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Topic(s): IFAS

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Florida Extension is a partnership between the University of Florida and Florida A&M University to improve the quality of life for people like you through education. In the coming decade, decisions will be made by Florida Extension that influence you and your community.

We invite you to participate in our Community Input Survey as a way to give your opinions about certain issues that may impact these decisions. (more …)

UF/IFAS citizen scientists find microplastics have big presence in coastal waters

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pollution

A Sea Grant Microplastics training to teach volunteers how to sample water for microplastics in New Smyrna Beach on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Each time you do a load of laundry, you may inadvertently send tiny pieces of plastic to a nearby lake or ocean, according to Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

That’s because when we wash synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and spandex, plastic threads get washed out with the rinse cycle and sent to a wastewater treatment plant, McGuire said. These threads are a kind of microplastic called microfiber. Like all microplastic, microfibers are less than 5 millimeters in size—less than the width of a pencil eraser. Because they are so small, microfibers pass through many filters used in treatment plants and end up in lakes and oceans.

A little over a year ago, McGuire began the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, a citizen science project that has trained volunteers throughout Florida to gather data about microplastics in coastal waters. So far, volunteers have collected and analyzed 770 water samples at 256 locations, McGuire said.

These citizen scientists found an average of eight piece of plastic per sample. 82 percent of plastic found was microfiber, McGuire said.

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UF/IFAS environmental horticulture faculty and CALS students win awards at international conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, RECs

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students and UF/IFAS faculty recently took home several awards at the 41st International Plant Propagators’ Society (IPPS) southern region conference. IPPS is a global network of plant production professionals involved in horticulture research and education.

“It’s important for our students to attend and participate in professional conferences, such as IPPS, because they learn from top experts in the horticulture fields,” said Sandra Wilson, UF/IFAS environmental horticulture professor. “Our students engage in important experiential learning opportunities such as conversing with professors and other experts who have written these students’ college textbooks.”

The following students, faculty and staff received awards at the conference:

Sidney B. Meadows Award of Merit

  • Mack Thetford, environmental horticulture associate professor at UF/IFAS West Florida Research and Education Center.

 

The award recognizes an outstanding individual for his or her contributions to the nursery industry and plant propagation in the Southern region of North America; it is the highest honor bestowed upon a member.

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UF CALS student speaks at the 12th UN Conference of Youth in Morocco

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Conservation, Environment, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rock Aboujaoude Jr., a University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) undergraduate student, presented to more than 2,000 colleagues from around the world at the 12th U.N. Conference of Youth in Marrakesh, Morocco. This international event was held as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in November.

As part of his presentation, the third-year international food and resource economics major discussed his involvement with the nonprofit organization, Campus Climate Corps. Aboujaoude specifically addressed global economic development in regard to climate change. He stressed the importance of being an informed citizen who works with others to impact local and state government.

“I’m very passionate about the subject of climate change, and I believe this is where my future career will be,” said Aboujaoude. “Involvement in opportunities like this is in the interest of making society a better place in which to live.”

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UF/IFAS survey shows homeowners want incentives to conserve more water

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Homeowners with irrigation systems would use less water if they were offered more incentives, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences report.

Most will even pay more for better water quality.

Respondents to a UF/IFAS online survey of 3,000 such homeowners in Florida, Texas and California said reducing the price of water-efficient equipment would be the most effective strategy. That was followed by more practical information on household water conservation, easier identification of water-efficient appliances and better landscape irrigation ordinances.

Additionally, respondents liked the idea of a real-time water use mobile app and more information on the environmental impacts of water conservation.

“We know that informed homeowners are aware and concerned about the environmental consequences of excessive irrigation water use. However, awareness and concern are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions for resource and water conservation.” said Hayk Khachatryan, an assistant professor of food and resource economics and the lead investigator in the survey. “Efforts in promoting the adoption of water-saving irrigation systems and practices will be more successful when environmental conservation measures are combined with economic incentives such as utility or manufacturer rebates on smart irrigation equipment.”

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UF receives mosquito traps for graduate and family housing

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pests

 

Paul Choi from Seoul Viosys meets with Dr. Philip Koehler and University Vilage housing workers to donate mosquito traps, photographed on November 21, 2016.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Department of Housing and Residence Education will receive traps designed to stop mosquitoes in their tracks through a donation from SEOUL VIOSYS, a South Korean-based company.

While there are no cases of locally transmitted zika virus on the UF campus, Gainesville or Alachua County, Sharon Blansett, assistant to the associate vice president for UF student affairs, welcomes the mosquito traps as a virus-prevention measure for students living in graduate and family housing.

“The Department of Housing and Residence Education is happy to receive the mosquito traps to help further protect residents living in graduate and family housing from mosquitoes that could potentially transmit viruses,” said Blansett, whose duties include managing UF student housing. “We do not have a mosquito problem at UF, but it’s great to know we’re getting more help in our continued efforts to keep students safe.”

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Artist named for Seahorse Key artist-in-residence program

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The Cedar Key Artist-in-Residence Program has selected painter Daniel Gottsegen as artist in residence for 2017. Known for his meditative renderings of the natural world, Gottsegen will live and work at the University of Florida Seahorse Key facilities Feb. 12 to 18.

Sponsored by the Cedar Key Arts Center, UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Friends of the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, the artist-in-residence program gives artists the opportunity to draw inspiration from the  natural beauty of the Nature Coast, said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, Florida.

For the last four years, artists in residence have stayed at the Seahorse Key Lighthouse, a pre-Civil War structure that offers excellent views of the key and the Gulf of Mexico. Seahorse Key is also the site of the UF/IFAS Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory, which provides lodging and other resources for researchers studying local wildlife and coastal systems.

“We hope the meeting of art and science in a place such as Seahorse Key will be a fruitful one,” Allen said.

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UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

“I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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UF/IFAS researchers train Southeast growers on new federal food safety act requirements

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Departments, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Safety

Horacio Alvardo, left, and Troy Rumore load 200 boxes of oranges and grapefruit, Thursday DEC-6, 2001,  being shipped from the University of Florida to the families of those who lost their lives in rescue efforts in New York after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. Students in the Gator Citrus Club at UF's College of Agricultural and Life Sciences started the holiday gift drive. Citrus packers from around the state are donating fruit, and members of the public can contribute to the cost of shipping and handling. Gift boxes can be sent to the fire or police department in New York. For additional information, contact the Gator Citrus Club at (352) 392-5653.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers and Extension agents are fanning across the state and the Southeast region to help growers and packers meet new federal food safety guidelines.

Driving across the state to packinghouses, farms and training centers, scientists such as Michelle Danyluk, Keith Schneider and Renee Goodrich are training growers in the latest regulations. “The state is massive, and we are not only tasked with helping Florida farmers meet new safety guidelines, but also are tasked with training educators in the Southeast so they can help growers in their states,” said Schneider, who with his colleagues is in the UF/IFAS department of food science and human nutrition.

Last fall, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released several major rules that comprise the new Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). The federal government has recognized the role of Extension specialists in training programs for key sections such as the Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls for Human Foods Rule, Schneider said.

The University of Florida is one of two institutions that was awarded a $1.2 million grant by USDA in 2015 to help lead such training, Danyluk said. The Southern Training, Education, Extension, Outreach, and Technical Assistance Center to Enhance Produce Safety at UF, led by Danyluk, is one of two regional programs that play a leading role in coordinating and implementing FSMA-related training, education, and outreach programs for small and medium-sized farms, beginning farmers, socially disadvantaged farmers, small processors, and/or small fresh fruit and vegetable merchant wholesalers.

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Hardee County 4-H alumna: Attitude, perseverance are the keys to success

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Livestock

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — One of the most important lessons Destiny McCauley ever learned happened in the show ring: “Never give up, even when you think you’ve lost,” she says.

After the first round of a cattle showmanship competition, McCauley, a long-time Hardee County 4-H member, was put last in the line of contestants, which usually signals a low score, she explained. Thinking she had already lost, McCauley just went through the motions in the second round.

She later found out the judges were testing her resolve. Her placement in the line-up had nothing to do with her score. After the first round, McCauley was in first place, but, after her lackluster second round, she had dropped to third.

Now, as she gets ready to graduate from the University of Western Kentucky with a double major in animal science and communications, that experience in the show ring still impacts the way she faces challenges.

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Habitat for Humanity, UF/IFAS Extension program work together for new homeowners

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As they prepare to be new homeowners with help from Habitat for Humanity, program candidates learn home maintenance, how to save energy and how to get along better with home occupants through the Homeflow program, offered by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

A second Homeflow class will be offered starting Dec. 8, through a partnership with Habitat for Humanity in Jacksonville.

Known as HabiJax, the Jacksonville program is one of the largest in the U.S., having built more than 2,000 homes in the past 28 years, said Randy Cantrell, a UF/IFAS Extension housing and community development specialist. Qualified homebuyers complete educational workshops and hours of “sweat equity” – volunteer hours alongside community volunteers – to help build their own homes and upon completion, purchase their home with an affordable mortgage payment.

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