Nebraska in the national news: March 2021

· 13 min read

Nebraska in the national news: March 2021

The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s National Drought Mitigation Center was recently featured in four national and international news stories on drought conditions in the American West and Southwest. The stories were among 50-plus featuring Husker faculty, staff, centers and programs during March.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor — produced jointly by the drought center, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture — was cited in a March 3 BBC News article comparing drought conditions at California’s Lake Oroville in 2011 and 2014. The monitor showed in December 2020 that much of the West was gripped by extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories. The story was picked up by Yahoo! News and a few other media outlets.

  • Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the drought center, was interviewed for a March 4 USA Today article on drought conditions in the West. About 90% of the region was either abnormally dry or in a drought in late February, according to the monitor. “By intensity, it would be about as bad as the U.S. Drought Monitor has shown in the last 20 years,” Fuchs said.

  • Fuchs was also interviewed for a March 9 Wall Street Journal story on drought conditions in the Southwest. He said the region has been mired in drought for much of the past two decades, with the latest brought on after one of the driest summers on record.

  • The U.S. Drought Monitor was featured in a March 24 Axios article. According to the monitor, nearly 40% of the West was in a state of extreme or exceptional drought, and barely 10% of the region was drought-free. Fuchs was quoted in the story.

  • The monitor was also cited in local stories related to drought in the Omaha World-Herald (March 17), Lincoln Journal Star (March 19) and Midwest Messenger (March 23).

More coverage:

The Water and Integrated Cropping Systems Hub is bringing together water experts from across the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Ag Update ran a March 1 article on the new hub.

Benny Mote, animal science, was quoted in a March 2 Pork magazine article on biosecurity concerns related to youth swine shows. “We are all on one team,” he said. “The industry needs the youth — we’re going to keep asking you to do the right thing, keep working on biosecurity and listen to the leaders before you.”

Yufeng Ge, biological systems engineering, appeared on a March 2 segment on RFD-TV. He discussed his research looking to better understand how a plant’s genetic makeup, or genome, affects its physical traits, or phenome.

Bill Watts, associate dean of undergraduate advising and career development, was interviewed for a March 3 Inside Higher Ed article on how college students feel about online job searches and interviews. The university has seen good engagement with the Handshake platform and virtual career fairs in the past year, he said. About 14,000 of the university’s 20,000 undergraduates have created Handshake accounts and are using the platform, he said.

A vaccine candidate developed by Eric Weaver, biological sciences, and colleagues has demonstrated signs of protection against an unprecedented range of swine flu strains, the likes of which drove pandemics in both 2009 and 1918. Stories on the research appeared in The Grand Island Independent, Science Codex, Scienmag and a few other media outlets.

Marco Abel, English and film studies, gave a recent interview to the Berliner Gazette. He discussed German filmmakers Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhäulser and Christian Petzold and how some of their films relate to Germany’s reunification and its aftermath, as well as the neoliberalization of post-Wall Germany.

Greg Ibach has joined the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources as its inaugural undersecretary-in-residence. Stories on his new role appeared in at least four Nebraska media outlets, including the Lincoln Journal Star, as well as BEEF magazine, Feedstuffs and National Hog Farmer.

Ibach discussed his new role during a March 23 segment on RFD-TV. He will use his federal experience with various agencies to increase IANR’s footprint nationally.

Ag Update published a March 4 article on the Jan. 28 webinar “Communicating with Farmers Under Stress,” hosted by Nebraska Extension and Michigan State University. The free webinar was also offered March 16 and will be offered again May 5. Presenters Jean Ann Fischer and Glennis McClure, both associate extension educators with Nebraska Extension, were featured in the article.

Paul Kononoff, animal science, was interviewed for a March 5 Inside Science article on companies creating lab-grown dairy products. He said cows not only produce greenhouse gases, but excrete a lot of nitrogen and phosphorous, which end up in lakes and rivers and cause excessive algae growth. He said he isn’t yet convinced that lab milk is as nutritious as dairy products from animals and wants to see robust studies that compare the two types.

The Clifton Strengths Institute at Nebraska has selected 50 students to serve as new strengths coaches for the 2021-22 academic year. The Clay County News, Grand Island Independent, North Platte Post, Wahoo Newspaper and Daily Southtown ran articles on new strengths coaches from their areas.

Katrina Jagodinsky, history, was interviewed for a March 7 USA Today article on York, an enslaved Black man who was part of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark’s expedition in the early 1800s. Jagodinsky said Clark spoke of York “in disparaging ways.” Clark suggesting that York was not equipped for freedom is an “indication of Clark’s sort of lingering racism — something he held for the remainder of his life,” she said.

A new study led by Rajib Saha, chemical and biomolecular engineering, suggests that nonflex-fuel vehicles could burn E-30 ethanol blends and get performance comparable to E-10 or E-15 blends. Stories on the research appeared in about two dozen Nebraska media outlets, including the Omaha World-Herald, as well as DTN Progressive Farmer.

A team of international researchers led by Michigan State University has received a five-year, $1 million grant from the USDA’s Data Science for Food and Agricultural Systems program to build a precision livestock farming network, Nebraska Farmer, National Hog Farmer and Western Livestock Journal reported. Husker faculty members Tami Brown-Brandl, biological systems engineering, and Eric Psota, electrical and computer engineering, will assist from the USDA’s Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center.

Jody Green, an urban entomologist with Nebraska Extension, wrote a March 9 article on the soybean gall midge for Entomology Today. Found nowhere else in the world, the insect has emerged as a major pest of soybean in the north-central United States. Justin McMechan, entomology, who has worked with growers, consultants and researchers to gather information on the insect, was featured in the article.

The university is moving forward with plans to return to near-normal, pre-pandemic activity levels on campus in the fall 2021 semester, Chancellor Ronnie Green announced in a March 5 message to campus. The announcement also noted that UNL Dining Services will proceed with lifting restrictions at the end of the current spring semester while keeping within any existing health measures and university policies. Food Management highlighted the announcement in its 5 Things roundup on March 9.

Sidnie White Crawford, professor emeritus of classics and religious studies, was cited in a March 10 New York Times story on a new scholarly article and companion book by Israeli-American scholar Idan Dershowitz claiming that a manuscript discovered in 1883 — long dismissed as a forgery — is actually the oldest known Biblical manuscript. Without the original fragments, Crawford said, Dershowitz’s arguments can’t be proved or disproved, so they “must remain a footnote in the scholarly discussion of the origins of Deuteronomy.”

Crawford was also quoted in a March 22 Live Science article on the topic.

Valerie Jones, advertising and public relations, is studying whether voice-controlled assistants such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home can decrease loneliness in older people. Stories on the research appeared in six Nebraska media outlets, including AARP Nebraska, and more than 20 others.

Tom Field, director of the university’s Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program, was recently the featured guest on Farm Marketer’s Impact Farming show. The episode was titled “Reimagine Going Back to the Farm.”

Ben Beckman, assistant extension educator with Nebraska Extension, wrote a recent article on considerations for replacing alfalfa stands. Ag Update and Nebraska Farmer ran the article.

Business expectations moderated in February, according to the latest monthly survey from the university’s Bureau of Business Research. The expectations component of the Business Confidence Index-Nebraska fell from a value of 119.3 in January to 111.7 in February. The Lincoln Journal Star and The Center Square published articles on the survey results.

John Fech, Nebraska Extension educator, wrote a March 11 article for GCM highlighting 10 functions of golf course trees. “It’s a common tendency to regard trees and shrubs as aesthetic features, but there’s much, much more to them than just good looks,” he wrote. “Sure, trees add color, texture, verticality, depth and appeal in all seasons, but there’s also a functional dimension to tree placement on a golf course.”

The university has received a grant from the United States Golf Association to create new cultivars of buffalo grass that require fewer resources to deliver satisfactory playing conditions. The project was highlighted in Golf Business News, Golf Content Network and Golf Wire articles.

Stephen Ramsay, English, has contributed to the new essay collection “Further Reading.” In it, he argues that in the era of machine reading, it is we who are “read by the minute” by algorithmic technologies. The Times Literary Supplement published a March 12 review of the book.

Michael Hoff, art history, was quoted in a March 12 Wine Spectator article on a 1,500-year-old wine press discovered in 2012 in the ruins of a temple at Antochia ad Cragum in southern Turkey. “The production of wine appears to have been one of the more robust industries in [Antiochia],” said Hoff, excavation director of the Antiochia ad Cragum Archaeological Research Project.

Husker researchers have developed a machine-learning model that, given just the DNA sequence of a single plant species, can predict how another’s genes will turn off and on in the face of freezing temperatures. The predictions could fast-track efforts to engineer cold resistance into cold-sensitive crops. Stories on the research appeared in The North Platte Telegraph, Scottsbluff Star-Herald and Seed World.

Justin “Gus” Hurwitz, law, director of the Nebraska Governance and Technology Center, was cited in a March 12 Law360 analysis of a forthcoming U.S. Supreme Court opinion on whether the FCC was justified in relaxing its media ownership rules. “It’s pretty hard for me to imagine the FCC not winning this case based on the questioning and the skepticism across the board from several justices,” he said. “The Third Circuit’s position is really pretty untenable, imposing obligations on the FCC that go beyond the requirements of administrative law.

Nebraska’s Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education recently approved the establishment of the Center for Agricultural Profitability within the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. The new interdisciplinary center will facilitate faculty research, conduct outreach related to agricultural profitability and train undergraduate and graduate students. Stories on the new center appeared in five Nebraska media outlets, including the Scottsbluff-Star-Herald, as well as Ag Update.

John Anderson, economics, was interviewed for a March 15 Center Square article on tax reform in Nebraska. He said reducing reliance on property taxes and extending the sales tax base can be easier said than done. “If you rely less on the local property tax to fund schools, you rely more on state funding and that has its complications in regard to local control of schools,” he said. “This is a long-standing issue in Nebraska.”

The university’s Weather Ready Farms program was featured in a March 17 Successful Farming article. Weather Ready Farms is a one- or two-year program that helps lower a farmer’s risk to weather losses. It determines what vulnerabilities on the farm can be addressed to better protect land, crops and finances against weather extremes. Ashley Mueller, associate extension educator with Nebraska Extension, was interviewed for the story.

Nicole Buan, biochemistry, and colleagues have genetically engineered a species of methanogen that can also yield sizable amounts of isoprene, the primary chemical component of synthetic rubber. That isoprene production substantially outpaces the yields of other microorganisms engineered for the same purpose. and ran articles on the research.

Ajai Ammachathram, nutrition and health sciences, was interviewed for a March 19 CNBC story on the American custom of tipping. “I have rarely seen a server making a ton of money and being rich,” he said. “The unfortunate situation is that uncertainty. … Tipping is a curse and a blessing at the same time for employees.”

Kelsy Burke, sociology, co-wrote a March 19 article for the Religion News Service on evangelical men and the rhetoric of porn addiction, and how it relates to the recent mass shooting in Atlanta. “Given (suspect Robert) Long’s exposure to Christian porn addiction recovery rhetoric, it likely contributed to his claim that his out-of-control sex addiction fueled his atrocious violence,” the article stated. “But we should make no mistake that it was the toxic combination of racism and misogyny that exists both within evangelicalism and broader American culture that compelled him.”

Burke was also interviewed for a March 20 Business Insider article on how the shooting shows the dangers of American evangelicalism’s trademark “purity culture.” “In addiction recovery programs, the blame is rarely directed at men themselves. It’s directed at the obscure sexual secular culture, the pornography industry,” she said. “In the case of Mr. Long, these messages clearly, for multiple reasons, went sort of sideways.” Yahoo News picked up the story.

Frans von der Dunk, space law, was interviewed for a March 22 BBC News Russia article on the international race to claim lunar resources. He said the ideal way to introduce a new set of space regulations would be through a unanimously agreed-upon, U.N.-approved treaty, but that it’s hardly a realistic option since such negotiations would take decades. “The realistic choice is between doing nothing at all and initially unilateral initiatives,” he said.

Jay Storz and Anthony Signore, both biological sciences, and colleagues have resurrected two ancient versions of hemoglobin, demonstrating how the blood of penguins evolved to help them better hold their breath while hunting for seafood. Stories on the research appeared in ScienceDaily, Scienmag and a few other media outlets.

Galen Erickson, animal science, was interviewed for a March 23 Popular Science article on a new study led by scientists at the University of California at Davis showing that adding a small amount of dried red seaweed to the feed of beef steers reduced their methane production during digestion by over 80%. “I’m intrigued by what is the impact on performance, because that will be very important for adoption …” he said. “It’d be great if it didn’t have any negative impacts on performance and then just only positive impacts on methane.”

UNL Campus Recreation’s new Sleep Program was featured in Campus Rec Magazine on March 23. Steve Woita, assistant director for fitness and wellness, and Jennifer Beres, graduate assistant for wellness, were interviewed for the story.

Casey Kelly, communications studies, author of the new book “Apocalypse Man,” was the featured guest on a recent episode of the Norco 80 podcast. He discussed survivalism’s enduring allure, from pioneer days to prepper conventions.

The Lied Center for Performing Arts is featured prominently throughout the National Endowment for the Arts report “The Art of Reopening: A Guide to Current Practices Among Arts Organizations During COVID-19.” The venue is one of the few in the nation to offer robust programming — both in-person and online — amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

A four-year research project led by Patricio Grassini, agronomy and horticulture, suggests that keeping up with palm oil demand doesn’t necessarily mean converting more valuable, fragile ecosystems into agricultural land. According to research published March 25 in Nature Sustainability, palm oil yields on existing farms and plantations could be greatly increased with improved management practices. Stories on the research appeared in the Environmental News Network,, Science Codex and a few other media outlets.

Grassini also discussed the research during a March 30 segment on RFD-TV.

Connor Biehler, assistant extension educator with Nebraska Extension, wrote a recent article offering tips for buying a new bull. Ag Update ran the article March 27.

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