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.

CCE launches new ag classifieds site

Looking to purchase some bees to pollinate your berries, or offload some extra hops? A new online agricultural classified ad and business directory site has been launched to service the Hudson Valley and capitol region. The blog-based “Ag Exchange” may spread to other parts of New York as well, according to Cornell Cooperative Extension. It is open to all businesses that serve the agricultural community with ag-related products and services.

Bio labs and cell phones don’t mix, and this video from Cornell University Environmental Health and Safety shows why.

The white stuff


First there was Big Red cheddar. Now Cornell cheesemakers are ready to reveal a new product in a growing line of products cultivated from the university’s dairy farm: A.D. White Cheddar. Named for the first president and co-founder of Cornell University, the creamy, rich mild cheddar is now available at the Dairy Bar and campus store. A buttery indulgence for Big Red Bears and a just-right introduction to sometimes-too-sharp cheddars for little ones, A.D. White Cheddar is perfect paired with your favorite pear or placed atop your best burger. It is handcrafted in small batches using fresh milk from Cornell’s own dairy farm, and each wheel is hand flipped weekly to ensure even maturation. You can also take pride in knowing that each purchase supports the Department of Food Science’s cheesemaking program and the future of artisanal cheesemaking in New York.

New Citizen Science Blog Takes Flight


The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has launched a new Citizen Science Blog, inspired by the contributions and passions of its growing network of citizen scientists. Its inaugural month featured an exploration of hummingbirds, including an interactive game, Beat the Beats, and fun facts like how much liquid you’d have to consume to eat like a hummingbird. This was followed by a focus on berries, with an illustrated guide to birds’ preferred varieties. New posts are added weekly. 

Those wishing to participate in a citizen science project can join Project FeederWatch, which will begin its 28th season on November 8. Data from participants has contributed to important scientific discoveries, including recent findings that the bacteria causing House Finch eye disease is found in many species, not just feeder birds.


A garden party for the garden

It’s come a long way since its original design sketches - on the back of a napkin. The Robison York State Herb Garden turns 40 this year, and its caretakers celebrated in style, with an August 12 garden party. Plantations Director Christopher Dunn and Herb Garden Curator Pam Shade joined members of the Auraca Herbarists to commemorate the event. Since 1974, the Auraca Herbarists have provided support for many improvements to the garden, including the sundial at its center, the Yarb Woman statue by Elfriede Abbe, and a new interpretive sign in 2008. Last year, they funded new plant labels, with a gift in honor of former director Don Rakow. Auraca also established an endowment which funds the annual Audrey O’Connor Lecture in the Plantations Fall Lecture Series.

First envisaged by Plantations editor Audrey Harkness O’Connor and executive director Richard M. Lewis, the garden was funded by Cornell alumnus Ellis H. Robison ‘18 in honor of his wife, Doris Burgess Robison. It was dedicated in 1974, and has become an extensive library of herbs organized within 17 theme beds. In the “Herbs in Literature” bed, you will find Shakespeare’s cuckoo-buds (Primula veris) from Love’s Labour’s Lost. Japanese mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica) is cultivated in the “Salads and Potherbs” bed and Vietnamese coriander (Polygonum odoratum) is just one of the many exotic flavors in the “Culinary Herbs” bed. You can learn more about its history in this Plantations blog post.