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Students display botanical illustrations in virtual gallery

composite of student works from botanical illustration intensive course

Students in the course Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration (PLHRT 3250) finished up their portfolios last week and selected three of their favorites for display in an online gallery. The course provides an opportunity for students to take a deep dive into advanced botanical illustration techniques, exploring diverse media such as pen and ink, watercolor, graphite and more, says course instructor Marcia Eames-Sheavly.

Although students in the course this semester encountered the same struggles coping with the COVID-19 pandemic and the closing of campus as other students, they made a surprising and exciting discovery, she adds: Immersion in drawing and painting could offer solace, stress relief, and an antidote to the challenges of scattered concentration, as well as a break from the intensive time spent on Zoom.

The spirit of one student, Laura Kramer, is a great example: “It’s weird to be wrapping up my first year at Cornell in my roommate’s basement, especially without access to the art supplies I was supposed to pick up from home over Spring Break,” she writes. “On the bright side, though, the plant life upstate is beautiful and I’m learning to adapt to the lack of fancy art supplies. My pieces featured here were done with a semi-broken fountain pen, some half-dried markers I found in my pencil case from middle school, and a set of kids’ Crayola markers that my roommate found.”

May we all be so resilient.

Eames-Sheavly recognized for teaching excellence

Marcia Eames-Sheavly in Belize leading students in the course Tropical Plants Extravaganza.

Marcia Eames-Sheavly in Belize leading students in the course Tropical Plants Extravaganza.

This spring, Marcia Eames-Sheavly (’83, MPS ’99), Senior Lecturer and Senior Extension Associate in the SIPS Horticulture Section, received the 2020 College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) Professor of Merit award. Since 1947, this award has recognized excellence in undergraduate teaching, and is considered particularly prestigious because the senior class chooses the recipient.

“Marcia goes out of her way to form deep relationships with her students,” wrote one of the seniors who nominated her for the honor. “She genuinely cares very much for student well-being above all else. Her instruction methods teach students how to reflect deeply on experiences to allow for maximum personal growth and development.

“In all my years at Cornell, I have not witnessed any other professor that had the same positive impact on their students as she does,” the nominator added.

Marcia has created and taught numerous courses, primarily focusing on the intersections between art and horticulture, garden-based learning, and plants and human well-being. They include The Art of Horticulture, the Seed to Supper two-semester course sequence, and several courses with travel experiences to Belize, including Healing Plants and the People Who Use Them. She recently developed Leadership through Peer Mentoring in the Plant Sciences which has served as one of the models for the new peer mentoring model in CALS.

“What those areas all have in common is that they are fundamentally about people’s engagement with our discipline, something students are longing for,” notes Marcia.  She was surprised to discover that during her last five-year appointment period that nearly 700 students had enrolled in her courses, many in smaller courses requiring lots of personal attention.

In spring 2003, she created and began teaching her signature course, The Art of Horticulture, which she handed off to Emily Detrick, horticulturist at Cornell Botanic Gardens, in 2018. She developed three online continuing education courses in botanical illustration, and later started using them as the backbone for the for-credit course Intensive Study in Botanical Illustration.

Other courses Marcia has led include Let Your Life Speak, Hortus Forum Officer Leadership Development, Undergraduate Individual Study in Horticulture, Community Facilitation Practicum, Tropical Plants Extravaganza, Experiential Garden-Based Learning in Belize, Food, Fiber and Fulfillment: Plants and Human Well-Being and Collaboration, Leadership, and Career Skills in the Plant Sciences (developed with Marvin Pritts).

“Marcia has fostered the most welcoming and genuine atmosphere I’ve ever experienced in a classroom or any setting on campus,” another senior nominator observed. “Her reflective and thoughtful approach to teaching emphasizes that learning rarely happens in one direction and is a lifelong endeavor of continual self-improvement. Her philosophies have shaped my personal and professional life in ways that will stay with me forever.”

“She teaches more than just subjects,” writes another student. “She teaches students about ways of knowing and being that will last a lifetime. Marcia is preparing students to not only be mindful and motivated in the classroom, but is also encouraging us to take our knowledge and go out into our communities to create change and reflect on our impacts.”

An inside look at LIHREC’s impatiens breeding program

CALS spotlight [2020-05-15]:

Horticulture Professor Mark Bridgen serves as the director of the Long Island Horticultural Research and Extension Center in Riverhead, NY. There, the 68-acre facility is dedicated to providing research and extension services that support Long Island’s horticulture industries. In this video, Bridgen talks about his breeding work with the popular garden plant, impatiens, and discusses how plant tissue culture helps him develop new varieties—including ones resistant to downy mildew disease.

Crossing boundaries: Cornell’s thriving research ecosystem

This story originally appeared in the online-only spring 2020 issue of Ezra magazine.

spiral- shapped robotic moisture samplers in hands

Taryn Bauerle, associate professor of horticulture, holds three of the earthworm-shaped robots that she and a multidisciplinary team developed using a biomimicry approach. The robots, which will have attached water sensors to gather information from soil, can burrow into the ground, similar to earthworms, in a more natural manner and with less disruption than shoveling. (Photo: Lindsay France / Cornell University)

Taryn Bauerle had a problem.

Bauerle, associate professor of horticulture in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences’ School of Integrative Plant Science (SIPS), studies how root systems respond to thirst. It’s a critical area of research: Better understanding roots will help breed new drought-resistant crops, which are sorely needed to meet the global challenges of climate change, food shortages and population growth.

But digging into the ground to observe roots inevitably disrupts their environment, disturbing microorganisms and fungi, and even risks cutting into the roots themselves.

For years, Bauerle tried to work around the limitations of existing tools. Last year, while brainstorming with Johannes Lehmann, professor of soil sciences in SIPS, she had a different idea. “We quickly realized we needed a new approach,” she says, “and then we thought: Why not use biomimicry to develop some new tools?”

Bauerle and Shepherd

Bauerle, right, with Robert Shepherd, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, in Upson Hall.

The team, which now includes researchers in SIPS and the College of Engineering, is developing earthworm-shaped robots that can burrow into the soil with minimal disturbance. The project received a grant from the Cornell Initiative for Digital Agriculture, which supports radical collaborations aimed at solving agri-food challenges. “Nature has been trying to solve problems for a long time, so we’re copying what nature is already improving,” Bauerle says.

The robots, designed by Robert Shepherd, associate professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, will be equipped with water-detecting sensors designed by Abraham Stroock ’95, the Gordon L. Dibble Professor and William C. Hooey Director of the Smith School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

Lehmann will explore new ways to measure soil carbon forms, and Michael Gore, Ph.D. ’09, associate professor of molecular breeding and genetics for plant quality, a Liberty Hyde Bailey professor and international professor of plant breeding and genetics, will work on initial phenotyping characterizations, to help measure plants’ properties in real time.

“It couldn’t be a better team,” says Bauerle, who brings her own expertise in root systems and below-ground plant growth. “Cornell makes it so easy to just go knock on other faculty’s doors, and everybody is always very welcoming. The innate culture that we have on this campus is that people look forward to crossing boundaries and trying new things. And I think that’s why we succeed.”

Read the whole article.

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