Continuing with our celebration of this year’s CALS Award recipients, we are sharing information about the winners of the Pound Research Award and the Pound Extension Award this week. These awards are supported by an educational development fund created to honor former CALS Dean Glenn S. Pound upon his retirement in 1979.
Laura Hernandez has been with Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences since 2011. From day one, she has demonstrated great scientific ability, as well as an eagerness to participate in all aspects of the college’s teaching, research, outreach and service missions.
The lactation physiology used to be a dreaded class for undergraduates, but now the class is one of the most top-rated in the department since Hernandez took over. She also took over the only animal physiology class in CALS after it was dropped by another department. Hernandez revamped the course and integrated numerous high impact practices to enhance students’ learning outcomes and subject matter retention. The course is now very popular and often wait-listed.
Hernandez is an extremely productive researcher and her work is highly novel in the fields of animal and dairy science, animal biology, veterinary medicine and human health. She and her team are untangling the biology of serotonin and its role in mammalian physiology, particularly its roles in milk synthesis in the mammary gland and calcium mobilization in the bone. Hernandez’s research has major economic implications for farmers, important animal welfare implications for consumers and human health implications for nursing mothers.
Hernandez is now a global authority on mammary gland physiology and serotonin biology, with her work being featured in numerous publications and leading to several patents. Her discovery and translational research and its impacts on food production, animal welfare and human health embody the Wisconsin Idea and the research mission of a top land grant university make her well-deserving of the Pound Research Award.
Erin Silva is an associate professor and integrated Extension specialist in organic agriculture in the Department of Plant Pathology. Since she joined UW–Madison in 2006, Silva has developed strong relationships with the organic farming community throughout Wisconsin and the upper Midwest through her position as the first CALS scientist who specifically addressed organic farming.
The organic farming community has praised the impact of the best management practices and data-driven information emerging from Silva’s work and its relevance to the success and resilience of their farms. One of the problems that she has tackled is soil erosion and degradation from tillage and other organic agricultural practices for weed management. Silva’s research program focuses on the optimization of cover crop-based reduced practices, providing farmers with strategies to maintain and improve soil health in organic systems while effectively managing weeds. She is now considered a national and international expert in the area.
Additionally, Silva developed “OGRAIN”, or the UW Organic Grain Research and Information network, which is a program that engages thousands of farmers and agricultural professionals each year. She also runs a successful YouTube channel related to OGRAIN and recently led a series of Zoom virtual workshops during the COVID-19 pandemic. Silva’s online expertise also extends to the Veggie Compass tool, an interactive spreadsheet that allows organic vegetable farmers to be more successful in their organic planning. It has been used by over 18,000 users.
As a research, Extension and instructional colleague, Silva has made an incredible impact on her department and farmers around the country. She is well-deserving of the Pound Extension Award.