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UF/IFAS Agricultural Engineering Professor Named Director of Florida Climate Institute

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A University of Florida agricultural engineer who uses crop models to help farmers adapt to warmer, more erratic weather, will unite scientists to better deal with the impacts of an increasingly changing climate.

Senthold Asseng will lead the Florida Climate Institute, a multi-disciplinary collaboration of more than 400 scientists dedicated to better understanding climate variability and change. FCI scientists help the public deal with climate change, which can increase occurrence of drought, floods, hurricanes, heat waves, sea-level rise and related impacts.

Asseng, a professor of agricultural and biological engineering at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, has been appointed FCI director by Jack Payne, UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources.

“Through years of intensive scientific research, Dr. Asseng has shown a unique ability to gather scientists from across the globe to develop solutions for agricultural producers who deal daily with a changing climate,” said Payne, leader of UF/IFAS. “I am confident Dr. Asseng can continue to lead robust discussion and help bring about science-based data to help us all deal with the potentially devastating impacts of climate change.”

“This is a great opportunity, not just for me, but for many people like me,” Asseng said. “This is the chance for scientists to come together with other experts, debate, build a consensus on important issues and expand the network of the FCI to help Florida and the rest of the world with the threat of climate change and sea-level rise.”

Asseng plans to galvanize efforts of faculty across UF and other FCI member institutions to continue their efforts to assist farmers and other stakeholders, including youth.

“Children around the world rightly ‘demand’ actions to address climate change; we fully support this and plan to do something about it,” he said. “The problems of climate change are global, but the impacts are often unique for each region.”

Asseng has been involved in the institute for several years, working on climate change impacts and adaptation in agriculture.

“My plans for the institute are to bring more faculty together from across disciplines, deepen our science-based understanding and increase our communication about the issues and solutions,” he said.

In addition to UF, the climate institute has nine member universities: Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Institute of Technology, Florida International University, Florida State University, Nova Southeastern University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Miami and the University of South Florida. The FCI at UF includes faculty from most UF colleges.

UF and FSU initiated the institute in 2010, and the other universities joined in subsequent years. The FCI efforts on the UF campus are funded by UF/IFAS, the UF Office of Research, the UF College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, research project funding and private donations.

Asseng will add the FCI director duties to his teaching and research responsibilities at UF/IFAS. As a scientist, Asseng analyzes cropping systems to improve the production and sustainability of systems that include atmosphere, crops and soil. Specifically, his research concentrates on the impacts of climate variability and change on crop systems and food security and developing options for growers to adapt to these changes.

He is a co-leader of the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project. AgMIP, as it’s sometimes called, is a global group of scientists that links climate, crop, and economic modeling communities with cutting-edge information technology to produce and integrate models that improve and use crop and economic models. AgMIP researchers aim to improve world food security in the face of climate change and to enhance farmers’ abilities to adapt to climate change.

Asseng has authored or co-authored more than 240 peer-reviewed articles on crop model improvements and applications in managing climate variability, climate change impact and adaptation and cropping sustainability.

Asseng replaces James Jones, UF/IFAS distinguished professor emeritus of agricultural and biological engineering, who is retiring as FCI director. Asseng will be assisted by existing staff members, co-director Ellen Martin, professor of geology, and Carolyn Cox, coordinator of the FCI.

“This is a pivotal position in UF and in Florida for providing research and education leadership to address issues associated with climate change, sea level rise, their impacts and societal responses,” Jones said.

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By: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, bradbuck@ufl.edu

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.

 

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