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College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

The University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences advances the health and welfare of people, animals and the environment through research and education in agriculture, community, human and rural development, natural resources, nutrition and life sciences.

The college leads research and Extension efforts related to various issues and our faculty and students are finding solutions to the world's most critical challenges in order to create and sustain an abundant food and energy supply, a healthy environment and successful families and communities.

Degree Programs:

Undergraduate Degree Programs:

  • Agricultural Economics (B.S.)

    • Agribusiness
    • Applied Economics
  • Agricultural Education (B.S.)

  • Agricultural Science, Communication & Leadership (B.S.)

  • Animal & Veterinary Science (B.S.)

  • Apparel, Textiles, & Design (B.S.)

  • Child, Family, & Consumer Sciences (B.S.)

  • Early Childhood Development Education (B.S.)

  • Food Science (B.S.)

  • Sustainable Crop & Landscape Systems (B.S.)

  • Sustainable Food Systems (B.S.)

Graduate and Ph. D.

  • Agricultural Education (M.S.)

  • Animal Physiology (Ph.D.)

  • Animal Science (M.S.)

  • Applied Economics (M.S.)

  • Entomology (M.S., Ph.D.)

  • Family and Consumer Sciences (M.S.)

  • Food Science (M.S., Ph.D.)

  • Plant Science (M.S., Ph.D.)

  • Soil and Land Resources (M.S., Ph.D.)

  • Water Resources (M.S., Ph.D.)


Tracking Water from Space

University of Idaho College of Agricultural and Life Sciences water resources Professor Richard G. Allen's decades-long efforts to use satellite imagery to track irrigation water use on Earth has a new platform: the International Space Station.

Allen, who is based at UI's Kimberly Research and Extension Center, received a $155,000 grant from NASA in 2016 to develop software to estimate water consumption on Earth as part of the space agency's ECOSTRESS mission.

NASA wants to measure surface temperatures around the globe to better understand plant-water dynamics and future ecosystem changes related to climate.

In 2009, Allen and colleagues at the Idaho Department of Water Resources were honored by Harvard University's Ash Institute with an Innovations in American Government Award for developing the satellite-based system known as METRIC. It tracks irrigation water consumption by measuring how much water evaporates and how much is released by plants.

In the years since Allen has worked with Google engineers and colleagues in other states to advance space-based water monitoring on Earth.

The goal for the International Space Station effort is to better identify critical water stress points in key areas on Earth that may be affected most by climate change, better under-stand how and when plants need water, and measure agricultural water use throughout the U.S. to improve drought monitoring.

The mission is scheduled to launch in 2020 and operate for two years.

Article by Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

E. coli Probiotic Research

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences research scientist Haiqing Sheng won a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation grant to adapt a novel new genetics technology to produce probiotics to combat enteropathogenic E. coli bacteria or EPEC that kill hundreds of thousands of children worldwide each year.

Sheng, who works for School of Food Science faculty members Carolyn Hovde Bohach and Scott A. Minnich, received the one-year, $100,000 grant from the Gates Foundation for his project, "CRISPR-Cas9 directed bacteriophage treatment of EPEC diarrhea."

The School of Food Science is operated jointly by the University of Idaho CALS and Washington State University.

The enteropathogenic E. coli bacteria are responsible for more than 30 percent of infant diarrhea cases in South Africa, Kenya, Bangladesh, Brazil and Mexico.

Sheng's research will use the newly developed genetic technology CRISPR-Cas9, which is the acronym for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated protein.

The technology capitalizes on CRISPR, a bacterial gene, that recognizes an invading virus and cleaves it into pieces that then are used to develop a rudimentary immune system.

The CRISPR-Cas9 research will attempt to develop a bacteriophage, a virus that specifically targets the disease-causing E. coli, in probiotics that can be given to children in developing countries.

A parallel strategy will be using probiotics to deliver equipping beneficial strains of E. coli with the capability to fight off the disease-causing strains.

One key advantage of using the probiotic approach will be that the children's digestive tracts will not suffer the disruptions that antibiotics can often cause, killing both beneficial and disease causing bacteria.

Sheng's funding is from the Gates Foundation's Grand Challenges Explorations initiative Round 15. His proposal, which was limited to a two-page online submission by the Foundation's rules, was one of about 60 funded from among 1,800 submitted.

Hui Shi, a visiting scientist from China's Chutian College Huazhong Aricultural University, worked with Sheng on the bacteriophage isolation part of the project.

Article by Haiqing Sheng, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.

Protecting Space from Bacteria

Mars and food science come together at the University of Idaho to solve a futuristic question: When we find life on other planets, will we know if it hitched a ride there on our own spacecraft? UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences professor and biochemist Andrzej Paszczynski is helping to answer that question.

NASA is famous for its clean rooms. The spaces where white-suited engineers and technicians assemble spacecraft are designed to ensure that they leave Earth as free as possible from contaminants, including bacteria.

The idea is that when explorations on alien worlds encounter life, scientists will be able to tell whether that life is native to the planet, or if it hitched a ride from Earth.

Before a craft is launched into the great unknown, scientists collect samples of any microbes that remain on its surface. The samples are stored at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, California, but a backup collection also makes its way to Moscow, where it's stored in a minus-80-degree freezer that operates unobtrusively in Paszczynski's lab in UI's 75-year-old Food Science Building. Even when the frost-rimmed interior and multiple doors appear, the freezer looks about as exotic as a kitchen appliance. But should JPL's collection ever succumb to a tsunami, earthquake or meteorite, Moscow may be called on to answer otherworldly questions.

Paszczynski and his students would be ready. His team has analyzed scores of samples of bacteria found on Mars-bound spacecraft.

Most of the bacteria - identified using DNA sequencing - belong to the genus Bacillus, which includes many species that promote human health and a few that don't. Other common bacteria identified from the NASA samples were Staphylococcus - think Staph infections and flesh-eating bacteria. Bringing foreign bacteria to another planet would not be ideal.

“Basically we don't want to contaminate this area with what we bring. That way when humans eventually arrive they will be able to sample those areas to see if life is there,” Paszczynski said. Discoveries of life in extreme environments - such as the North and South Poles and the Sonoran Desert in North America - make Paszczynski believe life exists beyond Earth.

“This is giving us more and more assurance that life is most likely there. If not on Mars, then perhaps on Europa,” Jupiter's icebound moon, he said. “Life is so resilient, it is able to survive in unimaginable conditions.”

Article by Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Creating Sustainable Science

University of Idaho environmental chemist Greg Möller's lifelong interest in solving environmental challenges globally includes helping students and the public understand the need for sustainability worldwide.

Möller's latest environmental chemistry project - capturing plant nutrients from wastewater - puts a modern twist on sophisticated Mayan farming practices at least 2,000 years old.

Water ranks as one of Möller's most consistent interests during his 25 years on UI's faculty. It is one of life's elemental necessities and presents technological challenges close to home and around the world.

Article by Bill Loftus, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences