IFAS News

University of Florida

UF CALS student speaks at the 12th UN Conference of Youth in Morocco

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Conservation, Environment, IFAS

morocco-student-cals-113016

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Rock Aboujaoude Jr., a University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) undergraduate student, presented to more than 2,000 colleagues from around the world at the 12th U.N. Conference of Youth in Marrakesh, Morocco. This international event was held as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change in November.

As part of his presentation, the third-year international food and resource economics major discussed his involvement with the nonprofit organization, Campus Climate Corps. Aboujaoude specifically addressed global economic development in regard to climate change. He stressed the importance of being an informed citizen who works with others to impact local and state government.

“I’m very passionate about the subject of climate change, and I believe this is where my future career will be,” said Aboujaoude. “Involvement in opportunities like this is in the interest of making society a better place in which to live.”

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UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

“I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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UF/IFAS researcher: Neighborly conversations can help with water conservation

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Lawn & Garden, Research

People work at a rain barrel building workshop at the Alachua County Extension Office. Photo taken December 4th, 2015.

Please see caption at bottom of story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Your neighbors and peers probably care more about water conservation than one might assume, and that may mean they’re open to some new ideas about using less water, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher says.

Laura Warner, who will publish a new study on UF/IFAS Extension water conservation programs, thinks these neighborly discussions could prove fruitful.

“You may not notice the ways someone conserves, but they may already be taking action to not waste water by using good irrigation practices, and they may be open to some new ideas if you strike up a conversation about how you save water in the home landscape,” said Warner, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of agricultural education and communications.

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UF/IFAS researchers awarded grant to build up ecological ‘resilience’ in Big Bend

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Research

Peter Frederick (third from left), along with UF students, conducting oyster reef surveys near Cedar Key, Florida. Photo taken on 8-27-15

Please see caption below the story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — In less than 30 years, 3,000-year-old oyster reefs off Florida’s Big Bend coastline have declined by 88 percent, according to University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

For residents who depend on the fishing grounds and other coastal resources protected by these reefs, it’s a worrying trend.

Now, thanks to an award of up to $8.3 million from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s  Gulf Environmental Benefit Fund, a UF/IFAS research team will work to restore these shrinking oyster reefs and help coastal ecosystems — and economies — become more resilient in the face of climate change and rising tides.

“This grant is one more way UF/IFAS can help foster sustainable communities and ecosystems on the Nature Coast,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “This work also dovetails with efforts by our state and local partners to conserve land and water resources in our coastal areas,” he said.

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Nature already dramatically impacted by climate change, study reveals

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Departments, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pollution, Safety, Weather

Lake Alice, trees, nature, water, landscape.    UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in cooperation with a broad international partner group, published in the prestigious journal Science.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife, ecology and conservation. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”

During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.

“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“

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UF/IFAS study: People who know about genetically modified food agree with science: They’re safe

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pollution, Research, Safety

Brandon McFadden

Brandon McFadden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Furthermore, the study showed some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.”

Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods, said Brandon McFadden, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and author of the study. Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior, McFadden said.

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UF/IFAS help snowbirds navigate Florida gardening, landscaping

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Florida Friendly, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Vegetables

A watering tin and gardening gloves at a home garden.

OCALA, Fla. — Robert and Christy Cathcart had just moved to Florida, and wondered how soon they could replicate their bountiful garden back home in Connecticut. They soon realized that they would need help with gardening and landscaping in their new home state. They turned to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Marion County office.

“Back in Connecticut, we had 13 raised beds and we grew everything from corn to tomatoes to herbs, pumpkins and lettuce,” Christy Cathcart said. “Here, the soil is sandy, and there is a finite amount of available water. There’s not as much rain in Florida as in the Northeast, so gardening and landscaping are very different.”

UF/IFAS Extension Marion County offers a course to the state’s snowbirds, and the Cathcarts eagerly signed up. “From Newbie to Native: Transitioning to Central Florida,” is offered in Ocala to residents who hail from other parts of the country, but spend part of the year in Florida, or who have recently made the state their permanent home.

“Often times, the newcomers will want to garden or have nice landscaping, but are not use to the Florida soil or climate,” said Jack LeCroy, the Florida Friendly Landscape UF/IFAS Extension agent Marion County. “Also, they don’t know the state’s rules and regulations on irrigation, so they end up wasting a lot of water.”

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UF/IFAS researcher hopes to bolster pollinators, reduce water use, other inputs on golf courses

Topic(s): Agriculture, Biocontrols, Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pests, Research

Adam G. Dale at the Mark Bostick Golf Course photographed planting seeds on November 1, 2016.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, a handful of golf courses in Florida will become a little more “green,” thanks to a new project led by a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist and researcher.

“In our state, resource conservation is a big issue, especially water conservation,” said Adam Dale, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of entomology. “Other big issues include pollinator conservation and insect pest management. Both of which are connected to the vitality of our ecosystems.”

According to Dale, golf courses could be used to conserve pollinators while reducing water consumption and management inputs such as pest control.

“Golf courses have a reputation for the resources used to maintain them,” Dale said. “In Florida, the majority of golf course acreage is irrigated, but 40 to 70 percent of that area isn’t typically played. What if we took some of that under-played space and turned it into drought tolerant functional habitats for pollinators and other beneficial insects?”

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UF/IFAS professor unveils research on rare, endangered mammal during National Bat Appreciation Month

Topic(s): Conservation, Extension, IFAS, RECs, Research

bonneted-bat

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — October is National Bat Appreciation Month and to celebrate, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher Holly Ober is sharing critical findings on one of the rarest bats in the world.

The Florida Bonneted bat, which is endangered, nestles in tree cavities, palms and buildings in only 10 counties in Florida. The largest bat in Florida with a wing span of 20 inches, its ears point forward over its eyes, and its fur ranges in color from brown to gray, said Ober, an associate professor in the department wildlife ecology and conservation who’s based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida.

“These bats are extremely rare, and when we began our research in 2013 no one had a good idea of where they occur,” Ober said. “We conducted extensive surveys and now we know that they are in 10 Florida counties.” The Florida Bonneted bat is found as far north as Polk County and all the way south to Miami-Dade County, she said.

When Ober and the research team began their work in 2013, only one natural roost where bats sleep during the day was known. During the past two years, the team has found seven more, she said. “We’ve been using several techniques to follow individual bats as they fly at night. We’ve found them flying as far away as 13 miles from where they spent the day sleeping,” Ober explained.

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UF/IFAS researchers project beetle could cause $17 billion damage to loblolly pine in South

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Research

Rebbay Ambrosia Beetle.  Summer 2009 Impact Magazine image.  Insects, pests.  UF/IFAS File Photo.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers, who have already seen ambrosia beetles damage part of Florida’s avocado crop, know that more of the species will come from Asia in the next decade. Anticipating their arrival, UF/IFAS researchers set up a hypothetical invasion of the beetle, and found out that loblolly pine owners in the South could lose up to $17 billion in trees in 20 years.

Private companies use loblolly for timber production. Small landowners also harvest and sell some of their loblolly pines, said Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. But small landowners are also interested in aesthetics, preserving the environment and passing the land on to their heirs.

For the study, researchers wanted to look at the economic impact of anticipated invasions of more ambrosia beetles from Asia into the southern United States. Invasive wood borers, such as the ambrosia beetle, transmit disease-carrying fungi to several North American trees, and it’s not clear whether trees such as pines will face similar threats in the future, the researchers said.

Even though the scenarios were hypothetical, Andres Susaeta, a research assistant scientist in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, said the situation could be all too real.

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