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UF/IFAS creates new Invasion Science Research Institute

Invasive Cuban Tree frog UF IFAS Photo.jpg
Tyler Jones/UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones
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UF/IFAS Communications
An invasive Cuban Tree Frog specimen. Invasive species, amphibians and reptiles. frogs, pests. UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones.

According to a study published earlier this year in the journal Science of The Total Environment here in the United States invasive species cost the US economy more than $21 billion per year, with the agriculture industry most affected. Researchers say increased mobility and global trade are primarily driving the spread of invasive animals and plants.

In response to this ever-growing problem, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is creating a new Invasion Science Research Institute (ISRI). It will bring together more than 120 UF/IFAS scientists from more than 20 departments that are dedicated to the detection, diversion, tracking and control of nonnative and invasive wildlife and plant species.

According to UF/IFAS, "the institute will support the development and implementation of a portfolio of interdisciplinary research to address key challenges in the prevention and control of invasive species that impact natural, agricultural, and urban environments."

In this episode, we'll meet the Institute's new director, Dr. Matthew Thomas. He is an internationally acclaimed entomologist and ecologist who has more than 30 years of experience researching a wide range of projects and problems, primarily on the ecology and control of insects and diseases.

"Florida is ‘ground zero’ for invasions. It has the highest concentration of invasive species in the United States, despite spending $100 million per year, by the state, and $265 million per year, by the agriculture and forestry sectors, to control invasive plants alone."
Dr. Matthew Thomas, Director of the new UF/IFAS Invasion Science Research Institute (ISRI)

Matthew Thomas Courtesy Matthew Thomas.jpg
Matthew Thomas
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The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has appointed internationally acclaimed entomologist and ecologist Matthew Thomas as director of the new Invasion Science Research Institute (ISRI).

Over the past 15 years as professor of entomology at Penn State University, Dr. Thomas’s major research focus has been the role of environmental factors like climate change, urbanization and insecticide resistance in the distribution of vector-borne diseases like Zika, Dengue, and Malaria.

He previously held tenured positions at Imperial College London, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s Division of Entomology in Australia.