OneHealth Student Training in a Contaminated Landscape
by Dr. Larkin Powell, Director and Professor
School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska
Wachiska Program and General Meeting — Thursday, February 8, 7:00 p.m.,
Unitarian Church, 6300 A Street, and also via YouTube
Significant population declines of diverse bird species in the U.S. and Europe have been linked to neonicotinoid pesticides in the environment. “Neonics” are heavily used in crop, aquaculture, forestry, and livestock production. While these pesticides have the potential to kill some animals acutely when treated crop seeds are ingested, larger long-term impacts can occur at the population level due to direct exposure to non-lethal levels of pesticide or indirectly through decreased insect prey availability. Thus, effects of neonics have the potential to ripple through food webs to diverse wildlife including amphibians, birds, and small mammals.
Our region is home to a localized incident with heavy contamination of soil and water by mixed pesticides (neonics and diverse fungicides). The AltEn biofuels plant near Mead, Nebraska, began generating ethanol through recycling waste crop seed products treated with a number of pesticides including neonics and fungicides within the last decade. Wastewater, sludge, and solid byproduct (‘wet cake’) produced by the plant were stockpiled near the facility and applied to farm fields as soil nutrient supplements in the surrounding community until 2020. Stockpiles of the material were left exposed, and over time dust and storm runoff redistributed the pesticide residues in the local area leading to potential exposure to people, domestic animals, and wildlife.
The University of Nebraska created a program to monitor the broad consequences of the contamination across soil, water, food webs, wildlife populations, and humans. Within this program, Dr. Judy Wu Smart and Dr. Liz VanWormer created an opportunity for student training in OneHealth research methods. OneHealth emphasizes linkages among human, animal, plant, and ecosystem health. For the past three summers, students in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources have monitored birds and amphibians in the landscape contaminated near the AltEn biofuels plant. I have supported work to investigate possible impacts on red-winged blackbirds.
This presentation will provide some background on the contamination event and the planning that led to the student training and monitoring program. I will describe the methods our team has used to sample eggs and feathers of red-winged blackbirds with images and video, so you can experience a morning of research with our team! We have some preliminary results on a portion of our sample, and I will describe the trends that we see in our results.
Larkin Powell grew up in southern Iowa and has worked the last 22 years as a wildlife professor in the School of Natural Resources at the University of Nebraska. In August of 2023, Dr. Powell began serving as Director for the School. In his leisure time, he plays the piano and enjoys photography, angling, and poetry.
Join Wachiska on Thursday, February 8, at 7:00 p.m. at Lincoln’s Unitarian Church, 6300 A Street, to learn more about this grave environmental concern in our region. This free, public, in-person talk will also be live-streamed on YouTube at
No registration is needed. This program can also be viewed at a later time. Check Wachiska’s website for links to past programs.
February 2024 Calendar of Events
February 8 General Meeting, "OneHealth Student Training in a
Contaminated Landscape,” by Larkin Powell,
7:00 p.m., in-person meeting at the Unitarian Church
and also live streamed; no registration needed
(see link above)
february 12 Conservation Committee, via Zoom 6:30 p.m.
February 15 Newsletter deadline in Wachiska office, 5:00 p.m.
February 17 BirdEnCOUNTer, Walt Library, 10:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
February 20 Board Meeting via Zoom, 7:00 p.m.
March 15 - 16 Spring Birdseed Sale Pick-up
Give Nebraska is preparing to kick off this year's
Wachiska Audubon Society will be participating and we are fortunate to be one of the 70+ members who benefit from the 100+ public and private workplaces that allow employees to contribute to their favorite non-profits through payroll deductions.
In September 2021, the Wachiska Board adopted the National Audubon’s Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion as the Chapter’s own goals:
The birds Audubon pledges to protect differ in color, size, behavior, geographical preference, and countless other ways. By honoring and celebrating the equally remarkable diversity of the human species, Audubon will bring new creativity, effectiveness and leadership to our work throughout the hemisphere.
Wachiska supports efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
A recent seminar hosted by Gene Hanlon gave tips on replacing heating and air conditioning units with heat pumps.
A panel of five speakers participated in "Powering the Future: Heat Pump Education Event" on February 3rd at the Unitarian Church of Lincoln.
Watch the seminar on YouTube:
Join Wachiska Today
Become a member of the Wachiska chapter of the National Audubon Society and support environmental conservation, education, and outreach in Southeast Nebraska.
Click HERE for details.
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The photos on this website were taken by Wachiska members. Many thanks to Bruce Wendorff,
Linda Brown, Paul Johnsguard, Tim Knott, Stu Luttich, John Carlini and Elizabeth Nelson.