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UF Names New Coordinator for Florida Project Learning Tree

By Kim Scotto


GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The University of Florida IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation welcomes a new coordinator for a program that uses the forest as a window on the world for educators.

Jessica Ireland has been named coordinator for the Florida Project Learning Tree, a 40-year-old program that provides educators, parents and community leaders interactive educational tools. Participants can attend day-long workshops to get trained in new ways to engage young learners with the environment.

During the past four years, Ireland has served as the program coordinator for the Florida Natural Resources Leadership Institute. From 2011 to 2014, she was the project coordinator for PINEMAP (Pine Integrated Network: Education, Mitigation, and Adaptation Project), a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Coordinated Agricultural Project.

Ireland earned her master’s degree in forest resources and conservation from UF in 2008 with a focus on environmental education and communication.

“I’m really excited to return to my roots in environmental education. Through NRLI, I’ve formed relationships with individuals, agencies, and organizations across Florida and will continue to engage with them in my new position,” Ireland said.

She is succeeding Nancy Peterson, who is retiring after leading Florida Project Learning Tree for 11 years.

“Nancy has grown this program tremendously and it’s now one of the top in the country. I can’t wait to take over the reins and continue to build upon her legacy,” Ireland said.

In 2017 alone, Florida Project Learning Tree reached over 692,300 youth and trained 935 educators in 62 workshops across the state. Most of the trainees work in Florida, but many have taken their newly learned skills abroad with service in Indonesia, Cuba and the Philippines.

Jessica hopes to work closely with the steering committee to build a strategic plan for the future of the program.

“Many steering committee members have been volunteering with Florida Project Learning Tree for years and years. They have a unique perspective on the challenges and opportunities ahead of the program,” Ireland said. “I plan to work together with this group to grow the program through sponsorships, grants, marketing, and enhanced evaluation methods.”

Ireland will attend the annual Florida Project Learning Tree conference held at the Jacksonville Zoo Nov. 2-4, and is looking forward to meeting the steering committee, facilitators and partners there.

SFRC Director Red Baker said: “We look forward to Jessica knocking it out of the park.”


The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS works to bring science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents. Visit the UF/IFAS web site at and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.