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University of Florida Entomologist State’s Outstanding Extension Leader

An entomologist responsible for the introduction of beneficial insects to manage Florida’s most problematic invasive plants will be honored as a state outstanding extension leader.

The Florida Association of County Agricultural Agents will recognize Carey Minteer, assistant professor for the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS), as Outstanding Specialist of the Year on Sept. 1, at the organization’s annual meeting in Panama City, Florida.

Minteer is one of two scientists who conduct research at the UF/IFAS Norman C. Hayslip Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory, located at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce.

“Dr. Minteer’s leadership in weed biological control for Florida’s most serious pest plants, Brazilian peppertree, air potato, and earleaf acacia, is truly remarkable,” said Ronald D. Cave, Minteer’s supervisor and director for IRREC. “Her achievements as a research scientist support her exemplary work as an extension specialist who is educating Floridians statewide on the benefits of good insects and biological control.”

Cave defines biological control as a phenomenon of the natural world, which can be a component of an integrated pest management strategy to reduce pest plant populations by using natural enemies that are usually insects. Scientists identify herbivorous insects of the pest plant in its natural habitat and perform tests to ensure the candidates for biocontrol will not harm humans, other animals, or beneficial plants if they are introduced into the Florida environment. Scientists at the UF/IFAS Hayslip Lab have already been successful with introductions of beneficial insects that suppress populations of tropical soda apple, air potato, and Brazilian peppertree.

In the formal nomination for Minteer’s recognition, Ed Skvarch, Director, and Ken Gioeli, Natural Resources and Environment Extension Agent IV, at the St. Lucie County Cooperative
Extension Service, outline Minteer’s achievements. Skvarch said Minteer is a recognized expert in her field. In addition to Minteer’s Extension work, her findings have been published in peer-reviewed articles in high impact scientific journals. Stakeholder organizations funded Minteer’s research and outreach programs with more than $2 million in grants. Three state conservation groups acknowledged her success with prestigious state awards within the last three years.

Minteer represents a land-grant university that serves the state with research, education, and extension, or technology transfer, to agricultural and natural resource industries. According to Skvarch, Minteer’s extension work to increase Florida citizens’ knowledge of biological control and its efficacy against invasive species is spectacular. Minteer, along with Gioeli, travels throughout Florida to distribute biological control agents and teach citizens how to manage invasive plants on their own.

“As a result of air potato biological control extension program partnerships with county extension offices, general knowledge about invasive species increased by an average of nearly 175% and general knowledge about biological control increased by an average of more than 300%,” said Skvarch.

Cave said Minteer’s extension work is critical because Florida’s citizens need to understand the cost of invasive species and the efficacy of biological control in the fight against invasive plants.

“Biological control decreases substantially the need for expensive heavy mechanical removal or use of toxic chemicals to control them,” said Cave. “Carey Minteer performs the scientific investigation that makes it possible for our citizens to save their environment.”

Minteer said her work to educate the public about invasive species and biological control will continue as she rolls out a new public education and citizen scientist program for biocontrol of Brazilian peppertree.

“I am honored to be selected as the FACAA Specialist of the Year,” said Minteer. “Extension agents in Florida are among the best in the U.S. It is a privilege to work alongside them as we try to decrease the impact of invasive plant species in our state.”

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