Panhandle Appointments

New Faces in Panhandle Extension

Recent faculty and staff appointments at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center and Panhandle Extension District

4-H Extension Assistant in Box Butte County

Ashley Fenning of Bayard has been appointed 4-H Extension Assistant for Box Butte County, based in Alliance. Her appointment was announced by Extension Educator John Thomas, unit leader for Extension in Box Butte County. She begins her duties Feb. 26.

Asley Fenning
Ashley Fenning

Fenning will be responsible for planning and implementing educational programming for 4-H youth in Box Butte County, with the aim of helping youth develop leadership skills, citizenship, responsibility and life skills. She will work in collaboration with leaders and community volunteers to develop an effective volunteer network to support and carry out the 4-H and youth programming. In addition, she will be developing and carrying out complimentary programming for youth not directly involved in 4-H, such as school enrichment, after-school, or in-service day projects.

Fenning is currently the office manager and program assistant for Morrill County Extension at Bridgeport, a position she has held since September 2017. She received a bachelor’s degree in general biology in 2017 from Chadron State College. Prior to receiving her degree she was a 4-H intern for Scotts Bluff County Extension. She graduated from Bridgeport High School. In addition to playing basketball in high school and college (for Western Nebraska Community College and Colorado Mesa University), she has coached high-school and junior-high volleyball.

Her work and intern experience with county extension involves frequent work with youth-related programs and activities, including county fairs. She will be replacing Deb Kraenow, who worked for 12 years as Box Butte County 4-H Assistant.


Extension educator for Food, Nutrition and Health in Morrill County

Tammie Ostdiek has accepted an offer to serve as Extension Educator in Food, Nutrition and Health for Nebraska Extension, based in Morrill County.

Tammie Ostdiek
Tammie Ostdiek

Her acceptance was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle. She is scheduled to begin her duties June 6, 2018, after completing her duties as a teacher in Goshen County, Wyo.

Ostdiek will be based at the Extension Office in Bridgeport and will serve Morrill, Scotts Bluff, Banner, Kimball, Cheyenne, Deuel and Garden counties, as well as statewide. She will teach and coordinate food, nutrition and health programs regionally in nutrition education and health promotion; food safety education; and food literacy. The primary targeted audience includes youth up to age 18 and the adults who influence them.

She will work in collaboration with other UNL research and extension faculty, as well as closely with other Nebraska Extension experts, in addition to individuals, families, schools and communities.

Ostdiek has taught family and consumer science for the past four years at Goshen County, Wyo., dividing time between Lingle-Fort Laramie and Southeast School at Yoder. Prior to that she taught FCS for more than 30 years at Bluffs Middle School in Scottsbluff.

A Sidney native, she grew up in Sidney and Bridgeport, graduating from Bridgeport High School. She received a bachelor’s degree in home economics education and a master’s degree in human resources and family sciences from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She has a husband, Dave, and two grown children.

Associate Research and Extension Director Intern (AREDI)
Dr. Jeff Bradshaw Jim Schild Dr. Jack Whittier
Jeff Bradshaw Jim Schild Jack Whittier

Dr. Jeff Bradshaw, Extension Entomologist at the UNL Panhandle Research and Extension Center, has been named as Associate Research and Extension Director Intern (AREDI) for the Panhandle Center and Panhandle Extension District. His new assignment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Research and Extension Director for the Panhandle.

Bradshaw replaced Jim Schild, who returned to his educator assignment and has since retired in early 2018.

With the approval of the deans at UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, beginning July 1, the associate director intern position is a 50-percent assignment. Bradshaw will maintain a 50-percent role in his present duties. He has begun to transition into the associate director role.

The new model for the AREDI position is intended to provide a training opportunity for current research or extension professionals who might want to pursue future positions in administration to gain experience through an internship. The AREDI will assist the director with administrative duties in the Panhandle District for 12 to 18 months, with the possibility of extension.

The AREDI will learn about administrative duties while participating with the director in statewide administrative discussions and retreats. The AREDI will participate as a member of the Nebraska Extension Leadership Team, and also will be responsible for special projects within the Panhandle District.

Bradshaw’s primary responsibilities will be at the Panhandle Center, which will allow Whittier to work more directly at the county level.

“Having Jeff with primary oversight for the Center will provide the framework for me to concentrate more energy in counties and better learn and understand this aspect of the R&E Director responsibilities,” Whittier said.

Bradshaw said: “It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Nebraska as your entomologist at ‘the people’s university’. I am humbled to be entrusted with this added role to help foster the impactful collaboration of our exceptional scientists and educators at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. I am looking forward to reaching out to agencies and organizations in our communities to develop meaningful partnerships around bold ideas and a shared vision for agriculture and natural resources.”

Bradshaw has been on the faculty at the Panhandle Center since 2010. He received a Ph.D. in entomology and plant pathology in 2007 from Iowa State University, and received his M.S. and B.S. degrees in zoology (in 2001 and 1998, respectively) from Southern Illinois University. He received an associate's degree with a specialization in biology and chemistry in 1996 from Illinois Central College.

Before moving to Nebraska, Bradshaw was a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Prior to that, he was an extension postdoctoral research assistant at Iowa State University.

The Panhandle Research and Extension Center at Scottsbluff houses a dozen faculty members in UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, who conduct research and extension activities related to beef production; crops and water use; natural resources; and community vitality. Research facilities include the Scottsbluff Ag Lab, the Mitchell Ag Lab, the High Plains Ag Lab near Sidney and Sioux County Experimental Range.

Bradshaw also will help lead the 16-county Panhandle Extension District, where approximately 20 Extension educators, as well as 4-H assistants and support staff, provide Extension programming to western and north-central Nebraska from 12 county-based Extension Offices.

Water and irrigation management specialist

Dr. Xin Qiao joined the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center May 1, 2017, as water and irrigation management specialist.

Qiao will be responsible for finding new methods and improving existing methods of irrigation to help irrigators manage and conserve limited water in the unique cropping systems in western Nebraska. A key element will be to develop adaptive management practices that producers could utilize to respond to environmental, crop and soil conditions to improve water management and meet regulatory goals. His assignment will be 50 percent research and 50 percent extension.

As part of a multidisciplinary team at the Panhandle Center, Qiao will partner with other UNL faculty and various organizations, agencies and advisory groups.

Whittier stated, “We are excited to have Xin join our team here at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center. The irrigation position has essentially been vacant for five years since the passing of Dean Yonts. Filling this position brings our faculty back to full strength. We are thrilled to have our team of specialists back together to address cropping issues in the Panhandle for the benefit of the agriculture industry, which is so important to the local economy. I believe it also demonstrates the commitment of University of Nebraska administration in Lincoln to the needs of western Nebraska.” 

Qiao stated, “There are a lot of advanced concepts and technologies available for irrigation management. My research goal will be exploring and developing advanced technologies such as sensor-based irrigation, modeling, and remote sensing to improve water use efficiency of current cropping systems.

“On the extension side, I am excited to learn systems that are already used in Nebraska and tailor these technologies to local needs,” he said. “I believe research and extension should support each other, while research provides scientific basis and extension activities drive the need for research. I look forward to working with local farmers, stakeholders, as well as fellow scientists to better manage water resources in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner.”

Xin received his bachelor of science degree in 2009 from South China University of Technology in water and wastewater engineering. He then moved to Clemson University for his master’s and Ph.D. degrees in agricultural and environmental engineering. He completed his Ph.D. in 2015 and is currently finishing a post-doctoral program, also at Clemson. 

Xin has been located at the off-campus Edisto Research and Education Center at Blackville, S.C., for his Ph.D. and post-doctoral training.

Chelsea Altena, Morrill County 4-H coordinator

Posted Feb. 13, 2017

Chelsea Altena has been appointed 4-H coordinator in the Morrill County Extension Office in Bridgeport. Her appointment was announced by Jackie Guzman, Extension Educator and Unit Leader for the Morrill and Scotts Bluff County Extension offices. She began her duties Feb. 1.

Chelsea Altena
Chelsea Altena

Altena’s responsibilities will include promoting and supporting the 4-H program in Morrill County, working with other 4-H staff in planning and implementation. She will provide support to clubs, leaders and members, coordinate special events, and other activities.

Altena is originally from Hyannis, where she attended school and graduated from Hyannis High School. She attended the Nebraska College or Technical Agriculture at Curtis, graduating with degrees in animal production science, livestock management and equine management, and as veterinary tech, as well as a minor in agribusiness. She served a veterinary technician internship at Medicine Valley Veterinary Hospital while in college, and worked at the hospital full-time after graduating in 2015. In May of 2016 she went to work for the Keith-Arthur Extension office as the office manager and 4-H assistant. She is engaged to Jordan Sterkel of Bridgeport, and lives north of Angora.

Jack Arterburn, Extension Educator in Northern Panhandle

Jack Arterburn has been appointed Extension Educator for beef systems for the northern Panhandle.

Jack Arterburn
Jack Arterburn

His appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle. He began his duties Aug. 29, based at the Nebraska Extension Office in Rushville.

Arterburn will be responsible for Extension beef systems programming primarily in the northern Panhandle counties of Sioux, Dawes, Box Butte, and Sheridan. He also will design, develop, deliver and evaluate programs for statewide Extension education programs in beef systems. He will work in a multi-disciplinary team of Extension professionals and other partners.

Extension’s program for beef and grassland systems focuses on improved profitability and sustainability; animal care to improve health, well-being and product quality; enhanced resiliency of beef businesses; and expanded consumer and youth awareness.

“We are very pleased to welcome Jack to the Panhandle District,” Whittier said. “He brings a great deal of talent in range and livestock management. This is very important to the western Sandhills area where he is located. We are delighted that we can maintain a strong Nebraska Extension emphasis in this part of the state.”

Arterburn received a master of science degree in natural resources sciences from UNL in August, with a specialization in applied ecology. His research focused on rangeland ecology and management. His bachelor’s degree also is from UNL, in fisheries and wildlife in 2014. He has been working as a graduate research assistance since 2014, directing research, collecting data, and teaching. He also has experience as a conservation technician with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and as a farm employee; at the Cow-Calf Unit at UNL’s Agricultural Research and Development Center near Mead; and as a bank specialist. He is a Sidney native and graduate of Sidney High School.

He will collaborate with educators in Sioux, Dawes and Box Butte counties, as well as with Extension personnel throughout the Panhandle District and statewide.

Bijesh Maharjan, Soils-Nutrient Management Specialist

Posted August 16, 2016

Dr. Bijesh Maharjan will join the faculty at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Panhandle Research and Extension Center Sept. 6 as soil and nutrient management specialist.

Dr. Bijesh Maharjan
Dr. Bijesh Maharjan

Maharjan’s appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Research and Extension Director at the Panhandle R&E Center. He will replace Gary Hergert, who retired in 2015.

Maharjan will be responsible for conducting research and extension programs focused on improved soil productivity and precision nutrient management in irrigated, limited-irrigation and rain-fed crop and forage production systems in the Panhandle.

The overall objective of his programs will be to help develop and continue cost-effective, efficient and sustainable production systems that optimize profitability, along with improving soil productivity, nutrient utilization, improved nutrient management and variable rate nutrient application.

As part of a multidisciplinary team at the Panhandle Center, he will partner with other UNL faculty and various organizations, agencies and advisory groups.

Whittier stated, “One of the great opportunities I have had since joining the Panhandle R&E District is to participate in hiring some great new faculty. The addition of Bijesh to our team is a real home run. Bijesh brings expertise and energy that will complement our already strong team of specialists to address research and extension needs in the Nebraska Panhandle. We are excited to have him here.”

Maharjan said, “I am looking forward to meeting and working together with and for the community of Nebraska’s Panhandle and beyond. I intend to blend conventional methods and modern technologies in my research program to tackle soil fertility and water management issues in Panhandle region. I will soon visit the community, growers, industries and other stakeholders to learn more about the region and the areas where we can collaborate and my expertise will be useful.”

For almost three years, Maharjan has been a postdoctoral research associate at the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture in UNL’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, where he has been working in several collaborative soil-fertility related projects, including one in managing in-season crop stress using remote-sensing technologies.

He received a Ph.D. in Land and Atmospheric Science (soil science track) in December 2013 from the University of Minnesota. His dissertation topic was corn production and environmental implications under varying nitrogen and management practices. His master’s degree in environmental engineering was earned in 2008 from the University of North Dakota.