By Kim Scotto
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A University of Florida IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences doctoral student, who is passionate about solving problems in forest health on a global scale, will spend three months as an intern with the United Nations in Rome, Italy.
Demian Gomez, a student the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation, studies forest entomology, specifically the systems of bark beetles.
“The bark and ambrosia beetles are small but mighty, and can cause millions of dollars per year in damage,” said Jiri Hulcr, an associate professor who advises Gomez. “Globalization and trade have allowed invasive bark and ambrosia beetles to spread across the world. We need more scientists like Demian who are big-picture thinkers.”
Gomez will be mentored by Shiroma Sathyapala, an officer with the Food and Agricultural Organization’s (FAO) Forestry Department.
“I am really inspired by Dr. Sathyapala’s work,” Gomez said. “As an FAO officer, she focuses on developing networks between countries to facilitate information exchange with a focus on different threats to forest health and management. It is crucial work to foster human connections to solve these big-scale problems.”
The goal of the internship is to review different aspects of past and current bark beetle outbreaks in Central America, and create a forest invasive species network in the region. The FAO plans to connect individual countries who have been studying and recording the impact of bark beetles on their ecology and economies.
The unique partnership between UF and FAO has been years in the making. Hulcr hopes to offer the internship opportunity with FAO to graduate students every year.
“This type of broadening of horizons is really unmatched,” Hulcr said. “Our students will become international experts even before they finish their Ph.D.”
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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 ifas.ufl.edu and follow us on social media at @UF_IFAS.