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USDA Grant Improves Monitoring of Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Other At-Risk Wildlife

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The Southwestern willow flycatcher is an endangered bird that lives in the riparian areas of the Southwest. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The distinctive “fitz-bew” of the Southwestern willow flycatchers is music to the ears of the partners of Wetland Dynamics, LLC, and USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) recently improved the ability to hear them. Wetland Dynamics received a $60,000 Conservation Innovation Grant from NRCS in 2014 to develop innovative technology for monitoring the endangered flycatcher and two other imperiled species in Colorado’s San Luis Valley.

“What we’re doing is innovative,” said Jenny Nehring, a biologist and partner at Wetland Dynamics. “The technology we’re using has been around for quite some time. But with the partnership now forged with NRCS, we are able to expand and improve our innovative techniques that build upon existing tools, which will in turn help to better understand certain wildlife species and improve protection of them.” Read more »

New USDA Survey Examines Where We Shop for Groceries and How We Get There

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 portfolio.

We’ve long recognized that what we eat affects our health. But distances to stores offering healthy and affordable foods—as well as travel modes—can play a role in what gets purchased and consumed. Are the poor at a disadvantage when it comes to getting to a grocery store? How do shoppers—poor and not poor—travel to their main grocery store and how far do they travel to get there?

A new survey funded by USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS) and Food and Nutrition Service is ideally suited to answer these questions. The National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey (FoodAPS) collected information from a national sample of 4,826 households between April 2012 and January 2013 about where they shop for food and other unique, comprehensive data about household food purchases and acquisitions. FoodAPS is unique because it sampled a relatively large number of households that participate in USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as well as nonparticipant households from three income levels. Read more »

A Year Round Fire Season?

A pine burns with snow on the ground on the Boise National Forest (Photo Credit: US Forest Service)

A pine burns with snow on the ground on the Boise National Forest (Photo Credit: US Forest Service)

There was a time when fire season for Western states meant only certain months out of the year. Not so long ago the U.S. Forest Service considered it primarily a summer problem with a few regions breaking the trend in early spring and late fall.

But climate change, according to most wildland fire experts, has turned fire season into a year-round issue.

What used to slow down fire season was winter—a long and cold time of year with lots of snow that killed off many invasive or destructive pests and filled rivers and reservoirs with ample water to supply the needs of millions living in the West. Read more »

Celebrate National Nutrition Month with MyPlate at School!

MyPlate is the perfect teaching tool for nutrition education! Discover classroom materials at ChooseMyPlate.gov and from Team Nutrition.

MyPlate is the perfect teaching tool for nutrition education! Discover classroom materials at ChooseMyPlate.gov and from Team Nutrition.

In honor of National Nutrition Month®, MyPlate is sharing resources to help you bite into a healthy lifestyle everywhere you go! This blog highlights resources for encouraging a healthy lifestyle in the classroom. Learn about healthy eating at home, work, and throughout the community here.

MyPlate can be used to teach students of all ages about healthy eating. Start early and introduce preschoolers to fruits and vegetables through garden-themed nutrition education using the Grow It, Try It, Like It! Nutrition Education Kit. Elementary school teachers can integrate nutrition education into other subjects including Math, Science, English Language Arts, and Health with Serving Up MyPlate: A Yummy Curriculum. Read more »

Bird Flu Is a Reminder For Back Yard Poultry Owners to Protect Their Birds By Practicing Good Biosecurity

Dr. Wood on set with Healthy Harry taping new biosecurity videos.

Dr. Wood on set with Healthy Harry taping new biosecurity videos.

Since December 2014, there have been several highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) confirmations in migratory wild birds, back yard flocks, captive wild birds and commercial poultry in several states along the Pacific, Mississippi and Central Flyways.  These HPAI virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick.  In fact, if back yard poultry flocks are exposed to these particular HPAI virus strains, they are highly contagious and cause bird death.  We are expecting that there will be more HPAI confirmations this spring as the bird migrations continue, so if you own or handle poultry, now is a great time to check your biosecurity practices.  You should follow good biosecurity at all times to help protect the birds’ health.  Your actions can make a difference!  Learn more here:  http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov

As part of good biosecurity, you should prevent contact between your birds and wild birds, and report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through the state veterinarian or through USDA’s toll-free number: 1-866-536-7593.  You also should avoid contact with sick/dead poultry or wildlife. If contact occurs, wash your hands with soap and water and change clothing before having any contact with healthy domestic poultry and birds.   You are the best protection your birds have!  Learn more here:  http://healthybirds.aphis.usda.gov Read more »

USDA Team Nutrition Grants Promote Healthier Meals for Our Nation’s Schoolchildren

Schools are successfully serving more nutritious meals to America’s students, and healthier meals mean healthier kids. USDA is constantly working to do everything we can to support school nutrition professionals as they work to provide kids the nutrition they need to learn and develop into healthy adults. To further assist schools, USDA announced the availability of up to $5.5 million in Team Nutrition training grants for states for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. These grants focus on the implementation of Smarter Lunchrooms – an innovative strategy using behavioral economics to encourage healthy eating in the cafeteria – as well as the healthier meal standards, HealthierUS School Challenge (HUSSC), USDA Foods, nutrition education, and wellness activities in schools and child care institutions. To apply for the grants, state agencies should visit www.grants.gov.

Here are some examples of how Team Nutrition grants have helped schools in the past: Read more »