IFAS News

University of Florida

Nature Coast research internships give UF students an edge

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pollution, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last summer, Cory Gillis found himself waking before dawn at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, where he’d been assigned to track the breeding calls of the northern bobwhite quail as part of an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But he wasn’t complaining.

“It was amazing to be out in the forest before sunrise in an area without any human influence, not even a sound,” said Gillis, now a senior in the University of Florida department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Summer internships like Gillis’ are made possible by Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Each year, the station selects a handful of students in the UF College of Agricultural Sciences for internships with various researchers, agencies and labs on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Applications for 2017 summer internships will be open in February, said Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant regional specialized agent based at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station. This winter, another group of students will intern with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where they will collect data on manatee-human interactions and assist with other duties around the busy manatee tourism season, Barry said.

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Big Bend Science Symposium puts research on public view

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pollution, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists on Florida’s Big Bend coastline spend their careers studying local ecosystems and finding solutions to challenges such as oyster reef decline or the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Feb 1 to 3, the second annual Big Bend Science Symposium will hold an open forum where the public can meet these scientists and learn about their discoveries and projects.

“The goal of the symposium is to communicate the latest science being done in the Big Bend region and to give visitors a chance to engage directly with scientists,” said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Symposium scientists will represent several universities, including the University of Florida, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups.

Oral presentations will begin Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Cedar Key Community Center located at 809 6th Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625. All presenters registered with the symposium may attend.

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UF/IFAS early career scientists to use grants to study greening, pests, environmental issues, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Nutrition, Pests, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Front- John Bonkowski lab assistant, Anne Vitoreli Laboratory manager

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.

The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.

“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”

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

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

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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.

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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

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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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