Central Alberta researchers recognized for studies in agricultural sciences

Jessica Sperber of Ponoka and David MacTaggart of Lacombe awarded prestigious scholarship

Jessica Sperber. (Photo submitted)

Jessica Sperber. (Photo submitted)

Both of the 2020 recipients of the Dr. Karl C. Ivarson Agricultural Scholarships are from central Alberta, with the $17,000 scholarship for PhD students being awarded to Ponoka-area native Jessica Sperber.

The scholarships support students from Alberta who are studying agricultural sciences.

Sperber was born and raised on a fourth-generation commercial cow-calf and grain operation just west of Ponoka. She is currently a PhD student in ruminant nutrition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln researching beef cattle topics that incorporate production efficiency and sustainability.

“Winning the Dr. Karl C. Ivarson Agricultural Scholarship is a true honour and testament to the dedication that I have exhibited toward the beef industry,” said Sperber in an interview.

“I am humbled to receive an award of such merit, and this scholarship will allow me to devote the necessary time to finalize ongoing research projects and complete my PhD in beef cattle nutrition.

“My roots are planted deep within the agriculture industry, and my passion for cattle was sparked at a young age,” she said.

“Growing up on a fourth generation cow/calf and grain operation, my late grandfather, Mike Hatala, and father, Ron Sperber, were my role models and mentors. My grandfather passed on Jan. 18, 2021, and I am proud to continue on the farming legacy that he left for my family and me.”

Sperber’s research “focuses on feedlot sustainability and greenhouse gas emissions, utilizing a wood-sourced biochar (a by-product of the forestry industry) and measuring its impact, when fed as a cattle-feed additive in a grower and finisher diet, on enteric methane production,” stated a release from the Canadian Foundation for Food and Agricultural Education (CFFAE).

“In addition, she is utilizing biochar as a feedlot soil amendment to improve manure nutrient capture of nitrogen and phosphorous, ultimately aiming to improve the economic value of manure and reduce ammonia volatilization to the environment.”

In 2016, Sperber was honoured as a Cattlemen’s Young Leader (CYL) through the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association and she now serves as a committee member for CYL selections.

In 2019, she was elected for a two-year term as a member-at-large to the Young Cattlemen’s Council (YCC) and assumed the role of vice president in August, 2020.

Once she completes her doctorate, Sperber plans to return to Alberta and pursue a career in the Canadian beef industry.

David MacTaggart, the recipient of the $10,000 scholarship for Masters students, grew up east of Lacombe.

“It was a real honour to be chosen,” said MacTaggart.

“I understand that is something that people probably hear quite a bit, but it is really true because receiving scholarships like this are always a sign that other people believe in you and your dreams.”

MacTaggart says being awarded the scholarship allows him the flexibility to seek additional learning opportunities in his degree, such as attending workshops and going to visit agricultural experts on the prairies.

“Something I really like about agriculture is going to visit people on their farms to learn from them,” he said.

“Having the support from this scholarship allows me to do this.”

His main areas of interest are the people who grow and buy food and learning their stories and being in touch with nature.

“Especially during a disruptive year like we’re had, working in sync with the seasons is really grounding.”

MacTaggart was the top graduating student in the College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan in 2020, winning the most prestigious undergraduate Gold Medal award and is now a MSc student in Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan, according to CFFAE.

In his younger years, he was active in 4-H from the local to the provincial level.

While in Saskatchewan, he has served as the academic vice president of the Agriculture Students’ Association, planning the Farm to Fork Tour to introduce first year and international students to food production around Saskatoon.

He is now the director of the Saskatchewan Forage Council, improving how information can be shared in agriculture to increase collaboration between private industry, farmers, and researchers.

His research focuses on “the development of drone-based tools to identify superior breeding populations of meadow bromegrass and cicer milkvetch for stockpile grazing.

“Through his research, he hopes to provide a strategy for forage breeders to increase genetic gain by decreasing the time needed to identify superior breeding populations. In combination with improved pasture management practices, the release of these forage varieties aims to decrease winter feed costs and greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing the equipment and fertilizer needed to prepare winter feed for cattle.”

CFFAE is a registered national charity with a focus on scholarship programs.

Our Community is a feature page where Ponoka News highlights the positive work and contributions individuals or organizations make to our vibrant community. We have a great town and county and many people who make it what it is — let’s celebrate them. If you know a person or group who should be featured in “Our Community,” please contact the editor at editorial@ponokanews.com.

READ MORE: OUR COMMUNITY: Featuring PSC teacher Ron Labrie

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

AgricultureLacombe countyPonoka CountyScholarships

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

David MacTaggart. (Photo submitted)

David MacTaggart. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

Alberta's chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw says Albertans need to keep making safe choices to start bending the curve back down. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
One new COVID-19 death in Red Deer, 257 additional cases province-wide

Red Deer sits at 459 active cases of the virus

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said Thursday that the province may consider a regional approach to loosening COVID-19 restrictions if numbers continue to decline. (photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Province further easing health restrictions

Numbers of people hospitalized and in intensive care has dropped dramatically, says premier

Eric Rajah, co-founder of A Better World. (Photo Submitted)
Two Lacombe residents recieve award from Governor General for chairty work

Eric Rajah and Brian Leavitt co-founded A Better World, a charity which started in Lacombe in 1990

File photo
Alberta’s central zone has 670 active cases

301 new cases identified Sunday

Alberta has 1,910 active cases of COVID-19 as of Wednesday. Red Deer is reporting five active cases, with 108 recovered. (File photo)
Red Deer reports 25th COVID-19 death

415 new cases identified provincially Saturday

A health-care worker looks at a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Palais de Congress site as Quebec begins mass vaccinations based on age across the province, Monday, March 1, 2021 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Nearly 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses arriving in Canada this week: Anand

Anita Anand says she’s received assurances from the vaccine manufacturer

Samantha Sharpe, 25, was stabbed to death at Sunchild First Nation on Dec. 12, 2018. Chelsey Lagrelle was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison for manslaughter in a Red Deer courtroom on Tuesday. Photo contributed
Central Alberta woman sentenced to 4 1/2 years for stabbing friend to death in 2018

Chelsey Lagrelle earlier pleaded guilty to stabbing Samantha Sharpe during argument

Calgary police say they received 80 hate crime complaints between January and November 2020. (Pixabay)
‘Racism is a real problem:’ Muslim women fearful following attacks in Edmonton

So far in 2021, three of seven hate-crime-related investigations have involved Somali-Muslim women

Alberta Minister of Health Tyler Shandro speaks during a news conference in Calgary on May 29, 2020. Shandro says Alberta is considering whether to extend the time between COVID-19 vaccine shots to four months. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Alberta may follow B.C.’s lead on faster rollout of first COVID-19 dose

Tyler Shandro says a committee of COVID-19 experts is analyzing emerging data and a decision is coming

A locally-produced video project aims to preserve Canada’s railway history

‘Railways have been an integral part of Canadian history since 1836’

Ryan Jake Applegarth of Ponoka, 28, is scheduled to appear at Ponoka Provincial Court on March 12, 2021. (File photo)
Discussions about justice continue as Ponoka murder victim’s case proceeds

Reaction to comments Ponoka Staff Sgt. Chris Smiley made to town council last month

Dr. Stanley Read
Hometown Bashaw doctor recognized with alumni award for AIDS work

Dr. Stanley Read, born and raised in Bashaw, is considered a global health leader

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

Most Read