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Scientist’s lifelong love of agriculture led from Jamaican roots to U.S. soil

Scientist’s lifelong love of agriculture led from Jamaican roots to U.S. soil

Walking from his home each morning on his way to tend his coffee, yams, pimentos and chickens in the Jamaican countryside, Thomas Bramwell did more than provide for his family. He cast a deep, lifelong influence on his granddaughter.

“Watching him go each day and seeing him—many times not coming home until dark—is what first drew me to agriculture,” said Claudia Dunkley, a poultry scientist with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.Jamaica is agriculture country. It has many small farms, still much like her grandfather’s decades ago, where food is grown for the family to eat and to be sold.

Dunkley grew up in Manchester. After high school, she attended the College of Agriculture in Portland, Jamaica, where she earned her associate’s degree in agriculture, the highest available in agriculture at the time in the country. She then braved the classroom, teaching agricultural science and biology to Jamaican high school students for 11 years. Rewarding, but she wanted to do more.

In the 1980s, well-known professor and Jamaica native Victor Stanley began recruiting bright students to attend Prairie View A&M in Texas. He provided many Jamaican students a fertile place to academically grow in the U.S. And Dunkley arrived there in 1999 to complete a bachelor’s degree in agriculture.

Dunkley began her research with poultry at Prairie View, earning a master’s degree under Stanley’s guidance. She then went to Texas A&M for a doctorate in poultry science. She then became the UGA Cooperative Extension poultry specialist on the Tifton Campus. She focuses on environmental and waste management issues within the poultry industry.

She works with local poultry producers, showing them ways to compost daily chicken mortalities as an alternative method to incineration, which is the common practice. This year, she begins research to measure the poultry industry’s carbon footprint.

“Knowing this is something that will have to take place all along the food chain in the U.S., I’d like to get ahead of this now and see what that footprint is for chicken houses,” she said.

Eventually Dunkley would like to return to Jamaica, but for now she and her husband, Kingsley, an assistant professor at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, have made a life in the U.S. with their sons, Kingsley Jr. (18), Nicholas (15) and Khori (11).

Dunkley still thinks about her grandfather and tries to imagine what he’d think about all she’s seen.

“I see large fields of cotton or peanut, large scale agriculture in action, I think about him. I see it through his eyes. It’s just something he would think beautiful to see—agriculture in progress,” she said. “Agriculture is not really something you go into to make much money. You have to love it to be in it.”