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office of the chief scientist

Mirror, Mirror, What Do You See? I See a Scientist Looking at Me

Strolling down the aisles of most toy departments, parents are likely to see more diverse options such as a brown-faced doll holding her microscope and African-American action figures in engineering sets. Many toy manufacturers have removed the stigma of “traditional gender roles” and created science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) toys with diverse physical features to encourage all children to see themselves in these roles. USDA strives to make these same improvements in the agriculture sector. It’s National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week and we’re celebrating the student support our science agencies provide every day to create a research workforce more reflective of our society.

Creating the Perfect Picnic with USDA’s Help

Have you ever considered what it takes to create the perfect picnic beyond the hamburgers, hot dogs, and iced tea? Most often, we include wholesome fruit and veggies to create the perfect side items or sweet treats. Whether its fresh corn-on-the-cob or plump, juicy strawberries on the shortcake, USDA-related research helps bring it all together.

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.