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Posts tagged: Grants

Iowa’s Innovative Bioenergy Industries Have Caught the Attention of the Nation and the World

This week I had the pleasure of meeting with representatives from eight German companies who are in Iowa to learn more the approach to biofuels in the US, and specifically in Iowa. Read more »

Conservation Science Training Center in Ohio Constructed with Support from USDA

By Michael Jones, Rural Development Public Affairs Director

On June 8, 2010, Ohio State Rural Development Director Tony Logan joined other funding partners and representatives from The Wilds for a ribbon cutting ceremony, celebrating the official opening of the Conservation Science Training Center (CSTC). Rural Development awarded $30,000 from its Community Facilities Grant Program to help fund the facility’s construction. The CSTC is a 3,600 square foot facility built to further the Wilds’ conservation and educational mission.

The CSTC will provide meeting, classroom, laboratory space and cabins to be used for extended stays by national and international visiting research teams. Constructed directly into a natural hillside, the facility incorporates geothermal heating and cooling, natural lighting, and other green-identified technologies. Nestled on nearly 10,000 acres dedicated to conservation research and education, the Wilds’ current research activities include: prairie biomass and carbon sequestration initiatives, grassland bird research and biodiversity surveys, prairie restoration and more.

Bringing the CSTC on line will expand the ability of The Wilds to provide additional support and opportunities for professors, teachers, students and visitors to investigate the ecological systems and wildlife health in Ohio’s Appalachian region. Funding partners included: the USDA Rural Development, American Electric Power Foundation, the Appalachian Regional Commission, Governor’s Office of Appalachia and Hocking College.

Rural Development State Director Tony Logan (second from left), participates

From left to right: Dr. Roy Palmer, Senior Vice President, Hocking College; Tony Logan, State Director, USDA Rural Development; Dr. Evan Blumer, Executive Director, The Wilds; Robert Powers, President, AEP Utilities; Fred Deel, Director, Governor’s Office of Appalachia.


“The Big Garden” Spreads Like Wildflower

By USDA Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships

Inner city Omaha is an economically distressed area, especially among the predominantly African-American and senior populations. Poverty rates and obesity among young people are high and access to healthy, affordable food is low, especially for those who need it most.

Rev. Stephanie Ahlschwede, Executive Director of United Methodist Ministries for the Missouri River District, began “The Big Garden” project in 2005, aided by a grant from the USDA Community Food Projects.  Five gardens were established in 2006 and were met with a resoundingly enthusiastic response.  Just three years later, The Big Garden network had grown to 22 gardens through collaboration with area churches and a variety of community organizations. Residents have their choice of simply donating time to the gardens or taking responsibility for cultivating and caring for a plot of their own and then harvesting and enjoying the results. As part of the initial design of the program, a portion of the fresh produce is donated to seniors in the neighborhood.

Through a cooperative program with a local nursing association, cooking classes are taught as part of the area’s after school programs. Many of the young people participating have never eaten fresh fruits and vegetables. With the benefit of a grant from the Omaha Public Power Department, the project has planted a number of fruit and nut trees. According to Project Manager Jessica Mews, the young people working in the gardens love the fresh produce as well as many of the products generated from the gardens. Kale chips are a particular favorite and, according to Mews, the kids can’t get enough of them.

The Big Garden is now on to the next phase, a garden in rural Nebraska — “The Big Rural Garden Project of Southeast Nebraska.” An acre of land in Auburn, a small rural community nearby, was donated and the local Methodist Church is managing the program. They are also collaborating with the local United Way Fund using a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to fight obesity. In 2008, the Sierra Club recognized the Big Garden as one of 50 exceptional faith-based environmental initiatives in the U.S.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

Enjoying the community garden at the United Methodist Wesley in Omaha.

 

Lewis & Clark National Forest Hosts ‘Hands-On’ Outdoor Science Classrooms

By Phil Sammon

While many of their contemporaries across the country may have had their hands on game controllers this week, 1,700 junior high school students from Great Falls, Montana public schools had their hands on caddisfly and mayfly larvae, crayfish, snails, clams, plus a wide range of plants, seeds, and soil types – all in the name of conservation education and science.

These students all took part in a series of scientific experimentation and exploration stations at the Lewis & Clark National Forest’s Interpretive Center adjacent to Great Falls, along the Lewis & Clark National Trail and the banks of the Missouri River. The 12-day program puts students in touch with nature at six different field investigation sites, all supporting science-based curriculum and classroom preparation.

The program is a partnership with the public school system, which along with the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center staff received a grant from the Department of the Interior. The Center’s location makes it an ideal local setting for students to study, observe, experiment and make scientific conclusions based upon their findings at the six different stations. Forest Service staff, Center volunteers and teachers from the public school system, all pitch in to conduct, monitor and assist the student in their field work.

This exceptional example of conservation education in the Forest Service is a direct reflection on the national program efforts to get more kids outdoors, put more kids in the woods, and inspire students to know, experience, and want to work with the natural resources as part of their lives, to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The students rotated through each of the six stations: water, fire, botany, hydrology, ornithology, and macroinvertebrates. Special demonstrations as well as necessary scientific equipment and supplies at each gave students the right equipment for their work. At the water station, for example, students would assess water quality by testing acidity, dissolved oxygen, and phosphate/nitrate levels. At the ornithology stations, they discovered and noted that migratory birds return at different times, and learned the variance between cavity and woven nest builders.

The students, many of whom had likely never spent more than a couple hours at a time in the outdoors, spent upwards of six hours a day going from station to station. Their enthusiasm and excitement was proof to the educators and Forest Service staff that this Field Investigations Partnership was worth the effort and investment.

Jane Weber, Director of the Interpretive Center explained, “We are excited to have the students experience place-based science within their community.  It’s surprising how few have spent an entire day outdoors in their young lives. As an added benefit, the children monitor our environmental conditions over time.” Tom Moore, Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education for Great Falls Public Schools agreed, “I have seen citizen science implemented successfully in other school districts and am pleased to see our educators build this experience into our science curriculum.

Jay Russell, Executive Director of the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center Foundation, whose organization wrote and received the grant summed the program up this way: “These children will act as our modern-day explorers. Who knows, this experience may inspire a child to explore a future academic pursuit in natural sciences.”

Feeling Stressed? So are Poplars

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 the USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.  

By Jennifer Donovan, Michigan Technological University

People aren’t the only living things that suffer from stress. Trees must deal with stress too. It can come from a lack of water or too much water, from scarcity of a needed nutrient, from pollution or a changing climate. Helping trees and crops adapt to stress quickly and efficiently is a pressing goal of plant biologists worldwide.

A team led by Michigan Technological University  scientists and supported by USDA and DOE grants has identified the molecular mechanism that Populus—the scientific name for common poplars, cottonwoods and aspens—uses to adapt to changing soil conditions, as well as some of the genes that turn the process off or on. They hope to apply what they’ve learned to find ways to use biotechnology or selective breeding to modify the trees to make them more stress-tolerant.  And better sources of pulp and fiber.

“Our hope is that by understanding how this works, we can manipulate the system so the plants can adapt faster and better to stressful conditions,” explained Michigan Technological University’s Victor Busov, senior author on a paper about this work published in the journal The Plant Cell.  

Busov and colleagues at Michigan Tech, the University of Georgia, Oregon State University and the Beijing Forestry University in China analyzed thousands of genes in the Populus genome, the only tree genome that has been completely sequenced. They were searching for the mechanism that regulates the plant’s decision to grow tall or to spread its roots out in an extensive underground exploration system that can sample the soil near and far until it finds what the rest of the plant needs.

The key players turned out to be a family of hormones called gibberellins, referred to by the scientists as GAs.   “GAs’ role in root development is poorly understood,” said Busov, “and the role of GAs in lateral root formation is almost completely unknown.”  Lateral roots are the tangle of tiny roots that branch out from the primary root of a plant. ”They are the sponges,” Busov explained, “the ones that go looking for nutrients, for water—the ones that do most of the work.” 

The researchers hope to understand how to turn off production of GAs, which would stimulate more roots and fewer leaves and twigs — and thus help poplars cope with drought conditions, a valuable trait in a world where water scarcity is increasingly a problem. 

Poplar fruiting as part of the USDA poplar breeding program

Poplar fruiting as part of the USDA poplar breeding program.

 

Poplars. Photo credit Michigan Technological University  

Poplars. Photo credit Michigan Technological University. 

Discussing the Power of Telemedicine

I am very pleased to launch our latest effort to encourage more widespread use and understanding of the life-saving field of telemedicine through our Power of Telemedicine web discussion.  Telemedicine has grown steadily over the past decade. The USDA’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) has participated consistently along the way, supporting innovation in telemedicine as early as 1993 with our Distance Learning and Telemedicine grant program. Our telemedicine program is designed specifically to meet the health care needs of rural America.  Through loans, grants and loan and grant combinations, advanced telecommunications technologies provide enhanced health care opportunities for rural residents.  It, together with our Distance Learning program, has funded over 900 projects in 48 states and several US Territories totaling over $300 million. Read more »