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Local students with disabilities spend summer living on campus for college prep

“This has been eye-opening and life-changing,” said 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo as he waits patiently in his wheelchair for the elevator at Horton International House, a residence hall on The University of Toledo Main Campus.

He is one of nine local students with disabilities, most still in high school, spending five weeks this summer living on campus and working at local companies and organizations as part of an Ability Center of Greater Toledo program designed to prepare them for college, provide them with job experience, and boost their independence.

Waiting outside the Horton International House for the bus to take them to work, were, from left, 17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg, 19-year-old Zach Cotton of Galion, 17-year-old Donny Stewart of Sylvania, 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo, and 18-year-old Ana McGuire of Sylvania.

“I was so nervous,” said 18-year-old Ana McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in Sylvania in the fall and uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language. “This is the first time I’ve been away from my family for a long period of time.”

McGuire spends her days working with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. In the evenings, she does her own cooking, cleaning and laundry at International House.

The Ability Center provides staff that serve the role of a resident supervisor. They stay in the residence hall suites with the students to provide supervision and any accommodations needed related to their disability.

Donny Stewart read a book while waiting for the bus to take him to work at the Toledo Museum of Art. Stewart lives with autism and will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in the fall.

“The other night I made spaghetti and meatballs,” said Donny Stewart, a 17-year-old living with autism who will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in the fall. “I’m learning to live with other people, be more responsible, and make sure I have clean clothes. Mom is not here to do it for me.”

This marks the second year of the Next Steps Summer Program, a component of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo’s Life Skills Department and comprised of community partners.

“The Toledo Museum of Art participates in the Next Steps Summer Program because, as an employer in the community, it’s our responsibility to help all people acquire the necessary skills to become gainfully employed,” Siccorah Martin, human resources manager at the Toledo Museum of Art, said.

Ana McGuire, center, worked with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in the fall, uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language.

17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg works at the Toledo Area Humane Society walking and cleaning dogs and cats.

“This experience is awesome,” said Bentley, who lives with Williams syndrome and has had a stroke. “Making new friends is the best part. We’ve gone to Dave & Buster’s, out for ice cream, and next we’re attending a Mud Hens game together.”

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me,” said Shaffer, a student at Herzing University. “I got to show my true colors.”

Shaffer started experiencing symptoms of cerebral palsy at the age of 3 and uses a wheelchair for long distances. The Rogers High School graduate has a limited range of motion and goes to physical therapy to strengthen his legs.

For employment experience as part of the program, Shaffer works at Preferred Properties, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities buy homes.

“I’m really enjoying my summer here and also giving back to people like me,” Shaffer said. “It’s incredible to live in a residence hall with a roommate just like my friends. I feel better about myself. Coming here raised the bar for me.”

The program ends Thursday, Aug. 10.

“Our goal is to impact the students now and prepare them for the future as they enter the workforce,” said Mallory Tarr, marketing coordinator for The Ability Center of Northwest Ohio. “We encourage our students to think outside the box and explore what is possible. Our hope is that students will build on their increased feelings of confidence and continue that momentum into the next phase of their life.”

Center for Health and Successful Living patient navigator named Healthcare Hero

Barbara Ann Oxner is always looking for someone who might need help. 

“I meet prospective clients in grocery stores, doctors’ offices, seminars, garage sales, bus trips, walking, at physical therapy,” she said. 

Barbara Ann Oxner, a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, received a Healthcare Hero Award from the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio.

Oxner is a patient navigator in the UT Center for Health and Successful Living, where she has worked since 2016 thanks to a grant from the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Before that, she volunteered there for three years.

“I love my job. I identify women in northwest Ohio who need health education and medical services, specifically, mammograms. I look for women 40 and older who are high-risk with little or no insurance.

“For a long time, my motto has been, ‘helping people to help themselves.’ That’s exactly what a patient navigator does.”

Oxner does her job so well the Hospital Council of Northwest Ohio last month presented her with one of its Healthcare Hero Awards, which recognize the contributions of health-care workers in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan. There were 30 nominees; Oxner and five others received that distinction during a ceremony at the Toledo Museum of Art Glass Pavilion.

“I don’t see myself as anyone special,” she said. “Being nominated was an unbelievable honor. Being recognized as a winner and named a Healthcare Hero? Wow — just wow!”

“Barb is an inspiration to everyone she interacts with,” said Dr. Amy Thompson, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She tirelessly works to help those in most need receive education, screening and care during the cancer survivor journey.”

It’s a journey Oxner started in 1985.

“I was a 38-year-old registered nurse with two children when, two weeks before my daughter’s high school graduation, I discovered a lump in my breast during a self-exam,” she recalled.

Three doctors confirmed the diagnosis: breast cancer.

“I had surgery and no chemotherapy and no radiation. My help came from God,” Oxner said.

But five years later, Oxner received devastating news: She had multiple myeloma.

“I was given six months to live,” she said. “I was at death’s door — but God was at my door, and He kept me; He healed me. My oncologist said I was a miracle, and I am.”

Her faith and determination are uplifting and contagious, and she shares both.

Barbara Oxner, sporting the pink hat in the center, and members of the Breast Cancer Survivors Support Group posed for a photo with UT students who work at the Center for Health and Successful Living and Dr. Amy Thompson, kneeling.

At the Center for Health and Successful Living, Oxner is the community outreach coordinator for the African-American Women’s Cancer Support Group. And she and Lorraine Willoughby started the Pink Sneakers Program, which brings together cancer survivors, friends and loved ones to walk three times a week.

“These and other programs not only educate our ladies, but provide opportunities to socialize and enjoy fellowship,” she said. “As a 32-year breast cancer survivor and a 27-year multiple myeloma survivor, I strive to be of comfort to others as I, too, have been comforted on this continual journey.

“The support group and Pink Sneakers are priceless opportunities to celebrate survivorship and allow new survivors to see they, too, can achieve longevity one step at a time.”

“As a patient navigator who connects adults to needed services, Barb is committed, reliable, persistent and talented,” said Dr. Timothy Jordan, professor of public health and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “She combines her knowledge and talent with genuine concern and love for people. Clients sense that Barb truly cares for them — above and beyond their health needs. That is why they respond to her so positively. This is Barb’s secret to success. It is rare to see such an effective combination of knowledge, skill and love for people.”

“The best part of my job is when clients receive the care they need. It is hearing patients’ stories. It is seeing hopelessness turn to hopefulness. It is watching others become proactive in their own health care when the tools they need are provided,” Oxner said.

“The Center for Health and Successful Living strives to do this. I’m grateful to God for allowing me to meet Dr. Thompson and Dr. Jordan; I am thankful for the opportunity to serve others.”

Associate professor emeritus sketches Louie the elephant

On a recent Monday morning, Dr. Paul Brand found inspiration in the wise eyes of Louie, an elephant that was at the time housed at the Toledo Zoo.

“I belong to an informal group of artists, the Monday Morning Painters. We meet every Monday for breakfast and then sketch or paint in different venues around northwest Ohio,” explained the associate professor emeritus of physiology and pharmacology.

Dr. Paul Brand, who drew this sketch of Louie the elephant, will have a booth at Art on the Mall Sunday, July 30.

Though Brand was able to expertly capture Louie in his sketch, he pointed out that wild animals don’t always make the easiest subject matter: “Sketching at the zoo is fun, but challenging. Subject matter is mostly the interesting architecture; the animals would make great pictures if they would hold still. Happily, Louie held still for about 30 minutes while eating an enormous amount of hay.”

While Louie ate his breakfast, Brand studied the elephant’s features.

He described his artistic process: “I set up opposite him and laid out a sketch as usual, using a 2B drawing pencil, first noting the length and height of his body, the relative sizes of his head, ears and trunk, and the length of his legs compared to his height at his shoulder. Then I carefully outlined his body shape and used shading to give volume and character. I paid special attention to his face as that is where character is. Last, I made fine lines to show the creases around his eyes that give him the appearance of wisdom.”

Louie, born in 2003 at a whopping 275 pounds, recently was transferred to Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Neb. He resides with a herd of six other elephants rescued from Africa amid a severe drought. Zoo staff are hopeful that transfers such as these will serve a large role in saving the endangered species.

Though visitors aren’t able to visit Louie at the Toledo Zoo, they can still pick up greeting cards made from Brand’s sketch, and the original sketch, at Art on the Mall. The juried art fair will be held Sunday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Centennial Mall. Brand will be at booth No. 98, located near the Health and Human Services Building.

“I enjoy showing my work at art fairs; Art on the Mall is one of the best: well-organized; friendly, competent volunteers; and an excellent location on campus,” he said. “This is my fourth year at Art on the Mall.”

Celebrating 25 years at Art on the Mall

For two local painters, it may have been a stroke of luck when Art on the Mall debuted in 1992 at their alma mater.

“I had been doing a lot of paintings of Lake Erie scenes, and then this event was announced,” Carol Connolly Pletz recalled.

This watercolor painting of University Hall by Kathy Palmer Genzman was featured in one of her Toledo calendars. “I always include my alma mater in the calendar,” she said.

“It was the year I made my first Toledo calendar,” Kathy Palmer Genzman said. “It was like it was meant to be.”

The two women were among 51 artists who displayed and sold their work at the inaugural juried fair.

“It was a beautiful sunny day. There were few tents, if any, and UT supplied wire structures to display paintings,” Connolly Pletz, a 1966 alumna with a bachelor’s degree in art, said. “It was the first show where I stood out with a few my paintings. It was a very positive experience; people loved my work.”

Palmer Genzman also felt the love.

“It was my husband, Bob, who suggested the calendar. He wrote the history, and I drew and painted scenes from around town,” she said. “When Art on the Mall was announced, he said, ‘Let’s see if they sell,’ and they did — people loved the calendar.”

“Brown Swiss Dairy,” acrylic, was painted by Carol Connolly Pletz after one of her many visits to Shipshewana, Ind.

Connolly Pletz and Palmer Genzman have returned to Art on the Mall every year. The perennial favorites will be back with more than 100 artists Sunday, July 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Centennial Mall.

“I am so grateful to UT for putting this event on every year,” Connolly Pletz said. “The community really enjoys the art, music and food. It’s great it has remained a free show with free parking. Toledo loves this show.”

“Everyone at UT is always so helpful,” Palmer Genzman, a 1980 graduate with a master’s degree in art education, said. “I’ve known Dan [Saevig, associate vice president of alumni relations] since the beginning. He and his crew do an amazing job rain or shine.”

Even fellow artists offer assistance. Connolly Pletz learned about notecards from Tom Durnford, a UT alumnus who taught a graphics class for the Communication Department and was director of publications and graphics from 1965 until his retirement from the University in 1989. The two had booths next to each for 23 years until Durnford passed away.

Carol Connolly Pletz has made 160 cards from her acrylic paintings.

“He worked in watercolor and besides his paintings, he sold notecards of his artwork,” Connolly Pletz said. “That first year at Art on the Mall, I saw he was doing a brisk business selling his cards. We talked, and he agreed to mentor me in publishing my own notecards.”

Since then, she has made 160 cards from her eye-catchingly colorful acrylic paintings, which showcase scenes from the Metroparks of the Toledo Area; the Lake Erie islands; Shipshewana, Ind.; and Ireland.

“People like to take something away that’s affordable,” Connolly Pletz said. “Not everybody has a place for a painting or can afford an original or the color is wrong. But everybody can use cards.”

“I also sell Toledo notecards, which are very popular,” Palmer Genzman said. “I sell out of calendars every year; I always have to send the kids home to get more. The calendars aren’t that expensive, and yet they’re artwork. People really enjoy having a picture of Toledo.”

That local focus is important to both artists.

Palmer Genzman’s 2018 calendar features her meticulously detailed watercolor paintings of the University, last year’s Jeep parade, the Lights Before Christmas at the Toledo Zoo, walleye fishing, the Niagara ship on the Maumee River and more. Since her husband passed away, her son, Paul, writes the history.

Kathy Palmer Genzman posed for a photo in front of some of her watercolor paintings that are included in her Toledo calendar.

“I want people to love their city and be proud of it. It’s a great city; it’s a great University — look at that campus. What more can you ask for? Good eating places, you’ve got the Mud Hens downtown, I love the renaissance of downtown,” she said. “I taught art at Toledo Public Schools and lived in the Glass City until retirement. I now live in Lambertville, Mich., but I’m a Toledo person.”

“Many local places have caught my eye — and my heart,” Connolly Pletz said. “The Toledo Botanical Garden, Wildwood Metropark Preserve, the Maumee River, to name a few. There is so much natural beauty in our part of the world. I hope my work inspires some to pause and take a closer look at what we have right here.”

Study abroad trip broadens business horizons for students

As soon as spring semester ended and the last graduates walked off the stage with their cherished diplomas, dozens of College of Business and Innovation students embarked on an engaging study abroad program to London and Berlin.

All College of Business and Innovation students — all majors — are strongly encouraged to study abroad during their undergraduate degree program. Study abroad programs can assist students in the development of academic, intellectual, personal, professional and cross-cultural skills.

Business students smiled for the camera in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

These two- to three-week study abroad programs are led by College of Business faculty members, with Carol Sullinger and Dean Gary Insch leading May’s trip. Examples of College of Business faculty trips include eastern Europe, western Europe and Asia. Opportunities vary from year to year.

“I teach both marketing and international business classes and have experience in industry international business,” Sullinger said. “The trip is designed to be an immersion into the business culture, which includes the economic, political and cultural environments of a country. Those are the foundations of the business environment, and the trip is an experiential way to learn. The idea is to experience both the differences and the similarities of the different countries.

“My role was co-teaching the class with the dean throughout the semester in preparation for the trip, as well as planning the company, educational and cultural visits, everything from picking the hotels and assigning roommates to coordinating travel plans and the itinerary throughout the trip,” she added. “I think one of the really special parts of the trip was for the students to spend 10 days with the dean of the College of Business and Innovation. It was a privilege for all of us to learn from his knowledge and experience.”  

Business students met with members of a real estate agency in London.

“I went on this trip because I thought it was a great opportunity to squeeze in an extra class while being able to travel abroad and immerse myself into new cultures,” said Alex Odenweller, who majors in finance and accounting. “The biggest thing I learned was that the cultural and language barriers in European countries were more apparent than I thought they were. These barriers sometimes made it difficult to travel around the cities and immerse into the cultures.”

“I would definitely recommend this class to everyone,” Natalie Zerucha said. “I believe everyone should experience a culture change to make us as Americans realize how fortunate we are, as well as to show them that companies overall operate the same as we do and that it would be interesting to work with a business overseas.

The students also visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.

“All businesses have the same sort of cycle no matter where you are in the world,” Zerucha added. “They might operate differently but they get their products from somewhere and someone else packages those products, so that is supply chain. Someone deals with their numbers. They market. I learned if you have an idea, run with it and see where it takes you, like Passle for example; they failed a few times, but they got back up and readjusted how they wanted to do things and be an asset to the business world. I also learned that you have to go with the trends to stay in the market, like QVC.”

Odenweller said, “The best experience for me was becoming very good friends with some of the people on the trip. I didn’t know anyone before going on the trip, and when I left I had made a whole new group of friends. Being able to experience everything London and Berlin had to offer with a group of friends made the trip an even greater experience. I would say that this trip was one of the best experiences I have ever had, and I would go on it again in a heartbeat.”

“My favorite part of the trip was watching each student grow,” Sullinger said. “We had a wide variety of travel experience in the group; one student had never been on a plane, and another was a graduate student who did international medical device sales for his career. The group bonded in so many ways. One of the students who had never run a 10K in his life decided to enter and compete in one in London. His roommate on the trip went with him to cheer him on. The whole group, after learning of his accomplishment, congratulated him for days. I have many more of those stories, and each one was really rewarding to see. Watching each student grow is what I love about teaching.”

The location of next year’s trip will be determined before the fall semester starts. Anyone interested can contact Sullinger at carol.sullinger@utoledo.edu.

“The dean and I are looking forward to another great trip with up to 20 students in May 2018,” she said.

Engineering student wins big on ‘The Price Is Right’

Since 1972, contestants on “The Price Is Right” have “come on down” for the chance to appear on television and win prizes. Jacob Mattoni, a UT student majoring in electrical engineering, never thought one day he would be among them.

Mattoni was on a trip to California with his girlfriend and fellow UT student, Kendall Bialecki, who is majoring in biology/pre-med, during spring break while taping of the show took place.

Jacob Mattoni celebrated as “The Price Is Right” host Drew Carey announced his 95 cents qualified him to advance to the Showcase Showdown.

“Her sister-in-law was looking into getting tickets for a show in Los Angeles because we would be traveling there for a few days to visit. The day of the taping, we showed up and stood in line waiting to get into the registration area. The registration process took about three hours,” Mattoni explained. “Part of this process was the interview, which is when they take about 20 people at a time and ask them a simple question just to see how they respond.”

When asked by the interviewer what he does, Mattoni responded enthusiastically, telling him about going to The University of Toledo and studying electrical engineering.

Drew Carey reached out to shake hands with Jacob Mattoni who won the Showcase Showdown.

“He then responded with, ‘I bet you could use a new computer,’ which is when I said, ‘I could, but I’d rather win a new car,’” Mattoni said.

Luck appeared to be on Mattoni’s side when he was called on to participate in the game show, after putting on a performance in the audience to act “as obnoxious as possible” in an attempt to gain the attention of those running the program.

“I thought I heard my last name, but with everyone cheering in the audience, I couldn’t hear a thing. I then look on stage and see a man holding up a poster board with my name on it. At that point, I basically blacked out and couldn’t remember anything,” Mattoni recalled. “Out of 300 people in the audience, I never would have imagined getting my name called.

Jacob Mattoni, second from right, posed for a photo with the Bialecki family, from left, Ken, Dawn, Jayne and Kendall.

“Participating in the show is all a blur, to be honest. With dozens of cameras in your face and people screaming and cheering for you, there wasn’t much focus on the actual objective of the show,” he continued.

Mattoni did express thanks to his girlfriend and her family for their help from the audience throughout the show, which aired May 25.

After a brief setback during one of his prize games, Mattoni won a chance to compete for a showcase prize after spinning 95 cents on “the Big Wheel,” the closest amount to $1 that was spun without going over.

He then bested his opponent with his bid on a showcase prize that included a roundtrip to Yosemite National Park, a Mongoose ATV and a 2017 Honda Fit, which he said he traded for a more “age appropriate” 2017 Honda Civic, which has plenty of room for his golf clubs.

National Youth Sports Program provides positive, safe environment for at-risk kids

So many smiles, so much laughter, such determination — it’s easy to see local kids love The University of Toledo’s National Youth Sports Program (NYSP).

And they’re happy to talk about the summer camp that offers sports instruction and educational enrichment.

A camper soared through the air during the long jump on the track.

“Swimming and track are my favorites at NYSP,” Delmar Lightner, 13, said. “Swimming because of the diving board, and track because of the long jump.”

“I love the kids in my group who are nice,” Qarinn Hopings, 10, said. “The counselors are helpful and nice, too.”

“I like NYSP because I like track, and I get better and better every year,” Amarion Jordan, 12, said.

“I love NYSP because of basketball, the new drills, and because we won the championship game,” Miracle Buchanon, 15, said and beamed.

“What I like about NYSP are the different events — the talent show, going fishing, swimming and pool party, and ice cream,” Ariahnna Webb-Bragg, 11, said.

Approximately 150 Toledo youths attended the program this year.

“We offer a safe and nurturing environment for children ages 9 to 16 to enjoy a variety of age-appropriate recreational and educational activities such as swimming, track, giant foosball, origami making, fishing, soccer, basketball, parachute games, theme days and more,” said Dr. Ruthie Kucharewski, professor and chair in the School of Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences, and NYSP director. “Many children do not have the opportunity to attend other programs or activities in the city, and our program on campus provides bus service, a free hot lunch, a free medical physical, a free T-shirt, and mentorship from adults from the community and campus, UT student-athletes and UT recreation therapy majors who enjoy working with children.”

UT football player Nate Jeppesen, a counselor with the National Youth Sports Program, petted a giraffe during a field trip to Indian Creek Petting Zoo in Lambertville, Mich.

Starting in 1968, UT was one of the first universities in the country to offer the federally funded program sponsored by the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

Kucharewski said even after federal funding for the program was cut, UT continued to operate the camp through fundraising, in-kind donations, and commitment from the University to provide some funding and facilities.

This summer, youths enjoyed a wide variety of enriching activities, including the Hometown Heroes series, which brought in local speakers. UT Women’s Basketball Coach Tricia Cullop; Toledo fire fighters; Jordan Strack, WTOL sports and news broadcaster; and Scott High School Principal Carnell Smith talked to the campers.

Children attending UT’s National Youth Sports Program fed goats during a field trip to Indian Creek Petting Zoo in Lambertville, Mich.

“The first week went better than I could have imagined. Seeing the campers enjoy the activities planned and connecting with their group leaders is an amazing experience. The kids truly look forward to coming to camp each day,” said Claire Copa, project liaison for NYSP. “The camp finished up strong this year with several other activities — a talent show, pool party, and field trips to Indian Creek Petting Zoo and Hooked on Fishing Not on Drugs at Olander Park.”

Copa cited recreational therapy as one of her favorite parts of the NYSP experience, since many of the campers would not have access to it otherwise. She spoke about the importance of teaching children not only how to be physically healthy, but to develop emotional health as well.

For more information on NYSP, visit utoledo.edu/hhs/clinics/nysp.

To give a gift to the National Youth Sports Program Fund, contact the UT Foundation at 419.530.7730 or go to give2ut.utoledo.edu and search for NYSP.

UT President Sharon L. Gaber, right, posed for a photo with this year’s National Youth Sports Program participants and counselors.

UT scientist named Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News

When asked how she first became interested in plants and nature, Dr. Jennifer Boldt attributed her passion to her family.

“For most of my life, my parents owned and operated a greenhouse and garden center in Florida. I have literally grown up surrounded by plants. My sister and I would help out in the afternoons after school and during the summers. I have fond memories of helping my parents and grandparents transplant seedlings,” she recalled.

Dr. Jennifer Boldt, adjunct research assistant professor of environmental sciences, was named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News.

“My sister and I thought it was great because we got to spend time with [family] and nobody minded that we got dirty. As we got older, we assumed more and more responsibility in both the production and retail aspects of the business. We saw all the hard work, dedication and passion that our parents had for growing beautiful plants, helping customers find the right plants for their gardens and landscapes, and providing a sense of community for their employees and customers,” Boldt continued. “My dad was a very patient teacher and cultivated our interest in learning how plants grow. As I got older, I decided that this could be a career path for me, too.

“I studied horticulture and business administration as an undergraduate, and had planned to one day take over the family business. However, I discovered research and have taken a slightly different career path, but I am still very much involved in the horticulture industry and enjoy it immensely.”

Boldt was recently named one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Greenhouse Product News. She is a research horticulturalist with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, housed in Wolfe Hall. She and her colleagues utilize space in the Wolfe Hall greenhouse and at the Toledo Botanical Garden. The Wolfe Hall greenhouse also is utilized by members of the departments of Biological Sciences and Environmental Sciences.

In addition, Boldt is as an adjunct research assistant professor in environmental sciences at UT.

Listed among Boldt’s accomplishments in Greenhouse Product News was her research program that studied how different factors and practices influenced the growth and development of greenhouse crops.

“The Agricultural Research Service is the chief in-house scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It has more than 90 research locations and 690 research projects, but our group is the only one whose project is focused specifically on the production of greenhouse-grown ornamentals. This includes primarily flowering plants, like what you would plant in a home garden or in container planters, but also vegetables and culinary herbs. Our research looks at how light, temperature, carbon dioxide concentration, fertilizers, and the growing medium influence how quickly a plant grows, how quickly it flowers, how it looks (its architecture), and/or how well it is able to tolerate stress,” Boldt explained.

“For instance, one project looks at what growing conditions optimize a plant’s photosynthetic rate. We have developed models and incorporated them into a software tool that growers can use to see how adding supplemental lighting or increasing and/or decreasing the greenhouse temperature will affect plant growth. They can compare the predicted change in plant growth to the costs associated with changing the greenhouse environment and determine if it is worthwhile from an economic perspective. We want to provide information and recommendations to growers that can help increase their productivity and profitability, while at the same time reduce the quantity of inputs — water, fertilizer, energy, etc. — required to successfully grow plants in greenhouses and other controlled environments.”

Though her work may seem complicated to outsiders, Boldt enjoys her day-to-day research.

“There never is a typical day, which keeps things interesting. Most of my time is spent in the office, planning upcoming research, analyzing data from experiments, writing manuscripts, reviewing manuscripts, and checking in with our fabulous greenhouse and lab technicians to see how plant care, data collection and laboratory analyses are going. I have ongoing research collaborations with a few Agricultural Research Service and university researchers, so there are planning and update meetings that occur. When we have ongoing plant trials, I routinely check in on the plants — like a doctor making rounds at a hospital — to see how they are growing.

“I do enjoy the days when I get to spend some time in the greenhouse; we lease greenhouse space at the Toledo Botanical Garden and conduct many of our research trials there,” she said.

As for her colleagues, Boldt said, “I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great team of scientists, postdocs, technicians and undergraduate students that work daily to accomplish the research goals of our group. Current members include Mona-Lisa Banks, Douglas Sturtz, Cindy Carnicom and Mitchell Caris. We also had two terrific UT undergraduate students in spring semester — Amy Towell and Maithili Kulkarni.”

There was another member of the horticulture industry that Boldt was especially pleased to be recognized alongside: her twin sister, Jessica Boldt.

“It was a wonderful surprise. We are very close and have very similar interests. Our undergraduate degrees are the same, and we even had the same adviser for our master’s degrees. We have cheered on each other’s accomplishments, and so it’s very special to be nominated by different individuals and selected for this recognition together in the same year,” Boldt said. “We found out that we both had been selected when someone emailed me instead of Jessica to congratulate her. We had a good laugh, since we get mistaken for the other all the time, even though we now live in different states.

“In case you can’t tell, I’m very proud of Jessica,” she said and then laughed.

The two share the same passion for horticulture and the large role that it plays in society.

“On a basic level, plants are a source of food, fiber and fuel. They provide vitamins and nutrients. Many contain compounds that have medicinal uses. Plants improve the air quality. Trees, shrubs and green roofs lower the energy costs of homes and buildings. Exposure to plants and nature reduces our stress levels. Gardening is therapeutic and provides a way to stay active. There are so many benefits that plants provide that positively impact our well-being,” Boldt explained.

“Have you seen how someone’s face lights up when you give her or him a basket of fresh-picked strawberries or a bouquet of beautiful flowers? There is joy in planting bulbs in the fall and watching them emerge from the ground the following spring. Without waxing poetic too much, we need to feed and nourish the body, mind and soul, and horticulture allows us to do that. Also, career opportunities abound in horticulture — plant breeding, greenhouse flower and vegetable production, public garden management, teaching, research, education, and marketing, to name a few.”

She beamed as she looked at the pink petunias lined up in the greenhouse at Toledo Botanical Garden.

“From my little corner of horticulture, it’s very satisfying to not just advance our understanding of plants, but also provide practical recommendations to growers so that they can continue to be successful.”

Researchers study red-headed woodpeckers to solve mysteries of charismatic, declining species

The red-headed woodpecker’s feisty, loud personality fits the reputation of crimson-maned creatures, but the student researcher gently holding the bird bucked the trend.

University of Toledo graduate student Kyle Pagel was calm, steady and methodical as he banded the woodpecker’s legs with tiny, colorful identifying rings and looped a miniature backpack armed with a light-level geolocator and pinpoint-GPS around its legs.

UT graduate student Kyle Pagel held a red-headed woodpecker at Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. He is helping to conduct research on the bird to discover migration routes and why the species is in decline.

“The woodpecker is wearing it like a climbing harness,” said Pagel, who is pursuing a master’s degree in environmental sciences at UT. “The backpack is so thin and light that it doesn’t inhibit flight or movement.”

The bird that flies freely once again from tree to tree isn’t the scarlet-mohawked woodpecker regularly spotted in backyards. The red-headed woodpecker is about the size of a robin or 10 times larger than a warbler.

This 70-gram, boldly patterned “flying checkerboard” is the seventh bird of its kind in a week that the UT team has examined at Oak Openings Metropark, taken a blood sample from, and outfitted with tracking technology to identify migration routes.

A photographer with the media took a photo of a red-headed woodpecker held by UT graduate student Kyle Pagel at Oak Openings Metropark.

“This is such as photogenic, popular species, it’s surprising how little is known about them,” Pagel said. “It’s fascinating to work with such a charismatic bird.”

Pagel, along with Dr. Henry Streby, UT assistant professor of environmental sciences and ornithologist, launched a study this month of red-headed woodpeckers that could last up to 10 years and solve many mysteries about the species.

For the next several weeks, the birding team’s office will be located throughout the Oak Openings region, including sites along Girdham Road and Jeffers Road at Oak Openings Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. They expect this year to put tracking technology on 20 adult red-headed woodpeckers in Ohio and 20 in Minnesota, and on another 25 juveniles in each of those states.

At Oak Openings Metropark, Dr. Henry Streby set up a mist net used to gently collect red-headed woodpeckers so more can be learned about the vanishing species.

“They’re in extreme decline, especially in the Midwest and Great Lakes area, maybe because of habitat loss and changes in their food supply,” Streby said. “We’re lucky to have Oak Openings just west of Toledo because it’s a place where red-headed woodpeckers seem to be doing relatively well. We want to figure out what’s working here and see if we can offer recommendations for habitat management elsewhere.”

Every morning the team sets up mist nets and uses recorded calls, drums and decoy birds to attract the woodpeckers.

Researchers are using blood samples to analyze DNA and hormones, as well as measure stress, immune system condition and aging.

The miniature backpack weighs about two grams and uses a light-level geolocator to gather data about when the birds go in and out of tree cavities each day. Pinpoint GPS, like on a cell phone, will tell the researchers where the birds traveled.

“Red-headed woodpeckers are inconsistent,” Streby said. “Some years they migrate for the winter, some years they don’t. We want to know why. We also want to know where they go when they’re not here on their breeding grounds. It could only be as far south as Kentucky or Tennessee. That is what we will learn for the first time when we recover the backpacks from the birds.”

Food availability, specifically acorns, is one of the factors being observed at Oak Openings this season, as well as reproductive success and genetics.

“We’re studying all of this without knowing whether these woodpeckers are going to leave or not,” Streby said. “It’ll take several breeding seasons to be able to analyze their habits and help us know what needs to be done to conserve the species, especially in places where the populations are shrinking.”

Streby also has been studying golden-winged warblers for five years using light-level geolocators that weigh less than half a paper clip to track migration patterns. The songbirds, which are about the size of a ping-pong ball, travel thousands of miles once they leave their spring and summer nesting grounds.

UT class to investigate mock crime scene at park May 23

Consider it CSI: UT.

University of Toledo students studying criminal justice and paralegal studies will get a dose of reality as part of a pioneering summer course titled Criminal Forensics and Trial Practice.

It’s a collaboration between the Paralegal Studies and Criminal Justice programs in the College of Health and Human Services.

Students are placed on prosecuting and defense teams and assigned as crime scene investigators, paralegals and attorneys. They are responsible for investigating a mock homicide, indicting a suspect, and conducting a trial.

The exercise will begin with a fake crime scene at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 23, at the southwest corner of Wildwood Preserve Metropark near the maintenance building. Sixteen undergraduate students plan to spend up to 10 hours at the site.

The students will test their knowledge of forensic principles, such as securing a crime scene, photographing and collecting evidence, blood spatter analysis, and interrogation, with the guidance of John Schlageter, director of the UT Paralegal Studies Program and a former attorney who practiced in Ohio and Michigan, and Andrew Dier, director of the UT Criminal Justice Program and a retired UT police officer.

“This is an opportunity for students to step out of the traditional classroom setting and practice hands-on skills that they will use in their careers,” Schlageter said.

A mock jury trial will be held Thursday, June 22, in the McQuade Courtroom located inside the Health and Human Services Building.

At the trial, students will use their knowledge of trial procedure, including the preparation and examination of trial witnesses, how to make a closing argument, and rules of evidence.

“Following proper procedure from the very beginning at the crime scene could be the deciding factor in a guilty verdict from a jury,” Dier said. “This is practical training to put the students in real situations and force them to make mistakes here because in the real world of law enforcement, we get one shot to do it right, one bite of the apple.”