University of Florida

Recreational fish-catch data can help save money in monitoring invasive largemouth bass

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research


In this photo released by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, fisheries ecologist Mike Allen, right, discusses largemouth bass research with graduate student Bobby Harris, at a private pond near Hawthorne, Fla. — Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Harris was about to enter the water in search of nesting bass. Allen recently published a study showing bass populations seldom benefit when lakes are closed to fishing during spawning season. (AP photo/University of Florida/IFAS/Tyler Jones)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.

Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.

UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.

They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.

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Master Gardeners’ continued training conference scheduled for Kissimmee in October

Topic(s): Extension, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables
Master Gardeners teaching and working with youth in a garden.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Has your green thumb reached the master level?  The University of Florida’s 34th Florida Master Gardener Conference for continued training is scheduled for Oct. 18-21 at Kissimmee’s Embassy Suites at Lake Buena Vista South. Organizers are encouraging all active Florida Master Gardeners to sign up for early registration. (more …)

UF/IFAS study: Muscadine grape seed oil may help reduce obesity

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Muscadine grape seed oil supplies a form of Vitamin E, giving scientists another clue to reducing obesity, a new University of Florida study shows.

The oil may help mitigate the formation of new fat cells because it produces tocotrienol, an unsaturated form of Vitamin E, said Marty Marshall, a UF professor of food science and human nutrition.

“Thus, consuming foods made with muscadine grape seed oil could curtail weight gain by reducing obesity,” Marshall said.

Muscadine grape seed oil would be a valuable addition to the market of edible oils because it is a unique source of tocotrienol in addition to being a good source of mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids, Marshall said. In addition, scientists anticipate that muscadine grape seed oils fortified with additional tocotrienol from underutilized muscadine varieties could be developed to help stem obesity.

Before this study, scientists attributed most tocotrienol benefits to red palm and rice bran oil. In fact, recent studies have shown that rice bran oil helps lower cholesterol. With the new findings, muscadine grape seed oil could be considered a superior source of tocotrienol, said Marshall, a faculty member at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS invasives research facility likely to close

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.

An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.

The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.

The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.

Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.

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UF CALS faculty, former students take home NACTA awards

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty and former students won numerous awards recently at the 61st Annual Conference of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA).

“The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has a long tradition of excellence in teaching. NACTA provides a forum where our outstanding faculty are recognized for their contributions to teaching and student development,” said college Dean Elaine Turner.

NACTA Educator Awards went to:

  • Jane Bachelor, a senior lecturer in food and resource economics at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
  • Kate Fletcher, a lecturer in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Muthusami Kumaran, an assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Bob McCleery, an associate professor in wildlife ecology and conservation.
  • Karla Shelnutt, an associate professor in family, youth and community sciences.

The NACTA Teaching Scholar Award went to Nicole Stedman, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication.

Recent doctoral graduate Cathy DiBenedetto won the NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award for her work in agricultural education and communication.

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State budget renews, eliminates vital UF/IFAS programs

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences received good and bad news in the final budget passed by the Florida Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott.

The state budget gives UF/IFAS funding for its ongoing operations and the resources to hire much needed faculty, some who were cut in previous budgets.  Funding was also appropriated for specific projects including $1 million for the beef teaching unit; $1 million for the Southwest Florida Research and Education Center; and $2 million for research on the deer population.

“We are grateful to the Legislature for providing IFAS with $5.5 million to restore about 40 science jobs cut during the recession, and $1 million to combat citrus greening,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for Agriculture and Natural Resources at UF/IFAS. “The legislature really acknowledged IFAS as the research arm of the $140 billion commercial agriculture industry.”

Meanwhile, cuts to the IFAS quarantine center at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce mean the program will likely end, Payne said. The legislature had approved an $180,000 increase—the first since 2004. But Scott cut all funding, $720,000, for the quarantine facility.

The potential loss of the Fort Pierce quarantine facility, the only invasive exotic quarantine facility in Florida, is heartbreaking, Payne said. Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, he said.

The quarantine lab has played an important role in curbing invasive species in Florida. For example, researchers at the facility helped control the invasive weed, the tropical soda apple, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne explained.

The center was poised to release the first biological control agent against the Brazilian peppertree, which is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay. The tree has moved around the world as an ornamental plant, and in Florida, it has infested nearly 700,000 acres in the central and southern regions. It has been particularly abundant in the Everglades.

In general, the trees take over space where native plants should be. Animals such as white-tailed deer, the Florida panther and migratory birds that depend on native vegetation, such as mangrove, for food and shelter are deprived of that habitat.

According to Payne, the scientists at the quarantine facility also discovered potentially useful biological control agents of highly invasive cogon grass. Both the Brazilian peppertree and cogon grass are critical threats to Florida’s natural ecosystem.

In addition, UF/IFAS lost $300,000 that funds a Water Pollution Study, which looks at the impact of street sweepers on the pollution that runs into storm drains. And, the institute lost $2.5 million that would have slated for a state of the art honeybee research center.

“We will continue to do great work at UF/IFAS, and look forward to working with the governor during the next session to pursue funding for those programs that were not approved,” Payne said.


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


Source: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu


UF/IFAS to host Bee Research Symposium on July 15-16

Topic(s): Agriculture, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS

Honey bees crawling across a bee hive during a Bee College demonstration on grafting. Bees, beekeeping, pollinators, entomology. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is hosting the state’s first ever Bee Research Symposium, on July 15 and 16 at the Austin Cary Memorial Forest Conference Center. Symposium organizers are looking for research papers to discuss.

The meeting will bring together bee researchers and enthusiasts from across the region to discuss topics related to the study of bees, including honey bee colony losses, Africanized honey bees, pollination and native bee contributions to Florida agriculture. (more …)

UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County to Offer Water Quality Tours July 22-24

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Residents who want to know about water quality, conservation and pollution may dive in to the Water Quality Tours offered by the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office. The tours will be July 22 to 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at the Freedom Community Center, 7340 SW 41 Place, Gainesville, Florida 32608.

The tour will provide research-based information about water resources, conservation and best use practices. The tour stops will include urban and springs watersheds, and agricultural operations.

“One of IFAS’s main initiative is to educate people on water quality. We want to educate citizens on water issues, such as urban flow and agricultural flow,” said Cindy Sanders, center director for Extension Alachua County. “We will share best management practices for farmers and city residents. We want to come up with a happy medium where we all work together, urban and rural, to use water wisely.”

The bus will leave each day from the Freedom Community Center at 9 a.m. (Please arrive by 8:45 a.m. for check-in.) Registration fee is $40 for the three-day tour  and includes lunches and bus fee.

Registration will be limited to the first 50 pre-paid registrants. To reserve your seat, please pay in advance to the UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office, 2800 NE 39 Avenue, Gainesville, Florida.

For more information about this program, please call 352-955-2402.

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

Source: Cindy Sanders, 352-955-2402, sanders1@ufl.edu


New Unit Leader of the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit to support UF/IFAS

Topic(s): Uncategorized

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit announced that Abby Powell will join as Unit Leader and will be a contributing graduate faculty member for University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


Powell will further address the natural resource challenges in the State of Florida with her significant experience in Cooperative Research Units and principal research interests in avian ecology, coastal systems and endangered species.Powell will coordinate with the UF/IFAS and the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation to administer wildlife and fishery research grants, and will respond to the research and training needs of graduate students.


Powell’s appointment will “complement and expand [Florida Cooperative’s] capabilities, as well as maintain the synergistic relationship the UF/IFAS Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation has with them,” says Eric Hellgren, Professor and Chair of the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.


As unit leader of the Florida Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Powell will manage the unit’s scientific and administrative operations. Powell said this includes building new partnerships with state, federal, and other conservation agencies and groups.


Mike Allen, associate director of the UF/IFAS Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said he sees opportunities as Powell comes aboard.


“The Florida Co-op Unit has been an excellent mechanism for collaboration between fisheries and wildlife scientists in IFAS,” Allen said. “Abby Powell’s research experience addressing marine bird populations should provide an excellent opportunity to further those efforts and develop innovative research for aquatic systems.”



“Powell is well-positioned to lead Florida Cooperative to solve population, community and ecosystem issues, both natural and those impacted by human activities,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources


Powell starts her new position Sept. 6.




By: Tiffani Stephenson, 352-273-3569, tsteph220@ufl.edu


Sources: Mike Allen, 352-273-3624


Eric Hellgren, 352-846-0552


Jack Payne, 352-392-1971


Abby Powell, 907-474-5505


UF/IFAS Fort Pierce quarantine facility successfully battles invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Crops, Economics, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Bill Overholt and Jim Cuda.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.

With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.

“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”

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