September 2: UF In The News, 8/30/21 - 9/2/21

Mexican imports continue to hurt Polk produce farmers, annual Florida agriculture report shows — The Ledger, 8/30/21
A recent report from the Florida Department of Agriculture showed 10-20% in annual lost sales of Florida seasonal producers because of expanded Mexican imports. The report stated the resulting overall economic impact equates to between 17,870 to 35,741 jobs lost in the Sunshine State.  

Zhengfei Guan, an associate professor of food and resource economics at UF/IFAS noted there has been resistance to address the issues facing Florida farmers. But extremely low labor costs and subsidies from the Mexican government have contributed to the uneven marketplace. 

Dense breasts in older women linked to increased risk of breast cancer — WPLG, 8/30/21
A recent study by UF Health found that older women with dense breasts have a higher risk of cancer and may want to take a more personalized approach to breast cancer screening.

The study’s senior author — Dejana Braithwaite, the associate director of population sciences at the UF Health Cancer Center and a professor in the UF Institute on Aging — said most of the research on breast density and breast cancer has been done in younger women. As the country’s population ages, it’s important to consider risk factors and continuing or discontinuing screening in women 75 and older, she added. 

Should the US government regulate what unhealthy Americans eat? — Voice of America, 8/30/21
Nine out of 10 American adults are metabolically unhealthy, and much of that comes down to the food they eat. And Americans' consumption of junk food isn't helping.

Those foods can be hard to resist because they contain things the body needs, said Linda Bartoshuk, a professor of food science and human nutrition at UF. As people age, however, their intake becomes hazardous. 

“We overdo it,” Bartoshuk said. “We take in too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, and it produces all kinds of illnesses.”

Photo shows ‘aggressive’ alien-looking bug found in Columbia. What is it? — The State, 8/30/21 
A “horrifying, alien-looking insect” with fangs that looked “aggressive” startled homeowners in the Midlands of South Carolina. 

Luckily, the internet came to the rescue, identifying the allegedly scary looking critter: a female Dobsonfly. The State’s reporter helped shed light with additional information on the Dobsonfly with information from UF’s Entomology and Nematology Department. 

Fact-checking the claims made by taxpayers, parents at the Lee County school board meeting — WINK News, 8/31/21
Dr. Sonja Rasmussen, a pediatrician and epidemiologist at UF, addressed several claims raised at a Lee County School board meeting concerning the use of masks. 

The Boring Co. wants to build a hyperloop in flood-prone Fort Lauderdale. Can it be done? — Smart Cities Dive, 8/31/21
Civil engineers and transportation experts say building a tunnel under South Florida is possible but there’s a catch. 

“Tunneling is expensive. It's much more expensive than building above ground,” said Ruth Steiner, professor of urban and regional planning at UF. She added that there’s also a concern about the disruption of the flow of underground water and the possibility of subsidence or the ground suddenly caving in.

How 'rapid intensification' fueled Hurricane Ida — NBC News, 8/31/21
Long before Hurricane Ida made landfall Sunday in southern Louisiana, UF climatologist and assistant professor David Keellings was already filled with dread. Keellings was concerned that the storm’s track had it moving over really warm water — and it did. 

Once the storm began churning up the Gulf's unusually warm water, things escalated quickly. Within 24 hours, the hurricane grew from a Category 1 to a Category 4 storm.

Scientists are paying close attention to Ida's rapid intensification. It's not clear whether global warming is making hurricanes more frequent, but warmer sea surface temperatures are increasing the chances that storms will become major hurricanes when they form, Keellings said.

Joe Rogan falsely says mRNA vaccines are ‘gene therapy’ — PolitiFact, 8/31/21
Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at UF, debunks allegations by a popular podcast host that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are "really gene therapy," conflating the vaccines’ pioneering mRNA technology with the experimental technique that involves modifying genes to treat or cure disease.

“Gene therapy is used to replace or fix genetic mutations that lead to diseases like cystic fibrosis, neuromuscular disease, inherited blindness and other genetic conditions,” Prins said. “Gene therapy is not used in vaccines at all, since vaccines don't replace or edit your own genes.”

'The Gulf is warm. It's getting warmer,' Experts push for electric grid investment in Ida's wake — Lafayette Daily Advertiser, 9/1/21
Electricity experts and regulators who have surveyed some of Hurricane Ida's destruction say the overwhelming damage to Entergy's electric transmission system in Louisiana underscores the need for a more resilient grid to replace an aging one, an investment that probably would come with a hefty upfront cost.

Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at the University of Florida, noted the cost of such improvements falls on ratepayers. 

“There's no giant bag of money in the sky that's going to help to pay for all of these grid improvements," Kury said. 

Breast milk of vaccinated mothers contains COVID antibodies, UF study finds. Could they protect children? — The Gainesville Sun, 9/1/21 
Coverage of UF College of Medicine’s study that found mothers vaccinated against COVID-19 may be able to pass along protection against infection to their nursing babies continued. 

“A lot of moms, pregnant women, are afraid to get vaccinated. They want to do what's best for their babies,” said Dr. Josef Neu, a co-author of the study and professor in the UF College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Division of Neonatology. “This is something that we wanted to know whether it may actually provide some benefit.”

Additional news outlets that covered the study include The Plain Dealer and 3NewsNow.

Birds’ eye size predicts vulnerability to habitat loss — Scientific American, 9/1/21
A study by Ian Ausprey, a recent doctoral graduate of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s Ordway Lab of Ecosystem Conservation, shows strong correlations between eye size, the type of habitat the birds use, their foraging behavior, as well as where in the world they live. 

The study posits that smaller-eyed birds can seamlessly handle varying light levels as they travel, whereas larger-eyed birds struggle with glare outside of their dim woodlands. 

'Once-in-a-century opportunity': Timeline outlined for UF grad campus in downtown West Palm — The Palm Beach Post, 9/1/21
In back-to-back, unanimous votes, commissioners in Palm Beach County and West Palm Beach approved preliminary plans to have UF open a campus near downtown, a move supporters described as "historic" and "transformative."

President Kent Fuchs told city commissioners that the expansion represented a "once-in-a-century opportunity for our state, for West Palm Beach and for the University of Florida."

WPBF also covered the vote. 

Tesla plan to sell electricity in Texas would cut out the 'middleman' — Utility Drive, 9/1/21 
Tesla Energy Ventures,a retail electric provider and a subsidiary of Tesla, has applied to sell electricity in the state's deregulated market. The company has also filed applications to build utility-scale Megapack battery storage facilities in Houston and near its new Gigafactory in Austin.  

That could make Tesla a unique player in the deregulated electricity market, said Ted Kury, director of energy studies for the Public Utility Research Center at UF. 

“Tesla would have the ability to act as a buyer and seller simultaneously and have access to a lot of data,” Kury added. “Regulators are going to have to think about what the implications might be.”