Category Archives: Natural Resources and Environmental Design

N.C. A&T students co-host biggest MANRRS in 33 years

Brianna Holness

More than 1,200 students, faculty and industry leaders from across the country made the 2018 Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences (MANRRS) conference the best attended in its 33-year history.

Held April 4-8 at the Koury Convention Center, the conference was co-hosted by the MANRRS chapter of the College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at N.C. A&T, and by its sister land-grant affiliated chapter at NC State in Raleigh. Other hosts and sponsors included agrochemical and pharmaceutical companies BASF Corp., Bayer and Syngenta.

The annual gathering and career fair was tailored to students in a range of agriculture-related fields including agribusiness, animal sciences, biological engineering, fashion merchandising, environmental systems and food science.

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Dollar Enterprise teaches innovation

All 13 students were skeptical and nervous at the start of Dollar Enterprise, a hands-on introduction to entrepreneurship offered at N.C. A&T for the first time this fall.

“They lacked confidence,” Dr. Kathleen Liang, who teaches the course, said in late October, “but if you walk into my classroom today, you will notice a big difference in competence and confidence. The individual growth is significant, and we aren’t finished yet.”

Students in the course learned by doing, with each student assigned to one of three teams. Each team came up with a product, drafted a business plan, started a campus business and ran that business for a month. Liang provides the start-up money. Continue reading Dollar Enterprise teaches innovation

Huchette Wins ASHS Early Career Award

Odile Huchette, a lecturer in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, won second place in the Early Career Competition at the annual meeting of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

The Early Career Competition allows new faculty and professionals to communicate the impact of their Extension, research, teaching and other scholarly activities. Twenty-one faculty submitted entries to the competition; six finalists were chosen to make presentations at the ASHS meeting, Sept. 19-22 in Waikoloa, Hawaii.

Continue reading Huchette Wins ASHS Early Career Award

Wang on biofuels research team

Dr. Lijun Wang, professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences, is part of a University of North Carolina system research team that recently snagged a $2 million grant to convert animal and food waste into carbon-neutral gasoline. Awarded by the UNC System’s Research Opportunities Initiative (ROI), the project will vet technology that uses solar energy to convert biogas to gasoline.

The research team is led by N.C. A&T chemistry professor, Dr. Debasish Kuila. He is also the research director of the National Science Foundation CERST Bioenergy Center, and an adjunct professor at both the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering (JSNN) and the Wake Forest School of Medicine.

Continue reading Wang on biofuels research team

Dr. Godfrey Gayle Secures $400,000 NRCS Contract

Dr. Godfrey Gayle, a professor of biological engineering, has secured a $400,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to provide scholarships and other support to students studying biological engineering at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University.

The two-year contract seeks to increase enrollment and improve retention of undergraduate and graduate students studying biological engineering, especially natural resources and agricultural engineering programs in the CAES. The contract has multiple goals, including to:

Continue reading Dr. Godfrey Gayle Secures $400,000 NRCS Contract

CAES faculty member helps company with breakthrough truffle harvest

Mycorrhiza Biotech, a Burlington company with ties to N.C.  A&T, has achieved a breakthrough harvest in truffles, the hard-to-grow, mushroom-like, underground, edible fungus associated with upscale restaurants and gourmet cooking, in only two years.151105Truffles006ed2 copy

CEO Nancy Rosborough credits her partnership with A&T – especially the Mushroom Biology and Fungal Biotechnology laboratory, led by Dr. Omon Isikhuemhen – and the N.C. Biotechnology Center, as being instrumental in the company’s success.

“If not for their support, we would have closed our doors years ago,” says Rosborough, whose company, Mycorrhiza, takes its name from the mutually beneficial relationship between the fungus from which the truffle grows, and the root system of the tree on which it depends.

“This company is running on the science we did together,” Isikhuemhen says, noting the inoculated seedlings his lab provided the company several years ago. “We did the lab research, then moved to the field, and now, we have truffles.”

With the recent harvest, the company has become the first to gather expensive white truffles from the roots of loblolly pine trees, and in such a short time; truffles usually take four to six years to mature. Both the truffle and the tree repressent a significant step forward in the development of what Rosborough and Isikhuemhen say could become an important cash crop for North Carolina. The truffle’s high market price – more than $500 per pound, compared with historically-lucrative tobacco’s $2.70 per pound – makes it worth cultivating, while loblolly pines are the most commercially important tree in the southeast and the second most common tree in the nation.

“Truffles only need an acre or two,” Rosborough says. “If there are 500 trees on an acre, a grower only needs to use some of them for truffles to make more money than he or she could by timber-harvesting the entire acre – and the grower still has the trees.”

As lucrative as they can be, truffles have struggled to catch on as a commodity crop because of the difficulty growing them. Soil and water conditions, and the condition of the tree host, must be managed. 151105Truffles014ed2 copyCertain climate conditions must be present: truffles like hot summers and cold winters. Since they grow underground, determining the size of the harvest – and whether it is present at all – can be difficult.  Research is ongoing to overcome some of these difficulties, Isikhuemhen said.






New Greenhouse Growing Hands-On Learning Opportunities for Students

This semester, students in the Season Extension for Sustainable Production class have put the finishing touches on the campus’s newest greenhouse: a 12’ x 25’ structure on the outskirts of  Carver Hall. Built to provide CAES students with a variety of hands-on learning opportunities, the new greenhouse was built by nine students as part of the course’s laboratory section and it will be used in various agricultural disciplines.

The greenhouse was purchased through a 2014 capacity building grant through the Urban and Community Horticulture (UCH) concentration within the Agricultural and Environmental Systems major. The $150,000 grant is specifically intended to provide students with opportunities to learn by doing, and it funds the outdoor infrastructure – much of which has to be built – to provide those opportunities.

Since building began in September, two student teams have handled every aspect of greenhouse construction 161128greenhouse012edb beginning with ground preparation, says Trequan McGee, a senior UCH major. McGee, as have the other students, has served as a designated  supervisor, tasked to coordinate the work of the day.   Continue reading New Greenhouse Growing Hands-On Learning Opportunities for Students

Yang gets patent for Alexandrian laurel

150902yang001edcaesDr. Guochen Yang has been awarded a patent associated with a popular landscape evergreen that has the potential to increase production and profits for small-scale growers.

Yang, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design,  has worked more than 10 years to formulate a micropropagation protocol he’s developed for Alexandrian laurel. The process reliably produces many of the plants in far less growing time than nature could.

Naturally, the laurel has a 20 percent chance of growth; growers that plant 100 seeds may get 20 plants. With Yang’s method, growers are guaranteed to get 100 shoots from 100 seeds, and each of those shoots has the potential to contain up to 50 plants. What’s more, the time each plant will take to grow to marketable size is reduced by one or two years, from six or seven years to four or five.

Yang’s research has been directly inspired by the commercial marketplace, with the owner of a local plant nursery encouraging him to find a quicker way than usual to get the slow-growing Alexandrian laurel to market.

Now, the patent that protects the Alexandrian laurel-growing protocols is the intellectual property of Yang and A&T. Landscapers, nursery operators or anyone else who wants to know how to grow the plant from tissue samples can do so, but must first sign a contract with A&T.

The shortened growing process overcomes the difficulty of cultivating enough sellable plants to make space in growers’ greenhouses, which can cost up to $15 per square foot, per year, pay.

“Once you get the formula, the protocol, you can quickly produce many plants,” Yang says. “Time is money. This has the potential to significantly increase the production, and profit margin, for U.S. agriculture overall.”




Landscape Architecture student receives national honor


David Duperault, a recent graduate of the Landscape Architecture Program,  has been named a 2016 University Olmstead Scholar finalist by the Washington-based Landscape Architecture Foundation.

The Olmstead Awards are recognized as among the premier national student awards in the field of landscape architecture, according to Anna Reaves, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design , who nominated Duperault for the award.

The program recognizes and supports students with exceptional leadership potential who are using ideas, influence, communication, services and leadership to advance sustainable planning and design and to foster human and societal benefits. Duperault was selected from among 32 undergraduates and 45 graduates who were nominated by faculty across the nation, and was one of six finalists who received $1,000 each in recognition of the honor.

Duperault’s project while a student included working with the Center for Community Engaged Design at UNC-Greensboro to design a moveable farmer’s market for a local neighborhood. He was also one of the SAES’s Undergraduate Research Scholars, completing an independent research survey of homeowners’ preferences for native replacement of invasive plants.

As a non-traditional student, Duperault already had significant experience on his resume, including service as project and construction manager for Habitat for Humanity in Greensboro. Like most SAES students, he had a job offer by the time he graduated.

Duperault is working as landscape designer for Borum, Wade and Associates P.A., a Greensboro engineering and surveying firm.

Research faculty advise agencies to fund Extension overseas

A meeting of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) at A&T brought attention to pressing global issues of poverty and hunger, as well as some advice for funding agencies from faculty members who regularly work in agricultural development overseas. The seven member board, which advises the United States Agency for International Development, includes Chancellor Harold L. Martin Sr., and met on campus May 18-20.

A panel from SAES included Dr. Manuel Reyes, Dr. Osei Yeboah, and Dr. Anthony Yeboah, who all suggested that funding agencies find ways to translate research data into action on the ground.
Reyes buttressed an impassioned plea for conservation agriculture with photos of rain forest destruction from all over the globe, often the result of cash-poor nations engaging with multinational corporations to plant monocultures, such as pineapple, which are chemical dependent and can deplete soils. Conservation agriculture, on the hand, protects soil while providing income, he said, and advocated more investment in infrastructure to educate farmers.

“What we need to do is scale up, because we know it (conservation agriculture) works,” Reyes said.

Both Drs. Anthony and Osei Yeboah advocated for more funding for Extension personnel in developing nations, to insure that the research-based innovations are more widely adopted, and so that the host countries will have a sense of ownership over implementation.

“Extension will provide the means for ownership,” Dr. Anthony Yeboah said.

More about the BIFAD conference can be found here:

SAES student facilitates workshop

Trequan McGee
Trequan McGee, president of the SAES chapter of Collegiate FFA, helped organize this workshop for Collegiate FFA members.

extension_iconThe SAES chapter of Collegiate FFA joined forces with the Center for Creative Leadership to bring a leadership workshop to students in the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Saturday, April 23.

Trequan McGee, a junior majoring in Urban and Community Horticulture,  was a driving force behind coordinating the workshop. In fact, McGee has built a reputation for leadership and networking acumen around the SAES — skills he credits to his participation in the Golden LEAF Scholars Leadership Program. The competitive four-year scholarship and training program is for students from counties transitioning from economic dependence on tobacco. (McGee is from Enfield, in Halifax County.) Many of the projects and workshops in that program are provided by the Center for Creative Leadership, which is how McGee developed contacts for the campus workshop.

“The Center has just been really helpful to me in my development, and I just knew it would be helpful to our students,” McGee said. “Most of our members are freshmen, and can really benefit from these kinds of workshops.”

The lessons in leadership have not been lost on McGee either. Although still an undergraduate, he already seems to be about giving back, and is frequently seen around the School, developing his ideas for outreach or partnerships to enhance the learning environment.

The workshop was just the latest example. McGee recently coordinated a visit from a local chef for a healthy meals cooking demonstration to the Food and Nutritional Sciences Program,  and also invited a representative from Kansas State University to advise students in the Department of Animal Sciences  about how to prepare for veterinarian programs. He also reached out to the N.C. Farm Bureau to create a new FFA committee, Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers. While not an official chartered organization, the committee status means that FFA members can now access the events and workshops offered by Collegiate Young Farmers and Ranchers.

“I just always try to strike a balance among my connections and see who would be a good fit to bring to our school,” he said.

McGee also serves as president of the SAES chapter of Collegiate FFA as well as on the Dean’s Advisory Council, and as a participant in the SAES’s prestigious USDA Scholars Program. McGee takes an active role in outreach component of his major too. His recent community horticulture contributions include helping to coordinate a rooftop garden for the wolf exhibit at the Natural Science Center, and a healing garden at Wesley Long Cancer Center.

For more photos of the recent workshop that McGee helped facilitate, visit


Biological Engineering student receives Fulbright grant

North Carolina A&T State University senior, biological engineering student Madeline Keefer will spend nine months studying flood management in the Netherlands thanks to a Fulbright U.S. Student Programs Grant jointly sponsored by the Netherland-America Foundation.

Beginning in August, Keefer will conduct research at the Delft University of Technology in the South Holland Providence of the Netherlands.

Being only the third N.C. A&T student to be awarded a Fulbright grant, Keefer understands the magnitude of receiving the honor.

 Madeline Keefer Fulbright Winner“The process was pretty long. I submitted my application through the honors program in mid-September 2015, found out I was a semi-finalist in January 2016; then in April that I was a finalist and winner,” she said. “I was extremely excited and rather shocked because it’s a very competitive program but I am very excited and feel fortunate and blessed to be accepted.”

The grant will allow the second generation Aggie to further explore water systems engineering, which is an aspect that she has particular interest. Because her topic is a mixture of civil and biological engineering she’s able to make practical use of her study and classes such as hydrology, fluid mechanics and hydraulics, statics and geographic information systems.

“I’ll be directly applying the skills I learned in those classes in the Netherlands while I do my research,” she said. “I have always wanted to get more of a feel for water systems engineering, which this project directly relates to. Outside of the classroom, that is a part of my major that I haven’t been able to explore in much detail. I’m really interested in helping to protect our land from the power of water, but also working with water and harnessing it and using it to our advantage.”

While Keefer’s research in the Netherlands will undoubtedly open numerous academic doors, she is just as excited about the cultural experience that she hopes to fully immerse herself in. When other study abroad opportunities were presented she says she regretfully passed, but plans to take full advantage of every aspect of her Fulbright journey, including studying Dutch and engaging in as much of the culture as she possibly can.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international, educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government. It provides grants to study, teach and conduct research for U.S. citizens to go abroad and for non-U.S. citizens to come to the United States. It is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields. The program operates in over 160 countries worldwide.

Register now for Student Awards Celebration

info_iconStudents, faculty and staff are encouraged to register for the 2016 SAES Student Awards Celebration, ( ). This year’s celebration is scheduled for 6 – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 28 in the Academic Classroom Building Auditorium. Pass the Torch speakers will be Taylor Johnson, representing  the Department of Agribusiness, Applied Economics and Agriscience Education; Kayla Castevens of the Department of Animal Sciences; Elizabeth Martino of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, and Maddie Keefer of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design. Academic department awards will be presented, and students who have earned various honors through the 2015-16 academic year will be recognized. Hors d’oeuvres will be served.

New faculty hired

extension_iconThe SAES welcomes two new teaching-faculty members, whose appointments were effective Jan. 6:

  • Carter Crawford
    Carter Crawford

    Carter Crawford, assistant professor of Landscape Architecture in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design, brings with him more than 35 years of teaching and professional experience in designing large- and medium-size public, commercial and private landscapes, mostly in the Triangle area. Crawford, whose Ph.D. is from N.C. State University, is president of Carter Crawford DESIGN PA. Prior to joining N.C. A&T, he served as associate professor of the practice of landscape architecture at N.C. State from 2008 – 2013. Throughout his career, he has served as president, project landscape architect, and landscape designer for numerous design and engineering firms. Crawford also has extensive experience serving in advisory capacities for various public entities, including the City of Raleigh and Town of Apex’s appearance commissions, the Landscape Architecture Advisory Council for N.C. State, and others. In addition to serving as program coordinator in the SAES, Crawford is currently teaching landscape design studios to freshman and seniors.

  • Sherrell Hicklen House is an assistant professor in the Child Development and Family Studies Program of the Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. Her academic background includes an undergraduate degree in psychology from Howard University, a master’s degree in psychology in education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Ph.D. in Human Development and Family Studies from Michigan State University. While pursuing her master’s and doctorate, House amassed numerous academic honors, awards, grants, scholarships, assistantships and a fellowship. House’s teaching experience includes serving as a teaching assistant at the University of Pittsburgh for multiple courses and serving as instructor of record for Michigan State University from 2011 – 2015, teaching courses in research methods and child development and family sciences, both online and in person. Since 2006, she has assisted in 10 research studies and is co-author of multiple publications, with several upcoming publications in the pipeline. Currently, House teaches FCS 260: Introduction to Human Development, FCS 331: Family Systems, and FCS 432: Culturally Responsive Perspectives for Children and and Family.

SAES students receive accolades

documents_iconDr. Guochen Yang of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design chaperoned three students in the SAES Multicultural Scholars Program (MSP) to Washington in late August for a meeting of project directors for MSPs and USDA’s National Needs Fellows Program. Both programs provide USDA funding for scholarships that will boost multicultural diversity in the agricultural and food sciences, and natural resource management. Yang’s topic for a presentation at the meeting was “Enhancing undergraduate training of underrepresented ethnic populations in natural resources and environmental sciences”— a discussion of ways in which the training he and other members of the SAES faculty are providing MSP scholars in plant sciences and horticulture have applications for urban and community food production, biotechnology and conservation and renewable resource management.

One of the SAES’s current MSP scholars, Hannah Talton, also had an oral presentation at the meeting. Her focus was on how her “Journey as a Multicultural Scholar” has led her to extracurricular activities as a volunteer as well as introductions to research into plant propagation, tissue culture, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM). MSP scholars James Martin and Trequan McGee had poster presentations at the late-August gathering of MSP and National Needs Fellows project directors. Martin’s poster presentation included plans for research into high tunnel production and rooftop gardening that will augment urban horticulture and community gardens. McGee’s poster presentation included research, internship, leadership development and networking opportunities that have come his way — in addition to high-level classroom and laboratory experiences — through the MSP.

SAES student makes splash

In case you’ve been overlooking that little arrow on the right most of the photos atop the A&T splash page, give it a click and you’ll find it’s the pathway to additional photos of faculty and staff selected for spotlighting. Among those spotlighted in the current cycle – in the photo with the “Research” heading — is Jordan Smith Jones, an agricultural and environmental systems major.  The A&T website says that “While Jones’ aspires to eventually be a natural resource specialist, she wants to spend time in the Peace Corps after graduating as an environmental educator.” Jones’ extracurricular activities include work with student organizations to increase campus awareness of the importance of environmental stewardship and sustainable management of natural resources. One source of inspiration for that objective was an internship at a firm with a commitment to environmental stewardship that asked interns to use social media to post photos of their community service and updates about what they recycled or reused rather than reports on social and leisure activities.

Showcase of Excellence a success

Fifty-two SAES students delivered poster presentations describing what they did on their summer vacations, during the 4th annual Showcase of Excellence at B.C. Webb Hall Sept. 9. Unlike vacations of many students, the summer experiences SAES students described were mostly work and little play. Students worked in industry offices, government agencies, or university laboratories, conducting research or learning business practices. Others studied abroad, or participated in Cooperative Extension internships. Most programs in the SAES require students to complete an internship or some other form of experiential learning that complements their majors.

“The hands-on experience proves to be an invaluable asset to students, whether they are preparing for their first job interview, or their applications to graduate school, and that is why we stress the importance of these internships,” said Dr. Antoine Alston, associate dean for academic studies, and coordinator of the Showcase.

2015 SAES Showcase of Excellence

Urban gardening getting research support


Dr. Charles Raczkowski
Dr. Charles Raczkowski

Dr. Charles Raczkowski of the SAES’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Design is the principal investigator for an innovative research project that will get underway at the University Farm this summer. Female gardeners from the Greensboro area Montagnard community will plant and maintain a vegetable garden that relies on commercial fertilizers and pesticides, tillage and conventional production methods. It will be a plot alongside which farm personnel guided by Raczkowski and Marsha McGraw will plant and cultivate the same vegetables utilizing cover crops, composting, minimal tillage and other conservation practices particularly appropriate for Piedmont soils and growing conditions.

Data collected during the three-year project — made possible with Evans Allen funding — will evaluate and compare soil quality, yield and economics of both plots. “The main purpose is to show that these sustainable practices can be performed on a small scale and to help the community understand the benefit of compost and cover crops,” says Raczkowski. His research team also will adapt lawn and turf equipment for use in small-scale vegetable production.

Originally from villages in the central highlands of Vietnam, many Montagnards that were aligned with the United States during the Vietnam War later immigrated to the United States, and Greensboro has the largest Montagnard community  outside Vietnam, a population estimated at around 5,000. Montagnard culture has deep agrarian traditions, with female domestic responsibilities often including gardening. The research project at the University Farm is in partnerships with Guilford College’s Bonner Center for Community Service and Learning.