University of Florida

UF CALS student wins regional award for mosquito research and leadership in the entomology field

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

Casey Parker

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences graduate student received the prestigious Kirby L. Hays Memorial Award. The award, from the Entomological Society of America’s southeastern branch, was presented at the branch’s 91st annual meeting in Memphis, Tenn., on March 12 to 15.

Casey Parker recently began her Ph.D. program at the Florida Medical Entomology Lab and is dual enrolled in the master of public health program. She hopes to become a leader in the field of medical and veterinary entomology.

The award honors her work as an outstanding master’s student in entomology and nematology, taking into account her teaching experience, outreach, research and past awards.

“This is a huge honor for me,” Parker said. “Before I was presented the award, the chair of the student awards committee said one of the many reasons I was chosen for this award was because of my leadership ability in teaching, research and Extension like Dr. Hays, after whom the award is named.”

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UF/CALS student earns university-wide dissertation fellowship

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS, Pests

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Ph.D. student received the university-wide Emerging STEM Scholar Award at the 2017 Women’s History Month Awards on March 1. The honor is part of the Association for Academic Women Graduate Student Awards.

Entomology and nematology student Vanessa Dias came to UF from Bahia, Brazil after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) awarded her a fellowship to conduct research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab on UF’s campus. While in the U.S., Vanessa was awarded a four-year scholarship from the Brazilian government through the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel Foundation to pursue her Ph.D. at UF. Dias’ research involves improvements to the sterile insect technique that reduces the need for pesticide use on crops and makes the technique available at an affordable cost.

The award Dias earned is named after Madelyn Lockhart, who served as the Dean of the UF Graduate School and Dean of International Studies and Programs between 1985 and 1993. Dias said she is grateful for the award. Recipients are provided up to $2,000 annually to assist in the dissertation phase of the doctoral degree.

“Through CALS I have learned a sense of responsibility,” Dias said. “The university gives me the opportunity to complete research on a large scale – research that can change the world indeed. In CALS, we are well prepared to do any research we want to pursue. We can affect other cultures in a positive way.”

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UF/CALS graduate students host annual coleus plant sale

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  The Environmental Horticulture Graduate Student Association (EHGSA) will host its 18th annual plant sale from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on March 25 and 26. The sale will be held at the University of Florida horticulture greenhouses, 2475 Memorial Road, Gainesville. This is the fourth year the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student organization will feature coleus plants.

The graduate students recently began featuring coleus to showcase the plant breeding that happens at UF and the plants club members have grown themselves. All coleus sold at the event have been patented by UF. The sale will also include donated plants from local horticulturalists.

“The coleus we are selling are mostly available commercially, but not all in one place considering the amount of varieties we have,” said Tia Tyler, EHGSA president. “We already have people calling to make sure they don’t miss the sale. It’s nice to see we are picking up a following.”

New coleus varieties to be sold at the event include Velveteen (a dark burgundy leaf with a pink center) and Salsa Verde (a lime color). The Gator Glory variety with orange leaves and yellow highlights is not available commercially and was recently retired as UF’s official plant.

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UF/IFAS professors, CALS students shave heads to raise awareness of childhood cancer

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – UF/IFAS plant science professors and University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) students will shave their heads and raise money to increase awareness of childhood cancer. The plant science team will participate in the UF Freshmen Leadership Council’s St. Baldrick’s service project on March 16 from 4 to 9 p.m. on Norman Field.

The effort is one of many events around the country that benefit St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The nonprofit organization works closely with leading pediatric oncologists to find childhood cancer cures, as well as ways to prevent lifelong damage resulting from surgeries, radiation and chemotherapies. UF Health is a recipient of grants from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.

“This is something for students to diversify the service projects they can participate in on campus,” said plant science student Jimmy Herd-Bond, a participant in the plant science St. Baldrick’s team. “This is a way to show we care by not only giving money, but by taking action.”

This will be the second “shearing” plant pathology lecturer Brantlee Spakes Richter has gone through for a St. Baldrick’s event. She last participated eight years ago in Raleigh, North Carolina in honor of a sister-in-law she never met. Richter’s sister-in-law died from a misdiagnosed cancerous tumor she had as a teenager that spread throughout her body. Richter says her sister-in-law’s presence is still felt every day in their family.

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Motivational speaker Chris Koch to visit UF students, Gainesville community

Topic(s): Agriculture, CALS, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Canadian farmer and motivational speaker Chris Koch, who was born without arms and legs, will speak to students and the public at the University of Florida on March 13 and 14.

After attending the 2016 Ag Media Summit where Koch spoke, several members of the University of Florida Agricultural Communicators and Leaders of Tomorrow (ACLT) club knew he was someone the larger UF and Gainesville community needed to hear.

Despite the challenges Koch faces, he chooses to take life in stride and make the best of every situation. He spreads the message “If I can” to the public. Koch uses his message to inspire others to overcome their own obstacles, and has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

Koch will speak at the UF J. Wayne Reitz Union grand ballroom at 6 p.m. on March 13 and again at 9 a.m. on March 14 at the Straughn IFAS Extension Professional Development Center. The events are free and open to all. Participants are encouraged to bring two non-perishable food items for the Alan and Cathy Hitchcock Field and Fork Food Pantry on campus.

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UF CALS alumnus named vice president of national Society of American Foresters

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Forestry, IFAS

GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  After a summer job working along the Oregon border in California for the U.S. Forest Service, Dave Lewis knew a career in forestry was his calling. With nearly 40 years of forestry experience, Lewis has continued to find the industry to be a rewarding profession.

Lewis will channel his passion for forest management into his new role as vice president of the national Society of American Foresters (SAF).

“Dave has a strong moral and professional character with outstanding leadership skills,” said SAF 2015 president Bob Alverts. “It was a well-informed choice to elect him. He has ideas to move this organization forward and grow it into one that is inclusive, benefits members and will continue to achieve objectives by having the resources with which to do so.”

Previously, Lewis served on the 2012-2014 SAF board of directors representing Florida, Georgia and Alabama. After his first year as SAF vice president, Lewis will serve for another two years on the board of directors as president and immediate past-president. Lewis said he is most looking forward to meeting and working with foresters from all over the country.

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UF students present solutions to global issues at One World 2017 competition

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  By the year 2050, more than nine billion people will populate Earth. The University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) Challenge 2050 project aims to contribute solutions to the challenges associated with this population rise, such as issues related to food security. As part of Challenge 2050, six UF students presented their ideas to address such concerns during the third annual One World competition held Feb. 16.

“There’s never been a more exciting time to be a CALS student,” said Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, who spoke at the event. “Feeding the world is more complex than ever. Solutions aren’t all going to come from our National Academy members and faculty who are decades into their careers. Great ideas come from students with fresh perspectives.”

Haiti’s devastating earthquake in 2010 consumed the thoughts of 15-year-old Drew Carlton, now a senior CALS student participating in Challenge 2050. After mission trips and nutrition research as a CALS microbiology and cell science student, Carlton began thinking of a potential solution to eradicate cholera through cleaner water practices in Haiti. At One World 2017, Carlton presented his idea of developing mountaintop microfiber nets connected to pipes as a water purification system.

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UF CALS honors 11 alumni recognized as Gator100 recipients

Topic(s): CALS, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  Nine companies owned or led by University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) alumni were named to UF’s 2017 Gator100. Of these companies, three were ranked in the top 25. All but two of the nine companies have been named to the Gator100 previously.

Sponsored by the UF Alumni Association, in partnership with the UF Entrepreneurship & Innovation Center, the Gator100 identifies and celebrates the 100 fastest-growing, Gator-owned or Gator-led businesses in the world each year since 2015. Ernst & Young calculated each company’s compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) over the past three years to generate the ranking.

“The Gator100 is a campus-wide initiative that recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit entrenched in the university,” said Timothy Walsh, the executive director of the UF Alumni Association and assistant vice president of Alumni Affairs. “UF alumni have created and guided some of the most innovative and profitable businesses in the nation and world. The Gator100 celebrates the very best of our Gator entrepreneurs.”

The following companies owned or led by CALS alumni were recognized as Gator100 honorees:

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UF CALS student selected as finalist in U.S. Presidential Management Fellows Program

Topic(s): CALS, Environment, Honors and Appointments, IFAS

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. –  A University of Florida student is eligible for fast-track appointment to government occupations as a finalist of the U.S. Presidential Management Fellows Program. The program is reserved for individuals across the nation with advanced degrees who have gone through a rigorous selection process to become finalists.

As a finalist, Natalie Nelson, an agricultural and biological engineering Ph.D. candidate, will have access to a jobs portal for the full 2017 year where she can apply to positions that interest her. Less than 7 percent of the applicants to the program received this honor.

“A lot of [the fellowship program] is higher level work with high impact,” said Nelson. “It’s very much an applied science. Most of the job portal has career offerings in law, health care administration, foreign diplomacy and similar positions. Science positions are a minority, but I plan to apply to all the jobs related to water. Regardless of if I get a job through this fellowship, I’m most interested in having meaningful impact through my work.”

The Presidential Management Fellows Program is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and has existed for more than 30 years for the purpose of developing potential leaders in the U.S. government. The 2017 finalists represent 59 disciplines, 141 academic institutions and 41 veterans, according to the program website.

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UF/CALS student named prestigious 2017 “Cultivator” at national Farm Foundation® conference

Topic(s): Agriculture, Announcements, CALS, Crops, Cultivars, Departments, Honors and Appointments, IFAS, Research

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS) student who studies improvements to production and quality of grapes has been named UF’s second Cultivator at the 2017 Farm Foundation Round Table.

Crystal Conner, a plant science major, was one of six college students across the nation recognized as rising leaders in agriculture. The students shared their research during the conference hosted the week of Jan. 4 in Irvine, California.

“It was such an honor to first be selected by CALS Dean Elaine Turner, and then to secondly be chosen by the Farm Foundation Round Table to present my research,” Conner said. “I began this project because I wanted to learn more about tissue culture and its future possibilities. I never imagined that others would gravitate toward the possibilities of its impact at such a fast rate.”

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