USDA Under Secretary Cathie Woteki reviews the hydroponic garden at Food and Finance High School in New York City, which is fed nutrients from sediment collected in Dr. Warner’s basement fish tanks and pumped up four floors to the garden.
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.
Schools of fish may be common things to see, but watching some fish school high school students from a basement in Manhattan’s West Side is a different experience altogether. Cathie Woteki, USDA’s Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics, observed such a program recently during a visit to Food and Finance High School in New York.
There on West 50th Street, Cornell University operates laboratories that represent the latest in scientific technology to raise fresh, clean fish in addition to garden produce in a sustainable urban setting. Renowned Cornell scientist and educator Philson Warner developed a system for continuously re-circulating and reconditioning water to raise more than 10,000 tilapia and other fish at a time in the basement lab. The nutrient-rich water from the fish is then transferred to a hydroponic garden located a few floors up on campus. That garden produces nine types of lettuce, Chinese cabbage such as bok choi, and a variety of herbs that include sweet basil, oregano, thyme and parsley. The plants then clean the water, which is sent back to the fish. Read more »
Olivia and Lily Anderson enjoy making camp at Betty Brinn Children’s Museum. Lily (right) builds the fire as Olivia (left) preps the dinner. (Photo courtesy Leah Anderson)
As a U.S. Forest Service employee, I was very excited recently to take my two preschool age daughters to visit my co-workers: Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl.
The visit, however, took us to the Betty Brinn Museum’s Home Sweet Home Exhibit located in Milwaukee, Wis.
Created in collaboration with the Forest Service, the exhibit shares Smokey’s message of “Help Prevent Forest Fires” and Woodsy’s message of “Give a Hoot Don’t Pollute,” in addition to fun activities underscoring the importance of protecting ecosystems. Read more »
Cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). (Emily Harrington/E.H. Illustration)
U.S. Forest Service scientists at the Rocky Mountain Research Station in Missoula, Mont., have identified a new species of fish—the cedar sculpin (Cottus schitsuumsh). Although thousands of new species are described by scientists each year, only a small percentage of them are animal species, and even fewer are found in the United States, underscoring the importance of this discovery.
Freshwater sculpins, with their characteristic large heads and fins, are bottom dwellers that can be found in cold, fast-moving streams throughout North America. Biologists have long suspected that there were undescribed species of sculpins in the Upper Columbia River Basin, but lacked the tools to recognize them. Cedar sculpin populations were previously thought to be shorthead sculpin (Cottus confusus), an understandable misidentification given that sculpins are notoriously difficult to identify based on their physical features. Read more »
Bull trout spawn in a spring of the Middle Fork Willamette River. They were transferred from the McKenzie River to historic habitats in the Middle Fork. (U.S. Forest Service)
The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.
“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.” Read more »
This fish tank is located in Honolulu, HI at the President William McKinley High School, and illustrates the cleanliness of water in an aquaponics/aquaculture system. For aquaponics, when the system is properly balanced, the water can be maintained at maximum clarity. Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
If you’re wondering what aquaponics is, you’re not alone. Tracing its roots back to the Aztecs and rice cultivation in South China, aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture and hydroponics – growing fish and plants together in a symbiotic system. Basically, the plants keep the water clean for the fish to grow, and the fish fertilize the plants. Both help the other to survive and thrive.
A wide variety of foods—lettuce, beans, broccoli, cucumbers, peas, herbs, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes, for example—all flourish through aquaponics farming. Read more »
You can actually feel the wonder while discovering a new side of the U.S. Forest Service at Shedd Aquarium’s new Great Lakes Exhibit At Home on the Great Lakes.
The Shedd Aquarium, on famous Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, unveiled the exhibit as part of its renovation of the facility’s historic Local Waters Gallery. The exhibit features exciting new interactive components. Visitors experience a connection to the Great Lakes through hands-on learning and up-close encounters with native Great Lakes species.
“There is a strong connection between the health of national forests and the health of the Great Lakes,” said Regional Forester Kathleen Atkinson. “The Forest Service is thrilled to collaborate with the Shedd Aquarium to raise awareness about the interconnectedness of these resources.” Read more »