As Nebraska's land-grant institution, the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln combines research, teaching and extension in a multidisciplinary, collaborative environment. This combination ensures the best thinkers and experts from across the university work collectively, rather than independently, to ensure Nebraska's competitiveness in a world of challenges and change.
This collective thinking has led IANR to prioritize the areas of stress biology, healthy humans, healthy agricultural production and natural resources systems, computational sciences, drivers of economic vitality for Nebraska and science literacy. These communities initially took shape in 2011. At that time, unit leaders with input from their faculty came together and rather than focus on individual needs, they agreed on areas of strength they felt the institution as a whole could build upon.
"It says a lot about the IANR community," said IANR Harlan Vice Chancellor Mike Boehm. "I think we'll look back years from now and say that the moment we stopped operating in a department-centric model and formed those communities was an important moment in the history of IANR."
Establishing communities is not enough. Bringing big ideas to reality also takes a great deal of investment and IANR has doubled down. There are dozens more tenure track professors in the institute today than in 2011. Each of those additional faculty members is driving research, teaching and/or extension in IANR's communities.
"We believe in our shared vision and more than that, we believe in our people," said Boehm.
Beyond an investment in human capital, IANR is taking steps across all areas to ensure alignment with the six communities. This includes facility improvements such as the Veterinary Diagnostic Center, rewriting curriculum and developing new working structures within individual units. For instance, Nebraska Extension has developed 18 issue teams to ensure their work is feeding the communities and ultimately helping Nebraskans address new challenges.
Now that a structure is in place that aligns with IANR's priorities, communities of practice have formed. There are now groups of faculty members who feel connected to each other, not based on which department they reside in, but based on the impact they are working toward in one or more of the communities.
IANR's vision for a prosperous land will not be achieved overnight. After all, it's taken six years to establish a working structure to support the communities. There will be short-term and long-term strategies, but IANR is in it for the long haul. Boehm is ready to lead IANR to make big impacts on the state of Nebraska.
"We've reaffirmed our shared vision, invested in it and built a structure to support it. Now it's time to walk the talk. It's also time to start engaging our constituents and supporters in our vision for the future."
To learn more about IANR's communities, please visit go.unl.edu/GrowingNebraska.
Computational Sciences Striving to efficiently and effectively analyze and report large sets of high-quality data in ways that we can easily share with the public.
"As a member of the Agricultural Data Coalition, we are helping farmers better control, manage and maximize the value of the data they collect every day in their fields. The development approach taken by the Agricultural Data Coalition will serve as an industry model for adding value to small and large farm operations with respect to agricultural data, privacy, access and utilization."
– Joe Luck, associate professor, biological systems engineering
Drivers of economic vitality for Nebraska Strengthening Nebraska's entrepreneurial approaches to stimulate economic development and increase the vitality of Nebraska's communities and the quality of life of its people.
"Stronger Economies Together is an economic development planning effort designed to help community leaders explore their regional economic advantages and strategically build on economic strengths. Through faculty-led discussions and planning processes, regional leaders create an economic blueprint designed to enhance opportunities for area businesses, communities, and individuals."
– Marilyn Schlake, extension educator, Nebraska Extension
Science literacy Encouraging members of society to analyze complex challenges and make science-informed decisions in real-world situations.
"Streaming Science is a student-driven science literacy program highlighting the work of scientists conducting critical agricultural and environmental research in Nebraska. Through videos, podcasts and online field trips, our students increase awareness of scientific issues while getting practical experience."
– Jamie Loizzo, assistant professor, agricultural leadership, education and communication
Stress biology Improving production, health, and well-being for animal, plant, and human systems; we are working to better understand how organisms and systems adapt to stressors such as drought, insects, heat and cold.
"By researching the effects of high nighttime temperatures on wheat and rice, we're hoping to gain a better physiological and genetic understanding of the heat stress responses. This knowledge will drive the development of crops that are more resilient to higher temperatures in terms of yield and quality."
– Harkamal Walia, associate professor, agronomy and horticulture
Healthy humans Establishing a research-based understanding to advance human health in relationship to healthy communities; we are conducting studies along a continuum from basic biomedical research directed to understand disease to nutritional foods and strategies that promote physical and mental well-being.
"Conventional treatment of growth plate disorders during childhood and adolescence often involves breaking and resetting a bone, sometimes multiple times. We have documented the first successful effort to establish communication between mature and immature cartilage cells, a necessary step for understanding cartilage and bone growth ultimately leading to a quicker recovery."
– Angela Pannier, associate professor, biological systems engineering
Healthy agricultural production and natural resources systems Building on our expertise in soil health, water resources, ecology, risk analysis, and plant and animal systems, we are helping Nebraskans develop resilient agricultural production and natural resources systems.
"The idea behind One Health is a comprehensive approach to health, and we're relying on Nebraska's extensive network of research, teaching and outreach programs both within and beyond the state to advance our understanding of these systems."
– Elizabeth Van Wormer, assistant professor of practice, School of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences