University of Idaho, From Here You Can Go Anywhere
University of Idaho
Give to the University of Idaho
      < CALS      < UI Extension      < IAES      < Educational Communications

Where are Idaho’s cloned mules now?

by Bill Loftus

Idaho Gem, the world’s first equine clone, has a new career, and so do his cloned brothers. After finishing second in his first race of the season at the Winnemucca Mule Races in Nevada, the world’s most famous mule returned to Idaho.

Don Jacklin, the Post Falls businessman who now owns the 5-year-old Idaho Gem, decided he deserved better than to finish second best as a racing mule. Gem competed at the Kootenai County Fair in August and won the grand champion’s purple ribbon in his halter class.

All three mule clones born in 2003 are fit and healthy and show no adverse signs of their unusual beginnings as clones, said College of Agricultural and Life Sciences associate professor of animal science Dirk Vanderwall who directs the Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory at the UI.

“With his intelligence and his quickness, Gem is very athletic,” Jacklin said. “He is also eager to please, and he is an outstanding animal.”

Idaho Gem’s next career: gymkhana
Idaho Gem’s next career will focus on gymkhana events. His trainer will be Ed Burdick of Rathdrum, pictured above, a veteran in the show ring who appeared in Life magazine as a youth in a story about horse training.

Gem’s speed ranked him as No. 3 among the California Fair Racing Circuit’s 80 competitors, but prospects were that he would never beat the top two animals. Idaho Gem excelled in sprints, winning 220-yard races at the Los Angeles County and the Humboldt County fairs in 2007. Most mule races cover distances of 350 yards or longer, and Gem’s leads faded at the wire. Overall, Idaho Gem won 6 of his 22 professional races and finished in the money 16 times.

Idaho Star, whose racing career never took off like his elder brother’s, will also return to Idaho from the California race circuit. Earl Lunceford, like Don Jacklin, a donor to the Northwest Equine Reproduction Laboratory’s cloning research program, will own Star and use him for trail riding.

Utah Pioneer, the third mule clone produced through a University of Idaho and Utah State University partnership, fills the role of educational exhibit on the UI campus in Moscow, allowing school children and other campus visitors to view a clone.

Contact Dirk Vanderwall at

UI microbiology professor wins $729,000 grant

by Bill Loftus

A parasite that infects 15 to 30 percent of Americans and as many as 90 percent of Europeans may have an Achilles’ heel, a protein essential to its movement within the body, a UI researcher believes.

Disabling the protein may stop the parasite before it can enter cells and reproduce, said Gustavo Arrizabalaga, microbiology, molecular biology and biochemistry assistant professor. The protein in the outer membrane of Toxoplasma gondii appears unique to the parasite that infects cats, humans, and most warm-blooded animals.

Arrizabalaga will use a $729,000 grant from the American Cancer Society to explore the protein’s role in the parasite’s motility, the active event that allows it to move from the gut or lungs to other organs.

Toxoplasmosis, the disease caused by the parasite, threatens pregnant women and people with weak immune systems, particularly those with AIDS or blood cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma or leukemia, Arrizabalaga said.

For them, toxoplasmosis can cause severe symptoms and death. Infection rates are high because the parasite moves easily from house cats to people. Contaminated cat litter or garden produce lead to human infections. Sheep and pigs can contract the infection, and their meats cooked rare transmit the parasite.

Part of the parasite’s success is that its victims’ immune systems rapidly develop defenses to control the parasite, so most infected people do not show any symptoms or suffer serious harm.

UI microbiology professor wins $729,000 grant

Contact Gustavo Arrizabalaga at


$1 million biodiesel education grant renewed

by Bill Loftus

A national program to educate consumers and producers about biodiesel will remain a cornerstone of the University of Idaho’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering with the renewal of a five-year, $1 million grant.

Jon Van Gerpen, BAE department head, will continue leading the program, which focuses on helping producers bring high-quality biofuels to market.

Van Gerpen and his predecessor, Chuck Peterson, pioneered the national biodiesel education program five years ago in coordination with the National Biodiesel Board. New funding enables continued research on processing biodiesel and supports more education for the public.

The education program recently produced a video that details safety precautions needed to handle methanol. Also known as wood alcohol, methanol is used to convert vegetable oils or animal fats to biodiesel.

Methanol’s low-temperature ignition point and its tendency to produce a colorless flame requires biodiesel producers, at home or at the industrial scale, to take precautions to ensure its safe use.

Contact John Van Gerpen at

Tethered to your dairy? No worries. UI Extension brings education to you

by Marlene Fritz

Tethered to your dairy? No worries. UI Extension brings education to you

For small and mid-sized dairy producers, breaking away for a half-day UI Extension class isn’t easy. When that class covers complex topics like futures, options, and hedging—necessitating multiple meetings—it can be nearly impossible. In Twin Falls, UI Extension economist C. Wilson Gray is offering these producers a time-saving alternative.

Principal investigator for a $118,000 grant from the Western Center for Risk Management Education, Gray is coordinating multi-regional efforts by extension colleagues at the University of Idaho, University of Wisconsin, and Texas A&M to deliver online tutorials and other educational materials directly to dairies.

Online tutorials, spreadsheet models, more
At Understanding Dairy Markets (, dairy producers will find publications, tutorials, spreadsheet models, newsletters, outlooks, and other Web pages rich in current and historical dairy-related information. They can learn about risk-management tools—like futures, federal Livestock Risk Protection Insurance, and other strategies—that can help them keep their dairies financially afloat. They can even use the Web site to chart their own numbers or to learn more about the use of distillers grains—a biofuel byproduct in dairy operations.

By winter, Gray will add University of Idaho Extension tutorials on business planning, financial statements, and costs of production. Gray’s tutorials will help producers understand the financial impacts of a big-ticket purchase to their profitability and earned net worth.

“Especially in our current situation of very high feed costs, very high fuel costs, and very narrow margins, you need to do a reasonably thorough job of accounting for all of your costs,” he says. “The few things that you miss can change your operation fairly quickly from running in the black to running in the red.”

Contact C. Wilson Gray at


Where to find best Idaho data

by Mary Ann Reese

Finding the most current reliable data for things like population, income, poverty levels, housing costs, minority populations, education levels, crime and safety, and so on at the local, county, or state levels can be frustrating, even with the aid of sophisticated computer searches.

To the rescue, 10 University of Idaho Extension community development team members created a free 10-page publication documenting where to find the most reliable data and when to expect new reports. Find Reliable Data Tools for Idaho Counties and Towns at

“It’s designed so you can simply download the document to your computer and click on a link to the information you need,” said Christy Dearien, who led the effort published in September.

The publication is part of the Community Data Tools project ( That site suggests ways to understand and use data provided by the Northwest Area Foundation’s Indicators Web site at

Contact Christy Dearien at or Debbie Grey at

Food science merger

by Bill Loftus

An academic merger will draw together Washington State University and the University of Idaho food science departments. The new School of Food Science at the two universities formalizes historic ties bridging the seven miles separating them.

The partnership, approved by both universities’ governing bodies, will benefit the Northwest’s $17-billion food processing industry, students, and consumers through expanded cooperation. The Northwest Food Processors Association said the region’s food industry employs an estimated 100,000 workers.

“This merger will combine strengths of both institutions, increasing the capabilities of both land-grant institutions in food science and related technologies,” said John Hammel, Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences dean.

WSU’s Dan Bernardo, dean of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Pullman, agreed.

“A combined School of Food Science broadens opportunities available to students, expands research possibilities, and offers a wider range of professional expertise to better serve both states,” he said. “It is a smart move at the right time.”

Facilities in Caldwell and Pullman
Together the universities are searching for a new director who is expected to be in place by early 2009. The school’s combined faculty will number about 25, with an enrollment of about 75 undergraduate and 35 graduate students. Students will take required food science courses at both institutions, but each student’s home university will award diplomas.

Faculty members will work together on issues important to both states and the nation. Strengths include food safety, processing, and chemistry, with a dairy focus. WSU’s facilities include a commercial-scale creamery known for Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe and Cougar Gold cheese.

UI facilities include the Caldwell-based Food Technology Center’s commercial kitchen. A pilot plant also assists established companies with research.

Contact Al McCurdy,

Study shows burning does improve bluegrass yields

by Bill Loftus

This fall College of Agricultural and Life Sciences researchers completed a seven-year study focused on Idaho’s Kentucky bluegrass production.

Originally sparked by controversy over field burning’s effects on human health and the lack of strong scientific evidence on the effects of field burning on crop yields, the study concludes growers harvest the largest yields with full-load field burning.

An alternative strategy, however, may allow growers to bale grass straw to reduce smoke emissions and still survive financially by selling the straw.

The study drew funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Department of Agriculture and involved collaboration with the Coeur d’Alene and Nez Perce tribes and Idaho State Department of Agriculture. The university’s research team included agricultural economics, crop, insect, livestock, soil, and weed specialists.

Contact Don Thill at


Idaho soil at the Smithsonian

by Mary Ann Reese

Idaho soil at the Smithsonian

“There are more living creatures in a shovelful of soil than human beings on the planet,” claims one story about Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, an exhibit that opened this summer at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C.

“Yet more is known about the dark side of the moon than about soil,” the show’s promotional material says. The Smithsonian aims to remedy that gap. Including 54 soil monoliths from throughout the United States, the 5,000 square-foot, interactive show will continue through 2010 and then be available to tour throughout the U.S. (See

Idaho’s Threebear soil from Latah County
Representing Idaho is Threebear, a distinctive volcanic ash soil from northern and central Idaho. University of Idaho soil scientists consider it a worthy representative, with its cap of volcanic ash often 18-inches thick, thanks to the eruption of Mount Mazama—now Crater Lake, Oregon—about 7,600 years ago.

First identified in Latah County along Threebear Creek, the distinctive soil is a yellowish brown silt loam. Its volcanic ash cap is one reason for the rich forests throughout northern and central Idaho.

Only seven states—Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Washington—claim sizeable areas of volcanic soils.

Learn more about the world’s soils at