State Scientist Day at the Capitol: CDFA’s Experts Show Kids the Science of Agriculture

CDFA Senior Insect Biosystematist Dr. Martin Hauser (left) teaches students about agricultural pests as CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joins the lesson.

CDFA Senior Insect Biosystematist Dr. Martin Hauser (left) teaches students about agricultural pests as CDFA Secretary Karen Ross joins the lesson.

On my calendar today was a series of events and meetings, each of them important to the future of California agriculture. But one event stood out:  State Scientist Day on the west steps of our State Capitol, hosted by the California Association of Professional Scientists.  This was my annual opportunity to rub elbows with the scientists of the future – busload after busload of young students eager to share a few hours doing chemistry experiments, touching bugs, and generally seeing what it’s like to be a scientist for a state agency like CDFA.

As I made the rounds at the various booths where state entomologists, biologists, chemists and other scientists and staff were leading kids through lessons and experiments, I couldn’t help thinking that these are the kids who will solve the “big problems” someday.  Nutrition and obesity. Food safety.  Clean air.  Water supply and conveyance.  Habitat restoration.  All of these issues and many more require not just policy but science for a solution.

Glenn Kobata (left), an environmental scientist with CDFA’s Feed Laboratory does a bit of simple chemistry for the kids along with CDFA Branch Chief Nirmal Saini (center) and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.

Glenn Kobata (left), an environmental scientist with CDFA’s Feed Laboratory does a bit of simple chemistry for the kids along with CDFA Branch Chief Nirmal Saini (center) and CDFA Secretary Karen Ross.

We need for our kids to take an interest in science, particularly the sciences that contribute to agriculture, if we are to maintain California’s leadership position in feeding our nation and the world.  We also need to maintain and support the world renowned agricultural programs at our universities like the nearby UC Davis campus. Science alone is not the solution – but without it, no amount of policy or negotiation or legislation can take us where we want and need to go as an industry.

So today was a day to celebrate the bright future of agriculture, as seen through the eyes of hundreds of young students who got a glimpse – perhaps their first – through the lens of a microscope.  Maybe they saw a tomato seed, or a nematode, and it peaked their curiosity.  Let’s hope we’ve sparked an interest in science that will lead to exciting, fulfilling careers in California’s agricultural community.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (center) joins Kara Henry (left), a scientific aide with the CDFA Chemistry Lab, and Branch Chief Nirmal Saini in a lesson about the amount of sugar found in popular soft drinks and energy drinks.

CDFA Secretary Karen Ross (center) joins Kara Henry (left), a scientific aide with the CDFA Chemistry Lab, and Branch Chief Nirmal Saini in a lesson about the amount of sugar found in popular soft drinks and energy drinks.

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