Hey there! My name is Heather Kalaman, and I am the new Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ and Residential Horticulture Agent here at UF/IFAS Extension Orange County. I started this position in mid-April and thought I would take a moment to introduce myself.
I was born and raised in Orlando, Florida where my passion and curiosity for the flora and fauna around me was piqued from a young age. Whether canoeing the springs, going on long, swampy hikes, gardening, or at the beach—pretending I know how to surf—outdoors is where I prefer to spend most of my time. Florida truly is my forever home, and I am so happy to be in a position where I get to continue exploring its boundless beauty and to both learn from and give back to the community that is so near and dear to my heart.
Prior to studying biology, I was originally a studio art major. Sculpture, painting, illustration, photography, you name it—I simply couldn’t get enough! In many ways, growing up immersed in the arts has shaped the way I’ve learned and taught others about the world of horticulture. It was then, during my time as an art student at Valencia College, that I decided to pursue my love of plants academically—all thanks to a phenomenal professor, Steve Myers. While enrolled in his Ethnobotany course, I had the chance to participate in a study abroad trip to Guyana, South America! Here, I learned more about the cultural and medicinal use of plants by the indigenous Macushi Amerindians, trekked through the rainforests and savannahs of the Amazon Basin, and fell asleep in a hammock to the sounds of howler monkeys. Returning from this trip, I swiftly changed my major to biology, later completing my bachelor’s degree at the University of Central Florida. Following this, I spent several years working in various lab and greenhouse-based settings and leaning in to my new addiction for travel, journeying around India, Cuba, and North America.
For the last five years, I lived in Gainesville, FL, where I attended the University of Florida for graduate school. My master’s thesis research focused on pollinator-plant interactions and public outreach on sustainable landscaping and gardening for pollinators. Some of the cool findings from my studies can be found here. Also, be sure to check out the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Bee Gardens mobile app, which I helped to develop.
More recently, I completed my doctorate degree in the Doctor of Plant Medicine Program. My studies during this time sought to address plant health issues from a multidisciplinary approach. This involved hands-on lab and field training in plant pathology, entomology, nematology, and soil, water, and weed sciences, along with professional internships in both industry and academia. As a Plant Doctor, I am confident in my ability to help advise you on your plant health problems!
As I settle into my new role as an Extension Agent here in Orange County, I am thrilled to begin planning classes and workshops focused on sustainable landscaping topics that will aid in improving the health and function of our ever-evolving landscapes. More importantly, I am eager to learn more about your areas of interest, desires for improvement, and how I can best serve my community. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, and be sure to check out our Eventbrite page for upcoming classes.