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TECHNICAL SESSION: Plant Science Outreach and Education

A group plot experiment to incorporate agricultural field research training into summer undergraduate internships
Lindsay Triplett - Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Wade Elmer- Connecticut Agric Exp Station, Rebecca Silady- Southern Connecticut State University, Elizabeth Roberts- Southern Connecticut State Univ

The design and execution of field plot experiments are sought-after skills in the agricultural workforce, yet are not often introduced to undergraduate student researchers. In the 13 national summer internship programs advertised in plant health areas for the summer of 2015, only 15 of 109 student projects reported a fieldwork component. To help address this deficiency, we designed a group field project to fit into a 9-week summer program funded by the USDA at SCSU and the CT Agricultural Experiment Station over three summers. In addition to conducting individual mentored research projects, ten undergraduate interns per summer researched the effects of nanoscale nutrients on the growth and disease susceptibility of chrysanthemum. Interns attended programmatic workshops in experimental and plot design, planting and inoculation, data collection, and analysis. Plot setup and weekly data collection tasks were divided evenly among interns, while experimental design and analysis activities were performed by partners in a large group setting. Students presented their research to the general public in a plot display at the station’s annual Plant Science Day. Successes, challenges, and outcomes from student surveys will be presented, along with recommendations for conducting group field research with undergraduates.