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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Lay people can help scientists conserve the protected Florida fox squirrel and endangered species just by collecting data, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.
So-called citizen scientists did a commendable job collecting information on the fox squirrel, according to the study.
Until this study, the conservation and management of fox squirrels in Florida was constrained by a lack of reliable information on the factors influencing its distribution. But with this research, which combines sightings and photos of fox squirrels by everyday citizens and professional ecologists, scientists now know they can get help from citizen scientists in conserving the fox squirrel population.
“When citizens are used in research to find animals across large scales, such as the state of Florida, they provide lots of information that is generally useful for conservation efforts,” said Bob McCleery, a UF/IFAS associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. “We showed that data collected by citizens has a considerable amount of biases, but it is equal, if not better, than data collected by trained professionals. Additionally, regardless of its bias, citizen-collected data provided reliable predictions of fox squirrel occurrence and helped understand fox squirrel habitat relationships.”
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LAKE WALES, Fla. — Forty Florida middle school students will learn to cook fresh, healthy meals with a professional chef, thanks to the partnership between University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension and Bok Tower Gardens.
The cooking demonstration is set for May 20 and will celebrate the recent opening of the new Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden at Bok Tower Gardens, said Chef David Bearl.
The Outdoor Kitchen and Edible Garden will inspire meals prepared with the seasonal fruits and vegetables grown onsite, said Tricia Martin, director of education at Bok Tower Gardens.
Martin worked with Bearl to design the kitchen with a chef’s needs in mind. The kitchen features state-of-the-art appliances, a wood-fired brick oven, granite countertops and seating for 40 people.
BROOKSVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida IFAS Extension Hernando County agents and staff are settling into their new office at the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, and they couldn’t be happier with the change of scene.
Until recently, the UF/IFAS Extension office was housed with the Hernando County building department. This location was “far off the beaten trail,” said Stacy Strickland, the UF/IFAS Extension Hernando County director.
Both Strickland and the county administration agreed that the office needed a more prominent location. They started making plans in February to find the office a new address.
Strickland likes that the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center is closer to residential communities and potential UF/IFAS Extension clientele.
JENSEN BEACH, Fla. — The Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park will host a free event—Warriors on the Water—for local veterans and their spouses on Sunday, May 15th, from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm. Warriors on the Water is designed to connect veterans with the serenity and wonder of Florida’s natural systems. The event is co-hosted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Florida Master Naturalists – St. Lucie Chapter.
Participants will have the opportunity to enjoy guided interpretive walks through the pine flatwoods, take a one-hour guided kayak trip through the pristine Savannas basin marsh and tour the Savannas Education Center. Participants may also peruse display tables hosted by local businesses, and enjoy a free lunch sponsored by the Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park and park volunteers.
“We could not offer this event without the support of our park volunteers and partners,” says Wren Underwood, Park Services Specialist at Savannas Preserve State Park. “Warriors on the Water is truly a community event and involves many partners, including Friends of Savannas Preserve State Park, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, UF/IFAS Florida Master Naturalists – St. Lucie Chapter, Heroes on the Water, Fleet Feet, South River Outfitters, and Sea Coast Bank. Everyone wants to be a part of this give-back event.”
FORT PIERCE, Fla. — An entomologist recognized internationally as a specialist in biological control of insect pests has been named interim director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center.
Ronald Cave will serve as the sixth leader of the Indian River REC.
From the Indian River REC’s 1947 start as the Indian River Field Laboratory, it has served agricultural and natural resources interests with research, Extension and education programs.
Cave was appointed to his new position by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources.
“In this challenging time for the citrus industry and for other agricultural commodities, we cannot afford a leadership gap even for a few months,” Payne said. “Ron Cave is the right leader for this transition because of his accomplishments as a scientist, his dedication as a mentor and his familiarity with the center. It’s this combination of excellence and stability that makes him an ideal choice for this important role.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — David Wright, an agronomy professor and University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension specialist, makes it his mission to get farmers to grow more grass. This will increase profits, reduce risk of disease and pests on row crops that follow, and conserve natural resources, according to the researcher.
The benefits in rotating perennial grass (sod) with row crops, Wright says, may help farmers boost profits two- to seven-fold. Currently, more farmers are adopting the practice. Funding is being provided by the Florida Water Management Districts and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and through EQIP funds from National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) Wright says.
Wright, based at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, has been researching sod-based rotation for more than 16 years. Sod-based rotation involves planting a perennial grass, such as bahia, for several years, and then planting row crops such as cotton, peanut, soybean or cotton after killing out the sod.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is showing small cow-calf producers how using the latest reproductive research leads to larger profits.
The UF/IFAS Florida Heifer Development Program was developed by Kalyn Waters, UF/IFAS Extension Holmes County director, and Cliff Lamb, professor of animal sciences and assistant director of the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Marianna.
Both Lamb and Waters saw a need for a program to help ranchers improve the productivity of their herds.
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Faculty, administrators and friends of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences now know even more about the fine foods and beverages produces by UF/IFAS faculty after the annual May 9 Flavors of Florida event.
Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, commended faculty and thanked friends for attending.
“Flavors of Florida is a chance for UF/IFAS to showcase the many fine foods and beverages developed by our world-renowned scientists to not only make food tastier and more nutritious but to help growers sell more food at the grocery store,” Payne said. “And with the help of our many friends around Florida, we can continue the laboratory and field research necessary to continue producing these incredible foods.”
GAINESVILLE, Fla. — For his 40 years of groundbreaking work on nutrient cycling in wetlands aquatic systems, the chairman of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences soil and water sciences department has been named a winner of the National Wetlands Award.
Professor K. Ramesh Reddy is among five recipients of this year’s National Wetlands Awards, given by the Environmental Law Institute. Now in its 27th year, the program has recognized nearly 200 people from across the country for their exceptional and innovative contributions to wetlands conservation. The award recipients will be honored in Washington, D.C., during American Wetlands Month. The award ceremony is on May 11.
“As we walk through a wetland, we all admire beautiful plants, flowers, birds and other wildlife, and flowing water, but we rarely think about the ‘living soil’ under our feet,” Reddy said. “The chemical and biological processes in the soil essentially control the majority of functions and ecosystem services that provide wetlands. This is similar to the ‘brain’ orchestrating the many functions of human body.
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — New research from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers shows birds may be avoiding habitats near noisy highways because they can’t hear fellow birds’ alarms that warn them of attacking hawks or owls.
Some highways cut through or run along natural areas, and researchers know that wild birds often make their homes away from those highways, but they don’t know why.
UF/IFAS researchers tested whether highway noise could be interfering with bird communication. Results of their study suggest too much noise around these highways keeps birds from hearing warnings from fellow birds about predators in the area, and that puts them at a higher risk of being eaten. It is also possible that the birds are hearing the alarms, but are too distracted by the noise to respond to them.
The researchers caution that they did not establish a causal link between highway noise and bird population reductions, although noise-disrupting alarm calls is a compelling possibility.
“Conservation of bird species should include decreasing noise in sensitive wildlife areas,” said Aaron Grade, who led the study as part of his master’s thesis in the UF/IFAS wildlife ecology and conservation department.