University of Florida

Students help UF/IFAS professor breed better, tastier peppers

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Crops, IFAS, Nutrition, Research


Horticulture Professor Balasubramanian Rathinasabapathi (Saba). Experiments, beaker, laboratory.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences students are learning how to breed better peppers under the guidance of Professor Bala Rathinasabapathi.

And by “better,” we mean a more savory taste, among other characteristics. Florida produces $207 million worth of bell peppers annually, according to the Florida Department Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). In fact, as of 2012, Florida ranked second nationally in the value of bell peppers. Improving traits may help the Florida pepper industry grow even larger.

Now, for a new study published in the Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, Rathinasabapathi and his team cross-bred two heirloom varieties of peppers – the Bulgarian Carrot and the Round of Hungary — to come up with more desirable consumer traits.

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UF freshman wins trip to Nobel Prize ceremony in December

Topic(s): Announcements, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research


GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An outstanding high school science fair project has led to a University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences freshman being invited to attend the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm, Sweden in December.

UF CALS scholarship recipient Carly Crump won the all-expense paid trip to the Nobel Prize ceremonies for her outstanding performance at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair, where she presented her project on Dengue Virus transmission.

Along with the Dudley R Herschbach Stockholm International Youth Science Seminar Award that granted Crump the trip to Sweden, she also earned Best in Category for microbiology at the ISEF which came with an $8,000 check.

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Ag and Gardening Day set for UF Homecoming on Nov. 7

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Lawn & Garden, Research

University of Florida Stadium. UF/IFAS photo: Marisol Amador

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — This year, anyone involved in gardening or agriculture and gardening-related industries and education can “come home” to Gainesville as the University of Florida introduces Agriculture and Gardening Day for Homecoming weekend.

UF Athletics and UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are hosting the event that revolves around the game between the Gators and the Vanderbilt Commodores, which kicks off at noon, Nov. 7.

“Florida’s agricultural, gardening and related food industries add $140 billion to our economy and employ nearly 300,000 people,” said Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources. “The industry is second only to tourism in Florida, and this is a great way to honor and recognize those who work so hard to put food on our tables and plants and flowers in our yards. We welcome back to Gainesville those who make agriculture and gardening part of their daily lives, and we look forward to their camaraderie.”

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UF/IFAS professor attracts non-agriculture majors to class; gives student 40,000th plant

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Professor David Clark knows how to entice a broad range of students to his horticultural class: He gives away a plant that he bred. Recently, he donated his 40,000th plant to an undergraduate psychology student.

For the ceremony, Clark, a professor in the Department of Environmental Horticulture, brought Anna Ball, a third generation owner of Ball Horticultural Company, as a special guest lecturer on Oct. 22. Ball, based in West Chicago, Illinois, is one of three companies that licenses Clark’s UF coleus varieties. Ball has sold more UF coleuses than any other company, Clark said.

Ball gave a UF/IFAS coleus plant – in this case a ‘Wasabi,’ bred by Clark and licensed by Ball — to undergraduate student Kendall Stacey, a freshman psychology major. Stacey works with Clark’s new UF/IFAS Plant Innovation Center undergraduate science writing team. Clark is the director of the center.

Stacey is gaining plenty of knowledge about plants from Clark’s class, even as he inspires her.

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UF CALS courses, majors evolve to meet changing demands

Topic(s): Agriculture, Aquaculture, CALS, Citrus, Crops, Economics, Environment, Families and Consumers, Food Safety, IFAS, Nutrition

Classroom, students, learning, auditorium.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the University of Florida prepares to embark on the 2015-16 academic year, the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences offers several courses and majors that reflect how the institution adapts to industry and stakeholder needs.

The courses and majors aren’t brand new for this fall. They evolved during the past few years. But they reflect the growing menu of courses and majors offered to the more than 3,700 undergraduate students expected to enroll at UF CALS this fall.

Just to name a few of the relatively new majors and course offerings, UF CALS offers a major in marine sciences that leads to a bachelor’s degree, a new undergraduate certificate titled “Challenge 2050: Global Leadership and Change” from the Challenge 2050 Project and three new majors offered in the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department that were previously specializations under one major – Food Science and Human Nutrition.

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UF CALS faculty, former students take home NACTA awards

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty and former students won numerous awards recently at the 61st Annual Conference of the North American Colleges and Teachers of Agriculture (NACTA).

“The College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has a long tradition of excellence in teaching. NACTA provides a forum where our outstanding faculty are recognized for their contributions to teaching and student development,” said college Dean Elaine Turner.

NACTA Educator Awards went to:

  • Jane Bachelor, a senior lecturer in food and resource economics at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.
  • Kate Fletcher, a lecturer in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Muthusami Kumaran, an assistant professor in family, youth and community sciences.
  • Bob McCleery, an associate professor in wildlife ecology and conservation.
  • Karla Shelnutt, an associate professor in family, youth and community sciences.

The NACTA Teaching Scholar Award went to Nicole Stedman, an associate professor of agricultural education and communication.

Recent doctoral graduate Cathy DiBenedetto won the NACTA Graduate Student Teaching Award for her work in agricultural education and communication.

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UF CALS grad to continue helping people through nonprofit work

Topic(s): CALS, Families and Consumers, IFAS
Jackie Nettles working at Girl Scouts of Gateway Council.

Jackie Nettles working at Girl Scouts of Gateway Council.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Jackie Nettles, who graduates this week from the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, is poised to work in a job she’s prepared for her whole life: community engagement manager for the Girl Scouts of Gateway Council.

Nettles grew up in Gainesville, volunteered as a soccer coach and as a youth leader at her church. She worked as a nanny and later interned at the ACORN clinic, a nonprofit medical and dental clinic in Brooker, Florida, where North Florida healthcare professionals volunteer to help rural residents.

“I did a lot of things with helping people,” said the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences (FYCS) senior. “The quote for FYCS is, ‘We’re not a beaker science; we’re a people science.’”

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Five years after oil spill, survey shows Gulf Coast residents are still impacted

Topic(s): Aquaculture, CALS, Disaster Preparedness, Environment, Families and Consumers, Pollution
Families, fishermen and birds enjoying sunset at the beach in Naples, Florida.  Shore, coast, sundown, fishing, leisure and recreation.  UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Five years after the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 men and sent at least 210 million gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico, people along the coast are gathering for a three-city regional forum Thursday. Participants will discuss the spill’s effects on their communities, its lasting impacts and how to prepare for another major disaster.

The regional forum will include the release of results from a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences survey of Gulf Coast residents from Baldwin County, Ala., to Cedar Key, Fla. The survey looked at coastal residents’ opinions of the status of their recovery five years after the DWH disaster.

Findings indicated that respondents’ levels of satisfaction were lower five years after the spill than before it in several topic areas. This included levels of satisfaction with their community’s economy, community leadership and programs, local media, Gulf coast seafood industry, faith-based organizations and emergency response efforts. (more …)

5 faculty, staff win CALS teaching/advising awards

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

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Left to right: Chris Mortensen, Amy Alexander, Rebecca Baldwin, Andrea Lucky and Martha Monroe.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Five University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences faculty and staff members have won the 2014-15 college teaching and advising awards for their contributions to advancing undergraduate and graduate student education.

The five will receive their awards at a banquet April 16, said CALS Dean Elaine Turner.

“These honored faculty and staff carry on a long tradition of excellence in teaching, advising and mentoring in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences,” Turner said. “One of our top priorities is to promote excellence in teaching, and this year’s honorees are passionate about what they do, bringing creativity and a personal touch to their work. I’m grateful for all they do every day on behalf of CALS students.”

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Two CALS doctoral students will participate in Three Minute Thesis Competition

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Chanda Jones Littles and Hannah Allen, two University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate students, are finalists for the Three Minute Thesis competition, where they will explain what makes their research compelling in, well, three minutes. The competition starts at 2 p.m. April 7 in the Reitz Union Auditorium.

The competition, developed by the University of Queensland in 2008, challenges graduate students to present their research in 180 seconds to an intelligent, non-specialist audience. The competition helps students develop academic, presentation and research communication skills.

“For one, I think that it’s important for people to communicate with a broad audience about what you do and why it’s important,” said Littles, an interdisciplinary ecology major working toward her doctorate. “This competition is great practice for that. Given the time constraints, it has made me focus more on what really is important in my research and how it’s contributing to the bigger picture of conservation.”

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