Congrats to ARS award winners: Isaac Kabera, Russell Groves, Tom Steele, Chris Velie

CALS Agricultural Research Stations will honor four individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the ARS program at its annual Recognition Awards reception and dinner on Wednesday, Jan. 20.

This year’s award recipients include:

  • Russell Groves (Entomology) – Research Award
  • Chris Velie (UW-Physical Plant) – Service Award
  • Isaac Kabera (CALS Research Greenhouses) – Staff Award
  • Tom Steele (Kemp Natural Resources Station) – Staff Award

Russ Groves: As the Vegetable Extension Specialist (65%) and Applied Insect Ecologist (35%) in the Department of Entomology, Groves has responsibilities that include the development, implementation, and delivery of a research-based, extension program to support integrated pest management of insect and mite pests affecting fresh-market and processing vegetable production in Wisconsin. To meet current and emerging challenges, Russ designs novel research approaches in response to the stated needs of Wisconsin vegetable growers and producers, cooperating with statewide and regional Extension Specialists, County Extension Agricultural Agents, pest management practitioners, crop consultants and other agribusiness stakeholders. He is also a very strong supporter of the Agricultural Research Stations serving as current chair of the ARS Committee. Russ spent countless hours chairing the ARS Strategic Planning and Priorities Committee (ARS Futures Committee) helping to develop the “Agricultural Research Station’s Guiding Principles” document. He also led the ARS Metrics Development sub-committee. Throughout these long committee processes, Russ worked to be sure the best interests of the stations were being considered.

Chris Velie currently is an engineer with UW-Madison’s Facilities, Planning and Management. In addition to his huge facilities maintenance workload on campus, Chris has made a tremendous effort in supporting the Ag Research Stations. Chris has made numerous site visits to evaluate and determine the needs of the Ag Research Stations specializing in the areas of “…foundations, walls, roads and parking areas.” Chris quickly realized that although the Ag Research Stations are truly part of the UW, general maintenance support was often left up to the site managers and the department. Chris developed a plan to address the most urgent repairs and has begun methodically fixing and checking off other issues. Chris has a real skill in breaking down large, costly projects into smaller more manageable jobs. He works closely with the ARS to prioritize, initiate contracts and see through to completion projects of diverse scope and measure.

Isaac Kabera is the assistant manager at the Walnut Street Greenhouse. Recently, he has taken over the repair of the 1,600 light fixtures that are necessary to grow the wide variety of research plants in the greenhouses. Other duties include monthly billing to over 50 faculty and up to 180 projects, maintenance of 14 industrial air-conditioners, conducting basic greenhouse orientation to over 30 new greenhouse users each year, monitoring billing from UW physical Plant and outside venders, assisting the manager in space assignments in the greenhouses and in the research field, management of the pest control program at the Walnut Street greenhouse, procurement of growing media for greenhouse, and management of the King Hall Greenhouses. Isaac also represents the university at annual research greenhouse meetings and assists the manager in the evaluation of new techniques for growing plants in controlled environments. In short, Isaac is key player at a station that supports plant research for more than 70 UW faculty and 250 greenhouse and field users.

Tom Steele continues to excel in his role as superintendent of the Kemp Natural Resource Station as he comes to the end of his 25-year career with Ag Research Stations. He continues to carefully manage his budget and is actively involved in helping to generate lodging revenues while minimizing expenses. Over the last several years, Tom has been very active in securing gifts and grants for the station. In 2014 alone, he secured approximately $170,000 in gifts and grants including a large gift from the Brittingham Fund to support construction of a new classroom and a second gift to create the McEachron Forest Stewardship Fund to support diverse array of station activities and programs. Tom supports approximately 50 research projects involving researchers not only from UW-Madison but many other universities all over the nation. Tom oversees a very active outreach and teaching program. Annually, Kemp hosts 10 field classes involving UW-Madison and other universities, as well as the very popular Kemp Summer Outreach Series. In 2013, Tom was instrumental in helping to launch the Science On Tap Outreach Series. This 10-talk lecture series, held at the Minocqua Brewing Company, has proven to be very popular, drawing approximately 1500 people to listen to speakers on various natural resources subjects and other topics important to residents in northern Wisconsin.