UW Extension engages Ask an Expert tool
Stan Skrabut with University of Wyoming Extension recently received this query from a Wyoming citizen.
"How do I check the pH of garden soil in Natrona County?" she wrote. "Do I take a sample to the office or send it somewhere? Last year, horse manure was added to the soil, which was too hot, and the crops did not do well. I want to make sure the soil is suitable for the 2013 season."
Previously, Skrabut, an instructional technology educational specialist, forwarded questions like these to appropriate specialists and educators with UW Extension to respond. Then, Skrabut would return the answers to senders.
He still can, but now UW Extension has initiated a way for Wyomingites--or anyone--to get answers much more quickly and easily from Extension experts and be linked to a national database of experts and information.
UW Extension's Ask an Expert tool is now integrated into the organization's webpage, and the number of available experts to address questions in Wyoming continues to expand.
Ask an Expert is available at http://bit.ly/UWaskanexpert.
A form on the webpage allows people to title and type questions, enter their locations, upload images and enter their email addresses. They can also click a box to make their questions public, or their questions will remain private if they do not click the box. Then users simply click the "Ask" button.
The function is set up so Extension experts receive questions from Wyomingites first.
"We get first dibs," said Skrabut. "We're trying to streamline our approach to get answers back sooner."
Since launching on Nov. 15, and without any publicity, UW experts have answered 37-plus questions.
Topics have included livestock, pesticides, nutrition, energy and gardening.
"The more we get the word out, the more use we'll have," said Skrabut.
To date, 93 UW Extension experts are registered to answer questions.
"The tool is an easy way to start engaging the expertise of extension," said extension energy coordinator Milt Geiger. "Perhaps your local Extension office is closed when you are seeking information or you don't know who to ask, you can simply enter your questions and generally get answers within 24 hours. With so much information available on the web, it is valuable to be able to access research-based information backed by a real person."
UW Extension has experts in areas including energy, family and health, community development, food and agriculture, programs for young people and gardening.
Geiger said the Ask an Expert tool is great for small-acreage owners, teachers, ranchers, reporters, county commissioners, natural resource professionals and others who don't always know who or where to call with a question.
Ask an Expert is a national program through eXtension.org, an Internet-based collaborative environment where land-grant university content providers exchange objective, research-based knowledge to solve challenges in real time.
"If we don't have an answer, someone in the nation does," said Skrabut.
For more information, contact Skrabut at 307-766-3722 or email him at Skrabut@uwyo.edu.