2022 – Central District All Faculty Symposium – Natural Resources
M. Pinkerton and T. McIntyre, UF/IFAS Extension, Seminole County, Sanford, FL
Situation: Invasive species pose significant threats including economic losses in agriculture, human and animal health hazards, disruption of native ecosystems and more. In the U.S., losses due to invasive species are estimated to cost over $120 billion annually. Florida has a high risk for the introduction and establishment of invasive species and thus, education on related topics are critical to protecting agriculture and natural resources. Central Florida Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CFCISMA) hosts in-person educational opportunities on invasive species annually, and since the COVID-19 pandemic, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County has increased collaboration with CFCISMA on virtual education. Methods: In 2021, we hosted two invasive species webinars via Zoom. Webinar agendas were designed for both professional and public audiences. Speakers from multiple agencies were invited, including experts from UF, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The webinars were approved for FDACS pesticide Continuing Education Units (CEUs) in 10 categories. Post-webinar and 3-6 month follow up surveys were utilized to measure outcomes. Results: The two webinars were highly successful with over 590 participants from across the state, and more than 450 pesticide CEUs were issued to attendees. In a post-webinar survey, 99.6% (528/530) increased their knowledge on invasive species and 98.3% (521/530) intended to adopt at least one practice learned (ie. reporting suspect pests, use caution to avoid spreading invasive species, employ integrated pest management, etc.). In the 3-6 month follow up survey, 97.1% (304/313) had adopted at least one practice since attending. Conclusion: The virtual webinars increased the capacity to teach larger audiences without geographic limits and offer CEUs to professional clientele. As a result of the webinars successes, CISMAs in other regions have reached out for guidance on hosting similar programs in collaboration with outside agencies.