Holidays offer opportunity to ask elder care questions

The holidays are the chance to catch up with loved ones, and they can also open the door to discuss the future, including aging issues, said a University of Wyoming Extension specialist.

“For generations we’ve relied on family members to keep aging loved ones in their homes, but many people are now growing old without a strong financial base and without anyone nearby,” said Cole Ehmke, personal finance specialist.

“Elder care is a complex issue, and it can drain financial, emotional and time resources, even for those who are prepared,” he said.

Cole Ehmke

Ehmke suggested five questions to help prepare for a conversation.

  1. Have you noticed loved ones needing help with daily activities?
  2. When visiting parents, have you noticed bills starting to pile up?
  3. Have you had a conversation about long-term care with your parents and the ability to pay for it?
  4. Do you have all of the information needed to act on behalf of your parent/spouse if there were an emergency?
  5. Are you able to take on the time and emotional commitments of caring for a parent/spouse or both?

“A conversation about aging can be difficult to start and may be met with resistance or, potentially, hostility,” said Ehmke. “But you need the information to help them with their own decisions and for your own planning.”

A good way to begin a conversation is to ask your loved one some questions, said Ehmke.

  • How would you like to spend the last years of retirement? Where?
  • If you weren’t able to live at home, where would you like to be?
  • If you had a medical emergency, where would we find important papers, like advance directives and power of attorney?
  • If you needed help, who would you want to act as caregivers?

Ehmke stressed to pick a moment when you and your family members can spend time together in a calm, comfortable and private environment.

“It’s best if parents bring up the subject themselves, but they often don’t, or won’t, even as they face cognitive and physical decline,” he said. “Delaying the conversation just reduces options and makes organizing the process more difficult.”

State’s seed certification service manager recognized for exemplary work

Photograph of Mike Moore
Mike Moore, manager of the Seed Certification Service based at the Powell Research and Extension Center

The manager of the Wyoming Seed Certification Service has been recognized by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) for his work with producers and the state.

Mike Moore, based at the Powell Research and Extension (R&E) Center, received the Kathleen Bartoncelj WAES staff award Tuesday in Laramie.

Seed certification is conducted under the direction of the WAES and University of Wyoming Extension with the cooperation of the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association. The service assures seed quality and is based at the Powell R&E Center.

WAES director Bret Hess said Moore plays an important role in the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association and the UW Foundation Seed Program.

“Many of the comments about Mike mentioned how he is always going beyond the call of duty for the service and farmers in general,” said Hess, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and director of research.

An example of his dedication, noted one nominator, is when Moore and his wife had a “date” inspecting fields on the Fourth of July.

The award is named in honor of retired staff member Kathleen Bartoncelj. Recipients exemplify dedication to service and display exemplary employee conduct.

The WAES is the research office within the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources honors exceptional personnel

Kerry Casper receives an Outstanding Staff Award from Bret Hess, interim dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Bret Hess, right, interim dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, presents an Outstanding Staff Award to Rebecca Ashley.

Outstanding staff and faculty members were recognized during the University of Wyoming College of

Agriculture and Natural Resources annual employee recognition program.

Interim dean Bret Hess Tuesday in Laramie presented outstanding staff awards to Rebecca Ashley, histotechnologist in veterinary sciences; Kerry Casper, academic advising manager, academic student programs; and Mark Davidson, computer support specialist in

veterinary sciences. Each recipient received $500.

Derek Scasta, center, received the Lawrence Meeboer Classroom Teaching Award. Students choose the award. Scasta is flanked by Warrie Means, left, director of the Office of Academic and Student Programs, and Bret Hess, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Also nominated were Karyn Bercheni, accountant for molecular biology; Troy Cecil, assistant

Mark Davidson, left, accepts an Outstanding Staff Award from Bret Hess, interim dean in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

farm manager at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (R&E) Center (SAREC); Samantha Fulton, office associate at the Powell R&E Center; Kalli Koepke, sheep unit manager at the Laramie R&E Center; Steve Mack, director of the 4-H Foundation; Cathy Shuster, office associate in UW Extension; Tana Stith, technology and communications manager for UW Extension; and Elizabeth Traver, laboratory technician for

ecosystem science and management.

Lawrence Meeboer Classroom Teaching Award


Urszula Norton received an Outstanding Educator Award. With Norton is Warrie Means, left, director of the Office of Academic and Student Programs, and Bret Hess, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Meeboer award recipient is selected by students and receives a $500 award. Derek Scasta

John Hewlett, University of Wyoming Extension farm and ranch management specialist, was presented an Outstanding Educator Award.

from ecosystem science and management received the award.

Also nominated were Chris Bastian and Vardges Hovhannisyan, both in agricultural and applied economics; and Jeff Beck and Karen Vaughan, both in ecosystem science and management.

Outstanding Educator

John Hewlett, senior extension educator in agricultural and applied economics, and Urszula Norton, associate professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, received Outstanding Educator Awards. Nominations are peer-reviewed, and the winner receives a $2,500 award. This was established by an anonymous donor to bring special recognition to classroom and extension educators within the college.

Other nominees were Steve Paisley, interim SAREC director and associate professor for animal

science, and Vicki Hayman, extension

nutrition and food safety educator.

UW soil scientist, molecular biology professor recognized for research efforts

Mike Zhu stands at left and Bret Hess at right.
Ecosystem science and management Assistant Professor Mike Zhu, left, received the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station’s Early Career Research Achievement Award from Interim Dean Bret Hess during the college’s awards and holiday celebration in Laramie Tuesday. Recipients receive $750 in real money. 

A soil scientist who received the Early Career Research Award from the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station drew high praise from a Senior Fellow with the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, and the scientist who received the Outstanding Research Award has groundbreaking research in molecular biology.

Mike Zhu, assistant professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, was recognized Tuesday with the early career award, and Professor Mark Gomelsky in the Department of Molecular Biology was presented the outstanding research award.

“The scientists who were nominated for this year’s research awards were all excellent contributors to the WAES and the research mission of the college,” said Bret Hess, interim dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and associate dean for research. “I found it quite gratifying to have awarded seed grants through the AES competitive grants program to both of this year’s winners. It was neat to know that the experiment station supported a piece of each of the scientist’s exceptional careers.”

Scott Fendorf, Huffington Professor of Earth Science and senior associate dean in Stanford’s School of Earth Science, was emphatic in his praise of Zhu.

Scott Fendorf, Huffington Professor of Earth Science and senior associate dean in Stanford’s School of Earth Science, was emphatic in his praise.

“I would argue Professor Zhu is in fact one of the three leading experts on manganese minerals in any field, at any career stage across the globe,” he said.

Zhu joined the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources in 2013.

Zhu’s most innovative work involves phosphate, said Fendorf, and this year Zhu received a $424,365 Faculty Early Career Development Program award from the National Science Foundation. The grant began Aug. 15 and ends July 31, 2023. Funds not yet disbursed for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 will bring the grant total to $676,163.

Zhu’s research is primarily focused on the fundamental aspects of soil chemical and mineralogical processes and their applications to understanding nutrient cycling and the fate of metals in soils at molecular to ecosystem scales, noted Pete Stahl, a professor in the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Zhu has received about $1.7 million in funding, has published 34 papers, and has graduated two Ph.D. students since he arrived at UW, said Stahl, director of the Wyoming Recreation and Restoration Center in the college.

Zhu serves as an associate editor for Soil Science Society of America Journal, and Geochemical Transactions.

Gomelsky has had two scientific papers named among the top 100 most influential in the Journal of Bacteriology since its inception in 1916.

Mark Gomelsky sits in chair.
Molecular biology Professor Mark Gomelsky received the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station’s Outstanding Research Award. Recipients receive $1,000.

The Gomelsky papers, concerning cyclic dimeric guanosine monophosphate (c-di-GMP), were published in 2005 and helped develop a new field in bacterial signaling. Studies on c-di-GMP opened ways for designing new types of antibacterial drugs.

If scientists could trick bacteria into dispersing, antibiotics could destroy bacteria more readily.

“Speaking bacterial language helps us design “psychological warfare” agents against pathogens,” Gomelsky said in an earlier interview. “We want to trick bacteria into making bad decisions during infection.”

By combining antibiotics, which are regular bacterial “warfare” agents, with drugs that meddle with bacterial “minds,” Gomelsky said bacteria can be eradicated more efficiently.

His long-term interest in light sensing in bacteria has led him to developing innovative tools to control cellular processes using light. These tools may be used in the treatment of obesity, immune disorders and tissue regeneration.

Gomelsky has published 87 scientific publications, is a highly cited

scientist, has received several million dollars in funding from federal agencies and was elected a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Worland conference speaker’s emphasis helping farm, ranch families settle turmoil

Man standing besides large, green farm tractor
Andy Junkin is the keynote speaker and a workshop presenter at WESTI Ag Days in Worland Feb. 12-13.

The seed that would begin a career helping farm families through personal and financial turmoil was planted the day Andy Junkin stepped off his family’s farm in Canada to attend college.

Junkin, owner of Agriculture Strategy of Solon, Iowa, is the keynote speaker and a workshop presenter at WESTI Ag Days Feb. 12-13 in Worland, an annual conference whose themes this year follow agricultural legacy, management and production.

Junkin’s stories about how he came to offer his services involve topics not usually in farm or ranch discussions around coffee shop tables or on farm and ranch conference agendas. Rather than commodity outlooks or fuel prices, the gist for his emphasis to create lasting legacies are divorce, suicide attempts and shattered families.

That day Junkin left the Bobcaygeon, Ontario, farm, about 100 miles northeast of Toronto, to attend the University of Guelph, his mother showed him the farm’s financials and said if he didn’t fix the numbers she’d leave his father.

The farm had not made money in 10 years.

Upon graduating and returning to the farm, his father agreed to a five-acre demonstration plot to show if what Junkin learned could be put to use on the farm. When a farm visitor observed Andy would probably be more productive on the one acre than his father on the rest of the farm and then laughed – Junkin’s father did not. His jealous father plowed the crops under.

Junkin said he quickly realized knowledge and skills aren’t the only things needed to turn around a failing farm.

Junkin recalls his mother telling his father he needed to write a business plan before he could buy any machinery. His father then bought a manure spreader at a farm auction.

Continue reading Worland conference speaker’s emphasis helping farm, ranch families settle turmoil