The Cultivar UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture Department Newsletter

Spring, 2024 Edition

A Word From Our Chair

Dr. Wagner Vendrame

Change. A multifaceted concept. It can manifest positively, as exemplified by New Year resolutions often centered around altering habits or behaviors. Goals such as exercising more, spending quality time with friends and family, shedding excess weight, adopting healthier eating habits, seeking better employment, or exploring new countries all represent positive changes.

Yet, change can also evoke fear, particularly when it arrives unexpectedly and catches us off guard. The apprehension stems from the uncertainty associated with unforeseen changes. However, I firmly believe that most changes present opportunities rather than being inherently negative or daunting. Reacting negatively to unexpected changes can trigger the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to heightened anxiety. In response to anxiety, the mind tends to envision worst-case scenarios, fueled by an accumulation of cortisol.

In a Psychology Today article by Tom Bunn, he emphasizes the importance of maintaining meta-awareness or reflective function to avoid succumbing to the negative impacts of imagination. When the reflective function is active, we are aware that our imagination is at play, allowing us to differentiate between fiction and reality. However, elevated stress hormones can compromise this reflective function, blurring the line between imagination and perception.

But what if we could redirect our imagination towards a positive response to change? Adopting a proactive mindset, as opposed to a reactive one, offers a transformative approach. Being proactive involves consciously steering negative thoughts toward viewing change as an opportunity.

Personally, when confronted with the unexpected responsibility of serving as the interim chair for our department, I took a moment to reflect before allowing my imagination to fuel stress.

As your interim chair, I perceive this as a unique opportunity to grasp the intricacies of the role, understand the responsibilities of an academic department chair, and evaluate my potential as a successful leader for our department. My proactive stance entails delving into the understanding of our department's operations, finances, and my role as chair to better serve and assist each of you. Initiating annual evaluations and aiming to meet with each team member reflects my commitment to enhancing our programs. Interacting with stakeholders at TPIE during this past week also made me better understand the state of our industry and its challenges.

Amidst the uncertainty of impending changes, I encourage you to pause, take a deep breath, and adopt a proactive mindset. Consider how each change can be viewed as an opportunity for growth. I am always available for discussions on this or any other matter, eager to support you through the challenges and opportunities that change brings.

Wishing all a Happy and Productive New Year!

2023 Fall Graduates

Hunter Goan, non-thesis

Yifan Jing, thesis

Pablo Agustin Boeri, PhD.

Plant Science Major graduates

Bradley Burke

Ciara Chiampou

Paton Glaze

Jason Hall

Ryan Hardin

Andrew Komatz

Corey Murphy

Shea Murphy

Emily Perry

Emily Takeshita

Jieli Wegerif

Destany Westlake

Brennan White

Richard Del Forn Jr.


(Left image) Kiki Montgomery, undergraduate researcher, Dr. Carrie Adams, and Madeline Estes presented research on Living Shorelines at the UF Center for Coastal Solutions Summit in December. (right image) Madeline Estes with research poster.
MS student Madeline Estes presenting her research on Spartina seed for planting living shorelines this week to the North Florida Estuarine Restoration Team, a collaborative of practitioners from state and federal agencies that support coastal restoration

Spotlight on a lab

Restoration and Plant Ecology

Dr. Adams, director of the Restoration and Plant Ecology laboratory at the University of Florida.

What is Restoration and Plant Ecology and what is the research you and your lab team conduct?

We protect biodiversity by conserving native plants in natural areas, but when those natural areas are degraded by development or pollution, we lose that biodiversity, and with it we lose the services that biodiversity provides (sediment stability in coastal marshes, fisheries nurseries along coastlines, nutrient retention in lakes, pollinator habitat in the Everglades). With restoration, we can add plants back into formerly degraded areas and recoup that biodiversity and those services. But which species are most important to plant first? Does the genetic composition of the plants matter? Should we use plants or seeds? How can we counter invasive species impacts to our efforts? We study these questions for aquatic environments (lakes, wetlands, coastal marshes) which are generally less well studied than terrestrial environments, even though aquatic systems provide more of those services per acre. The process of restoration also offers a unique opportunity to manipulate the factors that control plant communities in our experiments and answer basic questions about plant ecology.

Technical answer: The UN pronounced 2020-30 as the “Decade of Restoration”, reflecting our growing reliance on restoration as a strategy to manage natural lands, and the heightened importance of my work to support those who manage lands to improve health and integrity of the world’s ecosystems. My program concerns the science and ecology behind effective restoration of native plant communities (1 and 2 below). Building on my professional network I work to create information sharing pathways between those who study restoration and those who practice restoration, particularly the students I teach (3 below).

1) Research and design of invasive plant control strategies that increase restoration success of ecosystems and their native plant communities while discovering ecological knowledge of those ecosystems.

2) Identification of production, planting, and maintenance practices that promote restoration capacity for native plants in aquatic systems, wetlands and uplands.

3) Design of state, nation-wide, and international approaches that bridge restoration information and research needs between natural resource managers, plant ecologists, and state and federal land management agencies.

Restoration and Plant Ecology Lab milestones

One of our strengths is collaborating with other departments (Soil, Water and Ecosystem Science, School of Forestry Fisheries and Geomatics, Agronomy) and other universities (Utah State University, University of Minnesota, Ohio State University).

Just completed a project coordinating with Xiao Yu in Ecological Engineering on using real plant measurements to parameterize a model of sediment transport. This will be helpful in planting living shorelines for coastal sediment stability.

Just started a 2 year FL Sea Grant project on Spartina alterniflora seed-based restoration applications—these are very competitive and can lead to future opportunities to partner with FL Sea Grant extension agents.

Restoration and Plant Ecology partners with the Reynolds Lab on many projects

What does the future hold for the Restoration and Plant Ecology?

• hosting Coastal College of Georgia in March 2024

• New MS student and possibly new PhD student beginning in Fall 2024

• SER symposium in Vancouver Fall 2025

• Collaborative paper on Trait-based Ecological Restoration Approaches

• Connection with CVC in Colombia

Plant and Restoration Ecology Lab

Team Members

Christine Rohal

Christine Rohal is a Biological Scientist working with both the Adams and Reynolds lab. She has been working on projects related to the revegetation of submerged aquatic vegetation in degraded lakes, including evaluating planting techniques and researching the germination ecology of commonly restored species. She also works on questions related to the importance of species and genetic diversity on ecosystem functioning in wetlands.

Adam Herdman

Adam Herdman is in his first year of his PhD at the University of Florida. His research focus is primarily conservation of the ghost orchid, gathering critical diagnostic information needed to determine future management practices. Projects that are underway include investigating the population genetics, microclimate, and spatial distribution of the species across SW Florida region. Adam will continue diligently working with land managers and academics to further the conservation efforts into the future.

Madeline Estes

Madeline Estes is in her first year of her Masters at the University of Florida. Her research focus is on developing practices for propagation of Spartina alterniflora from seed. Her work seeks to gain a better understanding of the ecology of Spartina seeds in Florida to better inform nursery growers and practitioners on the production of genetically diverse plants for use in restoring our shorelines. Madeline hopes to move into the role of restoration and conservation practitioner after graduation, and plans to dedicate her work to the preservation of Florida’s natural systems.

Ollie Montgomery

Ollie Montgomery is in their last semester of their Undergraduate degree at the University of Florida. While their primary area of study is within mechanical engineering, they have become well versed in research surrounding the restoration of Florida’s coasts during their time in the Adams lab. Their research within the lab has been focused on planting designs and efficient sourcing for Spartina alterniflora. Ollie is helping with current projects as they finish out their degree, focusing on writing two EDIS publications for living shoreline resources in the meantime.

Mikel Barbite

Mikel Barbeite is an undergraduate researcher in our lab who will graduate this spring 2024. He has been part of our lab for a few years, helping with living shoreline projects and being a translator for our Colombian colleagues. He is thinking he will likely pursue a MS degree in ecological restoration after graduation.

Lis Welch

Lis Welch is a fourth-year undergraduate student in their last semester majoring in Plant Science at the University of Florida. They recently joined the Adams lab to work on a seeding research study on Spartina alterniflora for their capstone project. Lis hopes to start work after graduation in the field of environmental restoration.

Spotlight on a Grad

My name is Adam Herdman and I recently embarked on the journey to obtain my PhD at the University of Florida. Although I have been involved with orchid research since 2015, this was a great leap of faith and I am very fortunate to have the support of so many on this journey.

In 2016, under the mentorship of Dr. Lawrence Zettler, I was sent from the corn fields of Illinois to the swamps and sloughs of SW Florida to survey the populations of ghost orchid there. I remember at the time I was skeptical of the value in this work but was happy to take part as any undergraduate researcher would be. Over the course of the month of July we would wade into the swamps with the gators, snakes, and get eaten alive by mosquitoes just to get to these small remnant populations. What I found out there was that in studying the ghost orchid, an appreciation for the delicate nature of the species was formed and a strong conviction for conservation solidified. After that first year out in the swamp I was hooked, and I would return to SW Florida every summer thereafter to study this species. During this time, I met Dr. Ernesto Mujica at Soroa Botanic Garden and Dr. Michael Kane at the University of Florida, who encouraged me to ask questions and to seek answers. Eventually, this led me to apply to the University of Florida in order to continue the study of native orchid species, upon reflection of my path this was inevitable.

Here at the University of Florida things could not be going better, with the mentorship of Dr. Carrie Adams and Dr. Hector Perez I am in a position to really make things happen. The first semester of any graduate program is often fraught with uncertainty and getting your footing, but the experience that has been brought together here at the University of Florida has meant that we have quickly pulled together projects on the ghost orchid. On November 3rd, a workshop was held on the conservation efforts relating to the ghost orchid at the Naples Botanical Garden. I was lucky enough to present what was observed out at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge over my eight years of involvement and was surprised at how many land managers and academics were interested in a collaborative conservation effort. I am pleased to report that because of this meeting we have redefined the projects that we were planning to pursue.

Since this meeting we have been working hard to set up the groundwork that is needed to make these projects happen. We have partnered with Fernando Rocha and Dr. Jeremie Fant at the Chicago Botanic Garden to study the population genetics of the ghost orchid regionally. A major gap in the understanding of the ghost orchid lies with the genetics within the populations, and it was even mentioned in the petition for listing of the species. Recent reintroduction efforts have pointed towards trouble reproducing and may indicate trouble with inbreeding, we are seeking to broadly assess each population. More recently, we have received permits to collect ghost orchid seed to pursue research on cryopreservation and niche breadth. Cryopreservation is essential to any conservation effort because building the techniques and bank of seeds will ensure preservation and quality of material for future research. Documenting the range of conditions that can affect growth of the seedlings through their life history will be informative on future reintroduction attempts. When the time comes to grow plants in the greenhouse, we will be looking at how factors such as temperature, humidity, and light affect the growth of the species.

My time at the University of Florida thus far has been exciting and I know that all of us here are looking forward to the possibilities that lie before us. What was obvious to me early on all the way back in 2016 was the fact that so many initiatives in conservation would not happen without the dedicated efforts of the people involved. Indeed, in the case of the ghost orchid it is very much so the case, and it is because of overwhelming support from people like you that I am able to be here and will be continuing research on the ghost orchid.


Dr. Sandra Wilson Explores the learning possibilities of Improving students’ confidence in identifying bees and pollinator-friendly plants with the BeeGardens app, developed by Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program at UF

Dr. Wilson guides students through the BeeGardens app developed by the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ (FFL) program at UF.

Standards for High Performing Landscapes, A Blueprint for Writing Community Landscape Standards, is a new document written for all the trades and professions involved in planning, designing, building, and maintaining the landscapes of new and existing housing developments in Florida, including land developers, urban and regional planners, builders, landscape contractors, landscape architects and designers and others involved in urban development. Dr. Hansen served as primary author, but the document was a collaborative effort between students in the Landscape Architecture Department, staff in the UF IFAS Program for Resource Efficient Communities (PREC), faculty in the Center for Land Use Efficiency (CLUE), and the project manager for the Wildlight residential community in Yulee, Florida. The book centers on the use of ecological principles for sustainable residential landscapes, metrics for measuring the performance of landscapes, and action items for implementing the standards. Planting plans for the Wildlight community are presented in a case study to illustrate how to apply the standards.


2024 College of Agricultural and Life Sciences Award Winners

Cheek Award Winner

Stephen Brooks Parrish

Fry Award Winner

Teagan Young

New! Therapeutic Horticulture Activities Database (THAD)

This collaborative project was initiated by Diane Relf and the Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Database (THAD) Working Group which includes the Florida Horticulture for Health Network, Nova Scotia Horticulture for Health Network, California Horticultural Therapy Network, Mid Atlantic Horticultural Therapy Network, Carolinas Horticultural Therapy Network, and the University of Florida Certificate in Horticultural Therapy.

Activities are an important component of horticultural therapy (HT) and therapeutic horticulture (TH) programs, where intentional connections to plants are an essential element. The activities found here in the Therapeutic Horticulture Activity Database (THAD) have been developed or adapted by HT professionals and are presented in compliance with standards of practice from the American Horticultural Therapy Association (2022). Although they are formatted for use by horticultural therapy practitioners, these activities can be adapted and implemented by a broad range of practitioners to suit the needs of both those delivering and benefitting from the activities.

Farewell, Dee

With mixed emotions, we share the news of Dee Bailey's departure from our team. While we are saddened to see Dee go, we are also excited for her new opportunities and adventures ahead. She has been an integral part of our department and a cherished colleague to us all. Dee has brought passion, dedication, and positivity to our workplace. Her contributions have made a significant impact, and her presence will be greatly missed. Thank you, Dee, for everything you have done for our team.

Upcoming Events, Sales, Festivals

and Training Sessions

UF/IFAS Research Compost

Consortium Conference

Wednesday, March 27, 9:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m.

This is an in-person-only meeting and welcomes researchers, extension agents, compost industry members, agricultural and horticultural producers as well as government sustainability departments.


9:30- 10:00 am Check In- Registration Morning coffee and pastries, sponsored

10:00 - 10:15 am Welcome Damian Adams, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Research

10:15 - 10:45 am Vision and Challenges for Compost Use in Florida , Alex Marks, Veransa Group Darren Midlane, Life Soils Florida, LLC

10:45 - 11:05 a.m. Grant Funding Agencies

11:05- 12:00 p.m. Researchers, Extension, Industry and Gov't. Depts. Talks

12:00 - 1:00 p.m. Lunch provided by Florida Composting Council - Presenter Chris Snow

1:00 - 1:45 p.m. Poster Session - An Opportunity for a Deeper Dive with Presenters

1:45 - 2:30 p.m. Networking Roundtable Discussions for Economics, Policy and Environmental Initiative Groups

2:30-3:30 p.m. Summary from Round Table Discussions - Next Steps

University of Florida Greenhouse Training Online program offering 3 new courses in 2024!

Increase your productivity, employee knowledge and skills with our 4-week certificate courses from UF/IFAS Extension. Completely online and taught by experienced university professors. All courses are in English and Spanish.

March 27th, 2024 from 3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

“Getting to Grad School” event, in collaboration with the Plant Science Council! The amazing students of @ufplants are wrangling a panel of graduate students and program coordinators from a broad range of plant science-related grad programs across campus!

Absorb wisdom, ask everything you ever wanted to know, and nibble on quality snacks with a fantastic community!

Field Tours

• Reclaimed Water Irrigation for Golf and Landscape

• Biological Control of Nematodes

• Tropical Signalgrass Control

• Thatch management for CitraBlue

Technical Sessions

• PPE for Pesticide Applications

• Equipment Calibration

CEU's have been requested

Palm Quest Conference has been created to provide industry professionals with the latest applied research projects and receive up-to-date information on advances in palm production, installation, and management techniques.

May 6, 2024

Root health and growth have a huge effect on the yield, crop time and losses, and profitability of container-grown and hydroponic crops. This symposium will showcase the latest advancements in root zone and controlled environment crop management, with presentations by University researchers from Florida, Arkansas, Georgia, and Purdue and technology demonstrations by industry. Topics will include water treatment, control of soil pests and diseases, biocontrols, recirculating nutrient solutions, heavy metals, irrigation, automation, and growing transplants under LEDs. Don't miss out on this opportunity to learn about the latest developments in research and technology!

Designed for: Greenhouse growers of hydroponic vegetable, ornamental, and hemp crops, researchers, and industry professionals