IFAS News

University of Florida

UF/IFAS Extension fills five new positions to tackle water sustainability

Topic(s): Environment, Extension, IFAS

Citra, Pivot irrigation watering fields. UF/IFAS Photo: Josh Wickham

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Though counties and water management districts may operate within set boundaries, water doesn’t stick to a jurisdiction. To address this reality, University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension has created five new faculty positions to facilitate partnerships among various stakeholders, including agriculture, state agencies, water management districts and the public.

Each of these new water resource regional specialized agents (RSAs) is assigned to one of the five UF/IFAS Extension districts.

“We are extremely pleased to be able to now have five regional specialized agents geographically dispersed across the state to lead proactive educational programs related to water quality and quantity,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension. “I envision that these faculty will enable UF/IFAS Extension to lead educational efforts across our rural and urban sectors, which will lead toward implementation of improved best practices. With the ever-increasing pressure on water, these faculty will enable us to take steps across the state that will ensure greater sustainability of our critical water resources.”

James Fletcher started in June as water resource RSA for the UF/IFAS Extension central district, which includes the Orlando area. Fletcher has spent the last three decades of his career as director of UF/IFAS Extension Osceola, Brevard and Madison counties. Fletcher was drawn to the new RSA position because of his involvement in the Central Florida Water Initiative.

“My responsibilities as RSA are in agricultural and public water supply and conservation,” Fletcher said. “We have a large population growth in the central district and a lot of agriculture in that area as well. We are developing a plan to make sure that there is enough water in the region to serve everyone.”

Mary Lusk started in April as the water resource RSA for the UF/IFAS Extension south central district, which extends from Pasco County in the north to Collier County in the south. Before Lusk earned a doctorate in soil and water sciences from the University of Florida, she worked in the groundwater remediation industry and later as a developer of science education materials for children.

Nutrient management in water systems is her priority. “When I look at the whole south central region, I see that many of our issues stem from a need to manage excess nutrients from urban landscapes,” she said. “My goal is to establish a top-notch Extension program that focuses on urban nutrient stewardship. I want people to look to UF/IFAS for information about the connections between urban land management and nutrient levels in our water bodies.”

Charles Barrett became the water resource RSA for the UF/IFAS Extension northeast district in May. This district includes Jacksonville, the Suwannee River Valley and the Nature Coast. Barrett’s doctoral research focused on water and nutrient management for vegetable crops, so he’s looking forward to working with local growers on these sustainability issues.

Barrett also wants to spread awareness, particularly among youth, about Florida’s water challenges. “I grew up remembering public service announcements about saving the rainforest and preventing forest fires,” he said. “I know that shaped me as an adult, and I’m more aware of those things than my parents were. I would be failing at my job if I weren’t developing that awareness about water in kids.”

The two most recent hires, Andrea Albertin and Lisa Krimsky, are the water resource RSAs for the northwest and south districts, respectively.

Krimsky, who holds a doctorate in marine biosciences, was a Florida Sea Grant agent with UF/IFAS Extension Miami-Dade County for eight years before moving to her new position July 15. “Right now, my primary focus is on water quality in the Indian River Lagoon. I also want to help county agents in the district develop water resource programs of their own,” she said.

Albertin, who will start August 15, received her doctorate in soil and water sciences from the University of Florida, after which she worked in the United States and Costa Rica in higher education and community development. She looks forward to bringing this background in research, teaching and outreach to residents, producers and UF/IFAS Extension faculty in the Panhandle.

Caption: “With the ever-increasing pressure on water, these faculty will enable us to take steps across the state that will ensure greater sustainability of our critical water resources,” said Nick Place, dean of UF/IFAS Extension. UF/IFAS Photo by Josh Wickham.

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By: Samantha Grenrock, 352-294-3307, grenrosa@ufl.edu

Sources: Nick Place, 352-392-1761, nplace@ufl.edu

James Fletcher, 407-410-6901, jhfr@ufl.edu

Mary Lusk, 813-633-4129, mary.lusk@ufl.edu

Charles Barrett, 386-362-1725 ext. 108, cebarrett@ufl.edu

Lisa Krimsky, 772-465-3922, lkrimsky@ufl.edu

Andrea Albertin, 571-919-5096, albertin@ufl.edu

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