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IFAS News

University of Florida

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

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS
FISHCAMERA photo 012215

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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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Bicyclists willing to ride up to 3 miles to catch bus, train, UF/IFAS study shows

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

Students commute on bicycles through campus.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – If three American metro areas are any indication, few people ride their bicycles to a bus or train station to commute to work, and those who do only travel an average of 1 to 2 miles. That suggests to a University of Florida researcher that American cities should make the 2-mile radius around transit hubs more bike-friendly.

Methods to do so could include installing bicycle lanes separated from vehicular traffic, adding off-street multipurpose paths for pedestrians and bicyclists and converting car lanes to bike-only lanes, said UF geomatics Associate Professor Henry Hochmair.

Hochmair reached his conclusions by studying data collected by transit agencies from passengers who rode trains and buses in three metro areas – Atlanta, Los Angeles and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

From those who completed the survey, Hochmair analyzed trips from 157 people in Los Angeles, 66 in Atlanta and 99 in Minneapolis who rode their bikes to access transit – 2.3 percent, 0.3 percent, and 4.2 percent, respectively. In Hochmair’s data analysis, those who opted to ride a bike to a transit hub cycled an average of 1 to 2 miles in Atlanta and the Twin Cities and 3 miles in Los Angeles.

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UF/IFAS study: Wheat yield to decline as temperatures increase

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Research, Weather

Research Assistant Jeremy Hall examines newly planted wheat at the UF/IFAS Plant Science Research & Education Unit Tuesday, January 13, 2015 in Citra, FLa.

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See video here: bit.ly/1Cbois7

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – For every degree Celsius that the temperature increases, the world loses 6 percent of its wheat crop, according to a new global study led by a University of Florida scientist. That’s one fourth of the annual global wheat trade, which reached 147 million tons in 2013.

Senthold Asseng, a UF professor of agricultural and biological engineering, used a computer model approach to reach the finding of temperature increases and wheat production.

“We started this with wheat, as wheat is one of the world’s most important food crops,” said Asseng, whose team’s study was published online Dec. 22 in the journal Nature Climate Change. “The simulations with the multi-crop models showed that warming is already slowing yield gains, despite observed yield increases in the past, at a majority of wheat-growing locations across the globe.”

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UF/IFAS Extension and Bok Tower Gardens are partnering to teach a new generation about plants, gardening and the environment

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Nutrition, Vegetables

Bok Tower

LAKE WALES, Fla. — Among the music of carillon bells, beneath a lush oak canopy, a new partnership is emerging between the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and historic Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, FL.

The partnership between the state’s preeminent land-grant university and this historic garden will provide onsite demonstration gardens, education programs and conservation research, as well as outreach programs to help people better see, appreciate, and connect with plants. A new school and community gardens program has already begun operations to teach food gardening to students and residents. (more …)

Tracking the eyes: The keys to consumers’ plant preferences

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers

eye-tracking and plant purchases photo 121614

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Picture this: Researchers ask you to sit and gaze at plants from a retail store’s garden display. You look at a computer screen, which tracks how long your eyes take to focus on a visual cue and how long you fixate on it.

Those cues can include what the plant looks like, a price tag or how it was grown.

With results of a new national study, researchers now know that computer software allows researchers to link eye movements to the plants people buy, a finding that can tell retailers more about how to use signs to lure potential buyers. Those are important issues for retailers and consumers nationally, but particularly in Florida, where the environmental horticulture industry generates about $12 billion a year, according to University of Florida estimates.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF assistant professor in food and resource economics, helped conduct the study. Researchers wanted to understand how visual behavior could influence purchasing choices. They studied consumers’ choices as project participants viewed signs showing several plant attributes. For example, the plants might have been grown using water-saving or energy-saving techniques.

“Investigating the link between consumers’ visual behavior and their preferences can significantly improve our understanding of the effects of marketing practices that use visual cues to attract more consumers,” said Khachatryan, who’s based at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka, which is part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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Neighborhood designs can cut carbon emissions, electric costs

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Green Living, Research

Marl Hostetler-Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Photo by Eric Zamora

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A big tree next to your house can do more than just save home-cooling costs, it will also cut carbon emissions, University of Florida researchers say.

Trees shade houses so that less energy is needed to cool them. But trees, especially older ones, also store and sequester carbon. Through photosynthesis, trees sequester ─ or capture ─ carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to create energy for growth. This carbon is then stored in the tree as long as the tree remains alive. Trees store carbon in their leaves, branches, trunks, stems and roots.

Carbon dioxide is released through electricity use, home heating, waste and transportation, among other activities, said UF wildlife ecology and conservation professor Mark Hostetler. Through photosynthesis, trees can offset the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by a house through carbon storage and sequestration.

With UF experts projecting the state to grow from 19 million now to 25 million in 2040, more land will be needed for housing, commercial and recreational uses. With a population increase comes more need for fossil fuels for heating, cooling and transportation and usually wildlife habitat losses, said Richard Vaughn, one of Hostetler’s former master’s students.

“While climate change mitigation takes place on many levels, I focused on the city level,” Vaughn said. “Cities are increasingly trying to offset carbon dioxide emissions, and new residential developments are a major source of such emissions. Our study offers a viable mitigation strategy that addresses many of these issues.”

With a goal of storing more carbon, Vaughn studied how to design conservation-friendly neighborhoods. Using tree data and a model, Vaughn examined how to design a subdivision for maximum tree carbon storage and sequestration.

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UF/IFAS researcher helps to unravel mysteries of fungi biodiversity

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Research, Uncategorized
Fungi can be found most anywhere.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists have long tracked the migratory patterns of monarch butterflies, studied the longevity of the redwoods and know how the melting of the ice caps is affecting polar bears. But, until now, it has been difficult to keep tabs on the poor, humble fungi – another of the world’s lesser-known, yet diverse groups of multicellular living creatures. And new research shows there could be a new variety living in your backyard. (more …)

UF/IFAS researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, New Technology, Uncategorized
The air potato vine is an  invasive species prohibited by the state

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem— or just plain puzzling —non-native plants. (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists find potential biological control for avocado-ravaging disease

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Crops, Economics, Pests, RECs

redbay ambrosia beetle for Steve at UR 120114

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida scientists believe they’ve found what could be the first biological control strategy against laurel wilt, a disease that threatens the state’s $54 million-a-year avocado industry.

Red ambrosia beetles bore holes into healthy avocado trees, bringing with them the pathogen that causes laurel wilt. Growers control the beetles that carry and spread laurel wilt by spraying insecticides on the trees, said Daniel Carrillo, an entomology research assistant professor at the Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead.

But a team of researchers from the Tropical REC and the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce have identified a potential biological control to use against redbay ambrosia beetles that could help growers use less insecticide.

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UF/IFAS process can convert human-generated waste into fuel in space

Topic(s): Biofuels, Environment, New Technology, Research

Pratap Pullammanappallil poses in his lab next to an anaerobic digester, which turns human waste into rocket fuel on October, 24, 2014.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Human waste may have a new use: sending NASA spacecraft from the moon back to Earth.

Until now, the waste has been collected to burn up on re-entry. What’s more, like so many other things developed for the space program, the process could well turn up on Earth, said Pratap Pullammanappallil, a University of Florida associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering.

“It could be used on campus or around town, or anywhere, to convert waste into fuel,” Pullammanappallil said.

In 2006, NASA began making plans to build an inhabited facility on the moon’s surface between 2019 and 2024. As part of NASA’s moon-base goal, the agency wanted to reduce the weight of spacecraft retuning to Earth. Historically, waste generated during spaceflight would not be used further. NASA stores it in containers until it’s loaded into space cargo vehicles that burn as they pass back through the Earth’s atmosphere. For future long-term missions, though, it would be impractical to bring all the stored waste back to Earth.

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