Dr. Jack Payne’s Personal Comment: A land-grant president for UF

Dr. Jack Payne’s Personal Comment: A land-grant president for UF

By Jack Payne

The selection of Dr. W. Kent Fuchs (pronounced “Fox”) as the next president of the University of Florida should be cause for celebration for anyone who cares about Florida agriculture and natural resources.

I’ll confess, I had some initial apprehension about whether an electrical engineer would be properly attuned to the importance of UF’s land-grant mission.

But I had the chance to take the measure of the man one-on-one over a 21Ž2-hour dinner as part of UF’s efforts to recruit top leaders to apply for the presidency, and I’m convinced he will support university research, extension and teaching that improve the lives of all Floridians. I endorse Fuchs, who still has to be confirmed by the State University System Board of Governors.

Fuchs was born into a hardscrabble existence on an Oklahoma farm. It was such a tough life that his dad decided Alaska would be more forgiving, and it’s where Fuchs grew up until the family moved to Miami, where he attended high school.

And let’s remember, he’s provost at one of the most venerable of land-grant universities, Cornell. It’s the only Ivy League school with a horticultural department, much less a School of Integrative Plant Science like the one Fuchs helped launch. Before Cornell, he was a leader at Purdue, also a land-grant university, and taught and researched at a third, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

With his Florida, agriculture, and land-grant bona fides, he sold me on being the right person for the job when he told me that if hired he would go on a statewide tour of stakeholder meetings. Not just to meet donors and alumni, but growers, commodity leaders, natural resource managers and UF/IFAS Extension agents.

That’s a promising sign that he intends to honor the public-service ethic of the land-grant university. He sees his new job the same way I see mine — that his office is not a room in Gainesville, but it’s the entire state. He’s walking the walk in New York with the recently announced Engaged Cornell, a $150 million initiative that aims to institutionalize a mandatory public-service component in undergraduate education so students contribute to solving problems outside the university gates.

UF’s land-grant mission is supposed to apply university wide. Traditionally, though, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has more demonstrably implemented it than many other branches of the university.

There’s potential for real change in this area as our medical center leaders see in Extension the opportunity to do so much more to promote public health. Similarly, our engineering administrators have approached IFAS about working through Extension to bring technical assistance to businesses and communities.

There are also opportunities for IFAS to do more to serve Florida’s $142-billion-a-year agriculture and natural resource industries, particularly after six years of flat or declining state funding.

Support from UF’s leader is essential to IFAS’s quest to provide solutions to citrus greening, efforts to tackle the state’s water quality and water supply challenges, ambitious plans to expand the work of our agricultural leadership institute and work in helping Florida prepare for climate change and sea-level rise.

The land-grant system was founded more than 150 years ago on the noble proposition of democratizing higher education.

Today we have an opportunity to define the 21st century land-grant institution that is true to its mission while responding to the pressing problems of today.

Today IFAS seeks support from the UF administration to expand four-year online degree programs. We offer these at a discounted tuition to students who by choice or circumstance need a UF education to come to them instead of having to move to Gainesville.

Appalled by anecdotes of students going hungry or even scrounging from garbage bins, we at IFAS have begun formally assessing the extent of food security on campus as the first step toward establishing a food pantry for students in need. We’re hiring more bilingual 4-H agents and partnering with organizations that serve minority populations as we seek to better serve people who have traditionally been underrepresented in our youth development programs.

It’ll take a commitment from the top to secure the resources needed to realize IFAS’s potential. That commitment starts with an appreciation of the land-grant mission. Fuchs has looked me in the eye and shown me he has it.

Over salad, I began probing the extent to which this man intended to honor the land-grant mission with action. By decafs and dessert, I was presenting him with the Gator pin right off my own lapel and letting him know he’d be receiving a copy of A Land Remembered from me.

The presidential search committee on which I served declared a strong academic background an essential criteria for our next leader. The distinguished research background Fuchs has and his Ivy League experience more than satisfy that.

Some of us on the search committee – which also included IFAS plant breeder Harry Klee — also championed an appreciation for the land-grant mission as an important consideration in the search for a new president. We’re gratified to see we have it in Kent Fuchs, and we hope you’ll get to see it when he visits your region.

Jack Payne is senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, University of Florida, and head of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences


Enjoy delicious stone crab claws now through May, 2015.

Enjoy delicious stone crab claws now through May, 2015.

Gulf Stone Crab Photo credit FWC

The commercial and recreation stone crab season has opened! Now is the time to enjoy local stone crab claws. Whether you catch them yourself or buy from a local seafood market, the delicious meat is worth the effort and cost.

There are 2 species of stone crab found along the Gulf Coast. The Florida Stone Crab is found in the southern part of the state, while the Gulf stone crab is found from the Western Panhandle to Mexico.

Stone crabs can be found in holes along oyster reefs, rock jetties and shorelines lined with riprap. Adult stone crabs feed on oysters, mussels, clams, worms and other crustaceans.

Recreational harvesters must have a valid Florida Saltwater Fishing licence and are limited to 5 traps that meet the specifications set by FWC. Maximum trap size is 2″x2″x2″ and traps must have a degradable panel that is 5 ½ inches by 3 ½ inches and is made of cypress or untreated pine slat no thicker than ¾ of an inch. These regulations are to protect marine life from ghost fishing, when traps are abandoned or lost.

The recreational bag limit is one gallon of claws per person or 2 gallons per vessel or which ever is less. Only one crab claw should be taken. Crabs are released alive with one claw intact and are able to feed and defend themselves, which allows the crab to be caught again in the future. The claw that was removed will grow back each time the crab molts. Claws must be 2 3/4 inches in length from the tip of the claws to the first knuckle.

Photo credit FWC

 Watch the following video from FWC to learn how to harvest a claw correctly without injuring the crab.

Stone crab claws can be enjoyed cold or hot, in the shell or peeled and in many different dishes. Enjoy stone crab claw meat with mustard dipping sauce, in soup and bisque, crab cakes, salads, etc. Many recipes can found on-line.

Use a butter knife, mallet, claw cracker or hard spoon to crack the shells. If you want to prevent shell from flying around, cover the hand that will hold the claw or the surface that the claw will be cracked on with a dish towel. Gently tap the sections of the claws, until they are cracked, be careful not to break the shell into the meat.

Check out this video to learn how to crack stone crab claws:

 For more information on commercial and recreational stone crab claw regulations click here.








Florida’s Wildlife Conservations Policy for Predicted Coastal Habitat Loss Problems

Florida’s Wildlife Conservations Policy for Predicted Coastal Habitat Loss Problems

"Within the past five years, nine of the 14 villages in Nunavik in northernmost Quebec have had to install cooling systems at community ice hockey arenas to keep the rinks cold during winter.“ -The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions

“Within the past five years, nine of the 14 villages in Nunavik in northernmost Quebec have had to install cooling systems at community ice hockey arenas to keep the rinks cold during winter.“
– The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions

Have you wondered how Florida’s wildlife conservation policy planners and habitat managers are responding to the new management challenge of predicted coastal habitat loss from sea level rise? And how that overlays on predicted habitat loss from a 50-year doubling of Florida’s human population? Are the model predictions for both trends reliable enough to give planners a platform for recommending actions to ensure a habitable Florida for wildlife and for our grandchildren?

It’s a daunting task. The latest reports released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [ http://www.floridaclimateinstitute-uf.org/new-ipcc-report-climate-change-2014-impacts-adaptation-and-vulnerability/ ] serve to compress our “breathing room” of time to shift gears into planning for a “multiple-whammy” future – a future that just a decade ago, few natural resource managers knew they would soon need to anticipate. How do we juggle explosive population growth, accelerating freshwater depletion, and rapid climate change? What initiatives and efforts are underway?

To answer this question, let’s turn to Dr Thomas Eason, Director of the Division of Habitat and Species Conservation at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Dr Eason gave a talk on campus a year ago at the UF/IFAS conference, “Sustaining Economies and Natural Resources in a Changing World.” His 25-minute presentation, “Florida Fish and Wildlife – Adapting to a Changing World,” was recorded and posted at [ http://training.ifas.ufl.edu/FCI2013/Session4_Natural_Resources_Eason/main.htm ]

Eason noted that globally, climate change is predicted to result in the extinction of 10-40% of all wildlife species. FWC has generated vulnerability assessments for a first suite of rare and imperiled species, and some non-native invasive exotic species as well. Analysis has shown that for many non-native species in Florida, climate change will create new habitats, and they will expand their range, while imperiled species will more likely experience shrinkage of habitat that is already inadequate.

Eason noted that sea level rise will directly impact “tens of thousands” of acres of Florida habitat, and that consideration of secondary and tertiary impacts had yet to be addressed by habitat planners. Species adaptation planning has been undertaken in collaboration with GeoAdaptive (formerly MIT). Thus far, the initiative includes future habitat modeling for six South Florida species for which FWC has good data, under three different scenarios for sea level rise.

Eason concluded with the metaphor that society (and the natural resource conservation professions) are in a car he called “Business-as-Usual” (BAU) colliding in slow motion with a wall (future reality), and that even if we don’t know it yet, BAU is “already blowing up” because “humans have put things in motion that are not going to stop”(changes in technology, demographics, the economy and climate) that will make our world 50 years hence radically different from today’s world.

Bamboo: Attractive Ornamental or Invasive Nightmare?

Bamboo: Attractive Ornamental or Invasive Nightmare?

Golden bamboo quickly establishes in an areas and pushes out all other plants.

Golden bamboo quickly establishes in an areas and pushes out all other plants.

Bamboo, the tallest grass in north Florida, can be an attractive landscape specimen or an invasive nightmare. There are more than 700 species of bamboo worldwide, ranging in height from 12 inches to 100 feet or more in ideal growing conditions.

In the U.S., only two species occur naturally (Arundinaria gigantea and A. tecta). Neither of these two plants are used for human food, but other bamboos are a dietary staple or flavoring condiments in Asia and Africa.

Bamboo holds two impressive records in the plant kingdom. It is the largest perennial grass on the planet and it can be the fasted growing plant under the perfect environment.
It has been deliberately propagated and used as an ornamental plant for many years in Florida. The wide variety of colors and textures combined with the exotic shaped and delicate leaves add to the landscaping appeal.

Generally speaking, the two native bamboos are not extremely weedy and are relatively easy to manage. However, there are scores of imported bamboos which are highly invasive and exceedingly difficult to contain in a limited area.

The most common invasive bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) is commonly known as fishing pole or golden bamboo. It was imported into this country in the 1880’s as an ornamental, being popular as a cold-hearty and quick growing privacy screen.

Because of its weight and relative strength it became an inexpensive and popular source of fishing poles. Curiously, expensive bamboo fly fishing rods are usually made from a less common, but stronger bamboo species native to China.

This and other invasive bamboo varieties have large and complex underground root systems called rhizomes. These shallow roots maintain the plant’s viability by storing and distributing large volumes of nutrients.

Once an invasive bamboo is established the root system supports rapid growth and expansion. Other plants are quickly overwhelms and pushed out.
To control these invasive varieties, the entire rhizome network must be killed. This makes control of bamboo expensive, intensive, time consuming and difficult.

Being a grass bamboo easily tolerates occasional pruning, but regular and intensive mowing is much more effective for destroying this plant. The mowing frequency is similar to a home lawn if success is to be achieved.

The removal of the plant’s above-ground portion is required to deplete the rhizomes and exhaust it. One to two seasons of rigorous mowing is needed before control is achieved.

To learn more about invasive bamboo, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or read IFAS Publication WG 209: Integrated Management of Nonnative Plants in Natural Areas of Florida at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/wg209.