The goal of this program is to prepare students with both knowledge and skills necessary to address the grand challenges of food production and the environment. Participating students will conduct a summer experiential internship related to his or her career interests and goals, choosing from a variety of programs in the applied plant, soil, and environmental sciences available through a network of collaborators. The students will also work with their program peers and a team of faculty mentors to engage in activities related to teamwork, decision making, systems thinking, and translating their summer work into learning objects for science literacy.
Projects include: disease resistance, hybrid wheat, end-use quality, climate resiliency, winter survival of barley, and forage yields of triticale. High throughput phenotyping is also possible.
Dr. Lisa M. Durso
USDA, Agricultural Research Service, Adjunct in UNL Dept of Agronomy
Assessing and Managing Antibiotic Resistance, Nutrients, and Pathogens in Animal-impacted Agroecosystems
Agronomic use of animal manure to build soil fertility and health has been an economical and sustainable practice for centuries, but it is not without challenges. Manure can be a source of human food pathogens and environmental contaminants including excess nutrients, pathogens, antibiotics, and antibiotic resistant bacteria (ARB). The goal of this project is to address substantial knowledge gaps regarding the movement and fate of the chemical and biological components of manure.
Actual projects will be decided in the spring based on availability of resources. Last year’s project was a survey of antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) in organic soils from Nebraska. There is still a lot of survey work needed to define where and when ARGs are found in both natural and agricultural settings, and the survey projects lend themselves to a summer internship project. A second type of project is one that is more bioinformatic in nature, such as a comparative analysis of microbial communities under three organic cropping rotations. The third type of project is experimental, involving classic microbiological manipulations in the laboratory, such as evaluating how long antibiotic resistant bacteria survive, and how long ARGs persist in different soil types, or under different agronomic conditions.
Virginia L. Jin
USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Agroecosystem Management Research Unit
Soil greenhouse gas emissions from food and biofuel production systems
List of Potential Projects that may be available for Interns:
Soil carbon changes in a bioenergy production system.
Soil greenhouse gas emissions in a bioenergy and grain production system.
Conservation management effects on agroecosystem soil health.
Field Research Evaluating Developmental Pesticides and GMOs
Gain experience about the process of conducting plot research for industry leading companies in a field setting. Emphasis on assessing pesticide effectiveness on crops like corn and soybean, evaluating GMO traits in the field and collecting data to determine pesticide residues in plant tissues and soil. There will be additional opportunities for collecting data related to plant health including the impact of diseases, insects and weeds. This project will provide hands-on experience conducting agricultural research.
Quantifying the resistance of western corn rootworm to GM traits
Evaluating control of western corn rootworm by experimental insecticides
Measuring plant response to biological pesticides
Assessing GMO traits in corn and soybeans
USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE
Effects of livestock antimicrobials on soil processes and microbial communities
Antimicrobials administered to livestock eventually end up in the soil and may contribute to antimicrobial resistance and potentially adversely affect important microbial functions in the soil. This project provides laboratory research opportunities to measure and evaluate soil microbial functions (decomposition and nutrient transformations), antimicrobial resistance, and microbial community composition. The outcomes of this research will provide important information about the risks and levels of antimicrobials that impact important soil processes.
Dr. Walter Schacht
Agronomy and Horticulture
Rangeland ecology and ranch management
Rangeland ecology: work as research assistant with graduate students in grazing ecology and grassland conservation research projects at the Barta Brothers Ranch or at the Grand River Grasslands in Nebraska. Do an internship on a ranch in the Nebraska Sandhills learning about cattle management and production and grassland conservation.
Evaluating management practices for sustainable cropping systems
An integrated approach is needed to improve farming systems toward greater sustainability to meet societal demands for food, feed, fiber, and fuel. Soil and crop management strategies can optimize the capacity of agricultural soils to store carbon while minimizing greenhouse gas emissions from nitrogen fertilizer and management practices. Current research will (1) evaluate conservation tillage practices and crop diversity on the soil resource, (2) develop management guidelines for sustainable intensification of current corn-soybean rotations using winter oilseeds, and (3) improve water and nutrient practices on crop and feedstock production.
Assist with data collection of Nebraska On-Farm Research Network studies including stand counts, aerial imagery analysis, and reporting. Special projects may be developed based on intern interests. These may include:
Producing a “Story Map” about on-farm research participants and the research data they have generated about nitrogen management/cover crops. This involves summarizing research data, conducting farmer interviews, and compiling materials into the online interface.
Case study on using drones to collect and analyze aerial imagery for on-farm research sites. In addition to assisting with aerial imagery data collection and GIS analysis, this student will generate a report on the process and provide recommendations and benefits of using this technology in an on-farm setting.
Project site(s) or locations: The Nebraska On-Farm Research Network has around 80 research sites annually, located on farmer cooperator fields.
Interdisciplinary training program that focuses on understanding and managing for resilience to better prepare for future uncertainty. A series of unique fire experiments have been established to study biological responses to grassland and forest landscapes being transformed by fire.
Characterization of Monarch Butterfly Habitats and Stressors Affecting Larval Survival
The decline in overwintering monarch butterflies over the last ten years has been attributed to the loss of overwintering habitat in Mexico and the loss of seasonal milkweed plant required for larval survival in the U.S. The decline of monarch butterfly populations instigated a petition in 2014 by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which lists these pollinator insects as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. A status review decision is scheduled for 2019. Monarch butterflies found east of the Rocky Mountains have multiple summer generations, with the final generation migrating to an overwintering location in Mexico. It is estimated that half of the monarch butterflies that overwinter in Mexico originate in the Midwest U.S. A primary factor affecting monarch larvae is the loss of larval habitat due to an increase in acreage for crop production. Fluctuating climate and agricultural practices can affect the reproduction and longevity of monarch populations; however, there is a gap in knowledge regarding the impact of these stressors on the survivorship of monarch larvae. This project aims to identify stressors that affect monarch survival in the Midwest U.S. by surveying monarch abundance and milkweed habitats. Furthermore, we are evaluating the effects of environmental stressors (i.e., starvation, drought, pesticides, etc.) on the fitness of monarch larvae). In the long term, this information will contribute to the identification and implementation of conservation and mitigation strategies to protect monarchs in Nebraska.
The intern will be involved with the rearing of a monarch colony and will evaluate the effect of one stressor (e.g., starvation or a pesticide) on the fitness of monarch larvae. The fitness parameters measured will be used to calculate population growth parameters that in combination with other stressors measured in our laboratory will be used to model population growth under different stress scenarios.
Soil quality is the capacity of a specific kind of soil to function within natural and managed ecosystems, sustain plant productivity, maintain or enhance air, soil, and water quality, and to support human health and habitations. Changes in the capacity of the soil to function are reflected in soil properties that change in response to management or climate. NRCS has an ongoing effort to document how management influences dynamic soil properties. This information will be used to help land managers, producers, and others make decisions that protect soils.
Evaluating the impacts of cover crops and tillage on soil health and dynamic soil properties in benchmark soils across Tennessee. An opportunity to evaluate management influences on soil properties.
Kellogg National Soil Survey Laboratory Experience. An opportunity for students to get hands-on experience in a National Laboratory working with the chemical and physical science staff.
USDA-ARS Agroecosystem Management Research, Lincoln, NE
Development of novel technologies against various pest flies on livestock animals
Biting flies cause billions of dollars in losses for the U.S. livestock industry each year. This research project identifies chemical attractants and repellents that can be used to reduce livestock pest impacts. Student interns will learn state-of-the art technologies in integrated pest management and chemical ecology through both laboratory and field experiences that could benefit their future career advancement.