David MacTaggart. (Photo submitted)

David MacTaggart. (Photo submitted)

Central Alberta researchers are innovators in agricultural sciences

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

Both of the 2020 recipients of the Dr. Karl C. Ivarson Agricultural Scholarships are from central Alberta: David MacTaggart of Lacombe and Jessica Sperber of Ponoka. The scholarships support students from Alberta who are studying agricultural sciences.

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.”

The $17,000 scholarship for PhD students was awarded to Sperber.

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.

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

AgricultureLacombe countyPonoka CountyScholarships

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

 

Jessica Sperber. (Photo submitted)

Jessica Sperber. (Photo submitted)

Just Posted

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw asked Albertans to limit travel throughout the province as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. (Photo by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears 900 active COVID-19 cases

Province reports additional 2,211 COVID-19 cases

Photo (STAR Catholic Logo)
STAR Catholic School Division declines running pilot on K-6 draft curriculum

The Catholic school board conducted an in-depth analysis of the Education Alberta’s draft curriculum

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr speaks to chamber members over Zoom on April 27. (Screenshot)
MLA Ron Orr fields diverse questions during ‘A Business Conversation’

The Lacombe and District Chamber of Commerce hosted A Business Conversation with MLA Ron Orr

As of Friday, Alberta has under 10,000 active COVID-19 cases. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 2,271 new COVID-19 cases, Red Deer cases rise slightly

Across Alberta, there are 666 people in hospital with COVID-19, including 146 in the ICU

Alberta Health Services locked the Whistle Stop Cafe at Mirror on Wednesday morning after owner Christopher Scott refused to comply with health orders.
Photo by Paul Cowley/Advocate staff
AHS shuts down Whistle Stop Cafe for defying health orders

Health inspectors and RCMP locked doors early Wednesday

FILE - In this March 3, 2021, file photo, a vial of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine is displayed at South Shore University Hospital in Bay Shore, N.Y. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine can be given to adults 30+ who can’t wait for mRNA: NACI

Panel says single shot vaccine can be especially useful for populations unable to return for second shot

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hospital investigating whether Alberta woman who died after AstraZeneca shot was turned away

Woman was taken off life support 12 days after getting vaccine

Two passengers were recently fined thousands of dollars after they faked their pre-flight COVID-19 test results. (Paul Clarke/Black Press)
2 passengers in Canada fined thousands for faking pre-flight COVID-19 tests

The government issued a warning Thursday to others thinking of doing the same – do it and you’ll be ordered to pay

A wild rabbit grazes in Nanaimo, B.C. in this Feb.2, 2018 photo. Rabbit owners in Alberta are being warned about a deadly virus that was identified in a southern Alberta household last month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Dirk Meissner
‘Like a flash fire:’ Rabbit owners warned about outbreak of deadly disease in Alberta

The disease is confined to rabbits and cannot spread to humans

A lady wears a vaccinated sticker after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada may find it challenging to reach herd immunity from COVID-19, experts say

Level of immunity among the population changes with the variants, especially the more transmissible strains

B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Dip in COVID-19 cases with 572 newly announced in B.C.

No new deaths have been reported but hospitalized patients are up to 481, with 161 being treated in intensive care

A dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination is prepared at a mobile clinic for members of First Nations and their partners, in Montreal, Friday, April 30, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved for kids 12 to 15 years old in Canada

The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone at least 16 years of age or older

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listens to speakers appearing by video during a news conference in Ottawa on Tuesday May 4, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada will align policy on ‘vaccine passports’ with international allies: Trudeau

Trudeau says Canadians could begin travelling outside the country again by summer

Most Read