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Graduate Student Highlight: Taylor Darnell

Taylor Darnell, UF/IFAS CAIP Graduate Student

Taylor Darnell is a first year agronomy master’s student studying applied aquatic weed management. As a graduate assistant, Taylor works with the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants (CAIP) where he is currently planning and establishing Hydrilla verticillata, hydrilla tuber management studies for his thesis and several chemical trials for various suppliers. He is co-advised by Dr. Candice Prince and Dr. Benjamin Sperry.

Taylor working in a weedy daylily field

Taylor is originally from Rural Hall, a small town 15 minutes outside of Winston-Salem, NC. As a child he grew up around his family’s daylily gardens which first sparked his interest in plants. He enjoyed understanding how daylily hybridization worked and what he could do to make it better, which led him to earn a degree in Chemistry from Ferrum College in Ferrum, Virginia. Taylor explains, “because I wanted to understand how plant management worked, I felt that chemistry was a great foundation.”

After a conversation with Dr. Tim Durham, Assistant Professor of Agronomy and Agriculture Program Coordinator at Ferrum College and UF Doctor Plant Medicine alumni, Taylor was encouraged to explore graduate programs at the University of Florida. When asked about the significance of his research interests, Taylor said that by determining how to manage the reproductive biomass of hydrilla, you can prevent their growth.

Taylor’s favorite thing about science is applied fieldwork. One of his favorite fieldwork stories was from two years ago when he was sampling Fraser fir branches and needles/ tips (apical meristems) for his research project looking at metabolites with a friend. One day a “freak snowstorm and rain” forced them to rush back to their truck for shelter. As they were running back, his friend fell in a four-foot hole. Aside from the memories he has made in the field, Taylor enjoys applied fieldwork research because it aims to bring scientific solutions to those who need it.

Ultimately, Taylor wants to pursue a Ph.D. and eventually work in research and development in the academic arena. In his spare time, Taylor still enjoys hybridizing daylilies and throwing together whimsical ceramics (piggy banks are his favorite).

Taylor shares that if you are an undergraduate student interested in plants or scientific fieldwork you should reach out to graduate students at UF/IFAS CAIP for opportunities to assist with projects.

Funding graduate student research and supporting students interesting in invasive aquatic plant management are two of the many goals of UF/IFAS CAIP. Any questions should be directed to Shelby Oesterreicher at 352-273-3667 or soesterreicher@ufl.edu. For more information about the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, please visit https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu. Be sure to follow us on social @UFIFASCAIP.

UF/IFAS CAIP, Turning Science Into Solutions.