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IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS strategies give forest owners, managers disaster-coping methods

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Forestry, Pests, Weather

Forest strategies

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Scientists believe climate change means more erratic weather patterns for the future, and that doesn’t bode well for forests in the Southeastern U.S.

Two things trees don’t need are damaging hurricane-force winds and wildfires, and they believe those climate change-related weather patterns portend more of both.

University of Florida researchers, including postdoctoral research associate Andres Susaeta, built a computer model that simulates various climate scenarios in hopes of minimizing the potentially cataclysmic damage to forests on privately owned forest land.

“Climate change is likely to affect forest productivity and exacerbate the impacts of big disasters on forest ecosystems in the South,” Susaeta said.

(more …)

UF/IFAS study: Some consumers confuse ‘local’ with ‘organic’ food

Topic(s): Conservation, Crops, Economics, Environment, Food Safety, Nutrition

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With more people buying local and organic food, consumers should know the difference between the two so they recognize what they’re buying, but nearly one in five still confuse the terms, a University of Florida researcher says.

Newly published research, done in partnership with three other universities, aims to help local and organic food producers and sellers target their marketing messages to reinforce or dispel consumers’ perceptions. The organic-food industry has spent millions of dollars building brand awareness, only to see some consumers confuse “organic” food with “local” food products, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist and the study’s lead author.

Hayk Khachatryan, a UF food and resource economics assistant professor, worked with Campbell and others to survey 2,511 people online in the U.S. and Canada in 2011 and found 17 percent thought the terms were interchangeable, the study said.

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UF/IFAS research findings shed light on seagrass needs

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

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Cutline: Tom Frazer, professor of aquatic ecology and director of the UF School of Natural Resources and Environment at UF/IFAS, collects seagrass off Florida’s Gulf Coast in this UF/IFAS file photo. Frazer helped supervise a UF/IFAS graduate student’s thesis that examined how much sunlight is needed to keep seagrass healthy off the coast of Florida’s Big Bend.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Seagrass beds represent critical and threatened coastal habitats around the world, and a new University of Florida study shows how much sunlight seagrass needs to stay healthy.

Loss of seagrass means fish, crabs and other animals lose their homes and manatees and sea turtles lose a source of food. Nutrients, such as phosphorous, may prevent seagrass from getting the sunlight it needs to thrive. Nutrients may come from many sources, among them fertilizers used in agriculture, golf courses and suburban lawns, pet waste and septic tank waste.

Scientists often use seagrass to judge coastal ecosystems’ vitality, said Chuck Jacoby, a courtesy associate professor in the Department of Soil and Water Science and co-author of a new UF study that examines light and seagrass health.

(more …)

UF/IFAS web tool successfully measures farms’ water footprint

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, New Technology

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new University of Florida web-based tool worked well during its trial run to measure water consumption at farms in four Southern states, according to a study published this month.

The system measures the so-called “water footprint” of a farm. In the broader sense, water footprints account for the amount of water used to grow or create almost everything we eat, drink, wear or otherwise use.

Researchers at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences introduced their WaterFootprint tool in the March issue of the journal Agricultural Systems, after using it to calculate water consumption at farms in Florida, Georgia, Alabama and Texas.

(more …)

To the root of the matter – keeping nitrogen out of small streams

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, IFAS, Pollution, Research

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Feb. 25, 2014

GAINESVLLE, Fla. – For years, scientists tried to find out why some small streams carry only minute concentrations of nitrogen.

Now Stefan Gerber, a University of Florida researcher with the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, and Jack Brookshire, an assistant professor of biogeochemistry from Montana State University, believe they have solved the mystery. (more …)

PIE Center survey: Floridians value water, but not ‘all in’ on conservation

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Research, Uncategorized

Lake Okeechobee.  Florida lakes, freshwater.  2010 Annual Research Report Photo.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians value water, almost as much as they value money and their health — just don’t ask them to time themselves in the shower.

An online survey of 516 Floridians found that interest in water ranked third in a list of public issues, just behind the economy and health care, but ahead of taxes and public education. Eighty-three percent of respondents considered water a highly or extremely important issue.

(more …)

UF Water Institute to host symposium featuring state, national experts

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Green Living

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida Water Institute will host its fourth symposium, “Sustainable Water Resources, Complex Challenges, Integrated Solutions,” Feb. 11-12 at the J. Wayne Reitz Union.

This year’s conference focuses on what organizers call “Water Supply Planning in a Non-Stationary World.” The forum is meant to bring many professional perspectives together to focus on science, technology, management, policy and public action.

(more …)

UF/IFAS study shows captive breeding no help to endangered woodrat

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, Forestry

key largo woodrat

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Captive breeding of the endangered Key Largo woodrat may not be the best solution to preserve the ecologically important rodent, an animal driven to near extinction by development, a new University of Florida study shows.

Using a computer model, scientists developed a captive breeding-and-release program to see if adding captive-reared animals outweighed the loss of rats from the wild. But it did not, the study said.

Robert McCleery, UF assistant professor in wildlife ecology and conservation and co-author of the study, estimated that fewer than 500 of the woodrats remain. That’s down from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates of about 6,000 in 1984.

(more …)

New study sheds light for those working to save world’s endangered crocodiles

Topic(s): Conservation, Research, Uncategorized

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — African crocodiles, long thought of as just three known species, are among the most iconic creatures on that continent. But recent University of Florida research now finds that there are at least seven distinct African crocodile species.

The UF team’s latest discovery, led by then-doctoral candidate Matthew H. Shirley, is that what had been believed to be a single species of slender-snouted crocodile, is actually two.

(more …)

UF research shows coral reefs worth saving

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, Conservation, Economics, Environment

coral reefs photo

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although some scientists suggest that coral reefs are headed for certain doom, a new study by University of Florida and Caribbean researchers indicates even damaged reefs can recover.

In a 13-year study in the Cayman Islands, warm ocean temperatures led to bleaching and infectious disease that reduced live coral cover by more than 40 percent between 1999 and 2004. But seven years later, the amount of live coral on the reefs, the density of young colonies critical to the reefs’ future health, and the overall size of corals all had returned to the 1999 state, the study showed.

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