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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sometimes, Wendell Porter gets a kick out of watching customers pick up LED lights in a store, look at them and put them back – again and again.
People don’t buy the lights because they’re afraid they’ll make a mistake, said Porter, senior lecturer in the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences department of agricultural and biological engineering.
His suggestion for Earth Day and year-round environmental and cost-savings?
“Make that first step; actually make a decision,” he said. “It’s that first step. Customers looking at LED lights don’t want to make a mistake. Well, what if you do? What if it’s the wrong color temperature, and it’s a brighter white than you wanted, and you wanted a warm color? Then the next time you read the label a little more carefully. And you think, ‘I wasted that $3.’ No you didn’t. Put it in the back closet.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For six months after she applied for a Fulbright Research Scholarship, Karolina Weclawska’s life was on hold. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences senior said people would ask about her plans for after graduation this spring, and all she could say was, “Well, that’s up to the Fulbright Commission.”
You can’t make alternate plans for the opportunity of a lifetime.
After months of waiting nervously while the commission deliberated over thousands of applications, the commission responded. “I almost brought down the foundation of my house jumping around and screaming,” said Weclawska, who is in the School of Forest Resources and Conservation.
Her project targets an underappreciated area of biodiversity — forest mosses. Mosses provide habitats for microscopic organisms, in turn creating miniature ecosystems. As Weclawska described it, a patch of moss is basically a tiny forest.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Shorten showers. Limit lawn irrigation. For the most part, Americans get it: They are fairly water conscious, according to a new national survey conducted by a team of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.
UF/IFAS researchers based their assessment on responses to a survey of 1,052 respondents. The poll shows 46 percent are “water considerate;” 44 percent of the participants are what researchers classified as “water savvy conservationists” and 9 percent are not concerned about water conservation.
“Water considerate” consumers take a few actions to conserve water but could stand some improvement, said Laura Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communication. “Water savvy conservationists” are most likely to engage in landscape irrigation conservation practices, and they’re more likely to use professionals for various landscape tasks. The savvy ones are also more likely to have social support or perceive expectations to conserve from friends and family, Warner said.
So-called “unconcerned water users” lack the strong perceived value for water resources, said Warner, who is also affiliated with the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Assistant professor Raelene Crandall walks her 18 students into Austin Cary Forest, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they will set a fire. Crandall and the students stand out in their lemon yellow shirts, forest green pants, leather boots and gloves, and hard hats—all fireproof.
“Wildfire season is starting early this year, because we’re seeing a warmer, drier spring,” said Crandall, who teaches fire ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Experts predict an unusually bad wildfire season this year with the dry conditions and prescribed burns may help lower that number.”
The students check the plow line, which is used to contain a fire to a particular area and then start a fire along the edge. They stand back as plants begin to burn and the fire gradually progresses. “If we don’t conduct prescribed burns, we will get larger, often catastrophic fires that threaten families and structures,” Crandall explained.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than 50 residents from Florida’s Nature Coast and Gainesville paddled, jogged or cheered during the Workout on the Waterfront event held in Cedar Key, Florida to raise money for local causes. The event, held March 18, was sponsored by the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The goal of Workout on the Waterfront was to raise funds for the future UF/IFAS NCBS aquarium, the Cedar Key Library and the International Coast Clean-up, said Mike Allen, director of UF/IFAS NCBS. At the end of the day, Workout on the Waterfront raised $9,000.
“The aquarium will foster ecotourism in the Cedar Key area and will showcase efforts to conserve wildlife from the region,” Allen said. “The Florida Aquarium has generously donated its time and expertise to help with the planning of the new aquarium, for which we’re very grateful.”
Funds will also go toward new audio-visual equipment for the Cedar Key Library, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Hermine. This equipment will allow the library to continue hosting seminars and presentations for the community.
Landscaping at a home garden.
SANFORD, Fla. — Wondering if that new lawn will mean a discussion with your Homeowner’s Association? The University of Florida Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM program offers a workshop on April 26 to help homeowners navigate the process.
“Legally Speaking: FFL in The Planned Community” will run from 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County office. The location is 250 County Home Road, Sanford, Florida 32773.
“We are offering the course to help homeowners learn about current legal issues, and to give them strategies they can use when working with an HOA board to install a Florida-Friendly landscape,” said Claire Lewis, UF/IFAS statewide Florida yards and neighborhoods coordinator. “We want homeowners and HOA members to work together and also be able to avoid problems by learning the science-based ways to landscape.”
The workshop will include topics such as a review of issues and outcomes of installing a Florida Friendly landscape, a presentation by a community association attorney on disputes arising between HOAs and homeowners, and 10 strategies for working with an HOA.
Cost to attend is $5. Click here to register. For more information, contact Claire Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-273-4518.
By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, email@example.com
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to urban planning, sometimes a bird in hand is not worth two in the bush. Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have created an online tool to help planners strategically conserve forest fragments and tree canopy that will attract more birds and enhance future biodiversity.
The Building for Birds web tool predicts how the distribution of trees and tree patches in a new development will impact resident and migrating bird habitat. Users can test different arrangements to see how they can optimize habitat for different development scenarios.
“When planners do sustainable development, they usually consider factors such as water, energy or transportation. With this tool, they can also consider biodiversity and show good diligence and stewardship,” said Mark Hostetler, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation who developed the web tool with UF graduate student Jan-Michael Archer.
It’s often not possible to include large swaths of undeveloped land in new developments, so the challenge is knowing how to make the most of the habitat that can be retained, Hostetler said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An endangered species of magnolia that only grows in the Florida Panhandle has been named the 2017 plant of the year by the Garden Club of America.
The timing couldn’t be better, says Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
For the last three years, Knox and a team of researchers at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, have been studying the Ashe magnolia to try to figure out why it’s so rare and how it may be conserved.
Ashe magnolias are grown commercially as landscaping plants, and their large flowers and leaves make them popular among gardeners. The white and purple blossoms are the size of dinner plates, and the leaves grow up to two feet long. “This is what we call a ‘charismatic’ plant,” Knox said.
Knox hopes the Garden Club of America’s declaration will help spread awareness about the plight of Ashe magnolias in the wild. According to the Garden Club of America’s web site, “the award is given to an outstanding native plant which is underutilized but possesses superior ornamental and ecological attributes. The goal is to encourage the propagation and planting of these plants in our gardens and the landscape.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might be thinking about revving things up by eating a few oysters. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say there’s more to the story.
“Oysters might be perceived as an aphrodisiac because they have a high proportion of glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate that can give you energy,” said Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation.
Leslie Sturmer, a regional UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture, says the high nutritional content of oysters helps people feel good, hence the reputation for being an aphrodisiac. “Oysters have a high zinc content, have very little fat and are full of essential vitamins and minerals,” she said. “So, consumers who eat oysters regularly may attribute extra energy to the oysters.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Voters are likely to approve referenda for forest and water conservation in the eastern United States, including Florida, because demand for ecosystem protection is increasing, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.
“Florida voters have approved far more referenda, compared to other states, and on average support more expensive conservation programs,” said Melissa Kreye, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation and a study author.
For the study, Kreye and Damian Adams, an associate professor in the school, examined the results of 76 referenda that proposed to preserve rural land in 14 states from 1991 through 2013. The states were in the North and the South and included Florida, which held 26 such referenda during those 23 years.
This suggests that people are aware of changes in environmental quality due to the loss or conversion of forests and are willing to pay increasingly more to prevent further changes, researchers said.