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New Machine Learning Method Predicts Possible Additions to Global List of Threatened Plant Species

December 3, 2018

Map showing predictions for at-risk species 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – A new method co-developed by Anahí Espíndola, an assistant professor of entomology at the University of Maryland, uses the power of machine learning and open-access data to predict species that could be eligible for at-risk status. The research team created and trained a machine learning algorithm to assess more than 150,000 species of plants from all corners of the world, making their project among the largest assessments of conservation risk to date.

 

According to their results—published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceson December 3, 2018—more than 10 percent of these species are highly likely to qualify for an at-risk classification on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN)Red List of Threatened Species. This list ranks threatened species in one of five categories, from of least concern to critically endangered. It is a powerful tool for researchers and policymakers working to stem the tide of species loss across the globe. But adding even a single species to the list is a large task, demanding countless hours of expensive, rigorous and highly specialized research.

Because of these limitations, a large number of known species have not yet been formally assessed by the IUCN for inclusion on the list. and ranked in one of five categories, from least concern to critically endangered. This deficit is quite apparent in plants: Only about 5 percent of all currently known plant species appear on IUCN’s Red List in any capacity.

Lead author Tara Pelletier, an assistant professor of biology at Radford University, worked with  Espíndola to perform the machine learning analysis.  The new algorithm they and collaborators created is a predictive model that can be applied to any grouping of species at any scale, from the entire globe to a single city park.  

The researchers applied their model to the many thousands of plant species that remain unlisted by IUCN. According to the results, more than 15,000 of the species—roughly 10 percent of the total assessed by the team—have a high probability of qualifying as near-threatened, at a minimum.

Espíndola and her colleagues mapped the data and noted several major geographical trends in the model’s predictions. At-risk species tended to cluster in areas already known for their high native biodiversity, such as the Central American rainforests and southwestern Australia. The model also flagged regions such as California and the southeastern United States, which are home to a large number of endemic species, meaning that these species do not naturally occur anywhere else on Earth.

“When I first started thinking about this project, I suspected that many regions with high diversity would be well-studied and protected. But we found the opposite to be true,” Espíndola said. “Many of the high-diversity areas corresponded to regions with the highest probability of risk. When we saw the maps, we were surprised it was that clear. Endemic species also tend to be more at risk because they are usually confined to smaller areas.”

The model also flagged a few surprising areas not typically known for their biodiversity, such as the southern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, as having a high number of at-risk species. Some of the most imperiled regions have not received enough attention from researchers, according to Espíndola. She hopes that her method can help to fill in some of these knowledge gaps by identifying regions and species in need of further study.

“Let’s say you wanted to assess every species of wild bee on one continent. So you do the assessment and find that only one species is at risk. Now you’ve used all those resources to identify an area with low risk, which is still helpful, but not ideal when resources are limited. We want to help prevent that from happening,” Espíndola said. “Our analysis was global, but the model can be adapted for use at any geographic scale. Everything we’ve done is 100 percent open access, highlighting the power of publicly-available data. We hope people will use our model—and we hope they point out errors and help us fix them, to make it better.”

Building a global predictive model of  at-risk species

The researchers built this predictive model using open-access data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and the TRY Plant Trait Database.

Espíndola and Pelletier trained the model using GBIF and TRY data from the relatively small group of plant species already on the IUCN Red List. This allowed the researchers to assess and fine-tune the model’s accuracy by checking its predictions against the listed species’ known IUCN risk status. The Red List sorts non-extinct species into one of five classification categories: least concern, near-threatened, vulnerable, endangered and critically endangered.

The researchers applied their model to the many thousands of plant species that remain unlisted by IUCN. According to the results, more than 15,000 of the species—roughly 10 percent of the total assessed by the team—have a high probability of qualifying as near-threatened, at a minimum.

The research paper, “Predicting plant conservation priorities on a global scale,” Tara Pelletier, Bryan Carstens, David Tank, Jack Sullivan and Anahí Espíndola, was published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scienceson December 3, 2018.

 

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation (Award Nos. DEB-1457519, DEB-1457726 and EPS-809935), the National Institutes of Health (Award Nos. NCRR 1P20RR016454-01 and NCRR 1P20RR016448-01), DIVERSITAS/Future Earth and the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. The content of this article does not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

 

UMD Researchers and Resilinc Corp. Create Index of Climate Change Risk to Company Supply Chains

November 29, 2018

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Last year a series of severe weather events including the late-winter storm that hit the U.S. Northeast, followed by weather-related damage that closed the U.S.-Mexico Laredo border, and subsequent U.S. landfall hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria contributed to a doubling of global supply chain disruption and, for the first time, made the United States the region most-impacted by such disruption. These impacts, highlighted in a recent report, form part of the impetus for a new partnership between the University of Maryland and software firm Reslinc.

Researchers in UMD’s Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center (ESSIC) and in the Supply Chain Management Center of the Robert H. Smith School of Business have begun work on a prototype of a highly localized “Climate Change Variability/Vulnerability Index.” This new research has been launched in light of the Reslinc report on 2017 impacts, and in the aftermath of massive damage caused by 2018 hurricanes Florence and Michael.

According to ESSIC Assistant Research Professor Michael Gerst, by early 2019, Resilinc will be able to disseminate UMD’s new index as “a critical snapshot of the vulnerability to climate change of the supply chain of an individual business.” 

“Climate change varies greatly by location. Thus, the index will become even more important as it will seek to identify which supply chains are prone to the worst parts of a 1.5- or 2-degree Celsius global rise in temperature,” Gerst said. 

The need for this new index is underscored by the November 23rd release of a new U.S. National Climate Assessment that says: “Without substantial and sustained global mitigation and regional adaptation efforts, climate change is expected to cause growing losses to American infrastructure and property and impede the rate of economic growth over this century.”

UMD project participant Melissa Kenney, associate research professor in the Earth System Science Interdisciplinary Center and UMD’s Cooperative Institute for Climate and Satellites, emphasized that the index is "designed to provide actionable information to supply chain executives so that they can make better decisions about how to allocate resources to reduce risk.”

Smith School research professor Sandor Boyson,  co-director of its Supply Chain Management Center, said: “We have [UMD’s] business school and Silicon Valley-based partner, Resilinc, joining forces with a university-based climate change center [ESSIC] that’s linked directly to the federal government [NOAA] and its long-term climate prediction center.

“We’re positioned to make an index that in its initial phase will score and rank some 10,000 Resilinc-monitored production locations worldwide for vulnerability to climate change,” he said.

The index is expected to bolster Resilinc’s “R-Score,” its standard metric for measuring, benchmarking, and tracking companies’ supply chain risk and resiliency.

“Resilinc has a powerful risk scoring methodology embodied in our R-Score product,” said Bindiya Vakil, CEO of Resilinc Corporation. “But until now, there was no reliable source of climate change data to incorporate into risk assessment. Combining what Resilinc has for risk scoring with the University of Maryland’s ESSIC data represents a big advancement in how supply chain managers can measure and mitigate risk.”

This climate change index project also involves multiple other Smith School researchers and students. For example Smith School CIO Holly Mann and the Office of Smith IT team have built an innovative virtual research infrastructure to support the secure storage and analysis of data across the project portfolio.

This climate change work is part of a larger ongoing academic research partnership between the Smith School and Resilinc.  

For UMD’s Earth Systems Science Interdisciplinary Center the project is just part of the its effort to make ‘Earth science’ actionable for the public, including private firms, NGOs and government agencies, explained Michael Maddox, project manager for ESSIC’s Climate Information Responding to User Needs (CIRUN) project. 

“There’s a ton of information in terms of Earth and environmental sciences, and it hasn’t been getting into the hands of the user community,” said Maddox. “It is especially significant for us to work with a private company and with the business school as agents that know the users’ wants and needs.”

 

 

Capital One Tech Incubator Opens in Diamondback Garage

November 26, 2018
Contacts: 

Natifia Mullings, 301-405-4076

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- The new Capital One Tech Incubator, a partnership between the University of Maryland and the McLean, Va.-based Fortune 500 bank, was unveiled Nov. 20 in the new Diamondback Garage, a startup hub behind the Hotel at the University of Maryland. The 7,500-square-foot facility, part of the $2 billion revitalization of the community around the campus known as Greater College Park, provides cutting-edge research opportunities in machine learning and data science as well as a pipeline of job opportunities for students and new talent for industry.

UMD Report Examines Schools with High Suspension Rates in Maryland

November 19, 2018
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, 301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- Despite recent efforts in the state of Maryland to reduce school disciplinary measures that exclude children from the classroom, a new report by UMD College of Education researchers finds that students with disabilities and black students were disproportionately suspended from school at all levels.

Across all Maryland public schools, 196 of them—or 14 percent—suspended 25 percent or more of students in one or more subgroups, including racial minorities, English learners and students with disabilities. These high-suspending schools were located throughout the state in both rural and urban areas and in small and large districts, the report said.

“The variation in suspension rates suggests that the school and district a child goes to makes a difference, as some schools are doing things differently in how they handle discipline,” said Gail L. Sunderman, director of the Maryland Equity Project at the UMD College of Education and a co-author of the report with Robert Croninger, associate professor of education and co-director at MEP.

The researchers analyzed data on suspensions and school-level variables from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection and the Maryland State Department of Education.

Among the main findings, close to 60 percent of out-of-school suspensions are of black students, even though they make up only 35 percent of public school enrollment in Maryland. Students with disabilities represent 13 percent of enrollment in Maryland public schools but 25 percent of out-of-school suspensions.

In addition, schools with higher enrollments of black students, students with disabilities, and low-income students and lower enrollments of white, Asian and Hispanic students suspended more students in multiple subgroups.

The study showed that high-suspending schools were less successful academically, had lower graduation rates, lower attendance, higher mobility and fewer experienced teachers. In other words, these were struggling schools.

Maryland adopted new disciplinary guidelines in 2014 that included efforts to make exclusionary discipline a tool of last resort, yet the variability across schools and districts suggest that school- and district-level policies and practices regarding discipline contribute to differences in suspension rates, the report says.

“In some school districts, more than 40 percent of secondary schools were high suspending, which indicates a need for more support in terms of training, leadership or culture change to address exclusionary discipline,” Sunderman said.

She recommended that educators and policymakers investigate the reasons for the disparities in exclusionary discipline, which has long-term consequences for student success.

“Extensive research on the short and long-term consequences of suspensions shows that it leads to lower academic performance, a higher dropout rate, and increased risk of contact with the juvenile justice system,” Sunderman said. “When thinking about school reform, keeping kids in school would really help in improving performance and may reduce the achievement gap. When you’re not in school, you’re not learning.”

Fewer Americans Are Volunteering and Giving Than Any Time in the Last Two Decades

November 15, 2018
Contacts: 

Kaitlin Ahmad, 301-405-6360

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – While nonprofits have benefitted from record highs in volunteer hours and charitable fundraising totals, it’s a case of fewer people doing more, as the percentage of Americans who contribute time and money has fallen to its lowest point in two decades, according to a report released this week by the University of Maryland’s Do Good Institute.

In the first-of-its-kind analysis of data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau and Bureau of Labor Statistics, the report, “Where Are America’s Volunteers?,” examined adult civic engagement with community organizations in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and 215 metropolitan areas.

From 2002 through 2015, community organizations saw record highs in volunteer hours served (topping out at 8.7 billion in 2014) and in charitable dollars given ($410.02 billion in 2017). But since 2005, the national volunteer rate declined from 28.8 percent to a 15-year low of 24.9 percent in 2015. Similarly, the percentage of Americans giving to nonprofits annually declined from 66.8 percent in 2000 to 55.5 percent in 2014.

“As a nation, we must commit resources and time to the challenging work of putting more Americans back to work improving and engaging with their communities,” said Robert Grimm, director of the Do Good Institute, housed in the School of Public Policy, who co-wrote the report with Nathan Dietz, associate research scholar in the institute.

“Continued declines in community participation will produce detrimental effects for everyone, including greater social isolation, less trust in each other, and poor physical and mental health,” Grimm said.

The report also found that throughout the country, 31 states experienced significant declines in volunteering between 2004 and 2015; none saw a significant increase. Surprisingly, this drop is more prevalent in states historically rich in social capital, meaning highly engaged in social and civic affairs.

The data also suggest that rural and suburban areas, which historically have higher levels of social capital than urban areas, saw the biggest downturns in volunteer rates in recent years. Between 2004 and 2015, they fell more than 5 percentage points in rural areas, and nearly 5 percentage points in suburban areas.

These trends help explain why significant changes in volunteer rate occurred less often in metropolitan areas than at the state level. Between 2004–06 and 2013–15, 57 metro areas experienced a significant decrease, 147 experienced no change, and only 11 produced a significant increase in volunteering.

The analysis also found that volunteer rates tended to decline in metropolitan areas with fewer places to volunteer, in places where people may be less likely to know their neighbors (like large cities with lower homeownership rates and a higher percentage of multi-unit housing), and in places where there is more economic distress (from high unemployment to high poverty rates).

The full report, which contains national, state, and metropolitan-level statistics on volunteeringand giving for adults is available for download here. And the full appendix can be found here.

 

University of Maryland Breaks Ground on E.A. Fernandez IDEA Factory

November 14, 2018
Contacts: 

Jessica Jennings, 301-405-4618

 

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - University of Maryland, state and local leaders gathered with donors and supporters yesterday to celebrate the groundbreaking of the E.A. Fernandez IDEA Factory. The latest addition to UMD’s innovation ecosystem, the IDEA Factory will incorporate open design to enable collaboration between diverse areas of engineering, business and science. Experts in robotics, quantum technology, rotorcraft and transportation will work alongside entrepreneurial students, faculty and partners to inspire creative thinking, new products and research breakthroughs.

“The road from idea to invention is filled with bumps, and this new building will pave the way for our innovators,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “We will build it solely with funds from private donors. They are demonstrating the power of philanthropy to transform our research and education.”

“We have to combine our engineering specialties so that our knowledge evolves into products and services that help humanity,” said Emilio Fernandez ‘69 (electrical engineering), an entrepreneur and inventor whose vision for a space that “allows the mind to expand” inspired the IDEA Factory’s open, collaborative design.

The IDEA Factory will bring together students, faculty and staff from various majors and fields to conceive ideas, create designs, build prototypes, develop business plans and bring products to the market to spur economic development in the region, state and nation.

“The IDEA Factory will be like no other building on campus,” said Darryll J. Pines, Dean and Farvardin Professor of the A. James Clark School of Engineering. “It is a truly unique space where student design teams, faculty researchers, venture creators and industry experts will work side-by-side to meet the challenges of the 21st century by creating disruptive engineering breakthroughs.”

The 60,000-square-foot facility will be connected to the Jeong H. Kim Engineering Building. With five floors, the IDEA Factory will include open workspaces for students, dedicated areas for student competition teams and a new home for UMD’s student-run incubator, Startup Shell.

It will house the Alfred Gessow Rotorcraft Center, Robotics Realization Laboratory, Quantum Technology Center and the Maryland Transportation Institute.

The $50 million project is fully made possible by private philanthropy supporting Fearless Ideas: The Campaign for Maryland, UMD’s $1.5 billion fundraising campaign, and is expected to open in 2021.

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About the University of Maryland
The University of Maryland, College Park is the state's flagship university and one of the nation's preeminent public research universities. A global leader in research, entrepreneurship and innovation, the university is home to more than 40,000 students, 10,000 faculty and staff, and 280 academic programs. As one of the nation’s top producers of Fulbright scholars, its faculty includes two Nobel laureates, three Pulitzer Prize winners and 57 members of the national academies. The institution has a $1.9 billion operating budget and secures $514 million annually in external research funding. For more information about the University of Maryland, College Park, visit www.umd.edu.

 

 

 

New Research Report Explores Lessons Learned From University of Missouri’s Racial Crisis

November 13, 2018
Contacts: 

Audrey Hill, 301-405-3468

COLLEGE PARK, MD-- A report released today by the American Council on Education (ACE) explores what led to the University of Missouri’s 2015-16 racial crisis and how the institution has since responded, offering recommendations to college and university leaders who strive to create and maintain a positive racial climate on campus. University of Maryland College of Education Professor Sharon Fries-Britt is a co-lead author of the report.

Mizzou student protest

The report, “Speaking Truth and Acting with Integrity: Confronting Challenges of Campus Racial Climate,” is a collaboration between the University of Missouri’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy (CPRS), spearheaded by ACE’s Vice President for Research Lorelle Espinosa and the University of Missouri’s Vice Chancellor for Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Kevin McDonald. Lead authors are Adrianna Kezar, of the University of Southern California, and Dr. Fries-Britt, of the University of Maryland, College Park.

The report and its findings are informed by 52 interviews conducted with University of Missouri students, staff, faculty, and other community members. The authors also considered previous research on diversity, inclusion, campus racial climate, crisis response, and institutional leadership. They describe longstanding racial tensions and overt incidents on Missouri’s flagship campus and in its surrounding communities, culminating in the now well-known unrest that took place in 2015-16 and resulting in the resignation of the president and chancellor.

The authors chronicle steps taken since this period, including by the university’s current leaders–President of Missouri System Mun Choi, University of Missouri Chancellor Alexander Cartwright, and McDonald–and their commitment to working steadily to provide a diverse and inclusive environment. Using the Missouri case as a jumping off point, the authors introduce a template for other campus leaders facing similar crises and explore best practices for addressing key emotions and trauma that may linger after such incidents.

“This research brings up important insights and actions on the issues of diversity and inclusion, core areas of ACE’s work to improve access, equity, and diversity on our college campuses,” said ACE President Ted Mitchell. “We appreciate the opportunity the University of Missouri has provided for reflection and learning. Such leadership is necessary in today’s higher education environment, not only to learn from the challenges of racism and other forms of discrimination, but also to use that learning to chart a purposeful path forward for the benefit of our communities and society.”

“Higher education institutions nationwide are grappling with racial incidents on campus,” Dr. Fries-Britt said. “We’re participating in a national classroom on diversity, as political leaders are keeping the topic in the public domain, leading to a heightened awareness of climate and bias in society. Universities are a small microcosm of our broader society. The interactions on campuses matter and offer an important opportunity to develop the ability to move past biases and work with people different from you.”

The authors lay out several key takeaways learned from their research and provide a framework for other campuses to build their own capacity to respond to racial crises. These takeaways include:

  • Campus context matters. Leaders are encouraged to enhance their own understanding and acknowledgement of the historical legacy of race and racism on campus and in the surrounding community. 
  • Commitment to diversity and inclusion. Demonstrations of long-term commitment to issues of diversity and inclusion allow for resiliency following a racial crisis.
  • Acknowledge and respond to collective trauma. Following a racial crisis, leaders are right to acknowledge racism, hatred, microaggressions, and pain. This response will emphasize to the community that their institution stands up for anti-racist values and, in turn, supports them through the crisis.
  • Collective trauma recovery. Leaders should avoid immediately trying to “solve” the problem and instead engage in active listening, speak and connect with the community to recognize hurt and trauma, and build a strategy to move forward. 

“Building trust requires continuous learning around diversity issues. This research is designed to help people evaluate their own campuses and whether they have been ignoring signals of concern,” Dr. Fries-Britt said. “There is no recipe for addressing conflicts around racial issues. Leaders need to be willing to be vulnerable and wrong, as opposed to simply looking for an immediate solution to complex diversity issues and their related trauma.”

“Our students, faculty, and staff have risen to the occasion and have worked hard to ensure that all members of the university community feel welcomed and encouraged to share their unique perspectives and experiences. As a result, we are stronger and more united as a campus,” Cartwright said. “Identifying the best ways to support diversity, equity, and inclusion is a challenge at universities across the country. We know we will continue to have difficult conversations as we remain vigilant in our commitment to an environment of respect.”

Since 2015, the University of Missouri has undergone an institutional transformation that includes the hiring of the university’s first chief diversity officer and the creation of a university-wide plan to improve compositional diversity and the learning, living, and working environment. A new required course introduces all new students to the values and culture at the university, and underrepresented minority faculty grew by more than 14 percent. In 2018, the freshman class rose by 13 percent from the year prior, showing a return of students from throughout the state, from both urban and rural areas.

“This work required leadership from our students, faculty, staff, supporters, and alumni,” Choi said. “We invited this review in partnership with ACE because it was important to have an outside view of our progress. We don’t want to take anything for granted and we must continually evaluate our development and commit to doing better. We remain committed to providing leadership that is engaged and transparent in order to become a national model for inclusion and free speech.”

Click here to see the full report.

ACE invites you to register to attend, either virtually or at ACE’s offices in Washington, DC, a discussion on Nov. 29 to learn more about the report and its findings, and to engage in dialogue with Chancellor Cartwright, Fries-Britt, and McDonald. For additional information about this event and to register, click here.


Photo: Mizzou students of color protesting. Credit: Sarah Bell/Missourian via AP. 

 

 

UMD Research Finds Congo Basin Native Forests Vanishing at Alarming Rate

November 9, 2018
Contacts: 

Sara Gavin, 301-405-1733

COLLEGE PARK, Md.-- New research from the Department of Geographical Sciences finds that tropical forests in the Congo Basin are being cleared at an increasingly fast pace, and if the trend continues, its native forests could vanish by the end of this century.   

Using time-series satellite data, researchers analyzed the extent and immediate causes of forest loss in this region of sub-Saharan Africa, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest, from 2000 to 2014. Their results, published yesterday in Science Advances, demonstrate that 84% of forest disturbance in the region was due to small-scale, predominantly manual clearing for agriculture, and that the annual rate of this type of clearing almost doubled in this period.

The findings are particularly alarming amid the United Nations’ predictions that the number of people living in the Congo Basin will increase fivefold by 2100, with the population in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone reaching 400 million, said Alexandra Tyukavina, a postdoctoral associate and one of the lead authors of the study. “People in this region rely on the natural resources in primary forests to survive, but the forests won’t be able to keep pace with demand for long.”

This is the second in a series of detailed studies by the Department of Geographical Sciences on the causes of forest loss across the three major tropical forest regions. The first, published in 2017, focused on the Brazilian Legal Amazon. A future study will examine factors driving forest loss in Indonesia.

“Topical forests play a crucial role in climate regulation and provide critical ecosystem services,” said Professor Matthew Hanson, the study’s other lead author. “Our research seeks to assess and quantify the factors impacting forest loss across large regions in a methodologically consistent manner so we can figure out ways to slow or stop the process before it’s too late.”

Funding for the study was provided by the United States Agency for International Development, through its Central Africa Regional Program for the Environment, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

 

UMD Releases First of Seven New Apples Bred for Maryland Growers

November 7, 2018
Contacts: 

Samantha Watters 301-405-2434 

 

COLLEGE PARK,Md. – Researchers in the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources are releasing the university’s first ever patented apple variety, Antietam Blush. This and the six more varieties of sturdy, disease-resistant dwarf apple trees are a culmination of 27 years of research and crossbreeding.

 

Christopher Walsh, professor in the department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, said these new apples are part of his Maryland Apple Tree Architecture Project, launched to create apple varieties tailored for growers in Maryland, and the Appalachian region and intended to replace older varieties of apples, such as Red and Golden Delicious, which have lessened in popularity among consumers. The new Maryland apple variety is named Antietam Blush based on its color and on the Civil War battlefield Antietam that is just north of the Western Maryland Research & Education Center where the variety was bred.

 

Walsh said these new types of apple trees are resistant to disease, shorter (aka dwarf) with stronger tree architecture for easier maintenance and harvesting. They are more cost effective because more trees can be planted in a small area and because the sturdiness and low height of these trees makes them ideal for pick- your-own farm operations . These advances create potential for broad adoption and use, while improving orchard and farm viability and potentially strengthening the state and regional apple industry, according to Walsh.

 

The new Maryland apple variety is named Antietam Blush based on its color and on the Civil War battlefield Antietam that is just north of the Western Maryland Research & Education Center where the variety was bred.

 

“In Maryland, we have a very good climate for apple production, but we also have a couple of limitations because of our hot summers and rainy weather,” he said. “One day they're green. The next day they fall on the ground. We needed [varieties] that were heat tolerant. We also needed things that fit into the climate and didn't require spraying for a particularly bad bacterial disease called fire blight. "

 

“The primary goal [of these new apples] is for eating fresh, not cooking or cider. The return to the grower is greater for fresh fruit than fruit that is grown for processing,” Walsh said.

 

Julia Harshman, a former student of Walsh’s and a co-creator of the new apples said: “The mid-atlantic apple region has a need for new varieties. It's a fairly large region, and most apple varieties do not fit well for several reasons. It's my hope that our work here can fill that void."

 

“We targeted the mid-October harvest season for Antietam blush because that's when the pick your own markets are really popular. That's when people want to take their kids to the farm, pick pumpkins , drink cider, have that full farm experience. And that includes apples,” said Harshman.

 

Bob Black, owner of Catoctin Mountain Orchard, has been unofficially growing Antietam Blush for a few seasons for grower taste testing. “[Antietam Blush] will be very important, especially in October because the regular Pink Lady most times is not quite ready - it’s an advantage for this apple to be ready when lots of folks are picking apples and pumpkins.”

 

Walsh notes that this apple program came about naturally and without initial external funding. “It was serendipity I guess you’d call it,” he said. “No one else was doing it, and it just needed to be done. So Western Maryland Research & Education Center] gave me the land and the support, and we just started following a dream.”

 

However, the growth of the Maryland Apple Tree Architecture Project really took off in 2007 when Harshman came into the picture. She met Walsh in the Plant Sciences building. That chance interaction led to a change in direction: from undergraduate biochemistry work to enrollment in the horticulture program and involvement in the apple project.

 

The apple program is now seeing the fruits of its labors with multiple apple patents. And growers have said they are very excited by the new varieties, and love the taste of Antietam Blush. “Consumers like it,” said Walsh. “When Bob Black brings them to the winter horticulture society meetings, he gives away 10 or 20 bushels one apple at a time. The growers eat them. So that tells us that this is a good one. We expect to have a commercial nursery selling trees for commercial growers in two years.”

 

“[Antietam Blush] was developed here,” said Black, “and I think it's going to go a long ways for a lot of folks. It just puts Maryland on a map as one of the states to watch and see what's next, because I know Chris has some other apples in the pipeline, and that's what it's all about - producing an apple that'll do well here in this region.”

 

According to Walsh both traditional and organic apple growers can benefit from the new varieties. Organic apple production is very difficult in the eastern US, because the heat and rainfall in the summer make it difficult for organic farmers to keep diseases in check. “These [varieties] would help sustainability as the resistance to fire blight reduces problems with that disease, which damages and frequently kills many apple trees.”

 

President and CEO of The Education Trust John B. King Jr. to Address University of Maryland’s 2018 Winter Graduates

November 1, 2018
Contacts: 

Katie Lawson, 301-405-4622

COLLEGE PARK, Md. - The University of Maryland announces today that President and CEO of The Education Trust and former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. will deliver the university's winter commencement address on Dec. 18, 2018 at the XFINITY Center. 

Headshot of John King“Throughout his career, John King has fought on the front lines of education reform to make the system more equitable and help all students succeed,” said University of Maryland President Wallace D. Loh. “As one of our visiting professors, Dr. King is inspiring a new generation of leaders, and will similarly inspire our graduates and their families.”

“It is an honor for me to deliver the Winter 2018 commencement address at the University of Maryland, and to recognize the hard work and accomplishments of the graduates, as well as their families, who supported them on their journey,” stated John B. King Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Education and President and CEO of The Education Trust. “Speaking at this graduation ceremony on this campus carries special significance for me as an educator teaching at the University of Maryland, and as a member of this diverse and vibrant learning community.”

John B. King Jr. is the president and CEO of The Education Trust, a national nonprofit organization that seeks to identify and close opportunity and achievement gaps, from preschool through college. King served in President Barack Obama’s cabinet as the 10th U.S. Secretary of Education. In tapping him to lead the U.S. Department of Education, President Obama called King “an exceptionally talented educator,” citing his commitment to “preparing every child for success” and his lifelong dedication to education as a teacher, principal, and leader of schools and school systems.

Before becoming education secretary, King carried out the duties of the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education, overseeing all policies and programs related to P-12 education, English learners, special education, and innovation. In this role, King also oversaw the agency’s operations. King joined the department following his tenure as the first African American and Puerto Rican to serve as New York State Education Commissioner.

King began his career in education as a high school social studies teacher in Puerto Rico and Boston, Mass., and as a middle school principal.

King’s life story is an extraordinary testament to the transformative power of education. Both of King’s parents were career New York City public school educators, whose example serves as an enduring inspiration. Both of King’s parents passed away from illness by the time he was 12 years old. He credits New York City public school teachers — particularly educators at P.S. 276 in Canarsie and Mark Twain Junior High School in Coney Island — for saving his life by providing him with rich and engaging educational experiences and by giving him hope for the future.

King holds a Bachelor of Arts in government from Harvard University, a J.D. from Yale Law School, as well as a Master of Arts in the teaching of social studies and a doctorate in education from Teachers College at Columbia University. King serves as a visiting professor at the University of Maryland’s College of Education and is a member of several boards, including those for The Century Foundation, The Robin Hood Foundation, and Teach Plus. He also serves on several advisory boards, including Former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative, the Rework America Task Force, the GOOD+ Foundation’s Fatherhood Leadership Council, and the National Center for Free Speech and Civic Engagement at the University of California.

King lives in Silver Spring, Md., with his wife, a former kindergarten and first-grade teacher, and his two daughters, who attend local public schools.

John King with student

John King with student

 

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