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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Milk may be sold in supermarkets, but it comes from cows – that’s the lesson being offered this Saturday at Family Day at the Dairy Farm, a free open-house event at the University of Florida’s dairy farm in Hague, 20 minutes northwest of Gainesville.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., dairy researchers and Extension specialists with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will showcase the farm’s operations and explain how their work helps commercial dairy producers. For directions, see http://tinyurl.com/d3a5626.
Visitors can watch cows being fed and milked, learn about cattle nutrition and health-care practices, pet live calves, tour barns, sample dairy products and make their own butter.
Photo by Juliane Struve. Click here for high-res image.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Whale sharks may be the world’s largest fish, but the body of scientific knowledge surrounding them is surprisingly small.
Now, a University of Florida expert says tourists armed with cameras may be a new source of data about the gentle giants, often seen in the Gulf of Mexico. Photographs could help scientists gauge the shark’s abundance and shed light on its longevity, migratory patterns, breeding habits and other information needed for conservation efforts.
A study published in the current issue of the journal Wildlife Research examined whale shark photographs and video still images posted online by vacationers on diving or sightseeing excursions who’d seen the creatures. The researchers concluded that the material was often suitable for use in scientific studies that identify and track individual whale sharks.
“We need to consider all available information to try and fill the gaps of knowledge for data-deficient, vulnerable species like whale sharks,” said Juliane Struve, a research assistant professor with UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Citizen photos are as useful as researcher photos if they meet the requirements of photo identification.”
Whale sharks can be individually identified because each one has a unique pattern of spots and lines on its back, giving the creature a visual signature akin to a fingerprint, Struve said. And, unlike many large marine species, whale sharks often swim close to the surface, making them accessible to photographers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Researchers with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences recently completed the state’s largest-ever study of landscape turfgrass and fertilizer use, and new online videos will help homeowners and lawn-care professionals understand the findings.
The eight-year, $4.2 million study was funded by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to determine the effectiveness of current UF/IFAS fertilizer recommendations, which have been in use since about 2000, said John Hayes, UF/IFAS dean for research. Florida has more than 5 million acres of home and commercial turf.
“This work is an important body of information generated here to address important questions about nutrient management,” Hayes said. “We’re proud to communicate our findings and we hope they will play a substantial role in helping residents, industry personnel and policymakers protect water quality.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Floridians are more concerned with water quality than quantity, the results of a new University of FloridaInstitute of Food and Agricultural Sciences water survey suggest.The survey of some 469 Floridians found that when respondents were asked to assign levels of importance to 16 water-related topics such as “plentiful water for cities” and “clean groundwater,” residents rated having “clean drinking water” most important. (more …)
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Some teenagers want a car; Tiffy Murrow wants to feed the world.
The Fort White High School junior has spent almost two years learning to farm fish, with help from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and her school’s agriculture adviser, Wayne Oelfke.
Murrow started with glass aquaria and tropical fish, then she graduated to a 750-gallon tank housed in an equipment building on the school campus. It holds 140 tilapia destined for a soup kitchen in nearby Lake City when they reach optimum size, about one pound.
But this project is about more than fish.
Soon, Murrow and collaborator Kaila Cheney, a FWHS sophomore, will begin growing vegetables on floating platforms in another part of the system, a shallow pool where water circulates. The crops may include cucumber, tomato, lettuce and basil. With roots dangling in the water, the plants will draw moisture and nutrients from the pool, reducing the need for fertilizer and helping maintain the ammonia and nitrogen levels tilapia need to stay healthy.
The technology is called aquaponics, a sustainable method for raising food where farmland is scarce. Increasingly common in Third World countries, aquaponics is still a novel concept to many Americans. But in Fort White, Murrow has plans to spread the word by holding open house events and encouraging others to investigate aquaponics as a possible project, hobby or business opportunity.
“We want to see if we can make a difference,” Murrow said. “This is a model showing how you can grow a large amount of food in a small amount of space. We want to set up the same kind of thing with fish ponds and incorporate it into Third World countries.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Although reports of drought conditions, water wars and restrictions have often painted a bleak picture of the nation’s water availability, a new University of Florida survey finds that conditions aren’t quite so bad as believed.
Jim Jawitz, a UF soil and water science professor, and Julie Padowski, who earned her doctoral degree from UF and is now a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford University, knew that previous assessments of urban water supplies typically used what is known as a “runoff-based approach,” which takes into account factors such as river flows and rainfall amounts.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An 80-year search for a tree killer has ended, says a University of Florida forest pathologist who helped identify the fungus that virtually wiped out the Florida Torreya and fears it may threaten other species.
The fungus infects more than 90 percent of wild Florida Torreyas in their native range, which covers parts of North Florida and South Georgia close to the Apalachicola River, said Jason Smith, an associate professor with UF’s School of Forest Resources and Conservation, part of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Smith is part of a research team that discovered the fungus, Fusarium torreyae, and formally described it in the journal Mycologia. Personnel from Atlanta Botanical Garden and the state Department of Environmental Protection are also involved.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A new research study gauging the outlook for the Florida manatee shows that it’s a case of great news and not-so-great news.
The Florida’s manatee population has grown so much in the last decade that the graceful creatures may soon find themselves reclassified by wildlife management officials from endangered to merely threatened.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When wildlife managers imported eight female Texas pumas in hopes they would mate with native Florida panthers, they knew they were taking a bit of a risk.
But a new University of Florida research study, published today in the Journal of Animal Ecology, suggests their gamble paid off.
Without those pumas, UF researchers Madan Oli and recent UF doctoral graduate Jeff Hostetler found that the probability of the Florida panther population falling below 10 panthers by 2010 was nearly 71 percent.
“We found that the Florida population would’ve declined, on average, by about 5 percent per year,” said Oli, a UF population ecology professor and Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty member. “And that’s essentially telling us there was a high chance that the population would’ve eventually gone extinct.”
There were an estimated 20 to 25 panthers left in the state when the Texas female cats were brought to Florida in 1995. Officials believe the population has since grown about 4 percent per year, and their estimate now ranges from 100 to 160, said Dave Onorato, a panther expert with the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Florida Panther Project.