News & Updates

Presentation from the June 19, 2018 NIFA Webinar on Food and Agricultural Enhancement (FASE) and USDA EPSCoR Grants

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On June 19, 2018 the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) - Food and Agricultural Science Enhancement (FASE) and Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Team presented a webinar on how the AFRI FASE & EPSCoR Program works and how it is implemented at NIFA. This webinar served as an orientation for those new to the program and an update for returning applicants. Attached below is the PowerPoint presentation from the webinar.

As a reminder, the following states currently qualify for USDA EPSCoR funds:

  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Idaho
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming



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Mississippi River diversions will produce new land, but slowly, Tulane study says

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Although river diversions that bring land building sediment to shrinking coastlands are the best solution to sustaining portions of the Mississippi Delta, a new Tulane University study concludes that the rate of land building will likely be dwarfed by the rate of wetland loss.

The study, published in the open-access journal Science Advances used optical dating to measure how fast the delta shoreline migrated seaward under natural conditions.

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Massive University of Nebraska-Lincoln led study finds lectures still dominate STEM ed

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An analysis of more than 2,000 college classes in science, technology, engineering and math has imparted a lesson that might resonate with many students who sat through them: Enough with the lectures, already.

Published March 29 in the journal Science, the largest-ever observational study of undergraduate STEM education monitored nearly 550 faculty as they taught more than 700 courses at 25 institutions across the United States and Canada.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Marilyne Stains and her colleagues found that 55 percent of STEM classroom interactions consisted mostly of conventional lecturing, a style that prior research has identified as among the least effective at teaching and engaging students.

Another 27 percent featured interactive lectures that had students participating in some group activities or answering multiple-choice questions with handheld clickers. Just 18 percent emphasized a student-centered style heavy on group work and discussions.

The predominance of lecturing observed in the study persists despite many years of federal and state educational agencies advocating for more student-centered learning, the researchers said.

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IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network Part of NIH's HEAL Initiative

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On April 4th at the 2018 National Rx Drug Abuse and Heroin Summit, NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., launched the HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-term) Initiative, which is "an aggressive, trans-agency effort to speed scientific solutions to stem the national opioid public health crisis." Because of a funding increase provided by Congress, NIH is nearly doubling funding for research on opioid misuse/addiction and pain from approximately $600 million in fiscal year 2016 to $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2018.

HEAL will strengthen research across NIH to: 1) Prevent Addiction through Enhanced Pain Management and 2) Improve Treatments for Opioid Misuse Disorder and Addiction.

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New NSF EPSCoR Section Head Announced

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The following communication was released on January 26 by Dr. Suzanne Iacono, Head of NSF's Office of Integrative Activities:

Effective January 22, 2018, Dr. Loretta A. Moore will serve as the Section Head for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) section of the Office of Integrative Activities (OIA) at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  

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Missouri EPSCOR Vinobot Featured by NSF

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On February 1, 2018, NSF featured a story about Missouri EPSCoR as one of the agency's "Impact" news articles.  Developing drought-tolerant corn that makes efficient use of available water will be vital to sustain the estimated 9 billion global population by 2050. University of Missouri researchers have developed two robotic systems, the Vinobot and the Vinoculer to study how corn maintains root growth during drought conditions. The mobile robots have sensors and robotic arms to collect temperature, humidity and light intensity at three different heights on the corn plant, assessing growth, development, yield, tolerance and resistance to environmental stressors by correlating these to physiology and shape of the plants. Inexpensive and efficient, the Vinobots generate more data than aerial vehicles and are changing the way agriculturalists collect data.

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Guam EPSCoR Project Highlighted as an "Impact" News Item by NSF

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In Guam, researchers developed a method for mapping underwater areas that is transforming how oceanographers observe the seafloor. Data from global positioning satellites are the primary method for mapping the Earth, but it's impossible for global positioning system (GPS) signals to pass through water, making detailed mapping of underwater features difficult. By synchronizing underwater cameras with GPS buoys and using software to geo-tag photographs, NSF-funded researchers have mapped all of Guam's Pago Bay and Apra Harbor.

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A Brown University Study Suggests Tidal Cycles Could Help Predict Volcanic Eruptions

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PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Just before a surprise eruption of New Zealand’s Ruapehu volcano in 2007, seismic tremor near its crater became tightly correlated with twice-monthly changes in the strength of tidal forces, a new study has found. The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, suggests that signals associated with tidal cycles could potentially provide advanced warning of certain types of volcanic eruptions.

“Looking at data for this volcano spanning about 12 years, we found that this correlation between the amplitude of seismic tremor and tidal cycles developed only in the three months before this eruption,” said Társilo Girona, the study’s lead author. “What that suggests is that the tides could provide a probe for telling us whether or not a volcano has entered a critical state.”

Girona, a NASA postdoctoral fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, led the research during a postdoctoral appointment at Brown University, working with Brown professor Christian Huber and Corentin Caudron, a postdoctoral researcher at the Ghent University in Belgium.

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Cloud seeding for snow: Does it work? University of Wyoming Scientist Contributes to Report on First Quantifiable Observations

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For the first time, scientists have obtained direct, quantifiable observations of cloud seeding for increased snowfall -- from the growth of ice crystals, through the processes that occur in clouds, to the eventual snowfall.

The National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported project, dubbed SNOWIE (Seeded and Natural Orographic Wintertime Clouds -- the Idaho Experiment), took place from Jan. 7 to March 17, 2017, in and near Idaho's Payette Basin, located approximately 50 miles north of Boise.

The research was conducted in concert with the Boise-based Idaho Power Company, which provides a large percentage of its electrical power through hydroelectric dams.

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Breakthrough study shows how plants sense the world

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Plants lack eyes and ears, but they can still see, hear, smell and respond to environmental cues and dangers — especially to virulent pathogens. They do this with the aid of hundreds of membrane proteins that can sense microbes or other stresses.

Only a small portion of these sensing proteins have been studied through classical genetics, and knowledge on how these sensors function by forming complexes with one another is scarce. Now, an international team of researchers from four nations — including Shahid Mukhtar, Ph.D., and graduate student Timothy “TC” Howton at the University of Alabama at Birmingham — has created the first network map for 200 of these proteins. The map shows how a few key proteins act as master nodes critical for network integrity, and the map also reveals unknown interactions.

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