Livestock producers pondering stocking rates now have an app to help them determine that ratio, according to experts.
GrazingCalc is a new mobile smartphone application developed by personnel at Texas A&M University’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, and Ecosystem Science and Management units of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.
“One of the most common problems livestock managers deal with is determining the best number of livestock to have on the land without harming their resources,” said Blake Alldredge, an AgriLife Extension associate in College Station. “That task has just become easier with the release of this new app.”
GrazingCalc is now available for iPhone and other Apple devices at the iTunes Store at, Alldredge said.
“Being overstocked beyond what the land can handle may lead to overgrazing,” he said, “resulting in issues such as decreased forage production, erosion problems and degraded wildlife habitat,”
GrazingCalc is applicable anywhere because it is based on actual forage production as measured by the rancher, said Dr. Megan Clayton, an AgriLife Extension range specialist in Corpus Christi who, with Alldredge, developed the content of the app.
“Ranchers may need to do some work to obtain forage production on their property,” she said, “but it is easily done, and a video within the app demonstrates how to obtain this forage production value from their land.”
GrazingCalc allows ranchers to manipulate the number of types of animals, grazing months and remaining available forage.
Funding for the development of this app was provided through a Renewable Resources Extension Act grant from the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources.
This story was originally published in AgriLife Today.
You can support research in the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences at Texas A&M with the gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. Request your A&M Support Kit to learn how you can help.
Steve Blomstedt ’83
Senior Director of Development
College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
A cat may have only nine lives, but it has tens of thousands of genes that determine everything from physical traits to disease susceptibility. Researchers, including a team at Texas A&M University, will work to sequence the cat genome in hopes of finding keys to better health − not only for cats, but also humans.
William Murphy, a professor at Texas A&M’s Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences, in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and his team join researchers at the University of Missouri, Cornell University and the University of California-Davis in the “99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative,” to sequence the 20,000 genes in various breeds of cats.
The term “genome” refers to all of an organism’s genetic material.
Murphy, who specializes in mammalian comparative genomics, especially feline genetics, explains that sequencing a whole genome means identifying, in order, every DNA base in the genome. “Until very recently, most of the cat genome has remained un-deciphered,” Murphy notes. “Just recently, the complete genome of a single cat was determined.”
For the 99 cats project, as the name suggests, researchers will gather 99 additional cats of diverse breeds from a wide variety of geographic locations, take DNA samples and work to sequence their genomes. This will provide a large collection of sites in the cat genome that are likely to vary within and between individual cats of all breeds as well as non-breed cats throughout the world.
“To identify the genetic basis of traits of interest, we start by testing thousands of these genetic markers that are variable within the cat genome − locations that mark a location on a chromosome,” Murphy says. “To be able to determine which genes cause certain physical attributes, like body size for example, you have to find a specific marker that is consistently associated with a specific trait value or disease. When a marker like this is identified, we know somewhere on that chromosome, in the vicinity of that genetic marker, is the actual mutation that causes the disease. Then we use the genome sequence to identify the exact mutation that causes that trait or disease.”
Once they know what mutation causes a certain trait or disease, Murphy explains, a genetic test may be developed so that owners and breeders can have their cats tested and use the results for selective breeding. They may choose to breed for certain traits, such as fur or eye color, or to avoid breeding cats that carry a mutated version of the normal gene. Murphy says it may also be possible to develop new therapies to treat disease by targeting the right genetic mutation. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the most basic tenets of science is observation, an essential tool with the power not only to prevent but also in some cases redefine failure.
A few years ago, a student in Texas A&M University chemist Karen L. Wooley’s organic nanomaterials-based research laboratory was working to synthesize polymers in hopes of exploiting their protein-like properties. Instead of the anticipated result, he got an amazing one, unexpectedly discovering that they form gels, creating diverse opportunities from materials to medicine in the process.
“One of the most interesting things about research, I think, is when something surprising happens,” Wooley said. “If the student is aware enough and observant enough to realize that what was observed was not expected and then follow through to characterize exactly why it happened and what the molecular structure is that led to that kind of behavior, then it can lead to entirely new research directions.”
After determining precisely how and under what conditions these breakthrough gels formed, Wooley and her team moved on to the somewhat tedious task of refining them. Through further investigation, they learned the gels are based upon various amino acids and polypeptides — the basic components of proteins and natural materials that, when synthetically linked together in unique sequences, can produce gel-like materials with fine-tuned, targeted properties.
Thanks to Wooley’s expertise at scales 100 times thinner than a human hair, the versatility of polymers and happy accidents within her lab, the possibilities are highly adaptable and virtually limitless. For starters, imagine novel tissue engineering scaffolds capable of growing artificial tissue that can be customized to suit the repair or purpose needed. Then consider the next wave in orthopedics — a growth-promoting, bone-like composite made from degradable plant-or-silica-based polymers instead of metal or other permanent irritants.
“Most of our nanoparticles are based on degradable polymers, and we wanted to shift from what were polyesters to polyamides to make protein-like synthetic particles,” Wooley said. “As we were synthesizing those polymers, they gelled, which was completely surprising to us. We are looking into using these gels — some of which are very stiff and some that are very flexible — for tissue engineering scaffolds to grow artificial tissues that might then allow for implantation and treatment of various kinds of diseases, from artificial liver for transplant to skin-graft applications.”
Wooley, a distinguished professor of chemistry and holder of the W.T. Doherty-Welch Chair in Chemistry since 2009, will be recognized next month as the first woman to receive the American Chemical Society Award in Polymer Chemistry, a prestigious accolade honoring outstanding fundamental contributions and achievements toward addressing global needs for advanced polymer systems and materials. Her 30-member research group spans seven distinct project areas and has an annual budget of more than $1.5 million, all dedicated toward some pioneering facet of organic polymer-based chemistry focused on creating new matter at the nanoscale level.
“My laboratory has always had a balance of fundamental basic science investigations that have allowed us to create materials that have never been created before and then to study their properties,” Wooley said. “The process we use is going from an idea to a hypothesis to a design of a material that logically would meet that hypothesis. Once we understand how the materials behave and how their composition and structure relates to their properties, then we can define potential applications for those materials.”
For the past eight years, Wooley has served as the director of a $33 million Program of Excellence in Nanotechnology (PEN) supported by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The award, which runs through 2015, supports nanoparticle-focused research expected to dramatically alter the future of medical practice with regard to detection, diagnosis and treatment of lung and cardiovascular diseases. Read the rest of this entry »
Texas A&M even has a student organization called “Alternative Spring Break” that was formed in 2000 just for the purpose of providing students the opportunity to serve others during their week away from campus. Several groups of Aggies will pay their own way to travel to various places around the country to volunteer their services.
Although no central clearing house exists to keep track of all of the spring break and year-around service projects being undertaken by Aggies — in many cases, they just do them without public notice or fanfare — several student projects have been confirmed.
While many such projects are expected to be carried out around Texas, those being conducted out of state are more challenging logistically and involve more planning and related endeavors so university officials are more aware of them, officials note.
In Little Rock, Ark., one group of students will volunteer at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital. They will assist staff with a variety of tasks, ranging from administration to work to playing with and taking care of the children. At Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, students will spend the week doing cave restoration and working to preserve endangered plant and wildlife species.
Two groups will travel to New Orleans. One group interested in energy conservation will be able to volunteer with Green Light New Orleans in a variety of tasks such as helping to reduce the carbon footprint of residents by installing energy efficient light bulbs and planting gardens. The second group of students interested in animals will volunteer at Animal Rescue of New Orleans to care for mistreated or disabled animals and aid in the running of the shelter.
In Memphis, students will volunteer with Mid-South Food Bank by sorting food and other work to help feed the hungry in that area.Rachael Cadena, a campus minister at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, an Aggie Catholic student organization, says this year the students are doing two specific mission trips. Cadena and Fr. Barry Cuba, will lead a group of 17 students into the mountains of Honduras where they will work with a group called the Missioners of Christ. They will do many different projects helping the poor in Honduras and assisting the priests in ministering to the people.
“In Honduras one priest will be in charge of the spiritual care of a large number of people. In the areas we will be visiting,” Cadena explains, the priest will live in one larger town and minister to another 30 or 40 smaller villages scattered throughout the mountains at a distance of 3-4 hours by vehicle. We will join four other college spring break programs and visit up to 25 of the villages between all of us.”
The second group of seven students will go to Houston to work with a number of different organizations including Habitat for Humanity and Medical Bridges and possibly The Beacon and Target Hunger Pantry.
Cadena says still other Aggies will join groups participating in a medical mission to Guatemala.Memorial Student Center (MSC) Freshman Leadership International will take 30 people, 22 of whom are freshmen, to the Texas A&M Soltis Research Center in Costa Rica for five days. While they are there, the students provide service work at two sites – the Soltis Center, where they work on a variety of projects (last year they built a walking path and a garden at the center), and the local school where they do odd jobs and work with the kids on games and craft projects. The students also take several guided hikes to learn more about the rainforest and go up to the volcano located there near the Soltis Center. They also zipline over the rainforest and spend a day in the town of La Fortuna.
Members of the Aggie Men’s Club are going to a place called Mustard Seed Communities in Kingston, Jamaica. This is a Christian operated housing community that cares for kids who have different sorts of special needs. Collin Cooper, who is leading the group, said they are thrilled to be able to show the love of Jesus to people often overlooked by society.
“In a nut shell, we get to tell down syndrome teenagers why they are our heroes, blind individuals who have never seen a thing, how beautiful they are and teen moms with HIV that they are cherished, appreciated and loved.”
Other Aggies, individually and in groups, will work with churches, community action agencies and charities as they live out the university’s core values of leadership, excellence, integrity and selfless service.
This story was originally published by the TAMU Times.
You can support the Department of Student Affairs with the gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. Request your A&M Support Kit to learn how you can help.
Cindy Munson ’99
Director of Development
Department of Student Affairs
The Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) project, in which Texas A&M University is a founding partner, has successfully passed two major reviews, completing its detailed design phase and positioning the project to enter the construction phase.
When completed, the 25-meter GMT will have more than six times the collecting area of the largest telescopes today and 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists will use the GMT to explore distant and potentially habitable planets around other stars, to explore the universe in the first billion years after the Big Bang, and to probe the mysteries of dark matter, dark energy and massive black holes.
During a week-long review in mid January, an international panel of experts examined the design of the giant telescope, its complex optical systems and precision scientific instruments, which include devices built and assembled within Texas A&M’s Munnerlyn Astronomical Instrumentation Laboratory. This panel was made up of experts involved in building telescopes around the world. Their conclusion was that the project meets the technical readiness required to proceed to construction. Immediately following the design review, a team of construction experts scrutinized the project’s cost estimate and management plan. Both review panels endorsed the team’s cost estimate and their approach to managing construction of the telescope atop a remote mountain peak in the Chilean Andes.
Richard Kurz, former project manager for the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and chair of the external panel that reviewed the GMT project, noted that the panel enthusiastically recommended that the GMT project “proceed as rapidly as possible to construction.”
“These reviews are critical milestones required by the GMTO Board to proceed with the construction phase,” says Dr. Wendy Freedman, Chair of the GMTO Board of Directors and Director of the Carnegie Observatories. “I am delighted with the very positive results of the design and the cost reviews. Along with the successful casting of the first three 8.4-meter primary mirrors and the leveling of the mountaintop in Chile, each step brings us closer to construction.”
Board members representing the partner research institutions that make up the GMT consortium will meet mid-year to review the construction plan.
Nicholas B. Suntzeff, distinguished professor of physics and astronomy and director of the astronomy program at Texas A&M, noted that this is more than just passing a critical design review — more like the marking of a major validating and potentially history-making milestone.
“We have chosen a design that allows for the building of the telescope such that we can add mirrors as we raise the money,” Suntzeff said. “We were criticized in the early stages by some who said our design was risky or even impossible. Well, the mirrors work, and we can start using the telescope early because of our design. Our telescope concept has paid off.”
University of Chicago President Robert Zimmer commented that, “We are pleased to see this milestone in the development of the Giant Magellan Telescope, which promises many opportunities for University of Chicago scholars. When complete, the telescope’s capabilities will complement current research and offer new avenues to scientists in our Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics and our Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, among others.”
Harvard astronomer Robert Kirshner said, “The GMT has nimbly cleared this hurdle. We‘re on a good trajectory to build this telescope. The GMT will show us how the universe works, from testing whether planets around nearby stars harbor life to moving out the edge of knowledge to examine the first stars and galaxies.”
Though the project has not formally entered the construction phase, the long timelines required to fabricate some elements of the telescope have required early activity. Production of three of the telescope’s seven primary mirror segments is underway; work on the fourth mirror will begin in January 2015. Science operations on GMT will begin in 2020. It will be located at the Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, where the mountaintop construction site has already been leveled.
STORY COURTESY OF THE GIANT MAGELLAN TELESCOPE CONSORTIUM
This story was originally published in the Texas A&M College of Science.
You can support Texas A&M University’s College of Science with a gift of an endowment to the Texas A&M Foundation. Request your A&M Support Kit to learn how your gift can make a difference.
Michael Morelius ’98
Director of Development
College of Science
Citrus does more than create jobs and pump money into the economy of the Lower Rio Grande Valley. It’s a way of life, a cultural staple dating back 100 years, part of the landscape and fabric of what makes extreme South Texas what it is, according to a plant disease expert. He’s now asking the people of the Valley to help keep the citrus industry from disappearing.
“We can see what’s happening to the citrus industry in Florida,” said Dr. Olufemi Alabi, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service plant pathologist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco. “The citrus industry in Florida is fast collapsing, due to a devastating disease called huanglongbing, or citrus greening. But here in South Texas, we can still fight this thing.”
The Rio Grande Valley’s citrus industry employs more than 1,000 people, earns growers $72 million annually, and has an economic impact of $134 million, according to Dr. Luis Ribera, an AgriLife Extension agricultural economist in Weslaco.
Citrus greening disease, which doesn’t harm humans but can wipe out entire orchards, has recently been found recently in a third area of the Valley, in La Blanca, a few miles east of Edinburg, on residential property. The bacterial disease has no cure yet, but Alabi believes that if everybody does their part, the Valley’s citrus industry can be saved.
Read the rest of this entry »
The first genome sequencing of the Ice Age skeletal remains of a 1-year-old boy has given scientists definitive proof that the first human settlers in North America were from Asia and not Europe, and that these people were the direct ancestors of modern Native Americans, according to research that includes a Texas A&M University professor.
Michael Waters, director of the Center for the Study of First Americans at Texas A&M, is part of an international team of researchers who had their work published in the current issue of Naturemagazine.
In 1968, the skeletal remains of a Clovis child were found near a rock cliff in central Montana, along with more than 100 burial artifacts found with the boy such as spear points and antler tools. The remains are 12,600 years old, the oldest such remains fully sequenced.
Several years ago, Waters contacted the group that owns the skeleton and asked for permission to perform genetic testing on the remains. The area where the remains were found is now known as the Anzick site, named after the family who own the land where the site is located.
It is the oldest known human burial from North America and it is the only Clovis-era burial site ever found. Read the rest of this entry »
Cancer afflicts about four of every ten people at some point in life, according to the National Cancer Institute. Texas A&M AgriLife Research has taken part in the worldwide efforts to eradicate this strikingly common and often deadly disease.
“AgriLife Research has a broad mandate to help address food, fiber, and environmental issues facing Texans,” said Director Craig Nessler. “Our scientists recognize the connection between diet and disease, study the biological underpinnings of cancer, and create new treatments. They have made extraordinary contributions toward battling cancer.”
AgriLife Research scientists are discovering the protective properties of foods, finding new ways to diagnose and treat cancer by studying molecular processes in cells, and testing and designing drug candidates.
Some AgriLife researchers are seeking ways to prevent cancer by focusing on the potential of foods to protect against the disease. Mangos, for example, contain compounds that reduce inflammation in normal cells and are toxic to breast cancer cells, AgriLife researchers have found.
Dr. Susanne Talcott, a nutrition scientist at AgriLife Research, led the studies on polyphenol compounds found in mangos. These compounds suppressed the multiplication of cancer cells and the growth of tumors in mice. The polyphenols work by changing the abundance, in cells, of certain proteins and microRNAs important to cancer cell proliferation. Talcott presented the results at a Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology meeting in April 2013.
The studies “have moved us closer to determining whether mango polyphenols will have cancer-fighting effects on human beings,” Talcott told an AgriLife Today writer. Read the rest of this entry »
This is Isabella Serrato ’16. Besides being a member of the National Honor Society, History Honor Society and active on her school’s varsity volleyball and softball teams, Isabella is an exceptionally bright and accomplished student, graduating valedictorian of 611 at Cesar E. Chavez High School in Houston. By all metrics, she meets the requirements for admission into the Dwight Look College of Engineering at Texas A&M University. Furthermore, she possesses all of the attributes that Aggies value. Yet Isabella was not accepted into our engineering program last November. By the time she applied, our college was full.
Based on her previous academic performance, it is likely that Isabella will excel in our program. Losing qualified students like her, and possibly denying Isabella the opportunity to pursue a degree that is in high demand, is unacceptable. It is one of the reasons I am passionate about 25 by 25, an enrollment growth initiative to ensure that students like Isabella are provided access to a high-quality Texas A&M engineering education.
Limited access stifles potential
Last year, more than 11,000 high school seniors applied for the 2,000 undergraduate engineering slots available this fall at Texas A&M. Of those applicants who were turned away, many had the same academic profile as those who were admitted, but they applied after our programs were full. The engineering college was filled to capacity by late October. Students familiar with our process know to apply early; those who didn’t were rejected. Thousands of capable students were turned away, including some who are first-generation college students.
Many of our most accomplished graduates were the first in their families to attend and graduate from college. Imagine a world without Pat Zachry ’22, Leland Jordan ’29, George Mitchell ’40, Earl Rudder ’32 or many other visionary Aggies. Imagine a world without the remarkable contributions of these giants to engineering, industry and society—all because they did not have a seat in the classroom. It is as unthinkable then as it is now.
Many of my peers might find this level of demand and limited supply to be desirable. I do not. For a land-grant institution founded on the principle of providing citizens access to education, and, particularly at Texas A&M, with its tradition and core values of service for the greater good, this level of rejection is unacceptable.
Dr. Sorin Popescu is developing a unique way to get up close and personal with forests.
Popescu, a Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist in College Station, is working with a team to build an octocopter or unmanned air vehicle complete with a camera stabilization platform, autopilot and cameras with multispectral capabilities.
He said there is a growing interest in unmanned air vehicles or unmanned air systems, called UAVs, that can be used in many areas, from mapping floods to fires and monitoring them in real time from low altitudes without exposing aircraft or people to dangerous situations. Also, it helps with repeated data collection tailored to specific needs and monitoring in many fields, including forestry.
Popescu’s teaching in Texas A&M University’s ecosystem science and management department and his research centers on using remote sensing to study forests. However, until now, data availability for his research has been limited by the aerial equipment he could rent and the random timing of satellite images.
The eight-rotor vehicle was selected because it allows for the added payload of the cameras and other equipment. Once his retrofitted octocopter is completed, he will be able to go where he needs to and when he wants to gather information. Read the rest of this entry »