WVU Extension Service expert advises residents on reducing tick populations

Morgantown, W.Va. – There’s a lot of talk about ticks in the news and on social media this year after a milder than usual winter and increasing public attention to Lyme disease and Powassan virus. However, these parasitic pests are common in West Virginia and an integrated control approach can help homeowners protect themselves and their family.

According to Daniel Frank, West Virginia University Extension Service entomology specialist, West Virginia has three species of ticks that are frequently encountered. These include the American dog tick, the blacklegged or deer tick, and the lone star tick.

Different species can be more common depending on the habitat. The American dog tick is the most commonly encountered and can be found predominantly in grassy fields and other open areas around shrubby or woody habitats. Deer ticks prefer mixed forests and woodland edges, and lone star ticks primarily stick to dense woodland and animal nesting sites.

Just as they prefer different habitats, ticks can carry different pathogens. For instance, the American dog tick and lone star tick can be a carrier for the bacteria that causes Rocky Mountain spotted fever and tularemia. Deer ticks are the species that may carry the pathogen that causes Lyme disease and can also transmit Powassan virus, among others.

Ticks need to feed on blood to develop on to the next stage of their lifecycle, which generally takes one to three years to complete. That’s how they come to feed on animals, including humans. Contrary to popular belief, Frank noted that ticks don’t drop from trees onto their hosts. Instead, they quest.

“Questing is when ticks wait on vegetation with their front legs stretched out waiting for a host to brush by so they can latch onto them,” said Frank. “And they’re receptive to things such as body heat, carbon dioxide from exhaling, movement and other cues. Once they sense that a host may be near, they’re more likely to quest to find a meal.”

Read → WVU Extension Service expert advises residents on reducing tick populations

WVU Fire Service Extension increases firefighter training with new, mobile equipment

Morgantown, W.Va. – Firefighters across the state will soon be able to better handle a variety of emergency situations as the West Virginia University Fire Service Extension expands their footprint by bringing new, mobile equipment and training to volunteer units in rural communities.

According to Mark Lambert, director of the Fire Service Extension, the ability to reach more firefighters directly in their communities addresses a critical, unique training need for the majority of West Virginia.

“An overwhelming majority of firefighters in West Virginia are part of volunteer companies in rural parts of the state, and they are instrumental in protecting the property and livelihood of many residents,” said Lambert. “Often times it’s very difficult to get to training because of funding and the distance they’d have to travel to reach a central location — we simply need to adapt and bring the necessary training to them and make it easier for them to protect their communities.”

Part of that includes a new, state-of-the-art mobile fire training unit to augment the one unit the Fire Service Extension already has. One of the units will be positioned in the southern part of the state, allowing trainers to easily adapt and offer additional basic training to busy volunteer departments at their local stations.

Lambert explained that the mobile fire trainers are safe, adaptable and realistic — smoke, flames, sights, sounds and obstacles present firefighters a chance to sharpen their skills and an observer can shut down and ventilate benign smoke from the interior in under a minute making it safe environment to train in.

Also augmenting training capabilities for the whole state are several mobile training props that can simulate hazardous material spills, car fires and a helicopter crash. Lambert noted that a set of oil and natural gas fire training equipment is not only a new addition, but necessary for much of West Virginia.

Read → WVU Fire Service Extension increases firefighter training with new, mobile equipment

West Virginia 4-H'ers capture two titles at national competition

Four Monroe County youths added to a legacy of West Virginia University Extension Service  4-H teams who have fared well in land judging and homesite evaluation contests by winning the national championship in both categories at the National Land, Range and Homesite Evaluation Contest held in Oklahoma on May 4.

Reagan Ernst, Kris Hoke, Andrew Wrzosek and Cameron Wickline practiced for more than 10 months to take home the top honors, including an extra week of practice on site in Oklahoma to acclimate to the wide variety of soils they’d be asked to judge.

Land judging and homesite evaluation programs educate youths about soil properties, and typically in West Virginia, these practices are often used when building homes or for farming and agricultural purposes.

But it’s more than evaluating soil textures, composition, permeability, erosion characteristics and the slope of the land — for many youths it’s a basis in the sciences and being good stewards of the earth explained coach, and WVU Extension Service Monroe County Agent, Brian Wickline.

“The point of the contest is for youths to comprehend the dynamics of the soil in front of them and give recommendations on how to manage it,” said Wickline. “Not only does it teach good soil conservation practices and proper land management decisions, but for some it can turn in to a lifelong interest.”

He added that the youths’ dedication is evident by learning about something that not a lot of peers take interest in. The team practiced four hours a week since January when they started to seriously prepare for the competition.

Read → West Virginia 4-H'ers capture two titles at national competition

WVU Safety & Health Extension protects workers from fall hazards through free event

Fatalities caused by falls continue to be the leading cause of death for construction workers, and to help protect workers in our area, the West Virginia University Safety and Health Extension will help them identify fall hazards and prevent fall fatalities through a free, educational event on Monday, May 8.

Construction workers, employers and safety professionals are invited to join WVU Safety and Health Extension specialists at CSC Home and Hardware in Morgantown from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. that day as part of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s 2017 National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction campaign.

Safety demonstrations, giveaways, free fall hazard awareness training, safety technology showcases and other resources to educate workers and employers about prevalent fall hazards are scheduled. In addition, attendees can browse various informational stations to learn about safety measures for ladders, scaffolds, aerial lifts and more.

According to organizers, violations associated with fall prevention safety standards continue to be among the top 10 OSHA issued citations nationwide, a trend that can be addressed through education.

“The goal of OSHA’s National Safety Stand-Down to Prevent Falls in Construction campaign is to raise awareness among workers and employers of the danger posed by falls on the jobsite and to highlight mechanisms to prevent them,” said Wayne Lundstrom, WVU Safety and Health Extension associate professor and director of the National Resource Center – OSHA Region III Training Center. “Falls on the jobsite can be fatal, and our goal is to educate about these risks and how to create a safe work environment. Too many workers continue to die every year from preventable falls on construction sites.”

While events are happening across the nation as part of the larger campaigns, all employers are encouraged to talk directly to employees about safety, including hazards, protective methods and the company’s safety policies and goals during the week. It can also be an opportunity for employees to talk to management about fall hazards they see around the workplace.

Read → WVU Safety & Health Extension protects workers from fall hazards through free event

Youths can connect with nature at 76th annual West Virginia State Conservation Camp

Youths can learn to protect and preserve West Virginia's natural resources at the West Virginia State Conservation Camp held Monday, June 12 through Saturday June 17, hosted by the West Virginia University Extension Service.

High-school-aged youths ages 14-18 interested in exploring natural resource-based careers or expanding their knowledge of the environment, outdoor recreation and conservation are encouraged to apply. In addition to hands-on learning in areas of forestry, wildlife management, nature awareness and more, the camp will offer traditional camping activities such as nightly campfires, recreational sports and other group activities.

According to Mike Hall, WVU Extension Service agent in Webster County, one of the most beneficial aspects of the camp is that it matches participating youths with natural resource management professionals in various disciplines.

"This face-to-face interaction allows youths to see how the professionals work within the natural, economic and social environments to manage and protect the state's natural resources," said Hall. "Campers gain knowledge and skills through hands-on activities that will help them become effective decision makers about conservation issues, regardless of their eventual career path."

Since 1941, more than 16,000 youths have attended the award-winning camp, which is the longest-running youth conservation camp in the nation.

Each morning during the week, campers will participate in natural-resource-focused science, technology, engineering and math programming designed to provide them with a better understanding of the natural world. Campers may find themselves ankle-deep in streams learning about fish shocking — one of many tools biologists use to study fish populations — or pushing through the forest to learn about the diverse flora and fauna in the surrounding environment.

Read → Youths can connect with nature at 76th annual West Virginia State Conservation Camp

Registration closes soon for WVU Extension Service's Junior Firefighter Camp

Teens can learn what it takes to be a firefighter at West Virginia University Extension Service’s Junior Firefighter Camp, June 3 through June 8 at the State Fire Academy at WVU Jackson’s Mill in Weston.

A refreshing change from the traditional summer camp, this unique experience offers campers the opportunity to further explore their interests in firefighting and emergency response under the direct supervision of trained firefighters and other emergency professionals.

“This camp helps mold young people. Time and time again we hear that if you get a person interested in fire service at a young age, they’re more likely to serve their communities as they get older,” said Mark Lambert, director of WVU Extension Fire Service. “That’s what is at the heart of this camp — cultivating a passion for public service.”

Campers are taught the basics of firefighting and emergency medical services through hands-on training in CPR and first aid, hose line and fire ground operations, ground and aerial ladders and self-contained breathing apparatus.

While a majority of campers are from West Virginia, cultivating a generation of future emergency responders for all communities is a goal for organizers, and teens from outside the state often join in on this transformative experience.

“These teens meet their peers from all over the country and forge new friendships that will serve them for years to come,” said Lambert.

Read → Registration closes soon for WVU Extension Service's Junior Firefighter Camp

Learn to produce and market dried fruits and vegetables with WVU Extension Service workshop

Experts from the West Virginia University Extension Service are offering a one-day, hands-on workshop for those interested in producing and marketing dried fruit and vegetable products.

The workshop takes place Thursday, May 11 from 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. at the Marshall County WVU Extension Office, 126 Barn Drive, Moundsville, WV 26041.

“This workshop can help producers learn how to dry fruits and vegetables as an additional way to market it, which extends the effective season of which they can sell their goods,” said WVU Extension Agents Cheryl Kaczor and Karen Cox. “However, the training can also help any individual who is just curious about how to safely and properly prepare dried fruit and vegetable products for home use.”

Pre-registration is required and is due by Thursday, May 4, 2017. The cost is $15 (scholarships available) and includes all necessary materials and lunch.

For registration information, contact Cheryl Kaczor at 304-843-1170, Karen Cox at 304-234-3673 or Paul Crumrine at 304-293-8588.

The workshop is taught by experienced food processing experts, and will address what products are viable for drying, the processes involved, ingredients, product safety, proper packaging and storage and handling, shared facility, marketing and more.

Read → Learn to produce and market dried fruits and vegetables with WVU Extension Service workshop

Ronnie Helmondollar named director of WVU Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources programs

After a nationwide search, Ronnie Helmondollar has been named program director of the West Virginia University Extension Service’s Agriculture and Natural Resources unit, effective Monday, April 3.

No stranger to the WVU Extension Service mission, Helmondollar’s appointment comes after serving on the administration team as the interim program director since 2015 and at the county level with 26 years of experience as an Extension agent.

“Our Agriculture and Natural Resources program is vital to many audiences around the state, from backyard gardeners to some of West Virginia’s largest agricultural operations,” said Steve Bonanno, dean and director of the WVU Extension Service. “I’ve known Ronnie for a long time and the work he accomplished through the years gives me confidence that those programs are in good hands and will continue to flourish as Extension heads into the future.”

From a young age, Helmondollar has been aware of the opportunities that surround him, knowing that sometimes those opportunities come in surprising forms, such as livestock.

Both sets of his grandparents owned small scale agricultural operations, and as he grew up he got firsthand experience with the work involved in being a successful farmer. He saw the value in the work his grandparents did and took it to heart.

“They planted seed for a love of the land and the hard work behind it,” he said.

Read → Ronnie Helmondollar named director of WVU Extension Service Agriculture and Natural Resources programs

WVU Extension Service Community Leadership Academy creates recipe for success for West Virginia

While many could argue that times are tough for West Virginia, a bright economic outlook becomes more achievable through well-equipped leaders that can creatively gain resources, motivate their communities and develop sound strategies for the future.

According to some of West Virginia University Extension Service’s faculty, that’s exactly the type of training offered at the Community Leadership Academy — a three-day conference aimed at strengthening leadership from all disciplines and areas of the state.

The conference is now in its fourth year, and the theme is Regeneration: Real Solutions for Real Situations, an emphasis that encourages leaders to take home what they learned and begin applying it in their communities.

Hosted at the Waterfront Marriott Hotel in downtown Morgantown, the conference also lets those in attendance learn through optional, structured experiences that highlight the best of the city with a craft beer tour and a culinary tour.

A full schedule of courses and access to online registration is available. The cost is $245 per person. Student and group discount rates are available. Deadline to register is Friday, April 7.

Attendees can mix or match breakout session topics that include leadership, good governance and economic strategy. It’s a model that, according to organizers, allows leaders to get the most from their experience and get more tools that are relevant to them.

Read → WVU Extension Service Community Leadership Academy creates recipe for success for West Virginia

Youths to celebrate WVU's 150th at WVU Day at the Legislature

Hundreds of West Virginia 4-H’ers and WVU Extension Service representatives will travel to the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 28 to explore opportunities at West Virginia University, meet with legislators and celebrate WVU’s 150th birthday at WVU Day at the Legislature.

Hosted by the WVU Extension Service, the annual event offers participants a unique chance to learn about higher education opportunities afforded to them within their state while getting a firsthand look at the legislative process.

“For many of our 4-H’ers, this is the first time they’ve been to the Capitol or met face to face with WVU representatives or legislators,” said Steve Bonanno, WVU Extension Service dean and director. “It’s important for them to make that personal connection with their state government and learn about the vast opportunities available to them with a higher education experience.”

As part of the day’s festivities, WVU Extension Service will host a birthday gathering in the Capitol’s lower rotunda at noon. The celebration will feature remarks from Bonanno and WVU President E. Gordon Gee as well as a string quartet routine performed by the WVU Creative Arts Center.

Participants will have the chance to sign a giant birthday card to be presented to President Gee, and can also expect to take part in other birthday activities such as an interactive birthday balloon extravaganza card game station and more.

Many of WVU’s units will be present during the event to showcase and educate visitors about their opportunities and purpose. Some of the units that will be at the event include the WVU College of Creative Arts, WVU School of Medicine, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, WVU Extension Energy Express, WVU Jackson’s Mill and Farmstead, the College of Education and Human Services, College of Law and numerous other WVU Extension programs.

Read → Youths to celebrate WVU's 150th at WVU Day at the Legislature