At the conclusion of each year, CALS takes a moment to look back and reflect on the accomplishments of our community. 2021, like last year, was highly impacted by the global pandemic. This year, thankfully, vaccines became widely available in the spring, allowing campus to open up to more activities and events. At CALS, our on-campus opening included expanded hours and in-person shopping at the Babcock Dairy Store and Bucky’s Varsity Meats, the return of ARS field days, a CALS faculty and staff reunion party and welcoming students to campus for the fall semester.

During these times of change, some things remain constant: the college’s commitment to research, education and outreach, and to fostering a welcoming community where everyone feels they belong.

Below are some of the big stories that stand out from 2021.

VandenBosch to step down as CALS dean in 2022

Dean Kate VandenBosch chats with a researcher at the CALS Global Spring Symposium on the UW–Madison campus in May 2018. Photo by Michael P. King/UW-Madison CALS.

In September, Kate VandenBosch announced that she will step down as CALS dean at the conclusion of the 2021-2022 academic year. She has served as dean since 2012. Under VandenBosch’s leadership, the college has weathered financial challenges, met major fundraising goals, opened several new facilities, and led implementation of the $7.8 million annual investment from the State of Wisconsin in the Dairy Innovation Hub. A search and screen committee formed months later, beginning the process of finding the next dean.

A look back on a campaign for the future

In the fall of 2015, the University of Wisconsin–Madison set its sights on the future. The ambitious goal: raise $3.2 billion by the end of the decade. Dubbed “All Ways Forward,” it is the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in UW’s history. So far, UW has raised more than $4 billion — far surpassing the initial campaign goal. Like the campus as a whole, CALS exceeded expectations. More than 13,000 donors contributed close to $170 million, well above the college’s $150 million target.

Students take on dairy dilemmas

Dairy is an important agricultural sector in Wisconsin, but it is in the middle of a tough stretch with low milk prices and changing consumer preferences. These issues inspired CALS Associate Dean Heidi Zoerb to develop the UW Dairy Innovation Hub Student Challenge. The challenge involved all three cooperating schools: UW– Madison, UW–Platteville, and UW–River Falls. With the help of industry mentors, students teamed up to propose innovative solutions in three focus areas identified by the task force: encouraging dairy consumption among Wisconsin students, enhancing the shelf life of dairy products, and utilizing new technologies to improve dairy farming.

UW course offers taste of many cultures

The Spring 2021 issue of Grow magazine featured a story about Nutri Sci 377: Cultural Aspects of Food and Nutrition, a summer term online course taught by Erika Anna. In the course, students examine how implicit bias, microaggressions, and the ideology of racial colorblindness influence human interactions; explore the food preferences and cultures of Indigenous people; and dive deep into how federal food assistance programs work — and don’t work — for those they aim to serve.

CALS signs MOU with Indonesia’s Food and Drug Authority

A delegation of officials from the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority of the Republic of Indonesia visited the UW­–Madison campus to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with university leaders. The MOU – signed by Penny Lukito, head of the Indonesian FDA, CALS Dean Kathryn VandenBosch, and International Division Vice Provost and Dean Guido Podestá – describes how the parties will work together to help strengthen food and drug development and safety regulatory systems in Indonesia through skills development and capacity building.

Introducing UW–Madison’s new organic agriculture certificate

In October, the UW Organic Collaborative announced a new CALS certificate in organic agriculture. The courses provide opportunities for undergraduate students to understand the production and processing approaches that define organic agriculture, and gain insights into how “organic” relates to the economy, policy, environment, health and wellness, communities, and more.

Nearby forest loss predicts future deforestation on protected lands

Zuzana Buřivalová, a professor of forest and wildlife ecology, was lead author of a study published in Current Biology in August finding that future deforestation is predictable based on nearby activity. The study — conducted with other researchers at UW–Madison, Colorado State University and the Indian Institute of Science — found that protected forests are unlikely to be cut down when they are surrounded by intact forests. Conversely, the more degraded the boundaries of a protected area are, the more likely that deforestation will encroach into the protected forest as well.

NSF award to establish network for advanced NMR across three institutions

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is part of a first-of-its-kind collaborative network for nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, which researchers use to probe large biological molecules like proteins and RNA. In June, the National Science Foundation announced a $40 million award to establish the Network for Advanced NMR (NAN) linking three institutions: UConn School of Medicine, the University of Georgia and UW–Madison’s National Magnetic Resonance Facility at Madison. UW–Madison biochemistry professors Katie Henzler-Wildman and Chad Rienstra are leading the installation of the first of two new NMR spectrometers planned for NAN.

New $10M project to study, support diverse perennial forage systems

With the support of a $10 million grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a multi-state team of researchers have embarked on an effort to study diverse perennial forage systems and to promote their adoption across the United States. The project, led by the University of Wisconsin–Madison, involves convening a nationwide network of 50 farm pairs — one farm already using diverse perennial forage systems, paired with one interested in transitioning towards more diverse perennial systems —  and working with them to measure and compare numerous production, environmental, social and economic factors.

‘Flatten the curve’ was everywhere, but it didn’t change people’s pandemic attitudes

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, one message became ubiquitous: “flatten the curve.” Nan Li and Amanda Molder in the Department of Life Sciences Communication found that the message spread far, reaching nearly three-quarters of Americans by August 2020. But an individual’s awareness of the flatten-the-curve graphic did not predict their willingness to engage in social distancing or their belief in society’s ability to control the course of the pandemic. However, the flatten-the-curve message might have armed those who heard it with the knowledge they needed to draw their own conclusions about social distancing measures without needing to rely as strongly on trusting experts.

A dairy venture into the world of sports drinks

Entrepreneur Michelle McBride (center) utilized CDR’s expertise in dairy ingredients and beverages as she formulated her new sports drink. Here, McBride is pictured with K.J. Burrington (left) and Vic Grassman (right) at CDR in 2018.

Thanks to collaboration with the Center for Dairy Research, a new sports drink called GoodSport launched in 2021. Entrepreneur Michelle McBride was turned off the by traditional sports drinks her son consumed while playing baseball. Learning of milk’s hydration capabilities, she became determined to make a sports drink out of it. McBride came to CDR with her idea, and was assisted by K.J. Burrington and Vic Grassman, who helped fine tune the product and bring it to market.

Popular on social media: “The race to the animal vault”

Genetics professor Francisco Pelegrí looks for ways to use genetic samples and cloning to preserve and revitalize endangered — and possibly extinct — species. He has a special interest in Dartmoor ponies and Samoyed dogs. Dartmoors are the only remaining derivative species of now-extinct wild European horses. Pelegri breeds them to contribute to conservation efforts. And Polo, Pelegrí’s dog, plays a role in teaching his genetics class about domestication, captive breeding, and more. Samoyeds are one of the few remaining “natural” dog breeds, meaning they are among the closest, genetically, to their wolf precursors.

CALS personnel share their expertise with the media

This year, CALS experts were quoted in more than 5,000 media stories in publications from 37 countries. All told, stories mentioning CALS experts reached an estimated 9.8 billion audience members, as reported by the media monitoring service Meltwater.

A sample of the individual stories that reached the largest audiences include food scientist John Lucey talking about the history of processing milk to the BBC Futures, soil scientist Thea Whitman describing a fire-loving fungus that eats charcoal in the New York Times and dairy economist Mark Stephenson discussing dairy farm closures in The Guardian.

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