College of Agriculture News for Winter 2020

College of Ag graduate student studies tiger genetics

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Alessandra Bresnan

Ask any LSU football fan what makes up a tiger and answers might include passion, determination and hard work. But one LSU student is conducting research on what truly makes up a tiger.

Alessandra Bresnan, a graduate student in the College of Agriculture School of Renewable Natural Resources, is studying conservation genetics of captive and wild tigers with the hope of bringing awareness to their plight.

Bresnan’s research is funded by LSU through the Tigers United University Consortium, which also includes Auburn University, Clemson University and the University of Missouri, all of which have tiger mascots. The universities have joined forces to help save wild tigers worldwide.

“Since the start of the last century, the world has lost 97% of its tigers,” Bresnan said.

More tigers live in captivity than in the wild, with fewer than 3,900 tigers in the wild. While the exact number of captive tigers in the U.S. is unknown, it is estimated at 5,000 to 10,000. Bresnan said only a small population of the captive tigers is managed through species survival plans in accredited zoos.

“The species survival plans aim to preserve tigers’ natural genetic variability and sub-species groupings,” she said.

Inbreeding of tigers in captivity and crossbreeding tigers with other species, such as lions, have caused a host of genetic and health issues in captive populations, Bresnan said. Many inbred tigers are born with deformities, vision problems and other health concerns.

Bresnan is just starting her research, but she plans to conduct a genetic analysis of U.S. tigers, including generic tigers or tigers of unknown or hybridized subspecies as well as purebred species found in accredited zoos. She also will collect and examine samples from museum specimens.

“These have been collected from the wild over the past century to serve as a proxy for wild tigers, allowing us to identify genetic changes in wild tigers of the past to the captive tigers of today,” Bresnan said.

By incorporating genetic information, Bresnan said she can investigate relatedness and assessment of adaptation to captivity in tigers managed in zoos and the detrimental effects of commercialized breeding of unmanaged tigers.

Bresnan has already done preliminary work with the tigers housed at the Baton Rouge Zoo. Tobie Blanchard

McKinzie receives University Medal

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Whitney McKinzie

Whitney McKinzie received the university medal at the LSU College of Agriculture Fall Commencement Ceremony on Dec. 20, 2019, at the LSU Maddox Field House.

McKinzie, of Slidell, Louisiana, received a degree in agricultural business with a concentration in food industry management and a minor in agriculture. During her undergraduate career, she was the recipient of numerous scholarships and honors, and was a member of the national award winning Agricultural and Applied Economics Quiz Bowl Team.

The University Medal was established as an award for LSU undergraduate students graduating with the highest grade-point average in their class.

McKinzie has returned to LSU to earn a master’s degree in agricultural economics. Tobie Blanchard

Smith awarded national poultry scholarship

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David Smith, LSU College of Agriculture senior studying animal sciences, was awarded a $2,000 scholarship from Hubbard Breeders. Smith received the award at the International Production and Processing Expo in Atlanta on Jan 29. Smith is pictured with Dennis Ingram, retired LSU College of Agriculture poultry professor, and Steve Crosson with Hubbard Breeders. Photo by Tobie Blanchard

Sustainable Harvesters owner speaks to students

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Matthew Braud

Matthew Braud, who owns the largest aquaponics operation in Texas, spoke to students about his business as part of the LSU College of Agriculture’s Alumni Speaker Series. Braud owns Houston-based Sustainable Harvesters with fellow agricultural business alumnus Andrew Alvis.

“People thought we were crazy when started,” he said.

The pair uses aquaponics to grow their produce in a 12,000-square-foot greenhouse. Their operation combines aquaculture and hydroponics to give the lettuce they grow extra nutrients from fish. In 2018, they were named one of LSU’s 100 Fastest Growing Tiger-led Businesses. In 2019, they received the Early Career Alumni award from the College of Agriculture.

The two have partnered with schools in the Houston area to create small-scale aquaponic growing systems for educational purposes. Tobie Blanchard

3/12/2020 3:45:16 PM
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