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Cutting Edge Genetics Research for Wildlife and Fish Conservation

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

Kellie Carim, eDNA coordinator for the Genomics Center, collects and processes samples. (Photos by Michael Schwartz (left) and Katie Zarn, U.S. Forest Service)

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 USDA’s rich science and research profile.

The U.S. Forest Service has a long history as a leader in conservation genetics, and this recently took an exciting step forward with the launch of the National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation.

The Forest Service’s wildlife genetics lab, which has been central to the Rocky Mountain Research Station’s conservation genetics program since 1998, has been reorganized and renamed to better reflect the scope of its work nationwide. The Center is a leading edge facility for advanced genomics research, nationally recognized, and works extensively with states, tribes, universities and private groups to address the management issues of over 60 fish and wildlife species. Read more »

Save Energy with USDA Rural Development

The recently installed solar panels on the roof of Ideal Dairy in Richfield, Utah save them around $400 per month in utility costs on average.

The recently installed solar panels on the roof of Ideal Dairy in Richfield, Utah save them around $400 per month in utility costs on average.

Last month, Secretary Vilsack announced the opening of the new application cycle for our Rural Energy for America Program (REAP). In addition to the announcement, RBS conducted a national REAP stakeholder forum which discussed program changes and provided examples of successful projects from previous years.

For example, Ideal Dairy restaurant of Richfield, Utah used a REAP grant to leverage a loan from Zions Bank and install an array of solar panels on the roof of its retail location. The addition has saved an average of $400 a month in electricity expenditures for owners Kristi and Gary Sorenson. A larger scale solar project in Guayanila, Puerto Rico allowed a major employer – Master Paints and Chemicals Corporation – to completely offset its $180,000 annual energy expenses and give it independence from fossil fuel-based energy. Read more »

On the Right Side of the Promise

As a school kid during the first years of desegregation in the public schools of Austin, Texas, much of my experience of the world around me was shaped by color. I saw and experienced firsthand how discrimination and inequality can stunt and hold back too many Americans–not only through violence, but the more subtle, life-altering trauma of discrimination.

I’ve also seen how inclusion and understanding have the power to lift up individuals and communities and help them heal. Read more »

USDA and Pheasants Forever Renew Partnership to Conservation

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

FSA Administrator Val Dolcini speaks at the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic.

I recently attended the 2015 National Pheasant Fest and Quail Classic in Des Moines, Iowa, where I met with sportsmen, farmers, young people, wildlife biologists and others who are committed to strengthening wildlife habitat throughout America. It was exciting to see firsthand the passion for the native and restored grasslands and woodlands that typify the rural American landscape.

I had the honor of speaking to the group, where I highlighted the 30th anniversary of USDA’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP).  CRP, one of the largest private lands conservation programs in the nation, is designed to reduce soil erosion, improve water and air quality, and provide habitat for wildlife. Interested landowners can establish long-term USDA-approved grasses or trees in exchange for USDA helping with the cost of establishing the plants and providing annual payments for 10 to 15 years. The covers along fields, streams and rivers prevent soil and nutrients from washing into waterways, reduce soil erosion that may otherwise contribute to poor air and water quality, and provide valuable habitat for wildlife. Read more »

Investing in Rural Kids Is an Investment in Our Future

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

State Director Vernita F. Dore, and Tammye Treviño, Administrator for Housing and Community Facilities Programs at the Latta Groundbreaking. The schoolchildren pictured above will be the first class in the new pre-kindergarten through second-grade facility in Latta, South Carolina. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

Cross-posted from the White House Rural Council blog:

“Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we build an economy where everyone who works hard has a chance to get ahead? … This country does best when everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

– President Obama, January 31, 2015

The American Dream is a dream of opportunity for a better future. Who better represents this opportunity than our country’s children? As parents and as leaders, we owe it to our kids to provide them access to education, housing and health care, and most importantly, an opportunity to succeed so they can help our nation compete in a 21st century economy. Read more »

Want to Know about Soil Moisture on your Farm? Soon, There May be an App for That

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission.  Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

Tom Jackson, shown here at a Soil Climate Analysis Network site in Huntsville, Alabama coordinates in situ soil moisture networks as part of several satellite remote sensing programs, including the recently launched Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission. Dr. Jackson is currently stationed at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California helping the SMAP Science Team produce a calibrated and validated global soil moisture product. USDA ARS Photo.

“Probably it is one of the most innovative interagency tools on the planet.”  So said Dr. Roger Pulwarty, Director of the National Integrated Drought Information System (of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, located in Boulder, CO), in describing the development of a coordinated National Soil Moisture Network.

Americans hear the words “drought” and “flood” quite often, but a key factor in determining drought or flood potential, crop yield, water supply, hydrology or climate change impacts is soil moisture.  At the Ag Outlook Forum, held recently in suburban Washington, D.C., Dr. Michael Strobel, director of USDA’s National Water and Climate Center (part of the Natural Resources Conservation Service) outlined plans for a nation-wide soil moisture monitoring system and the pilot system that will pave the way. Read more »