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Soil and Crop Sciences Alumni

Honored Alumni

The Honored Alumni Award was established in 2001 through the generosity of Wayne and Joyce Keim to recognize and honor outstanding graduates from the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences at Colorado State University. Recipients are selected based on the significant and diverse contributions that they have made to the field of Agronomy.

photo of Kerri Wright Platais

Kerri Wright Platais – 2019 Recipient 

When Kerri was 21, she took a semester off from CSU and went to Haiti to participate in a backyard food production system-training course. Living in a town without electricity and only a few pumps for running water, she fell in love with the people, their courage and hospitality, and she knew she wanted to return to CSU to focus her studies in agriculture development through the lens of poverty reduction, equality and empowerment for smallholder farmers.With dual degrees from CSU, in Social Sciences (Political Science, 1985) and Agronomy (Crop Science, 1989), Kerri spent the next 30 years focused on agriculture policy and program design in developing countries. “I left CSU in 1989 with a multi-disciplinary background that provided perfect training to work in international development – not from the food production side – rather from the perspective of creating healthy institutions focused on poverty reduction and delivering on global food security.”

She joined the World Bank in Washington, D.C. and worked in the Secretariat of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in the Science Advisors group – focused on program management and science policy across the 15 global research centers. In 1994, she moved with her young family to El Salvador – two years after the country’s civil war – and worked in the USAID office formulating the Economic Reconstruction Strategy for the country. “I have had some great experiences in my career, and each job has been better than the last,” she said.

Kerri counts among her highlights serving as the only U.S. based staff member for the Global Crop Diversity Trust in 2007-2008 during the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway. In 2010, she rejoined the World Bank to work on a $150 million multi-donor trust fund focused on increasing agricultural productivity and strengthening African institutions under the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP).

“It is a dream come true to come home to work with the talented CSU team. I love how life comes full circle. I am honored to join Chancellor Tony Frank and the team building the CSU campus at the National Western Center in Denver to increase our international agricultural connections and enhance CSU’s impact through our excellent research programs,” Kerri said. “I can’t wait to see where the next decades take us as we grow CSU’s and Colorado’s international collaborations.”

Photo of Paul Vlek

Dr. Paul Vlek- 2019 Recipient 

Paul Vlek has held a number of senior appointments over his 40 year career on three continents including Division Director at the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC, in the U.S. and Africa), Director of the Institute of Agronomy in the Tropics and Dean of the Faculty Agriculture at the University of Göttingen, Germany. He was one of the founding Directors in 1998 of the Center for Development Research (ZEF), Germany, and founding Executive Director of West African Science Service Center on Climate Change and Adapted Land Use (WASCAL) in Ghana. Trained as a Tropical Soil Scientist in the Netherlands (1972) he obtained a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, Department of Agronomy, in 1976. He conducted research on the sustainable use of natural resources in the tropics in the context of economic development.

While at IFDC he discovered the benefits of preventing N losses by deep-placement of urea in flooded rice, a technology applied on over 2 million ha of rice cultivation today. The long delay between discovery and adoption of this technology lead him to explore interdisciplinary project approaches to accelerate development. He initiated successful interdisciplinary research for development projects, with a strong capacity building component for South America (Amazon forest), West Africa (Volta river), East Africa (Coffee Biodiversity conservation), and Central Asia (restructuring of land and water use). In 2011, Paul Vlek was appointed UNESCO Professor for Education in Sustainable Development at Urgench State University, Uzbekistan.

Paul Vlek’s career reflects his philosophy of educating a new generation of academics and practitioners in the field of interdisciplinary research in and for the developing world. During his academic career, he supervised 75 Ph.D. students and co-advised an additional 30. About two-thirds of the students originated from developing countries and most of them returned home. His research findings are communicated in over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, as well as book chapters, conference and symposia contributions, discussion papers and short communications. He served 25 years as Editor-in-Chief of the international journal “Nutrient Cycling in AgroEcosystems.”

Paul is a fellow of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences of India and the American Society of Agronomy, Soil Science Society of America as well as the Academy of Arts and Sciences of North Rhine -Westphalia, Germany. He was recipient of the GCHERA World Agriculture Prize, in 2014. Several projects and programs under his guidance gained international recognition through “The King Baudouin Award” and the “Energy Globe Award.” Paul and his wife Melissa currently make their home in Austin, Texas.

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Dr. Stephen Miller – 2019 Recipient 

Stephen D. Miller grew up on his family’s dairy farm in the Greeley, Colorado area. “I did a lot of milking, getting up at 4 a.m.,” recalls Miller. “I never did enjoy it.” In addition to his cow milking duties, Steve had to hand-hoe the sugar beet fields, a tedious chore but one that sparked his imagination; his loathing of cows and interest in crops set him on course to become a weed scientist. “I said there’s got to be a better way of controlling weeds than a hoe,” he recalls. “That seed was planted in me early since I was helping weed the beet fields when I was little. That’s why I went into agronomy.” Steve graduated from Valley High School in 1964.

He received his B.S. degree in Agronomy at CSU in 1968. He studied weed science at North Dakota State University receiving an M.S. in 1970 and a Ph.D. in 1973. He joined the NDSU Agronomy faculty as an Assistant Professor in Weed Science in 1973, reaching the rank of Associate Professor in 1980. Steve moved to the University of Wyoming in 1984 and became a Full Professor in 1987. After 17 exceptional years in teaching and research, Steve became Head of the Department of Plant Sciences in 2004. He then held the position of Associate Dean and Director of Experiment Stations from 2005-2010, retiring in 2010.

Steve’s outstanding research, teaching and administrative record spanned a 35-year period. His research and teaching goals focused on the biology, ecology, and control of weeds in conventional and reduced tillage cropping systems. His career accomplishments include 200 proceedings and abstracts, 37 extension bulletins, 470 research progress reports, 9 books and/or book chapters, and 58 miscellaneous publications.

During his career, Miller mentored 65 graduate students – 39 M.S. and 26 Ph.D. students. “My biggest enjoyment teaching at UW was working with graduate students and making them productive weed scientists.” He became director of the WY Agricultural Experiment Station in 2005. Initially, Steve was not keen on the position. “I hemmed and hawed for a long time but finally took it and said I’d do it for five years. My career goal was never to become an administrator – it was to be a weed scientist, but I did step in when the need arose.”

He met his wife, Bonnie, in Greeley, and they were married in 1969. They have two sons, Jason, who lives in Wamego, Kansas, and Eric, who lives in Laramie, Wyoming. The former is a crop consultant and the latter is a financial adviser at Warren Federal Credit Union.

photo of Ken Barbarick

Dr. Ken Barbarick – 2018 Recipient 

Ken Barbarick is an Emeritus University Distinguished Teaching Scholar and Professor of Soil Science at Colorado State University. His academic background includes a B.S. with “Highest Distinction and Honors” (1973) in Soil and Water Science, and a M.S. degree in Soils, Water and Engineering (1975) from the University of Arizona; and a Ph.D. (1979) in Soil Science from Colorado State University.

He had an incredibly impactful teaching and research record at CSU. His passion was teaching Introductory Soil Science, working with students, and conducting research on beneficial use of biosolids and other waste materials. He taught the high enrollment Introductory Soil Science from his appointment to the faculty in 1979 to his retirement in 2017. His primary teaching goal was to make the large Introductory Soil Science course feel like a small-class experience. Taking photos of the students and learning their names was the first step in the process. He routinely taught three to four lab sections so he could have personal contact with individual students. Frequent exams based on behavioral objectives were one of his most effective tools; he gave 10 exams, weekly quizzes, plus a final each semester to keep students on task! He taught 10,000+ over 42 years at Colorado State University. Ken received the Agronomic Resident Education (ASA) and the Soil Science Education Award (SSSA). He served as Associate and Technical Editor and Editor of Agronomy Journal and as the Editor in Chief for ASA. He also served as President of the American Society of Agronomy in 2012.

Over his career, Ken published: 96 referred journal articles; 116 other publications; and made 106 scientific and educational presentations. He is currently Editor of Natural Sciences Education. Ken was elected Fellow of the American Society of Agronomy, in 1991, and the Soil Science Society of America, in 1992; and Fellow of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agri-America, in 1988.

Ken and his wife, Patti Jo, continue to reside in Fort Collins where they enjoy numerous family activities.

photo of Jim Coors

Dr. James Coors – 2018 Recipient

Dr. James G. Coors is Professor Emeritus in the Agronomy Department at the University of Wisconsin. He received his B.S. degree in Mathematics from Stanford University in 1973. Then Jim came to Colorado State and received his M.S. degree in 1977 in plant breeding under the direction of Dr. Haus. After completing the M.S. degree, he became a Research Associate at the Grand Valley Research Station from 1977 to 1979. Jim completed his formal education with a Ph.D. degree in Plant Breeding and Biometry at Cornell University in 1984.

After completion of his Ph.D., he joined the agronomy faculty at the University to begin his 35-year career in research and teaching. Jim was named a Rothermel-Bascom Professor in 2007 in recognition of his outstanding career at the University of Wisconsin.
Dr. Coors’ teaching career included graduate level courses in plant breeding using biometrical procedures and selection theory. His primary research focused on development of silage germ-plasm with improved forage yield and nutritional quality. Related projects involved plant cell wall metabolism, complex carbohydrates, lignin, and minerals affecting nutritional quality. Over his career, he supervised eight M.S. and 11 Ph.D. students, plus mentoring postdoctoral students and visiting scientists.

Throughout his academic career, Dr. Coors has been dedicated to serving others. His peers elected him as President of the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) in 2004, which demonstrates the high regard his peers have for him. Of his many career accomplishments one of the most long lasting and most impactful was the conceptualization and implementation of the Golden Opportunity Scholar program through the CSSA. The goal of the Golden Opportunity Program is to develop the next generation of leaders in agronomy, crops, soils, and environmental science professions. The program matches undergraduate students from across the world with a personal mentor who is a successful professional. The program has been highly impactful, and has mentored 220+ undergraduate students since its inception in 2006.

Dr. Jim Coors is an exceptional scholar and brings great honor to CSU! He and his wife, Ann Pollock, live in Madison, Wisconsin.

photo of Janet Jansson

Dr. Janet Jansson – 2018 Recipient

Janet Jansson is Chief Scientist for Biology and a Laboratory Fellow at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. Jansson has more than 30 years of experience in microbial ecology. She obtained her B.S. degree in biology and soil science at New Mexico State University from 1978-1980, her M.S. degree in soil microbiology at Colorado State University from 1981-1983, and her Ph.D. in microbial ecology at Michigan State University from 1984-1988. Jansson was a researcher in Sweden for 20 years from 1988 – 2007 and was Professor, Chair of Environmental Microbiology, and Vice Dean at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences prior to moving back to the U.S. in 2007. Jansson was a senior staff scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory from 2007 – 2014 and an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley and at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark from 2012 – 2014. She moved to PNNL in 2014 and is currently coordinating several large research projects at PNNL that are focused on the use of molecular approaches (omics) to study complex microbial communities, such as those residing in soil and the human gut. Her research on the human microbiome includes the impacts of diet, host genetics and inflammatory bowel disease on gut microbial functions. Her current soil research focuses on the impacts of environmental perturbations, such as climate change, on functions carried out by the soil microbiome. Jansson is a Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology and the Washington State Academy of Science. She has authored more than 170 publications, serves on the Executive Board of the International Society for Microbiology (ISME) and on numerous national and international advisory panels, including the National Academy of Science Committee on Science Breakthroughs for Food and Agriculture by 2030.

photo on Ron Follett

Dr. Ronald Follett – 2017 Recipient

Dr. Follett’s many career experiences began with his B.S. in 1961 and M.S. in 1963 degrees from Colorado State University where he also met ROTC requirements and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He went on to receive a Ph.D. degree in Soil Science from Purdue University in 1966), and next served two years, from 1966-1968 as a U.S. Army Officer (Artillery) during which time he received the Army Commendation Medal and later achieved the rank of Major.

Dr. Follett joined the Agricultural Research Service of USDA in 1968 as a Research Soil Scientist doing soil fertility and irrigation/drainage experiments in Mandan, North Dakota. Dr. Follett next served for 10 years as a National Program Leader with the ARS headquarters in Beltsville, Maryland where he oversaw research programs in Soil Fertility, Plant Nutrition, Strip-mine Reclamation, and Environmental Quality prior to his returning to full-time research in Fort Collins in 1986.

Dr. Follett has received many prestigious awards among many other very impressive accomplishments. He has over 150 journal articles published and many other publications.

In his retirement, he continues to enjoy interacting with former colleagues and spending time working around his land and family’s original homestead in North Park, Colorado.

photo of Phil Miklas

Dr. Phil Miklas – 2017 Recipient

Dr. Miklas grew up in Washington D.C., Germany, and Rock Island, IL from childhood through high school. He attended Mesa College in Grand Junction, CO, receiving a BS in Range Science in 1982.  During the summer of 1982, he worked as an intern at the CSU Fruita Ag Research Center for John Keenan.  Phil returned to school and earned an MS degree in crop science working with Charlie Townsend and Sheldon Ladd on Cicer milkvetch in the Fall, 1982.  He also worked for the Foundation Seed Program with Ron Schmidt while at CSU.

After graduation, he returned to Fruita, CO as a Research Associate working with Calvin Pearson and Harold Golus from 1985 to 1987.  He then moved to North Dakota State University and earned a Ph.D. in Plant Breeding and Genetics with Dr. Ken Grafton in 1990.   Following his PhD, he completed a Post Doc at Michigan State University where he developed molecular markers for marker-assisted selection in dry beans. In 1992, he began working for the USDA-ARS as a Research Geneticist in dry bean germplasm enhancement at the Tropical Agricultural Research Station in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico.  In 1996, he transferred to Prosser, WA as a USDA-ARS Research Geneticist working on dry bean breeding and genetics.

Phil enjoyed the camaraderie among faculty and students at CSU, the mentorship received from Charlie Townsend and Sheldon Ladd and many others (Brick, Keim, Quick) had a positive long-lasting effect on his career and life.

photo of Kent Davis

Mr. Kent Davis  – 2016 Recipient

In 1979 I began my agronomic consulting career to aid farmers in making more efficient and effective decisions by utilizing frequent scouting; knowledge of crops, soils, water, climate and pest problems for each farm and field; identifying major issues each week; and making recommendations towards mitigation of the problems. I now advise to 50 farmer producers in northern Colorado as well as manage five other consultant agronomists working in Colorado, Wyoming and Nebraska. In addition, I train new employees and mentor coworkers. “Treat people as they would like to be treated,” is the main lesson. It’s often said, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Maybe, but I think, “it’s who you know, what they know, and how can you work together.”

Our Crop Quest mission statement includes, “practice integrity and innovation to ensure our services are economically and environmentally sound;” that goes directly to my core beliefs and values. I’ve always felt we should use our natural resources and   time conservatively, but beneficially. I will continue to help coming generations to understand what came before and give good tools to take them into future and realize success is a journey, not a destination. My wife, Carrie, retired 35+ year teacher and I spend time between church activities, aging parents, our grown children, Kirsten (’14 CSU Biological and Chemical Engineering, I-State grad student), Frederick (’15 U of Denver JD and army veteran) and our grandchildren, Ethan and Juliet. Now and then fishing, hunting, skiing, sightseeing and watching sunsets. Playing piano, trumpet and guitar gives me pleasure. Oh, and watching CSU football while listening to “The Best Band in the Land,” the CSU Marching Band!!!

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Mr. James Gray – 2016 Recipient

Jim Gray serves as the Executive Director for the Industry TaskForce II on 2,4-D Research Data. Jim has more than three and a half decades of experience dealing with production ag, regulatory and stewardship issues.

Jim has worked extensively in corporate settings at the Fortune 100 level companies, as well as a number of years in trade and industry related positions. He is a recognized industry leader and a trusted resource for counseling corporations, grower boards, and State legislatures across the country as well as State Departments of Agriculture.

Jim is a veteran of Asgrow, DuPont, Bayer CropScience, Aventis Crop Science and Rhône-Poulenc.  He is a founding board member of the Kansas City AgriBusiness Council, is a life member of Alpha Gamma Rho – The National Agricultural Fraternity, as well as serving in a variety of other industry and volunteer positions like the Kansas City CSU RAM Network.  Jim earned a B.S. in Agronomy, Soil Science from Colorado State University.

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Mr. Jim Sharkoff – 2016 Recipient

James L. (Jim) Sharkoff served as the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service State Agronomist for Colorado from 1997 through 2015, providing training and assistance to conservation planners to address resource concerns like soil erosion, nutrient and pesticide transport, soil organic matter depletion, compaction and salinity.

Jim started with the USDA Soil Conservation Service in 1991 as a soil scientist at Montrose. In 1993, he accepted an agronomist position with the San Luis Valley Water Quality Demonstration Project at Monte Vista working with irrigation water management and nutrient budgeting to credit groundwater nitrate applied to crops with irrigation water.

Jim started at CSU in 1971 in the Journalism Department and then re-enrolled as a part-time Agronomy student in 1983, completing a B.S. in 1988. He then accepted an Experiment Station Research Assistantship with the Bean Project completing an M.S. in Agronomy in 1990.

Jim has worked for farmers and ranchers in Colorado for nearly 40 years through private industry and federal service.

He started with U.S. Steel Agrochemicals in Timnath in 1976, moved to PureGro in Loveland in 1980, and to the custom seeding and reclamation business with Native Seeders in Windsor in 1985. He has been an ASA Member since 1986, a Certified Crop Adviser since 1995, and served as Chairman of the Colorado Certified Crop Adviser Board from 1998 through 2004.

Photo of Gary Hergert

Dr. Gary W. Hergert2015 Recipient

Dr. Gary Hergert, Professor Emeritus, was a Professor of Agronomy-Horticulture – 50% research, 50% extension – at the University of Nebraska Panhandle Research and Extension Center (PHREC) in Scottsbluff, NE. He joined the University of Nebraska in 1975 as a soil specialist at the West Central Research and Extension Center in North Platte, NE where he also served as Associate Director from 1995-1997 and District Director beginning 1997, before returning to the academic ranks in 2004. He served as Interim Director at PHREC for a year during 2013 and 2014.

A native of Colorado raised near Windsor, Dr. Hergert received his B.S. from Colorado State University in 1967 and his M.S. in 1970. From 1969 to 1971 he was employed by CSU as an extension agronomist in charge of the CSU Soil Testing Laboratory. He received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in 1975.

Hergert is a member and Fellow of both the American Society of Agronomy and the Soil Science Society of America. His research and extension efforts focused on soil and fertilizer management to improve crop production efficiency in western Nebraska – corn, dry beans, winter wheat, brassicas, sugar beets, grasses. He has also lead major grant-funded projects on limited irrigation no-till cropping systems plus a remote sensing project that measured evapotranspiration using Landsat imagery.

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Dr. Doug Ming 2015 Recipient

Dr. Doug Ming is the Chief Scientist for the Astromaterials Research and Exploration Science Division at NASA Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston, Texas. His research interests include Mars geochemistry and mineralogy, soil mineralogy and chemistry, bio-regenerative life support systems, and Moon/Mars resource utilization. His current research focuses on characterization of the mineralogy and geochemistry of Mars and the aqueous processes that have occurred on the Red Planet. Doug has extensive experience in the development of instruments and conducting mission operations. He has participated on the science teams (Co-Investigators or Participating Scientist) for the Mars Polar Lander (MPL), Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity, Mars Phoenix Scout, and Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity missions. He was the Operations Lead for the MSL CheMin instrument where he developed the experimental operations plan including training documentation for payload uplink and downlink leads. He led tactical science operations on Phoenix in the role of Science Lead. Doug currently leads tactical science operations for MSL as a Science Operations Working Group Chair.

Doug received a B.S. and M.S. in Agronomy and Soil Science from Colorado State University in 1979 and 1981, respectively. He received his Ph.D. in Soil Science from Texas A&M University in 1985.

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Dr. Paul Fixen – 2014 Recipient 

Dr. Paul Fixen is Senior Vice President of the International Plant Nutrition Institute where his primary responsibilities are coordination of the Institute’s programs in the Americas and Australia. He also serves as director of the Institute’s global research efforts. His career has emphasized the science of nutrient stewardship and how soil fertility and fertilizer use fit into the overall scheme of crop production systems and the environment. Dr. Fixen grew up in southwestern Minnesota on a crop and livestock farm and served in faculty positions at the University of Wisconsin and South Dakota State University prior to joining the Institute. He is a Fellow in the American Society of Agronomy, the Soil Science Society of America, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Fluid Fertilizer Foundation. Paul recently became incoming President-elect of the American Society of Agronomy.

photo of Kim Garland-Campbell

Dr. Kimberly Garland-Campbell2014 Recipient

Dr. Kimberly Garland-Campbell is originally from Naperville, IL. She received her B.S. in Agronomy from Colorado State University 1979 with a concentration in Foreign Service. She served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Antigua WI as a sugarcane and forage cropping systems agronomist from 1980-1982. Her future husband, Thomas Campbell also served as a drafting and carpentry instructor. She attended the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, receiving a M.A. in Religion in 1985, the same year that she and Tom were married. She received an M.S. in 1989 and then a Ph.D. in 1992 from the Department of  Crop Science at North Carolina State University, working first with Dr. Thomas E. Carter on soybean breeding and then with Dr. Earl A. Wernsman on tobacco breeding.  Her first professional position was as Assistant Professor of Wheat Genetics and Breeding in the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University – OARDC in Wooster OH. Since 1999 she has been a research geneticist and wheat breeder with the USDA-ARS Wheat Genetics, Quality, Physiology and Disease Research Unit in Pullman, Washington. She is also adjunct faculty in the Department of Crop and Soil Sciences and the Molecular Plant Sciences program at Washington State University. Her research is in the area of wheat quantitative resistance to soil borne and leaf diseases, wheat end use quality with an emphasis on club wheat, and wheat response to cold and drought stress. She has released 12 wheat cultivars including four club wheat cultivars.  She has been major advisor to eight Ph.D. students and served on the committees of several more. She is is a fellow of the American Society of Agronomy and the Crop Science Society of America. She and her husband Tom have four children and live in Moscow, Idaho.

photo of Caroline Yonker

Caroline Yonker – 2014 Recipient 

Born and raised in urban Colorado, Caroline Yonker “stumbled into the field” of soil science after developing an interest in ecology and conservation in the early 1970s. She graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Soil Resources and Conservation in 1978 and M.S. in Soil Genesis and Classification in 1981.

Caroline continued at CSU as a research associate, hired as the pedologist for an NSF-funded interdisciplinary research project, Long Term Ecological Research. Her personal interests on the project focused on buried soils and their influence on the pattern of organic carbon distribution in the shortgrass steppe. Other LTER contributions included assisting graduate students and project scientists with soil sample location and collection, interpretation of soils data and manuscript preparation.

Some of her most memorable responsibilities during her 30-year tenure with the Soil and Crop Sciences Department include teaching field laboratories for Forest and Range Soils and Pedology courses, coordinating the annual FFA Land Judging event, participating in NRCS soil surveys, and reviewing manuscripts for various journals.

Caroline and her husband live in Fort Collins. They have a married son in Tel Aviv, Israel, and a son in Olympia, Washington.

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