Keeping Watch for a Maple Menace

This summer there were new sightings of the notorious Asian longhorned beetle in New York City and Chicago. The pest, which entered the United States from China in wooden packing material, bores into hardwoods, killing them in three to four years. Given the beetle’s particular taste for sugar maples, Vermont is especially vulnerable.

Foresters were disappointed but not surprised to learn of the new sightings. Despite careful tree-to-tree inspections of infested areas, they estimate that about 25 percent of infested trees go undiscovered. The beetle was first detected on Long Island, N.Y., in 1996, and since then at least three other nearby infestations have been found. About a year ago, the pest was found in a Chicago suburb. The beetle sighting in Chicago this summer was particularly disturbing because the infested trees were located two miles outside the quarantined zone. That makes it a separate infestation, which experts estimate is at least two years old.

State and federal personnel are working doggedly to eradicate this pest before it spreads further. These search-and-destroy missions will continue until no infested trees or beetles are found for three to five years. More than three thousand trees have been felled, chipped, and burned to remove all traces of the beetle from the infested areas.

Although the Asian longhorned beetle has not been found in Vermont, vigilance is needed. Vacationers unknowingly could bring in infested wood for campfires, or infested shipments from China could elude inspectors at the border.

That is why UVM researchers Bruce Parker and Margaret Skinner, and Brent Teillon from the Vermont Department of Forests and Parks are coordinating a regional public awareness program with funds from the USDA Forest Service and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service.

“If we ever hope to eliminate this beetle from the U.S., we have to get a million eyes out there looking for it,” says Parker. “It isn’t enough to alert everyone in Vermont to this threat; we have to get the word out beyond Vermont’s borders.”

The Vermont team initiated a statewide public awareness campaign for the Asian longhorned beetle in 1997 and received more than two thousand calls from concerned citizens. Luckily, all of the sightings were of a native insect – the white-spotted sawyer beetle, a similar-looking beetle that attacks dead and dying pine trees, not live maples.

The Asian longhorned is big — many are more than an inch long. Skinner describes it as “flashy with a shiny, black body and irregular white spots.” It also has long, black-and-white-banded antennae. The Vermont team has designed a wallet-sized ID card and other educational materials that will be distributed nationwide to alert and enlist the public in the beetle battle.


Game Helps Kids to Play Safe

Thanks to the efforts of a UVM medical student, children are learning about personal safety and actually having fun at the same time. Two summers ago Dan Wolfson won a Schweitzer Fellowship, which awards a stipend for at least two hundred hours of direct community service, and created “Prevent Life-threatening Injuries to All Youth,” or PLAY-Safe. The unique curriculum rolls prevention information into an interactive “Jeopardy”-type game show format designed with Microsoft Powerpoint software. Children win prizes that encourage safety for giving correct answers to questions targeting the five high-risk areas for youth: seat belts, drinking and driving, burn prevention, bicycle safety, and water safety.

Wolfson’s experience as a teacher, camp counselor, and rescue worker helped him create a learning vehicle children would enjoy. Professionals have taken a liking to the game as well. The American College of Emergency Physicians recently distributed information about PLAY-Safe to thirty thousand emergency medical service providers, and hopes to provide them with a compact disc version of the game next year. In Vermont, Fletcher Allen Health Care Wellness Center has brought PLAY-Safe to more than 1,100 fourth- through seventh-grade students since last year, and has trained local fire and rescue workers in the curriculum.

PLAY-Safe presentations and training sessions are offered free-of-charge to schools and social service agencies in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties.


New Deans Take Leadership Posts

In August, new deans were named for the colleges of Engineering and Mathematics, and Agriculture and Life Sciences, filling key positions in the university’s top leadership.

A UVM faculty member for the past decade, Andrew John Bramley assumes the dean’s post in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. An expert in mastitis in ruminant animals, Bramley has distinguished himself as a teacher at UVM, receiving the CALS Joseph Carrigan Teaching Award in 1998. He also has excelled in administrative roles directing the university’s farms, co-chairing the agricultural Extension Programs, directing the biological sciences program, and chairing the animal sciences department.

In announcing Bramley’s appointment, Provost Geoffrey Gamble said, “John brings to the CALS leadership a front-line understanding of the student academic experience, as well as the challenges facing higher education. His energy and effectiveness in leading his department and the faculty senate will now become valuable assets for the entire college.”

New Engineering and Mathematics Dean Robert Jenkins comes to UVM from the University of Cincinnati, where he most recently served as interim dean of engineering. A professor of chemical engineering and an expert in hydrocarbon fuels, air pollution and powdered and porous materials, Jenkins said he was attracted to UVM’s reputation, smaller size, and its focus on undergraduate education.

“UVM offers a real opportunity to do things you can’t do in a larger institution,” he said. “The combination of computer science, mathematics, and engineering in a single college is a real strength. Each discipline is excellent, and their commonalities create a strong synergism.” Jenkins said he hopes to build partnerships with other colleges on campus to give undergraduate students “much more of a global perspective” on how and where they will have careers.

By coincidence, both Bramley and Jenkins are natives of Wales.

Searches are under way for new deans in the School of Natural Resources, College of Medicine, and the schools of Allied Health and Nursing.


Top Debaters Convene in Burlington

For two weeks this summer UVM wasn’t the place to be if you couldn’t handle yourself in a good argument. The occasion was the 17th World Debate Institute which brought more than four hundred high school and college debaters and their coaches to campus. A series of lectures, workshops, private practice debates and public debates prepared the students for the highest levels of competition. One hundred high school students from inner-city New York high schools were among those taking part in the institute.

Overseeing the event was Professor Alfred “Tuna” Snider, longtime coach of UVM’s debate team.


Nursing Program Key to Rural Health Care

The UVM School of Nursing has received a U.S. Public Service grant for nearly $630,000 to continue funding its primary care nurse practitioner program. The two-year grant will support the conversion of courses from a standard classroom format to web-based courses. This will enable the courses to be delivered to eighteen students, twelve of whom must come from and/or go to work in rural or medically underserved areas where residents have little local access to health care and where statistics reveal high numbers of poor children and chronic disease in the elderly.

Graduates of the program, which was established in 1996 as Vermont’s only nurse practitioner program in primary care, currently practice in rural and medically underserved communities throughout Vermont.

“We’re helping Vermont grow its own primary care providers by educating nurse practitioners who either return to their own small communities or choose to practice in medically underserved areas,” says Carol Green-Hernandez, project director, associate professor of nursing and a family nurse practitioner for twenty-six years. UVM’s curriculum is one of only a few nurse practitioner programs nationally that also educates students in assessing children with developmental delay. Students also are educated to recognize and intervene with patients who are depressed or have other mental health problems, or have problems known to occur at higher-than-national levels in Vermont — such as alcohol and tobacco abuse.


“Strong Hearts:
Native American Visions and Voices,”

on display at the Fleming Museum through December 19, remaps Indian territory from a native perspective. The exhibit comprises ninety-six color and black-and-white photographs taken by twenty-nine Native American photographers. Seen together, the photographers paint a multifaceted portrait of contemporary Indian life. Photographs of Native Americans by Native Americans provide unfiltered vision that runs counter to prevailing stereotypes. There are many different truths about contemporary Native life: images of pride, despair, joy, and anger by photographers who inhabit the world they portray.


Our Shared Past
Moments in UVM History

In 1835, UVM’s library fell far short of the needs of the burgeoning university. The sorry state of the collection impelled President John Wheeler to send Professor Joseph Torrey to Europe to buy books and “philosophical apparatus.” His return was greatly anticipated by both students and townspeople. Frank Smallwood writes in The University of Vermont Presidents: Two Centuries of Leadership: “The captain of the steamboat that carried Torrey home fired a cannon across Lake Champlain to announce his arrival at eight o’clock on a Friday evening. The students rang the college bell and lit candles in the windows of the college buildings and in the dome of the Old Mill. One of the students described it as ‘a splendid show with almost 1,600 lights in all.’” Later in his career, the heralded Professor Torrey would serve as UVM president from 1862 to 1866.


Future Alumna
Libby Smith

Libby Smith is a rare student-athlete at the University of Vermont and her story has been told by several national publications over the past year. Smith’s play on the women’s basketball team is outstanding, but not so unusual. What sets Smith apart is that her name also appears on the roster of the UVM men’s golf team. The only woman playing on an NCAA Division I men’s golf team this past year, her unique story has been chronicled by NESN, the Boston Globe, USA Today, Sports Illustrated for Women, and Golf for Women.

In women’s basketball, Smith became the first Catamount to earn America East Rookie of the Year honors in 1998-99. Smith warmed up for the hoops season on the golf course south of Patrick Gym, playing for coach Mike Gilligan. She finished the season strong, ending the year as one of the top three golfers on the team.

Her greatest accomplishment as a member of the Catamount golf team came at the New England Intercollegiate Golf Championships at the Country Club of New Seabury in New Seabury, Massachusetts. The only woman in the field of 223 golfers, Smith shot a first round score of 79 — marking the first time a woman had ever broken 80 on that course in the championship. She carded an 81 the following day to finish among the top 50 golfers and was Vermont’s medalist.

As the only woman in most of the collegiate tournaments UVM enters, Smith gets many strange looks as she walks to the first tee. Some of her male counterparts don’t take her seriously until they see her fluid swing and watch her dissect the layout. At the New England Championships, an opposing player told a teammate, “If I get beat by a woman, I’ll sell my clubs.” That golfer ended up being paired with Smith the next day. After Smith defeated him by 13 strokes, the reticent young man congratulated her.

And, he decided not to sell his clubs after all.


Noted & Quoted
UVM names and news in the national media

John Todd, visiting professor in natural resources, was acknowledged by Time magazine as one of the “heroes for the planet” in its online publication of March 22. Time profiled green designers, “people who have created innovative, environmentally friendly products and services.” Todd’s “living machine” in South Burlington, which converts sewage into compost and clear water using plants and other organisms, was described by Time as “cheap, easy on the eyes, and educational.”

The annual Gathering for Holocaust Survivors at UVM was part of an April 26 story in U.S. News and World Report drawing parallels between the Holocaust and Serbian “ethnic-cleansing.”

UVM entomologist Margaret Skinner was the subject of a news broadcast by BBC World concerning the Asian longhorned beetle. The report aired in Great Britain. (For more on the beetle, see page 7 in this issue.)

Joni Seager, professor of geography, contributed an article to the April 11 New York Times Sunday Travel section. Her subject: tourists travelling to see polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba.


David H. Cheney Passes Away

David H. Cheney M.D. ‘70, who was profiled in Vermont Quarterly in 1995, passed away in August. Infected while treating an HIV patient in 1990, Cheney later volunteered to work on AIDS policy issues for the Centers for Disease Control and the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

Cheney remained active despite his illness. He sailed on a reproduction of Columbus’s ship the Nina. He refurbished an old Charlotte farmhouse while lecturing UVM medical students and local HIV/AIDS groups. “I’m probably not going to be a 70-year-old with a chronic illness,” he said in a 1995 interview for Vermont Quarterly magazine. “But I’d like to make 60.”

Dr. Cheney would have been 57 in December.


Anthropology Students Practice Fieldwork on Campus

A UVM anthropology class received hands-on training in proper archaeological techniques this summer, in addition to helping the university with its long-term land-use plan.

The eleven students in a class taught by Peter Thomas of UVM’s Consulting Archaeology Program uncovered a site near Centennial Field thought to be three to four thousand years old. Discovered by another class in 1998, the 2,800 square-foot site contains abundant evidence of Native American tool making.

“We found flakes left behind from making numerous stone tools, and we found the stone tools themselves,” Thomas said. The largest object discovered is about four inches long and appears to be a blank for a large spear.

Most of the tools were made from chert, which probably came from north of what is now St. Albans Bay, and quartzite, which most likely was brought from areas near present-day Bristol or Monkton.

Understanding how a particular site was used thousands of years ago is like “putting together pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, only three-dimensionally,” Thomas said. Evidence at the UVM site, which is located near a deep ravine containing springs used for drinking water, can be added to that found at other sites around Vermont, helping archaeologists learn how native people lived, worked, and played thousands of years ago.

Under UVM’s campus master plan, the university will create a management plan for the site, including how it should be treated in the case of future development. It’s better to find out early — before construction workers start digging — whether an archaeological site is present and whether it is significant.

“This has been a wonderful laboratory for the students,” Thomas said. “It’s an educationally significant way that the university can use its land.”