IFAS News

University of Florida

50 Florida 4-H youth to attend presidential inauguration

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On Jan. 20, 50 youth from the Florida 4-H youth development program will attend the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., to learn more about U.S. democracy and civic engagement.

“4-H believes in learning by doing, and this is an opportunity for our young people to be really engaged in our political process at the highest level,” said Chris Decubellis, associate state program leader for Florida 4-H youth development.

Florida 4-H members will attend the inauguration as part of the Citizenship Washington Focus program, a national program held in Washington, D.C., and attended by 4-H members from across the country ages 14 to 19. 4-H members confirmed their attendance for the inauguration nine months prior to the Nov. 2016 election.

Florida 4-H members will arrive in the capital on Jan. 17 and stay through Jan. 20.

“I am excited for the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. and witness such a monumental event in history,” said Gabi Sullivan, an attendee from Marion County and president of the Florida 4-H State Council. “Attending the inauguration is a once in a lifetime event for me, and I believe the experience will open my mind to many new ideas and people.”

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UF/IFAS experts to stress environment, immigration, production at ag policy conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, Crops, Economics, Environment, Extension, Food Safety, IFAS, RECs, Research

Spiro Stefanou

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economists and other experts will explore economic insights helpful for making informed business and policy decisions at the second annual Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook Conference, organized by the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department.

This year’s topics include the innovation economy, food and nutrition policy, agricultural labor, water quality and management and agricultural production policy and trade.

The conference will be held from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Feb. 9 at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, 14625 County Road 672, Balm, Florida.

“Agriculture is a vital industry for Florida with interesting opportunities and compelling challenges as we move into the future,” said Spiro Stefanou, chair of the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Our goal is to bring industry experts, researchers, policy and business leaders together to discuss the current and emerging challenges related to Florida as an engine of innovation, policy related to food, nutrition and consumer decision making, water quality and management, agricultural labor and the prospects for our fruit and vegetable industry.”

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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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Florida 4-H annual meeting celebrates successes, looks to the future

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Florida 4-H agents spend their careers helping young people learn life skills that put them on the path to becoming successful adults. However, these dedicated professionals also know that learning is a lifelong process.

At the 2017 4-H Youth Development Institute, Florida 4-H faculty and staff  from across the state will come together to learn from each other and share success stories from their own 4-H communities. The institute is set for Jan. 10 to 12 at the Hilton Hotel in Ocala, Florida.

“At the 4-H Youth Development Institute, we work to provide our wonderful 4-H agents with the latest science behind positive youth development and the latest youth development curricula,” said Chris DeCubellis, associated state program leader for 4-H youth development with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension. “We also provide training for the organization and volunteer systems necessary to provide positive experiences for Florida’s Youth.”

“We are striving for the Florida 4-H Youth Development Program to be the premier youth development program in the nation,” DeCubellis said. “In order for this to happen, we must have the best-trained professionals in the business.”

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‘Art of Goodbye’ starts the conversation about end-of-life planning

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — No one likes to talk about death or dying. But starting a dialogue with loved ones about end-of-life concerns outside of a diagnosis or crisis can help reduce the stress and conflict that sometimes occur when those close to us are terminally ill or pass away, says Lynda Spence, family and consumer sciences educator with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Marion County.

Spence heads the Art of Goodbye project, a series of classes offered through UF/IFAS Extension that helps participants understand end-of-life issues and how to communicate their preferences to family, friends and healthcare providers.

“While most people want to start the conversation, many aren’t sure how to bring up the topic or are afraid that talking about the end of life will change their relationships with people they care about,” Spence explained.

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UF/IFAS researchers show potential market for locally grown Asian vegetables

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Cultivars, Economics, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition, RECs, Research, Vegetables

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Asian-Americans in three East Coast states, including Florida, yearn for more of their native vegetables, and those crops can be grown in the East, say two University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers.

Gene McAvoy, a UF/IFAS Extension vegetable specialist, and Shouan Zhang, a UF/IFAS plant pathology associate professor, were among a group of 17 researchers from four land-grant universities who surveyed Asian Americans’ preferences in Asian vegetables. Then the researchers tested the crops in various states to see how well they would grow.

There’s a market for locally grown Asian vegetables, researchers say.

In Florida, Asians account for 2.8 percent – or 557,000 — of the state’s 19.8 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population of Asian Americans has jumped by 32 percent from 2000 to 2011, according to the census bureau. Asians are expected to make up about 40 million Americans by 2030. On the East Coast alone, there are 5.8 million Asian Americans in 2014, according to the study.

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UF/IFAS Extension program collects mosquito repellent for the homeless

Topic(s): Extension, Families and Consumers, Household Pests, IFAS

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BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — Experts agree that one effective way to protect yourself against mosquitoes —and the diseases they can transmit — is to wear mosquito repellent. But for homeless people, getting access to this kind of protection can be difficult.

In response, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Hernando County launched Operation Skeeter Stop. Through this program, organizers collected 313 donated containers of mosquito repellent and distributed them to the Hernando County homeless community through the Homeless Ministry of Brooksville and the Bread of Life Ministry.

Operation Skeeter Stop is a collaboration among several UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County programs, including Florida Sea Grant, Florida Friendly Landscaping, 4-H Youth Development and Florida Master Gardeners, along with Hernando County Mosquito Control and the Florida Department of Health, said Brittany Scharf, UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County Florida Sea Grant agent.

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UF/IFAS researcher to lead $1 million study to increase global wheat production

Topic(s): Agriculture, Crops, Extension, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher will lead a nearly $1 million project to increase worldwide wheat yield potential to help feed an anticipated 9.5 billion people globally by the year 2050.

To do this, Md Ali Babar, a UF/IFAS agronomy assistant professor and his team of researchers, hope to increase the harvest index from 45 to 60 percent, which translates to much more wheat. The harvest index quantifies a crop’s yield versus the amount of biomass – shoots and roots – that it produces.

“This will increase wheat yield and improve food security for a growing population,” Babar said.

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4-H Tech Wizards gives Hastings youth science education, confidence

Topic(s): 4-H, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Each week, 28 middle schoolers from Hastings, Florida, gather at the W.E. Harris Community Center, where they practice programming robots to light up and move around or learn the physics behind the bow and arrow. These 4-H Tech Wizards are not just getting a leg up in STEM—science, technology, engineering and math—but also developing life skills they might otherwise miss out on.

“Most of these youth have grown up under difficult circumstances,” said Julia Kelly, 4-H agent with University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension St. Johns County. “Some were born drug addicted or come from homes that receive public assistance, while others are cared for by a single parent or have one parent who is incarcerated.”

UF/IFAS Extension St. Johns County is one of six Florida counties—including Hillsborough, Palm Beach, Duval, Osceola and Broward—that has a 4-H Tech Wizards program.

“Youth arrive with a with a variety of science backgrounds and skill levels, so our goal is to supplement what they are learning in class and spark an interest in science they may not have known they had,” said Kelly.

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