After nearly a year of large and small projects, I am back here to write about my latest undertaking here at DR@ISU, and some unforeseen consequences of my work. After my time working on the Iowa State University Veterinarian, my next large project has been uploading current and retrospective issues of another series of life-science publications, the Integrated Crop Management (ICM) News reports published by ISU Extension. Topics covered in ICM reports span a range of agricultural disciplines – from plant pathology to agricultural and biosystems engineering – and include articles on nitrogen loss in soils; assessment of hail damage to crops; slugs and crops; and many other topics of interest to farmers across the state. Now for the first time, all online versions of the reports – which were first uploaded by Extension as early as 1998 – are available in one digital location.
Previously, digital versions of the articles had been stored and indexed between two websites. Articles published between 1998 and 2007 had been published online under the Integrated Pest Management domain, a project of Extension which has sought to provide information and research provided by Iowa State University’s faculty and staff on scouting and diagnosis of crop pests and pathologies. Meanwhile, articles from 2007 to the present have been published on a new site devoted to ICM issues, which include those of Integrated Pest Management and other issues as well.
Before I took on this project, other staff members in our department had uploaded articles from 2011 through 2013 onto DR@ISU, while 2014 and 2015 were as of yet incompletely uploaded and nothing before 2011 had been touched. That said, most of my work was already cut out for me, compared with previous projects I have undertaken: all of the articles I would be dealing with were already online across two websites. My task then was to convert the articles’ webpages to PDF format and upload them onto our website. Beginning in mid-summer, I worked my way back from 2011 through 1998 when the first articles were published digitally, as well as keeping up with the more current articles as they were published on the Extension website.
In terms of content, much of this project has been similar to the Farm Progress Reports, which were among my first projects as a new student in this department in 2013. Both publications are produced by faculty and staff involved with agricultural Extension at our university. As such, in uploading these and other Extension publications, I have not only become more familiar with common topics of agriculture (not my area of study), but also more familiar with the names of faculty and staff which produce them. In the last three years working here, I have come to recognize both the names of professionals at my university that I have never met in person, and also their areas of expertise. I have come to know that John Sawyer publishes about soil fertilization and fertility; or that Gregory Tylka studies nematodes and their impact on crops; or that Alison Robertson researches and writes about fungal infections in crops; all without having met, worked with, or studied under any of these people. Yet I realized last semester that I have closer ties to some of these people than I might have thought as an Anthropology major: in talking with one my departmental colleagues, I discovered that she had worked with Dr. Robertson in a plant pathology lab as an undergraduate here. At that moment, I realized that though I had not met Dr. Robertson in person while my colleague had, we could both knew things about her to varying degrees, and could have a conversation about plant pathologists in the midst of a luncheon for Anthropology students, of all places. While I have long recognized that my job here with the DR@ISU has given me a broader perspective of the university, I have now realized new implications of that broadened perspective, even if they are as small as a conversation over pizza with other students.