College of Agriculture & Natural Resources
AGNR Research

Introducing New AGNR Faculty - Part 3

Dr. Cassandra Swett, assistant professor, Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture
Photo Credit: 
Edwin Remsberg

The College of Agricultural and Natural Resources welcomed a number of new faculty members prior to the start of the 2014 fall semester. Each Friday we're introducing a few of these newcomers and providing some details about their work and/or research interests.

This week, we meet an assistant professor in the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences and two assistant professors from the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture. Welcome to Dr. Rachel Dennis, Dr. Cassandra Swett and Dr. Kate Tully!

Dr. Rachel Dennis: Assistant Professor, Department of Animal & Avian Sciences

Joining the faculty in the Department of Animal & Avian Sciences at the University of Maryland felt like coming home in more ways than one for Rachel Dennis. A native of Virginia, Dennis received her master’s degree from the ANSC Department at UMD in 2004 and has fond memories of visiting her grandparents who raised broiler chickens on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Now, as an assistant professor for ANSC, Dennis will be conducting research addressing issues of poultry production and well-being. Her research also focuses on behavioral neurophysiology and understanding the mechanisms of neural plasticity and the impacts on behavior. Prior to coming to Maryland, Dennis worked with the USDA Livestock Behavior Research Unit in West Lafayette, Indiana. Just last month, she successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro with her dog and training partner, Parker.

Dr. Cassandra Swett: Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture

Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and grapes are the sweet subjects of Cassandra Swett’s research and Extension programs. A plant pathologist, Swett focuses on fruit crop diseases and combining ecological questions with management concerns to explore sustainable control methods for diseases in the Mid-Atlantic. She holds a bachelor’s degree in plant science from the University of California at Santa Cruz, a master’s degree in tropical plant pathology from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a doctorate in plant pathology from the University of California at Davis. Since accepting her position as an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture, Swett has been busy characterizing fungal fruit rot complexes in wine grapes and interactions with insect pests, developing methods to enhance soil health to suppress strawberry fruit rot pathogens, and examining the use of microsensor-based water management to reduce root infections of nursery stock.

Kate Tully: Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Science & Landscape Architecture

Kate Tully’s research interests focus on the sustainability of food production systems by examining how they affect the interactions between plants, soils, carbon, nutrient, and water cycles. Current projects include determining the fate of fertilizer nitrogen in maize systems in East Africa, investigating the co-benefits of agroforestry techniques in small-holder farming systems, and examining the tradeoffs between food production and ecosystem services in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. Tully earned a bachelor’s degree in English, Spanish, and Biology from Kenyon College, and a master’s and doctorate in ecology from the University of Virginia. She conducted postdoctoral research at Columbia University’s Earth Institute, where studied the environmental impacts of the African Green Revolution. Her comprehensive research approach combines field measurements, laboratory techniques, and mathematical modeling and she collaborates with agricultural economists, hydrologists, landscape modelers, extension agents, and, of course, farmers.

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