Miner Institute has had a collaborative relationship with the State University of New York at Plattsburgh since the early 1970s. The relationship mostly revolves around the Applied Environmental Science Program, which is still going strong more than 40 years since its inception. Additionally, Miner Institute supported SUNY Plattsburgh graduate students in in-vitro cell biology and environmental science through the late 1980s. In 1984, the relationship with the University of Vermont was started with the first Miner-supported graduate student. That student, Katie Ballard, is now the Director of Research at Miner Institute. The goal of the graduate program is to “train the next professionals in agriculture through the support of their development and education,” Katie said. The program has been very active over the past 30 years, with alumni obtaining degrees through the departments of Animal Sciences, Extension Education, Plant and Soil Sciences and Food Systems. The graduate program here is unique in that students have great networking opportunities through Miner Institute’s vast network of industry connections. Likewise, the program is a great benefit to the research program at Miner Institute. “Having graduate students is critical in providing technical support for our research activities and mentoring undergraduate students in our fall, spring and summer semester educational programs,” Katie said. In 2016, the program has added another partner by working with Clarkson University.
Wyatt grew up on a 150-cow Jersey farm about 50 miles west of the Twin Cities in Hamburg, MN. He has an animal science degree from the University of Minnesota and is just beginning a master’s program at the University of Vermont through a graduate assistantship at Miner Institute. He will be studying dairy nutrition, and more specifically, fiber digestibility. Rick Grant and Kurt Cotanch will be advising Wyatt. Wyatt says that he finds digestible fiber “intriguing.” Cows are so complex, Wyatt said, adding that he’s interested in finding out what they need to perform best. Ultimately, he hopes to work in nutrition consulting, and possibly have some involvement on his family’s farm.
Dani Harris grew up in Old Chatham, NY about 25 miles south of Albany. She studied animal science at Cornell University, where she became interested in dairy cows. Growing up, Dani showed beef cows and rode horses, but didn’t have any involvement with dairy cows. In college, she shadowed a large-animal veterinarian, where she became interested in working with dairy cows. She later worked as a lab technician and participated in transition cow research. Dani will be working toward a Master’s degree at the University of Vermont. Dani will be working under the advisement of Heather Dann analyzing milk data. She is interested in the potential of milk profiles to detect estrus or pregnancy outcomes. Ultimately, Dani says she would like to work with dairy farmers, possibly as a consultant, nutritionist or manager.
Casey grew up in Remsen, NY, near Utica. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science and chemistry as a double major at Plattsburgh State University. Casey is working toward a master’s degree in environmental engineering and water resources from Clarkson University. Casey is the first student to do a graduate assistantship with Clarkson. “I think it will be a struggle to prove to some of the folks at Clarkson that what we’re doing is worth it,” Casey said. He seems up to the challenge, though. He will be focusing his research on nutrient drainage off tiled fields. His advisor is Clarkson Professor Stefan Grimberg, but he will also be working closely with Eric Young on tile drain research at Miner. Casey hopes to be able to continue to find time for hiking, biking, skiing and other outdoor recreation. Before coming to Miner in late August, Casey biked from Maine to Oregon with a friend.
Keegan grew up in Cobleskill, NY. After graduating from high school in 2009, he spent a year in Finland as an exchange student and used it as an opportunity to experience Finnish culture before starting college at Plattsburgh State University. He has a Bachelor of Science degree in environmental science from Plattsburgh State. Keegan is in the second year of his master’s program at the University of Vermont in the plant and soil science department. His project is looking at erosion and nutrient runoff on four research plots – two have been planted with cover crops and two have not. Cover crops, Keegan says, “are like an anchor – they hold the soil; and like a fridge, keeping nutrients fresh.” Eric Young is Keegan’s project advisor. He hopes to complete his master’s in October 2017 and then work with farmers through extension and possibly start up his own small farm.
Mac grew up west of Baltimore, MD. He has an animal science degree from the University of Maryland, College Park. He became passionate about dairy cows while completing an internship at his college’s dairy. He then did an undergraduate honors thesis with a dairy nutrition professor who suggested that Mac should go to graduate school. Miner Institute’s program was suggested to him by a former boss. Mac is in his fourth year of a Ph.D. program at the University of Vermont. Mac’s research has been focused on stocking density and the interaction with the feeding environment of dairy cows. He is trying to identify strategies that can help to mitigate stress on dairy cows and improve performance. The graduate assistantship program at Miner is “a very different graduate program,” Mac said, adding that it is very experience-focused. “You’re not teaching anatomy two times a week; you’re running projects. It sets Miner apart.” Graduate students are still involved in mentoring summer experience interns and Advanced Dairy Management students, but the role is different than what most graduate students experience as a Teacher’s Assistant (TA). Mac hopes to wrap up his program in summer 2017. He isn’t entirely sure what he will do next, but is considering welfare and behavior consulting as a possibility.