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Introducing the ‘Science In Our Valley” Seminar Series

 

Scientists, and science educators, in the Wenatchee Valley are organizing a seminar series to catalyze the development of an engaged regional scientific community. Researchers at Washington State University, Wenatchee Valley College, and the local United States Department of Agriculture labs, in partnership with the APPLE STEM Network, will be gathering together on a weekly basis to take in a seminar about current research. Speakers will be local scientist or invited guest speakers.

Research and teaching scientists from WSU, USDA and WVC met this past summer to discuss building up connections between institutions and within the scientific community in our region to support one-another. Dr. Jim McFerson of WSU and Dr. Sue Kane of the Apple STEM Network formalized the concept with an application for funding from the Our Valley Our Future strategic planning group. The group received a $10,000 award.

The Science in Our Valley seminar series will kick off on Wed, 13 Sep at the WSU Wenatchee Research & Extension Center, 1100 N Western Ave. In addition to the WSU location, subsequent seminars will be held at Wenatchee Valley College in the Grove auditorium and other area venues on Wednesdays at 4:00pm. Each seminar will be followed by informal networking session.

Seminar speakers will initially feature researchers and graduate students involved with agricultural and biological sciences, but will also prominently feature subject matter experts in other fields including: climatology, data analytics, hydrology, fire science, power systems and transportation. The speakers, from both the public and private sector, will provide broad exposure, engage relevant industry partners and private research firms. This collaboration will also begin to lay the foundation for creation of the Graduate Research Center which is identified as a regional “gamechanger” by the Our Valley Our Future plan.

The Science in Our Valley Seminar series is open to the public, but the content is intended for a ‘science-based’ audience including researchers, postdoctoral scientists, graduate students, undergraduate scientists, K-12 educators and science enthusiasts.

The first speaker in the series will be a WSU Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Dr. Shashika Hewavitharana (PhD in Plant Pathology). Her talk, titled, Sustainable Soil-Borne Disease Management, will present the research and data that she completed for her doctoral dissertation last month. Dr. Hewavitharana will feature her work in disease management and agricultural practices. For Dr. Hewavitharana, this work is very personal, “The majority of Sri Lankan farmers and their families suffer from chronic kidney failure disease due to excessive use of pesticides. With what I learned during my graduate studies in the US, I intend to return to my country and empower them with all the sustainable management tools that developing world is using to combat with yield and quality limiting crop diseases.”

Dr. Hewavitharana will begin field research with WSU Extension Specialist Tianna Dupont and USDA ARS Scientist Dr. Mark Mazzola.

The Apple STEM Network is a three-dimensional alliance of K-12, Higher Ed and community partners seeded at the confluence of the Wenatchee and Columbia rivers, including the cities of Cashmere, Wenatchee and East Wenatchee in Chelan and Douglas counties. We represent a diverse region with tremendous potential for STEM industry in agriculture, energies and innovation. With our collective effort we intend to: provide a constructive support system for educators who aim to meet the rising challenge for all students to develop 21st century skills and STEM literacy, to integrate community mentorship and promote authentic project-based learning and field experiences for all levels of education, and engage students in exploring the world of opportunities on the horizon through STEM.

The North Central Educational Service District is a resource to the 29 districts within the four-county service area, providing professional and timely tools to meet the needs of individual schools and districts, and a reliable point of education-related information for the communities served. The NCESD is a respected resource to other ESDs throughout Washington State.