Skip to main content

UF/IFAS Office of the Dean for Research

UF/IFAS Office of the Dean for Research

Click here for:

2020 UF/IFAS Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Research Award
2020 UF Research Foundation Professors
2020 Research Service Award

2020 UF/IFAS Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Award

(Announced May 22, 2020)

UF/IFAS provides competitive support and resources to its faculty, making it an attractive institution for some of the best minds in research. This year, the UF/IFAS Research Dean's Office is recognizing two of those researchers with the Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Research Award. This award is given to one or two faculty each year who submit their third-year packet and have begun developing a distinguished record of research.

In 2020, more than 30 faculty third-year packets were reviewed.
The following researchers were selected for this distinction:

Raelene Crandall

Raelene Crandall

Assistant Professor
Forest Resources and Conservation

Dr. Crandall is developing a research program in fire ecology emphasizing the use of fire to restore and maintain biodiversity and forest health with the goal of promoting ecologically sound approaches to restoration efforts. She has been published in top-tier journals, is developing a strong mentorship program, and has obtained competitive external funding as PI and co-PI for a total of more than $1.9 million.

Her national and international reputation is growing, as evidenced by presentations at professional conferences, her service to journals as a reviewer, conference organization, and collaborations with international colleagues.

She also holds a leadership position of the Southern Fire Exchange, a region-level fire outreach program, and manages a huge Extension budget, even though she doesn’t have an official Extension appointment.

Dr. Crandall exemplifies what it means to contribute to her field through research, teaching and Extension. For this reason and more, she is one of the recipients of the 2020 Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Research Award.

Philipe Moriel

Philipe Moriel

Assistant Professor
Range Cattle REC

Dr. Moriel is developing a research program in nutritional management to optimize cow-calf production efficiency in subtropical and tropical environments with the goal of developing management procedures to enhance the reproduction of beef females, boost beef production, and mitigate stress in order to enhance health and productivity.

He has a steady output of papers published in peer-reviewed journals including publishing with graduate students that he is mentoring. He has authored or co-authored a total of 55 refereed publications – with 34 of those being since joining UF/IFAS just three years ago! That’s tremendous output in his field.

He has obtained a significant amount of external funding, has been invited to present at professional conferences nationally and internationally, is an editorial board member, collaborates with international partners on innovative nutritional management approaches, and he has also developed teaching modules for international audiences.

He has published numerous EDIS documents, regularly engages with producers directly, conducts in-service training workshops and field days – all demonstrating his tremendous outreach efforts.

Dr. Moriel is well-deserving as the second recipient of the 2020 Richard Jones Outstanding New Faculty Research Award. Congratulations!

2020 UF Research Foundation Professors

(Announced May 19, 2020)

University of Florida Research Foundation (UFRF) Professorships are awarded to tenured faculty members who have a distinguished current record of research. The purpose of these awards is to recognize recent contributions and to provide incentives for continued excellence in research. The primary selection criteria will include a) the professor’s performance in the past five years and b) evidence of a strong research agenda that is likely to lead to continuing distinction in the professor’s field.

Below are the six UF/IFAS professors honored with this distinction in 2020:

UFRF Professor Donald Behringer

Donald Behringer


Forest Resources and Conservation
Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program

Dr. Behringer’s research focuses on marine disease ecology and its interactions with fisheries and environmental change. In particular, his research on the ecology of crustacean diseases is recognized as groundbreaking. His program is especially important because it has immediate applications to the understanding of disease issues facing economically important wild resources such as the spiny lobster fishery, as well as the rapidly growing aquaculture industry.

During the past five years, he has totaled 27 refereed publications with an additional eight currently in review. His research support during this time period has been similarly impressive, attracting $6.7 million in external funding from a range of federal and state agencies.

The national and international awards that Dr. Behringer has received further underscore the high caliber of his research program. The 2015 – 2016 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award was a major highlight, along with his selection as Class Ambassador by the US-UK Fulbright Commission. His research and teaching accomplishments were recognized by the University of Florida with the 2018 Global Fellow Award, his nomination as the UF/IFAS representative for the 2018 International Educator of the Year Award, and a UF Term Professorship.

But, perhaps the most poignant example of his international research impact is captured by the first edited, scholarly book on Marine Disease Ecology that he was asked to develop by the global leader in scientific publishing, Oxford University Press. The book was published January 2020 and will undoubtedly be the primary reference in his field.

UFRF Professor James Collins

James Collins


Food Science and Human Nutrition

Dr. Collins has devoted his research career to investigating mechanisms of intestinal nutrient transport. His current research efforts relate to molecular, biochemical, genetic, and nutritional aspects of intestinal iron and copper absorption. Seminal work from his laboratory defined the physiologic and pathophysiologic conditions in which hephaestin is required for optimal iron absorption.

Dr. Collins currently has two competitive National Institute of Health (NIH) R01 grants. His first R01 was awarded in September of 2008 and was successfully renewed in March 2013. His second R01 was awarded in July 2016. Most recently, he is a co-investigator on an NIH grant and a USDA grant.

He is also translating the knowledge from his basic science program into patented technology. Biological Invention Disclosure UF#-17354 entitled, "Hepcidin (Hamp) knockout Sprague Dawley Rat” is a remarkable technology since, to date, only mice have been used in knock out modeling techniques. The technology transfer that he is establishing is moving forward significantly with two pending patents filed in 2019.

Dr. Collins has published over 85 papers in the primary biomedical literature over the span of his career with an h-index that continues to increase and is now 31 with 3,683 total citations.

Since his arrival at UF, Dr. Collins has chaired or served on 24 Ph.D. and eight Master’s student committees. The students who have graduated from his lab are employed in outstanding postdoctoral, industry, and academic positions.

UFRF Professor Jamie Ellis

Jamie Ellis


Entomology and Nematology

Dr. Ellis has quickly gained an international reputation as a leader in the field of apiculture. His work has contributed significantly to our understanding of factors that adversely affect honey bee health, and it delivers critical information to the beekeeping community. He has conducted pioneering work on the effects of different pesticides on bee development and established a framework for differentiating various subspecies of honey bees including Africanized bees.

Over the last five years, he has published at a rate of over 10 refereed publications per year, has achieved a Google Scholars h-index of 22, and an i10 index of 41. During this same period, he has also garnered over $2 million in extramural funding. While these numbers are impressive without adjustment, what is remarkable is that he achieved this productivity over a relatively short career and with only a 20% research appointment.

With only a 10% teaching appointment, he has mentored four Ph.D., nine Master's students, and 10 postdoctoral associates, as well as a multitude of undergraduates and visiting scholars on a wide variety of projects. This is a testament to his impact on future generations of scientists.

Dr. Ellis’s primary appointment is in Extension, and his program is among the best in the country. He works with youth in a variety of outreach activities and has initiated innovative educational programs including the UF Master Beekeeping Program and the Bee College. The success of his extension activities is reflected by the number of beekeepers in Florida increasing from ~900 to ~4,500 with the number of colonies climbing from ~150,000 to ~450,000 over the last decade.

Dr. Ellis was instrumental in the establishment of the UF Honey Bee Research and Extension Laboratory, a $4 million facility completed in 2018. Through his tireless efforts, this lab has come to fruition and placed UF/IFAS at the forefront of honey bee research, teaching, and Extension.

UFRF Professor Robert Fletcher

Robert Fletcher


Wildlife Ecology and Conservation

Dr. Fletcher’s work focuses on significant issues in the field of ecology, particularly with regard to the effects of human-induced landscape changes on ecological systems and wildlife species. He works at multiple levels from individual species to entire ecosystems.

He has published 101 peer-reviewed articles in his career, with 47 publications in the past five years. His work can be found in the top journals in the scientific world, including 2 papers in Science in 2019 alone. His career work has been cited over 4,900 times, and his h-index is 33. His senior-authored textbook on Spatial Ecology and Conservation (Springer Press) was published in 2019, and will likely become the standard in the field.

Dr. Fletcher also has a proven record of external funding and has managed grants and contracts exceeding $9.4 million in the last five years, serving as PI on $8.3 million. These projects include support from multiple federal competitive (NSF, USDA) and agency (US Corps of Engineers, USGS) sources. The funds associated with these projects support a large research lab of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. His ability to advise each of his students at an individual level led to a winning nomination for the UF Doctoral Dissertation Advisor/Mentor Award in 2016.

His research outputs have been influential in guiding management and land-use decisions in Florida (particularly in the Everglades), Montana, and the Midwestern United States. His research involving the effects of sustainable biofuel production on biodiversity and ecosystem services has influenced federal policy decisions in the US. At the international level, his work has guided strategic planning and provided solutions to human-wildlife conflict issues in southern Africa and India. He is a commonly invited speaker at national and international conferences.

UFRF Professor Zhenli He

Zhenli He


Soil and Water Sciences
Indian River REC

Dr. He's research program focuses on soil environmental chemistry, particularly the remediation of contaminated soil and water resources and sustainable agriculture. His efforts are mainly directed at addressing issues related to sustainable agriculture and surface water quality. His research accomplishments have established him as an internationally recognized soil scientist and a distinguished leader in the field.

In the last five years, Dr. He has secured research funding from state and federal government agencies and from industry totaling $1.18 million dollars. Over 40 visiting scientists, postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students received training and conducted research in his lab.

In just the past five years, he has authored and co-authored one book, three book chapters, and 90 refereed journal articles. The majority of his research articles were published in the top journals in his field. According to Google Scholar, Dr. He’s publications were cited 16,986 times by other scholarly journals, with an average citation of 61 and an h-index of 63.

Dr. He has been invited to present guest lectures and keynote addresses at both domestic and international universities, institutes, and professional conferences. He was the organizer/co-organizer of several international meetings including the 16th International Phytotechnology Conference and the Symposium on Biogeochemistry of Natural and Engineered Nanoparticles in the Environment.

He currently serves as a subject editor for the Journal of Soils and Sediments, on the editorial board for several other journals, and as an ad hoc reviewer for over 30 national and international refereed journals. He was even appointed as a reviewer for several national and international funding agencies.

UFRF Professor Gary Vallad

Gary Vallad


Plant Pathology
Gulf Coast REC

Dr. Vallad specializes in the management of horticultural crop diseases with an emphasis on fruiting vegetable production. His research program has improved management strategies for several economically important diseases of tomato.

In the past five years, his research and Extension program has garnered more than $3.5 million in funding. In the same time period, he has generated more than 46 peer-reviewed publications and has mentored 21 graduate students, six post-doctoral associates, and 20 undergraduate student interns. 

Dr. Vallad gave 20 national and international presentations as an invited speaker in the past five years. He has also received several esteemed recognitions including the 2017 Researcher of the Year award from the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, the 2015 IR-4 Southern Region Meritorious Service Award, and the 2017 University of Florida Term Professorship Award.

His research efforts feed seamlessly into his Extension program where he has participated in 40 workshops and more than 100 Extension meetings, produced 30 articles for EDIS, and written 98 popular press and newsletter articles to educate stakeholders on disease identification management. He has also logged more than 8,000 hours of direct contact with growers in Florida and neighboring states.

In 2017, in collaboration with the Hillsborough County Department of Economic Development, Dr. Vallad initiated the Veteran Agricultural Selection Program (now rebranded as the Veterans Florida Agriculture Program) to give military veterans a hands-on opportunity to learn about crop production. 


(Announced May 8, 2020)

The research we conduct would not be possible without the support of hundreds of outstanding staff members that help our faculty complete their programs. Both of the recipients of the 2020 Research Service Award work at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra, FL.

Staff photo of Staci SandersStaff photo of Carl Vining

Staci Sanders

Administrative Specialist ll
Plant Science Research and Education Unit 

Carl Vining

Research Coordinator ll
Plant Science Research and Education Unit 

Our two honorees are Ms. Staci Sanders and Mr. Carl Vining

In addition to performing their daily duties phenomenally, they both serve to administer the Federal Excess Property Program (FEPP). This program allows IFAS faculty and staff an opportunity to obtain supplies, vehicles, and heavy equipment for use around the state to better support agricultural research and outreach programs. UF/IFAS is currently utilizing more than $10 million worth of federal excess property, and Staci and Carl are vital to securing needed items and maintaining this successful program.

They also both gave tirelessly in assisting our two North Florida Research and Education Center locations in the Panhandle with recovery efforts following Hurricane Michael in October 2018. Their knowledge of available equipment (e.g. generators and fencing), in addition to contacts with vendors, was key to bringing research operations back online quickly at the Quincy and Marianna locations following this devastating hurricane.

For these reasons and many more, we would like to acknowledge Staci and Carl with the 2020 UF/IFAS Research Service Award!