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University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Most homeowners can’t properly assess damage to their trees

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time a storm tears up your yard, let an expert assess the damage to any trees. A study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that homeowners perceive the risk of a damaged tree differently than trained professionals.

The survey of tree experts and homeowners in the Tampa Bay area assessed the perceptions of both groups when it came to assessing tree damage, said Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor in environmental horticulture and study author.

“While there are a number of factors tied to tree risk, most respondents were fixated on tree defects,” Koeser said. “Only experienced professionals considered other pertinent factors—namely whether the tree was actually a threat to a person, vehicle or house.”

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UF/IFAS landscape management researcher named Early Career Scientist by global tree group

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research

Koeser tree award 091415 (1)

Andrew Koeser

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A UF/IFAS scientist, who has helped design a tree risk-management app and is co-writing tree identification books, has been named as a co-recipient of the International Society of Arboriculture’s Early Career Scientist Award.

The award is given to professionals showing exceptional promise in arboriculture research.

Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor in environment horticulture at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Baum, is also a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.

One of Koeser’s projects is a mobile app for risk-assessment data collection and mapping. He is also co-writing a series of tree identification books unique to the different regions of Florida.

Koeser hopes his research enhances efforts to improve risk-assessment and storm response processes. The app project is designed to give cities an easy and efficient means of taking inventory and assessing the safety of their trees. Should a severe storm hit, the data collected will help managers more quickly estimate debris levels for cleanup.

“My research in tree risk assessment carries on the goal of enhancing current efforts being made to improve assessment processes,” said Koeser, a faculty member with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “I think the app project has the potential to gather user data needed in order to make reasonable assessments of potential tree failure.”

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UF/IFAS forestry professor earns top global award

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Eric Jokela and a UF researcher measuring the growth of a tree.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After three decades of outstanding forestry research, A UF/IFAS professor will receive one of the top global awards in his field.

Eric J. Jokela, a professor of silviculture – managing and producing better forests — and forest nutrition will receive the Barrington Moore Memorial Award in Biological Science by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Since 1955, this annual award recognizes “distinguished individual research in any branch of the biological sciences that has resulted in substantial advances in forestry,” according to a release from the society.

“Being the recipient of this award is indeed very humbling as I reflect back on the previous awardees who have made lasting contributions to the field of forest science,” Jokela said. “I find it especially gratifying to know that results from our long-term, cooperative research efforts have found strong applications and also contributed to the advancement of sustainable forest management systems used in the South and elsewhere.”

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UF/IFAS scientists study how, why butterflies survive fires

Topic(s): Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Research

Butterfliefs - adult frosted elfin 061215Butterflies - adult atala 061215Butterflies - burn experiment 061215

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deciding how often and when to use prescribed fire can be tricky, especially when managing for rare butterflies, University of Florida scientists say.

That realization stems from a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural study in which researchers experimented with pupae — insects in their immature form between larvae and adults — of butterflies known to frequent fire-prone habitats of Florida.

Prescribed burns and wildfires can damage animals and plants in their paths. But they can also promote species and create habitat, maintaining the ecological balance of the forest and the region’s most frequent natural disturbance over the long term. Immature butterflies may die immediately following controlled burns, but populations can recover over time, with the amount of time depending on the species.

Scientists are concerned that butterflies with small, isolated populations may be in severe peril if their habitats are burned too frequently and in large blocks at a time, which can mean that butterfly refugia – unburned areas that provide refuge — are limited.

In the UF/IFAS study, scientists wanted to know how and why some butterflies survive wildfires and prescribed burns, particularly where the insect feeds and lays eggs on fire-adapted plants.

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UF/IFAS forest genetics expert Kirst leads team receiving four-year, $2 million grant

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Forestry, IFAS, New Technology, Research


Matias Kirst.  Assistant Professor, PhD.  Quantitative Genetics.  School of Forest Resources and Conservation.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

Matias Kirst. Associate Professor, PhD. Quantitative Genetics. School of Forest Resources and Conservation. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Agricultural science could make huge leaps forward if scientists had reliable ways to examine seeds and accurately predict the physical characteristics of the fully grown plants that would result.

University of Florida forest genetics expert Matias Kirst leads a multi-institution academic team that recently obtained a four-year, $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop better methods of predicting the traits spawned by individual genes and groups of genes in plants, in this case the Eastern cottonwood tree, Populus deltoides.

“We’re thrilled that our previous work in this area has put us in a position to win this critical grant to help us bridge some important gaps in trait prediction,” said Kirst, an associate professor with the UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or UF/IFAS.

The grant award provides more proof that the UF/IFAS forest genetics program is among the best in the world, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Matias Kirst is one of our bright stars in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “This grant will support world-class scientific investigation that could make it much faster and easier to determine which new crop cultivars have commercial potential or other significant value.”

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UF/IFAS study: Non-native grass invasion, prescribed fires, deadly ecological combination

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Forestry, Green Living, Invasive Species, Research


INVASIVE BURNS 051115 from Flory

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive stiltgrass is bad enough by itself, crowding out native plant and insect species in about 25 eastern U.S. states, including Florida. It can also inhibit tree seedling survival and growth, and it can change the availability of nitrogen in the soil.

In general, invasions of non-native plant species can reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems. In 2013, 1,585 prescribed fires were used to burn about 290,000 acres in eight eastern U.S. states. Scientists have used prescribed fires to effectively control some invasive plants, but new evidence suggests fires may promote stiltgrass invasions.

If land managers perform prescribed fires — normally used to manage ecosystems and prevent wildfires – in stiltgrass-invaded areas, native trees can be killed by the more intense fires caused by burning stiltgrass, said Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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UF/IFAS experts available for 2015 hurricane season

Topic(s): Crops, Disaster Preparedness, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry, IFAS, Weather

Videos available:


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The following University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences sources are available to speak to news media about a range of storm- and hurricane-related topics:

Hurricane and other natural disaster preparation: Mike Spranger, a professor in family, youth and community sciences, can give tips on how to prepare for any kind of natural disaster. He adapted a Gulfwide version of the Homeowners Handbook to Prepare for Natural Hazards for Florida residents. The book has basic background on tornados, tropical storms, hurricanes, floods and wildfires, and covers everything from hurricane clips to what to keep in your pantry and what to take with you during an evacuation. 352-273-3557; spranger@ufl.edu.

Rebuilding/maintaining sand dunes: Deborah Miller, a professor of wildlife ecology and conservation based at UF’s West Florida Research and Education Center in Milton, has studied the best ways to rebuild sand dunes destroyed by hurricanes. 850-983-7128, ext. 104; dlmi@ufl.edu.

Tree protection: Ed Gilman, a professor with the environmental horticulture department, is an expert in tree health and storm damage to trees. He can address topics such as mitigation efforts, restoring trees following storms, tree replacement, pruning methods to reduce damage potential, preventive pruning to protect homes and other personal property, and evaluation of tree health after hurricanes. 352-262-9165; egilman@ufl.edu.

Hurricane effects on Florida agriculture: Jonathan Crane, a professor and tropical-fruit crop specialist at UF’s Tropical Research & Education Center in Homestead, has studied how hurricanes affect Florida agriculture. His research covers damage to fruit crops and to grove infrastructure such as irrigation systems due to high winds and flooding. 305-246-7001, ext. 290; jhcr@ufl.edu.

Hurricanes and pets/farm animals: John Haven directs the UF College of Veterinary Medicine’s All Animals, All Hazards Disaster Response Team and has participated in animal care operations related to hurricanes, fires and disease outbreaks. After leading the college’s responses to Hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Jeanne, he organized this formal veterinary emergency response team consisting of faculty, staff and students. He is a member of the State Agriculture Response Team, coordinator for the State Veterinary Reserve Corps disaster response team, and an Incident Command System Instructor. 352-294-4254, ext. 3154; havenj@ufl.edu.



UF/IFAS researchers find a “silver bullet” to kill a fungus that affects more than 400 plants and trees

Topic(s): Crops, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Research

Phytophthora 050515

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deep in the soil, underneath your pretty trees, shrubs, plants and vegetables, lurks a fungus lethal to all of them. But University of Florida plant pathologist G. Shad Ali has a tiny silver bullet to kill it.

Ali and a team of researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, along with the University of Central Florida and the New Jersey Institute of Technology, have found that silver nanoparticles produced with an extract of wormwood, can stop several strains of the fungus phytophthora dead in its tracks.

Phytophthora attacks the leaves and roots of more than 400 plants and tree varieties – everything from tomato plants to oak trees – threatening the Florida’s $15 billion-a-year ornamental horticulture industry.

“The silver nanoparticles are extremely effective in eliminating the fungus in all stages of its life cycle,” Ali said. “In addition, it had no adverse effects on plant growth.”

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6 UF/IFAS faculty named as Research Foundation professors

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biofuels, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Forestry, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Livestock, New Technology, RECs, Research

Robert Fletcher photographed for the 2011 FAES Awards.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler JonesRESEARCHFOUNDATION - Danyluk 041015Jim Jones (left), Bin Gao (seated), and Pratap Pullammanappallil.  Innovation Awards Portrait.  UF/IFAS File Photo.Zhenli He. Associate Professor, Soil and Water Science.Jose SantosRESEARCHFOUNDATION - Peter 041015
Pictured top (left to right) Robert Fletcher, Michelle Danyluk and Bin Gao; second row (left to right) Zhenli He, Jose Eduardo Santos and Gary Peter.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, who are trying to solve global issues like food safety and environmental sustainability, have been named as UF Research Foundation Professors for 2015-18.

The recognition goes to faculty who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda that’s likely to continue to distinguish them in their fields.

“When I look at the breadth of research exemplified by these talented scientists, I am reminded of the complexity and breadth of the IFAS mission, and how fortunate we are to have people of such high caliber working in a university that places such a high value on research and invests so heavily in the research enterprise,” said Doug Archer, UF/IFAS associate dean of research.

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UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation Spring Celebration set for April 10-11

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Forestry, IFAS

Austin Cary Learning Center small

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC) holds its annual Spring Celebration, there’s plenty of focus on the School’s storied past, but the event also salutes current students, their achievements and future aspirations, said Tim White, SFRC director and a professor with the School, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The two-day event, scheduled for April 10-11, is part social gathering and part scientific symposium, welcoming all SFRC personnel, students and alumni, supporters and friends, he said. All three of SFRC’s academic divisions take part in the Celebration – Forest Resources and Conservation; Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Geomatics, which includes surveying, map making and other disciplines involving geographic information.

“This is our one opportunity each year to bring together everyone connected with the School,” White said. “Spring Celebration is supposed to be inclusive, so we try to offer something for everybody.”

Events this year include a barbecue, 5K run, trap and skeet shooting competition, displays and demonstrations, and an awards ceremony for students and alumni, he said. Much of the activity will take place at the school’s new Austin Cary Learning Center, dedicated in April 2014.

For more information and to register for events, visit http://sfrc.ufl.edu/about/events/sc/.

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