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Earth Team volunteer gives voice to living and life

By Ron Nichols, USDA-NRCS Public Affairs Officer

Earth Team Volunteer Laura Danly, Ph.D., is the curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif., a former NASA astronomer and spokesperson for a new series of soil health public service television ads.

Earth Team Volunteer Laura Danly, Ph.D., is the curator of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, Calif., a former NASA astronomer and spokesperson for a new series of soil health public service television ads.

April 24, 2017 - As someone who has spent her adult life studying the great mysteries of our universe, it may come as a surprise that astronomer Dr. Laura Danly is also captivated by the mysteries of something much closer to home – our living and life-giving soil.

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find her connection with the soil is closer than you might think.

Our living planet, our living soil

I had seen Dr. Danly on several cable television networks talking about our remarkable planet and its place in the universe and realized she had a unique and insightful perspective regarding our own planet. Not knowing if she’d be the slightest bit interested, I nonetheless reached out to her and asked if she’d be willing to become an Earth Team volunteer and lend her voice and unique perspective to our soil health effort.

I was delighted when she agreed to do so.

In the weeks that followed, Dr. Danly and I talked about the connection between the stars and the soil, and it became clear to me that she would be a perfect spokesperson for the often-overlooked and under-valued resource we call soil.

“Earth is the most amazing planet we know,” she said to me during one of our discussions. “It’s the only one we know that has life on it, so it’s a natural for me to want to talk about Earth and share some important messages with people about how we can make Earth and its living soil healthier.”

Giving voice to our living soil

Working alongside our USDA film crew, I flew out to interview Dr. Danly at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, where she’s the curator. The next day, we filmed her as she narrated the television and web public service announcements that are now being aired on local television stations throughout the country.

Encouragingly, we recently learned that ABC, CBS, NBC, Discovery and several other major national networks have agreed to air the spots in the months ahead, which is another indication that the hope in healthy soil message is resonating among a wide range of audiences.

Thanks to these ads narrated by Dr. Danly, millions of television viewers will learn about our living and life-giving soil. Her advice to all of the residents of planet Earth: “We should reach for the stars, but we must cherish the soil.

Volunteers like Dr. Danly bring a wide range of interests, talents, perspectives and experiences to NRCS’ critically important mission. I extend my sincere thanks to her and to all of our Earth Team volunteers who are making a difference in our communities and on our planet.