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Pastured ‘wild’ horses to cost U.S. $1 billion by 2030, researchers warn in report

Topic(s): Conservation, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Livestock, Research

wild horses

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Captive “wild” horses will cost U.S. taxpayers $1 billion by 2030 if federal management approaches don’t change, according to a new report by a pair of researchers who were part of a national committee that studied the issue.

A possible solution, they say: contraceptive vaccines.

The report by researchers Madan Oli of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Robert Garrott of Montana State University, was published late last week in the journal Science. Oli is a professor in the wildlife ecology and conservation department, and Garrott is a professor in the MSU ecology department.

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UF researchers find changes in forest management could produce large water yields

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

Kaplan and McLaughlin

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Despite a soggy summer, water supply remains a critical issue in the Sunshine State. University of Florida researchers now say that reducing plant material, or biomass, in forests could significantly increase water supplied to streams, lakes and aquifers.

Researchers with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences made the finding by creating computer models that analyzed the effects of reduced forest biomass on regional hydrological supplies. Their results will be published in the August issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association.

In one 4,000-acre tract in Central Florida, the model predicted that converting a densely planted pine forest to one managed with slightly fewer trees per acre could supply an additional 400,000 to 1.6 million gallons of water per day to the regional water supply.

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UF/IFAS study finds feelings run deep in goliath grouper debate

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Depending on one’s perspective, goliath grouper are either a conservation success story or a protected species that no longer needs help, according to a new survey from the University of Florida.

Atlantic goliath grouper, part of the sea bass family, were overfished from the 1960s through the 1980s and their numbers thinned until 1990, when a harvest moratorium was put into place in U.S. waters. As the name suggests, the slow-moving fish can reach 800 pounds and more than 8 feet in length. They’re found off Florida’s coasts, throughout the Caribbean and off West Africa.

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UF/IFAS associate dean awarded for educational program

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

Marty Main

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Marty Main, associate dean for University of Florida Extension and associate director of Florida Sea Grant, is being recognized for his educational outreach by the Ecological Society of America.

He has been awarded the Eugene P. Odum Award for Excellence in Ecology Education for the success of the Florida Master Naturalist Program.

The award will be presented in August at the 2013 Ecological Society of America meeting in Minneapolis. It recognizes ecologists for outstanding work in ecology education and their program’s ability to connect basic ecological principles to human affairs.

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UF researchers find wheat production models disagree under climate change scenarios

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, IFAS, New Technology, Research, Weather

Senthold Asseng

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida researchers have found, for the first time, that crop models predicting yields for one of the world’s most important crops begin to disagree under climate change scenarios.

By knowing where those models break down, researchers will be better able to improve them. The computerized models predict crop yields for wheat, one of the world’s most-consumed foods.

Scientists use crop models to foresee which parts of the world may face the greatest food shortages, so that efforts to improve food production can be directed to those places.

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UF Oyster Recovery Team issues findings: Drought and salinity major issues, not oil

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, Extension, IFAS, New Technology, Pests, Pollution, Research, Weather

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — There is no evidence that pollutants from the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill contributed to the “unprecedented” decline in recent Apalachicola Bay oyster populations, according to a report this week by the University of Florida.

Instead, the report by UF’s Oyster Recovery Team cites drought, insufficient rainfall and increased salinity in the bay as factors contributing to the dramatic drop-off in oyster landings beginning in September 2012 and continuing through the year, said Karl Havens, task force leader and director of Florida Sea Grant.

“There was a whole chain of circumstances that led to this situation, some of which are beyond human control,” Havens said. “Our report makes recommendations for many things that can be done to help the oyster population through management and restoration.”

Havens and other recovery team members discussed the report and findings with a crowd of about 60 residents and seafood workers Wednesday at the Apalachicola Community Center.

The full report and a summary are available at the UF/IFAS Franklin County Extension office or its website, http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu.

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Local residents can give up exotic animals at UF pet amnesty event April 16

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Exotic pets can be fun, but if animals become too big, too costly or too difficult to manage, the enjoyment may disappear and owners may start looking for ways to make the animals do the same.

Unfortunately, some of these pet owners turn their critters loose in the wild – that’s one reason Florida has more invasive reptile and amphibian species than any other place on Earth. In fact, the Sunshine State is now home to so many Burmese pythons that earlier this year officials held a competition to capture and remove the huge constrictors, which are blamed for decimating native wildlife.

To discourage future releases of unwanted pets, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to present the area’s first Exotic Pet Amnesty Day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Tuesday, April 16.

The event is free and open to the public. Animals will be accepted with no questions asked at the Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center, 2142 Shealy Drive, just off S.W. 16th Ave. near the UF College of Veterinary Medicine.

Simultaneously, there will be an educational display on the J. Wayne Reitz Student Union colonnade.

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UF breaks ground for new 7,800-square-foot Austin Cary Forest Learning Center

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, Extension, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new era began for the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation April 6 as ground was broken for the Austin Cary Forest Learning Center, a 7,800-square-foot education and outreach complex in the heart of the UF-owned forest northeast of Gainesville.

The learning center will succeed and surpass the Austin Cary Forest Conference Center, destroyed by fire in July 2011. Fundraising and recovery efforts began immediately after the fire, and at the groundbreaking event, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne expressed awe at their rapid progress.

“I never thought we’d be here two years later,” said Payne, who noted the importance of forest products to the state’s economy — $15 billion and 90,000 jobs. Speaking to a crowd of about 400 supporters, he discussed the Austin Cary Forest’s role as an essential link between natural resources and agriculture, and the role that pine trees may play in providing more of the world’s biofuel and fiber needs.

Construction for the learning center is slated to begin immediately and should be completed in less than one year, SFRC Director Tim White told attendees. The learning center will greatly enhance the school’s ability to provide distance education from Austin Cary Forest and accommodate large in-person events there, he said.

“This is a community resource, not an SFRC resource,” White said. “Tell people we want it to be used.”

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UF entomologist Roxanne Connelly leads American Mosquito Control Association

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Families and Consumers, Green Living, Household Pests, IFAS, Invasive Species

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When questions arise about mosquito control, University of Florida entomologist Roxanne Connelly is one of the state’s most sought-after experts. Now, that expertise has earned her the presidency of a national organization.

Connelly, an associate professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, was inducted Feb. 27 as president of the American Mosquito Control Association at the association’s annual meeting in Atlantic City, N.J. She’ll serve a one-year term.

“I’m very pleased about it,” Connelly said in a March interview. “Holding this position is really an honor for me because I was elected to it.”

The election happened at the 2010 AMCA annual meeting, where members voted Connelly to a four-year leadership stint. In 2011 she began by serving a one-year term as vice president, then another year as president-elect, and now president. In 2014 she’ll become immediate past president.

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UF School of Forest Resources and Conservation sets Spring Celebration for April 5-6

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Biofuels, CALS, Conservation, Crops, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, Forestry, IFAS, Invasive Species, New Technology, Research

Austin Cary Memorial Forest. UF/IFAS Photo by Dawn McKinstry.

UF/IFAS file photo of Austin Cary Forest palmetto and pine, by Dawn McKinstry

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This spring, the University of Florida’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation has two reasons to celebrate:

One is the annual SFRC Spring Celebration on April 5-6. Here, alumni and friends of the School reconnect, recreate and learn about SFRC’s latest achievements.

The other reason: This year’s celebration includes a special milestone — groundbreaking for the new Austin Cary Forest Learning Center at 11 a.m. on Saturday, April 6.

Dignitaries speaking at the groundbreaking include UF President Bernie Machen and UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne.

“This groundbreaking marks a huge step forward for the School of Forest Resources and Conservation,” Payne said. “Thousands will benefit from activities on-site at the new Learning Center, and many programs taught here will be offered via distance education to audiences statewide and beyond.”

The 7,800 square-foot building will facilitate education and outreach events at Austin Cary Forest. It’s larger and better-equipped than the conference center it replaces, said Tim White, director of the School. That facility fell victim to a fire in July 2011.

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