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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

Jack Rechcigl

Center Director and Professor of Soil and Water Science

rechcigl@ufl.edu

BIO

Dr. Jack Rechcigl is the center director and professor at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center and on the HCC campus in Plant City. Dr. Rechcigl’s 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.

Nathan Boyd

Associate Center Director and Associate Professor of Horticulture

nsboyd@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Amr Abd-Elrahman

Associate Professor of Geomatic (Plant City)

aamr@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Shinsuke Agehara

Assistant Professor of Horticulture

sagehara@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Debra Barry

Lecturer - Plant City Campus

dmbarry@ufl.edu

BIO

Lecturer - Ag Education and Communications and Agricultural Education

Zhanao Deng

Professor of Environmental Horticulture

zdeng@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Johan Desaeger

Assistant Professor of Entomology and Nematology

jad@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

John Diaz

Assistant Professor of Ag Education and Communication

john.diaz@ufl.edu

BIO

Ag Education and Communication
Extension Development

Zhengfei Guan

Associate Professor of Ag Economics

guanz@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Samuel Hutton

Associate Professor of Horticulture

sfhutton@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Andrew Koeser

Assistant Professor of Environmental Horticulture

akoeser@ufl.edu

BIO

As a faculty member within the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology (CLCE), 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.

Sriyanka Lahiri

Assistant Professor of Entomology and Nematology

lahiris@ufl.edu

BIO

Dr. Sriyanka Lahiri’s research program focuses on developing management strategies for insect and mite pests of small fruit crops, including strawberry, blueberry, and blackberry.  Emphasis is put on determining basic and applied ecological knowledge of pests and their natural enemies and competitor species. This knowledge will be used to better integrate biological and chemical, cultural, physical and other controls.  Dr. Lahiri collaborates locally, nationally and internationally with researchers from multiple disciplines and works closely with industry and grower groups to identify and address pest concerns.

Kati Lawson

Lecturer - Plant City Campus

katilawson@ufl.edu

BIO

Ag Education and Communications, Communication/Leadership

Seonghee Lee

Assistant Professor of Horticulture

seonghee105@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Tong Geon Lee

Assistant Professor of Horticulture

tonggeonlee@ufl.edu

BIO

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).

Mary Lusk

Assistant Professor of Soil and Water Science

mary.lusk@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Luis Pena-Levano

Lecturer - Plant City Campus

lpenalevano@ufl.edu

BIO

Food and Resource Economics and Agricultural Economics

Natalia Peres

Professor of Plant Pathology

nperes@ufl.edu

BIO

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

dal64372@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Hugh Smith

Associate Professor of Entomology and Nematology

hughasmith@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Gary Vallad

Associate Professor of Plant Pathology

gvallad@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Vance Whitaker

Associate Professor of Horticulture

vwhitaker@ufl.edu

BIO

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.

Feng Wu

Research Assistant Scientist, Agricultural Economics

fengwu@ufl.edu

BIO

Dr. Feng Wu’s primary research interests are in statistical and econometric models and dynamic optimization with applications to the farm sector.

PostDoc Research Associates

NameTitlePhoneEmail
Acosta Rangel, Aleyda Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6596 aacostarangel@ufl.edu
Baggio, Juliana Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6629 jbaggio@ufl.edu
Carrillo, Joseph Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6632 josephcarrillo@ufl.edu
Chandra, Saket Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6618 chandra.saket@ufl.edu
Khanal, Churamani Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6634 ckhanal@ufl.edu
Lee, Man Bo Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6631 manbolee@ufl.edu
Li, Sheng Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6595 lisheng@ufl.edu
Luo, Tianyuan Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6630 luoterry@ufl.edu
Oh, Youngjae Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6636 youngjae.oh@ufl.edu
Peng, Ze Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6631 zp1990@ufl.edu
Rossitto, Bruno Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6634 bruno.rossittode@ufl.edu
Smeda, John Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6628 smeda.john@ufl.edu
Viana Xavier, Katia Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6633 kvianaxavier@ufl.edu
Wang, Nan-Yi Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6629 nywang@ufl.edu
Watson, Tristan Post-Doc Researcher 813-419-6635 tristan.watson@ufl.edu

Graduate Students

NameDepartmentFaculty AdvisorEmail
Bhattarai, Krishna Environmental Hort Deng krishnabhattarai@ufl.edu
Bolognesi, Mayara Plant Pathology Peres mayara.bolognesi@ufl.edu
Chang, Ian Horticulture Hutton ian.chang@ufl.edu
Chitwood, Jessica Horticulture Hutton jchitwood@ufl.edu
Coburn, Jackie Nematology Desaeger jd.coburn@ufl.edu
de Oliveira, Clemen Nematology Desaeger clemdeoliveira@ufl.edu
Fan, Zhen Horticulture Whitaker fanzhen@ufl.edu
Gallardo, Mariel Horticulture Whitaker mariel.gallardos@ufl.edu
Goeckner, Audrey Soil & Water Lusk agoeckner@ufl.edu
Hernandez, Jose Horticulture Agehara josev.hernandez@ufl.edu
Kaur, Gagandeep Entomology Lahiri gagandeep.xz@ufl.edu
Kaur, Gurleen Horticulture T.G. Lee gurleenkaur@ufl.edu
Kharti, Kshitij Weed Science Boyd kkharti@ufl.edu
Kim, Jin Hee Horticulture S. Lee jine323@ufl.edu
Klein, Ryan Urban Landscape Koeser ryanwklein@ufl.edu
Liao, Zijing Soil & Water Lusk liaoz@ufl.edu
Lin, Syuan-You Horticulture Agehara syuanyou.lin@ufl.edu
Marin, Marcus Plant Pathology Peres marin.m@ufl.edu
Montemayor, Joseph Entomology Lahiri montemayorj@ufl.edu
Moreira, David Nematology Desaeger daanmoca94@ufl.edu
Onofre, Rodrigo Plant Pathology Peres onofre@ufl.edu
Panthi, Babu Entomology Lahiri panthibabu@ufl.edu
Pinto de Mello, Paulo Plant Pathology Peres paulomello@ufl.edu
Qui, Qi Ag Economics Guan quiq@ufl.edu
Rebello, Carolina Plant Pathology Peres c.suginoshitar@ufl.edu
Regmi, Homan Nematology Desaeger hregmi@ufl.edu
Salinas, Natalia Horticulture Whitaker salinasn@ufl.edu
Sandhu, Ravneet Horticulture Boyd rsandhu@ufl.edu
Shin, Doosan Horticulture T. Lee dshin1@ufl.edu
Shirley, Andrew Plant Pathology Vallad amshirley@ufl.edu
Si, Qianyao Soil & Water Lusk qianyaosi@ufl.edu
Sierra, Edgar Horticulture Hutton e.sierra@ufl.edu
Souza Oliveria, Michelle Plant Pathology Peres msouzao@ufl.edu
Steele, Gabriella Entomology Smith gsteele@ufl.edu
Tapia, Ronald Horticulture S. Lee ronald.tapia@ufl.edu
Zuniga, Adrian Plant Pathology Peres adrianizuniga@ufl.edu

GCREC Staff

Administration - GCREC Balm and GCREC Plant City

Farm Operations Name Title Phone Email
  Brown, R. Matthew Agricultural Assistant II   rmattbrown@ufl.edu
  Cofer, Jeb Farm Manager 941-737-4791 jcofer@ufl.edu
  Kearns, Mason Agricultural Assistant II   masonkearns@ufl.edu
  Leonard, Tyler Agricultural Assistant II   tleonard1@ufl.edu
  Moreno, Jose Farm Manager 813-789-9825 jjmoreno@ufl.edu
  Rubino Alvarez, Jose Agricultural Assistant II   jrubino@ufl.edu
         
Facilities Name Title Phone Email
  Parlin, Joel IT Professional I 813-419-6580 jwparlin@ufl.edu
  Test, Todd Maintenance Generalist II   parttime@ufl.edu
         
Research Staff Name Title Phone Email
  Arredondo, Angel Ag Assistant II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615 aarrend@ufl.edu
  Brown, Nathan Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609 jnbrown@ufl.edu
  Carter, Lorna Lab Tech I/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601 ltcarter@ufl.edu
  Cepeda, Israel Ag Assistant II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615 icepeda@ufl.edu
  Chambers, Laurel Lab Tech I/Entomology 813-419-6587 laurelkchambers@ufl.edu
  Cummings, Dolly Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609 dollyc@ufl.edu
  Dalid, Cheryl Biological Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615 cdalid@ufl.edu
  Davis, Tim Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609 timmyd@ufl.edu
Delcastillo, Christopher Ag Assistant II/Horticulture Sciences 813-419-6594 chdelcas@ufl.edu
  Druffel, Keri Lab Tech II/Environmental Horticulture 813-419-6603 kdruffel@ufl.edu
  El-Borai, Fahiem International Outreach/Strawberries 813-419-6612 fahiem@ufl.edu
  Hilbert, Deborah Biological Scientist II/Environmental Hort 813-419-6593 dhilbert@ufl.edu
  Hughes, Scott Ag Assistant III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6600 bshughes@ufl.edu
  Kalb, Steve Ag Assistant II/Plant Pathology 813-419-6600 skalb@ufl.edu
Martin, Robert Ag Assistant III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601 martinrw@ufl.edu
  Mclean, Drew Biological Scientist II/Environmental Hort 813-419-6593 drewfish@ufl.edu
  Mertely, James Research Coordinator/Plant Pathology 813-419-6599 jcmert@ufl.edu
  Moore, David Ag & Food Science II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615 dnmoore@ufl.edu
  Moyer, Catalina Biologicial Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6615 torresc@ufl.edu
  Osorio, Luis Biological Scientist IV/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6614 lfosorio@ufl.edu
  Parajuli, Saroj Biological Scientist II/Environmental Hort 813-419-6631 sparajuli@ufl.edu
  Seijo, Teresa Biological Scientist III/Plant Pathology 813-419-6601 tseijo@ufl.edu
  Sweat, Michael Ag Assistant III/Weed Science 813-419-6604 michaelsweat@ufl.edu
  Ueda, Kazuyo Biological Scientist II/Tomato Breeding 813-419-6609 kaueda@ufl.edu
  Verma, Sujeet Biological Scientist II/Strawberry Breeding 813-419-6614 sujeet.verma@ufl.edu
  Willis, Rebecca Ag Assistant II/Plant Pathology 813-419-6600 rebeccawillis@ufl.edu
  Xie, Chenzhao Biological Scientist II/Nematology 813-419-6582 chenzhaoxie@ufl.edu
  Ying, Xiaobao Biological Scientist II/Enivironmental Hort 813-419-6619 yingxb75@ufl.edu
  Yoo, Cheol-Min Biological Scientist/Strawberry Breeding 813-419--6616 cyoo@ufl.edu

 Plant City Staff

NameTitlePhoneEmail
Britt, Katie Academic Support Assistant II/Geomatics 813-707-7330 k.britt@ufl.edu
Middleton-Philpot, Michelle    Admin Support Assistant I 813-707-7330 mmiddleton

Emeritus Faculty



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