Schenectady High School’s 2400 students are all learning remotely for the 2020-2021 school year. Creative minds in the science department decided that they needed ways to engage and excite their students. They came up with Science Fridays, which have been ongoing since the start of the school year.
Each Friday, the ninth-grade science teachers visit a location or offer a livestreamed science experiment and fit the trip into the curriculum as best they can. Because their students would miss out on the dissection lab that typically happens in ninth grade, the teachers did a livestream dissection for their students. They have visited an apiary, a llama farm, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, and The Wild Center, among other places.
On March 26, Danielle Budlong and Jennifer Insull hit the road at 5 am and traveled up to Miner Institute for a Science Friday in our dairy barn. Research Scientist Dr. Sarah Morrison talked to Budlong and Insull and their students at home about how we use cannulated cows in our research program. Both teachers were able to reach into the cow’s rumen. Budlong informed her students that it felt warm and that she could feel the stomach contracting and could feel the rumen lining, which has a shag carpet-like texture.
Dr. Morrison squeezed some rumen fluid into a small beaker and placed some on a slide under a microscope so that the students could see the bacteria and protozoa that are active in the rumen and are critical to the cow’s digestion and overall health. She also discussed how cows are great recyclers and are able to consume by-products that would otherwise be discarded such as beet pulp, a by-product of the sugar beet industry.
“We had a blast,” Budlong said. “The kids from our live stream could not stop talking about it in their other classes.”
We were thrilled to be able to offer this unique educational experience to students in the Capital Region, more than two hours away!
A very "intimate" celebration took place in the Miner Institute dairy barn on February 19. After successfully surpassing the stated goal of $5000 for the United Way, targeted specifically for homelessness prevention in our region, a team of cow kissers -- United Way of the Adirondack Region President and CEO John Bernardi, Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D, Chateaugay), University of Vermont Health Network Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital President and COO Michelle LeBeau, Chazy Central Rural School Superintendent and Jr./Sr. High School Principal Scott Osborne, and Northern Insuring Agency, Inc. President and CEO Deena Giltz-McCullough -- held up their end of the bargain and puckered up to 4-year-old Miner Institute Holstein, Alice.
Alice, also known as 3103, is an apt name representing both Alice Miner and the Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) families that the United Way and its partner agencies in the North Country serve. Alice stood relatively calmly while she was kissed first by Bernardi, who still has fond memories of a cow kissing event with Pepsi the cow in 2015. She seemed mostly unfazed by her admirers until Deena Giltz-McCullough stepped up. Alice actually stepped toward Deena, seeming to willingly accept the incoming smooch!
“United Way’s funding supports programs designed to help those in need in our local community, and the cow kissing event was a fun time for a great cause," said Miner Institute President Rick Grant.
The event drew plenty of public attention as it was covered well in the media, and livestreamed over Facebook. Bernardi coupled the event with a press conference closing out the 2021 campaign season with the positive news that they raised $675,000 surpassing the 2020 fundraising total by $25,000 and solidifying the notion that the North Country is incredibly generous and knows how to pull together, especially during the toughest of times.
The $6,700 raised as part of the Kiss the Cow campaign combined with the $3,946 in employee contributions and funds raised through our annual charity auction at Christmas brings Miner Institute's 2021 campaign total to $10,646.
We have never been so pleased to see a year in the rearview mirror. 2020 was a year full of challenges, but it demonstrated to us that our team is one of a kind as they rose to the challenge and were able to carry on the important work that makes Miner Institute what it is. Cheers to 2021 and THANK YOU endlessly to the incredible Miner team. We certainly hope that a return to things in a more usual fashion is in store at some point this year.
For the past decade Research team member Maggie Carter and her husband, Mike Carter have organized and run an auction at the Miner Institute staff Christmas party to raise funds to benefit the JCEO. With no staff Christmas party this year due to the pandemic, we opted to try a virtual auction where we would accept auction donations and set them up in our auditorium and then sell tickets to staff over a two week period. We received nearly 60 donations for the auction, including dozens of hand knit and crocheted items from Jane Boulerice, whose items are highly coveted every year!
On December 11, we held our auction via Zoom. Mike Carter came in to help Maggie with the auctioneering. We are so pleased that we raised $1,078!! Big thanks to Maggie and Mike and to all of the staff who donated items and who purchased tickets to help support this great cause! We are so grateful to have been able to carry out this annual event and hope to be able to bring it back in person in 2021!
Cari Reynolds did not follow a typical path to Miner Institute’s research program, but she is so pleased she arrived here. “I found where I fit in,” she said of Miner Institute.
Cari grew up in Lenoxville, PA – between Binghamton, NY and Scranton, PA. She studied biology at the University of Scranton with the intention of becoming a physician, but then realized that wasn’t truly what she wanted to do. After earning her bachelor's degree in 2008, she got a job at a large pharmaceutical company doing cleaning validation on stainless steel equipment. It was a four-month contract and then she was hired by the company to help manufacture the bacterial meningitis vaccine.
“I need to find meaning in what I do for work,” Cari said. “I need to feel accomplished.” The manufacturing work was too methodic and didn’t suit her well, she said. In 2014, she moved to Boston. There, she spent a year and a half working as a quality specialist in drug manufacturing for rare diseases while working toward her masters at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She earned a master’s degree in public health with a focus on epidemiology in 2015. She then worked managing a clinical trial for a national vascular surgery study with 150 study sites across the U.S. That job gave her good project management experience and the opportunity to travel.
But “at my very core, I was not happy,” Cari recalled. In fall 2017, Cari returned home to figure out what to do next. She said that her attitude improved once she was back home, and she realized that “you have to be happy at work.” Despite not knowing what it was she wanted to do, Cari did recognize that a positive workplace environment and meaningful work were two traits she valued.
Cari realized that she “wanted to come back to agriculture.” She grew up with dairy farms in her family and started thinking about job opportunities in agricultural public health. In September 2018, Cari said she “found Miner by accident” when the yearlong research internship job posting showed up in a search. “At a time in my life where I felt like I had nothing else to lose, I emailed Katie Ballard,” Cari remembered.
“Cari’s overall resume was certainly unique from her background and work experience to the menu-styled CV she initially sent us,” Katie said. Although the selection committee had some reservations about Cari as a candidate, they decided to do a phone interview. “What was evident from that phone conversation was Cari’s maturity, thoughtfulness in terms of what she knew she didn’t want to do and knowing that she felt drawn to ag in some form or another,” Katie recalled. “Her sense of humor was another plus and we felt she was worth an in-person visit.”
Cari was hired as the yearlong research intern in December 2018 and recently made the decision to stay on at Miner by accepting a graduate assistantship position to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Vermont. Cari is taking courses online and working on a program that focuses on improving management strategies to prevent disease in calves, and help them develop healthy, strong immune systems. This educational track “bridges the gap” between Cari’s human health interests and her interests in agriculture, as many of the diseases that affect animals can also affect humans. She hopes to focus on preventative management strategies that could help to reduce antibiotic use.
“Miner showed up in my life when I needed it most,” Cari said. “The culture here is incomparable. The people are unbelievably kind. That’s rare.” Cari said that it didn’t take her long after she first arrived at Miner to feel comfortable and like she’d found the right place for her.
Ultimately, she hopes to stay working in research because she really enjoys it. She also really enjoys writing and hopes to be a scientific writer. “Cari has a gift for writing in an engaging and humor-based style that certainly has benefitted our Farm Report readership,” Katie said. “This gift has opened doors for her to be asked to write in other ag journals that has given her a national and international audience. From the science standpoint, her background in public health has provided her a springboard for the Ph.D. program she is pursuing at UVM,” Katie said. “We’re glad to have her on our team.”
As if moving alone isn’t stressful enough, try moving with your wife and two young children thousands of miles from Japan to NY during a global pandemic! That is exactly what Hiroyuki Uchihori and his family did, when they moved to Chazy in early August.
Hiroyuki – Hiro – has just begun a two-year position here at Miner as the on-site research scientist for Zen-Noh, an agricultural cooperative in Japan. Miner Institute and Zen-Noh have had a collaborative research relationship for more than 20 years. Over that time, Zen-Noh has supported research in many areas of dairy cattle production with a focus on nutrition. Hiro said that he is looking forward to continuing the neutral detergent fiber (NDF) research that Kyohei Ishida and Akihiro Obata began while they were here at Miner.
The Uchihori family – Hiroyuki (Hiro); his wife, Yu; daughter, Misaki, 6; and son, Haruto, 3 – “are very comfortable” here, Hiro said. Yu agreed. She said she likes the space and the country atmosphere and the “nice view” out the windows of the family’s apartment at Miner Institute.
Hiro has been employed with ZenNoh for 10 years and worked as a sales consultant for the company prior to coming to Chazy. He said that he is interested in research that contributes to dairy farmers directly. He said that it is important to understand the cow, and he is specifically interested in “how to best utilize dairy science on the farm to benefit dairy farmers.”
Hiro and Yu met in college in Hokkaido where they both studied animal science. Yu worked in animal vaccine research for three years before the two were married seven years ago. Yu now keeps very busy taking care of her children and helping them to adapt to life in America. Yu said that she enjoys spending time outside, and also watching movies, reading, and watching baseball games. She also enjoys watching cooking shows and This Old House. Yu said that she is looking forward to cooking a turkey, which is something she has never done before.
Misaki and Haruto both attend Chazy Central Rural School. Misaki is in Mrs. Thume’s kindergarten class and Haruto is in pre-school. Misaki misses Japan and feels homesick for her friends and family. Both children were overjoyed when they were able to trick or treat around the Miner residential complex on Halloween. Big kudos to Steve Kramer who helped organize and to the residents who passed out candy. Hiro and Yu felt it was such a kind, welcoming gesture and their kids were really happy with their haul!
We are so pleased to have the Uchihori family here at Miner and they are looking forward to their time here and are excited to see some snow!
The Altona Flat Rock property is most famous locally for the abundance of wild blueberries that have grown there for generations. The blueberries were so plentiful that local families would camp on the property during the six-week blueberry season and sell berries to help provide for their families. The property is also well-known because of the prevalence of jack pine there. Jack pine is a species whose cones remain rock-hard until the heat of a forest fire opens them, facilitating regeneration. Both blueberries and jack pine benefit from the re-growth that occurs after a fire.
In July 2018, a fire burned 550 acres of the 15-square-mile Flat Rock property. It was the first “meaningful” fire in 60 years. For scientists and students at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Center for Earth and Environmental Science, it was a once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity.
“I’ve been awaiting an ecologically significant fire at Flat Rock since my introduction to the pine barren in 1974,” Dr. Ken Adams, a retired SUNY Plattsburgh professor of forest ecology said in a December 2018 interview with Adirondack Explorer. “Forests are more than trees, so it’s important to understand the effects of fire on all components of a forest ecosystem, including soils, vegetation, and wildlife habitat,” Adams said. Adams was a professor in the Applied Environmental Science Program (AESP) – a collaboration between Miner Institute and SUNY Plattsburgh – for decades.
Michala Hendrick was an AESP student in 2019. Under the direction of Dr. Danielle Garneau, a wildlife ecologist at SUNY Plattsburgh, Hendrick conducted a study focusing on the small mammal community composition, abundance, and foraging patterns in the burned and unburned portions of the Flat Rock State Forest. Data were collected in fall 2018 and fall 2019. “My data collection consisted of preparing and setting Sherman live traps in the evening and retrieving them in the early morning,” Hendrick explained. “This gave us a look at differences in abundance in the burned and control area.” Hendrick said that she used Giving Up Density (GUD) surveys to learn about foraging patterns across the two sites. Seeds mixed with sand were placed in an enclosed box with a tube for animal access. After 48 hours, the seeds were weighed to determine density loss to evaluate consumption vs. potentially high risk (predator/open) habitat.
“Almost nothing about this research was easy. It was labor intensive, time-consuming and the weather was frequently working against us,” Hendrick said. “Despite these challenges, I grew professionally and personally from these experiences… This work was rewarding and I’ve now captured and released over 100 small mammals which is an incredibly unique experience for an undergraduate student. In addition, the Altona Flat Rock is a valued, globally-rare habitat that amplifies the importance of the research students and staff are conducting there.”
Hendrick, along with several other students and SUNY Plattsburgh professors participated in collaborative interdisciplinary research which was showcased in a Flat Rock Fire Conference at Miner Institute in September 2019. The conference was a collaboration between Miner Institute, SUNY Plattsburgh, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and The North Atlantic Fire Science Exchange. Students were able to present posters and discuss the research conducted at Flat Rock since the fire.
Hendrick plans to begin graduate school this month. She will be working toward a Masters of Science in Park, Recreation and Tourism Studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. Her graduate assistantship is funded through the National Park Service and the Old Dominion University Research Foundation. Her research will focus on visitor use management in various parks in the National Capitol Parks Region.
Fred Rogers, who hosted the popular PBS children’s television program Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood for more than 30 years, is known to have said that when he was a child and saw scary things in the news, his mother would tell him to “look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Finding the helpers, and more importantly, being the helpers, is certainly one way that many people are getting through the current coronavirus pandemic.
At Miner Institute, we have built an impressive community of staff and students who time and time again step up to the plate to do what needs to be done for the Institute, but also are willing to help the broader community.
A number of Miner staff are still working regular schedules caring for the animals and the facility and several staff members have had to adapt to virtual teaching schedules to continue our Advanced Dairy Management semester remotely.
Additionally, several staff members have pulled out their sewing machines and have been making masks to donate to organizations locally who need them. Residents of the Miner housing complex teamed up to pick up trash along Ridge Road while also practicing social distancing. And staff and their families are coming up with creative ways to make quarantine fun. Research Team Member Maggie Carter is hosting themed dinner nights at her house. She has done Royal dinner with maple glazed pork chops and twice baked potatoes; western dinner with chili; IHOP dinner with pancakes, crepes, bacon and sausage; fair dinner with hamburgers, fries in paper cups and milkshakes. Her family even sometimes dresses up to match the theme!
William and Alice Miner were steadfast in their support of the North Country and their philanthropic work continues to benefit the region 90 years after William Miner's death. In our efforts to carry on the Miner legacy, we are brainstorming ways to continue making a difference in both the agricultural community and the North Country community.
Be safe and well!
In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic that we currently find ourselves in, it seems like William Miner's words from 1915 have never been truer. "No other occupation is so vitally important to the human race, nor requires such a wide range of practical and technical knowledge, as farming."
The production of safe, healthy food is essential and even during a pandemic where people around the North Country, New York State, and the world, are being urged to stay home to slow the spread of this virus, cows still need to be milked, crops need to be harvested, animals need to be fed, and food products need to be made available to consumers.
At Miner Institute, dairy, maintenance, equine, and research staff have been carrying on their regular schedules caring for the buildings and animals and making sure that our cows continue to be milked three times a day.
Shaun Castine said that things aren’t really much different for him milking cows. He said he isn’t a big fan of crowds anyway, so the social distancing part isn’t especially hard for him. ShyAnne Koehler agreed that things aren’t vastly different for her either. She typically works mostly by herself this time of year caring for the Miner Morgans, or alongside Karen Lassell.
Dan Belrose from the maintenance department said that they are carrying on much like usual, although they are disinfecting trucks multiple times per day and doing the same in the breakroom. In addition, the team is trying to keep several feet of distance between each other and other staff members.
One of the biggest differences is that the Institute is pretty quiet. On any average weekday, staff and students congregate over lunch in the Miner cafeteria, which is currently closed. It is an epicenter of social activity, where the lunchtime conversations really run the gamut! Undoubtedly one of the most notable differences for staff still at Miner is the need to pack a lunch every day.
Much of Miner Institute staff are working remotely from home, but are not lacking in gratitude for the teammates who are still making it to work everyday and keeping the Institute going. Few organizations are fortunate enough to have such a skilled, dedicated staff that believe in the mission and are willing to go the extra mile to do what needs to be done. Our staff genuinely care for the animals, the students, the research, the mission. Even when so much seems so very uncertain, we can be sure that we will make it through this.
For the second year in a row, Miner Institute and The Alice T. Miner Museum helped to ensure that area school kids weren't too bored during their winter break by offering a Beat the Boredom program. The event was held on Feb. 20 at The Alice and Feb. 21 at the Institute.
News Channel 5 Reporter Jackie Pascale came to both locations for live interviews to promote the program during the 5 am to 7 am newscast on Feb. 20.
The program at The Alice featured craft projects using silhouettes, optical illusions, and sun photography. There were more than 20 kids who attended and they all seemed to have a great time!
Those who attended the program at the Institute were able to make a bird feeder with Point Au Roche State Park Naturalist Kristin Collins; make 30-minute mozzarella cheese with Director of Lab Studies Steve Kramer; play corn hole; and do a scavenger hunt around the BERC building where they got to eat Cabot cheese, learn about dairy cow feeds, learn about how we use cannulated cows in our research program, play pin the tail on the horse, and sit on an English or Western saddle! We had around 30 kids who attended and a great time was had!! We certainly will plan a 3rd Annual Beat the Boredom program in collaboration with The Alice in 2021!