University of Florida

Three Florida Sea Grant rapid-response projects target oil spill’s effects on Gulf

Topic(s): Environment, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Floridians brace for more crude oil on the state’s coasts, University of Florida researchers are racing to complete several newly funded projects that will help assess the magnitude of damage done by the spill.

One will look at an organism that is a sentinel for the ocean’s health and an important delicacy for Floridians and tourists: the oyster.

The Gulf of Mexico is home to some of the world’s largest expanses of healthy oyster habitat, but these resources may be threatened by rising sea levels, and now, the oil spill.

Researchers pushed their study of oyster reefs along Florida’s Big Bend area into high gear following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, said Peter Frederick, a wetlands ecology research professor.

The study near Cedar Key is one of three projects supported by Florida Sea Grant’s Rapid Response grant program, meant to help researchers quickly tackle environmental problems posed by the oil spill. Florida Sea Grant is a UF-hosted ocean and coastal science program that works closely with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. (more …)

Fed-up fish consumers say they’d spend more to be assured of grouper authenticity

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Not much in life beats a fresh grouper sandwich enjoyed with a cold beer and an ocean view.

But that experience is far less fun when consumers discover they’re paying a restaurant for fresh, locally caught grouper, yet eating farm-raised fish from thousands of miles away.

And sometimes they never do find out.

University of Florida researchers report in the current issue of Marine Resource Economics that 57 percent of the seafood-eating adults they surveyed would pay more if a labeling program guaranteed that sandwiches and other items contained fresh grouper caught in Florida.

The survey of 400 consumers was meant to show fishermen how much awareness there is about the knockoff-fish problem and whether a labeling program might be worth a closer look, said Chuck Adams, a professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Sea Grant program.

“Basically we found that yes, people were aware of it, and we found that it had, in fact, affected their purchasing of seafood,” he said.

The Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation paid for the $40,000 study, said Sherry Larkin, an associate professor in resource economics also with IFAS. Graduate student Andrew Ropicki worked on the survey as well.

(more …)

UF/IFAS study takes look at native pollinators

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Green Living, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ask a regular Joe on the street what he knows about bees, and he’ll no doubt believe you to be talking about the kind brought to the U.S. long ago from Europe for honey-making purposes.

Ask University of Florida postdoctoral researcher Akers Pence, and he’ll tell you all about different kinds of bees – those native to North America – how they’ve rarely been studied, how critical they are but how little is known about them.

To that end, Pence is directing the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences’ portion of a five-year study of native pollinators. Specifically, the study will try to determine the most effective ways to attract the native pollinators, keep them around, and encourage them to pollinate Florida’s crops.

The study, part of a larger effort called Operation Pollinator, has been supported with a $160,000 grant for its first year by Syngenta and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and includes research partners at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis. The effort is aimed at evaluating native pollinators, especially bees, as pollinators of agricultural crops.

Today marks the start of National Pollinator Week, which runs through June 27. Events are being held across the country to draw attention to their value and their plight.

Efforts to study the native pollinators are especially timely because honey bees, long considered the “heavy lifters” among pollinators in modern agriculture, have been declining at an alarming rate, Pence said.

Researchers all over the country have been working to find the causes behind Colony Collapse Disorder, which has caused widespread bee die-offs since late 2006.

(more …)

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