Can you find the snake? A Burmese python peeks out from its hiding place in Florida. APHIS Wildlife Services experts are developing new tools to help track and remove this invasive species. Photo by Lori Oberhofer, National Park Service
How do you find something that doesn’t want to be found – something that has evolved to be cryptic, elusive, and stealthy? That is the question asked of APHIS geneticist Dr. Antoinette Piaggio. She and others at the National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) – the research arm of the APHIS Wildlife Services program – are investigating new ways to track and locate invasive Burmese pythons.
Burmese pythons have made a home in Florida competing with and feeding on native wildlife. Experts agree that new tools and techniques are crucial to monitoring and controlling the spread of this elusive snake.
“Burmese pythons are semi-aquatic and can be very hard to detect given their elusive nature and cryptic coloration,” states Piaggio. “We’ve developed a new detection method that uses environmental DNA, thereby eliminating the need for seeing or handling snakes.” Read more »
A member of the Geronimo Interagency Hotshot Crew, Department of the Interior (DOI) Indian Affairs (IA) Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) San Carlos Agency in Arizona; on assignment. The combined effects of droughts and insects may lead to a pulse of tree mortality that increases the potential for intense fires. USDA Photo by Lance Cheung.
The climate statistics for the first month of 2014 have been impressive. Extreme weather has lashed the United States from Alaska to Florida with record warmth, cold, dry and wet conditions all at the same time. The National Climatic Data Center reports that January of 2014 was the driest January on record for New Mexico, 2nd driest for Arizona and 3rd driest for California. January 2014 was also in the top ten of coldest Januaries on record for much of the upper Midwest.
Extreme drought conditions in the western U.S. are dramatically impacting water supplies critical to agriculture and elevating fire risk across our National Forests. Across the continent frequent cold waves have repeatedly threatened winter crops across the Southeast while frost depths reaching several feet will impact springtime planting across the Midwest. This kind of winter gets everyone talking about the weather. It brings to mind the quote “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it,” often attributed to Mark Twain (but apparently said by a friend). Read more »
A trail rider expert from Red Hills Powersports of Tallahassee, Fla., answers questions from a young boy from nearby Crawfordville, Fla., during the grand opening of the Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead. Forest Service engineers designed the recreational trailhead area to include spacious parking for visitors with trailers to offload motorcycles. (U.S. Forest Service Photo/Susan Blake)
For many, the “great” in “the great outdoors” answers the call to hit the open road with body, soul and little else except their motorcycle. That got a little easier on the Apalachicola National Forest in Florida with the opening of a new trailhead beckoning riders with easier trail access and opportunity to ride for recreation.
The grand opening of the new Springhill Motorcycle Trailhead south of Tallahassee, Fla., highlights the U.S. Forest Service policy to develop a system of roads, trails and areas designated for motor vehicle use.
The project includes a new, single-span aluminum bridge to connect the forest’s separate motorized northern and southern trails. The prefabricated 90-foot Fisher Creek Bridge, shipped in two sections, replaces an older, antiquated bridge that stretched across the waterway. Read more »
Kelly McPherson walks the Spanish moss draped trail, where hikers view a variety of wildlife throughout the year. NRCS photo.
About 20 minutes south of downtown Gainesville, Fla. lies 1,060 acres of fresh water marsh, home to bobcat, wood duck, muskrat, bald eagle, sandhill crane and other wildlife species. This public land features six and a half miles of trails, which weave through Florida’s unique wetland landscape.
But the Levy Prairie wetland basin hasn’t always been a recreation getaway.
In the late 1960s, ranchers built levees around the area, dug canals and continually kept it drained for pastures to raise cattle. Then in 2001, one of the ranchers in the area decided to return the land to its natural state with the help of USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Read more »
Project Grow students at TERRA Environmental Research Institute are given instruction on the steps required to collect field data used in USDA’s National Resources Inventory (NRI). Photo by: Yolanda Rivera, NRCS Florida.
Students at a public high school in Florida are receiving some hands-on experience and invaluable mentoring from the staff at USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) as a result of a USDA grant.
Project Grow aims to educate high school students about careers and college education requirements for career positions with NRCS in an agency effort to meet future staffing needs. NRCS is shifting to a younger age group for recruitment to evaluate if it’s effective in raising awareness for potential new staff members. Read more »
Last week, President and Mrs. Obama hosted France’s President, Francois Hollande for a State Dinner on the South Lawn of the White House. State Dinners are a way to celebrate U.S. relations with international friends and allies. Past dinners at the White House during the Obama Administration have hosted visiting heads of state from nations including India, Mexico, China, Germany, and Great Britain. In many ways, these events are an opportunity to demonstrate and celebrate for invited guests and the world, the cultural and culinary heritages of our country.
The State Dinner last week was an excellent example, highlighting the diversity of American agricultural and rural products that our nation has to offer. The dinner celebrated the “best of American cuisine” and featured dry-aged rib eye beef from Colorado, trout from Maine, cheese from Vermont, chocolate from Hawaii, and potatoes from New York, Idaho, and California. The wines served at the dinner included excellent selections featuring California, Washington State, and Virginia offerings. However, beyond the menu itself an equally impressive feature was the visible presence of American cut flowers that decorated and added a stunning visual touch for guests at the White House. The floral arrangements displayed at the dinner included: Read more »