IFAS News

University of Florida

Nature Coast research internships give UF students an edge

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Last summer, Cory Gillis found himself waking before dawn at the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, where he’d been assigned to track the breeding calls of the northern bobwhite quail as part of an internship with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. But he wasn’t complaining.

“It was amazing to be out in the forest before sunrise in an area without any human influence, not even a sound,” said Gillis, now a senior in the University of Florida department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Summer internships like Gillis’ are made possible by Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Each year, the station selects a handful of students in the UF College of Agricultural Sciences for internships with various researchers, agencies and labs on Florida’s Nature Coast.

Applications for 2017 summer internships will be open in February, said Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant regional specialized agent based at the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station. This winter, another group of students will intern with the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, where they will collect data on manatee-human interactions and assist with other duties around the busy manatee tourism season, Barry said.

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Big Bend Science Symposium puts research on public view

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

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Scientists on Florida’s Big Bend coastline spend their careers studying local ecosystems and finding solutions to challenges such as oyster reef decline or the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  Feb 1 to 3, the second annual Big Bend Science Symposium will hold an open forum where the public can meet these scientists and learn about their discoveries and projects.

“The goal of the symposium is to communicate the latest science being done in the Big Bend region and to give visitors a chance to engage directly with scientists,” said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Symposium scientists will represent several universities, including the University of Florida, state and federal agencies, and conservation groups.

Oral presentations will begin Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the Cedar Key Community Center located at 809 6th Street, Cedar Key, FL 32625. All presenters registered with the symposium may attend.

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Citrus greening, invasive species head 2016 UF/IFAS stories

Topic(s): Agriculture, Citrus, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A trio of projects aimed at helping Florida producers cope with the bacterial disease known as citrus greening topped the list of stories shared by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences in 2016.

This year marked the beginning of the state’s second decade battling greening disease, which is also known as Huanglongbing or HLB. Other top stories for the year involved invasive organisms causing negative impacts to Florida’s economy and environment, and even the health of its residents.

Here are the top 10 UF/IFAS 2016 stories:

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2016’s Top 10 UF/IFAS Extension publications cover snakes, avocados, vegetable gardening, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Invasive Species, Lawn & Garden, Pests

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. These are the topics for some of the top University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension documents from 2016. Here’s this year’s list of the top 10 publications from the UF/IFAS Electronic Data Information Source:

  1. Vegetable gardening offers fresh air, sunshine, exercise, enjoyment, mental therapy, nutritious, fresh vegetables and economic savings, as well as many other benefits: http://bit.ly/2hgLzbV. (124,723 visits)
  2. In the U.S., people kill thousands of snakes each year, yet only five or six people die of venomous snake bites. In order for snakes and people to safely coexist, it is important that Floridians learn to identify, understand and respect snakes: http://bit.ly/2h66sDM. (91,417)
  3. Living with snakes in Florida: About 50 species of snakes live along the Atlantic and Gulf coastal states. An EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2hgK7Xf, teaches you how to identify black snakes.  (89,724)
  4. Here’s everything you need to know about common diseases that afflict poultry: http://bit.ly/2ganzHn. (84,556)
  5. Before you go for a walk, it helps to know if there are poisonous plants along your path. Find out how to identify them: http://bit.ly/2hgJGvJ. (72,245)
  6. How do producers make sure food-handling and processing equipment stays clean? A UF/IFAS expert shows you: http://bit.ly/2hitCpe.
  7. St. Augustine grass is dense and well-adapted to Florida soils, but you’ve got to make sure you water it, according to this EDIS document, http://bit.ly/2gZIYQb. (47,072)
  8. We live with alligators here in Florida. So what do we do about it? Find out here: http://bit.ly/2hdKwpe (45,686)
  9. Bahia grass prefers acidic soil and has relatively few insect and disease problems. Find out more here: http://bit.ly/2gOaaUy. (42,178)
  10. Learn more about growing avocados in your backyard in Florida from UF/IFAS experts in this EDIS document: http://bit.ly/2gOaaUy. (36,064)

EDIS, a free service of UF/IFAS Extension, provides information on topics relevant to you: profitable and sustainable agriculture, the environment and natural resources, 4-H and other youth programs, Florida-friendly landscapes, communities that are vibrant and prosperous, economic well-being and quality of life for people and families. UF/IFAS Extension faculty statewide write the documents for EDIS.

“EDIS is a longstanding public-service tradition of UF/IFAS Extension in which we use an electronic system to disseminate top-notch, science-based research to our many stakeholders,” said Nick Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. “We hope people continue to go to the website and read this critical information that provides solutions for their lives.”

That website is www.edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

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Caption: Vegetable gardening, bahia grass, living with snakes and identifying poisonous plants. Those are among the 10 most popular UF/IFAS Extension publications for 2016.

Credit: UF/IFAS file.

By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

UF/IFAS early career scientists to use grants to study greening, pests, environmental issues, more

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Citrus, Conservation, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Nutrition, Pests, RECs, Research, Soil and Water Science

Front- John Bonkowski lab assistant, Anne Vitoreli Laboratory manager

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Fifteen early career scientists at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Scientists have been awarded grants to help solve global issues such as thwarting invasive pests, improving crop varieties, battling citrus greening and preserving our environment.

The faculty members will receive about $50,000 each as part of UF’s Early Career Scientist Seed Fund program to help develop new faculty research, said Jackie Burns, UF/IFAS dean for research. UF/IFAS works with the UF vice president for research on the program.

“This year’s competition was highly competitive, with 25 early career scientists presenting excellent proposals,” Burns said. “After a rigorous review by a panel of UF/IFAS scientists, I am pleased to announce 15 awards. The research projects represented by these awards demonstrate the breadth of UF/IFAS research programs.”

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Applications open for 2017 UF/IFAS Plant Camp for educators

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

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Are you a teacher who has always wanted to incorporate lessons on plants in your classroom? The University of Florida/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants is hosting its free Plant Camp, a five-day workshop, from June 12 to 16, 2017.

Applications will be accepted from Dec. 14th to Feb. 19, 2017. To apply, click here.

The workshop is designed for teachers—4th through 12th grade—interested in learning more about the 130-plus invasive plant species invading Florida’s natural areas and neighborhoods, as well as the native flora and fauna that make our state so unique.

“Invasive plants cost Florida taxpayers more than $80 million a year. They can block flood control devices and bridges, harbor mosquitoes, and cover valuable fish and wildlife habitats,” said Dehlia Albrecht, education initiative coordinator at the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. “Prevention and education are needed to protect our waters and natural areas.”

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UF/IFAS, agencies collaborate to help landowners fight invasive species

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

North Florida cattle rancher . UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — It took a few years for Buzz Eaves to notice that tropical soda apple shrubs were overtaking his 1,200-acre cattle ranch near Fort Pierce, Florida. The prickly plant, with fruit the size of a golf ball and the color of unripen watermelon, was creating a barrier to the cattle’s grazing ground and displacing native plants.

“I was spending close to $6,000 a year on fertilizer and it wasn’t working that well,” Eaves said. “Then I heard about a program through the University of Florida that helps get rid of invasive species, so I turned to the school for help,” Eaves said. “It was the best thing I ever did.”

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences joined a dozen other organizations to form the Florida Invasive Species Partnership (FISP). The members work across boundaries to address invasive species challenges across the state, said Chris Demers, UF/IFAS Extension statewide program manager.

FISP began as a working group to address invasive species on state and federal land. The program expanded to include privately owned land, Demers said. “UF/IFAS Extension faculty provide various resources on invasive species, control and prevention,” he said. “We work across all species, plants, animals and fungus.”

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UF/IFAS researchers head to Cuba for scientific exchange to benefit Florida agriculture

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Pests, Research

Bill Messina, agricultural economist with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, surveyes a map of Cuban farming areas, Tuesday 3/24, that could compete with Florida producers if and when the United States trade embargo against Cuba is lifted. During the past four years, he has led a team of UF researchers working with the University of Havana to study the economic impact of lifting the embargo.   Photography by, Thomas Wright  UF/IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is sending an inter-departmental team of scientists to Cuba as part of a grant that is believed to be the first federally-funded project for scientific field research in Cuba.

The project’s principal investigator (PI), associate professor Damian Adams; project co-PIs assistant professor Jiri Hulcr and postdoctoral associates Paloma Carton de Grammont and José Soto, and other UF/IFAS research scientists and graduate students from the School of Forest Resources & Conservation, the Entomology and Nematology Department, the Food and Resource Economics Department, and the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering will travel to Cuba for this research, funded by a $228,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The project team is traveling to Cuba to fulfill several missions:

  • Conduct research to identify wood-boring pest species in Cuba that could pose high-risk threats to U.S. agriculture and forests.
  • Train Cuban scientists on state-of-the-art methods to accurately identify these wood-boring pests in Cuba in an effort to reduce the possibility of transmission of these pests to Florida agriculture and forests.
  • Understand how Cuba’s plant protection programs and policies impact pest movement, particularly to the United States.
  • Estimate the potential economic impact of a pest invasion from Cuba to the United States.

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Screwworm life cycle and habits contribute to insect’s threat, UF experts say

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, CALS, Economics, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests, Research
A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasure at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida.

A cow grazing in a beef cattle pasture at the Range Cattle Research and Education Center in Ona, Florida. Photo by Tyler Jones, UF/IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida residents curious or skeptical about the threat posed by the parasitic screwworm fly Cochliomiya hominivorax can rest assured the insect merits all the attention it has received after an outbreak was detected in the Florida Keys earlier this month, say experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, the insect threatens the health of warm-blooded animals and people in areas where it is well-established, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

“To put it plainly, a full-blown screwworm infestation is a death sentence for the host animal,” Payne said. “This pest can kill a previously healthy cow or bull in a matter of weeks if the problem isn’t treated properly. It’s that serious.”

Payne urges all livestock and pet owners to educate themselves about the symptoms of screwworm infestation and seek veterinary care for animals exhibiting tell-tale indications such as open wounds that do not heal, running sores, listlessness, loss of appetite or sudden weight loss.

The fly’s larvae must consume the tissue of a live warm-blooded animal to develop, so adult females lay their eggs on livestock and wildlife with superficial wounds, said veterinary entomologist Phil Kaufman, an associate professor with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department.

“From a strictly scientific point of view, screwworm larvae are incredibly well-adapted parasites,” Kaufman said. “That’s why this species was a constant menace to Florida’s cattle industry up through about 1960, when it was eradicated from the state.” (more …)

New UF/IFAS document profiles destructive screwworm fly recently detected in Florida Keys

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Biocontrols, Entomology and Nematology, Environment, IFAS, Invasive Species, Livestock, Pests

screwworm

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — To educate Florida agricultural producers, livestock owners, pet owners and concerned residents about the destructive screwworm fly recently detected in the Florida Keys, experts with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have published a profile on the insect, available online at http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/primary_screwworm.htm.

The free resource provides a scientific overview of Cochliomiya hominivorax, commonly known as the primary screwworm fly or New World screwworm fly, said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. The species was a major challenge for Florida ranchers until the late 1950s, when it was eradicated from the state with controlled releases of sterile male flies.

“Since the announcement earlier this week that this pest had re-emerged, we’ve had people working virtually around the clock to get accurate information to producers, pet owners and the public – this document is yet another example of UF/IFAS at work,” Payne said. “Knowledge is power, and state residents can aid the eradication effort by learning to recognize the symptoms of infection.”

A member of the blow fly family Calliphoridae, the primary screwworm fly is a threat to warm-blooded animals, including people, because its larvae feed on living tissue to develop, said Jennifer Gillett-Kaufman, an associate Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department and one of the profile’s authors.

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