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New UF/IFAS Nature Coast Biological Station in Cedar Key to expand opportunities

cedar key

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Jack Payne, University of Florida senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources, has a vision for Florida’s Nature Coast region: to support and expand the world-class research conducted by UF scientists while supporting the communities and helping to conserve the region’s rich resources.

With that in mind, the UF Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences has created the Nature Coast Biological Station, to be housed in Cedar Key. The station is a site to help enhance conservation and improve management of natural resources up and down the Gulf Coast — from Hernando to Wakulla County, Payne said.

“UF/IFAS has had a longtime presence in Cedar Key and has a history of doing important work in these communities,” Payne said. “We helped establish the clam industry, and now, 70 percent of clams sold in the state come from that region.”

The region is rich territory for scientific exploration, said Micheal Allen, director of the Nature Coast Biological Station. “The Nature Coast contains the state’s most extensive seagrass meadows, our most valuable oyster fisheries, and vast wildlife, fish, and native plant communities,” he said. “The region supports substantial tourism, including healthy recreational and commercial fisheries, extensive wildlife viewing, and highly successful hard clam aquaculture.”

The station will allow all researchers to work together in one location, Payne said. “The UF/IFAS researchers will be joined by others at the university, the state and the region,” he said. “Currently, the College of Veterinary Medicine wants to study dolphin mortality, the Florida Museum of Natural History wants to do shark research at Cedar Key and scientists are collaborating with staff at the Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory.”

The station will also give undergraduate and graduate students at the university a chance to take classes on site, especially students from the university’s marine science major, Allen said. “The NCBS will bring together faculty, students and agency partners to assess the ecology and management of critical aquatic habitats in the region, to improve wildlife populations, and to sustain fisheries and aquaculture in the Nature Coast.”

The building, the old Gulf Side Motel, is currently being renovated. The new facility will house a bivalve culture facility, administrative offices for faculty, staff and students, classrooms and dormitories, Allen said. He further noted that “the station will communicate science to the public that can improve local communities and enhance the quality and economic value of these critical natural resources.”

 

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By: Beverly James, 352-273-3566, beverlymjames@ufl.edu

 

Sources: Jack Payne, 352-392-1971, jackpayne@ufl.edu

Micheal Allen, 352-273-3624, msal@ufl.edu