[July 26, 2017] A visit to the University College of Dublin

David, Liza, Dr. Dubeux and Eric in front of the Waterford Institute of Technology

Earlier this month, Agronomy faculty Dr. José Dubeux, along with Ph.D. students Liza Garcia, Erick Santos and agroecology Ph.D. student David Jaramillo got the opportunity to visit a prospective UF Agroecology partner: the University College of Dublin (UCD). This trip was made possible thanks to UF IFAS granting Dr. Dubeux a mid-career international collaboration grant. There, they met with Dr. Helen Sheridan, whom they had already met following Dr. Sheridan’s visit to UF in May during the Agroecology Summit.

Milking robot at the Lyons Dairy Farm

Dr. Sheridan organized for them a complete agenda including meetings with several other professors from the School of Agriculture and Food Science and some farm visits. The UF group interacted with them and their graduate students, talking about their research projects as well as the research projects at the North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC). First, Dr. Sheridan took the group to UCD Lyons Farm, which is a research farm located just outside of Dublin. There, Dr. Sheridan and her team of researchers ranging from soil scientists to ruminant nutritionists presented Dr. Dubeux’s team with an overview of a large research effort titled Smart Grass (www.smartgrass.ie) in which they are evaluating all aspects of multi-species pasture systems.

“One of the most interesting things to me was their efforts being put into long-term research” says David Jaramillo. “The university recently purchased and allocated 50 acres for pastureland for this purpose, which I believe will yield very interesting results in which we will be able to evaluate the long-term importance of multi-species pastures for livestock production”.

The group in at the Teagasc  Grange Center

The following day, they visited Teagasc Grange Center, which is the Irish equivalent to a USDA research facility. In this specific station, UCD had numerous faculty members that conduct research on topics such as genetics and genomics, ruminant nutrition, forage production, and food science, among others. One of the lab, directed by Dr. Saoirse Tracy’s, showed them X-ray Computed Tomography (CT), which Dr. Tracy uses to understand the response of roots to the soil physical environment. “To me, it was really interesting to see their research facilities and all the equipment they had available for beef cattle research, especially since they conduct similar research to what we do here in North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC)”says David Jaramillo. “I exchanged ideas and techniques regarding protocol and equipment for collecting methane on beef cattle, which was an interesting opportunity to experience how other researchers are working”.

Dr. Tracy’s lab

On their last day in Dublin, Dr. Sheridan took the group to visit the UCD campus and meet other researchers that she works closely with. They had the opportunity to hear presentations from one of Dr. Sheridan’s master’s student and Dr. Olaf Schmidt. For David, this was the highlight of this visit, since he does a lot of work with stable isotopes. “In specific, Dr. Schmidt has efforts in using stable isotope signatures to certify the origins of beef products. I took certain aspects from his work and will be applying it to several of my PhD research projects. I will be looking forward to sharing results with Dr. Schmidt in order to compare our findings and see where we could further take our work” says David. And of course, the UF group was able to experience the Irish culture, their amazing food, and some of the beautiful landscapes of this green country!

“In all, our visit to UCD could not have been any better” concludes David. “What I took away from this experience is the importance of multi-discipline collaboration and being able to focus your research in multiple areas. UCD is a world-class university and it was a great opportunity that we had to be able to experience Irish culture while visiting a top-notch university. Thanks IFAS!”

Clover and rye plots at the Lyons Farm