Nebraska in the national news: July 2023

· 6 min read

Nebraska in the national news: July 2023

A University of Nebraska–Lincoln study showing that microwaving plastic containers releases a huge number of plastic particles made national and international headlines in July. The articles were among 30-plus national news stories featuring Husker faculty, staff, students, administrators, centers and programs during the month.

The new study by Kazi Albab Hussain, a doctoral student in civil and environmental engineering, and colleagues at Nebraska showed that microwaving plastic containers available from U.S. stores released, in some cases, more than 2 billion nanoplastics and 4 million microplastics for every square centimeter of container.

Though the health effects of consuming micro- and nanoplastics remain unclear, the team further found that three-quarters of cultured embryonic kidney cells had died after two days of being introduced to those same particles. A 2022 report from the World Health Organization recommended limiting exposure to such particles.

“It is really important to know how many micro- and nanoplastics we are taking in,” said Hussain, the study’s lead author. “When we eat specific foods, we are generally informed or have an idea about their caloric content, sugar levels, other nutrients. I believe it’s equally important that we are aware of the number of plastic particles present in our food.”

Stories on the study appeared in KLKN, the Omaha World-Herald, The Times of India, The U.S. Sun, The Weather Channel, The Week, Wired and dozens of other media outlets.

Additional national news coverage in July includes:

A projected rise in droughts could muddy the waters for painted turtles and some fellow freshwater-dwelling reptiles, says 11 years of data collected by 50-plus Husker undergrads. Two recent studies based on the data suggest that drought can lower the survival odds, slow the growth and even skew the ratio of female-to-male painted turtles inhabiting the ponds of the Cornhusker State. Larkin Powell, School of Natural Resources, oversaw the studies. The Omaha World-Herald, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and published articles on the research.

Kelsy Burke, sociology, and Emily Kazyak, sociology and women’s and gender studies, co-wrote a July 3 piece for The Conversation on 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis and other recent federal cases involving religious beliefs and LGBTQ+ people’s rights. “The latest Supreme Court rulings make it seem as if cases that deal with plaintiffs’ faith are usually successful in federal courts,” they wrote. “More broadly, however, the opposite is true.”

Burke co-wrote a July 7 opinion piece for Religion News Service titled “LGBTQ+ Americans are more religious than our Supreme Court battles let on.” In early June, Burke and colleagues surveyed 1,255 LGBTQ+ adults in the United States to explore and compare their beliefs, attitudes and experiences. “Our findings suggest that the relationships LGBTQ+ people have with religion are more complicated than most media headlines portray,” they wrote. and a few other media outlets picked up the story.

Burke also wrote a July 27 guest column for The Washington Post titled “Feminists have long supported trans rights.” “Feminists have debated over time whether and how to support LGBTQ rights, but they have never as a whole — neither today, nor in the past — discriminated in large measure against trans people and their allies,” she wrote. (This article requires a subscription.)

RFD-TV aired a July 5 story on the university’s Pesticide Container Recycling Program. The program’s coordinator, Jennifer Weisbrod, was interviewed for the story.

NU Horizon Genetics is now a supplier of Husker-developed small grain seed varieties to seed growers and affiliates. Stories on the new development appeared in Nebraska Ag Connection, the North Platte Post, North Platte Telegraph, Farm Progress, SeedQuest and Seed Today.

Julie Peterson, entomology, was interviewed for a July 13 National Geographic article on the world of bugs being filled with lookalike species. “A lot of times these insects are trying to trick us and others around them on purpose. There’s all sorts of different types of mimicry” among Earth’s 900,000 known insect species, she said.

A new grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will help the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture and University of Nebraska–Lincoln provide workforce development training for Nebraska’s meat processing industry. Stories on the grant have appeared in the McCook Gazette, North Platte Telegraph, Rural Radio Network, Feedstuffs and Meat+Poultry.

Inside Higher Ed published a July 14 article on Husker Dialogues, an event each fall where first-year students at Nebraska gather together to learn about community, inclusivity and building communication skills. Charlie Foster, assistant vice chancellor for inclusive student excellence and event chair, was interviewed for the story.

Jenny Rees, Nebraska Extension educator, was quoted in a July 14 Harvest Public Media story on recent rains bringing hope to ag producers in the Midwest and Great Plains. Rees said the region began summer with a lack of soil moisture unlike anything she’d witnessed. “I’ve never seen a year where we started the season with no subsoil moisture,” she said. “Even in the 2012 drought, we had a bit of a head-start with some subsoil moisture. This year is at a whole other level because we didn’t have that.”

Jim Jansen, agricultural systems economist with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for a July 18 segment on RFD-TV. He discussed the most recent Nebraska Farm Real Estate Report, which shows a 14% increase in the value of Nebraska farmland since 2022.

Kait Chapman, an urban entomologist with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for a July 23 article on ticks. She recommended preventing tick bites by covering one’s skin and tucking the bottom of one’s pants into one’s socks. She also recommended throwing clothes into a running dryer for at least 30 minutes after being outdoors.

An academic article by Rose Holz, women’s and gender studies, was featured in a July 24 Smithsonian Magazine article on Robert Latou Dickinson’s Birth Series sculptures, which drew large crowds at the 1939-1940 World’s Fair in New York City. “The installation attracted long lines every day from 10 in the morning to 10 at night,” she wrote. “Neither rain nor shine stopped the crowds from coming; nor did the occasional stampede. … By one account, 700,000 people had viewed it in 1939 alone.”

Mike Boehm, Harlan Vice Chancellor for IANR and vice president for agriculture and natural resources at the University of Nebraska system, was interviewed for a July 25 Inside Higher Ed article on how the farm bill could affect higher education. “In order for us to stay ahead and be competitive, we need to put a focus on ag innovation and funding for ag research and ag infrastructure, and then extending that knowledge to the people of the world,” he said. “That’s what the farm bill is all about.”

Faculty, administration, student and staff appearances in the national media are logged at If you have additions to the 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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