Teaching – Dr. Hoagland Soil Microbial Ecology Lab

Teaching

Currently teaching:

 

Introduction to Urban Agriculture (SFS31200; taught every fall; 2015-present)

Visiting a vertical farming operation in Indianapolis growing greens for local restaurants

The world is undergoing the largest wave of urban growth in history and over half the population now lives in urban areas. Urbanization can result in food insecurity because of rising food prices, dominance of convenience stores and fast food chains, growing dependence of cities on food imports, and challenges posed by climate change (www. ruaf.org). Urban agriculture is widely cited as a potential strategy to overcome these challenges by enhancing access of the urban poor to nutritious food, generating (self-) employment and income, reconnecting consumers with their food supply, reducing food miles, and decreasing the ecological footprint of cities. This form or production is also widely credited for its potential to reconnect local communities and reduce urban blight. However, the benefits of urban agriculture may not be as straightforward as they might seem. This course provides students with an overview of the opportunities and challenges associated with farming in urban environments. Topics include site selection and zoning, food sovereignty and food deserts, basic organic gardening and permaculture principles, and community engagement activities. Students review case studies of urban agriculture in the U.S. and developing countries to gain insight into the practical application and benefits of these emerging systems. This course directly supports the new Sustainable Food and Farming Systems Major.


The Plant Microbiome (HORT52500; taught in fall, even years; 2014-present)

Some of the topics covered during the course

It has recently become clear, that plants are colonized by an abundant and diverse assortment of microorganisms. Consequently, the concept of what constitutes a plant has been redefined and plants are now perceived as a “metaorganism” or “holobiont”, and the dynamic community of microbes interacting with plants is referred to as its “microbiome”. Some of these microbes are pathogens, that negatively affect plants and in some cases even human health, though many others are considered beneficial, because they can help plants acquire water and nutrients and withstand biotic and abiotic stress. The plant microbiome is  now widely regarded as a key determinant of plant health and interest in learning how to manipulate these communities to increase plant productivity is growing rapidly. The application of new genomic and other “omics” based tools has greatly expanded knowledge of these complex plant-microbial relationships, yet many important questions remain unanswered. This graduate course provides an overview of what is currently known about environmental and plant factors regulating microbial community assembly and activity, and introduces students to the latest methods being used to generate further insights into these dynamic relationships. Critical reviews of scientific papers and development of a grant proposal help students gain the knowledge needed to conduct research in this rapidly emerging research field.


Agricultural, Environmental and Community Sustainability in Costa Rica (Spring Break 2019)

Produce being grown for the restaurant at an ecolodge

This experiential educational opportunity is offered every spring break. The trip  is designed to introduce students to international travel and how they can learn more about unique opportunities in agriculture through study abroad. During this 8-day trip, students tour pineapple, banana, chocolate and coffee plantations and processing plants. They participate in professional guided rainforest hikes and whitewater rafting trips. Visit and learn about tropical livestock production, fair-trade co-ops and Costa Rican Wildlife and Conservation efforts. They take time to bask in the beauty of the Arenal Volcano, experience local culture through Agro/Ecotourism, snorkel a coral reef, learn about environmental challenges and initiatives, meet local students, and much more! Dr. Hoagland participated in this course during spring break 2019, providing students with additional insights on the field of agroecology, and gaining experience with study abroad.


 

Agroecology Field Course in Colombia (new study abroad course coming soon)


Achira germplasm bank at Agrosavia research station near Rio Negro, Colombia.

Colombia is a dynamic and incredibly diverse country that growers a unique assortment of crops including coffee, cacao, plantain, bananas, rice, achira and lulo. The agricultural industry is changing rapidly following the conclusion of a decades long civil war, bringing new opportunities for some farmers and challenges for others. Urban agricultural systems are thriving in large cities like Bogota and Medellin, making the most of their tropical environment to grow food year round and increase economic opportunities. However, like many areas in the tropics, farmers are already realizing the negative effects of climate change. For example, low-lying regions can no longer support the production of key crops due to rising temperatures, which is putting further strain on these systems. This new study abroad course will teach students how the principles of ecology can be applied to develop more productive and sustainable systems, they will also learn about the importance of local cultures in these initiatives, and how new technological innovations can contribute to the development of these systems.

 

Previously taught:

Plant Propagation (HORT201; taught every spring; 2010-2014) This course provided students with an overview of plant propagation and highlighted relevant applications in horticulture and landscape architecture. Lectures focused on developing student understanding of the biological principles underlying propagation techniques, and laboratory exercises provided students with hands-on opportunities to practice these techniques. Many of the laboratory exercises were updated to support the new Sustainable and Food Systems Major, such as those focusing on vegetable grafting and seed saving activities.

Dr. Hoagland Soil Microbial Ecology Lab - Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, 625 Agriculture Mall, West Lafayette, IN 47907

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