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Professor Using Breadth of Knowledge on Weed Science to Aid in Weed Management Progress in Oklahoma

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Dr. Liberty Galvin is an assistant professor of extension weed science and precision weed management at Oklahoma State University. She earned a bachelor’s degree in environmental science with a double-minor in soil science and agronomy at OSU in 2013. She studied abroad several times from 2011-2013 at Njala University in Sierra Leone under the supervision and guidance of Dr. Jeff Hattey. After graduation, Galvin lived in Sierra Leone for seven months doing a continuation of the Jessica Lay (M.S. Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering, 2014) Fulbright Project in the same area where she had previously studied abroad during her undergraduate program.


After completing the project in 2014, Galvin moved back home to Bartlesville, Oklahoma.


“I was saving up money for graduate school by working simultaneously as the Bartlesville Farmers Market manager, contract grant writer for a local rural water district, and community development coordinator for a local non-profit targeting women’s economic development,” she said.


In 2015, she moved to Davis, California, to start her M.S. in International Agricultural Development.


“I did not have an advisor and bounced between graduate research positions to pay my tuition,” Galvin said. “I worked for Brad Hanson in the weed science program from 2015-2016 conducting research on frost injury in Roundup Ready® alfalfa.”


 In the fall of 2016, Galvin returned to Njala University to conduct her M.S. research, funded by a USAID fellowship. She worked closely with the Extension and Rural Sociology Department to determine effective communication methods between university researchers and local stakeholders.


Upon completing her M.S. in 2017, she worked in Washington D.C. for a summer as a research fellow with CropLife America, a trade association representing the agrochemical industry, before she pursued her Ph.D. in weed science under professor Kassim Al-Khatib.


“My Ph.D. was well-supported by the California rice growers and gave me opportunities to travel and learn from international colleagues,” Galvin said. “I was fortunate to travel to the international rice research institute in 2018 to take a Rice Research to Production training course where I met many colleagues I am still connected with to this day.”


The Al-Khatib lab was also closely linked with domestic industry partners, and Galvin saw applications from her time in D.C. to pesticide registration, marketing to the agricultural community, and the imperative value of good stewardship of current products and technologies.


After Galvin completed her Ph.D. in 2022, she began her post-doctoral fellowship with Professor Al-Khatib as a technical advisor for the USDA-Foreign Ag. Services Cochran Fellowship program. The goal of the program was to reduce barriers to international trade by elucidating herbicide residue limitations on imports and exports.


“This project was a career culmination, encompassing my M.S. education, CropLife America fellowship experience, and technical knowledge gained during my Ph.D.,” she said.


Currently, Galvin works closely with Dr. Swati Shrestha, the OSU Plant and Soil Sciences Department weed geneticist, with Galvin being 85% extension and 15% research, and Shrestha 70% research, 30% teaching. Together, they have one large research/extension goal for 2024:

  • Conduct a state-wide survey for problematic weed species. This will lead to:
    • Identification of herbicide resistant weeds not yet documented or not well known
    • Identification of the diversity of weed populations across the state
    • The spread and concentration of these species
    • Continuing education on identification, location, and management of weeds, especially those which are found to be herbicide resistant


Galvin plans to pursue timing of herbicide application studies with problematic weeds—at this time, Italian Ryegrass is the main target.


“I have a field trial running with UPL industry partners. This pesticide is an ALS herbicide meant to specifically target Bromus species and has shown promising results in Kansas.”


She hopes to discuss these results with growers at spring field days alongside our UPL colleagues.


Together with Shrestha, Galvin is pursuing research related to AI technology for grass-weed identification.


“This will be coupled with aerial applicator CEU courses,” she said.


Galvin is also assessing non-chemical weed control strategies. She is currently in the process of “pursuing funding for assessing fire impacts on weed populations, namely seedbank dynamics and how these can influence herbicide resistant weeds in no-till systems.”


For 2024-2025, Galvin has received funding for a USDA-NIFA Parthenium hysterophorus study in collaboration with colleagues domestically and across the globe. This research project is being spearheaded by a colleague at Cornell and is intended to be an early detection and rapid response study.


“With climate change, we must be proactive about shifts in weed species across the landscape, and this project is meant to do just that,” she said.


On the extension side, Galvin believes there is an imperative need for herbicide resistance research and updates in the state of Oklahoma.


“Growers need to know which products are effective on which weed species,” she said. “Additionally, timing of application studies ensure that these products are being applied when the environmental conditions are optimal for herbicide uptake by the target weed(s). I’ve gotten a lot of feedback about this topic and plan to arrange some experiments in the near future.”


Galvin is a third-generation OSU graduate and said she could not be prouder to be in a public service position for the people of the great state of Oklahoma.


“My drive for success stems from my desire to benefit and progress the rural community of which my family and friends are a part of,” Galvin said.


She has enjoyed reconnecting with colleagues and teachers since returning to OSU.


“I feel supported by those around me and greatly appreciate the collaborative environment with the Plant and Soil Sciences Department.,” Galvin said. “I feel like I’m part of a team that is collectively working towards a common goal to improve the livelihoods of the agricultural community at large.”


Galvin was a swimmer during her senior year of high school, and still really enjoys lap swimming for exercise. She said, “I love the water and will never say no to a lake day!”

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