GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.
With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.
“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Deciding how often and when to use prescribed fire can be tricky, especially when managing for rare butterflies, University of Florida scientists say.
That realization stems from a UF Institute of Food and Agricultural study in which researchers experimented with pupae — insects in their immature form between larvae and adults — of butterflies known to frequent fire-prone habitats of Florida.
Prescribed burns and wildfires can damage animals and plants in their paths. But they can also promote species and create habitat, maintaining the ecological balance of the forest and the region’s most frequent natural disturbance over the long term. Immature butterflies may die immediately following controlled burns, but populations can recover over time, with the amount of time depending on the species.
Scientists are concerned that butterflies with small, isolated populations may be in severe peril if their habitats are burned too frequently and in large blocks at a time, which can mean that butterfly refugia – unburned areas that provide refuge — are limited.
In the UF/IFAS study, scientists wanted to know how and why some butterflies survive wildfires and prescribed burns, particularly where the insect feeds and lays eggs on fire-adapted plants.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — First impressions are important. So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.
In fact, some grow even more stubborn in their beliefs that GMOs are unsafe, said Brandon McFadden, an assistant professor in food and resource economics in the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
After they read scientific information stating that genetically modified foods are safe, 12 percent of the study’s participants said they felt such foods were less safe – not more, much to McFadden’s astonishment.
That’s partly because people form beliefs and often never let go of them, he said.
“This is critical and hopefully demonstrates that as a society we should be more flexible in our beliefs before collecting information from multiple sources,” McFadden said. “Also, this indicates that scientific findings about a societal risk likely have diminishing value over time.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Two faculty members in the UF/IFAS Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering have won prestigious global awards for outstanding contributions to their field.
One has also been elected to an advisory panel to the government of Spain.
Professor Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, has won the 2015 Hancor Soil and Water Engineering Award for “accomplishments in hydrological and integrated environmental modeling and education of next-generation soil and water scientists and engineers.”
Muñoz-Carpena, who specializes in hydrology and water quality, remembers when, as a doctoral student at North Carolina State University, his mentor, Wayne Skaggs, won the award. Skaggs later became a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Skaggs “is one of the fathers of modern agricultural drainage,” says Muñoz-Carpena.
The Hancor award means every bit as much to Muñoz-Carpena now.
“It has additional meaning to me,” he said, because his former mentor won the award. “It’s recognition of your work among peers. The fact that I got it surprises me.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Invasive stiltgrass is bad enough by itself, crowding out native plant and insect species in about 25 eastern U.S. states, including Florida. It can also inhibit tree seedling survival and growth, and it can change the availability of nitrogen in the soil.
In general, invasions of non-native plant species can reduce biodiversity and alter ecosystems. In 2013, 1,585 prescribed fires were used to burn about 290,000 acres in eight eastern U.S. states. Scientists have used prescribed fires to effectively control some invasive plants, but new evidence suggests fires may promote stiltgrass invasions.
If land managers perform prescribed fires — normally used to manage ecosystems and prevent wildfires – in stiltgrass-invaded areas, native trees can be killed by the more intense fires caused by burning stiltgrass, said Luke Flory, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty have developed a new app for avocado growers that provides an irrigation schedule so users save an estimated 20 to 50 percent on the water they apply to their orchards.
“Weather changes daily, and the app takes into account these changes in the irrigation schedule it provides,” said Kati Migliaccio, an associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering at UF’s Tropical Research and Education Center in Homestead, Florida.
The Alaska salmon fishery is touted as one of the best in the world. When measured with an ecological yardstick, it is – fish stocks are healthy and the fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as consistently meeting rigorous biological standards. Fish are individually counted as they swim upstream to ensure there are enough to breed.
But Alaska salmon falls behind some of the world’s fisheries in how it benefits local fishermen, processing workers and nearby rural communities, according to a new assessment that ranks the vitality of a fishery by looking at its economic and community benefits as well as its ecological health.
“We wanted to develop a new set of metrics to determine how well fisheries management systems work and to test what factors are most effective in improving them,” said James Anderson, professor of Food and Resource Economics and director of the new Institute for Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Anderson is a lead author of a paper published May 6 in the journal PLOS ONE, describing the new methodology.
“These new Fishery Performance Indicators (FPIs) are designed to help us evaluate a fishery system’s performance toward achieving economic, community and ecological sustainability – the ‘triple bottom line,'” he said.
Sea Grant Agent Monica Wilson.
link to video: https://youtu.be/6HAVS5ex8tU
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As Florida Sea Grant’s new Gulf oil spill research Extension specialist, Monica Wilson translates oil spill science to Gulf Coast residents and stakeholders.
Her audiences include commercial, recreational and for-hire fishermen, natural resource managers, elected officials, emergency responders and managers, tourism specialists, port and harbor employees and more.
Wilson works with three other specialists, one from each of the Sea Grant programs in the Gulf – Mississippi-Alabama, Louisiana and Texas — to create a new science education program that disseminates key oil spill research results to industry and community audiences. They hope to disseminate bulletins soon about dispersants as well as fisheries.
As Wilson works with Sea Grant programs in nearby Gulf states, she and other specialists bring different expertise to foster a more comprehensive understanding of oil spill science.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida scientist has developed a fertilizer for palm trees that should keep them healthy and reduce water pollution.
Environmental horticulture Professor Tim Broschat found that applying a palm fertilizer with no nitrogen or phosphorus could prevent the harmful effects of lawnfertilizers on palms.
“We also found that most palms do not need any phosphorus in their fertilizer to be healthy, and by not applying this element, we can eliminate one possible source of water pollution in Florida,” said Broschat, a faculty member at UF’s Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation (SFRC) holds its annual Spring Celebration, there’s plenty of focus on the School’s storied past, but the event also salutes current students, their achievements and future aspirations, said Tim White, SFRC director and a professor with the School, part of UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
The two-day event, scheduled for April 10-11, is part social gathering and part scientific symposium, welcoming all SFRC personnel, students and alumni, supporters and friends, he said. All three of SFRC’s academic divisions take part in the Celebration – Forest Resources and Conservation; Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, and Geomatics, which includes surveying, map making and other disciplines involving geographic information.
“This is our one opportunity each year to bring together everyone connected with the School,” White said. “Spring Celebration is supposed to be inclusive, so we try to offer something for everybody.”
Events this year include a barbecue, 5K run, trap and skeet shooting competition, displays and demonstrations, and an awards ceremony for students and alumni, he said. Much of the activity will take place at the school’s new Austin Cary Learning Center, dedicated in April 2014.
For more information and to register for events, visit http://sfrc.ufl.edu/about/events/sc/.