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Graceful Conifer Inspires a Devoted Club of Scientists

Laura Kenefic is a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, where she studies issues related to sustainable forest management. (Courtesy Liam Kenefic)

Laura Kenefic is a research forester with the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, where she studies issues related to sustainable forest management. (Courtesy Liam Kenefic)

Northern Research Station scientist Laura Kenefic resists the temptation to stick with people she knows at scientific gatherings, and her discipline is paying dividends for northern white-cedar.

Attending a forestry conference a decade ago, Kenefic joined a table of strangers that included Jean-Claude Ruel, a Canadian scientist who, it turned out, was looking for long-term data on northern white-cedar. A research forester at the Penobscot Experimental Forest north of Bangor, Maine, Kenefic happens to work at one of the few places in the country with more than half a century of data on the species. Their collaboration quickly grew to include scientists from universities, industry, the U.S. Forest Service and the Canadian Forest Service who are all interested in northern white-cedar. Meetings, dinners and a few adventures in the course of research aimed at addressing the tree’s slow growth and sparse regeneration gave the group of scientists an atmosphere that felt unique to its members. “It seemed more like a club than a scientific working group,” Kenefic said. “We became the Cedar Club.” Read more »

FNS Takes Nutrition Message to DC United’s Youth Soccer Event

DC United Mascot Talon helped us promote MyPlate and the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition.

DC United Mascot Talon helped us promote MyPlate and the importance of physical activity and proper nutrition.

The DC United Soccer Club held its “Fall Kick” a couple weeks ago and I was happy to attend and help them mark the end of the fall season. The “Fall Kick” brought together youth ages 6-12 from across the District and Maryland to RFK stadium making it a perfect event to reach out to the local community and spread FNCS’ message of good nutrition and physical activity.

The event featured tournament style matches, DC United players and mascot Talon, music, and educational games involving nutrition and healthy lifestyles. Around 400 kids, their coaches, and parents visited our booth to learn about proper diet and nutrition. I brought with me a set of engaging games such as “Duck, Duck, Fruit!” and the “Eat Smart. Play Hard. Relay” as activities to teach the children key elements to healthy eating. Read more »

My Family’s Christmas Tree, from a Colorado National Forest

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) and his family recently at Pike National Forest in Colorado. USDA photo.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack (second from right) and his family recently at Pike National Forest in Colorado. USDA photo.

Across the nation, 193 million acres of National Forest land provide incredible benefits to every American – from outdoor recreation opportunities to cleaner air, soil and water that impact folks from all walks of life.

And with a simple permit and some planning ahead, a National Forest can also provide a great Christmas tree during the holidays – as well as an incredible experience in visiting the forest. This year my family joined thousands of others in venturing onto a National Forest to find our tree.

Our visit to Pike National Forest in Colorado was truly memorable. The Forest encompasses more than one million acres, is home to many exceptional outdoor recreation opportunities, resources and landscapes such as the 14,110-foot Pikes Peak. The forest also is home to the headwaters of the South Platte River, which provides 60 percent of the Denver metropolitan area’s water supply. Read more »

Connecting Local Residents with USDA Services

USDA staff members meet with farmers and ranchers to talk about available assistance in South Carolina.

USDA staff members meet with farmers and ranchers to talk about available assistance in South Carolina.

USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) helps farmers and ranchers use conservation to help the environment while improving agricultural operations. But not everyone knows about the variety of programs and services offered through USDA agencies.

USDA recently launched an effort to ensure the department is reaching landowners and rural citizens of different backgrounds. Through USDA’s StrikeForce for Rural Growth and Opportunity, USDA is intensifying outreach efforts in places with persistent poverty. For example, NRCS’ goal is to reach landowners with farms and ranches of all types and sizes.

Sixteen states, including South Carolina, identified StrikeForce counties, where more than 20 percent of the population has been considered persistently impoverished for the past three decades. Read more »

Dive Deeper Into USDA Data with New APIs

Data consumers can now more easily leverage several of the most popular offerings from USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS)!

To meet the needs of a growing community of data users, including application developers and researchers, ERS has just released seven new APIs (Application Programming Interface), enriched with shared services provided by other Federal agencies.  The APIs offer dynamic access to ERS’s atlases, traditional data sets, and indicators in machine-readable formats.  ERS has developed rigorous standards for data products; users will note the extensive metadata and full documentation and transparency provided for each of the data sets via APIs.

Experienced users may want to dive into the thorough documentation available on ERS’s Developer page; while those seeking a simpler path can leverage pre-built widgets and starter-code snippets available in jQuery, Python, and Ruby.  The geospatial APIs provide access to map layers via ESRI (or other mapping services, such as Mapbox and Google Maps).  The newly released APIs supplement the following data sets: Read more »

Giving the Gift of a Healthier Future this Holiday Season

The following OpEd was posted by Huffington Post this afternoon:

No one should go hungry in America, and certainly no child should go hungry, especially at the holidays.

We know kids who have access to proper nutrition and develop healthy habits at an early age have a competitive advantage in the classroom and later in life. Without easy access to healthy food, kids have a harder time growing up healthy, strong and ready for the workforce. Read more »