The end of the year is a great time to look back and reflect on the milestones and accomplishments of the CALS community. Here are some of the stories that made 2022 a memorable year for the college.

Glenda Gillaspy named dean of CALS

On Aug. 4, Glenda Gillaspy assumed her role as the new dean of CALS. She came to the college from Virginia Tech, where she was a professor of biochemistry since 1998 and head of the department since 2015. At CALS, Gillaspy plans to continue the college’s excellence in research, teaching and outreach.

CALS establishes new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

In January, the college established a new Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, led by Louis Macias, the college’s first associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion. This year Macias has invested time meeting members of the CALS community, building the college’s ODEI team — which will soon have a total of three staff members — and taking steps towards implementing his vision for the ODEI office.

CALS scientists join global effort to understand SARS-CoV-2

As part of the global effort to understand SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19), CALS scientists pivoted their existing research projects, launched entirely new studies, and banded together to share knowledge and resources. Experts in the Department of Biochemistry were the linchpins of many of these efforts. Robert Kirchdoerfer, Katherine Henzler-Wildman and Chad Rienstra used cryo-EM and NMR, two imaging techniques, to look at the virus, while Ann Palmenberg used chip technologies to study immune responses.

CALS researchers develop nationwide maps of bird species

Researchers in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology developed highly detailed and rigorous maps of bird biodiversity that could help protect rare or threatened species. The high-resolution maps are designed to help conservation managers focus their efforts where they are most likely to assist birds — in individual counties or forests rather than across whole states or regions.

Bacteriology’s Betül Kaçar explores the origins and evolution of early life on Earth

Astrobiologist Betül Kaçar, an assistant professor of bacteriology, explores the origins and early evolution of life. Kaçar’s method — a “time machine” of sorts — hinges on the creation of synthetic ancient proteins which are then experimentally evolved in the lab.

Horticulture department serves up satiating course on Indigenous foodways

This spring semester, around 60 students took Horticulture 380 – Indigenous Foodways: Food and Seed Sovereignty, a course that introduces them to the foods and foodways of the Indigenous peoples of the Upper Great Lakes area from multiple perspectives—historical, legal, biological and social. The course features fun experiential learning opportunities, such as cooking with Indigenous foods, tapping maple trees for syrup and a spearfishing demonstration. It was developed to expand agricultural education opportunities, giving students the opportunity to learn about Indigenous approaches and perspectives.

Science and Medicine Graduate Research Scholars creates a campus community for graduate students of color in the sciences

SciMed GRS is one of several graduate research scholar communities at UW formed to serve underrepresented students. Not only are many of the students beginning the challenge of graduate careers, but they’re also members of the BIPOC community on a predominantly white campus. Abbey Thompson and Sara Patterson set out to provide a home and a community when they started the program in 2008. Now, with more than 200 alumni after almost 15 years of operation, the program continues to look for new strategies to enhance the experience of BIPOC graduate students.

Anonymous gift grows more space for organic agriculture at Arlington ARS

The field of organic research is expanding at CALS — literally. In recent years researchers have had access to 145 certified organic acres across multiple CALS research stations, but thanks to an anonymous donor, 70 more acres will be added to Arlington ARS. The new organic acres will allow the station to have more organic crop rotations and more space to compare organic and conventional methods.

New Plant Germplasm Facility receives federal funding

Several programs in CALS benefited from the $1.5T federal appropriations bill passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in early 2022. The spending package included $39.7 million for the USDA Agricultural Research Service to build a new plant germplasm facility to be jointly used by scientists in the USDA ARS and UW–Madison plant scientists. The new federal facility will be located at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Senator Tammy Baldwin and Congressman Mark Pocan visited UW–Madison on April 15 to hear about the new Plant Germplasm Research Facility.

CALS Introduces Chancellor Mnookin to some key partners around the state

On August 4, Jennifer Mnookin became UW–Madison’s 30th chancellor, and CALS soon helped introduce her to key partners around the state.

In Northeast Wisconsin, Mnookin toured Peninsular Agricultural Research Station to meet with station staff, local apple growers and master gardeners. At the Brown County Fair she met with 4-H participants and Division of Extension personnel.

In the southwestern corner of the state, the chancellor toured a Lone Rock dairy farm before paying a visit to Pioneer Farm at UW-Platteville, another member of the Dairy Innovation Hub.

And in Northwest Wisconsin, Mnookin waded into a marsh and met CALS researchers at the Wisconsin Cranberry Research Station near Millston. She toured Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company (Chippewa Falls), appreciated not only for their products but for their establishment of the Jake Leinenkugel Diversity in Brewing Award. The chancellor also met with Ho-Chunk Nation leaders in Black River Falls.

Irish ag minister visits Babcock Hall to see the U.S. side of an international research partnership

Research aimed at improving pig health and advancing our understanding of beneficial viruses drew a visit from a foreign minister to UW–Madison on Aug. 18. Martin Heydon, a Minister of State at Ireland’s Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, learned about research being done by scientists at CALS and three Irish institutions through an international partnership. The delegation was invited into the lab of J.P. van Pijkeren, an associate professor of food science and a co-principal investigator of a project seeking new treatments for a bacterial pathogen of pigs.

Popular on social media: “Grow your future at CALS”

In October and November, CALS External Relations launched its new undergraduate student recruitment video, Grow Your Future, to better show prospective students what a CALS education and experience can offer. The video is available on YouTube and social media, viewable on the Agricultural Hall lobby screen for the hundreds of students passing by daily, and is used by Academic Affairs at prospective student events.

CALS personnel share their expertise with the media

This year, CALS experts were quoted in more than 6,000 media stories in publications from 48 countries. All told, stories mentioning CALS experts reached an estimated 10.9 billion audience members, as reported by the media monitoring service Meltwater.

A sample of the individual stories that reached the largest audiences include social scientist Malia Jones explaining covid vaccine hesitancy to the New York Times, Paul Mitchell talking about agricultural productivity and resiliency in the face of climate change to, and science communicators Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele describing social media’s impact on science communication to yahoo!news.

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