This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.
During the month of April we will take a closer look at USDA’s Groundbreaking Research for a Revitalized Rural America, highlighting ways USDA researchers are improving the lives of Americans in ways you might never imagine, such as keeping our educational pipeline filled with the best and brightest future agricultural scientists.
So far, Irvin Arroyo has not strayed too far from the farming world. Growing up, he lived and worked with his parents at a 200-acre vineyard in Madera, California, where he tended the vines and harvested the grapes.
When Arroyo went to college at California State University, Fresno (CSU Fresno), he was given a scholarship to work at USDA’s San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center in Fresno as an intern. The laboratory, now in Parlier, is part of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS). The scholarship had been established by CSU Fresno and ARS soil scientist Gary Bañuelos to foster minority student interest in science careers.
Arroyo finished his undergraduate degree in chemistry, and then was hired by Bañuelos as a full-time technician. As an environmental chemist, he supervised the inorganic chemistry lab, operated and maintained analytical instrumentation, and conducted soil contaminant studies. He also assisted Bañuelos in field studies of saline soil remediation, food crop biofortification, and the evaluation of seed crops for biofuel production. Working with scientists, local farmers, and growers allowed the technician to expand his real-world understanding about the diverse agricultural issues affecting producers in the San Joaquin Valley.
Arroyo continued his education and completed a master’s degree in chemistry. Now, thanks to support from the California State University Water Resources and Policy Initiative and USDA, Arroyo is in the Ph.D. program in Environmental Systems at the University of California, Merced, where he’s studying soil salinity in the San Joaquin Valley.
His work includes research on groundwater remediation, salinity management, and the use of environmental sensors to boost marginal soil productivity. This important work might not be possible without USDA-provided support for students at universities that have been designated by the U.S. Department of Education as Hispanic-Serving Institutions.
Arroyo is also continuing his work in the ARS laboratory. And despite having almost 20 years with USDA on his resume, he would like to continue his research—and his work to help farmers protect and improve soil quality in the San Joaquin Valley—with USDA after his doctorate is completed.
Bañuelos continues to enthusiastically support Arroyo’s studies and goals. “Irvin already enhances the quality of our investigations on developing plant-based systems for poor quality soils and waters,” the ARS researcher says. “And eventually he will represent the new generation of ARS scientists in USDA.”