IFAS News

University of Florida

UF CALS student wins regional award for mosquito research and leadership in the entomology field

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

Casey Parker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.

Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.

The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”

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UF/CALS student earns university-wide dissertation fellowship

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Ph.D. student received the university-wide Emerging STEM Scholar Award at the 2017 Women’s History Month Awards on March 1. The honor is part of the Association for Academic Women Graduate Student Awards.

Entomology and nematology student Vanessa Dias came to UF from Bahia, Brazil after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) awarded her a fellowship to conduct research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab on UF’s campus. While in the U.S., Vanessa was awarded a four-year scholarship from the Brazilian government through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel Foundation to pursue her Ph.D. at UF. Dias’ research involves improvements to the sterile insect technique that reduces the need for pesticide use on crops and makes the technique available at an affordable cost.

The award Dias earned is named after Madelyn Lockhart, who served as the Dean of the UF Graduate School and Dean of International Studies and Programs between 1985 and 1993. Dias said she is grateful for the award. Recipients are provided up to $2,000 annually to assist in the dissertation phase of the doctoral degree.

“Through CALS I have learned a sense of responsibility,” Dias said. “The university gives me the opportunity to complete research on a large scale – research that can change the world indeed. In CALS, we are well prepared to do any research we want to pursue. We can affect other cultures in a positive way.”

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Neighboring termite colonies re-invade; expose themselves to deadly bait

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, RECs, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Even after an insecticide bait weakens Formosan subterranean termites, a neighboring colony will invade the same area and meet the identical lethal fate, new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences research shows.

The research finding is key for a pest that accounts for much of the $32 billion annual cost caused by subterranean termites worldwide.

“The good news for a homeowner is that as soon as the colony is weakened by baits, the neighboring colony would immediately invade its tunneling system, discover the baits and consume them,” said UF/IFAS entomology professor Nan-Yao Su, co-author of the study. “This always results in the elimination of the invading colony. The results showed that as long as the baits are still present in the bait stations, they will continue to intercept and eliminate incoming colonies.”

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‘Gloom’ and doom when these insects are on hot, dry red maple trees

Topic(s): Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Pests, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — They are known as gloomy scales, and these insects can make a red maple tree’s life downright dreary. This is because the arthropods feed and thrive on them, especially in warm and dry urban landscapes, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Melanaspis tenebricosa, or gloomy scale insects, reproduce more, especially when the trees they live on are under the stress of heat and drought, according to new study led by UF/IFAS entomology assistant professor Adam Dale.

Dale’s new research is important as residents and urban landscapers decide when and where to plant red maple trees, which are native and widely distributed in North America from Florida to Canada and whose canopy helps cool urban areas.

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Repellant could keep dangerous beetles away from avocado trees

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, RECs, Research

Redbay ambrosia beetles.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Using some pleasant-smelling chemicals, avocado growers may soon be able to repel beetles that inject a potentially deadly fungus into their trees, saving fruit and money, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers say.

When they’re infected with the laurel wilt fungus, redbay trees – a close cousin to the avocado — emit methyl salicylate to repel redbay ambrosia beetles, the very beetles that gave the trees the fungus in the first place, scientists say in a newly published study.

Florida avocados bring a $100 million-a-year impact to Florida’s economy, UF/IFAS economists say. They grow almost entirely in southern Miami-Dade County, but growers have battled the laurel wilt fungus, which can kill redbay and avocado trees, since it arrived in Georgia in 2003.

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UF/IFAS researchers find potential bugs to eat invasive cogongrass

Topic(s): Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Forestry, Invasive Species, Pests, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A few bugs may be able to chew up some cogongrass, a noxious weed that elbows out pasture grass, golf course greens and valuable ecosystems, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

A worldwide research team led by UF/IFAS entomology professor James Cuda and retired entomology professor Bill Overholt found species in Japan, East Africa and Indonesia that might help in the battle against cogongrass.

Among the arthropods they found, Cuda and his team discovered a midge from Indonesia that attacks cogongrass. Cuda and his team are focusing on the Orseolia javanica midge that causes cogongrass to produce linear galls at the expense of leaves. However, when scientists brought the arthropods back to the quarantine facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida, they did not mate and increase in population.

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New UF/IFAS scientist brings latest technology to battle against invasive species

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Departments, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla.— Carey Minteer, a research professor with expertise in the use of biological controls to manage invasive plants, has joined the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Florida has the most invasive species in the country, with 28 ports of entry, including seaports, airports and train stations.

Minteer, who is also an expert in geographic information systems, is based at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, Florida. She is collaborating with professor James Cuda, UF/IFAS Extension agent Ken Gioeli and other scientists to fight the state’s most noxious weeds, including the Brazilian peppertree, one of Florida’s most widespread invasive plants.

“Dr. Minteer has demonstrated effectiveness in investigating the biological control of invasive weeds in the central U.S.A. and Florida,” said Ronald Cave, UF/IFAS Indian River REC interim director. “Her expertise in biological control is strengthened with her knowledge of sophisticated mapping technology for spatial analysis of large infestations, thereby bringing a new dimension of research capability to the laboratory.”

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Kakkar joins UF/IFAS Extension as invasive insect specialist

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Crops, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

FORT PIERCE, Fla. – Garima Kakkar is joining the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to help the state fight invasive pests. Kakkar, an expert in invasive insects, is a UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County Multicounty Agent.

Kakkar has a diverse range of experience in managing pest insects, and will now serve growers in the world’s premier citrus production region with the latest research findings. Her most recent assignment was working as a postdoctoral research associate for UF/IFAS, along with both UF and the U.S. Department of Agriculture in studies of an invasive whitefly, thrips vectors and a pepper whitefly.

“Dr. Kakkar has been synergistically blending research and practical information to create effective tools for the citrus and fruit crops industry,” said Ed Skvarch, director of UF/IFAS Extension St. Lucie County. “She believes that a channelized production system requires an Extension agent who is more than a liaison between different groups, researchers, growers or industry. Her goal is to develop programs that take research to the fields and industry, for the betterment of our agricultural production systems.”

Since taking her new position, Kakkar has focused on worker protection standards training, and she is organizing soil nutrition programs, developed in conjunction with the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee, Florida, Skvarch said.

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UF/IFAS entomologist gets $200,000 to help develop rapid Zika detection

Topic(s): Announcements, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, RECs, Research

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences entomologist will use a $200,000 grant from the Florida Department of Health to improve tests for the detection of Zika virus.

In 2016, Florida saw 1,272 cases of Zika, which is usually associated with mild symptoms, although severe symptoms may also occur, including Guillain-Barré syndrome and birth defects in babies, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 256 were locally acquired. So far this year, four more cases have been reported, all travel-related.

Barry Alto, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of medical entomology, said scientists need better diagnostic tools to detect Zika virus to meet challenges to public health. He is working with collaborator Steven Benner at Firebird Biomolecular Sciences LLC to develop methods they hope should take about an hour – far less time than current testing methods. Existing methods require specialized equipment and highly trained personnel, so samples must be transported to specialized laboratory facilities to perform the tests.

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UF/IFAS Extension faculty win seed money through new Shark Tank-style program

Topic(s): 4-H, Agriculture, Citrus, Crops, Extension, Families and Consumers, Finances, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Facial recognition software is no longer a thing of the future. But what if similar technologies could one day help farmers identify pests in the field?

Steve Futch, multi-county citrus agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension, thinks it’s possible. And thanks to the new UF/IFAS Extension Entrepreneurship Program, he and other UF/IFAS Extension faculty now have more of the tools they need to make their ideas a reality.

“One of the missions of UF/IFAS Extension is to connect Floridians with science-based information that will improve their quality of life. Our relationships with our clientele are always evolving, so we are always reassessing and rethinking how we can better serve our audience,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “Entrepreneurial thinking can help us get out of our comfort zone and approach problems in new and creative ways.”

Jan. 17 to 19, UF/IFAS Extension faculty members from around the state heard presentations from several UF entrepreneurship experts, including Elio Chiarelli, entrepreneurship specialist with the UF/IFAS Center for Leadership. As a doctoral student in the UF department of agricultural education and communication, Chiarelli’s research focused on successful entrepreneurship within agriculture and natural resources.

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