By Sharon Lucik
USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program continues its series of articles highlighting the cutting-edge work of our Science and Technology laboratories. Every day our scientists and technical professionals apply their expertise to safeguarding agriculture and facilitating safe trade. Next up: the Domestic and Emergency Scientific Support (DESS) team—formerly known as the National Science Program Group.
“Our team is a bit different from a typical laboratory staff,” explains DESS Director Tara Holtz. “The majority of our work is done in collaboration with other S&T scientists, PPQ partners, and outside cooperators. We provide scientific leadership and cross-cutting coordination to help PPQ effectively respond, manage, and solve pest issues.”
Holtz manages the 11-person team that includes National Science Program Coordinators, Staff Scientists, Biological Science Technicians, and an APHIS Science Fellow. Together, they coordinate the scientific contributions from different laboratories and make recommendations to program leaders to enhance and improve the staff’s efforts on the ground. The DESS team also helps to inform PPQ’s scientific investments based on program needs. This links scientific advancements directly to the programs they support.
“Above all, the DESS work unit strives to ensure PPQ has the information, tools, and technology to make scientifically valid operational, regulatory, and policy decisions,” said Holtz. “That means we’re at the table when PPQ meets to review, strategize, and develop tactics for box tree moth, spotted lanternfly, citrus health, coconut rhinoceros beetle, imported fire ant, fruit fly, Phytophthora ramorum, biological control, domestic seed health, and the special initiatives such as agricultural detector canine use.”
PPQ’s emergency and domestic programs are the cornerstone of the DESS team’s work; however, because of their vast knowledge and skillset, they also support the mission and goals of these foundational programs: