IFAS News

University of Florida

UF study shows restored oyster reefs beneficial beyond the dinner plate – shellfish help create and protect habitats critical to wildlife and human communities

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, New Technology, Pollution
Researchers working on an oyster bar survey off of the coast of Cedar Key, Florida.  Airboat, storm clouds, coast.

Researchers working on an oyster bar survey off of the coast of Cedar Key, Florida.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Oysters thrive under brackish conditions, and now a University of Florida study reveals that the bivalves can actually help create the mix of fresh water and brine they crave.

While evaluating a new method of restoring degraded oyster reefs, researchers with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and UF’s College of Engineering confirmed an observation that Cedar Key-area oystermen have made for years – some oyster reefs act as natural dams, impounding fresh water that flows seaward from nearby creeks and rivers.

The result: large areas of reduced-salinity water that help maintain near-shore estuarine habitats supporting oysters, sea grasses, juvenile game fish and invertebrates important to the marine food chain as well as seafood production and recreational opportunities for people.

This finding, published in a report available at http://www.projects.tnc.org/coastal, could aid ecological and fishery restoration projects along Florida’s Big Bend Coast, a largely undeveloped area bordering the Gulf of Mexico between Wakulla and Pasco counties, said project leader Peter Frederick, a professor with UF/IFAS’ Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation.

The Big Bend Coast is one of the nation’s few coastal areas featuring numerous oyster reefs that run parallel to shore and stand above the water’s surface at low tide. The study site, off the Levy County coast, is a chain of oyster reefs punctuated by a few openings that allow seawater to mix with fresh water that the reef holds back as it empties into the Gulf of Mexico from the Suwannee River.

“We’ve known about other ecosystem services that oyster reefs provide, like acting as breakwaters that reduce the impact of wave action on the shore,” Frederick said. “But the role of oyster reefs in modulating the salinity of water near the shore had not been demonstrated before.” (more …)

UF/IFAS helping teachers with creative biology lessons

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Need a creative way to teach students about Florida’s ecosystems?  How about tracking the journey of an invasive plant or putting together a puzzle of freshwater plants?  The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has you covered.

Fun lessons are available through The Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative, a partnership between the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. (more …)

Strategies to keep pollutants out of your neighborhood storm water pond

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Many people live in subdivisions with storm water ponds, which collect water from the neighborhood and help keep pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and pet waste from getting into the broader environment. Now, UF/IFAS researchers and Extension faculty have devised strategies to help homeowners limit their pollution contribution.

Before they crafted the strategies, outlined in a new Extension document, “Strategies to Encourage Adoption of Storm Water Pond Best Management Practices (BMPs) by Homeowners,” http://bit.ly/1M6SBrU,

UF/IFAS research and Extension faculty surveyed a large planned community in Manatee County, Florida. Among other things, they found that nearly half the homeowners either didn’t know what storm water runoff was or did not know where storm water runoff goes.

Paul Monaghan, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication and a co-author of the document, said the survey result is fairly typical of homeowners across Florida and elsewhere.

“They see the curb and gutter, and they think the water is going to be treated at a plant,” Monaghan said. “They don’t really know their water runs off into the storm water pond. It’s all accumulating. It matters what you do and what your neighbors do. If we can get homeowners to understand that and know it has an effect, we will be taking a step in the right direction.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS study: Most homeowners can’t properly assess damage to their trees

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Forestry, Green Living, IFAS, RECs, Research, Safety

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The next time a storm tears up your yard, let an expert assess the damage to any trees. A study from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences shows that homeowners perceive the risk of a damaged tree differently than trained professionals.

The survey of tree experts and homeowners in the Tampa Bay area assessed the perceptions of both groups when it came to assessing tree damage, said Andrew Koeser, an assistant professor in environmental horticulture and study author.

“While there are a number of factors tied to tree risk, most respondents were fixated on tree defects,” Koeser said. “Only experienced professionals considered other pertinent factors—namely whether the tree was actually a threat to a person, vehicle or house.”

(more …)

Wilson named chair of UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Crops, Environment, Green Living, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Invasive Species

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — You can take the “interim” off of Sandra Wilson’s title. She’s now chair of the UF/IFAS Department of Environmental Horticulture.

Named interim chair in November 2014, Wilson was named to the permanent position in September by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“Dr. Wilson was a natural choice to lead our Environmental Horticulture Department,” Payne said. “Combine her outstanding teaching and research record, the leadership she has shown and the fact that the faculty support her, and we knew right away Dr. Wilson would lead the department to unparalleled heights.”

Wilson came to Gainesville after 15 years as an environmental horticulture faculty member at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center.

(more …)

Crested floatingheart: The lovely looking lily-like plant that clogs canals

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Invasive Species, RECs, Research

Crested floatingheart 092415 (use this one)

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While the crested floatingheart can help beautify an aquarium or a water garden, it clogs canals and slows drainage, particularly during heavy rains.

“It’s really attractive. It looks like a water lily,” said Lyn Gettys, an aquatic plant specialist at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center. Crested floatingheart is also easy to grow and flourishes with little effort.

Instead of freezing unwanted crested floatinghearts and bringing them to a local landfill, many homeowners toss them into canals, said Gettys, an assistant professor of agronomy with the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For about a year, Gettys has been compiling data to quantify the seriousness that crested floatingheart poses for canals. Crested floatinghearts reproduce mostly by way of ramets, an asexual form of multiplying. Gettys is trying to find out how many “babies” a single plant can make. She’s particularly interested in the effects of soil type and fertilizer on the plant’s ability to reproduce.

Preliminary data show soil has no impact. But if plants are well-fertilized, one floatingheart can produce more than 100 ramets per month. If only half of the new ramets sprout and make as many of their own babies as the original plant, that’s potentially 114,000 plants in six months, Gettys said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS forestry professor earns top global award

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

Eric Jokela and a UF researcher measuring the growth of a tree.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — After three decades of outstanding forestry research, A UF/IFAS professor will receive one of the top global awards in his field.

Eric J. Jokela, a professor of silviculture – managing and producing better forests — and forest nutrition will receive the Barrington Moore Memorial Award in Biological Science by the Society of American Foresters (SAF). Since 1955, this annual award recognizes “distinguished individual research in any branch of the biological sciences that has resulted in substantial advances in forestry,” according to a release from the society.

“Being the recipient of this award is indeed very humbling as I reflect back on the previous awardees who have made lasting contributions to the field of forest science,” Jokela said. “I find it especially gratifying to know that results from our long-term, cooperative research efforts have found strong applications and also contributed to the advancement of sustainable forest management systems used in the South and elsewhere.”

(more …)

UF/IFAS program highly successful in keeping phosphorus out of the Everglades

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Crops, Environment, IFAS, Livestock, RECs, Soil and Water Science

Wide angle scenic of Everglades National Park near Homestead, Florida.  Parks and recreation, Florida, river of grass.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A 20-year plan to dramatically reduce phosphorus levels of agricultural water entering the Florida Everglades is working, thanks to proper implementation of best management practices by growers, training by the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and cooperation with state and federal agencies.

“It is a partnership that has worked,” said Samira Daroub, a professor of soil and water science at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade. “It is one of the success stories in the area and also in the country.” (more …)

UF/IFAS scientists warn of pharmaceutical peril for aquatic organisms in urban rivers

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pollution, RECs, Research, Safety, Soil and Water Science

RIVER CHEMICALS 082015

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — River beds in urban areas worldwide store pharmaceuticals, and University of Florida scientists warn they can pose a potential environmental danger to aquatic organisms.

UF/IFAS Post-Doctoral Researcher Yun-Ya Yang conducted a study along rural and urban areas of the Alafia River, which runs through parts of Hillsborough County and empties into the Gulf of Mexico. In her study, Yang collected sediment samples at several sites along the river and found 17 pharmaceuticals.

Yang found a lower amount of pharmaceuticals than in previous similar studies because river beds in Florida do not contain enough silt and clay, but they can still present an environmental concern.

These types of chemicals are not confined to the Alafia River or urban-area rivers in Florida, said Gurpal Toor, an associate professor in soil and water science, who supervised Yang’s study. The scientists say their findings are representative of urban rivers worldwide, partly because wastewater treatments plants, septic systems and industrial wastewater empty into water bodies. Landfill chemicals also leach into water bodies. All these sources contribute these contaminants in the environment.

(more …)

UF/IFAS apps give irrigation, growing tips and more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Green Living, IFAS, New Technology, Research, Weather

APP ROUNDUP 080315

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Looking to save money and water when you irrigate? UF/IFAS scientists have developed an app for that. Want to know what plants to grow in your garden? You guessed it: UF/IFAS has an app for that as well.

UF/IFAS’ so-called “smart irrigation apps” include an urban lawn app that estimates how long you’ll need to water your lawn to meet current plant water demand. It uses a simplified approach for automated irrigation systems. This urban lawn model uses meteorological data to compute a simple, real-time weekly water balance, said Kati Migliaccio, UF/IFAS associate professor in agricultural and biological engineering and lead designer of the app. Find these apps and others at Smartirrigationapps.org.

“The turf app provides a free resource to determine a schedule to apply the right amount of water to landscapes, which is personalized based on user inputs,” Migliaccio said.

(more …)

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