IFAS News

University of Florida

UF students learn how to save environment, lessen wildfires with prescribed burns

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Crops, Departments, Environment, Forestry, IFAS, Pollution, Safety, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Assistant professor Raelene Crandall walks her 18 students into Austin Cary Forest, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where they will set a fire. Crandall and the students stand out in their lemon yellow shirts, forest green pants, leather boots and gloves, and hard hats—all fireproof.

“Wildfire season is starting early this year, because we’re seeing a warmer, drier spring,” said Crandall, who teaches fire ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. “Experts predict an unusually bad wildfire season this year with the dry conditions and prescribed burns may help lower that number.”

The students check the plow line, which is used to contain a fire to a particular area and then start a fire along the edge. They stand back as plants begin to burn and the fire gradually progresses. “If we don’t conduct prescribed burns, we will get larger, often catastrophic fires that threaten families and structures,” Crandall explained.

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UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station raises $9,000 for aquarium, local causes

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pollution

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — More than 50 residents from Florida’s Nature Coast and Gainesville paddled, jogged or cheered during the Workout on the Waterfront event held in Cedar Key, Florida to raise money for local causes. The event, held March 18, was sponsored by the Nature Coast Biological Station, part of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

The goal of Workout on the Waterfront was to raise funds for the future UF/IFAS NCBS aquarium, the Cedar Key Library and the International Coast Clean-up, said Mike Allen, director of UF/IFAS NCBS. At the end of the day, Workout on the Waterfront raised $9,000.

“The aquarium will foster ecotourism in the Cedar Key area and will showcase efforts to conserve wildlife from the region,” Allen said. “The Florida Aquarium has generously donated its time and expertise to help with the planning of the new aquarium, for which we’re very grateful.”

Funds will also go toward new audio-visual equipment for the Cedar Key Library, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Hermine. This equipment will allow the library to continue hosting seminars and presentations for the community.

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UF workshop to help homeowners navigate HOA issues for landscaping

Topic(s): Announcements, Conservation, Environment, Extension, Florida Friendly, Green Living, IFAS, Landscaping, Lawn & Garden, Plants, Vegetables

Landscaping at a home garden.

SANFORD, Fla. — Wondering if that new lawn will mean a discussion with your Homeowner’s Association? The University of Florida Florida-Friendly LandscapingTM  program offers a workshop on April 26 to help homeowners navigate the process.

“Legally Speaking: FFL in The Planned Community” will run from 12:45 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County office. The location is 250 County Home Road, Sanford, Florida 32773.

“We are offering the course to help homeowners learn about current legal issues, and to give them strategies they can use when working with an HOA board to install a Florida-Friendly landscape,” said Claire Lewis, UF/IFAS statewide Florida yards and neighborhoods coordinator. “We want homeowners and HOA members to work together and also be able to avoid problems by learning the science-based ways to landscape.”

The workshop will include topics such as a review of issues and outcomes of installing a Florida Friendly landscape, a presentation by a community association attorney on disputes arising between HOAs and homeowners, and 10 strategies for working with an HOA.

Cost to attend is $5. Click here to register. For more information, contact Claire Lewis at clairelewis@ufl.edu or 352-273-4518.

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

UF researcher: Online tool helps make neighborhoods more bird-friendly

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to urban planning, sometimes a bird in hand is not worth two in the bush. Researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have created an online tool to help planners strategically conserve forest fragments and tree canopy that will attract more birds and enhance future biodiversity.

The Building for Birds web tool predicts how the distribution of trees and tree patches in a new development will impact resident and migrating bird habitat. Users can test different arrangements to see how they can optimize habitat for different development scenarios.

“When planners do sustainable development, they usually consider factors such as water, energy or transportation. With this tool, they can also consider biodiversity and show good diligence and stewardship,” said Mark Hostetler, professor of wildlife ecology and conservation who developed the web tool with UF graduate student Jan-Michael Archer.

It’s often not possible to include large swaths of undeveloped land in new developments, so the challenge is knowing how to make the most of the habitat that can be retained, Hostetler said.

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UF/IFAS researchers work to solve mystery of rare Florida tree

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, IFAS, RECs, Research

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — An endangered species of magnolia that only grows in the Florida Panhandle has been named the 2017 plant of the year by the Garden Club of America.

The timing couldn’t be better, says Gary Knox, professor of environmental horticulture with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

For the last three years, Knox and a team of researchers at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy, Florida, have been studying the Ashe magnolia to try to figure out why it’s so rare and how it may be conserved.

Ashe magnolias are grown commercially as landscaping plants, and their large flowers and leaves make them popular among gardeners. The white and purple blossoms are the size of dinner plates, and the leaves grow up to two feet long. “This is what we call a ‘charismatic’ plant,” Knox said.

Knox hopes the Garden Club of America’s declaration will help spread awareness about the plight of Ashe magnolias in the wild. According to the Garden Club of America’s web site, “the award is given to an outstanding native plant which is underutilized but possesses superior ornamental and ecological attributes. The goal is to encourage the propagation and planting of these plants in our gardens and the landscape.”

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UF/IFAS Researchers: Many turning to oysters for Valentine’s Day energy

Topic(s): Aquaculture, Conservation, Departments, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Nutrition

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might be thinking about revving things up by eating a few oysters. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say there’s more to the story.

“Oysters might be perceived as an aphrodisiac because they have a high proportion of glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate that can give you energy,” said Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Leslie Sturmer, a regional UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture, says the high nutritional content of oysters helps people feel good, hence the reputation for being an aphrodisiac. “Oysters have a high zinc content, have very little fat and are full of essential vitamins and minerals,” she said. “So, consumers who eat oysters regularly may attribute extra energy to the oysters.”

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UF/IFAS study: Voters want to preserve forests, water

Topic(s): Conservation, Environment, Extension, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Voters are likely to approve referenda for forest and water conservation in the eastern United States, including Florida, because demand for ecosystem protection is increasing, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study.

“Florida voters have approved far more referenda, compared to other states, and on average support more expensive conservation programs,” said Melissa Kreye, a post-doctoral researcher in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation and a study author.

For the study, Kreye and Damian Adams, an associate professor in the school, examined the results of 76 referenda that proposed to preserve rural land in 14 states from 1991 through 2013. The states were in the North and the South and included Florida, which held 26 such referenda during those 23 years.

This suggests that people are aware of changes in environmental quality due to the loss or conversion of forests and are willing to pay increasingly more to prevent further changes, researchers said.

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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 and Life 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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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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