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University of Florida Scientists and Students Adapt and Overcome Despite COVID-19

COVID-19 has impacted daily life in fundamental ways creating stress, uncertainty and challenging situations for everyone. The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (UF/IFAS CAIP) is no exception. In recent weeks, the entire team has transitioned to working from home. They have had to scrap experiments, alter their work habits and rethink their research strategies. One faculty member was able to adapt not only his work, but adjust his employees job duties, all of whom would have lost their jobs without his quick thinking and flexibility.

Professor Stephen Enloe employs three UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences undergraduate students majoring in environmental science and plant science, Conrad Oberweger, Sara Humphrey, and Ethan Church. Prior to the quarantine, these students were working an average of 12 to 15 hours per week caring for plants, assisting with experiments and caring for the facilities. The shift to working from home means now each student is working about 10 hours per week in a different capacity.

“I provided supportive care for the plants at the Center and took turns with my coworkers to water the plants every day,” Humphrey said.

Each of the students began working at CAIP in order to grow their knowledge of plant management, ecology and to assist in finding solutions to ecological issues.

“Having grown up with a close connection to the environment, I have always wanted to pursue a career that would allow me to understand and enhance ecological stability,” Oberweger said.

According to professor Enloe, when the stay at home order took effect in Florida, he saw an opportunity to continue to employ the students by teaching them something new. He now has the students working on Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS) facts sheets, literature reviews and walking them through the peer-review process.

“I believe developing such types of reports is essential in order to educate the public and enhance the goals of the CAIP,” Oberweger said. “I do believe this type of work will be prevalent in any of my careers or endeavors.”

Each student is working on a different plant species individually, then sending drafts of their papers to their peers to review and edit. After the edits, the group gets together virtually to discuss the changes and how they can improve each of the papers. While their new daily duties look a little different, each student says they are still dedicated and passionate about the work they are able to do for the Center.

“I love research, and the work that Dr. Enloe does is compelling and meaningful,” Humphrey said. “By working there [CAIP] I’m helping find solutions to some of the most significant ecological threats to Florida.”

Any questions should be directed to Shelby Oesterreicher at soesterreicher@ufl.edu. For more information about the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, please visit http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu. Be sure to follow us on social @UFIFASCAIP.

UF/IFAS CAIP, Turning Science Into Solutions.