UofF Research Loss Part2
By: FLCrackerGirl , 12:25 AM GMT on March 03, 2006
Another Article About University Of Florida Research Loss After Hurricane Wilma
Posted From Gainesville.com
By JACK STRIPLING/Sun staff writer
For 16 years, researcher Gregg Nuessly coddled an insect colony of leaf miners - a rarity that Nuessly doted over like a fragile heirloom.
But despite his best efforts, Nuessly's cherished colony was wiped out in October by Hurricane Wilma, along with 12 greenhouses and much of the research work done at the University of Florida's Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade.
"When you lose something like that, it's not something where you just go down to Home Depot and buy another one," said Nuessly, an entomologist and associate professor at UF. "Genetically, (the colony) was unique, and now it's gone and can't be replaced."
Nuessly's story is an all-too-familiar one for researchers at UF's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The Belle Glade facility in Palm Beach County has suffered some $520,000 in hurricane damage during the past two years, and eight other IFAS facilities across the state shared similar fates. Indeed, UF has requested about $7.4 million in federal reimbursements for damage sustained during the past two stormy seasons. Of that, $1.9 million in damages are attributed to 2005 storms.
"I would say that two-thirds of our locations were affected," said Greg Rivers, director of facilities and operations for IFAS, which has 16 facilities outside of Gainesville.
It may be a slow road before UF recovers its losses. Thus far, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has reimbursed about $1.4 million of the $5.6 million UF requested in 2004, and no reimbursements have been made for 2005.
UF is certainly not alone. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported this week that Florida's public universities suffered an estimated total of $19.5 million in damage from Wilma, according to the State University System of Florida.
Ed Poppell, UF's vice president for administrative affairs, said the process of reimbursement has been sluggish. When asked if FEMA had given UF a timeline on payments, Poppell replied: "You can answer that. It's a two-letter word: No."
FEMA officials refused to discuss UF's case, or any specific case for that matter, but touted FEMA's emergency response in Florida as a model for the nation.
"Before the winds even died down, we already had teams on the ground making assessments," said Frances Marine, public affairs director for FEMA in Florida.
According to FEMA data, the agency has released $42.8 million this year for statewide agencies, which include universities. The funds are issued to the Florida Department of Emergency Management, which then distributes the funds at the local level.
In the meantime, IFAS officials are struggling to keep operations afloat. The destruction of greenhouses, like those in Belle Glade, put research on hold, which delays grant approvals. Hurricane repair work has also slowed construction and maintenance projects that were scheduled to take place this year.
"We're hoping in about six months to see the light," Rivers said.
Even if facilities can be repaired in short order, Nuessly says much of the damage has already been done. After a rough hurricane season in 2004, and another major storm this year, Nuessly said he worries about his research. He and his colleagues have been working on pest control strategies for farmers, but with crops destroyed by storms and greenhouses disrupted he says he's basically "shut down."
"It can completely mask or destroy any kind of results that happened months and months earlier," he said in a recent telephone interview. "You may be back at the drawing board."
Since money has been slow to arrive, Nuessly said he and his colleagues will likely dip into their grant funding to make repairs, just as they did last year.
"It's a mess," he said. "It does get pretty disheartening sometimes. But you just realize everybody's in the same boat, and it doesn't do much good to get too frustrated. You just have to dig in and get started again."
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