Six University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty members, whose research is at the forefront of issues such as pest management and disease control, are among those selected for the 2019-22 UF Research Foundation Professorships.
The recognition is awarded to faculty members who demonstrate a distinguished record of research and a strong research agenda.
“The six UF/IFAS researchers selected for the UFRF Professorships are indicative of the high-quality research coming out of UF/IFAS,” said UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources Jack Payne. “The work of our extraordinary faculty impacts not only Floridians but even industries and individuals on a global scale.”
The following UF/IFAS faculty members earned the recognition:
- Jeffrey Bloomquist, a professor of entomology and nematology. Bloomquist, who is also affiliated with the UF Emerging Pathogens Institute, investigates new repellents and mosquitocides for disease control. He said this award will further his research into novel modes of repellent action. “It is a nice form of recognition by the UFRF for the many years of productive hard work put in by all of my lab members,” Bloomquist said.
- Luke Flory, an associate professor of ecology in the agronomy department. The Flory Lab studies invasive plant species and their long-term consequences for native species and ecosystems, while also taking into consideration global change issues such as climate change, fire and pathogens. “An exciting area of recent and ongoing research involves an interdisciplinary team of researchers – including field ecologists, plant pathologists and theoretical ecologists – to address questions at the intersection of the plant community ecology and disease ecology,” Flory said.
- Jiri Hulcr, associate professor of forest ecology in the UF/IFAS School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Hulcr’s research examines forest insects and their interactions with microbes, trees and people. “My team has changed how researchers understand the relationships between bark beetles, ambrosia beetles and fungi,” Hulcr said. “We used to think that it is simple, then molecular approaches suggested a lot of chaos, but after my team incorporated evolution, ecology and statistics into the field, it is all starting to make sense.”
- Matthew E. Smith, an associate professor of plant pathology. Smith, who also serves as curator of the fungal herbarium collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History, says his favorite fungi to study are mycorrhizal, which are fungi that have a beneficial relationship with plants, and truffles. “I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love and to have great people working with me in my lab and collaborating at other institutions,” Smith said.
- Lukasz Stelinski, an associate professor of entomology and nematology at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Fla. Stelinski is a two-time UF Research Foundation Professorship honoree, having also earned the recognition in 2014. He is a leader in the field of pest management research in Florida agriculture, with much of his recent work focusing on the Asian citrus psyllid. “It’s most humbling when one receives a nod of approval from one’s most immediate colleagues, and at such a top-notch institution,” Stelinski said.
- Samantha Wisely, an associate professor of wildlife ecology and conservation. Wisely studies wildlife for the spread of diseases they carry. “I am most proud of the work we did with invasive macaques in Silver Springs State Park,” Wisely said. “We highlighted the potential disease risk to park visitors which prompted park officials to take actions to control this highly invasive species.” Her latest research examines virus transmission in Florida’s wild pig population, which she said could help identify the animal’s role in increasing our vulnerability to disease spread.
The three-year award includes a $5,000 annual salary supplement and a one-time $3,000 grant to support awardees’ research. The professorships are funded from the university’s share of royalty and licensing income on UF-generated products.
“The UFRF Professorships recognize our most innovative and productive faculty, the best examples of researchers and scholars who have helped UF claim its place as a top 10 public university,” said UF Vice President for Research David Norton. “Key to this recognition is that it is based not just on what they have done in the past, but what they are expected to achieve in the future. These are faculty who we anticipate will continue to generate cutting-edge research well into the future.”
The selection process includes evaluation of recent research accomplishments as evidenced by publications in scholarly journals, external funding, honors and awards, development of intellectual property and other measures appropriate to their field of expertise.