CORVALLIS, Ore. – The Oregon State University Extension Service is being inundated with questions – electronically, that is. Since its debut on the OSU Extension website in March of 2011, Ask An Expert has fielded 3,425 questions from across the state and country and even from overseas.
"That's a lot of questions, and the number is growing every day," said coordinator Jeff Hino. "Answers come within two working days from OSU's 131 faculty experts and more than 30 Extension-trained Master Gardener volunteers."
Although OSU's Ask An Expert began only about a year ago, it is already the fourth busiest in the national program for that time period. Ask an Expert was orchestrated by Cooperative Extension System, a partnership of 74 universities in the United States.
What questions do people ask?
"Just about everything you can think of," Hino said, although the majority relate to gardening. "More than half of the questions are about horticulture, a quarter about agriculture and everything else from 4-H to forestry."
All questions are answered anonymously, and often contain references to additional materials. "Ask an Expert answers have science inside," Hino said. "We view it as a first step in lifelong learning. It's just-in-time information that can lead to new knowledge."
The Extension website also features Questions of the Week, chosen for their relevance, interest and quality of the answer. Among some recent queries:
- "How can I get rid of moles in my backyard?"
- "Are Twinkies good for me?"
- "I am interested in starting and working a small farm with seven other people. Insight or suggestions on where to start would be most appreciated."
- What is the life span of a hummingbird?
Some of the answers can be reassuring. One expert agreed with a housing association that its decision to pull out 500 azaleas infested with the azalea lace bug was both financially prudent and sensitive to the environment.
"This expert joins others in his field by giving immediate answers supported by science research and not just reference to a link," Hino said. "And, if you ask a question, you can feel secure that the answer you get will be credible."
See more Ask an Expert questions and their answers at http://extension.oregonstate.edu/extension-ask-an-expert/archive