A biennium. Two years. In terms of research, not a long period of time. Despite this, the last two years have been very productive and formative for the Hub. We have built structure, developed mechanisms for proposal funding, recruited top talent, and started addressing key challenges and asking daring questions. We are well on our way to having an impact on dairy in Wisconsin and beyond.
With guidance of building research capacity, recruiting top talent, supporting innovative research, and engaging in outreach and instruction across four priority areas that affect the dairy community, UW-Madison, UW-Platteville and UW-River Falls set out to accomplish big goals. No doubt we faced challenges during COVID-19, just as our farms, cheesemakers, professionals and citizens did but we focused on what we could accomplish despite the challenges. We are excited to welcome eight new Hub-funded faculty focusing on dairy to these campuses. They will build research and teaching programs in dairy cattle nutrition, economics, food science and nutrient management, striving to bring in federal grant support, train undergraduate and graduate students, and share their research findings with the dairy community. These new research programs represent the early years of a career-long contribution to discovery in dairy.
There is no doubt that research is more of a marathon than a sprint. When challenges or limitations are identified, research questions are asked and even with immediate work, research results come on timelines of years, not days or weeks. This further emphasizes the importance of already having critical mass of expertise within Wisconsin who can address critical challenges, be working on tomorrow’s solutions and who are fearless in asking bold questions. The Hub’s strategy has been to balance this long-term vision with short-term victories. Across the three campuses, we have funded short-term, high-impact projects and faculty fellowships. These projects were designed to yield research results that could be translated to the end-user within one to two years. We are excited to share early findings from the first rounds of funded projects at our Dairy Symposium on November 18.
As collaborations across the three campuses have continued to grow, we are also seeing a surge of synergistic gains. Research projects that span at least two of the campuses or directly involve Hub partners such as the Center for Dairy Research, etc. have yielded stronger projects. Students are clear winners of this collaboration as well. We are working together to mentor graduate and undergraduate students and while the pandemic created a lot of challenges, we all learned how to more efficiently connect to others remotely which has removed distance barriers.
We are proud to share with you the accomplishments of the last year in our forthcoming annual report, which will be released in October. We hope you will continue to engage in opportunities to read, view or listen to research results from projects funded in the first biennium.
Heather White is an associate professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Her research focuses on the health and nutrition of dairy cows during the transition period. In 2019, White was named faculty director of the Dairy Innovation Hub.