Citizen Science: A Growing Hobby

By: Laura Tiu, Marine Science Extension Agent, Sea Grant, UF/IFAS

Many people are fascinated by my job as a marine scientist. I often hear wishful comments of “I wish I had chosen an exciting career like that.” I’m here to tell you it’s not too late. A phenomenon called citizen science is gaining in popularity, particularly in our coastal communities.

Citizen science is public participation in scientific research by volunteers or amateur scientists. It often involves monitoring or research activities capable of being accomplished by nonprofessional scientists. These programs are designed to engage community members as collaborators throughout the research process including identifying research topics, monitoring and data collection, or information dissemination. Citizen science is a fun and interesting way for people to understand and learn about what is taking place in their own neighborhoods.

Citizen scientists report joining research projects for a variety of reasons. Some want to make a difference and contribute to society. Others love science, are curious about their communities and want to ensure that local research projects include a laypersons perspective.   Citizen science projects can build trust, as scientists recognize the value of public outreach, while participants see how science can advance their understanding of the world they live in.

The University of Florida (UF) has a long history of recruiting and utilizing citizen sciences in a host of research projects. Researchers have long relied on citizen scientists to report the spread of the invasive Cuban Treefrog by documenting and submitting frog sightings. The first Cuban Treefrog in Okaloosa County was caught and reported by a local citizen scientist. Participating can be as simple as taking photos of the frogs (

The Choctawhatchee Basin Alliance and the University of Florida Lake Watch Program have partnered for years with local citizens to monitor over 130 sampling sites located within the Choctawhatchee Bay, Choctawhatchee River, all the coastal dune lakes in Walton County, and even in the Gulf of Mexico, just off shore in Okaloosa and Walton County ( They frequently recruit citizen scientists for many of their other local research projects including building living shorelines and a new oyster gardening initiative.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) uses citizen science as a smart, cost-effective strategy to enhance the FWC’s ability to conserve Florida’s diversity of fish and wildlife species and habitats ( The FWC is currently seeking volunteers and college students to assist with the 2017 Seagrass Integrated Monitoring and Mapping program in Franklin County ( This is a statewide collaborative effort which facilitates the collection and publication of monitoring and mapping data for Florida seagrasses in order to assess the status and trends of this vital ecosystem. This would be a great opportunity for those students wanting to gain some field experiences to add to their resume.

If being a citizen scientist sounds like a fun activity for you or your family, take a look at the links provided in this article, or contact Laura Tiu, UF/IFAS – Okaloosa County Extension Office, for additional suggestions.

UF/IFAS: An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Photo Caption:  Master Naturalist/Citizen Scientist, Diana Moore, assists with outreach at a local event.  Photo credit: Laura Tiu
Walton County Outdoors II 2016
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Plant propagation lecture and mini plant sale

Many of our favorite woody shrubs and herbaceous plants can be started from cuttings.

Here is an easy method that can be used to root dozens of plants at home. You’ll need the following supplies:

  • Sharp hand pruners.
  • Clean plastic nursery pots (1, 2 or 3 gallon size) with drain holes.
  • Well-drained sterile media such as perlite, vermiculite or fine pine bark.
  • A sheet of clear plastic or large, clear plastic bags.
  • Root promoter such as Rootone, Hormodin or Dip-N-Grow.

Recycled pots should be washed and rinsed. Fill each pot half full with well-drained potting mix. Avoid fine textured mixtures that look like soil – they won’t work. Water well to thoroughly wet the medium.

Take cuttings in early morning. Using sharp pruners remove 4 to 5 inch long pieces of terminal shoots from current season’s growth. Immediately place them in a plastic bag or a cooler if temperatures are high.

Once cuttings have been collected, prepare to stick them without delay. In a cool, shaded area recut the base of each cutting. Make a slanted cut just below a joint or node. Dip the cut end in a root promoter and stick it in the medium just deep enough to make it stand up without support. Cuttings can be spaced as close as 2 inches apart. A six-inch nursery pot will easily root a dozen cuttings.

Once pot is filled with desired number of cuttings, water again to help settle medium around cutting bases.

Stretch a clear plastic sheet tightly over the top of each pot and secure it with a large rubber band or string. Another option is to place the entire pot in a large, clear plastic bag and seal it. In either case, the plastic should not touch the cuttings.

Place this completed “propagation unit” in a bright area but in a place that never receives direct sun. Check each week to make sure that condensation is forming inside the plastic. As long as beads of moisture are seen, do not disturb. If the amount of condensation decreases, remove the top, water again, allow excess water to drain and replace the cover.

To learn more about plant propagation, you may attend a lecture on Plant Propagation by Sheila Dunning, UF/IFAS Commercial Horticulture Agent for Okaloosa County. Techniques required to be successful with a variety of plant propagation methods including seeds, divisions, cuttings and grafting will be shared.

A mini plant sale for attendees will follow the lecture featuring flowering nectar plants for butterflies and hummingbirds and larval host plants for butterflies.

The program will be held Wednesday, July 19 from 10 -11 a.m. at the Okaloosa Extension Annex, 127 Hollywood Blvd. N.W. in Fort Walton Beach. There is no cost to attend but space is limited so registration is required by calling (850) 689-5850.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, July 12, 2017


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Small cockroaches flying into homes & July plant clinic

The Asian cockroach was first identified as a newly introduced species in the U.S. in Lakeland, Florida in 1986. I started seeing this small cockroach in our area about 17 or 18 years ago. They’ve done well recently with the rains and their numbers are probably higher now as a result. They prefer warm, wet conditions. Populations of 30,000 to 250,000 per acre are reported in some literature.

They are mostly active at night, hiding in mulched landscape beds and lawns during the day. It’s not uncommon to disturb them as you walk through or hand water mulched plant beds during daytime hours. When doing so, the little roaches, which may be mistaken for small moths, quickly fly as they are disturbed.

Asian cockroaches occasionally fly into homes or automobiles at night, attracted to lights. Thankfully, they don’t live long indoors, though.

Control is difficult. Because they can fly 120 feet or more in a single flight, large areas around a home require treatment. And cockroaches in surrounding untreated areas (lawns, mulched plant beds and nearby woods) may result in reinfestation.

Traditional indoor treatments are ineffective because Asian roaches don’t typically live and breed indoors. The best control has been attained by using insecticide baits (labeled for roach control) in infested areas outdoors. Always follow the label directions and precautions when using any pesticide, including insecticides.

Sodium vapor lamps for outdoor lighting and yellow incandescent bulbs for porch lighting are less attractive to the flying adults.

Both the German and Asian cockroach adults are about 5/8 inch long and are brown to dark brown in color with two darker parallel bands running lengthwise just behind their head. But unlike the German cockroach, the Asian cockroach is a strong flier. Even though German cockroaches have wings, they do not fly. Also, unlike the German cockroach, which prefers to live indoors and is a major household pest as a result, the Asian cockroach prefers to live outside.

For more info on this roach species, visit the below UF/IFAS Extension website.

July’s plant clinic will be held Friday, July 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in Fort Walton Beach at the Okaloosa County Extension building, 127 W. Hollywood Blvd.

Bring a fresh sample of the weed, plant, insect, etc., that you’d like diagnosed to the clinic. This may include a plant stem with several leaves, a 4-inch square of grass with roots attached, etc. You also may bring a sample of soil for pH testing.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, July 5, 2017


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4-H Day Camps Summer 2017

By Veronica Graham

Okaloosa County 4-H has been very busy so far this summer and we have many more opportunities available to youth in our community. Do you have an interest in joining 4-H but do not know what to expect? Register for one of our day camps to explore all the areas in which 4-H can make the best better.

Explore 4-H Day Camp – July 19th, 2017

9am to 4pm, Okaloosa County Extension Office 

During this day camp, we will experience just few of the over 55 different project areas available to members. We will dive into consumer science, healthy living, green energy, and even a little robotics; all the while focusing on developing youth leadership and communication skills. Any youth ages 8-12 years old are welcome to register for this day camp. The cost $10 per participant and is limited to 25 youth enrolled.

Wild About Deer and Food Plot Day Camp – July 22nd, 2017

8am to 3pm, TBA

This day camp is separated into two main events. The morning will focus on proper deer processing and sausage making skills. Then, we will learn about nutritional needs of wildlife and plants that can meet those needs by visiting a local food plot. It is open to any youth between the ages of 8-18 years and cost $10 to attend. If you would like to participate as a family the price is $25. This event has a limit of 30 participants.

Living On My Own Day Camp – July 25th, 2017

9am to 3pm, Okaloosa County Extension Office

Living On My Own is a budgeting workshop for our older youth between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. It will guide participants through the world of savings and living on a fixed income. It will teach youth how to balance life with expenses and still have enough funds to enjoy the money they earn. The cost for this event is $10 and it has a limit of 25 participants.

Outdoor Adventures Day Camp – July 27th, 2017

9am to 3:30pm, Okaloosa County Extension Office

This day camp will be a fun and eventful day. We will walk the Okaloosa County Extension Office’s Native Habitat Trail and identify trees and plants. Then we will make animals tracks out of plaster and study specifically how to identify and track animals. We will also have other fun opportunities during the day to explore leaf printing, scat identification, and even dissect owl pellets. This event is open to ages 8-18 years old and costs $15 to participate. There is a limit of 25 participants for this event.

Lunch is included in the price for each day camp. If you are interested in signing up for one of our exciting day camps or just interested in joining 4-H, contact Veronica Graham at or call our office at 850-689-5850.

We are also always looking for individuals willing to donate their time to become club leaders or start new 4-H clubs. For more information visit our website at

The Foundation for the Gator Nation.
An Equal Opportunity Institution.

4-h article pic(1)





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Expect increase of foliage diseases with wet weather

The frequent rains and high humidity of summer provide ideal conditions for foliage disease development in our lawns, landscapes and gardens.

These foliage diseases show up mostly as tan, brown of black colored spots varying in size and shape on plant leaves.

Most fungal diseases are dependent on moisture, especially foliage or leaf spot diseases. Many of these disease-causing fungi spread by microscopic airborne spores that require moisture to germinate, infect and colonize our plants.

Many fungal leaf spot diseases require a 12 to 14 hour period of uninterrupted wetness. A UF/IFAS Extension factsheet on gray leaf spot of St. Augustinegrass states, “Warm rainy spells from May through September commonly produce extended periods (12 hours and greater) of leaf wetness and relative humidity greater than 95%. During these periods, turfgrass leaf blades can remain wet and air temperatures often hover between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Environmental conditions such as these are ideal for the pathogen growth, infection, and colonization of St. Augustinegrass.”

A Texas Cooperative Extension factsheet on Bipolaris and Exserohilum fungi states, “The severity of the disease increases with temperature and humidity. At 78°F a period of 8 to 10 hours with 100% relative humidity is all that is required for a high level of infection to develop.” These two fungi were once grouped under the name Helminthosporium and are common pathogens of bermudagrass and St. Augustinegrass.

Leaf spot diseases of trees and shrubs follow this same scenario. With higher humidity and frequent rains come diseased leaves. It’s common to find entomosporium leaf spot on red tip photinia and Indian Hawthorn and black spot on roses with these weather conditions.

This wet weather promotes foliage and fruit rot diseases on vegetables. It’s best to remove and dispose of diseased, worn-out vegetable plants as they succumb to summer’s heat, frequent rains and diseases.

Not all plants are equally susceptible to foliage diseases. It’s wise to learn the landscape and garden plants that are likely to experience disease problems as a result of our classic summer weather here in Florida.

A fungicidal spray program can be used to prevent and reduce many of these diseases. But it needs to begin ahead of the symptoms in order to be effective. Frequent rains can make it a real challenge to apply a fungicide in a timely manner. There are also cultural practices that can be helpful in managing some of these diseases.

Not all leaf spot diseases are serious. If you need help identifying or controlling a foliage disease, contact your local University of Florida Extension Office.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension, Okaloosa County, June 21, 2017



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Do your homework before planting fruit trees

Not every fruit tree will grow and reliably produce fruit in North Florida.

Temperature is the most important factor determining where certain fruits can be grown. It’s the reason why apples and blueberries do not do well in South Florida. It’s also the reason why people living in the northern part of the state find it difficult to grow tropical fruits such as papaya or mangoes.

Deciduous fruits, such as apple, peach and plum, require colder winter weather when these trees are bare of leaves and are in a state of dormancy in order to produce fruit. While most of the more tropical, evergreen fruits such as citrus require milder temperatures in order to do well and produce.

You can’t always rely on the folks selling the fruit plants to get it right in providing the best match for our weather.

There are a handful of apple cultivars from which to choose that will produce fruit with our milder winters. Florida is not known as an apple growing region of the United States. There are a few more options when it comes to peach and plum cultivars that will produce with our relatively warm winters.

The same colder winter weather of North Florida that is beneficial for the growth and production of deciduous fruits can injure the more cold sensitive tropical fruits, including most citrus types.

Two of the more cold-hardy types of citrus that will tolerate and survive our average winters are Kumquat and Satsuma. It is interesting that the entire citrus industry has progressively moved south in Florida due to historic freezes. Most commercial citrus production is now south of Orlando. North Florida’s colder winter temperatures are not conducive to growing most citrus species.

In order to be successful with fruit production in North Florida, fruit enthusiasts need to do their homework and ask a lot of questions before selecting and planting the first plant. Which varieties grow well here? How much care is needed to grow this type of fruit? Do I have time to devote to pruning, spraying, fertilizing and watering?

As part of doing your homework, you may want to attend a presentation by Okaloosa County Master Gardener Margaret Stewart titled Growing Fruit in Okaloosa County on Wednesday, June 21. This hour long lecture begins at 10 a.m. at the Gerald R. Edmondson Extension Building located at 3098 Airport Road in Crestview.

There is no cost to attend but space is limited so registration is required. Please call the UF/IFAS Okaloosa County Extension Office at (850) 689-5850 to register.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, June 14, 2017
The Foundation for The Gator Nation


An Equal Opportunity Institution

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2017 Turfgrass Expo & Field Day

There is something for the professional, Master Gardener and homeowner at the 23th Annual Turfgrass Expo & Field Day. You’ll see and learn the newest in the areas of lawn grass varieties, weed control and many other topics related to selecting, establishing and maintaining a Florida lawn.

This University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) event will take place on Wednesday, June 21 at the West Florida Research and Education Center (WFREC) in the north part of Santa Rosa County.

The turfgrass research facility is one of the largest in the Southeast and is part of the larger WFREC. The turfgrass research part of the center contains hundreds of turfgrass varieties, which are intentionally planted in blocks for research purposes. You’ll see the newest centipede, St. Augustine, zoysia, bermuda, bahia and other grass varieties. UF/IFAS Researchers will be onsite during the field day to share their research on weed control, lawn insects, new lawn grasses and more.

This year’s expo is offering a track the golf and athletic field professional and a track for the landscape professional. In addition, the homeowner lawn enthusiast will find opportunities to learn. Topics include new bermudagrass cultivars, thatch management in the landscape with equipment demo, ground pearls (difficult lawn scale insect), turfgrass response to herbicides, understanding pesticides and pesticide safety and understanding the fertilizer label.

The Turfgrass Expo & Field Day begins with registration at 7:45 a.m. followed by research tours beginning at 9 a.m. and a catered lunch at noon. After lunch, they will have vendor updates and equipment demonstrations. Beginning at 1:15 p.m., educational workshops will be provided. The event concludes at 3 p.m. with door prizes. Attending the afternoon workshops is optional.

This popular expo and field day attracts hundreds of attendees and includes research plot tours, workshops, equipment demonstrations, continuing education pesticide license holders, lunch, door prizes, vendors and exhibits.

Registration fee for Master Gardeners and homeowners is $20 and $50 for the professional track. Onsite registration is $60. Register online at Contact Events Coordinator, Robin Vickers, at (850) 983-7134 for more information.

The WFREC is located in the beautiful farming area of Northern Santa Rosa County on Highway 182 between Allen Town and Jay at 4253 Experiment Road in Jay, Florida. This event is outdoors so bring your sunscreen and insect repellent.

Larry Williams, UF/IFAS Extension Agent, Okaloosa County, June 8, 2017


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