Nebraska in the national news: June 2022

· 9 min read

Nebraska in the national news: June 2022

Two Husker faculty were featured in major news stories on a recent study that may shed light on how prehistoric animals migrated. The articles were among 45-plus national news stories featuring Husker faculty, staff, students, centers and programs in June.

Ross Secord, associate professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at Nebraska, and colleagues at the University of Cincinnati and University of Michigan used a geochemical process on a tusk to determine the migration patterns of the Buesching mastodon, discovered near Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1998. Stories on the research appeared in Discover and several other media outlets.

“The result that is unique to this study is that for the first time, we’ve been able to document the annual overland migration of an individual from an extinct species,” said Joshua Miller, the study’s lead author and University of Cincinnati paleoecologist, in a news release.

“Using new modeling techniques and a powerful geochemical toolkit, we’ve been able to show that large male mastodons, like Buesching, migrated every year to the mating grounds,” he said.

Kate Lyons, assistant professor of biological sciences at Nebraska, was interviewed for a June 22 Atlantic article on the study. She discussed the extinctions of large mammals caused by the arrival of humans.

“If you look at the selectivity of the extinctions at the end of the Pleistocene, what you see is that every time Homo sapiens arrive in a new landmass, the average body size of mammals there drops, usually by an order of magnitude or more,” she said. “Going into an area and killing large-bodied mammals and driving them to extinction actually seems to be a signature of our species.” picked up the story.

More coverage:

The Washington Informer published a June 2 article on “The Bell Affair,” the latest film from Kwakiutl Dreher, English; William G. Thomas III, history; and Michael Burton, art and design. The film, which chronicles an enslaved family’s fight for freedom, made its public premiere June 2.

Susan Swearer, educational psychology, was interviewed for a June 2 Scripps Media story on how to recognize mental health needs in teenagers. She encouraged parents to get to know their teens well, to have conversations with them when there are noticeable changes in mood and behavior and to be persistent.

Frans von der Dunk, space law, was interviewed for the June 2 episode of The Wall Street Journal’s Tech News Briefing podcast, titled “Space Rules: Who’s in Charge in Space?”

Von der Dunk was also a guest on the Attwood Unleashed Podcast featuring Shaun Attwood on June 16. Von der Dunk discussed the commercialization and militarization of outer space.

Elizabeth Niehaus, educational administration, was interviewed for a June 2 Inside Higher Ed article on a new survey conducted by Heterodox Academy showing that student reluctance to speak freely on campus rose from 2019 to 2021. Niehaus questioned whether the answers to the survey paint a true picture of what the students believe. “I do think the dominant narrative is about politics — it’s about Republican or conservative students being silenced on campus,” she said. “But I have doubts about whether it reflects reality or if it creates the reality.”

Niehaus was also interviewed for a June 6 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education on the rebranded free-speech group Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression. She said robust, productive engagement of different ideas is rarely modeled in politics or the media. “If FIRE can do something to create more productive dialogue off campus in ways that is then modeled to students, I think that would be awesome,” she said.

Noori Choi, a recent doctoral graduate of Nebraska; Eileen Hebets, biological sciences; and colleagues have found that females of the Schizocosa stidulans spider seem to reward males that produce more complex mating signals. Stories on the research appeared in the Daily Mail,, the Independent, Live Science, ScienceAlert and Yahoo! News.

A study by Hebets; Steven Schwartz, a former doctoral student at Nebraska; and William Wagner Jr., professor emeritus of biological sciences, was highlighted in a June 4 Wall Street Journal article titled “Solving the evolutionary mystery of cannibal spiders.” The researchers discovered that female dark fishing spiders that devoured their mates produced spiderlings that were nearly 20% larger and survived about 50% longer. When a female instead dined on a cricket after copulation, the effect disappeared.

Victoria Donovan, agronomy and horticulture, was quoted in a June 7 NPR photo story on a recent prescribed burn by the Loess Canyon Rangeland Alliance in south-central Nebraska. “Fire is an important and natural process in grassland ecosystems …,” Donovan said. “We can coexist with fire by embracing controlled burns to manage grassland landscapes.” The story was picked up by 30-plus media outlets nationwide.

Jennifer Ryan, supply chain management and analytics, was interviewed for a June 7 Marketplace story on retailers having too much inventory of certain items as the lockdown lifestyle fades. Inflation aside, people are starting to spend their money differently than they did during the height of the pandemic, Ryan said, with items such as home goods and casual clothing in less demand. The story was picked up by 60-plus media outlets.

Clint Krehbiel, animal science, was interviewed for a June 7 segment on RFD-TV. He discussed the Nebraska Meat Science Technology and Innovation Center, a new initiative to strengthen and support the state’s livestock producers and processors.

David Boxler, Nebraska Extension, shared three ways to keep the most prevalent flies off pastured animals for a June 9 Successful Farming article.

Patrice McMahon, political science, director of the University Honors Program, wrote a June 10 piece for The Conversation titled “What ‘grassroots humanitiarian’ eager to travel to Ukraine or its borders should know before dashing off.” It was picked up by 20-plus media outlets, including the Houston Chronicle and Yahoo! News.

Andrea Basche, agronomy and horticulture, was interviewed for a June 12 BBC Future article on how to turn one’s garden into a carbon sink. Healthy soil offsets emissions by soaking up carbon from dead plant matter, the article stated. “I compare it to a carbon checking and savings account,” Basche said. “You need a constant input of decaying plant matter and roots into the soil checking account to feed all the living organisms.”

John Fech, Nebraska Extension, wrote a June 15 article for Golf Course Management on how to manage the competition for water between trees and turf on golf courses.

Husker alumna Chelsea Luthy launched her snack food company, Meat and Complete LLC, with help from the university’s Combine, Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program and Food Processing Center, Meat + Poultry reported June 15.

Qi (Steve) Hu, Earth and atmospheric sciences, co-authored a recent study showing that desert climates have spread north by up to 62 miles in parts of central Asia since the 1980s. Nature published a June 16 article on the research.

Conceived by Husker faculty and developed by undergrads, Prairie Protector is helping high schoolers learn about the invasive eastern redcedar tree — by giving them a chance to eradicate it from digital grasslands. Stories on the video game appeared in KOLN/KGIN, the North Platte Telegraph, Fence Post and High Plains Journal.

In a recent study, Greg Somerville, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences; Robert Powers, chemistry; and colleagues have shown that serum, a component of blood, can blunt the effectiveness of an antibiotic used to combat staph infection. ran a June 17 article on the research.

Researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed a new photonic device that could get scientists closer to the “holy grail” of finding the global minimum of mathematical formulations at room temperature. Finding that illusive mathematical value would be a major advancement in opening new options for simulations involving quantum materials. ran a June 17 article on the research.

Oasis Street Food, an Iowa-based hummus company, worked with the university’s Food Processing Center, which provided assistance with ingredients and shelf life, before opening a second Oasis Falafel in Omaha in 2018. The Cedar Rapids Gazette published a June 19 story on the company expanding to eastern Nebraska.

Hiep Vu, animal science, and Scott McVey, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, are working to catalog a pig’s protective proteins against the lethal African swine fever. Their work could lead to new breakthroughs in fighting the disease. Stories on the research appeared in KHGI/KFXL/KPTM, the Rural Radio Network, Feedstuffs, The Fence Post, National Hog Farmer and Pork magazine.

Caleb Fangmeier, detector lab manager in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, was highlighted in a June 21 Symmetry article on young people who were inspired by the discovery of the Higgs boson to pursue careers in science and technology. As a student, he stayed up until 2 a.m. to tune in to the big announcement in 2012.

Monique Farmer, advertising and public relations, wrote a recent article for the Public Relations Society of America offering seven tips for PR professionals to improve their health and well-being.

Husker researchers are working with colleagues from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, University of Maryland, BlueHalo Company and Resonant Sciences on a project to test facial and whole-body recognition from far-off sensors. Biometric Update published a June 22 article on the research. KLKN aired a similar story June 27.

Susan Harris, Nebraska Extension, and Amanda Prokasky, assistant professor of education and child development at the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Munroe-Meyer Institute, recently completed a pilot project to determine the need for and value of educational interventions to improve sleep among agricultural workers to avoid accidents and injuries. Stories on the project appeared in the Rural Radio Network, Beef magazine and Feedstuffs.

Dawn O. Braithwaite, professor emerita of communication studies, was a featured guest on the June 22 episode of KQED’s “San Francisco Forum” on chosen kin.

Charlotte Narjes, a specialist with the Nebraska Cooperative Development Center, was interviewed for a June 28 segment on RFD-TV. She discussed the center’s efforts to keep grocery stores open in small towns across Nebraska.

In a June 29 Roll Call article, John Hibbing, political science, offered analysis about Republican Mike Flood’s election to the uncompleted congressional term of Jeff Fortenberry, who resigned after being convicted of lying to authorities about illegal campaign contributions. Flood defeated Democrat Patty Pansing Brooks in a special election.

Erkut Sönmez, supply chain management and analytics, was interviewed for a June 30 Politico article on the cost of meat, eggs and other edible items at the grocery store driving historic inflation. “We will need to increase our food production, at least double it, in the next 30 or 50 years because demand is increasing,” he said. Factors such as extended droughts, natural disasters, fresh water scarcity and ballooning land prices are all straining farmers’ ability to produce at needed levels and contributing to increased costs, Sönmez said.

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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