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DeLuca Preserve, path through wooded area

Research at the DeLuca Preserve gets a jump start

Scientists will conduct research at the 27,000-acre DeLuca Preserve with more than $600,000 in funding awarded to UF/IFAS faculty to study complex issues.

Eight research projects received funding to begin research on the property. Projects range from research on soil microbes to fungi to birds and trees.

“The diversity of the property creates an opportunity for partnership between many UF/IFAS units,” said Robert Gilbert, UF/IFAS dean for research. “We’re making a concerted effort to encourage cross-functional partnerships among UF/IFAS faculty, and this property will foster these partnerships to expand our knowledge of ecosystems in this area of the state.”

The funding comes through the UF/IFAS Jumpstart program, which began in 2016 to support the Ordway-Swisher Biological Station and Austin Cary Forest but expanded this year to include funding for research at the DeLuca Preserve. The program is designed to support groundbreaking research in natural resources, particularly in forest systems and has helped round out UF/IFAS research portfolios in agriculture, natural resources and human systems.

“We were looking for proposals that would take advantage of the great breadth of natural resources we have available at the DeLuca Preserve,” said Gilbert. “Further, we always look for ideas that have great scientific merit that will lead to a return on investment in grant funding and graduate student training.”

Funded projects include:

  • Characterizing soil-water-microbiome domains as part of an open access database for the DeLuca Preserve
  • How rangeland bird diversity and abundance respond to grazing management
  • Planting new improved scion/rootstock combinations from the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center citrus breeding program to demonstrate sustainable and profitable citriculture in Florida
  • Leveraging Snapshot USA to monitor animal diversity and consequences of oak activity patterns
  • Vertebrate surveys through mosquito blood meal-derived DNA at the DeLuca Preserve
  • Mapping and taking inventory of floristic biological, functional and structural diversity across the DeLuca Preserve using LiDAR and high-resolution airborne hyperspectral imaging
  • Florida’s fungal diversity: documenting subtropical fungi of the DeLuca Preserve and Archbold Biological Station
  • An integrated bioeconomic model for wildfire risk, surrounding forest management and tradeoffs of ecosystem services in the Deluca Preserve

“These projects should provide a breadth of groundbreaking information on natural systems,” said John Davis, UF/IFAS senior associate dean for research. “This variety of research will provide a strong baseline of information on the preserve including species composition and distribution, hydrological features and more and represents a strong cross section of interdisciplinary team science.”

The funding includes 23 UF/IFAS faculty working across eight departments and seven research centers around the state.

“This work gives us an opportunity to characterize a site that has been a working landscape for more than 60 years, is home to at least two endangered species and imperiled dry prairie habitat,” said Brent Sellers, UF/IFAS agronomy professor and liaison for the DeLuca Preserve. “This research will provide the foundation to further develop ideas for research, teaching, and outreach.”

Additional resources:

Thousands of acres, thousands of possibilities

DeLuca Preserve donation overview

DeLuca Preserve research opportunities