Shocking Carp Unsafe for Humans

Reuben Goforth researches Asian carpReuben Goforth found that the voltage necessary to kill Asian carp embryos and control the invasive species with electricity would be too high to be safe in rivers.

One of the more promising ideas for controlling or eliminating troublesome Asian carp populations in the Midwest’s rivers is impractical and unsafe, according to a Purdue University researcher.

Scientists had hoped to modify or expand low-voltage electrical barriers like those used around Chicago waterways to direct fish from particular areas. Reuben Goforth, an aquatic ecology researcher, said the level of electricity needed to kill Asian carp eggs would be far too high.

Asian carp are not native to U.S. waterways but have been found in rivers throughout the Midwest. They compete with native species for food and alter ecosystems. They’re also dangerous to boaters and other river users. “Imagine going 35 mph in a boat and having something with the mass of a bowling ball hitting you in the face,” Goforth said. “There are cases of broken cheeks, broken noses, people being knocked out.”

In tests, Goforth found it took at least 16 volts per centimeter of electricity to kill the embryos. That’s in contrast to 1 volt per centimeter used in electrical barriers around Chicago. “Using 16 volts is just too much,” he said. “It would be dangerous for people and other aquatic life to put that much electricity in the water.”

Goforth will look at other methods to control Asian carp, including using weak electrical fields or hydroacoustics to deter the fish from optimal spawning grounds.

Brian Wallheimer


Ag Historian Lends Expertise to The Dust Bowl

R. Douglas Hurt , professor and head of the Purdue University Department of History, was a program advisor for the Ken Burns documentary The Dust Bowl, which premiered on PBS last fall.

Dustorm 1930
USDA/Eugene Littlefield family
A dust storm rolls across a farm in Texas in 1935.

Hurt, who specializes in American agricultural history and is author of The Dust Bowl: An Agricultural and Social History, was interviewed about the causes and consequences of the Dust Bowl in the 1930s, which ruined farmland and left many people destitute. Hurt also discussed how people in the region and the federal government responded to the drought and the worst wind-erosion problem in American history.

“The Dust Bowl and drought of the 1930s attracted a great deal of attention during this past summer’s drought,” Hurt said. “People often ask if the Dust Bowl could happen again. Drought is a natural phenomenon of the Great Plains. It will come again, but we have a better understanding of wind erosion and the methods and technologies, as well as precedent for government support, to prevent its worst effects on agriculture.”

Hurt is also the author of several other books on American agriculture.

Amy Patterson Neubert

Farkas to Lead Food Science

Brian FarkasBrian Farkas

Brian E. Farkas, professor of food science at North Carolina State University since 1994, has been appointed professor and head of Purdue University’s Department of Food Science. The appointment is effective July 1.

Farkas succeeds Suzanne Nielsen, who is returning to the Purdue Agriculture faculty after serving 10 years as department head. “Brian is a proven leader, and I am excited about the vision, passion and energy he will bring to the food science department,” said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture.

Farkas said he is honored to be following in the footsteps of the department’s first two leaders—Nielsen, and, before her, Philip E. Nelson. He said the department’s faculty and staff, and the Purdue Agriculture administration are leaders in their field. “Their reputation for excellence in the land-grant mission is widely known, from developing students as scientists and professionals to addressing critical issues of global interest and facilitating Indiana’s economic growth,” he said.

Farkas has been alumni distinguished undergraduate professor and undergraduate coordinator of food science at North Carolina State since 2009. He began his work at the university as an assistant professor in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences and rose to professor and associate department head in 2006 before taking on his current duties.



Grilled, seared foods may add to waistlines

Kee-Hong Kim
Kee-Hong Kim found that the chemicals created by some cooking methods, including grilling, may allow immature fat cells to survive and accumulate lipids, blocking a cellular process that would normally kill those cells.
A steak slapped onto a hot barbecue will leave the meat with black grill lines that add flavor and aroma, but the chemicals contained in charred, seared and fried foods may over time kick-start the body’s ability to add new fat cells and increase the risk of age-related diseases.

Over time, the human body shuts down the ability of young fat cells to mature and accumulate lipids. But grilling, searing and frying create glycated proteins, which result from proteins chemically bonding with sugar.

“When you put proteins and sugars together at high temperatures, there is a chemical reaction, and that creates flavor and texture, which we think of as good things,” said Kee-Hong Kim, a food scientist at Purdue University. “But research suggests that these glycated proteins are involved in age-related diseases like cardiovascular disease.”

Kim wanted to see whether glycated proteins affect the speed at which precursor, or immature, fat cells turn into mature fat cells. Using a cell culture, Kim saw no change in how quickly those immature cells accumulated lipids, which are stored as fat in cells, but he did notice something else.

“Older animals don’t generally accumulate new fat cells. Those precursor cells lose their ability to become mature as we age,” Kim said. “But when exposed to glycated proteins, immature fat cells started to accumulate lipids like they would in a younger animal. When we continuously consume glycated proteins, we might turn on the ability of precursor cells to mature,” he said.

Kim found that the byproducts of glycated proteins interfere with cellular processes that should kill immature fat cells in older animals. That means those animals, or people, may accumulate more fat cells than they should, and those cells store compounds that can lead to inflammation and certain types of diseases.

“It’s really interesting that a single food component could contribute to a number of diseases,” said Chih-Yu Chen, a doctoral student in Kim’s laboratory.

Kim is investigating the relationship between obesity and a number of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. He believes glycated proteins may be a factor in some of those diseases.

Brian Wallheimer

Henderson at the Helm

Jason HendersonJason Henderson

Jason Henderson, a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City vice president who leads the Bank’s agricultural and rural outreach and research programs, has been appointed associate dean of Purdue Agriculture and director of Purdue Extension.

Henderson, who earned his master’s and doctoral degrees in agricultural economics from Purdue, will begin his new role May 28. He replaces Chuck Hibberd, who became dean of Extension at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in October.

“Purdue has one of the strongest Extension programs in the country, and we were looking for a leader who could build on our momentum and strong state support,” said Jay Akridge, Glenn W. Sample Dean of Purdue Agriculture. “We found that person in Jason Henderson.”

Henderson, who joined the Bank in 2001, has been Omaha Branch executive of the Federal Reserve of Kansas City since 2006 and vice president of the Kansas City Fed since 2007. He is responsible for outreach programs in the state of Nebraska for the Kansas City Fed. In this role, he engages a broad group of stakeholders who include business leaders, elected officials, and agricultural and youth audiences.

Henderson said Purdue Extension is uniquely positioned to help leaders and provide the technical knowledge and insights they need to build a vibrant agricultural sector and healthy rural and urban communities. “Growing up on a dairy farm during the 1980s, I learned that healthy rural communities are those that provide economic opportunities both at the farm gate and on Main Street,” he said.

“I am passionate about building healthy, vibrant agricultural and rural communities and using the resources of Extension to expand our impact in urban areas. Purdue has an exceptional team of on-campus specialists and county educators, and I am very excited about working with this group to make an even bigger difference for the people of Indiana.”

Keith Robinson


Indiana Part of Childhood Obesity Study


Two Indiana counties—Adams and Henry—have been selected for studies that examine causes of child obesity in rural, low-income communities.

Communities Preventing Childhood Obesity will help community health coalitions identify and correct problems that contribute to child obesity, such as lack of playgrounds or healthy food. The project, led by Kansas State University and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, includes Purdue Extension. Two counties each from seven states are part of the study.

Each county’s coalition will determine needed improvements and implement programs to address them. Evaluations at the end of the study in 2016 will assess the programs’ effectiveness.

“Obesity is a national concern and, as such, is a high priority for Purdue Extension and health organizations around the world,” said Angie Abbott, assistant director for Purdue Extension in the College of Health and Human Sciences. “There are tremendous needs in our Indiana communities that we hope to meet through the results of this study.”

Jessica Merzdorf

Weaver receives Spirit of Land-Grant Mission Award

Connie WeaverConnie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of the Department of Nutrition Science, is the recipient of Purdue's 2012 Spirit of the Land-Grant Mission Award.

Nutrition scientist and professor Connie Weaver received Purdue University’s 2012 Spirit of the Land-Grant Mission Award for improving nutrition recommendations for children, adolescents and adults nationwide through her research in calcium absorption and bone health.

The award is presented annually to a Purdue faculty member in the Colleges of Agriculture, Health and Human Sciences, or Veterinary Medicine whose work exemplifies the land-grant mission of discovery, engagement and learning.

Much of Weaver’s work with children and adolescents takes place at Camp Calcium, a six-week camp designed to measure calcium absorption and use in children and younger teenagers. The camp, held annually for the last 22 years, gives adolescents a chance to explore careers and take science and math classes in a college environment while researchers control their diets and measure the amount of calcium their bodies absorb.

“The award reflects excellence in research, teaching and engagement, and Connie demonstrates this excellence in a way that very few have,” saidKaren Plaut, director of agricultural research and associate dean of Purdue Agriculture. “Connie embodies the spirit of the whole award, particularly in the area of engagement. She truly has an attitude of ‘let’s take that research out and get it to the public.’”

Jessica Merzdorf

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