Two UF/IFAS personnel are among the recipients of the 2021 UF Superior Accomplishment Awards. James Davison, an agricultural assistant at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra and Thomas James, a biological scientist at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Ft. Pierce, received Special Recognition Awards at a Zoom event hosted by UF President Kent Fuchs and Vice President for Human Resources Jodi Gentry, April 14. The Superior Accomplishment Awards program, now in its 33rd year at the University of Florida, recognizes staff and faculty members who contribute outstanding and meritorious service to the efficiency and/or economy of the University, or to the quality of life for students and employees. Davison and James were recognized in March for Superior Accomplishment Awards within IFAS, making them eligible for consideration in the University-wide awards program. As recipients of the Special Recognition Award, they will each receive a $1,000 check and a commemorative plaque.
James Davison is an Agricultural Assistant II at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU) in Citra. His primary responsibilities are to oversee and assist faculty and staff with all field research operations, which include land preparation, pest thresholds and fumigation determination, research project layout, assistance in data collection, and all equipment operations and service.
While James has vast responsibilities, he has always been curious and eager to learn, asking questions beyond his everyday duties to understand experimental design and the objectives of all research trials under his care. He is the experienced primary operator and mechanic for the Unit’s two Wintersteiger forage plot harvesters, highly intricate machines valued at $200,000 each. James’ presence and expertise were crucial for maintaining and saving research trials while the university was shut down because of COVID-19. He came to work beyond his fixed work schedule to oversee all experiments, making sure they were running well and was trusted by the faculty to collect needed data from their research trials. Being the truly dedicated employee that he is, James volunteered to harvest several wheat and oat variety trials to the tune of 22 acres! He normally harvests with the aid of three to five people, but this year, as an essential employee, he performed the harvest himself and saved irreplaceable seed from two agronomy department experiments.
“James is a joy to interact with,” writes one colleague, “well-respected and always willing to teach the knowledge he has gained from his experiences.” Another writes, “Having so many professors depending on him with their crop data, James always goes the extra mile to be sure it is exactly what the doctor ordered—no pun intended!” And perhaps to sum up how James’ colleagues and professors feel about him: “James is dedicated, caring, and has such a strong commitment for excellence. He compliments precisely the stellar community of past Superior Accomplishment Award recipients.”
Thomas James is a Biological Scientist II at the Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) in Ft. Pierce. He works in the Citrus Horticulture Lab with Dr. Rhuanito Ferrarezi, whose program includes 300 acres of groves located at the IRREC farm, as well as on private groves. The program currently has six major research projects underway. In his job capacity, James serves as the grove operations manager, which may include designing experimental grove plans and planting trees. A superb grove manager and workflow facilitator, he brings over 45 years of experience to the program.
Tom supervises a department with 15 other members and works alongside research assistants, post-docs, graduate students and visiting scholars. He guarantees that each member’s tasks go smoothly. Tom works with the staff members to ensure they have the right equipment to perform their independent tasks. He also makes sure data collection is submitted on time.
Before Tom joined Dr. Ferrarezi’s lab, he was on track to retire. But new and exciting research in Huanglongning (HLB), a disease which has been devastating citrus groves throughout Florida and world-wide, motivated him to postpone his retirement. Florida’s entire citrus industry benefits from this critical research.
In the past fiscal year, Tom has assisted Dr. Ferrarezi in expanding his field grove experiments into local commercial groves, which increased the department’s active field experiments by 45 percent. He has also led the implementation of a 20-acre scion and rootstock variety trial, which involved hours of coordinating manpower, designing the experimental plot, installing irrigation and planting nearly 5,000 trees.
Tom also has gained the respect and admiration of citrus grove owners throughout the region. “[Tom’s] unique ability to offer real-world citrus production experience to the scientific community is invaluable,” writes one grower.
Tom has befriended international students and visitors to help them acclimate to American culture and has even helped a student learn to drive and obtain their driver’s license. Tom likes to teach others the history of Florida citrus production and how difficult it is for growers to deal with HLB.
In his nomination letter, Dr. Ferrarezi writes, “Tom is a noble human being, sharing my personal values of assisting people in need and providing a shoulder to relieve life’s daily frustrations and translating it into action.”