CALS interns grow partnerships across NY


Five CALS students spent their summer interning with businesses, non-profit organizations and government agencies across New York. The students polished their professional skills while also providing a boost to upstate communities, many of which are struggling to attract and retain young professionals.

The NYS Internship Program, now in its second year, is a collaboration between CALS and the Community and Regional Development Institute.

On Thursday the students gave poster presentations that detailed their efforts and also outlined steps to further engage with the communities that hosted them.

From Adam Friedlander’s work with Müller Quaker Dairy in Batavia—where he tested yogurt to ensure a safe, delicious product—to Shannon Bush’s role in helping organize a farmer’s market through the City of Amsterdam Department of Community and Economic Development, all five students cultivated local partnerships that will continue to grow when next year’s interns visit the same communities and build upon the work of their peers.

The cow who ran away with the spoon

Once a cow has jumped over the moon, it is hard to stay put.

Our favorite cow, Cornelia, has had her share of adventures since landing the role of Cornell Dairy spokescow in 2001. Not satisfied with her public appearances and photo ops, the restless cow longed for travel and adventure.

As described in this amusing post on the Department of Food Science site, her first brief stint away from Stocking Hall came in August 2003, when she disappeared for a few weeks before taking shelter with her sisters in the Dairy Paddock. She still won’t discuss her whereabouts during that time, but the experience inspired her to hunker down for awhile with her calf, Cal. Wanderlust kicked in again three years later, when she took another trip, and was found a few months later, dazed and confused, without dear Cal, on the Hoy Field pitcher’s mound. The adventurous tot returned home, looking not a day older, in early March 2010. Cornelia had companions on her next trip - to Los Angeles with President David Skorton in March of 2011 and the team paired up again in the Got Milk? Mustache campaign soon after. They added CALS Dean Kathryn Boor to the mix and Cornelia shared her love of travel and the limelight with the dean. 

She is now seeking new travel companions: you!
Cornelia lovers are being invited to download a miniature version of the CALS cow to take with them wherever they go - to a class or lab, on field trips and internships, explorations of parts of campus  that she has not yet visited, to club or volunteer events, sightseeing around Ithaca and the country - maybe even the world.

Snap a shot and send to Louise Felker (, who is organizing a contest for best photo, or share on the food science Facebook page.

New wine from Cornell’s latest grape variety


You helped give it a name, and now ­Finger Lakes winery Goose Watch will be helping new Cornell variety Aromella make a name for itself, by releasing the first wine pressed from the great grape.

Aromella was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1976 from a cross between two other grapes, Traminette and Ravat 34 under the name NY-76.0844.24. It was first planted in 1978, named in 2013, and until now has not been released as a varietal labeled wine anywhere in the country.

Aromella is a “winter hardy” grape and should result in high productivity within the Finger Lakes as it has sustained temperatures as low as -16F. It has thrived for nine years in vineyards owned by the Peterson family located on Route 414, about a mile up from Cayuga Lake. The family has collaborated closely with Cornell, using some of its vineyards to help test promising varieties and offering feedback which has helped determine whether the new selections will become commercially named and released.

Goose Watch owner Dave Peterson said he is anxious to offer this new varietal to consumers at their Romulus tasting room. He describes it as an aromatic semi-dry white wine that boasts some of the favored flavors from the Muscat grape used in the trending Moscatos, such as peaches and tropical fruits, but with less sweetness which is not typical for these flavors.

"We are the first winery in the nation to produce a varietal Aromella, which is fitting given our philosophy to ‘take the less traveled road’ and to make varietal wines that are out of the mainstream," he added. 

Goose Watch Winery is located at 5480 Route 89 in Romulus, NY on the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail with a satellite tasting room on Main Street in Lake Placid, N.Y. For more information about Goose Watch Winery and the wines they produce, click here.

How do beaks and talons help birds eat different kinds of food? Students from Cornell’s Naturalist Outreach program teamed up with their peers at Ithaca College’s Park Media Lab to create a lively tour of the remarkable diversity of bird feeding adaptations. The video garnered national attention when it won an award at the 2014 Broadcast Educational Association Annual Festival of Media Arts in the student instructional/ educational video category. It is part of a series of 20 short videos about different aspects of biodiversity, ecology and behavior aimed for elementary and middle school students

CALS provides a landscape for collaboration


The grounds of Cornell are fertile for cross-pollination, as landscape architecture lecturer Michele Palmer has discovered. In a guest post on the Landscape Architecture Foundation blog, Palmer describes how a Case Study Investigation (CSI) program to evaluate and document the performance of three exemplary landscape projects in Upstate New York has led her to make unexpected connections across campus.

"My research assistant Muj Powell and I are not biologists, social scientists, civil engineers or soil scientists, but there was a good chance that we could find all of those disciplines and many more among my colleagues at Cornell University." 

University architect David Cutter was able to provide some initial leads, suggesting they meet with researchers he knew who were studying topics such as soil health, pollinators, the functioning of bio-retention filters, small mammal habitat and more. Soon the duo were meeting with horticulture professor Nina Bassuk to learn about her innovative soil improvement work. Biological and environmental engineer Todd Walter shared some of his research on water quality basin function, and bee researcher Laura Russo discussed strategies for conducting insect counts. Plantations education director Sonja Skelly even pitched in with insights into surveying visitors.

"In a university the size of Cornell, it is virtually impossible to grasp the breadth of research being conducted, but these personal, word-of-mouth referrals have led us down paths we would not likely have considered, broadening our studies, increasing the rigor, and enriching the already rewarding experience of conducting the case studies."

Proud pomology major takes the helm of CALSAA


The CALS Alumni Association is welcoming a new president for the 2014-15 academic year: Peter S. Schott ‘81.

The second-generation owner of the Rochester-based engineering and manufacturing company XLI Corporation, which serves customers in defense and medical diagnostic equipment industries, was actually a horticulturist at Cornell. He majored in pomology and has fond memories of his courses with professors Robert Way and John Tomkins.

“I can still see and hear Dr. Tomkins introducing himself on the first day of class, speaking as he wrote his name on the board, ‘Tomkins, that’s just like the county but without the P’,” Schott said. “At the end of the spring semester he invited the whole class to his home for a picnic and tour of his garden.”

Upon graduation, Schott maintained his Cornell connection through Monroe County Cornell Cooperative Extension, where he is a Master Gardener volunteer and served for several years as a trustee of the Extension Foundation of Monroe County.  He also participated as a speaker on a panel at the 2013 Entrepreneurship at Cornell event, and served as a Rochester area representative for the CALS Alumni Association before assuming its presidency.

Professionally, Schott has experience with all aspects of running a small tech company, as well as growing businesses via economic development programs such as Empire State Development and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). He is also committed to sharing his knowledge. He is a director for High Tech Rochester - an organization that promotes new business formation, development and growth in the Finger Lakes region, and operates two business incubator facilities – and a former president of the Rochester chapter of the National Tooling and Machining Association.

Schott also serves on the Perkins Advisory Committee at Monroe Community College, which provides guidance to the college’s trustees in awarding Perkins federal grants for programs that help support student success.

When he’s not tooling around the garden or fixing up his Rochester home with wife Mary Jane Tasciotti, Schott can be found making music or attending events with the Cornell Club of Rochester.

“I am always happy to sing the alma mater and will do so without hesitation at the drop of a hat,” Schott said.

Students help us see what we’re missing

The Blue-winged Racquet-tail, of the Sulu Archipelago, is one of the rare, critically endangered birds with no eBird record...yetAs of early June 2014, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird citizen science project has collected records for an amazing 10,358 species of birds since it started in 2002 — representing roughly 96 percent of the world’s bird species. By investigating the 4 percent that have yet to be recorded in eBird, two Cornell undergraduates - Andrew Dreelin and Reid Rumelt — have created a snapshot of the most isolated, threatened and under-studied birds in the world, including 84 believed to be extinct.They were also able to identify global “dark spots,” or areas with high concentrations of understudied and threatened species, by analyzing the distributions of the species on the list that are extant in the wild. The students hope their analysis will demonstrate why gathering distribution and abundance data for these species is highly desirable from a conservation standpoint, and help inform future conservation efforts. As they write, “Science is built on data, and these species are in desperate need of it.”

For birders up to the ultimate challenge, the list of elusive 422 birds can be downloaded here.

There’s nothing we love more here at CALS Notes than cool time lapse videos, and luckily we are not the only ones. Merry mycologist Kathie Hodge has some amazing videos on her Cornell Mushroom Blog (be sure to check out one of our favorite experiments of all time, HAIRY HOMER).

The videos (and accompanying text) are as enlightening as they are entertaining. We’ve all heard of sea stars, but earth stars? Who knew?

Fungi are lively things, but (like this blog) you can seldom spot them moving. That’s why we like time lapse videos here on the Cornell Mushroom Blog, to hurry things along a bit. Our fungus of the day barely needs speeding up — pleasingly, it’ll do its thing while I share a cup of tea with visitors at my lab table. Drop one in water and in ten minutes it unfolds, revealing a plump center that you can puff with a poke. As it dries, it slowly closes up, ready for teatime tomorrow. A small wonder.

Learn more about these fascinating funghi - and whether they work well pickled - by reading the original post

We recently stumbled upon a beauty of a blog that transported us back to summer and gave us a glimpse of one of CALS’s hidden gems: the Celia Thaxter Garden on Appledore Island, the home of Shoals Marine Lab off the coast of New Hampshire. Written by a graduate fellow in the Public Garden Leadership Program who came the field of horticulture via the humanities and spent the summer as a horticultural intern on the island, the blog is full of poetic prose that is almost as beautiful as the blooms it showcases.

I like to stand in a far corner of the garden, where a giant white rugosa rosebush arches over my head. From there the sea and sky stretch out before me, shimmering with the pearly light of early evening, made all the brighter from my shadowy perch. A papery blossom catches my eye. Hovering over the horizon like a billowing sail caught in mid-air, it stirs in my mind’s eye the memory of other such blossoms from early June — then harbingers of summer yet to come. Did the rosebush know that its cotton-white blooms would return at summer’s end? This second, unexpected flowering is perhaps even more precious than the first, as a gentle proclamation of tenacity and rebirth.

Young NestWatcher has spark


When a wildfire broke out in the forest near Alec Wyatt’s Colorado home in June 2013, the 15-year-old was nearly as concerned about bird homes as his own. As reported in the latest newsletter from Lab of O citizen science project NestWatch, the young birder detailed the harrowing experience in a 150-page book he wrote.

Just as the numerous eggs inside the nest boxes are preparing to hatch, disaster strikes the Black Forest. A destructive wildfire is ravaging the woods, destroying large swaths of habitat and homes. Ignited early in the afternoon of June 11, an uncontrollable wildfire is raging toward my nest box trail. I was forced to evacuate my home as a massive smoke plume engulfed my beloved woods. The fire continues to grow, and I feel helpless as I watch my forest burn. I fear many things from this fire, but utmost is my fear for the 63 eggs on my nest box trail so close to hatching. As I write now, I watch from a hotel window helicopters and planes dumping slurry and water into the hazy smoke plume. The entire city smells like smoke. I fear now that my efforts to provide the birds of Colorado safe places to raise their young were ended in only a few days of destruction. I do not know if the nest boxes still stand.

The story has a happy ending for the birds. When Alec was allowed to return to the evacuated area 15 days later, he discovered 47 healthy baby birds, growing rapidly within the smoky nest boxes.

All 36 boxes survived the blaze, even though some sustained damage. I could not believe my eyes as I discovered box after box unharmed, even though the land beneath them and around them was charred. In many cases, healthy nestlings were being raised in boxes scorched by flames. That means the parent birds tended their nests even as the fire burned underneath their eggs.”

Alec came to the Lab of Ornithology for the 2014 Young Birder’s Event held in July. He had earned a coveted seat among 16 of the most promising young ornithologists around the world. Earlier this year, he took home the American Birding Association’s 2014 Young Birder of the Year award. He is now working with NestWatch to analyze his data on nesting success on the trail before, during, and after the Black Forest wildfire.

Go bananas exploring fruits

The popular Judy’s Day Family Festival returns to Cornell Plantations on Sunday (September 21), from 1 to 5 p.m. This year’s theme is fruits, and kids of all ages are invited to explore the fun and fascinating world of fruits through food tastings, fruit crafts and other activities at the F. R. Newman Arboretum, Learn more here

Seduced by fruit once again


Jessica Rath, the artist who created a collection of ceramic apples and tree photography project inspired by the Apple Collection at the USDA’s Plant Genetic Resources Unit and Susan Brown’s apple-breeding program at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, has done it again - with tomatoes. Her latest work, featured in Smithsonian Magazine, looks pretty tasty.