University of Florida

John Gray lecturer to discuss ‘the speed of need’ for natural resource sustainability

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Green Living

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of science’s greatest strengths can also be one of its most profound hindrances, Carlton Owen says.

“Scientists tend to be patient and methodical people,” Owen said. “But we live in a world that’s moving faster than our research – a world that’s operating on the steroids of climate change and explosive population growth. Science is the key to solving these problems, but we have to find ways to make it work faster.”

Owen is president and CEO of the U.S. Endowment for? Forestry & Communities Inc., a $200 million entity with a mission to support sustainable forestry and forest-reliant communities. The endowment was created out of the 2006 Softwood Lumber Agreement between the U.S. and Canada, designed to create a stable trade environment for the softwood lumber industry.

On June 2, as part of the John Gray Distinguished Lecture Series, Owen will present a lecture entitled, “Natural Resources Sustainability: Operating at the Speed of Need.”

“Through prioritizing policy and taking advantage of new technology, we need to push research that would take 30 to 50 years, and help turn it into something closer to a three-year effort,” Owen said. “Part of the endowment’s mission is to find out how to make that happen.”

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UF study finds Miami’s soils are ‘heavily contaminated’ with vehicle-exhaust pollutants

Topic(s): Pollution, RECs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida study has revealed that soil in urban Miami has high amounts of 16 pollutants commonly found in vehicle exhaust that have been linked to respiratory, immunological, neurological and other diseases.

According to the study, published in the current issue of Soil and Sediment Contamination, the concentration of these pollutants is higher than that found in other large cities, including Chicago, London and Helsinki. However, they are lower than in New Orleans and Detroit.

The studied spanned just over 55 square miles of the Miami area with more than 85 percent of the surface covered by parking lots, streets, large buildings, shopping centers, houses and other impervious structures.

“We expected to find these high amounts,” said Gurpal Toor, a researcher with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “This is the first preliminary study of these chemical levels in this area, and it confirms what everyone suspected.”

The pollutants, 16 types of chemicals known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs, have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “priority pollutants”—those that are both common and toxic.  (more …)

UF researchers: folate helps repair damage linked to aging and disease

Topic(s): Families and Consumers, Nutrition, Research

Caption at end of story. Click image for full resolution.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For more than half a century, scientists have known the importance of folate for good health, especially for expectant mothers. But now, researchers at the University of Florida have discovered an entirely new role the vitamin plays in maintaining health: it helps moderate oxidative stress, which is linked to aging and disease.

Moreover, the researchers found that folate, through an intermediary protein, plays this role in virtually every living thing on the planet.

This is more evidence that folate has likely been an important element to survival on Earth for billions of years, said Andrew Hanson, a biochemist with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“This heretofore hidden role has likely been with us since the dawn of life,” said Hanson, who designed and led the study along with researchers Valérie de Crécy-Lagard, Jeffrey Waller and Jesse Gregory. “I think it illustrates just how much more biochemistry is left to learn about ourselves and the life around us.”

The team’s findings, published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, represent the first new role for folate uncovered in more than a decade.

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The nose knows: UF to help train experts in sniffing out oil spill-contaminated seafood

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To keep consumers safe from seafood that could be tainted by the Gulf oil spill, regulatory officials will rely on an incredibly sophisticated, delicate tool: the human nose.

Next month, University of Florida researchers will help government seafood inspectors learn to use their sense of smell to evaluate seafood products harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. The training is meant to keep consumers from eating seafood tainted with oil spilled in the water following the April 20 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon offshore drilling rig.

Seafood harvested in the Gulf may have ingested the water-soluble chemicals, making it dangerous for human consumption.

Scientific instruments can perform the same task but take much longer to get results, said University of Florida professor Steve Otwell, who has led UF’s professional seafood sensory school since it began in 1995. The instruments can only run about 20 to 30 samples in a week, and at a cost of $700 per sample, are expensive.

Those instruments rely on electronic recognition signals and can detect chemicals in much smaller concentrations, down to parts per billion. But the nose can quickly detect levels that are considered unhealthy—and when it comes to getting seafood from the ocean to a diner’s plate, the clock never stops ticking.

“Sensory analysis can be a very powerful tool,” said Otwell, a professor of food science and human nutrition with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “And it can be recognized for regulatory purposes. But only if you are trained to do it and it’s proven that you have the ability to do it.”

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