IFAS Global shines spotlight on faculty and staff for international research
Four UF/IFAS faculty and staff members were honored recently for global research projects stretching from crustaceans in the Caribbean to microbes that recognize no international borders.
It was all part of an awards ceremony and forum hosted by IFAS Global, which each year salutes members of the IFAS community for their outstanding research, teaching and scholarship around the globe.
This year’s award winners:
- Associate Professor Don Behringer, in the Fisheries and Aquatics Sciences program, won the 2018 IFAS Global International Fellow award for his many international activities, including research on spiny lobsters and blue crabs in the Caribbean and South America. Behringer sent greetings via a video of himself wearing scuba gear and floating in the Mediterranean, where he is conducting research on lobsters with graduate students.
- Professor Karen Garrett of the Plant Pathology Department won the International Achievement award for research on projects that have contributed to climate change adaptation strategies and diversification of food production strategies. She is a member of the UF Institute for Sustainable Food Systems and is conducting research as part of the the Feed the Future Haiti AREA project.
- UF/IFAS extension agent Christine Kelly-Begazo received the International Extension award for her work to develop programs geared to Spanish-speaking farm workers and teaching sustainable agriculture and other farming-related topics. Each summer she returns to Honduras and teaches producers, farm workers, interns and youth about sustainable agriculture and food safety.
- Senior lecturer Monika Oli, a native of Germany, received the Internationalizing Student Education Award for globalizing nearly every aspect of her teaching, including her study abroad programs across Europe and her award-winning online class “Microbes Without Borders.” This is the latest of many awards for Oli, who in 2017 was named UF faculty adviser/mentor of the year.
The event was kicked off by Rose Koenig, interim director of IFAS Global and principal investigator of the AREA project, and organized by Kathy Colverson, associate director of IFAS Global.
A great university needs to go global
Jack Payne, senior vice president for agriculture and natural sciences, said the award ceremony is a chance to highlight the worldwide efforts of UF/IFAS to improve farm productivity, teaching and food security.
“To be a great university, you need to spread your knowledge — not only across the state but across the globe,” Payne said. He mentioned some of the numerous agricultural and natural resource issues that IFAS faculty and students are researching around the world, including the threat to food security in Africa posed by fall armyworms. He also highlighted the UF/IFAS-managed Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems, which supports smallholder livestock systems to improve the nutrition, health and livelihoods of the poor in eight countries Africa and Asia.
“It’s wonderful to know we can contribute to solving some of these problems around the world,” Payne said. “We can teach it and study it, but you have to go see it and experience it yourself to address it.”
Handing out awards wasn’t the only activity at the event, which was held in Emerson Hall and attended by about three dozen faculty, staff and students. Several faculty members and graduate students gave presentations about their international research projects.
From Colombia to Ethiopia
Pilar Useche, professor of Food and Resource Economics and Latin American Studies, spoke about UF/IFAS’ key role as a member of a consortium to work with Colombian universities on developing collaborative research in agriculture,
Grady Roberts, professor of Agricultural Education and Communications, talked about the UF-managed Feed the Future Haiti AREA project, whose mission includes improving agricultural teaching at higher education institutions in Haiti. Roberts highlighted Haiti’s first conference on agricultural teaching, which took place last week in Port-au-Prince and AREA sponsored.
Steve Sargent, a professor and postharvest specialist in Horticultural Sciences, explained his work with the recently ended Innovative Agricultural Research Initiative (iAGRI), which strengthened the training and research capacities of the Tanzanian government and Sokoine University. UF trained 14 Ph.D. and 10 master’s students as part of the program, including 2016 Ph.D. graduate Ramadhani Majubwa, who investigated postharvest losses of mandarin organs in Tanzania and now is back in Tanzania teaching at Sokoine.
Jason Scheffler, assistant professor in the Department of Animal Sciences, spoke about the Livestock Lab’s work to improve the safety and quality of meat products in Ethiopia. The country’s government-owned abattoirs, or slaughterhouses, and its cultural norms of frequent fasting, consumption of raw meat and distrust of refrigeration contribute to high levels of microbacterial growth, illness and limited supplies.
Taylor Langford, a graduate student who is mentored by Scheffler, told her story of her first trip outside the United States to Adama, Ethiopia, where she helped train 20 veterinarians and butchers how to safely prepare meat for consumers.
Darline Dorval, a horticulture graduate student from Haiti funded by the AREA project, provided an in-depth look at her research project to study new lines of sorghum with higher yields and increased pest resistance than varieties currently grown in Haiti.
Finally, James Fulton, who is working on a Ph.D. in plant pathology, presented highlights of his AREA project research to investigate a disease that is increasingly plaguing Haiti’s plantain and banana crops — a pathogen that causes the plants to “topple” and rot. Working with Garrett, Fulton is trying to diagnose the disease that is increasingly affecting one of the country’s most important sources of nutrition and robbing farmers of income.
Koenig said: “We’re proud of the important research our faculty and students are doing as they engage with the world. They show an immense drive for discovery and desire to solve global problems.”
In a shrinking world it’s important for UF/IFAS to continue to expand its teaching and learning beyond the state’s borders, Payne said. “I really want to see our international programs grow and also to bring in more international students.”
Photos by Tyler Jones, See his gallery of photos.