Starting in January, I moved over to the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute (PCCI) to oversee their research and education programs. This was an opportunity to shape the development of a research and education program that I couldn't turn down. PCCI is a field station on 661 acres in Barry County, Michigan. There are many different ecosystems on the site, including prairie, prairie fen, deciduous forest, perennial forage crops (hay), annual crops (soy and corn), a lake, a creek system, as well as some intermediate successional sites. I am also working with the education programs, currently focusing on undergraduate and K-12 programs. I have an awesome staff to work with, along with the privilege of working somewhere that has funding that is pretty stable (thanks to the endowment). I am very excited about this move and the opportunities it will bring.
We recently held our spring KBS K-12 Workshop for teachers, and by all accounts this was a great success. We hosted 52 teachers from 16 school districts, including two new teachers from Lenawee ISD. I collaborated with the marvelous Lisa Wininger (Plainwell Middle School) to present a session on Detecting Microbes and Food Contamination. This session involved having teachers learn about food contamination by microbes, how to culture microbes, and new technology that will make detecting contamination easier and faster.
This week I was able to submit a paper that has been several years in the making. This paper includes data from the KBS LTER site (shown in the photo above), and includes a comparison of annual cropping systems, alfalfa, poplar, early successional field, and mature deciduous forest. I'm hopeful that sometime here soon I will be able to share a pdf of the publication with all of you!
Earlier today, I gave a talk at the Michigan Association of Extension Agents Spring Training up in East Lansing, and it was really awesome to get to talk with the amazing extension agents that work here in Michigan. Being an extension agent is such a challenging place to be... you are supposed to keep up with current research going on in academia while also keeping both feet on the ground knowing what is really happening with farmers out in the real world. I got to share some of my research from the LTER on carbon and nitrogen cycling, as well as some of the other great research that has been done out on the LTER site. This really was an interesting talk for me, as I have talked to farmers many times about my research both formally and informally. I have talked to teachers and K-12 students plenty of times. I have also talked to other researchers, but I have only given formal talks to extension agents a couple times. Talking to extension agents is a lot like talking to teachers, where you are covering content that the teachers will need to be able to pass on to their students. It made me really rethink how I talk about my research and how I communicate with different audiences.