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Office of the Chief Scientist

The Name, the Pin, and the Bee

She leans over her dead subject and deftly pushes a pin through its body, securing it to the foam below. To be clear, this is not about a morgue or a serial killer. This is about taxonomy, or the science of identifying, classifying, and naming organisms. The woman in question is a scientist, and her pinned subject is a bee.

USDA Research Progress Towards Global Food Security

Most of us living in the United States are fortunate enough not to wonder where our next meal will come from. Yet across the globe, at least some time during the year, nearly 800 million people do. Not having access to stable and nutritious food sources – or food insecurity — negatively impacts people’s lives. Food security, on the other hand, means access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life.

Vertical Farming for the Future

Imagine walking into your local grocery story on a frigid January day to pick up freshly harvested lettuce, fragrant basil, juicy sweet strawberries, and ripe red tomatoes – all of which were harvested at a local farm only hours before you’d arrived. You might be imagining buying that fresh produce from vertical farms where farmers can grow indoors year-round by controlling light, temperature, water, and oftentimes carbon dioxide levels as well. Generally, fresh produce grown in vertical farms travels only a few miles to reach grocery store shelves compared to conventional produce, which can travel thousands of miles by truck or plane.

Open Data: Enabling Fact-Based, Data-Driven Decisions

Nearly five years ago, USDA embarked on a journey as a founding partner of the Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative. GODAN promotes the proactive sharing of open data to make information about agriculture and nutrition available, accessible, and usable worldwide. Now with over 700 partners from the private and public sector, non-profits, universities and other groups, the momentum behind this important initiative is increasing. In 2014, USDA partnered with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide funding support to enable the work of the GODAN Secretariat – the people that keep the initiative going day in and day out.

Tree Breeding: Creating Tomorrow’s Healthy Forests Today

Immobile and long-lived, trees endure extreme weather, fires, and pests for tens, hundreds, and even thousands of years. In Fishlake National Forest, Utah, there is a quaking aspen colony spanning 106 acres that is roughly 80,000 years old. To give you a sense of scale, if the average human lives 79 years, this aspen colony has already lived over a thousand times longer!

Bookless Libraries: Treasures within the USDA Plant Collections

Have you ever wondered how new looking and different tasting types of apples or tomatoes come to be? Improvements in taste, size, and color are often the result of years of research and plant breeding efforts. Many times, plant breeders search for traits in older varieties of plants to create new varieties that could be useful today, but not widely grown.

Fall Armyworm: USDA Research Lends a Hand in International Pest Outbreak

USDA researchers tackle tough problems critical to American agriculture. Addressing how to nurture heathy soils, improve crop yields, or prevent livestock diseases, they carefully plan experiments and analyze data that can lead to better on-farm decisions and more productive practices. But even scientists can’t always predict how far their work will eventually go. Recently, USDA researchers in Florida have seen their work take on unexpected relevance in Africa with the outbreak of an invasive crop pest.

Food for Thought from USDA Nutrition Teammates

Frequent family meals have consistently been associated with better health outcomes in children. It should come as no surprise that USDA nutrition employees were one of the first groups within our Department to formally convene around our new USDA Strategic Goals. That’s why USDA’s Office of the Chief Scientist (OCS) hosted a first-of-its-kind USDA Intra-Departmental Nutrition Workshop Series. More than 70 staff from across the Department participated, with the goal of maximizing USDA nutrition-relevant agencies’ individual and collective abilities to ensure data-driven approaches to provide Americans with safe, nutritious, and secure food.