From lobsters to oranges, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences embraced stories of resilience and change during 2017.
The top 10 stories for UF/IFAS during 2017 include finding ways to manage a disease that is crippling the citrus industry to helping lobstermen find damaged traps after Hurricane Irma to researchers discovering a new ant species in south Florida.
Meanwhile, other UF/IFAS researchers have had their own stories to tell in 2017:
- A century of service: UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center celebrated 100 years of helping the citrus industry thrive in good times and bad. “UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center just celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the future looks exciting for citrus as we continue to make new breakthroughs that will deliver greening-resistant plants in the not-too-distant future,” said Michael Rogers, director of the center.
- Irula tribesmen vs. python: Frank Mazzotti, a researcher at the UF/IFAS Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center, collaborated with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to bring tribesmen from India to hunt invasive Burmese python in the Everglades.
- Bigger beak gets the prey: Showing that evolution can happen rapidly, a study by a team of UF/IFAS researchers has found that in about 10 years, the snail kite bird has evolved to develop a larger beak as its new prey, the island apple snail, proliferated and became invasive.
- Hurricane Irma: UF/IFAS Extension agents and specialists across the state were a source for information and aid as Hurricane Irma decimated Florida. From rescuing animals to volunteering to replant crops to helping lobstermen find their damaged traps, UF/IFAS Extension personnel stepped up to offer assistance.
- From seed to jet fuel: With help from UF/IFAS researchers, pilots will—in the future—fly jets with fuel made from a tiny seed grown in the Southeast. David Wright, a professor in the UF/IFAS agronomy department, will lead a $15 million-granted study of an inedible seed whose oil can be turned into jet fuel.
- Nature Coast Biological Station: UF/IFAS researchers working on Florida’s Nature Coast finally have a place to call home with the grand opening of the Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key, Florida. The NCBS is the only modern marine laboratory for 259 miles on the Gulf Coast.
- New invasive ant: UF/IFAS researchers discovered a new species of ant native to Madagascar. The tiny, yellow ant is a new invasive ant species in south Florida that can have dire consequences for homeowners and for surrounding ecosystems.
- No to microplastics: Maia McGuire, a UF/IFAS Sea Grant agent, continues to enlist more soldiers in the fight against microplastics. The marine biologist teaches citizen scientists from as far north as Nassau County to the Florida Keys to get samples from bodies of water, get them tested for microplastics, and spread the word far and wide about the devastating damage caused by the microscopic plastic found in everything from toothpaste to body wash.
- Beetle brigade beefs up: It was bad enough when scientists said a beetle was ravaging avocado trees in South Florida. Then scientists found out that the redbay ambrosia beetle — which transmits laurel wilt — has company. Up to six other beetle species may carry the laurel wilt pathogen. Nevertheless, UF/IFAS scientists are studying these species to find a way to manage the disease that is affecting a $100 million a year industry.
- Plants in space: UF/IFAS researcher took their plants experiments out of this world by teaming with NASA to study the impact of a lack of gravity on plants. The plants were included in a Feb. 14 launch from the Kennedy Space Center. “The more complete our understanding of spaceflight responses, the more success we will have in future missions, as we take plants with us off our planet,” said UF/IFAS horticultural sciences research professor Anna-Lisa Paul.
by Beverly James University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences