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News Articles of Interest

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March 8, 2016
By Hannah O. Brown

Anmari Alvarez-Aleman hitchhiked 40 miles to North Havana in the winter of 2007 in search of a sight that would guide her life in the years to come—a Florida manatee and her calf resting in the intake canal of a power plant.

“We realized [they were from Florida] because of the scars,” Alvarez-Aleman said. “In Cuba, manatees don’t have scars, so seeing a manatee with multiple sets of scars, it was kind of suspicious.”

Alvarez-Aleman sent photos of the pair to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the images matched with a female that had first been photographed in 1979, and again frequently after that date.

“She had different calves, and she was doing okay until she decided to swim south,” she said. “Maybe she got lost when she was heading south to find the warm water.”

This Florida manatee, named Daysi by the Cubans and CR131 in the U.S., is the first known to have wandered so far south that she ended up in Cuba.

“With my research, I want to explore more that situation,” Alvarez-Aleman said. “Whether there is a gene flow between Cuba and the U.S.”

Alvarez-Aleman is a doctoral student at University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment with a mission to ask questions about Cuban manatee conservation that have not been asked before. Her account of the Florida manatee who traveled to Cuba was published in the Tampa Bay Times in December.

While a good deal is known about Florida manatee population ecology, Alvarez-Aleman faces several obstacles when confronting conservation issues related to the Cuban subspecies.

Read more about Anmari's Cuban Manatee Research.

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By Hannah O. Brown

At the same site where the Father of Springs Ecology, Howard T. Odum, began his pioneering research on springs decades ago, a group of scientists from the University of Florida and the St. John’s River Water Management District have begun a threeHyear $3 million initiative to take a closer look at some of the same questions that Odum himself explored.

“It’s the same question now,” said David Kaplan, UF assistant professor in the Engineering School of Sustainable Infrastructure and the Environment. “How productive are they? What are the drivers? So we are still trying to figure it out.”

The project, called Collaborative Research Initiative on Sustainability and Protection of Springs or CRISPS, is focused on the Silver Springs springshed in Marion County. 

While some conditions have changed since Odum’s initial research in the 1950’s, such as reduced water flow and an increase in nitrate concentrations, the project aims to use interdisciplinary research to identify any and all variables that may have an effect on the health of the spring.

The project’s research team is organized into two “super groups” and six work groups. Researchers from UF have been paired with researchers from the SJRWMD, the funding organization, and each team is focused on a specific area of research impacting springs conservation.

“From our perspective, it’s an excellent investment and a great opportunity to have a partnership like this,” said Casey Fitzgerald, director of the Springs Protection Initiative at SJRWMD.

The project is directed primarily by three questions:

1. When and where is it most feasible and cost effective to reduce nitrate loading to the spring?

2. Is nitrate reduction alone sufficient to restore the degraded spring ecosystem?

3. What are the relative influences of nitrate and non-nitrate causes of excess algae in the springs?

Read more about the CRISPS Project.

October 28, 2016
By Hannah O. Brown

In less than a year, Russell Anderson plans to be working hands-on, surveying coastal planning projects worldwide.

Anderson is a second-year master’s student studying sustainable development, and he is one of a number of students who have decided to pursue UF’s Concentration in Climate Science, an interdisciplinary concentration through the School of Natural Resources and Environment and in collaboration with the Florida Climate Institute.

“Internationally, everybody is really trying to plan for the population of what will happen by 2050, with 70 percent of people being in low-lying urban areas,” Anderson said. “That’s over 7 billion people, coast-to-coastline, all stuck in urban centers.”

Through taking classes within the concentration, Anderson has gained professional skills and insight into climate change issues on a global scale.

“It really made sense based on my professional interest long term, and it was also a chance to really get educated about [climate change effects] that we are already starting to see happening in certain areas,” Anderson said.

The idea for the UF Climate Science Concentration was first conceived by faculty who were considering the notion of establishing a certificate program, geared toward professionals.

With the basic structure of the concentration already in motion, SNRE Director Tom Frazer suggested FCI and SNRE switch their focus, in the short term, to enhancing the skills of graduate students instead.

“I suggested that there was actually a more immediate need to offer those courses to our students rather than the place-based professionals,” Frazer said. “And a concentration, at the time, was a more effective way to start to put a focus on climate in the curriculum.”

Read more about the Climate Science Concentration.