Nebraska in the national news: April 2021

· 9 min read

Nebraska in the national news: April 2021

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln-led study on college students’ drinking rates made national news in April. The story was among 40-plus featuring Husker faculty, staff, students, centers and programs during the month.

Anna Jaffe, assistant professor of psychology at Nebraska, and colleagues conducted a survey and found that the influx of students moving back in with their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a substantial drop in alcohol use.

“This speaks to the role of social environment in college student drinking,” Jaffe told Nebraska Today.

The study surveyed 1,365 college students ages 19 and older. Typically, college students’ alcohol use stays the same or increases in late spring due to events such as spring break. Indeed, this is what was found in spring 2018 and 2019. However, with the onset of the pandemic in spring 2020, college students’ reported drinks per occasion fell by 28% compared to earlier in the semester.

“We saw differences based on whether or not students moved related to the pandemic,” Jaffe said. “Those who did move decreased their drinking 49%, while those who did not move decreased their drinking by 21%, which is still quite substantial.”

The findings show that living off-campus, often with parents, could be a protective factor against heavy drinking.

The research team also included Jason Ramirez, research assistant professor at the University of Washington; Shaina Kumar, doctoral candidate in the clinical psychology training program at Nebraska; and David DiLillo, professor of psychology at Nebraska.

Stories on the study appeared in 10 Nebraska media outlets — including the Lincoln Journal Star — as well as Inside Higher Ed and University Business.

More coverage:

Justin McMechan, entomology, was interviewed for an April 1 No-Till Farmer article on how cover crops can be successfully integrated to help control pests in cropping systems.

Jerry Volesky, agronomy and horticulture, was interviewed for an April 1 DTN Progressive Farmer article on grazing management practices that can limit drought effects. Planting cool- and warm-season annuals can provide a good source of forages during times of drought, he said.

Wes Peterson, agricultural economics, was cited in an April 1 Marketplace article on whether economic growth will always rely on population growth. He said if one looks at the United States and France over the past 30 to 40 years, “the only reason that economic growth has been higher in the United States is because we have higher population growth than France does.”

Kaela Meyer, a senior psychology major and Husker Spirit Squad member, helped save a stranger’s life March 14 by performing CPR on him in the Applebee’s restaurant at Lincoln’s Gateway Mall. Stories on the incident appeared on KETV, KLKN and several other media outlets.

A “holy grail” long pursued by Husker physicists — a quantum material whose magnetic states could be altered by electric means alone, and above room temperature — could help herald the emergence of digital memory and processors that consume far less power, while potentially running even faster, than their modern-day counterparts. The team was led by Christian Binek, Peter Dowben and Alexei Gruverman, all physics and astronomy. ran an April 5 article on the research breakthrough.

Yufeng Ge, biological systems engineering, is part of a multi-institution team that has earned a three-year, $450,000 New Innovator Award from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to study and combat soil compaction on farms. Stories on the project appeared in Fruit Growers News, Seed Today and Vegetable Growers News.

Todd Whitney, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension, was featured in an April 6 Hay and Forage Grower article on grazing small grains. “Whether growing small grains or cover crops, grazing will be maximized if livestock producers wait until the plants are 4 to 8 inches tall before starting the grazing process,” he wrote in a recent UNL CropWatch article. “Then, stock the fields with enough animals to maintain plant heights between 6 and 12 inches.”

Researchers from the University of Nebraska and Creighton University will study the long-term effects pesticides have had on the environment, agriculture and people living near the AltEn Ethanol plant south of Mead, the Lincoln Journal Star, NET News and DTN Progessive Farmer reported. Dan Snow, a research professor at the Nebraska Water Center, called the scope and scale of the study “unprecedented.” The Journal Star story was picked up by six Nebraska media outlets.

The U.S. Drought Monitor — produced jointly by the university’s National Drought Mitigation Center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — was cited in an April 8 Boston Globe article on drought conditions in Massachusetts. More than 75% of the state was “abnormally dry,” according to the monitor. That was an increase of 23% from the previous week.

The U.S. Drought Monitor was cited in an April 14 CBS Los Angeles article on drought conditions in southern California. Both Los Angeles and Ventura counties recently went from the moderate to severe drought categories.

The monitor was referenced in an April 26 DTN Progressive Farmer article on the forage outlook for the central United States. Jerry Volesky, a Nebraska Extension range and forage specialist, was also featured in the story.

Mark Svoboda, director of the National Drought Mitigation Center, was interviewed for an April 26 Weather Channel story on drought conditions in the Northern Plains and Upper Midwest and how they might affect the upcoming growing season. “The prediction for this year is that the drought that we’re seeing so prevalent in the West is going to probably spread a little east,” he said.

The U.S. Drought Monitor was also cited in an April 26 CBS Los Angeles story on drought conditions in California. According to the monitor, nearly all of Los Angeles, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern counties were under extreme drought conditions, while Orange County was under a severe drought.

Nebraska business confidence surged again in March, according to the latest monthly survey from the university’s Bureau of Business Research. The Business Confidence Index-Nebraska rose from a value of 97.1 in February to 107.7 in March. Stories on the survey results appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star, Norfolk Daily News, Sidney Sun-Telegraph and Center Square.

P. Stephen Baenziger, agronomy and horticulture, retired May 3 after 35 years of service to the university. RFD-TV and Seed Today ran stories on Baenziger.

Jenn Sheppard, sports media and communication, moonlights as a professional dirt bike racer. RideApart published an April 12 article on Sheppard.

Andrea Basche, agronomy and horticulture, was interviewed for an April 14 Smithsonian Magazine article on a new study suggesting that the United States’ Corn Belt has lost about 35% of its topsoil. She said that estimate might be a little high and that verifying satellite modeling results on the ground by surveying soils in person is important. But she said the study is a unique use of geospatial data to address a difficult problem, and that could help raise the profile of erosion as a pressing environmental issue.

The Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film was recently featured in Variety’s annual list of the top 50 film schools and instructors in the world. The story was picked up by the Houston Chronicle,, Seattle Post-Intelligencer and a few other media outlets.

Jody Green, an urban entomologist with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for an April 15 KMTV story on ticks in Omaha. “Normally peak tick season is in May, but since we had warmer temperatures and more people were going outside, we had people talking about ticks and sending us pictures in the beginning of March,” she said. picked up the story.

Stevan Knezevic, agronomy and horticulture, and Megan Taylor, Nebraska Extension agronomist, were featured in an April 20 Successful Farming roundup titled “10 tips for planting season success.” Knezevic discussed weed management, and Taylor offered tips for taking advantage of technology.

Jessica Shoemaker, law, was quoted in an article in the March/April issue of Mother Jones on a growing movement of young Black Americans striving to reclaim their agricultural heritage. She said the Justice for Black Farmers Act in the U.S. Senate “is one step in a longer and desperately overdue reconciliation process in this country, and at least it is a start where there has been nothing for far too long. Even having this conversation at the federal level seemed impossible until a few months ago.”

Shoemaker will explore rural America’s challenges and opportunities as a 2021 Andrew Carnegie Fellow. She was included in an April 28 Forbes article on the new fellows. She was also featured in an April 29 KHGI/KFXL story.

A team led by Christopher Chizinski and Matthew Gruntorad, both School of Natural Resources, recently surveyed landowners in Holt and Cherry counties and found that about 60% would likely be willing to delay their hay harvesting until July 15 to boost bird populations. The study was featured in an April 21 blog entry by DTN Progressive Farmer’s Russ Quinn.

Research by Amit Jhala, agronomy and horticulture, and colleagues on herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth in soybeans was featured in an April 26 Ag Update article. “The main objective of our study was to determine the critical time of Palmer amaranth removal in soybeans and how it is affected by pre-emergence herbicide,” he said. “The weeds compete with the crop for nutrients, moisture, space and light. If they outcompete, there is large yield loss.”

Terry Howell, executive director of the Food Processing Center, was featured in an April 27 RFD-TV story on food safety. He said food companies follow strict safety guidelines set by the global food safety industry. “Those programs allow the companies to ensure that their ingredients are processed properly, that they use safe techniques when the products are on-site and that the products are then stored and handled properly afterward,” he said.

Laura Thompson, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension, discussed the Nebraska On-Farm Research Network during an April 27 segment on RFD-TV.

Josephine Potuto, law, was quoted in an April 28 Yahoo! Sports opinion piece on the NCAA extending President Mark Emmert’s contract. “Presidents and chancellors are smart, but they have a lot on their plates,” she said. “They think they understand college sports, but they don’t.”

The Weather Channel aired an April 29 story on the university’s Weather Ready Farms program. The program is designed to help ag producers prepare for and recover from extreme weather events.

James Tierney, law, was interviewed for an April 29 Mother Jones article on Robinhood. Tierney, a former SEC official, has studied the company’s model for a forthcoming paper. “Robinhood seems to be designed to create this pool of uninformed retail investors and serve them up on a platter to the market makers,” he said.

Trenton Franz, School of Natural Resources, and Daran Rudnick, biological systems engineering, co-authored a new study identifying obstacles and solutions to improve performance and adoption of irrigation decision support tools at the field scale. They are working on technology to fill this need and are testing it in irrigated fields in Nebraska. Stories on the research appeared in AgDaily, Brownfield Ag News, Seed Today and several other media outlets.

Chigozie Obioma, English, was included in a photo gallery titled “14 award-winning African authors you should know.”

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at
 If you have additions to this list, contact Sean Hagewood at or 402-472-8514. If you have suggestions for national news stories, contact Leslie Reed at or 402-472-2059.

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