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 …)
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.
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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.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — South Florida is on the front lines in the war against invasive reptiles and amphibians because its warm climate makes it a place where they like to live, a new University of Florida study shows.
Using computer models and data showing where reptiles live in Florida, UF/IFAS scientists predicted where they could find non-native species in the future. They found that as temperatures climb, areas grow more vulnerable to invasions by exotic reptiles. Conversely, they found that extreme cold temperatures protect against invasion.
“Early detection and rapid response efforts are essential to prevent more of the 140 introduced species from establishing breeding populations, and this study helps us choose where to look first,” said Frank Mazzotti, a wildlife ecology and conservation professor at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.
The new study is published online in the journal Herpetological Conservation Biology.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With Florida facing an increasing invasion of exotic wildlife, UF/IFAS scientists and other specialists will hold a public workshop Sept. 16 at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
The workshop, a joint venture of UF/IFAS and the Southwest Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (SWFL CISMA), will be held from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the facility, 2685 State Road 29 North, in Immokalee.
More than 140 species of reptiles and amphibians have been introduced in Florida, with more than 50 breeding here, said Frank Mazzotti, a UF/IFAS professor of wildlife ecology and conservation.
“South Florida is particularly susceptible to non-native invasions as a result of its subtropical climate, island-like geography, major ports of entry for plants and animals, thriving trade in exotic pets and occasional hurricanes, which increase the risk of escapes,” Mazzotti said.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Biological control of pests, weeds, plants and animals gives “the best hope to providing lasting, environmentally sound and socially acceptable pest management,” according to a new book edited by two UF/IFAS scientists.
The book, “Prospects for Biological Control of Plant Feeding Mites and Other Harmful Organisms,” was recently published by Springer Science. It includes chapters by scientists in California, Kenya, Benin, Brazil, Colombia, Greece, Spain and New Zealand.
Research compiled in the book examines how predatory mites can be used to control other plant-eating mites and other harmful organisms such as stable flies, mushrooms flies and some soil pests, said Daniel Carrillo, a UF/IFAS assistant professor in entomology. The book serves as an important resource for anyone searching for efficient and sustainable biological methods of pest control. Biological control is vital because pests become more difficult to control as they build resistance to pesticides.
“So, biological control is a sound alternative,” Carrillo said. “You can release predatory mites to control spider mites, whiteflies and thrips, among other pests. People use them in greenhouses mostly.”
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are using data from fishing tournaments to gauge how non-native largemouth bass in Africa are invading lakes and preying on smaller, native fish, a huge cost-saving measure in fisheries management.
Largemouth bass are native to North America, but they have been distributed worldwide for recreational fishing. When they’re in waters outside North America, largemouth bass can cause declines in native fish abundance, disrupting the ecosystem.
UF fisheries and aquatic sciences Professor Micheal Allen and his colleagues at UF/IFAS and in South Africa used existing fish-catch data from bass tournaments in southern Africa, where largemouth bass are non-native and invasive. Scientists examined data from 40 bass tournaments in lakes in Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They compared that information with 41 bass tournaments in the U.S., where bass are native species, between 2011 and 2014.
They found that angler catch data were similar between southern Africa and the U.S. Their data proves that the number and weight of the fish caught by recreational fishermen can be used to monitor the spread of exotic fish that are commonly caught by anglers.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A valuable UF/IFAS program that helps save the state millions of dollars annually in controlling invasive plants and insects will likely close after a veto by Gov. Rick Scott on Monday.
An approved increase by the Legislature of $180,000 was denied, and the facility also lost all funding. The state-of-the-art lab opened in 2004 at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce with $3.9 million in state funding.
The center will probably close, and 12 positions will be eliminated, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.
The quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species. Scientists introduce, evaluate and release biological control agents to try to manage exotic weeds and insect pests in Florida.
Florida has the largest invasive infestations in the nation. Invasive species cost Florida approximately $100 million a year, Payne said. Scientists at the lab helped control the tropical soda apple, an invasive weed, through the release of 250,000 South American beetles. The move saved cattle ranchers about $5.75 million a year, Payne said.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida officials expressed thanks Monday for the $180,000 increase in the state budget that’s slated for the quarantine research facility at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
With the additional funding, scientists will be able to expand foreign exploration to identify new candidate biological control agents of Florida’s worst invasive plants and insects, and support intensified laboratory studies that are required to ensure agents are safe for release, said Bill Overholt, a UF/IFAS entomology professor who works at the quarantine facility.
With biological control such as one bug eating another, scientists and growers can use a sustainable, cost-effective solution to manage invasive plant and insect problems.
“The facility needs an increase in the amount of operating funds in order to reach its full potential,” said Mary Ann Gosa-Hooks, director of UF/IFAS Government Affairs. “We can do so much more, but with costs continuing to increase, while the facility continues to function on the same budget since 2004, activities are somewhat limited.”
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Belle Glade, Fla. — Throughout the past two decades, University of Florida researcher Richard Raid has seen barn owl populations in the Everglades Agricultural Area, centered around Belle Glade, expand from mere dozens to more than 400 nesting pairs.
But these beneficial raptors, currently listed as a threatened species, are now being threatened by Africanized honey bees. Swarming as frequently as eight times per year, the invasive bees have been taking over nesting boxes Raid and students have built for the owls, using them as hives, and displacing or even killing the desired raptors. (more …)