NIFA Update - April 27, 2022

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Editor:  Lori Tyler Gula, Ph.D.                                                                         April 27, 2022

Making a Difference

Adela Chavez, Ph.D. by Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife.

Texas A&M AgriLife Tick Research Gets $1M Boost

Two NIFA-funded projects by Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists aim to protect the U.S. cattle industry from the emerging and significant threat of pesticide-resistant cattle fever ticks. The projects aim to create new ways to prevent tick infestations and protect Texas cattle from the diseases spread by cattle fever ticks, which carry parasites and bacteria that cause deadly diseases. A few treatments but no effective vaccines exist for these diseases.

Adela Chavez, Ph.D., is expanding her tick research to seek a vaccine to treat cattle infected by cattle fever ticks. Credit: Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife.

News From NIFA

Call for Comments: Preliminary Observations on Collaboration in the Land-grant System

You are invited to comment on the topic of “Collaboration in the Land-grant System.” USDA asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to appoint a Blue Ribbon Panel to examine how collaboration among Land-grant Institutions can be more impactful in addressing the nation’s needs for a successful, sustainable food and agricultural system, and to recommend ways those institutions can better capture and share the collective outcomes of their collaborations. The panel has posted online 17 preliminary observations about the current state of collaboration, and is seeking feedback from stakeholders that it will use to inform the planning of a virtual workshop, and ultimately, a consensus report to USDA and Congress. You can find a link to the reference document containing the preliminary observations in the online comment form, which also contains a link to the project website with more information about the panel and a place to subscribe to project updates. Please send comments by Friday, May 6. 

Making Headway in Hemp graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

NIFA Hemp Research is Building Foundational Knowledge, Exploring New Frontiers

While the sheer scope of what we have yet to learn about industrial hemp might seem daunting, an army of researchers across the United States is taking up the challenge. NIFA is funding dozens of projects, in various competitive and noncompetitive programs, aimed at creating knowledge that will help make hemp a viable and lucrative crop in the U.S.

Making Headway in Hemp graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Tribal youth connected to STEM through basketball - Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene Tribe Reservations, courtesy of the University of Idaho Extension

Tribal Youth Connected to STEAM through Basketball Clinics

The University of Idaho Extension Program for the Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene Tribe Reservations, supported by NIFA, recently partnered with the nonprofit Rise Above to host a basketball clinic for more than 150 youth at Lapwai Elementary in Lapwai, Idaho.

Youth ages five to 13 participated in a basketball clinic hosted by Rise Above and the University of Idaho Extension Program for the Nez Perce and Coeur d’Alene Tribe Reservations. Image courtesy of the University of Idaho Extension.

Earth Day graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Earth Day: Invest in Our Planet

NIFA-funded adaptation science aims to reduce the impact of climate variability on agriculture and forest ecosystems. NIFA-funded mitigation science is directed at reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, rangeland and forestry systems.

Earth Day graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Dr. Shannon Wiley

National Volunteer Month Spotlight: Dr. Shannon Wiley

April is recognized as National Volunteer Month and serves as a time to honor volunteers who are positively impacting their communities. The following is an interview with North Carolina A&T State University Extension Specialist Dr. Shannon Wiley. Dr. Wiley was once a 4-H’er who now helps guide volunteers within the 4-H community.

Career Opportunities graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

NIFA Career Opportunities

We are hiring! NIFA recruits a diverse group of talented, creative, motivated professionals who are invested in shaping the future of food and agricultural science. We offer a variety of benefits and services to our employees that focus on work-life balance, career enhancement, and health and well-being.

NIFA has career opportunities in a variety of scientific disciplines covering engineering, food science, forestry, education, animal and crop sciences, and many other agriculture-related disciplines. NIFA job openings are listed on Current NIFA job openings are for Kansas City, Missouri, or a location negotiable after selection, unless otherwise noted below.

Supervisory Biological Science Specialist (G-15)
Closing date: May 3 or when we have received 150 applications.
View the job announcement.

Career Opportunities graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

News From USDA

USDA graphic symbol

USDA Invests Nearly $800 Million in Critical Infrastructure to Combat Climate Change Across Rural America

In honor of Earth Day 2022, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that USDA is investing nearly $800 million in climate-smart infrastructure in 40 states, Puerto Rico and the Northern Mariana Islands. These investments will strengthen the health and livelihoods of people across rural America. They include funding for 165 projects to expand access to safe water and/or clean energy for people living in disadvantaged communities.

Impact of NIFA-Funded Research and Outreach

Koala in a tree, courtesy of Getty Images.

Are People More Willing to Empathize with Animals or with Other Humans?

Stories about animals such as Harambe the gorilla and Cecil the lion often sweep the media as they pull at people’s heartstrings. But are people more likely to feel empathy for animals than humans? A new NIFA-funded study at Penn State University found that the answer is complicated. The findings could have implications for how messaging to the public about issues like new environmental policies is framed, among others.

Koala in a tree, courtesy of Getty Images.

Fescue at the Red Oak Rain Garden in Urbana, Illinois by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s Layne Knoche.

Give Caterpillars a Chance with Soft Landings Under Trees

Trees are natural caretakers – their limbs provide shade and shelter, their seeds and leaves provide food, and their roots filter water. Insect scientists have another skill to add to the list – a haven for caterpillars. Entomologists are asking gardeners, homeowners and landscapers to stop mowing and, instead, add  permanent plantings under tree canopies to help moths and butterfly caterpillars survive, according to University of Illinois Extension, supported by NIFA.

Planting grasses beneath tree canopies that do not need to be mowed, such as this fescue at the Red Oak Rain Garden in Urbana, helps ensures that the caterpillars of moths and butterflies survive to adulthood. Credit: Layne Knoche/University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Florida bonneted bat courtesy of Florida Wildlife Center.

Don’t Disturb Bats During Maternity Season​

It’s maternity season for Florida bats, which means they might be roosting in or near your home. University of Florida experts at the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) want to clear misunderstandings about bats, ease apprehensions about their habits, and provide insights on how to help bats thrive during this season by simply staying clear of them.

The Florida bonneted bat is the largest bat in Florida and can reach a length of 6.5 inches with a wingspan of 20 inches. Its diet primarily consists of insects, which makes them a great natural pest control. Credit: Florida Wildlife Center.

Upcoming Events

Webinar graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

April 28: GusNIP Produce Prescription RFA Webinar

NIFA staff for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) will host a webinar for applicants interested in applying to the GusNIP Produce Prescription competitive program on April 28 at 3 p.m. EDT

Webinar graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

April 28: Listening Session: Bioproduct Pilot Program

NIFA invites the public to participate in a virtual listening session on April 28 at 4 p.m. EDT for the Bioproduct Pilot Program. Visit the NIFA program page for more information about the program. Registration required.

May 18: NIFA Employment Opportunities Webinar

NIFA will host an Employment Opportunities Webinar on May 18 at 2 p.m. EDT. This webinar will review various employment positions at NIFA. It will provide overviews of the available roles, how to view NIFA vacancy postings online, tips for navigating USAJobs, and NIFA staff will be available to answer your questions.

May 24-26: Making Climate-Smart Agriculture Work

The NIFA-funded Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project will host a national conference May 24-26 on Making Climate-Smart Agriculture Work. The focus of the virtual conference is to share information and best practices regarding integrating science, modeling, and economics to help farmers, ranchers and foresters mitigate and adapt to the challenges of climate change.

June: OneOp Presents an Online Learning Experience: “Family Well-Being: Navigating the Social Justice Landscape”

This June, take advantage of this multidisciplinary approach to a complex issue facing service providers working with military families. Through convenient courses offered asynchronously, the 2022 Military Families Readiness Academy will focus on individuals’ understanding of social justice and equity, including their own understanding of privilege and oppression.

Sept. 7-9: Save the Date: National Conference on Next-Generation Sustainable Technologies for Small-Scale Producers

North Carolina A&T State University will host a National Conference on Next-Generation Sustainable Technologies for Small-Scale Producers Sept. 7-9. The conference is a collaboration between the university, NIFA and the Environmental Protection Agency. For more information, contact Dr. Godfrey Uzochukwu.

NIFA In the News

Chicken Research Aids in Cool-Off, image by Fred Miller-The Commercial, UA System Division of Agriculture.

Chicken Research Aids in Cool-Off

It may sound counterintuitive, but chickens can stay cooler in hotter environments if it is a dry heat. They just need a little spritz of water every now and then, and a breeze to create a windchill effect. With water conservation in mind, researchers at the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station continued decades of research in 2021 to fine-tune a method of direct-cooling chickens with low-pressure sprinklers in tandem with traditional cool-cell pad systems and ventilation fans. For more information, read the Arkansas Democrat Gazette article.

Image courtesy of The Commercial/Fred Miller, UA System Division of Agriculture.

Application Deadlines

Funding Announcements

Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Competitive Grants Program

Smiling veteran with dog, image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Smiling veteran with dog, image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

NIFA’s Enhancing Agricultural Opportunities for Military Veterans Program provides grants to nonprofits to increase the number of military veterans gaining knowledge and skills through farm and ranch programs that lead to successful careers in the food and agricultural sector. The program encourages the development of training opportunities specifically designed for military veterans. AgVets projects will offer onsite, hands-on training and classroom education leading to a comprehensive understanding of successful farm and ranch operations and management practices. Projects may also offer workforce readiness and employment prospects for service-disabled veterans. Application deadline: June 20. For more information, read the funding announcement.

National Plant Diagnostic Network for the Food and Agriculture Defense Initiative

Wheat harvester in the field, image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wheat harvester in the field, image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

NIFA’s National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN) reduces the vulnerability of the U.S. food and agricultural system to chemical or biological attack. The NPDN network coordinates the development, implementation, and enhancement of diverse capabilities for addressing threats to the nation’s agricultural economy and food supply. To attain these purposes, the overarching goals of the NPDN are to produce educated and capable first responders; provide accurate, reliable, and timely diagnostics and surveillance; and supply useful, real-time data from innovative information and communication systems. Application deadline: June 6. For more information, read the funding announcement.

Tweet of the Week

Tweet of the week image April 27 2022

Facebook Post of the Week

Ahlishia Shipley graphic, courtesy of NIFA.

Meet Ahlishia Shipley, Ph.D., CFLE.

Ahlishia serves as a national program leader in the Institute of Youth, Family and Community, Division of Family and Consumer Sciences.

"I was professionally ‘raised’ at a Land-grant University working across research, education and Extension. To be able to serve the system at the federal level is an honor for me. The work NIFA supports lies at the nexus of public health and agriculture, so we are in such an ideal position to impact the future of global health through facilitating the exchange of innovative ideas and strategic partnerships to support creative funding opportunities." - Ahlishia.

Interested in joining NIFA’s team? Check out NIFA’s Career Opportunities page for current openings.