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“Climate Change and the Water Cycle” – USDA’s Southwest Climate Hub Launches Education Unit for 6-12th Graders

Students participating in a “Climate Change and the Water Cycle” module exercise

Students participate in a “Climate Change and the Water Cycle” module exercise. Photo from the Asombro Institute for Science Education home of the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture. The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions. The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate. USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

USDA has created a curriculum for teaching today’s students about climate change and educating tomorrow’s farmers, ranchers, and decision makers.  The Department’s Southwest Regional Climate Hub has partnered with the Asombro Institute for Science education to build “Climate Change and the Water Cycle,” a scientifically rigorous education unit for 6th -12th grade students.  Intended for both formal and informal educators, the unit includes 9 activities which can either stand alone or be taught over 10 instruction hours.  These hands-on activities are designed to help the students understand the scientific concepts behind different elements of the water cycle, climate change, and how to analyze data and communicate results.  Here’s a list of the activities: Read more »

USDA Partners With the Department Of Defense to Fight Climate Change

A natural cycle of the Earth's climate

The climate change science and modeling education module explaining natural cycles of the Earth’s climate. Image by the USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center

All this month we will be taking a look at what a changing climate means to Agriculture.  The ten regional USDA Climate Hubs were established to synthesize and translate climate science and research into easily understood products and tools that land managers can use to make climate-informed decisions.  The Hubs work at the regional level with an extensive network of trusted USDA agency partners, technical service providers, University collaborators, and private sector advisers to ensure they have the information they need to respond to producers that are dealing with the effects of a variable climate.  USDA’s Climate Hubs are part of our broad commitment to developing the next generation of climate solutions, so that our agricultural leaders have the modern technologies and tools they need to adapt and succeed in the face of a changing climate.

The Department of Agriculture and Department of Defense have an extensive relationship coordinating land management activities, and are now working together to cope with the pressures of climate change.  The USDA Forest Service Climate Change Resource Center (CCRC) and the USDA Northern Forests Climate Hub (NFCH) are partnering with the Department of Defense (DoD) to present information on climate change and ecosystem response during environmental and natural resource training courses to better enable DoD mission success through practical approaches to climate adaptation. Read more »

Moss Study Helps Identify Pollution Hotspots

Moss growing on urban trees

Moss growing on urban trees, such as this species sample of Lyell’s orthotrichum, is a useful bioindicator that can help monitor cadmium, a carcinogenic heavy metal, in the air. Photo credit: U.S. Forest Service

In December 2013 when Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey Donovan, two scientists with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon, crisscrossed the northwest area of their city they had no idea they were onto something big. Armed with a ladder and collection equipment, the two spent most of that gray and rainy month carefully plucking hundreds of moss samples off the trunks of the city’s hardwood trees.

They were in relatively uncharted scientific territory, though their research focus seemed straightforward enough: determine if moss, in particular, the ubiquitous Lyell’s orthotrichum moss which grows abundantly across much of the city, could help measure urban air pollution. Read more »

Mapping Out Farmers Market Success

Crossroads Farmers Market

On market day, Crossroads Farmers Market creates a lively, safe community gathering space, bringing together food growers, makers, and consumers. The market is tied closely to the primarily low-income, mostly immigrant community with 75% of their vendors being immigrants. Photo by Molly M. Peterson

Anticipation is building for the opening of seasonal farmers markets in communities across the country—especially in Takoma Park, MD, at the Crossroads Farmers Market.  With over 1,000 visitors each week and vendors offering 131 different fruits and vegetables, market manager Michelle Dudley has a lot of work to do figuring out the perfect placement of farmers and vendors coming to the market starting June 1.

Thanks to USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), she has it all mapped out! Read more »

Concannon: Reauthorize Child Nutrition Programs So They Benefit Children

Children with their school meals

School lunch staff and students enjoy the new school lunch menu created to meet the new standards at the Yorkshire Elementary School in Manassas, VA.

It may seem like common sense for child nutrition programs to benefit children, but some see it differently today.

Nationwide, schools have made the lunchroom a healthy environment. In fact, in only the second school year of full implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA), over 98 percent of schools participating are already meeting the healthier meal standards.  Students are eating more fruits and vegetables during the school day and more low-income children are eating nutritious breakfasts and lunches at school. And data show obesity rates for some children are leveling off. With all the success of HHFKA, now is not the time to intentionally go backwards on nutrition standards in healthier school meals and to block access to these meals for millions of children. Read more »

Wildlife after Wildfire in Southern Appalachia

A young black bear in a forest

Wildlife cameras capture a young black bear enjoying new growth from a prescribed burn on the Pisgah National Forest. Photo credit: Lisa Jennings

It was my first prescribed burn. After weeks of training and months of anticipation, I was finally on the ground – drip torch in hand – ready to apply fire to restore the mixed pine-hardwood forests at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains on the Pisgah National Forest.

Joining the U.S Forest Service only two months earlier, my knowledge of fire’s effect on plant and wildlife communities was limited. But as the coordinator for the Grandfather Restoration Project, part of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program, I had to quickly come up to speed with the on-the-ground reality of prescribed fire use. Read more »