Campus Collage

Campus Collage

Photo by Jason Halley/University Photographer

Photo by Jason Halley/University Photographer

Chico State Organic Dairy Turns 10 Years Old

Seventy-five student employees, 800 calves, and nearly half a million milkings—the Chico State Organic Dairy has seen a lot in the last decade.

It’s been 10 years since the dairy celebrated its first year of production with a public grand opening on April 26, 2007. The year prior, the College of Agriculture had converted 85 acres of its 800-acre University Farm into organic pasture for the purpose of developing an educational model for integrated organic livestock and cropping systems.

It became the first university-based organic dairy west of the Mississippi and the second in the entire nation.

“At that time, only 2 to 3 percent of the fluid milk market in the United States was organic,” recalled Cynthia Daley, professor of animal science and director of the University’s organic dairy program. “Now we are up to 6 percent. Organic milk production has become a big business.”

Helping students and small farmers understand, preserve, and capitalize on those business opportunities has shaped the mission of Chico State’s organic dairy program over the past decade, building on 40 years of being traditionally run. Each semester, the organic dairy employs 10 students on its Dairy Management Team, and gives another six to 10 students hands-on experiences through the College of Agriculture’s directed work experience program.

With guidance from Daley and dairy manager Darby Heffner, those 20 students are responsible for all aspects of managing the pasture-based 80-cow herd.

“They do everything from milking to ration formulation and feeding, calving, breeding, pasture management and rotations, irrigation, budgeting, developing nutrient management plans, and interfacing with organic certification guidelines and waste management regulations,” Daley said. “Students really have the opportunity to be as involved as they want to be.”

Animal science major Kate Carlson came to Chico State with no agricultural background but working on the Dairy Management Team has helped her to find her passion.

“I love working with cows,” Carlson said. “I hope to earn my master’s degree in dairy science and eventually manage a dairy.”

In 2016, Carlson was the first recipient of a new $2,500 Chico State Organic Dairy Production Award, launched by an anonymous donor who appreciates the work that Daley and Heffner are doing within the organic dairy industry and wants to encourage students to follow their lead.

—Sarah DeForest (BS, Agriculture, ’00) is the director of development for the College of Agriculture.

 
Photo by Jessica Bartlett/Student Photographer

Photo by Jessica Bartlett/Student Photographer

Biology Lab Goes Fishin’ for Cancer Cure

Surrounded by petri dishes, beakers, and microscopes, a handful of students are trying to stick tiny needles into wriggling striped fish no bigger than a paper clip. Don’t worry, it’s all in the name of science and the payoff could be huge.

They’re attempting to make new blood—that’s right, make new blood—from the cells of zebrafish. Dave Stachura, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, founded Stachura Laboratory in 2014 to research blood cell production in hopes of making progress in treatment for leukemia, sickle cell anemia, and other blood disorders.

“Let’s say you have leukemia that’s caused by some kind of mutation in stem cells. I could take those stem cells and fix them—I could use genetic recombination to change those genes,” he said. “You could do this for sickle cell anemia, too. You could just fix the defect in the globin gene that causes the cells to sickle, then you could put it back in and you could cure this disease.”

The year-round research done in the Holt Hall lab could go beyond the realm of potential cures for blood-related illnesses—like discovering how to make more of a person’s own blood in a lab or hospital, which would nearly eliminate the need for blood donation. As if progressing towards new medical treatments isn’t a cool enough reason for students to want to work in the lab, they actually run the operation themselves.

Jesse Smith, (MS, Biological Sciences, ’16) dedicated his thesis to attempting to find out more about what causes leukemia in hopes of breaking ground for more progressive leukemia treatments. In January, he was a finalist for the Don Eden Graduate Student Research Award at the 29th annual California State University Biotechnology Symposium. Stachura encourages both graduate and undergraduate students to work independently but not hesitate to ask for guidance.

“A lot of labs don’t give undergrads independent research,” said Smith.

“Dave does a really good job of giving our grads and undergrads independent projects and having them think through it to the best of their abilities.”

Opening up the lab to undergraduate research has paid off. Stachura points to students like Julian Aggio (BS, Biological Sciences, ’16), who came up with an innovative idea to aid their research. His curiosity led to the discovery that during peak mating times, zebrafish like an increase in blue light as opposed to red, green, or normal lighting. More mating means more eggs and more fish—five times the normal amount, Aggio noted—to use for experiments.

—Amanda Rhine (BA, English, ’15) is the editorial assistant at Chico State.

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Alum Notes

CRISTINA RAMIREZ

CRISTINA RAMIREZ

('08) was promoted to assistant superintendent of Calcrete Construction.

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JOEY KOCHLACS

JOEY KOCHLACS

(’12) runs his own sustainable furniture business.

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BOB GEISER

BOB GEISER

('88) received a distinguished service award from the Boy Scouts.

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