The Center for Business Development staff assists in business growth and networking needs, Walter Bowser said. Despite being full-time students, Petty and Walter Bowser are pursuing Bubble Calm full-time and have plans to continue after they graduate in May 2020, Walter Bowser said. Each $5 package of Bubble Calm includes 12 pieces of chewing gum. In the future, the pair plans to stock Bubble Calm in select retail locations, Petty said.


Pre-vet students gain experience through study abroad wenty-five Oklahoma State University pre-veterinary students broadened their horizons as they traveled to Mexico to learn about the local practice of veterinary medicine. Jose Uscanga, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources director of multicultural programs, said the OSU students in the pre-veterinary degree program participated in a study-abroad trip during the 2019 summer. The trip was the first study-abroad trip for many pre-vet students and is expected to be a recurring trip for many summers to come, Uscanga said.

Uscanga wanted to ensure pre-vet students received all the opportunities they needed to become successful in the industry, he said. Erik Clary, an associate professor of surgery and bioethics in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine, said the trip was beneficial for pre-vet students. “One of the benefits of the trip is the opportunity for students to experience another culture,” Clary said, “but the trip also allows pre-vet students to see the world of veterinary medicine in a different context.” Many students have not seen the



world outside of the U.S., Clary said. One of the intriguing aspects and primary advantages of the trip was the opportunity for pre-vet students to gain hands-on experience working with animals, Uscanga said. Previously, the primary opportunities for pre-vet students to travel abroad and gain veterinary experience were through mission trips, Uscanga said. However, OSU cannot provide academic credit for mission trips because OSU does not have any affiliation with them, he added. “I started looking to see if there was a way to offer the pre-vet students an opportunity to study abroad and gain university credit,” Uscanga said. A study-abroad trip seemed to be the best option for the pre-vet program, so Uscanga spoke with faculty in the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine and proposed the idea of the trip, he said. Clary said he did not go on the trip over the summer, but instead went on an exploratory trip the year before. On the exploratory trip, OSU faculty met with officials from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and The Universidad Popular Autónoma del Estado de Puebla to determine if a study-abroad trip would be beneficial for students, Clary said. “We obviously wanted the trip to be meaningful for OSU students,” Clary

PUEBLA Students traveled across southern Mexico on a pre-vet focused study-abroad trip. Graphic by Kyle Rea and Harrison Hill. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 71

OSU student Siennah Inso demonstrates proper equine handling at the UPAEP veterinary ranch. Photo by José Uscanga.

the trip, I mostly worked with small ansaid, “but we wanted the students from imals, so experiencing the large-animal UNAM and UPAEP to have a valuable side of vet medicine was really cool.” experience, as well.” Many of the rural communities in Allowing students to have different Mexico had horses and donkeys, Butler layers of interaction was an important said, and the students got a great deal of aspect, Uscanga said. The OSU students experience working with those animals. met with other pre-vet students from “We basically just got thrown into the Mexico, he said. The students also met mix of things when we were working with veterinary school faculty and prewith horses,” Butler said, “which was vet undergraduate faculty from OSU and really good for me because it forced me the universities in Mexico. “Allowing the faculty and the students to learn about equine vet medicine.” Getting the handsto become familiar The most valuable on experience was a with each other is experience from major benefit, Butler important in making the trip was making said. Understanding the veterinary profriends who share a what veterinarians do gram more inviting,” on a daily basis was Uscanga said. common interest. extremely eye-opening, The trip was a Neil Butler he said. 10-day excursion “I was really glad I got to broaden my throughout Mexico, allowing pre-vet experience working with animals prior to students and veterinarians to work with vet school,” Butler said. animals and people in different cities, The team learned to work together beUscanga said. cause of the number of animals in need “The students were exposed to both classrooms and rural communities where of attention, Butler said. “We were all just building off of each veterinary practices were performed,” other or building each other up,” Butler Uscanga said. said. “We were all learning from each Neil Butler, an animal science pre-vet other at the same time.” junior, said the trip was phenomenal. Learning about the culture was also Seeing what life is like outside of the fun, Butler said. The class took a number U.S. was a big culture shock, he added. of day trips throughout Mexico during “I enjoyed learning about equine vetthe study-abroad experience. erinary practices,” Butler said. “Before 72 | COWBOY JOURNAL

“The most valuable experience from the trip was making friends who share a common interest,” Butler said. Overall, the trip was a great success, Uscanga said. Surveys were sent to students on the 2019 trip to collect information on the most engaging part of the study-abroad experience, he said. Through the survey, students indicated the hands-on experience was the best and most impactful aspect of the trip overall, Uscanga said. Students said they enjoyed the group leaders and teachers on the trip, he added, and they appreciated the cultural insight they gained. “I want all of these students to have the same opportunities,” Uscanga said. “Part of being a good veterinarian comes from knowledge and experience.” Planning for the next trip already has begun, Uscanga said. The faculty expects to have another large group of students and an equally effective trip, he added. “I am beyond excited for the next study-abroad trip,” Uscanga said. “I love helping the students learn about things they are passionate about, and I really love what the trip has to offer.”




CASNR students paint a mark on Homecoming

n a Sunday afternoon in October, students of different agricultural backgrounds gather with brushes and paint to show their true colors and spirit during each Oklahoma State University Homecoming. Window painting is an annual activity for OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources students during Homecoming week. The activity dates back to the 1980s for the students in the OSU fraternities and sororities.


Melisa Parkerson, OSU Alumni Association director of student programs, said she served as the homecoming adviser for 12 years and painted in the competition as a Greek student. “Window decorations were a part of Homecoming sweepstakes points for Greek houses,” Parkerson said. “Each year, Greek students would be given the windows of two to three businesses in town to decorate based on the Homecoming theme. “Then, during Homecoming weekend,

judges would score them based on the students’ artistic creativity,” she added. “The overall purpose of having the windows decorated was to have school spirit and get the community involved,” Parkerson said. “This was a way to really make the whole city of Stillwater bleed orange for Homecoming.” The citywide window painting competition ended, but the tradition became a part of the most spirited college award. CASNR and other colleges now decorate windows for Homecoming, Parkerson

Rainee Deroin (left) and Bailey Masterson, members of the Environmental Science Club, paint a window for Homecoming 2019. Photo by Mason Seelke.

said, but historically CASNR has done more with the activity. Ryli Powell, agricultural economics and accounting junior, said the most spirited college award is a decorating contest to see which college portrays the most Homecoming spirit on campus. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 75

“The window painting has been a great, innovative way for CASNR students to express their spirit and tell a story for the college,” Powell said. As a 2019 OSU Homecoming executive, Powell communicated with colleges about their Homecoming decorations. The Homecoming executive team served as judges for most spirited college award. Hunter Starr, agribusiness senior and OSU CASNR Council president, said CASNR has won the most spirited award multiple times during Homecoming. He said the window painting activity helps put CASNR above the rest of campus. “It really separates us from the other colleges,” Starr said. “Everyone has their own things they do for decorations, but for us, window painting is the biggest thing because it not only affects the students who take classes but also shows everyone driving by the spirit we present during Homecoming.” Club members paint 47 windows in Agricultural Hall, the Animal Science Building, and the Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center.

“The clubs all have their personal preference on communicating through a paint brush,” Starr said. “In the past, we’ve seen pictures of pigs, plants, tractors, combines, organization logos and inspirational quotes. “The clubs express themselves on the windows for everyone to see,” he said. Starr said the designs for the windows are decided in one of two ways, based on the club’s decision. “The clubs painting the windows will either draw something up on paper then transfer that idea to the window or they will just show up and put it together,” Starr said. Each window is assigned for a specific club, but the three clubs with the best window designs from the previous year receive one of the best three locations: the Agricultural Hall front doors or a set of lobby doors by 101 Agricultural Hall. Clubs paint between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the Sunday before Homecoming week. Starr said the windows must be finished by 5 p.m. Makenzie Barnes-Elkins, agricultural

communications junior, said window painting is an activity she always enjoys participating in during Homecoming. “I like getting to meet all the other students who come and participate in the window painting,” Barnes-Elkins said. “It’s a great way for everyone to bond together and try to win a prize while we’re at it.” Window painting allows everyone in CASNR to unite under one cause for Homecoming and tell a bigger story, Starr said. “It speaks volumes about the quality of CASNR students to stop what they are doing on a Sunday and come paint windows,” Starr said. “Just by putting in that much effort individually, we stand out that much more as a college.”


Brent Gwinn (left), Sydney Cannon and Austin Pickering, members of the Cowboy Motor Sports Club, prepare to paint their Agricultural Hall windows. Photo by Mason Seelke. 76 | COWBOY JOURNAL

DASNR researchers dive into Oklahoma streams ow did the macroinvertebrate cross the road? The question may seem like a joke, but the researchers from Oklahoma State University’s entomology and plant pathology department are not delivering punchlines about these stream-dwelling insects. Insects living in Oklahoma streams vary from worms to tiny, shrimplike organisms called amphipods, said Melissa Reed, an OSU entomology and plant

pathology doctoral candidate and lead researcher on the effects of damaged culverts on aquatic insects. “Macroinvertebrates are insects you can see with your naked eye,” Reed said. She called these organisms “super-recyclers” in their ecosystems because they clean up organic debris like leaves that fall into streams. “As we get into autumn and leaves fall into areas of water, something has to break them down,” said Wyatt Hoback,

Aquatic insects and river rocks provide Melissa Reed and Rayne Key additional information about stream health. Photo by JoMarie Hickerson. VOLUME 22 NUMBER 1 | 77

an OSU assistant professor who oversees the research. “Aquatic insects perform that function.” These organisms provide an abundance of essential services to the ecosystem, Reed said, but their help could become scarce in the future when streams are broken up by damaged and outdated infrastructure. “When we have different types of road structures crossing the creeks, how does that impact the insects upstream and downstream?” Hoback asked. Streams cross under roadways through a pipe or tinhorn structure, known as a culvert, which enables the streams to keep their flow steady, Hoback said. However, these culverts are not always well managed and can be detrimental to the survival of the vital aquatic insects, Hoback added. “Some of the culverts are open where the water can flow easily through, and some of them are in such bad shape they are working as a dam,” Reed said. As leaves and debris fall into the streams, they are swept downstream by the flow of the water, and the invertebrates living in the streams break them down, Reed said. When culverts are damaged, leaves do not make it to the rest of the stream, she said, and the food supply for insects is cut off. The damming of culverts causes banks to erode, widening the stream, creating a pseudo-pond and reducing water flow, Reed said. This occurrence minimizes oxygen levels vital to the survival of gill-breathing insects, she added. “The insects breathe oxygen just like fish do,” Reed said. “So, the only insects that can live there are the ones coming to the surface to breathe air.” If a stream’s population contains only these aquatic, oxygen-breathing insects, that is a sign of deteriorating water quality, Reed said. The research question Reed asks is how the insects perform from upstream to downstream when their environment is interrupted. To answer this question, she Melissa Reed collects aquatic insects, like this dragonfly, from stream beds. Photo by JoMarie Hickerson. 78 | COWBOY JOURNAL

observes two geologically different areas in Oklahoma. “I’m examining culverts in two stream systems in two ecoregions in Oklahoma,” Reed said. “The first one is up in the northern part of the state called the Flint Hills ecoregion. The second ecoregion is the Ozark Highlands.” Reed researches these ecoregions because of the ever-changing landscapes from one end of Oklahoma to the other, she said. What holds true in the clear, cold waters of the Ozark region cannot be applied to the sandy, muddy-bottomed streams in the plains, she explained. For the last two years, Reed has collected samples of macroinvertebrates from both regions, using a mesh net and a helping hand from entomology and plant pathology undergraduate students. Reed catalogs the types of insects she finds in each region. Reed said the goal is to describe any Insects collected from two ecoregions in Oklahoma allow Melissa Reed to compare population changes from upstream to population densities between up and downstream. Photo by JoMarie Hickerson. downstream of the damaged culverts they use as their test sites. To do this, and help them change the way the culhave any fish,” Hoback said. “Fish lay Reed and entomology and plant patholverts are constructed, Reed said. eggs, and the eggs hatch into tiny fish. ogy undergraduate student Rayne Key “My goal is to give this data to people Then as they grow, they have to eat distribute packets of leaves for the insects who actually design these bridges to say, something bigger, but they’re not quite to breakdown, Reed said. ‘Look, the research shows we need to ready to eat fish. So, they eat the aquatic “We collect leaves that haven’t fallen make more open structures,’” Reed said. insects instead.” yet from the trees at the sites,” Key said. “Placing five tiny pipes under the bridge Insects play dual roles in the ecosys“We put them in a little netted bag and does not work. They clog up with gravel tem, possessing the titles of both pest and tie them with and the water is not beneficial organism, Hoback said. More Without aquatic insects, we zip ties on a moving through. The often, these organisms are cast with a don’t have any fish. concrete slab habitat, the insects and shade of “ick-factor” without acknowland put them everything that depends edging their importance, he added. Wyatt Hoback back down in on the macroinverte“When you get in your car, you expect the river above and below the culverts.” brates are suffering.” to be able to drive it,” Hoback said. Once the packets are secure, the The problem lies in making people “Even if the rest of the car is intact, if researchers leave them throughout the understand the aquatic insects’ imporyou are missing a part like a spark plug, winter months until the following spring, tance to the ecosystem, Reed said. it doesn’t go. That one component is Key said. The researchers then evaluate “Aquatic insects are really overlooked what makes all the difference. That’s the pace of leaf breakdown and compare even in the entomology field, but they what insects are to the ecosystem.” it to the corresponding leaf packet down- are important,” Reed said. “They’re a With the help of Reed’s research, stream to determine the productivity of main source of food for many varieties these little eco-sparkplugs can get populations according to culvert damage, of fish.” clogged stream engines running she said. Aquatic insects provide food directly efficiently again, she said. The pair also spend time in stream to smaller fish, and indirectly provide beds collecting insects to compare popuprotein to larger fish, Hoback said. If lation differences and monitor the aquatic food sources are reduced, the fishermen to nonaquatic insect ratio, Reed said. of Oklahoma could notice the difference Once enough data is collected, they in popular species like bass, catfish, wallJOMARIE HICKERSON hope to take this information to people eye and bluegill, he added. who design culverts, like civil engineers,

“Without aquatic insects, we don’t



CASNR Alumni News Winter/Spring 2020







The CASNR Alumni Homecoming festivities took place at the Charles and Linda Cline Equine Teaching Center on Oct. 18, 2019: 1: John Crabb (left), Clint Roush, Tim Smith, Brandon Chandler and Cynda Clary. Photo by Samantha Siler. 2: Kelly Peck (left), Jannice Hicks, Milissa Gofourth, Hollie Schreiber, Michelle German and Sogol Rasouli. Photo courtesy of Mod Fox Photobooth. 3: The Cowley family — Amy (left), Quinn, Emory and Phillip. Photo courtesy of Mod Fox Photobooth. 4: Brandon Chandler (left) and Travis Schnaithman. Photo by Samantha Siler. 5: Hitch, a member of Pete’s Pet Posse. Photo by Samantha Siler.


The OSU College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources prepares its graduates to succeed at the highest levels of their chosen career paths. In recognition of this success, the CASNR Alumni Board annually selects alumni as recipients of the CASNR Early Career Achievement Award. The board is seeking nominations for alumni who have attained prominence through their efforts in agriculture, natural resources, life sciences or related areas of science, business, education or

government and public service early in their careers. To be eligible, a nominee must possess an undergraduate or graduate degree from CASNR and have earned a bachelor’s degree within the past 15 years. Award recipients will be honored during the CASNR Awards Banquet in the spring. Nominations are due by Dec. 31, 2019. Visit casnr.okstate.edu/alumni for more information about the award or to nominate a deserving individual.

MEET THE NEW BOARD MEMBER Jonathan “Jon” Marc Holt was born and raised in Hobart, Oklahoma. Holt graduated with an agribusiness degree with an emphasis in management from Oklahoma State University in 2003. After graduation, Holt started his career with Target, working in distribution and transportation. During his 14 years at Target, Holt held a variety of management roles. Holt moved back to Western Oklahoma in 2018 and took a management position at the Woodward County Event Center where he stayed for a year. In September 2019, Holt accepted the role of vice president at the Bank of Western Oklahoma in Woodward, Oklahoma, Holt said.

CASNR Alumni Board of Directors K irby S m ith

President Oklahoma City S o u t hwe s t D i s t r i c t

H a ley N a b o r s Vice President Enid, Oklahoma At- l a r g e M e m b e r

R ick Re im e r

Jon Marc Holt is the vice president of the Bank of Western Oklahoma. Photo courtesy of Bank of Western Oklahoma.

“Outside of work, I enjoy working with my brother, Barclay,” Holt said. “We run a 15- to 20-sow operation with an emphasis on raising showpigs and breeding stock.” Holt also enjoys cheering on the Cowboys at any sporting event, he said.

Secretary Claremore, Oklahoma Northeast District

M e lis s a M o u re r E xe c u t i ve S e c r e t a r y St i l l w a te r, O k l a h o m a

B ra n d o n Ch a n d le r St r a t f o r d , O k l a h o m a Southeast District

Ph illip Cowley Morrison, Oklahoma At- l a r g e M e m b e r

Lewis Cu n n in g h a m Edmond, Oklahoma At- l a r g e M e m b e r

Raylo n E a rl s

Guymon, Oklahoma N o r t hwe s t D i s t r i c t

M e ch e lle H a m pto n Tu l s a , O k l a h o m a Northeast District

J o n M a rc H olt

Wo o d w a r d , O k l a h o m a N o r t hwe s t D i s t r i c t


Join us on the Big Orange Bus for the 2020 Access Tour on May 14-15, 2020! We are gearing up for this year’s Access Tour to the central region of Oklahoma including Oklahoma City. Alumni, faculty, staff and students are invited to hop on the bus for a two-day experience to learn about the diverse agricultural and natural resource efforts taking place in our state. More details and registration information will be released in the spring, so mark your calendars for Access Tour 2020!

A m b e r M cN e il Elgin, Oklahoma S o u t hwe s t D i s t r i c t

Ch a rle s Ro h l a Ardmore, Oklahoma Southeast District

M eg St a n gl

Okarche, Oklahoma At- l a r g e M e m b e r


This is our community.

This is where we serve. When Washita County farmer Nocona Cook witnessed a neighbor’s property threatened by fire, he knew his local farming community needed quicker access to emergency services. He started the Cloud Chief Volunteer Fire Department, cutting down on response times when lives and property are on the line in his rural community. Oklahoma Farm Bureau members like Nocona are not just in our local communities, they form the very fabric that makes rural Oklahoma vibrant.


We are rural Oklahoma.

Featured: Nocona Cook (left) and members of the Cloud Chief Volunteer Fire Department

Cowboy Journal Oklahoma State University Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Leadership 448 Agricultural Hall Stillwater, OK 74078-6031



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