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Ongoing Efforts

Covid-19 impact on faculty

Over Summer and Fall 2021, we developed and conducted a survey evaluating the impact of Covid-19 on faculty teaching agricultural sciences. We are currently analyzing the data and will be submitting it to peer-reviewed journals for publication on a rolling basis. Specifically, Kayra Tasci and Mikael Carrasco led manuscripts focused on faculty adoption of social media and Learning Management Software platforms in their classroom as a result of Covid-19. These will be published in early 2021 and future work will take a deeper dive into how the demographic backgrounds of faculty and their institutions may play a role in their response to teaching amidst Covid-19.

The Covid-19 pandemic caused an abrupt shift from face-to-face to online learning in Spring 2020. As social distancing guidelines and, thus, online classrooms remain in place, we hope these data will serve as a resource for agricultural faculty to adjust their approach to teaching such that there will be a continuity to education without sacrificing quality.

 

Covid-19 impact on Veterinary Technicians

We are currently developing a survey that assesses how the Covid-19 pandemic affected Veterinary Technicians in terms of burnout and daily operational procedures at their clinics. We will administer this survey in early 2021 and Zoe Rowe will interpret and present the data as an Undergraduate Honors Thesis in late Spring 2021. These data will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

This work is important because veterinary clinics are characterized by hands-on work, often of an emergency nature. Covid-19 presented veterinary clinics with the challenge of providing continued animal care and support in a socially responsible manner that ensured the health of workers, customers, and their pets. Often, we hear about the frontline workers with reference to healthcare workers and teachers, but little attention is given to workers tasked with our animals' care. This is reflected in the peer-reviewed literature with numerous emerging studies that evaluate the impact of Covid-19 on the wellbeing of healthcare workers and only a single study focused on emergency veterinary clinics. Burnout in Veterinary Technicians has been the subject of recent research focus after being underrepresented for decades. However, this burnout has not been assessed in relation to the added stress and burdens associated with the Covid-19 pandemic.

 

Insect protein as a novel protein source for cattle

Preliminary work, supported by the TXST Research Enhancement Program, in Summer 2020 was published by Emma Kathcart as an Undergraduate Honors Thesis in late Fall 2020. This work compared the supplementation of Black Soldier Fly Larvae (BSFL) to that of a conventional protein supplement as an approach to stimulate intake and digestion in cattle consuming low-quality forage. These data will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal in early 2021 and represent the first in vivo trial evaluating BSFL in ruminant diets.

The insect husbandry industry is growing and, although insects are fit for human consumption, the Western world is resistant to consuming insects. Instead, it may be interesting to feed insects to livestock in place of conventional feeds that are associated with less sustainable agricultural practices or are readily consumed by humans. Much of the literature to date has focused on BSFL in fish and pig diets but, due to some of the dietary components of BSFL, they may be better utilized by cattle, which are ruminants. We are excited to continue this research in Summer 2021 with a focus on additional insects and their effect on the ruminal microbiome.