Training youth to protect animal health
Martin Smith, Cooperative Extension specialist in youth scientific literacy, and Woutrina Smith, veterinarian and an associate director of the One Health Institute, have collaborated for more than a decade to develop and extend research-based curricula for youth. One project that has been particularly effective is a collaboration between 4-H and California county fairs to promote biosafe practices for people and animals.
“This collaboration goes back about 15 or 16 years,” said Martin. “Woutrina joined a UC ANR work group that was working on biosecurity education and was instrumental in helping us develop the curriculum.
“I’ve enjoyed thinking through innovative training formats that make sense for the audiences we're working with,” Woutrina said. “Martin is an expert in experiential learning and building communities of practice, and I have learned so much from him along the way,” she added.
Along with the practical impact of their work in protecting public and animal health at the fairs, which was funded by UC ANR, they have published three journal articles from the collaborations.
“Impacts have included anything from looking at the importance of signage for handwashing to evaluating risk in the fair or home farm setting and understanding whether their solutions make the housing cleaner,” said Woutrina. She also enjoys training the different levels of students who are involved with these projects.
The cross-disciplinary nature of their approach is a key aspect of the partnership. “We have common interests but different academic training, so we bring different things to the table, based on the working groups or the activities that are front and center at the time,” noted Woutrina. She has valued their ability to engage students through a variety of topics in population health, food security and zoonotic disease.
Martin appreciates being pushed outside of his comfort zone in the collaborations. “Woutrina will say, ‘What about this?’ and I think, ‘Oh my gosh, that's going to stretch me,’ which is good,” he said. “We all need that personal and professional growth.” He also enjoys drawing on his biology background in the work they do together.
Martin and Woutrina are currently working on a large USAID One Health Workforce – Next Generation Project with university partners in 17 different countries who are building new training methods to look at Cooperative Extension and agricultural topics using a One Health approach. “Once we established this strong working relationship, it became so synergistic,” said Martin. “Woutrina was recently thanking me for the work I’ve done with the USAID project and I said, ‘Are you kidding me? You have introduced me to so many of my favorite collaborators!’”
Additionally, they have partnered with UC ANR in a summer fellowship program for the past several years, which has led to multiple collaborations between students, faculty members and Cooperative Extension researchers in California. “We place four to 10 students each summer, anything from working with rice issues to stakeholder engagement projects,” said Woutrina. “Both undergraduate and graduate students were saying they needed experience to get a job, but needed a job to get experience, so we are providing a focused opportunity during the summer.”
Team of 4-H youth presenting bio-security education information at county fair board meeting
UC-Davis/UC ANR bio-security education and risk assessment research team