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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS researchers awarded National Science Foundation grants to study animals in their environment

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, IFAS, Research

NEON

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Knowing where animals choose to spend their time and why they may have chosen those areas is fundamental to conserving our nation’s wildlife. Two researchers from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are among 28 scientists who will share nearly $4.8 million in funding from The National Science Foundation in grants and will observe insects, plants and animals to see how they interact with their environments throughout North America. (more …)

Larkin Appointed Associate Dean for Research at UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Uncategorized
Sherry Larkin

Sherry Larkin

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sherry Larkin, a professor in the Department of Food and Resource Economics in the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has been named Associate Dean for Research.

“Dr. Larkin is an excellent scientist and administrator. She was Interim Assistant Dean for Research for a little over a year and understands the responsibilities and duties of this important position,” said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean of research. “We are very fortunate to have Dr. Larkin join our team.”

Larkin earned her Ph.D. in agricultural and resource economics from Oregon State University in 1998 and now specializes in natural resource and environmental economics. She has been a faculty member at UF/IFAS since 2000 and had a 70 percent research appointment and a 30 percent teaching appointment in the Food and Resource Economics Department in IFAS.

At UF/IFAS, Larkin was a sustainability fellow from 2011-2012 and currently serves as an affiliate faculty member for the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. She is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Kasetsart University (Bangkok, Thailand).

Larkin’s research focused on projects relating to the sustainable use of marine resources. She published 42 peer-reviewed journal articles and 10 book chapters, and received more than $3 million in external research funding from state, federal and industry sources.

Larkin served on 48 graduate student committees. She served as a chair for 25 committees and was a member or co-chair on an additional 23. She has been an associate editor of the journal Marine Resource Economics since 2000.

In the profession, Larkin served as an elected member of the executive committee for the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade and is the President-elect of the North American Association of Fisheries Economists. In the policy arena, she is actively involved in fisheries management by serving on scientific committees for both the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils. In addition to seafood and fisheries, Larkin’s recent research studied economic issues related to forestry, precision farming, harmful algal blooms and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Larkin said she is honored to take on the role of Associate Dean for Research at UF/IFAS. “I hope to continue to serve as an ambassador for our research programs and help to facilitate and administer projects that support our research mission,” she said.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Sherry Larkin, 352-294-7676, slarkin@ufl.edu

 

 

 

UF/IFAS forestry professor earns top global award

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Eric Jokela and a UF researcher measuring the growth of a tree.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After three decades of outstanding forestry research, A UF/IFAS professor will receive one of the top global awards in his field.

Eric J. Jokela, a professor of silviculture – managing and producing better forests — and forest nutrition will receive the Barrington Moore Memorial Award in Biological Science by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Since 1955, this annual award recognizes “distinguished individual research in any branch of the biological sciences that has resulted in substantial advances in forestry,” according to a release from the society.

“Being the recipient of this award is indeed very humbling as I reflect back on the previous awardees who have made lasting contributions to the field of forest science,” Jokela said. “I find it especially gratifying to know that results from our long-term, cooperative research efforts have found strong applications and also contributed to the advancement of sustainable forest management systems used in the South and elsewhere.”

(more …)

Threats Prompt Reallocation of Biotech Education Funds

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida will re-allocate a donation intended to improve the public’s understanding of science after public threats to the researcher. The Monsanto Company donated $25,000 to support the Talking Biotech program, a science communication effort that provided on-campus workshops to train scientists about how to engage the public on agricultural biotechnology. The university will reallocate the funds to the campus food pantry.

The program is run by Kevin Folta, professor and chairman of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Horticultural Sciences Department, and a recognized leader in bringing science to the public. Since Monsanto’s donation to the program became widely visible in a recent Nature article, Folta has experienced baseless, damaging allegations and received comments that could be construed as threats.

“I’m teaching a science that opponents of ag biotech (GMO) do not want taught,” Folta said, “Everything I teach comes from a scientific consensus and support of the literature, and sometimes it does not mesh with the beliefs promoted by TV doctors, activists advocating a single perspective, and those who profit from manufacturing food fear.”

Folta has no relationship with Monsanto in research or teaching. The funds allowed UF to administer the costs associated with the outreach program accrued when Folta volunteers his time to promote science communication across the nation.

The decision to reallocate the funds came when his home address and other personal information appeared among comments on Facebook.   Obscene, inflammatory posts also appeared on Craigslist, presumably with the intent to incite local violent action.

“This never was a discussion of my research or the science I speak about,” Folta said. “This has now turned into a threatening situation for my students and family, and I cannot risk harm to my lab or home.”

“This has taught me that this is not about what is true, it is how it is perceived, and to many a donation automatically means the company has some influence on my work when there was not,” Folta said.   “The discussion has gone to an extreme level that is frightening.”

“I had an established, effective program that a company wanted to support,” Folta said. “Science can benefit from corporate partnerships to foster efforts of scientific literacy, and that helps all of us.” Folta does not know the future of the program as some of the donation has already been spent on outreach. He says he’ll fill in those costs personally, and IFAS has also offered to assist covering costs.   ” We’ll return the funds and make this happen another way.”

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Kevin Folta, 352-273-4812, kfolta@ufl.edu

 

New mobile site gives info on water policies, research

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Florida — Need information about water policies in a pinch? A new program from the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education helps people access and decipher complicated policy information in the palm of your hand.

The PIE Center’s Policy Extension Program, a mobile-friendly website found at piecenter.com/pep, features several tools that help residents understand Florida water policies and provide thoughtful questions that can encourage conversations about water. Users can find information on seven state and federal policies:

  • Basin Management Action Plans
  • Total Maximum Daily Loads
  • Florida Spring Initiative
  • Water Quality Assurance Act
  • Safe Drinking Water Act
  • Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
  • Clean Water Act

In addition to the policy information, users can search a comprehensive library of UF/IFAS research into water issues from the PIE Center, the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, the UF Water Institute and EDIS documents.

PIE Center associate director Alexa Lamm, an assistant professor of agricultural education and communication, developed the mobile site as part of her Wells Fargo Extension Professional and Enhancement Award.

“We truly want this to be a one-stop shop for people wanting to know more about water issues in Florida,” Lamm said. “By taking this complex information and explaining it in a way that more people can understand, the policies can become part of the work people do every day.”

Lamm added that the site includes instructions for visitors to add a shortcut to their smartphone’s home screen. She will discuss the Policy Extension Program at the Extension Professional Associations of Florida conference in early September.

By: Laura Bernheim, 352-273-0793, bernheim@ufl.edu

 

 

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UF/IFAS scientist to spread knowledge at World Avocado Congress

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Jonathan Crane, professor of horticultural sciences, inspecting an avocado tree at the Tropical Research and Education Center.

Please see caption below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With the laurel wilt pathogen threatening the Florida avocado industry, a UF/IFAS tropical fruit scientist will lend his expertise at the World Avocado Congress in September in Lima, Peru.

Jonathan Crane, professor in horticultural sciences, will give an opening presentation titled: “The Potential for Laurel Wilt to Threaten Avocado Production is Real” at the meeting, Sept. 13-18. With this talk, Crane will provide evidence that laurel wilt will spread throughout North America and will pose a threat to native trees and to commercial avocado production.

Later, Crane will present a paper titled: “Current status and control recommendations for laurel wilt and the ambrosia beetle vectors in commercial avocado orchards in South Florida.” Crane co-authored the paper with Daniel Carrillo, assistant professor in entomology; Randy Ploetz, professor in plant pathology; Edward Evans, associate professor in food and resource economics and Aaron Palmateer, associate professor in plant pathology – all of whom work at the UF/IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead. The final co-author is Don Pybas, director of the Florida Avocado Administrative Committee.

Several ambrosia beetle species transmit the laurel wilt pathogen to avocado trees, killing most of them, threatening an industry with a $100 million-a-year economic impact on Florida. The original ambrosia beetle vector of laurel wilt was discovered in the U.S. in Georgia in 2002 and since that time has spread to seven additional states. Laurel wilt has begun to slightly affect commercial avocado production in Florida.

(more …)

Mating with the wrong insect may cut yellow fever mosquito populations

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, RECs, Research

Asian tiger mosquito 082715

Asian tiger mosquito

Yellow fever mosquito 082715

Yellow fever mosquito

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian tiger mosquitoes can drive down yellow fever mosquito populations when the female chooses the wrong male with which to mate, UF/IFAS scientists say. Both insects transmit chikungunya and dengue, dangerous diseases affecting millions of people worldwide.

In a study published this month in the journal Infection, Genetics and Evolution, Post-doctoral Researcher Irka Bargielowski led a team of scientists that conducted field studies in Houston, Texas; Caracas, Venezuela; Franceville, Gabon and Singapore, Malaysia.

They studied mating between the Asian tiger and yellow fever mosquitoes and found that it in the wild, avoidance mechanisms evolved in yellow fever mosquitoes, Bargielowski said. That finding may help scientists predict population changes of the two mosquito populations.

In the current study, about 1 to 3 percent of the mosquitoes mated in the wild, said Bargielowski, who works at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

“Model predictions, however, show that the rates we detected in the field are likely high enough to drive ecological change, such as reducing populations,” she said.

(more …)

UF food pantry grand opening set for Sept. 1

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida will hold a grand opening on Sept. 1 for the Field and Fork Food Pantry. The event will take place at 10 a.m. at Newell Drive, west of the Food Science and Human Nutrition building.

The food pantry will offer members of the UF community healthy, nutritious food free of charge, said Anna Prizzia, campus food systems coordinator. Currently, there are plans to offer fresh produce, non-perishable foods, canned goods and toiletries.

The university will grow food at the UF Community Farm to stock coolers with fresh produce, said Jack Payne, UF’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “We’ll offer student-led classes in cooking, nutrition and budgeting so that we don’t just slake hunger but promote self-sufficiency,” he said.

The pantry will help stop hunger at the university, Payne said. “One in 10 University of Florida students reports going hungry at times. Among students from low-income families, the hunger rate is twice that,” Payne said. “The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has recast the starving student cliché as a serious policy issue: Hunger as a barrier to higher education.”

Other land-grant institutions have also opened food pantries, Payne said. The University of Georgia opened a student food pantry in 2011. Louisiana State University opened one in 2013.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Anna Prizzia, 352-294-2208, aprizzia@ufl.edu

Citrus Health Management Areas staving off greening with coordinated pesticide spraying

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Entomology and Nematology, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

An Asian citrus psyllid feeds on a citrus tree, leaving the citrus greening bacteria. The bacteria will starve the tree of nutrients and eventually kill it.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — What’s a little pesticide among neighbors?  For Florida citrus growers, it could mean saving their trees that are under attack from the virulent citrus greening bacterium threatening to destroy the state’s $10.7 billion industry.

Entomologist Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, is telling growers that one of the best approaches to managing citrus greening is to control the insect that spreads this disease. And the best way to do that is by coordinating their pesticide applications with their neighbors. (more …)

UF/IFAS faculty: Too much fresh water used to water lawns

Topic(s): Uncategorized

Elizabeth A. Felter (Liz), Extension Agent II, M.A., Mid-Florida REC - Apopka, Marketing & Communications. UF/IFAS Photo by: Sally Lanigan.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Floridians may be using too much fresh water to quench their lawns as water becomes more scarce.

A recent study conducted with homeowners in central Florida found that, on average, 64 percent of the drinking water used by homes went to irrigation. In the summer months, this percentage increased to 88 percent. As the population increases, conservation of fresh water becomes increasingly important.

The Special Issue Section of the current Technology and Innovation – Journal of the National Academy of Inventors (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/cog/ti/2015/00000017/f0020001) focuses on challenges to fresh water from environmental changes and from the human population.

Florida homeowners—ready and willing to comply with government agency-imposed lawn watering restrictions—want to conserve water, although many are confused about how to conserve water.  At the same time, many homeowners are also required to have perfect, green lawns or risk being penalized by their Home Owner’s Associations (HOAs).

What is a homeowner to do?

In a study entitled “It’s Going to Take More Innovation than Technology to Increase Water Conservation Practices,” researchers from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences examined the perceptions of homeowners in Orange County, Florida who have automated irrigation systems and looked deeply into their water conservation knowledge and practices.

“The purpose of [our] study was to examine the perceptions of homeowners…who have automated irrigation systems [about] the use of norms that could be employed to reduce water used for lawn care,” said study co-author Liz Felter, Extension faculty in commercial horticulture at UF/IFAS.

The researchers also looked at the role of “social marketing” efforts to encourage people to conserve water, the barriers to water conservation, and how peer pressure might be involved in successfully implementing water conservation measures. They wanted to know what barriers might exist to increasing water conservation even when community- based social marketing (CBSM) was employed to encourage conservation.

 

In evaluating the barriers to conservation, the researchers found that several themes emerged from discussions.  “One of the major themes to emerge from the focus groups was a lack of knowledge on how to care for the grass,” explained Felter. Some sub-themes included confusion about watering restriction days, an inability to use the timer correctly, and pressure from the HOA to water excessively to achieve perfect grass.

In evaluating norms of water use, a major theme was a desire on the part of the homeowners to abide by the watering restrictions. This theme was counterpoint to not wanting to risk being penalized by their HOA if their lawns were not “perfect.”

Emerging from this study is the conclusion that “the largest barrier [to conservation], pressure from the HOA to have perfect grass by watering excessively, will have to be addressed,” Felter said. “Even with the proper information and the ability to perform the new skills needed to reduce their water use, participants were concerned about repercussions from the HOA.”

In response to this dilemma, the researchers suggested that state water regulation officials and HOA representatives meet to help with planning future water needs and use. They also concluded that community-based social marketing is a good approach for encouraging residents to increase their water conservation practices.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

Source: Liz Felter, 407-254-9203, lfelter@ufl.edu

 

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