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Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center's Faculty

UF/IFAS researchers are award-winning, internationally recognized experts who publish papers in leading peer-reviewed journals and are inducted into prestigious organizations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The University of Florida is a land-grant university and an Association of American Universities member. Our faculty are committed to the UF/IFAS research mission while also assuming Extension and teaching responsibilities. Findings from their research are used as the basis for Extension programs taught statewide via publications, distance education, and field day events, and are the foundation for many of the classes taught by our faculty.

GCREC Directory

Current Faculty

Dr. Jack Rechcigl

GCREC Center Director and Professor of Soil and Water Science
FLREC Center Director | 813-419-6571

Dr. Jack Rechcigl is the Center Director and Professor of Soil and Water Sciences at the University of Florida/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center located in Balm and Plant City. In addition he is now the  Center Director of the Fort Lauderdale Research and Education Center.  Dr. Rechcigl studies the beneficial uses of organic wastes and industrial by-products as fertilizers for agricultural crops.  In particular, his research focuses on evaluating the fertilizer requirements of pasture grasses as well as determining ways to reduce fertilizer runoff in to water ways.

Dr. Nathan Boyd

Associate Center Director and Professor of Horticulture

Boyd Weed Science Lab | 813-419-6613

Dr. Nathan Boyd's research and extension program focus on the development of integrated weed management plans for vegetable, strawberry, and ornamental crops.  He emphasizes the incorporation of biological knowledge with chemical, physical, and cultural management tools.  Dr. Boyd collaborates with researchers from a wide range of disciplines to develop pest-management options that are effective and economically viable. He works closely with industry and grower groups to address current and future weed management issues.

Dr. Amr Abd-Elrahman

Associate Professor of Geomatics

Abd-Elrahman's Geomatics Lab | 813-757-2283

Dr. Abd-Elrahman supervises the Geomatics undergraduate and graduate programs at the GCREC Plant City Center.  Dr. Abd-Elrahman’s research focuses on utilizing remote sensing techniques to provide information needed in natural resources management/monitoring and precision agriculture applications. The research program involves multispectral and hyperspectral image classification, lidar data processing, and geospatial analysis.

Dr. Shinsuke Agehara

Assistant Professor of Horticulture

Agehara Hort Science Lab| 813-419-6583

Research and extension program of Agehara's group focuses on the development of vegetable and fruit production practices to improve productivity, product quality, and resource conservation. The program covers Florida’s major crops including tomato, strawberry, blueberry, bell pepper, and cucurbits, as well as new specialty crops such as blackberry and pomegranate. The research emphasizes understanding plant morphological and physiological adaptation mechanisms to environmental stimuli and stresses and incorporating the knowledge to develop integrated production practices.

Dr. Debra Barry

Assistant Professor - Plant City Campus | 813-757-2288
Agricultural Education and Communication
Dr. Barry's research and extension program focuses on the recruitment and retention of agricultural educators.  Programs include the PACT program, for Preparing and Assisting Cooperating Teachers in agricultural education, as well as the Agricultural Education Institute (AEI) for recruiting potential ag teachers into the AEC program at UF.  Dr. Barry works with undergraduate students in both Gainesville and Plant City, and supervises student teachers during their intership experience.

Dr. Zhanao Deng

Professor of Environmental Horticulture | 813-419-6605

Dr. Zhanao Deng develops new ornamental plant cultivars for Florida growers and consumers.  Current breeding efforts are directed toward the developing and releasing new caladium and gerbera cultivars, genetic sterilizing lantana and nandina, and evaluating and selecting superior Florida-native plants.  Dr. Deng is one of the principal investigators for new and emerging crops in Florida including hops, hemp, and blackberries.

Dr. Johan Desaeger

Assistant Professor of Entomology and Nematology | 813-419-6592

Dr. Johan Desaeger was born and raised in Belgium,and he graduated as an agricultural engineer from the University of Ghent. He started working with nematodes in 1994 in Kenya at the International Center for Research in Agroforestry. After completing his PhD in Applied Biological Sciences from the University of Leuven in 2001. he moved to the U.S. to work on nematode management in vegetables at the Universities of Florida and Georgia. He made the leap to industry in 2005 when he joined DuPont to start up a nematology program at their former research facility in Delaware.

Dr. John Diaz

Assistant Professor of Ag Education and Communication | 813-757-2297

Ag Education and Communication and Extension Development

Dr. Fahiem El Borai

Research Assistant Scientist, International Outreach
Strawberry Breeding and Genetics Program| 813-419-6612

Dr. Fahiem EL-Borai appointment focuses on both Research and strawberry International Outreach: his research part focus on the interactions between plant parasitic, insect parasitic (entomopathogenic) nematodes and other soil organisms in the strawberry and other vegetable crops soil food web; the use of entomopathogenic nematodes as biocontrol agents against target insects. His International Outreach focus on dissemination of information to academic and private institutions worldwide involved in the research and/or propagation of University of Florida strawberry varieties.

Dr. Zhengfei Guan

Associate Professor of Ag Economics | 813-419-6590

Dr. Zhengfei Guan’s research interests are in the areas of farm management, labor economics, applied econometrics, and agricultural policy. His current research focuses on optimization and agribusiness decision making. Decision areas covered in Dr. Guan’s research include land use, farm labor management, capital investment, and technology adoption.

Dr. Samuel Hutton

Associate Professor of Horticulture | 813-419-6610

Dr. Samuel Hutton’s research focuses on developing improved tomato hybrids and parents adapted to Florida’s subtropical conditions and relevant to the Florida tomato industry.  His program emphasizes genetic characterization of important traits and utilization of molecular tools to more efficiently advance these traits into commercial germplasm. These efforts are supported through collaborations with the University of Florida and other researchers in areas, including pathology, entomology, genomics and postharvest. 

Dr. Andrew Koeser

Associate Professor of Environmental Horticulture | 813-419-6589

As a faculty member within the Center for Land Use Efficiency (CLUE), Dr. Andrew Koeser is charged with protecting and conserving Florida's natural resources by developing research-based, sustainable urban landscape practices.  Dr. Koeser works directly with arborists, landscapers, nursery growers, and urban foresters to both reduce the inputs and increase the ecological benefits associated with urban and residential greening.

Dr. Sriyanka Lahiri

Assistant Professor of Entomology
Lahiri Entomology Lab | 813-419-6585

Dr. Sriyanka Lahiri is charge of the small fruits entomology lab.

Dr. Kati Lawson

Lecturer - Plant City Campus | 813-757-2284

Ag Education and Communications, Communication/Leadership

Dr. Seonghee Lee

Assistant Professor of Horticulture| 813-419-6611

Dr. Seonghee Lee’s research program focuses on the field of strawberry molecular genetics and genomics to apply modern molecular genetic/genomic tools for UF strawberry breeding program and support new cultivar development.  Using the advanced molecular information, his team can successfully develop superior strawberry cultivars to provide benefits continuously for Florida strawberry industry. Thus, in support of this goal, his research currently focuses on several main areas.

Dr. Tong Geon Lee

Assistant Professor of Horticulture | 813-419-6607

Dr. Tong Geon Lee's program focuses on the study of tomato genetics and on its application in solving challenging problems in tomato production. His research activities have particularly close link to genomics, bioinformatics, computational biology, genome sequencing, high performance computing and molecular biology.  He combines these techniques to understand more about tomato traits and genetics. Dr. Lee works together with other departments and centers on/off campus in a number of collaborative projects (e.g. University of Florida's Tomato Breeding Program; Florida Tomato Committee).

Dr. Mary Lusk

Assistant Professor of Soil and Water Science | 813-419-6586

Dr. Mary Lusk’s research focuses on developing research-based and stakeholder relevant programs that help Floridians enhance and protect our state’s water quality, quantity and supply. She works to ensure that Florida residents, homeowners, urban landscaper managers, city and county officials, and others have the knowledge they need to make sound decisions about water use and water supply management.

Dr. Natalia Peres

Professor of Plant Pathology

Peres Plant Pathology Lab | 813-419-6602

Dr. Natalia Peres conducts basic and applied research on important diseases affecting strawberry production in Florida. The goal of her program is to develop a better understanding of the etiology of the diseases and the environmental factors affecting their development, and to provide more effective disease control recommendations.  Dr. Peres also works closely with the strawberry and the ornamental breeders on developing cultivars with some level of disease resistance and oversees the Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic.

Doug Phillips

UF/IFAS Blueberry Extension Coordinator | 813-419-6597

Responsibilities include acting as the primary point of contact for commercial blueberry growers throughout Florida, and as a liaison between growers and University of Florida researchers; assisting with the resolution of production, disease, and pest issues; providing feedback to UF researchers on grower issues; assisting with the evaluation of trial selections at central and south-central Florida breeding program trial sites; and authoring publications related to blueberry production issues.

Dr. Hugh Smith

Associate Professor of Entomology and Nematology | 813-419-6588

Dr. Hugh Smith carries out research on managing insect and mite pests of horticultural crops that affect Florida agriculture. Chemical, biological, and cultural approaches to pest suppression are evaluated in collaboration with growers, industry members, University of Florida researchers, and elsewhere.  Extension programs emphasize training to identify pest and beneficial arthropods and to manage insecticide resistance.

Dr. Gary Vallad

Professor of Plant Pathology | 813-419-6577

Dr. Gary Vallad’s research and extension program focuses on the diagnosing and managing diseases common to vegetable and ornamental production with an emphasis on the development and implementation of bio-based disease management strategies. His research utilizes traditional and contemporary approaches to study pathogen biology, disease epidemiology, and plant-pathogen interactions.

Dr. Xu (Kevin) Wang

Assistant Professor of Ag Engineering | 813-419-6618

Dr. Wang has broad interest and experience working at the intersection of computer science, electrical engineering, agricularual engineering, and plant breeding for more than six  years leading the plant phenomics project for plant breeding and genetics programs in the U.S. and worldwide.

Dr. Vance Whitaker

Associate Professor of Horticulture |813-419-6608

Dr. Whitaker develops strawberry varieties for Florida. His breeding program is enhanced through genetic research and through collaborations with the GCREC faculty team and Florida industry. Dr. Whitaker works closely with Florida Foundation Seed Producers, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association and Ekland Marketing Company to license and market UF/IFAS varieties in Florida and around the world.

Dr. Daeun (Dana) Choi

Assistant Professor of Ag Engineering | 813-419-6591

Dr. Choi's focus will be contributing to the land grant mission of UF/IFAS to develop knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resrouces and the life sciences with a focus on AI technology to benefit growers.

PostDoc Research Associates

Allen, Quinton Environmental Horticulture
Buzanini, Ana Claudia Horticultural Science  
Cardoso de Souza, Joao Horticultural Science
Fan, Zhen Horticultural Science
Gireesh, Midhula Entomology
Hammami, Abdel Malek Ag Economics
Han, Hyeondae Horticultural Science
Huang, Kuan-Ming Ag Economics
Jang, YoonJeong Horticultural Science
Kim, Juhee Horticultural Science
Lee, Man Bo Horticultural Science
Oh, Youngjae Horticultural Science
Paudel, Dev Environmental Horticulture

Graduate Students

NameProfile LinkDepartmentFaculty AdvisorEmail
Adhikary, Lovely   Entomology Lahiri  
Alam, Elissar   Horticulture S. Lee
Alonzo Ortiz, Galvin

Plant Pathology Peres
Barr, Dylan   Soil and Water Lusk  
Bhandari, Prashant

Horticulture T.G. Lee
Bukoma, Juma   Soil and Water Science Lusk
Busuulwa, Allan   Entomology Lahiri  
Cheng, Ian   Horticulture Hutton
de Oliveira, Clemen   Nematology Desaeger
Gallardo, Mariel

Horticulture Agehara
Gaspar, Leonard   Horticulture Hutton
Furuya, Amanda   Entomology Smith  
Ipinyomi, Samuel

Horticulture Hutton  
Ivey, Cleveland

Entomology Smith  
Kaur, Gagandeep   Entomology Lahiri
Khanal, Samjhana   Environmenal Hort Deng  
Kim, Jin Hee   Horticulture S. Lee
Lone, Junaid

Horticullture Agehara
Marin, Marcus   Plant Pathology Peres
Mayorga, Laura   Nematology Desaeger  
Moreira, David   Nematology Desaeger
Muni-Morgan, Amanda

Soil and Water Lusk  
Munthali, Esnai   Entomology Smith  
Parrish, Brooks   Environmental Horticulture Deng
Porter, Mark   Horticulture S. Lee  
Pride, Lillian   Horticulture Agehara  
Rameriz, Renzo   Plant Pathology Vallad  
Riva, Gabrieli

Nematology Desaeager  
Salinas, Natalia

Horticulture Whitaker
Schaller, Alexander

Environmental Horticulture Deng
Sierra, Edgar  Horticulture Hutton
Tapia, Ronald   Horticulture S. Lee
Willborn, William (Cas)   Horticulture S. Lee  
Williams, Moraih   Horticulture Boyd
Willis, Elise   Urban Landscaping Koeser  
Yang, Jingya   Plant Pathology Vallad
Zuniga, Adrian   Plant Pathology Peres


Administration - GCREC Balm and GCREC Plant City

Farm Operations Name Title Phone Email
  Autery, Eric Agricultural Assistant II
  Brown, R. Matthew Agricultural Assistant II
  Cofer, Jeb Farm Manager 941-737-4791
  Ferrera, Sara Agricultural Assistant II    
  Laich, Joseph Agricultural Assistant II    
  Leonard, Tyler Agricultural Assistant II
  Moreno, Jose Farm Manager 813-789-9825
  Rubino Alvarez, Jose Agricultural Assistant II
  Sutliff, Jeremy Agricultural Assistant II
Research Staff Name Title Phone Email

Arredondo, Angel Ag Assistant II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615
  Batts, Ryan Ag Assistant II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615  
  Britt, Katie Academic Support Assistant III/Geomatics 813-757-2183
  Brown, Nathan Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609
  Bui, Hung Xuan Biological Scientist II/Nematology 813-419-6634
  Carter, Justin Biological Scientist II/Nematology 813-419-6582  

Carter, Lorna Lab Tech I/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601
  Chambers, Laurel Lab Tech I/Entomology 813-419-6587

Cummings, Dolly Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609

Dalid, Cheryl Biological Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615

Davis, Tim Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609
  Delcastillo, Christopher Ag Assistant II/Horticulture Sciences 813-419-6594

Druffel, Keri Lab Tech II/Environmental Horticulture 813-419-6603
  Garcia, Geovanny Agrcultural Assistant II/Environmental Hort 813-419-6603  
  Giulani, Juan Biological Scientist/Horticulture 813-419-6594  
  Hilbert, Deborah Biological Scientist II/Environmental Hort 813-419-6593
  Hughes, Scott Ag Assistant III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6600
  Lopez, Judith Ag Assisant II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6645  
  Martin, Robert Ag Assistant III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601

Moyer, Catalina Biologicial Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615
  Osorio, Luis Biological Scientist IV/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6614
  Reuss, Laura Biological Scientist/Weed Science 813-419-6604
  Seijo, Teresa Biological Scientist III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601
  Sweat, Michael Ag Assistant III/Weed Science 813-419-6604

Ueda, Kazuyo Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609
  Verma, Sujeet Biological Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6614
  Wang, Weining (Bill) Biologicla Scientist II/Horticultura Sciences 813-419-6594
  Xie, Chenzhao Biological Scientist II/Nematology 813-419-6582
  Yoo, Cheol-Min Research Coordinator II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419--6616


Emeritus Faculty

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