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Web of Intrigue: New Spider Species Spotted on Fort Pierre National Grassland

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

The Fort Pierre National Grassland is home to a series of spiders previously unknown. A new species, Theridion pierre (Levi & Patrick 2013) is part of the cobweb family of spiders, Theridiidae, the fifth largest family of spiders which boasts 2387 currently recognized species (Platnick 2014). This 1 millimeter spider – about the size of a lead pencil point – is relatively abundant and easily caught on the grasslands. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Brian)

When a new species is discovered on the planet, people usually imagine a discovery process that is dangerous and remote in location. However, one scientist didn’t have to venture far from home to learn about a few new discoveries that has the science community spinning about a native grassland ecosystem in South Dakota.

Arachnid hunter Brian Patrick, an assistant professor of biology at Dakota Wesleyan University, is looking for creatures that are usually overlooked in the grasslands, and his work is making a mark in the scientific world. With help from partners like the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks and the University of South Dakota Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network, Patrick works with the Nebraska National Forest to conduct research on arachnids on the Fort Pierre National Grassland. Read more »

Better Quality Beef Starts with Improving the Quality of the Land

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

Jake and Jondra Shadowen and family use conservation programs to improve their Benton, Ky. ranch. (NRCS photo)

When Jake and Jondra Shadowen from Benton, Ky. got married 14 years ago, they decided to buy a 26-acre ranch with a goal of raising a healthy herd of cattle. Today, thanks to hard work and conservation, they maintain a strong herd of 26 cattle, up from 11 when they first began.

They worked with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service to implement a rotational grazing system, which breaks up large pastures into smaller ones. A rotational grazing system allows for grass to grow faster and quicker and prevents soil from becoming prone to erosion. Read more »

USDA Helps Haiti Measure Agricultural Production

Haitian farmer taking produce to the market. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service helped Haiti produce that country’s first-ever Statistical Agricultural Production Report, to be released tomorrow.

Haitian farmer taking produce to the market. USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service helped Haiti produce that country’s first-ever Statistical Agricultural Production Report, to be released tomorrow.

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, and helping improve the world.

Following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti, the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture saw the need for market information and reliable and timely agricultural data. With the help from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the government surveyed farmers across Haiti and will publish the responses in its first-ever Statistical Agricultural Production Report, scheduled to be released tomorrow, April 16.

USDA and USAID jointly assisted the Haitian government in an effort to improve the quality and quantity of agricultural information available to Haitian decision makers with funding managed by the Foreign Agricultural Service. Read more »

“Safety Datapalooza” Brings More Usability of FSIS Salmonella Data

On Jan. 14, 2014, nearly 400 people participated in the second annual “Safety Datapalooza” at USDA headquarters.  The event, hosted by the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy and Office of Public Engagement, U.S. Department of Transportation and USDA, recognized innovators from the private, nonprofit and academic sectors who have freely used available government data to build products, services and apps that advance public safety in creative and powerful ways.

During a breakout session, Christopher Alvares, Director of FSIS’ Data Analysis and Integration Staff, explained the agency’s recently released Salmonella Action Plan and testing programs aimed at reducing the number of illnesses associated with FSIS-regulated products using new standards, strategies and innovation.  “FSIS produces regular reports on Salmonella contamination in regulated product, but the data had never been available in machine-readable format or in a single place,” said Alvares.  Up until now, this data had been available only from report to report spanning many years.  Today, this data is available as one source and in one place. Read more »

Water Supply Forecast Shows Record Snow in Northern Parts of West, Parched in Southwest

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

Streamflow in the West consists largely of accumulated mountain snow that melts and flows into streams as temperatures warm. (NRCS photo)

March storms increased snowpack in the northern half of the West but didn’t provide much relief for the dry southern half, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Water and Climate Center (NWCC) in its April 2014 water supply forecast.

According to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the forecast.  Far below normal streamflow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada. Read more »

Rural Development Helps Restore Water Supply to Town of Gifford after Devastating Tornado

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

With landmarks missing it was difficult for even Gifford residents to locate once familiar locations.

Four months after a tornado ripped through the town of Gifford, Illinois, destroying its water tower, 70 homes, and damaging 40 others, visible and emotional aftereffects remain.

On November 17, the day the tornado touched down, I called my colleague and Gifford resident Molly Hammond, who wistfully noted during our conversation, that “Everyone is all right.  But not everything is all right!”

No doubt her sentiments reflected those of Gifford’s other 1,000 residents. Read more »