Fulbrighters Experience Research Opportunities, Ohio’s People and Culture
Bringing internationals to our campus takes a village in normal years, all the more so since COVID-19 hit. In June, OSU’s Office of International Affairs congratulated Dean Kress for “continuing to place a high value on supporting global opportunities for our students and faculty” resulting in OSU’s being ranked No.1 in the nation for the number of Fulbright scholar awards and No. 13 for Fulbright student awards.
Jason Owens of FAES International Programs subsequently contacted recipients of Fulbright scholarships and fellowships and shares some of their projects, combining narratives about their research with their personal impressions of their time in Ohio. A full list of Fulbright Scholars and Fellows is at the end.
Mark Trotter, Associate Professor of Precision Livestock Management at Central Queensland University extends Australian hospitality:
Undertaking my Fulbright at OSU provided a unique opportunity to spend time doing research in a completely different environment. I’m based in a relatively dry area in Australia where water is scarce, this can be completely the opposite in Ohio, with too much rain falling at times! I also got to build some great professional relationships which continue to this day and am looking forward to having some of the Buckeyes coming over to visit and experience the Aussie bush!
Kevin McDonnell, Professor of Crop Science & Biosystems Engineering at University College Dublin, got off to a rocky start:
I arrived into Columbus Airport at 2 am from Ireland – which was a great time to drive around the city looking for my accommodation. The requested GPS unit wasn’t in the rental car and for some reason my phone would not connect to the network. I had a vague idea that area I was looking for was “to the left of and a bit above the airport” on the map I had looked at in Ireland. It was actually only about 20 minutes away but took me over 2 hours of criss-crossing streets [and driving on the right side of the road for a change - ed.] to finally find it! I arrived into The Ohio State University later that morning and met with some of the precision agriculture team and we went straight out to one of the research farms – this was exactly what I wanted to do – for the rest of that day and evening, I met some of the partner farmers that OSU works with. I spent hours in their houses and yards over those first 2 days drinking lots of coffee and talking about agriculture, weather, politics, machinery, education – it was great.
Having an introduction from OSU (one of the research managers came with me to do introductions) opened up the door to having great conversations with their research farmers about everything to do with farming and life because farming as a business is so integrated into people’s lives that you can’t separate the business from the family or the people. While the scale of many of the operations was huge compared to Ireland, and the dependence on GM technology (which is not available in Europe) is critical to the US growers, there were still many common areas dealing with markets, data ownership, climate concerns, research, education and business viability. However, one interesting issue raised by all the farmers I spoke with was about the departure of the current generation of young farmers away from agriculture due to the poor return on investment and time. This was leading to a current labour shortage due to sons and daughters working in cities across the state and country and thus not being available at peak times for harvesting and planting. This lack of labour was rapidly driving the development of autonomous vehicles, with many smaller companies field testing equipment on farms ahead of the major equipment manufacturers. Farmers were not prepared to wait for the mainstream companies to develop solutions and hence many were working with these smaller companies on bespoke solutions. Talking to post-graduate students in OSU, many of them try to get home to help out at peak times but recognise that, at best, it’s a short-term solution.
As with many things, “necessity is the mother of invention”, and it’s clear from talking to farmers, families, researchers and industry in Ohio, that the development of some of the new generation precision agriculture tools is being driven by a demand from the farmers to address the labour shortage. Therefore, combine an aging farming population with a growing development of autonomous equipment for agriculture and, well, are we seeing a new generation of agriculture whereby machines are replacing growers? Despite all the concerns about the labour shortages (from having had the opportunity to sit down with a cup of coffee with so many growers and talk about these issues) a key underlying theme is the strength of the family structure behind the business. And I believe that there will continue to be a “hands on” approach to agriculture with supporting technologies.
Assistant Professor Jiraporn Inthasan of Maejo University, in Chiang Mai, Thailand lists the plethora of techniques she engaged in:
The time I spent at OSU was perfect. Not only the research work under Prof. Richard P. Dick about EL-FAME biomarkers, but also other techniques, such as soil organic carbon and nitrogen, soil aggregation, soil microbial biomass, microbial activity (respiration, enzyme activities), soil microbial community composition [phospholipid fatty acids (PLFA) and PCR based nucleic acid techniques] for evaluating soil quality. Thanks to Fulbright for giving me the wonderful opportunity at OSU.
Fitiavana Rajaonarivelo from Madagascar, currently a graduate student in the School of Environment and Natural Resources was typical in her praise of Fulbright and of CFAES:
Although the beginning of my experience as a Fulbright student was mostly virtual due to the pandemic, it exceeded my expectations in every way. I felt welcomed and inspired by all the conversations and exchanges I had with other students, professors and friends. I am so delighted to be part of such a vibrant and dynamic community that helps me see the world through a different lens, both academically and personally.
In these times when international travel is such a challenge, CFAES is proud that we have been able to continue our long tradition of promoting an exchange of ideas and scholarship through the Fulbright Program.
Visiting Fulbright Scholars
Abdelhadi Sabraoui, Morocco, Department of Entomology
Dibyakanta Seth, India, Department of Food Science and Technology
Jiraporn Inthasan, Thailand, School of Environment and Natural Resources
Vladimir Ivezic, Croatia, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center
Kevin McDonnell, Ireland, Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering
Karabi Pathak, India, Carbon Management and Sequestration Center
Mark Graeme Trotter, Australia, Department of Animal Sciences
Visiting Fulbright Fellows
Fitiavana Rajaonarivelo, Madagascar, School of Environment and Natural Resources
Lisa Shahin, Jordan, School of Environment and Natural Resources
Ashly Dyck, Canada, School of Environment and Natural Resources
Alejandro Pittaluga, Uruguay, Department of Animal Sciences
Martina Vásquez Miranda, Argentina, School of Environment and Natural Resources
Fides Angeli Zaulda, Philippines, Department of Plant Pathology
Ohio State Fulbright Students 2019-2020
Maria Fredericks, School of Environment and Natural Resources, Award to Colombia