Associate Professor; International Professor of Animal Science
I am a nutritionist seeking to remove constraints to the sustainable delivery of high quality nutrients to vulnerable members of the world`s population through improvement of animal agricultural systems. Of particular interest to me are the dangers posed by naturally occurring toxins in the food chain. My undergraduate education in Animal Science came from the University of California, Davis as did certification for teaching Biology and Agriculture in secondary schools. My graduate research concerned the basic biochemistry of dietary manipulation of milk composition and resulted in a PhD degree in Nutrition at Cornell University. Since then, I have been a production systems specialist for Winrock International in Western Kenya (2 years), an Animal Science faculty member at UC Davis (11 years) and Cornell University (23 years), including a half time secondment from Cornell as staff scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute in Ethiopia (3 years).
Nutritional Toxicology is the study of naturally occurring toxins in the food chain and their metabolism. Currently, this laboratory is focusing on two toxins produced by fungi (mycotoxins): the carcinogenic, anti-nutritive, immunosuppressant aflatoxins and the powerful environmental estrogens related to zearalenone. Other nutritional toxicants investigated by this group include canavanine, urushiol, cadmium, taxanes, the maple toxins, toxic fatty acid imbalances in the black rhino, diaminobutanoic acid derivatives, ascaridole, copper, sesbania saponins, methyl xanthines and monensin.
This Limited Resource Animal Agriculture program includes both smallholder systems in developing countries (such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Haiti) as well as the US. Currently, this investigator's interest is in removing barriers to delivery of vitamin B12 to young children through animal source foods, but has also addressed the use and preservation of crop byproducts, the control of body nutrient reserves and total production system optimization. We are also conducting experiments in using short term ovine intensive grazing pressure to remove leafy spurge from the Finger Lakes National Forest.
Outreach and Extension Focus
This laboratory is a public resource for those interested in learning about naturally occurring toxins in their environment. The main feature of this effort is the Cornell University Poisonous Plants Database, but that database extends into realms beyond poisonous plants to include other nutritional toxicants such as excess nutrients, mycotoxins and feed additives. The public provides this laboratory with excellent questions, ideas and leads concerning which emerging toxicants merit investigation.
My current goals are 1) the education of a diverse audience in the necessity for and the nature of sustainable, productive relationships between humans and domestic animal species. 2) the education of motivated undergraduates in the skills, intellectual processes and current knowledge needed to compare a diverse variety of animal species for food, fiber, companionship, power and biomedical research. To meet these goals, I created and teach Feeding the World (Fall ANSC/IARD4000) and Comparative Animal Nutrition and Toxicology: Dogs, cats, horses and much more (Spring ANSC 3200). In addition, I created ANSC 110 and 111 (Sustainable Animal Agriculture) for both majors and non majors, taught in the Summer as (Summer Session ANSC 1120). The school year version is on long term hiatus, but I mentored a PhD student as she led (and I helped teach) the Summer version of Sustainable Animal Agriculture, and this arrangement has continued after her graduation. I also give guest lectures in other courses as requested in VetMed6273, IARD 4020, PlantPath3290. etc.)
- Filbert, M. E., & Brown, D. L. (2012). Aflatoxin Contamination in Haitian and Kenyan Peanut Butter and Two Solutions for Reducing Such Contamination. Journal of Hunger & Environmental Nutrition. 7:321-333.
- Bystrom, L. M., Lewis, B. A., Brown, D. L., Rodriguez, E., & Obendorf, R. L. (2009). Phenolics, sugars, antimicrobial and free-radical-scavenging activities of Melicoccus bijugatus Jacq. fruits from the Dominican Republic and Florida. Journal of Plant Foods for Human Nutrition. 64:160-166.
Presentations and Activities
- Mycotoxins: Threats and Solutions. MidAtlantic Bovine Practitioner Conference in Hagerstown, MD. March 2012. MidAtlantic Bovine Practitioners/Penn State. Hagerstown, MD.
- Aflatoxin-lysine adducts in Haitian patients ingesting peanut and maize products. PEANUT CRSP MALTA 2011 STRATEGIC RESEARCH CONFERENCE. December 2011. USAID. Malta.
- Aflatoxins in peanut butter from Haiti and Kenya. PEANUT CRSP MALTA 2011 STRATEGIC RESEARCH CONFERENCE. December 2011. USAID. Malta.