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Responding to Invasion: MSU Shields Fruit Industry Against Tiny Fly With Big Impacts

on Apr 21, 2015 in March 2015 Articles | 0 comments

Responding to Invasion: MSU Shields Fruit Industry Against Tiny Fly With Big Impacts

Michigan’s fruit industry boasts more than 22,000 acres devoted to small fruit production; blueberries account for a whopping 20,900 of those. Valued at $118.5 million, the blueberry industry has helped Michigan gain a reputation as a top producer of one of the world’s most popular fruits. In 2010, researchers from Michigan State University (MSU) confirmed the presence of a pest that threatened the future of this industry: spotted wing drosophila (SWD). Since its arrival in the eastern United States, growers of most berry crops have spent millions of dollars on managing the invasive pest. Rufus Isaacs, MSU professor of entomology, has been leading a committed, grower-centered response to the threat of SWD in Michigan. Native to Japan, this invasive vinegar fly was discovered in the United States in fall 2008 on California raspberries and strawberries. In 2009, SWD was reported in Oregon, Washington, Florida and British Columbia, Canada, before making its way to Michigan, Utah, North Carolina, South Carolina and Louisiana a year later. SWD is a pest of small fruits (e.g., blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries) and some tree fruits (cherries, mulberries and peaches). “Spotted wing drosophila is a problem because the pest can cut its way into fruit while it’s still intact on the bush or tree,” Isaacs said. “This creates a scenario where live larvae could be inside the fruit at harvest time, compromising fruit quality. Additionally, growers have to spend a lot more money on controlling the pest. Combine those two factors, and this pest has quickly had major economic impact.” In partnership with several MSU AgBioResearch scientists and MSU Extension educators, Isaacs has developed an effective management program that equips Michigan growers with tools to help protect their fruit. Since 2010, he has made it a goal to understand which of the available control options are most effective to guide the recommendations that MSU makes to Michigan’s fruit industry. Isaacs explains that this has been a team effort. He credits Steven Vantimmeren, a research technician based at the Trevor Nichols Research Center (TNRC), and John Wise, TNRC director, as well as many undergraduate students for developing the research. “We have developed methods for testing various insecticides and sprayers and, with help from Eric Hanson of the MSU Department of Horticulture, we’ve explored cultural controls — non-chemical ways to prevent SWD infestations,” Isaacs explained. Examples of cultural controls include rapid picking, or removing fruit more frequently from the tree or bush; and netting, a physical method for limiting flies’ access to the fruit. Over the past four years, Isaacs and his colleagues have identified the most effective insecticides, first in a laboratory setting and then later in blueberry field tests at TNRC. Eventually, they partnered with local growers to confirm their findings. “This allowed us to give growers combinations of programs and crop protectants they can use with confidence,” Isaacs said. “These have been tested on growers’ farms with success, enabling them to protect their crops and harvest marketable berries. From that perspective, I think we’ve been successful in the short term, but we also need to be thinking about what we can do in the long term to reduce the need for chemical controls.” Isaacs also worked with the MSU Fruit Team and the Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to use MSU Extension’s information...

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Developing New Approaches for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

on Apr 21, 2015 in March 2015 Articles | 0 comments

Developing New Approaches for Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s

By Cheryl Deep, Wayne State University Mild cognitive impairment, or MCI, may be one of Alzheimer’s earliest signs.  The subtle changes of MCI include problems with memory, language, thinking and judgment and a subjective sense that mental function is getting worse.  MCI is seldom severe enough to impair day-to-day activities and is sometimes ignored as “normal aging.” Though it doesn’t always progress to Alzheimer’s or another dementia, it should always be investigated further. This may be especially important for older African Americans.  They are twice as likely to develop MCI and Alzheimer’s as their Caucasian counterparts, but far less likely to be diagnosed or treated in the early stages. Voyko Kavcic, Ph.D., assistant professor – research in the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, thinks access and convenience may be part of the reason. “We want to develop affordable, comfortable ways to test for evidence of these disorders so it is easier for older African Americans,” Kavcic said.  “People with transportation or mobility problems shouldn’t have to navigate large, confusing medical centers to get answers. Why not take the test to them?” Current testing usually requires a brain scan in an MRI machine the size of a school bus. Kavcic and colleagues from the University of Michigan are looking at a more portable diagnostic method that is easier to administer and may better assist in determining who needs the more complicated and expensive tests for a more definitive diagnosis. The National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health has awarded Kavcic a two-year, $420,000 grant to determine if an electroencephalograph (EEG) plus cognitive tests on a computer – or even the EEG alone – could be the answer. “This is a community-based approach,” said Kavcic. “If we want more people to be diagnosed and treated, testing must be easy, fast, cheap and readily accepted. The tests we propose can be conducted in a church basement or a senior center. Older African Americans are at highest risk to develop Alzheimer’s from MCI, so they are the priority.” How does it work?  Kavcic, along with Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center (MADC) Associate Director Bruno Giordani, Ph.D., and Edna Rose, Ph.D., the MADC minority recruitment specialist and a nurse and social worker, will team up for recruitment. The project will need 200 older African Americans with no diagnosed cognitive impairment, but who feel their memory may be worsening. The database of volunteers compiled through the Participant Resource Pool (PRP) of the Healthier Black Elders Center will be vital in recruiting these people. Peter Lichtenberg, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Gerontology and the Merrill Palmer Skillman Institute at Wayne State University and James Jackson, Ph.D., director of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, oversee the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research grant that funds the database. The PRP list of older African Americans willing to help with research makes projects like Kavcic’s possible. “Six years ago it would have been extremely difficult to find larger numbers of African American elders in Detroit willing to participate,” Lichtenberg said. “Through trust-building, outreach and education, more than 1,200 volunteers now fill the database.” Participants will take computer-based tests of cognitive function and perform easy computer tasks while wearing an EEG cap. Data from the EEG is then...

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U-M Explores Strategies for Dealing with Water-level Changes in the Great Lakes

on Mar 20, 2015 in March 2015 Articles | 0 comments

U-M Explores Strategies for Dealing with Water-level Changes in the Great Lakes

By John Callewaert, H. Dominique Abed and Elizabeth LaPorte  Extreme water-level fluctuations in the Great Lakes, including historic lows on lakes Michigan and Huron in 2013 and substantial upward trends in 2014, are creating serious challenges for many shoreline property owners, tourism-related businesses, municipal planners and others. To help these community stakeholders and decision makers determine the best strategies for dealing with these water-level changes, the University of Michigan’s Graham Sustainability Institute is launching a two-tiered, two-year collaborative research initiative called the Great Lakes Water Levels Integrated Assessment. The purpose of the assessment, which is a joint initiative between the Graham Institute’s Water Center and its Integrated Assessment Center, is to develop information, tools and partnerships to help decision makers address challenges and opportunities posed by water-level variability. With a focus on lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie, including the Lake Huron-to-Lake Erie corridor, the assessment will identify and evaluate environmentally, politically, socially and economically feasible adaptive actions and policy options. “The question of what to do about changing lake levels is extremely complex,” said Integrated Assessment Center Director John Callewaert. “There’s also contentious debate about engineering options and anticipated climate change impacts. Our assessment is focused on bringing relevant researchers and stakeholders together from both the U.S. and Canada to determine the most viable paths for moving forward.” The first component of the assessment kicked off this month when the Graham Institute issued a Request for Proposals aimed at identifying appropriate localities and partners in the U.S. and Canada willing to collaborate. Up to 10 teams will be selected to receive planning grants of up to $10,000 each for projects to run between March and August 2015. Each project is to be led by at least two investigators affiliated with an academic institution. Selected projects will focus on identifying key geographies and issues impacted by water-level fluctuations, and analyzing viable policies and potential adaptive actions that would meet local objectives, as identified with community partners. By pinpointing appropriate locations and scoping different approaches, these preliminary projects will lay the groundwork for the full, 18-month integrated assessment, through which four-to-five teams will receive funding of approximately $50,000 each. The purpose of the final assessment, which will run from November 2015 to April 2017, is to help equip the region with a robust set of water-level adaptation strategies that protect the ecological integrity, economic stability and cultural values of each region. “Water-level variability is impacting multiple areas, ranging from shoreline habitats to infrastructure, recreation and tourism, regional economies and more,” said Water Center Director Jennifer Read, a contributor to the International Joint Commission’s 2013 Upper Great Lakes Study, which will help inform the U-M assessment. “While there has been extensive research about water levels, flows and impacts—including significant work by the IJC—this assessment is geared toward transforming findings into practical, localized strategies. Through such place-based, interdisciplinary partnerships, our hope is that the IA will facilitate the development of long-term solutions for each of the areas involved.” The Graham Institute and Water Center are funding the water levels assessment, with additional anticipated support from regional partners. The assessment is focusing on lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie exclusively, since specific regulatory frameworks are already in place for lakes Ontario and Superior. Learn more about the project...

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MSU Scholars Create System to Address School Fiscal Stress 

on Mar 20, 2015 in March 2015 Articles | 0 comments

MSU Scholars Create System to Address School Fiscal Stress 

A financial health-indicator system created by Michigan State University scholars could prevent many Michigan school districts from reaching the crisis point. Gov. Rick Snyder has prioritized increased transparency and accountability in school finance. During his State of the State address Jan. 20, Snyder called for the creation of a financial scorecard for Michigan schools. Fifty-seven Michigan school districts ended 2014 with a deficit or projected deficit, and many are in danger of entering a severe fiscal crisis. The MSU system, outlined in a new paper, uses research on what fiscal indicators best predict fiscal stress as well as information on what other states are doing to analyze the fiscal health of school districts. The authors – graduate students Rachel White and Kacy Martin, MSU Extension economist Eric Scorsone and MSU law professor Kristi Bowman – argue Michigan should build fiscal scorecards for school districts using a number of readily available economic and environmental indicators. “The best system would give both the school district and the state plenty of warning before schools ever reached the point of financial crisis,” Scorsone said. A recent crop of bills introduced to help Michigan schools before they incur deficits, however, only created mechanisms to intervene because of noncompliance with reporting requirements rather than indicators of fiscal stress. This, the paper argues, would be too little, too late for many Michigan schools. “The goal should be about schools and the state working together to keep schools out of financial crisis and not just about intervention once they already find themselves in one,” said White, a student of educational policy. “We looked at the available research and the results of evidence-based policy decisions made in places like New York and Pennsylvania and tried to build something that would work for Michigan.” The deficits in Michigan districts range anywhere from $5,000 to the more than $169 million deficit of Detroit Public Schools and are driven primarily by increasing obligations to retirement costs, Scorsone said. As recently as 2012, an average of nearly $1,400 of a district’s per-pupil revenue went directly toward payments into the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement...

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