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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS study: Forest managers hindered in efforts to use prescribed burns to control costly wildfires

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS

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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.

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UF/IFAS experts to share research at global symposium on urban tree economics

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Economics, Environment, Forestry, IFAS

 

ED GILMAN

UF/IFAS Professor Ed Gilman

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Global experts, including three from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, will share knowledge at an international symposium focused on the economics of urban tree management, March 18-19, in Tampa, Florida.

The meeting brings together experts from around the world and innovative professionals working with some of America’s largest and longest-standing urban forestry programs: New York and Milwaukee.

Those attending the conference will explore the value of trees as part of urban green infrastructure, try to quantify the costs associated with poor urban forest management practices and examine the potential benefits that can be reaped from proper planning and maintenance.

Once these costs and benefits have been evaluated, urban foresters, utility vegetation managers and elected officials can make effective management decisions, according to the program’s website, http://www.isa-arbor.com/events/eventsCalendar/index.aspx?ID=2077.

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Florida Sea Grant launches awareness campaign with Florida Trend reports

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, IFAS

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Downtown Miami shore, seen from Biscayne Bay — Cutline below

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To call attention to pressing coastal and ocean issues in Florida and the surrounding region, Florida Sea Grant has launched an awareness campaign that includes four special reports to be published in Florida Trend magazine, a monthly publication featuring statewide coverage of business and industry.

The year-long campaign, known as “Florida’s Changing Seas,” is meant to educate residents, visitors, policymakers and professionals in the state’s many maritime industries, said Karl Havens, director of Florida Sea Grant, a statewide program hosted by the University of Florida and affiliated with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Florida is surrounded by water on three sides, and our state’s economy and lifestyle are inextricably connected to the ocean,” Havens said. “We want to facilitate a dialogue about how ocean resources can be used equitably and responsibly in the years to come, and our reports in Florida Trend highlight some of the most pressing issues.”

The first report addresses coastal access and appears in the March issue of Florida Trend, available now. Upcoming reports will focus on aquaculture (April issue), the economic impact of artificial reefs (June issue) and the safety and sustainability of Florida’s seafood (September.) Additional components of the campaign include news releases, social media posts, photographs and video items.

Coastal access in Florida has increasingly become a matter of public concern as publicly accessible marinas, boatyards and boat ramps are being displaced by high-value construction such as condominiums and hotels. Boaters have been left with fewer options for getting their craft in and out of the water, even as the number of registered boaters has increased, Havens said.

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Eighth annual UF Bee College event returns March 6-7

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers

A bee on a sunflower.  Helianthus annuus, annuals, honey bees, insects, pollination.  UF/IFAS Photo: Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida’s sweetest event for all things honey bee is set for March 6-7, University of Florida officials announced this week.

The University of Florida’s Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory has organized and hosted the UF Bee College since 2008 for hobbyists, professionals and anyone interested in maintaining a healthy honey bee population. The event will be held at the UF Whitney Marine Laboratory in Marineland, Fla. (more …)

UF survey shows Floridians want to conserve water, but not if it costs too much

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians remain concerned about water and are willing to make changes to conserve it, at least until their efforts cramp their lifestyles, according to an annual University of Florida study on state residents’ attitudes about this precious resource.

For the second consecutive year, an annual online survey conducted by UF’s Center for Public Issues in Education shows that water ranks third on a list of 10 topics people consider important — behind the economy and healthcare and ahead of public education and taxes. Eighty-three percent of 749 respondents indicated water is an important or extremely important issue.

Yet while three-quarters of them said they were likely to vote to support water conservation programs and nearly as many said they would support water restrictions issued by their local government, only 42 percent were willing to take action to conserve water if it meant their lawns would suffer.

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Agricultural systems modeling group to hold meetings Feb. 23-28 at UF

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Environment, Weather
Jim Jones

Jim Jones

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In recent years, computer technology has begun to help agricultural producers solve dilemmas as old as farming itself — predicting future crop yields, supplies and prices — using sophisticated models that account for weather patterns, soil types, crop management practices and other factors.

It’s known as agricultural systems modeling, and next week, experts in this emerging field will converge on the University of Florida campus to discuss their latest findings at two meetings held by the leading professional organization in the field, the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Program, or AgMIP.

The first event, held Feb. 23-25, will focus on ways that models can account for the potential effects of global climate change on pest and disease pressures, said Jim Jones, a distinguished professor emeritus with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and one of AgMIP’s four co-principal investigators.

The second event, held Feb. 25-28, is an AgMIP global annual workshop and will feature a wide-ranging slate of activities related to agricultural systems modeling, including discussions and presentations on climate change, specific crops, economics and computer technology, he said.

AgMIP’s overall mission, Jones said, is to help scientists and producers understand how agricultural production systems should evolve to ensure food security under variable and changing climate conditions, and how modeling can guide efforts to develop more resilient and sustainable farming systems.

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UF/IFAS expert to help Australians try to control diseases transmitted by invasive mosquitoes

Topic(s): Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida scientist recognized as a global expert on invasive mosquitoes will head to Australia in March to work with researchers to combat public health threats common to Florida and Queensland, Australia, such as chikungunya and dengue fever.

Phil Lounibos, an entomology professor at UF/IFAS’ Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach, has been awarded a Fulbright Specialist grant to give a series of lectures and to host seminars Down Under.

The mosquitoes that transmit chikungunya and dengue fever to humans are Aedes aegypti – sometimes referred to as the yellow fever mosquito ─ and Aedes albopictussometimes called the Asian tiger mosquito. Aedes aegypti, native to Africa, has lived in eastern Australia for more than 150 years, after arriving on sailing vessels, but is becoming less of a public health threat in parts of Queensland thanks to a novel experimental control method.

Aedes albopictus successfully colonized Florida more than 30 years ago but has not yet established itself in mainland Australia. Lounibos, a leading expert on the ecology of these two mosquito species, will bring his research-based knowledge, which has helped explain how the Asian tiger reduced the range and abundance of the yellow fever mosquito in Florida.

“We hope collaboration and knowledge from studying interactions between these species in Florida will help Australian scientists limit consequences from a feared invasion by the Asian Tiger Mosquito from the Torres Strait,” he said. The Torres Strait lies between mainland Australia and New Guinea.

The program will also benefit Florida, where several mosquito control districts are considering releasing genetically modified yellow fever mosquitoes for dengue prevention. The Eliminate Dengue Program, based in Cairns, Australia, is pioneering a non-GMO genetic control technique that causes mosquitoes of this species to become dengue-resistant by mating with released mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia, a type of bacteria.

Because of their extensive coastlines ─ which makes both areas vulnerable to the arrival of exotic animals and plants on boats and ships ─ Florida and Queensland, Australia are threatened by many invasive species, including the two mosquito species that transmit dengue and chikungunya.

In the past few years, the lay public and scientists have shifted their interest in mosquito ecology from salt marsh mosquitoes ─ major pests of the densely populated coasts of both regions ─ to invasive mosquito vectors of arboviruses, such as dengue and chikungunya.

Outbreaks of dengue fever occur regularly in northern Queensland and occasionally in South Florida, and the establishment of chikungunya in the Caribbean in late 2013 led to at least 10 cases of local transmission of this virus n Florida in 2014, Lounibos said.

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Cutline: UF/IFAS entomology professor Phil Lounibos checks for larvae of the invasive Aedes albopictus in water-holding tires used for surveillance on the grounds of the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory in Vero Beach.

Credit: UF/IFAS file photo by Marisol Amador

By Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

Source: Phil Lounibos, 772-778-7200, ext. 146, lounibos@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS, others improving health of marine life and coastal economies

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS

CRAIG WATSON

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – University of Florida researchers will work with other scientists to study how to make the water and marine life in Tampa Bay healthier, which in turn could help protect Florida’s offshore ecosystems and fishing economy.

Scientists with UF/IFAS are the first researchers at the Center for Conservation, part of an alliance comprised of UF/IFAS, Tampa’s Florida Aquarium, Tampa Electric Co. and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The partnership came about after Tampa Electric, a subsidiary of TECO Energy, offered the Florida Aquarium 20 acres in Apollo Beach for off-site quarantine and animal holding in 2012-13, said Craig Watson, director of the UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in Ruskin. Watson suggested the partners bring FWC aboard because the agency was looking for marine enhancement centers, Watson said.

Then TECO, the Florida Aquarium, UF/IFAS and FWC formed an alliance to create the Center for Conservation on the Apollo Beach site, he said. The site is also near TECO’s Manatee Viewing Center. The CFC will try to solve aquatic resource problems, Watson said.

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One fish, two fish ─ Camera counts freshwater fish, which could help combat hydrilla

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A camera can accurately count freshwater fish, even in the thickest of underwater vegetation, a key finding for those who manage fisheries and control the invasive plant hydrilla, new University of Florida research shows.

The finding by UF/IFAS scientists can help researchers understand how many and which fish species are using dense plant habitats, said former UF/IFAS graduate student Kyle Wilson.

While cameras have been used to document fish behavior – including eating and breeding ─ this marks the first time scientists have used video to count fish in underwater plant habitats, Wilson said. In addition, no prior studies that used cameras to count fish verified their fish populations.

“It is commonly assumed that dense and invasive plants, like hydrilla, can drastically change fish habitat quality, primarily through changes in dissolved oxygen levels, water chemistry and habitat structure,” Wilson said. “Whether these changes are good or bad for fish has previously remained uncertain due to sampling problems in dense plant habitats. Using underwater cameras, we have shown that fish can and do use habitats we previously thought were too stressful for fish habitat.”

This is a big problem, especially with hydrilla, a plant that has invaded lakes throughout Florida, much of the U.S., Central America, South Africa and Australia, Wilson said. He estimated Florida spent up to $14 million per year throughout the 2000s to manage hydrilla, while the U.S. spent about $100 million per year in the 2000s for aquatic plant management.

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