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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are reaching out to citizen scientists to find nests of the black and yellow mud dauber wasp (Sceliphron caementarium) – also known as the “dirt dauber” — in northeastern Georgia.
“Mud dauber wasps are harmless to humans, but they hunt spiders,” said Lisa Anne Taylor, an assistant research scientist in the UF/IFAS entomology and nematology department. The wasps capture, paralyze and pack spider prey into a mud nest for their offspring to eat. The wasps build their nests under the eaves of homes, barns and bridges, where they are sheltered from the elements.
Scientists hope to use these wasps to help them track the spread of the newly introduced Joro spider in the area.
“The Joro spider is a large, colorful spider from Asia that was discovered in the United States in 2014 by scientists at the University of Georgia,” Taylor said. So far, the spiders have only been recorded in three counties in northeastern Georgia, but researchers suspect they occur even more widely. To help track the spread of this species, Taylor’s group has teamed up with UGA scientists Rick Hoebeke and Robert Matthews.
Tatiana Borisova and Edward “Gilly” Evans
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the food and resource economics department have each been selected for UF/IFAS Extension Professional and Enhancement awards. These awards highlight exceptional UF/IFAS Extension programming, and earn faculty additional funding and program support.
Tatiana Borisova, associate professor and Extension specialist, has been selected for the Wells Fargo Extension Professional Award and Program Enhancement Grant, which recognizes a proposed educational program that responds to a public policy issue.
Borisova, who specializes in water economics and policy, is interested in educating Floridians about water resource management.
“In recent years, changes to water resource laws and regulations have rapidly accelerated in Florida and the U.S.,” said Borisova. “Meanwhile, public knowledge of water laws and regulations is limited. Public participation is vital for development and implementation of water resource management programs.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — About 1.56 million people worked full- or part-time in agriculture, natural resources and food industries in 2014, an increase of about 40,000 workers from 2013, and nearly 29 percent from 2001, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economic report.
Direct employment in the agriculture and natural resources sectors accounted for 13.8 percent of all jobs statewide. Employment in these sectors grew from 1.24 million jobs in 2001 to a peak of 1.34 million in 2008 before the recession, then recovered to 1.56 million in 2014, the latest year for which information is available.
“I would characterize that as modest growth in the industry, although the growth rate was higher before and after the recession (before 2007 and after 2010), and ag-food fared much better during the recession than many other leading industries such as construction and tourism,” said Alan Hodges, Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Growth in economic activity of agriculture, natural resources and related food industries continues to contribute to the stability of the state’s economy.”
BELLE GLADE, Fla. — Want to teach your students the good, the bad and the ugly about plants while incorporating three different sciences? Researchers at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center will lead the second annual workshop, “Don’t Get Caught with Your Plants Down,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 27.
The free workshop will be held at UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center, 3200 East Canal Street, Belle Glade, Florida. Breakfast and lunch will be provided, and in-service points for professional development will be awarded by school districts through Master Inservice Plans (MIP).
This year’s program, developed by the UF/IFAS department of plant pathology, uses resources available from the American Phytopathological Society, said Richard Raid, a professor of plant pathology and workshop organizer. Middle and high school teachers will take back vital information to students on the importance of plants in daily life, he said.
Florida is home to the most invasive species in the country, and many travel in to the state via plants, Raid explained.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Through a curriculum appropriately titled, “Bed Bugs and Book Bags,” students worldwide are learning how to identify bed bugs, where they hide out and much more. The program teaches how to prevent the insects, and a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows the hands-on learning experience works.
The project started in 2012 in Duval County Public Schools and teaches the public how to know if the insect is indeed a bed bug and then how to deal with it. As measured by students’ increased knowledge of bed bugs, the curriculum succeeds in the United State, Canada, Israel and Saudi Arabia, the study shows.
Public knowledge of bed bugs is critical because the insects are coming back.
“Within the past few years, bed bug infestations have dramatically increased and have created major concern for society and for pest management professionals,” said Roberto Pereira, a UF/IFAS associate research scientist in entomology and a lead author on the new study. “They are thought to be the most difficult and expensive insect pests to control in the United States. By being aware of signs of infestation in our daily activities, we all can play our part to prevent spreading these pests.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Santa Fe College have teamed up to manage the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory, an off-shore facility in the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge.
“This collaboration across our campus and between UF and Santa Fe College will increase our capacity for research, Extension and teaching on the Nature Coast,” said Micheal Allen, director of the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station, a research unit located in Cedar Key, Florida. “Our combined efforts will enhance UF’s impact on the local community and its natural resources.”
Seahorse Key is home to a laboratory, marine specimen collection and a pre-Civil War era lighthouse, which has a bunkhouse with 26 beds for overnight stays. The island is also a field site for snake and bird research, Allen said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A recent study led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher found that an insect has evolved metabolically in response to an increase in weather cold snaps.
Daniel Hahn, an associate professor in the entomology and nematology department at UF/IFAS, led a team of researchers from UF, the University of California Berkeley, the University of Alabama-Birmingham and Kansas State University in the study of the fly, Drosophila melanogaster. Researchers found that selection to recover more quickly from cold snaps also drove the evolution of higher metabolic rates.
“While we hear a lot about warmer weather in spring and fall, weather fronts will continue to bring bouts of cold,” said Hahn, whose research focuses on ecological and evolutionary physiology. “This makes the transitions from warm to cold temperatures more extreme, and increases the vulnerability of animals and plants to damage from snap freezes.
“Small animals that rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature—like insects, frogs, and even sea turtles—are also susceptible to stress and even death from extreme cold fronts. We found clear changes in metabolism of the fly as it evolves and adapts to the cold snaps.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As researchers nationwide try to get college students to eat healthier foods, they’re finding that gardening may lead to a lasting habit of eating more fruits and vegetables.
That’s a recent conclusion from the “Get Fruved” project. “Get Fruved,” an acronym for “Get Your Fruits and Vegetables,” is a $4.9 million collaborative project among eight American universities, including the University of Florida. At UF, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is leading the campus study. One of the first steps of the project is to better understand what factors predict and influence the health behaviors of college and high school students.
A new study from Get Fruved shows if college students gardened as a child or use their green thumbs now, chances are they will eat more fruits and vegetables than those who don’t.
“This finding is particularly relevant, given the recent popularity of school gardens and farm-to-school projects,” said Anne Mathews, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition and lead author of the study.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Long before she joined the Jackson County 4-H Livestock Club, Caitlin Caudill liked to pretend she was a veterinarian, treating her teddy bear or stuffed cow for a make-believe illness or injury. When she turned 11 and got her first real cow—a Charolais heifer—she already had a passion for the livestock industry and caring for animals.
That passion was on full display when Caudill, now 15, recently competed to become the new Florida junior beef ambassador.
To be selected, Caudill had to demonstrate both her public speaking skills and knowledge of the beef industry. The day-long competition included a mock media interview, a product promotion scenario and a presentation to group of would-be consumers.
“I was super nervous at the beginning, but then when I began the competition, my nerves went away because I knew I had to be confident in myself,” Caudill said. “I was so excited when I won!”