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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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; email@example.com.
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; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
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.
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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Want to know what that weird palm is growing in your backyard? How about that scraggy tree? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new book coming out that will help: “Trees: North and Central Florida,” a photographic field guide of 140 native, introduced and invasive trees and palms in North and Central Florida.
Andrew Koeser , a co-author and assistant professor of urban tree and landscape management at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said he wrote the book as an ID guide for people to be able to take with them into the field.
“I want this to be a book where people can just take it out with them. Any tree they see in North and Central Florida, there’s a high probability that it will be in that book,” Koeser said. “We tried to get the most common trees in North and Central Florida.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Forest managers would prefer to use prescribed burns every few years to help prevent costly wildfires and rebuild unhealthy ecosystems, but hurdles like staffing, budget, liability and new development hinder them, a new University of Florida study shows.
Fighting wildfires is costly. The U.S. government now spends about $2 billion a year just to stop them, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. That’s up from $239 million in 1985.
Leda Kobziar, an associate professor of fire science and forest conservation in UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, led a web-based survey of 523 public and private land managers across Region 8 of the U.S. Forest Service, which consists of 13 Southern states, including Florida. She and her colleagues wanted to see whether front-line experts think prescribed burns prevent wildfires and maintain vegetation and healthy ecosystems. And if they do, what are the circumstances under which such burns work best.
As it turns out, prescribed burns should be done every few years to prevent wildfires or reduce their severity, depending on weather and the type of ecosystem land managers are trying to protect, according to the survey.