GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When you think of wildfires, you may not think of wetlands. But the seldom-seen blazes may help some endangered species, according to a newly published study by a former UF/IFAS researcher.
Severe wetland fires — so rare they occur only a few times per century – also can change vegetation and patterns of water movement, said Adam Watts, who led the study as a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
During a smoldering fire, wetlands can become deeper if the fires burn muck or peat soils.
“In some cases, this could help improve habitat for endangered species, such as wood storks,” said Watts, now a research assistant professor at the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. But wetland fires can also kill many trees and shrubs, causing changes to the vegetation that returns.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time you take a stroll through the woods here in Gainesville, you might want to look down – you could be walking on an undiscovered species of fungus.
University of Florida post-doctoral researcher Keisuke Obase did just that recently, finding the newly named Cladophialophora floridana, in honor of the state, at Split Rock Conservation Area and C. tortuosa at Bivens Arm Nature Park. The discoveries have been accepted for publication in the journal Mycoscience. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two former doctoral students from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are running a genetics startup company in Gainesville and recently were recognized by Gov. Rick Scott as “Young Entrepreneurs.”
Marcio Resende said he came up with the idea for RAPiD Genomics while in Brazil due to a demand from a forestry company that needed someone to do some genotyping for them. Several factors, including costs, kept him from pursuing the notion.
But when he came to the United States to pursue his doctorate, he started talking to Leandro Gomide Neves, a fellow doctoral student, and Matias Kirst, a professor of forest genomics at UF/IFAS. They decided to open RAPiD Genomics. At the same time, they teamed up with some colleagues to invent a genotyping method, which gave them extra motivation to pursue the idea of opening a business.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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.
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; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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; email@example.com.