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

Please see caption below story.

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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Workout on Waterfront supports Cedar Key community

Topic(s): Environment, IFAS, Pollution

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Sailors with a knack for building their own seaworthy vessels will join in the fun on March 18 in Cedar Key, Florida, for the first annual Workout on the Waterfront (WoW) Repurpose-It-Regatta.

Organizers challenge participants to make their vessels out of recyclable materials.

“Pollution of our coasts and oceans with debris and other waste is a global problem, and we can all take steps to make sure harmful materials stay out of these ecosystems,” said Savanna Barry, Florida Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Nature Coast Biological Station. “We’re encouraging regatta boaters to use natural, biodegradable materials, such as paper and natural fabrics, when constructing their boat.”

The Repurpose-It-Regatta will begin at the intersection of G Street and Second Street at 10:30 a.m. Children must be accompanied by at least one adult. Boaters can win awards for fastest boat, most creative boat, pulling up the rear, and “pirate heat” — the fastest out of the boats that, while creative, don’t pass inspection at check-in.

A list of qualifying and disqualifying boat materials can be found on the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station website. Self-made boats must also have a name and figurehead or decoration. “We are really asking people to be creative while also showing how our choices impact the environment,” said Mendy Allen, program coordinator for the UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station.

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Hillsborough County pesticide collection aides farmers, protects environment

Topic(s): Agriculture, Environment, Extension, IFAS, Pollution

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — When a pesticide is discontinued or banned by the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, farmers may opt to store these products until they figure out how to dispose of them properly, says Stephen Gran, director of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Hillsborough County.

However, this temporary solution should be just that—temporary, Gran explained.

“Storing these products for long periods poses unnecessary risks to employees, the community and the environment,” Gran explained. “However, proper disposal can be hard to secure, especially for smaller agricultural operations. We knew a public collection program could help farmers get rid of unusable inventory while mitigating potential environmental impacts.”

Starting in 2003, UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County began collaborating with state and county agencies to provide free collection, handling and disposal of canceled pesticides to area farmers. In 2016, the pesticide collection program collected and disposed of more than 7,500 pounds of pesticides. Over 92,000 pounds have been collected since the start of the program, he said.

The next pesticide collection day is set for Jan. 27 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 7202, East Eighth Avenue, Tampa, FL, 33619.

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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

Please see caption below story.

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 citizen scientists find microplastics have big presence in coastal waters

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

A Sea Grant Microplastics training to teach volunteers how to sample water for microplastics in New Smyrna Beach on Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015.

Please see caption below story.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Each time you do a load of laundry, you may inadvertently send tiny pieces of plastic to a nearby lake or ocean, according to Maia McGuire, Florida Sea Grant agent with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

That’s because when we wash synthetic fabrics, such as rayon and spandex, plastic threads get washed out with the rinse cycle and sent to a wastewater treatment plant, McGuire said. These threads are a kind of microplastic called microfiber. Like all microplastic, microfibers are less than 5 millimeters in size—less than the width of a pencil eraser. Because they are so small, microfibers pass through many filters used in treatment plants and end up in lakes and oceans.

A little over a year ago, McGuire began the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, a citizen science project that has trained volunteers throughout Florida to gather data about microplastics in coastal waters. So far, volunteers have collected and analyzed 770 water samples at 256 locations, McGuire said.

These citizen scientists found an average of eight piece of plastic per sample. 82 percent of plastic found was microfiber, McGuire said.

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Nature already dramatically impacted by climate change, study reveals

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

Lake Alice, trees, nature, water, landscape.    UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new study by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and in cooperation with a broad international partner group, published in the prestigious journal Science.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the UF/IFAS department of wildlife, ecology and conservation. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”

During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.

“Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades,” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“

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UF/IFAS study: People who know about genetically modified food agree with science: They’re safe

Topic(s): Agriculture, Conservation, Environment, IFAS, Pollution, Research, Safety

Brandon McFadden

Brandon McFadden

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — People who know a lot about genetically modified foods are inclined to agree with the scientific consensus that such foods are safe to eat. But, those who know plenty about global warming are cautious about the science that says humans cause the phenomenon, a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences study shows.

Furthermore, the study showed some people still make what researchers call “illusionary correlations,” such as “genetically modified foods cause autism.”

Perhaps science communication should address people’s perceptions about illusionary correlations versus their knowledge of global warming and genetically modified foods, said Brandon McFadden, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food and resource economics and author of the study. Merely providing people with information is insufficient to change behavior, McFadden said.

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Inaugural UF Community Chats event focuses on allergies, asthma and climate change

Topic(s): Announcements, Environment, Families and Consumers, IFAS, Pollution, Weather

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — On Sunday, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences will hold the first in a series of educational panel discussions known as Community Chats, this one focused on the possible consequences of climate change for North Florida residents with allergies or asthma.

The event takes place from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2 on the UF main campus in Gainesville. Registration for in-person attendance has closed, but the event will be live-streamed on the Community Chats website, http://communitychats.wordpress.com.

Expert panelists from several UF units will discuss the possible effects of climate change on air and water quality, as well as steps that communities can take against climate change. Audience members are welcome to submit questions to the panelists before or during the event, using the Community Chats website, Twitter account or Facebook page, using the hashtag #CCNCFL.

Community Chats is funded by UF/IFAS and is produced in partnership with the Florida Museum of Natural History and the UF College of Journalism and Communications. The next event is scheduled for late October.

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 Contacts

Source: Katie Stofer, 352-273-3690, stofer@ufl.edu

 

 

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