Sunday, February 9, 2014

4th Water Institute Symposium

This is a big week for our South Florida water resource and irrigation team, as we’ll be convening in Gainesville with state and regional water reps, experts and researchers for the 4th Water Institute Symposium at the University of Florida.

A look back
Two years ago, and almost to the day, I made the same trek to Gainesville for this event. At the time, my objective was to meet Dr. Michael Dukes and decide if his program was a good fit for me.

From 2012: You had me at cavernous lab space!
I walked the campus, attended the Symposium, met the man himself, took a slew of photos and closed by helping the strawberry harvest team in Citra. The rest, as they say, is putting in work and long days.

#RedlandRaised: taken in the Redland this winter while working with Dr. Migliaccio
Flash forward to today and I’ll be attending this year's event as a registered participant; my collaborative work with Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.) and with Dr. Kati Migliaccio is stronger than ever; and three videos I produced will be playing on loop in the exhibitors area during the event.

Swords out: It's a mobile smart irrigation app for turf!
What will we all be getting up to during the Symposium?

The U.C.U.: Laura Vasquez and Jesus Lomeli
Well, coming off our most viral video to date, the U.C.U. is rolling through for the water planning and water in Extension portion of the event. They will also tour the water-use research being conducted on campus, including the Florida-friendly demonstration plot study.

Dr. Migliaccio is wearing several hats for the Symposium. First she’ll present on the smart irrigation mobile apps she helped develop – a venture that has garnered national and global interest. Then she’ll follow that with moderator duty on the Water Initiative in Extension Panel - highlighting some on-going UF/IFAS Extension water initiatives.

Cisterns and alternative water sources for irrigation? We're on the case!
Meanwhile, I’ll be working the media angle: live-tweeting for the U.C.U., taking hundreds of pictures and shooting content for a cistern video series we’re working on, as well as an IrriGators Production that hopes to answer the question: why do we irrigate?

Meet the team: a high-res version of this short will loop at the Symposium 

Stay tuned
Watch this space for a report back about the Symposium and news on all the other projects mentioned above, including the unmentioned South Florida-based Landscape Irrigation Symposium that we’ll all be participating in and is just around the corner.

Friday, January 31, 2014

2013’s Best ABE Thesis...and I

Since fall of last year I have been working with the IrriGators on the strawberry cold protection study. Now in its third year, this study aims to optimize water-use for freeze protection for crops grown during winter.

The how
Using plots varying in size and impact sprinkler heads varying in water pressure, this project seeks to produce fruit yields similar to standard grower practice while also reducing water-use during frost protection.

Maria measures the plot layout
We began putting the cold protection system together in October, transplanted strawberries soon after and began harvesting in December just before winter break.

Pristine plastic beds with plot sections taped-off

Transplant day

The first fruit appears
The colder the better

Much like many growers across Florida, we live on frost weather reports during the cold season.

Unlike them, however, we relish a deep, lengthy freeze period as these conditions will generate the best data on protection effectiveness.

Maria and Eliza gather flow rate data
Eliza measures impact head rotation rates
The neophyte
Last year graduate student Maria Zamora earned her Masters degree for this research. Her thesis was also recently named best of 2013 for UF's Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department.
Ms. Zamora on master's thesis defense day
However, while she administers to some personal business in Central America, young technician Eliza Breder has been cast into the spotlight and is managing this season’s effort.
Eliza: ready for the Bering Sea
Strawberry errthing!
Rain or shine: temperature data is downloaded
While the freezes this season have been consistent, the most intense arrived in early January. That cold spell punished the fruit and flowers, but in a few weeks we should be harvesting strawberries hand over fist.

See a short video about this project here.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Turn down for what? A 2013 recap!

This past year has been quite a ride for me. It marked my 11th year employed with the University of Florida, my 6th year collaborating with Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.), and my first year of working in the verdant environs of Gainesville, FL.

Getting that drip line B-roll in South Beach tho!
More importantly, however, and the motivation behind this blog entry, is that 2013 saw several efforts and projects come to fruition, and as we move forward, this work can only continue to grow in scope and ambition.

Conferences and symposiums
2013 was definitely a year for meeting and sharing with colleagues. Locally, when she wasn't developing awesome mobile smart irrigation apps, our own Dr. Kati Migliaccio helped spearhead the creation of the South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio and Dr. Michael Dukes in conference in Fort Lauderdale
The symposium is a collaborative enterprise among UF/IFAS Extension experts in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, and a private CEU-issuing agency. This year the event convened in the spring and fall in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach respectively. For spring 2014, Miami-Dade will serve as host on May 1st - mark those calendars!
U.C.U. technician Jesus Lomeli holds court in West Palm Beach
When I wasn’t doing visual media work at these symposiums, I was doing visual media work at national conferences! This year I had the unexpected opportunity to attend both the WaterSmart Innovations Conference and the Irrigation Show and Education Conference.
Shooting in November for January: Brent Mecham and I in Austin, TX.
Will I make it out to these inspiring events again next year? I have no idea, but have camera will travel!

U.C.U., baby!
If the info-tainment genre exists in educational videos, this year the U.C.U. helped push it forward for irrigation. We produced no less than 13 short videos in 2013 – some micro, some straight-laced and some deliciously absurd, all of them, however, focused on informing, engaging and communicating about our interest and excitement in what we do out here on the daily: water conservation.

Often we generate our own content, but sometimes we work with others: what up Telemundo!
If you enjoy our work, strap in tight because we’ve only just begun. See the team's unanimous favorite selection from 2013 here or below.

My work in Gainesville saw the birth of IrriGators Productions this year. Enjoyed by students, faculty and deans alike, thus far I’ve shot shorts about all our on-going projects and the massive Florida-friendly demonstration plot study inaugurated in the fall. For 2014, we'll focus on irrigation training videos for Extension Agents, and as I am involved, the primary objective with these pieces will be to educate while not contributing to the “dry-as-dust” canon. Will we succeed? Stay tuned!

Shooting for the IrriGators with Dr. Migliaccio at TREC
Get social!
I cannot recap 2013 without addressing social media. Social media was the topic of the blog entry I enjoyed writing the most this year, and it was at the root of some of my favorite work in 2013. Why? Well, it's invaluable as a platform for distributing content (like our videos and field images) and it's a proven means for networking and relationship building.

A social hero candid: Martha Golea and Richard Restuccia in Austin, TX.
When I arrived in Las Vegas and Austin this year, most of the groundwork for our video projects there had already been laid thanks to twitter. That said, I cannot mention twitter without shouting out #landscapechat.

The U.C.U.: Laura Vasquez and Jesus Lomeli moments before the national spotlight in August
In August, the U.C.U. had the unexpected pleasure of being guests on this national twitter chat to discuss water-use efficiency, water conservation and healthy landscapes, and yes, we crushed it! Follow us now because 2014 promises even more fun in the twitterverse.

This is how you win

Courtesy Gainesville Sun: circa Sept. 2013
At the time of this writing I’ve been in South Florida for 8 days and the work has been non-stop. If you follow us on twitter you already know!
Four years later this underground cistern is slated for tapping as an irrigation source in 2014!
The projects we’re developing now will release in the months ahead as we build on this year’s efforts and continue with our work in the world of water management, conservation and efficiency. 2014 let's go!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Preparing for rain

As we enter dry season we are dusting off our rainfall simulator to test out some lysimeters and nutrient leaching. Dr. Peng Sui, visiting scientist, is preparing his plots for experiment start.
Look for results coming in the future!

Friday, November 22, 2013

I.A. in ATX FTW!

Thanks to Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (UCU) & UF’s IrriGators, earlier this month I traveled to Austin, Texas, for the Irrigation Association's 2013 Irrigation Show and Education Conference (I.A.).

On the agenda
What to do at a conference that attracts academics, brand reps, and water experts from across the country and features both technical presentations and a ginormous product exhibition? The short answer: everything!

Opening reception with IrriGators past and present!
After attending WaterSmart in October it became apparent rather quickly that this event and the former would be two entirely different animals. First, my event lodgings for I.A. were in the center of downtown for easy access to everything. Second, the two-track presentation schedule at I.A. made deciding which talk to attend much easier. Third, since the emphasis here is on gear, the cavernous expo hall was a seemingly endless feast of brightly colored, product-laden booth after booth after booth.

All chrome errthing!

Electric car at an irrigation show? This is how you win!
Further, following the success of our WaterSmart video (released the week prior) I arrived in Austin with a working plan to shoot content for no less than three future UCU productions. This meant non-stop media mode while on location.

Watering restrictions are not always effective, reports Mackenzie Boyer

Camera time with Kansas State's Dr. Isaya Kisekka

Making movies with I.A.'s Brent Mecham
Harvesting the sky

One new development at the I.A. show was the inclusion of the American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association (ARCSA) in the proceedings. While they conducted their own meetings and talks, ARCSA also contributed presentations to I.A. and exhibited all their sundry rainwater collecting devices in a pavilion within the larger product expo.

Alternative water sources for irrigation are the future. Fitting that in September we produced a video about using rain water collection systems in irrigation. See that work here or below.

In ATX and on that tweet board!
Social media was in full bloom during I.A. I certainly took full advantage of our social media platforms, firing off pictures and tweeting about the many goings-on.  

From L: Tucson Water, Municipal Water District of Orange County, Austin Water and San Antonio Water on the water purveyor panel
Never to busy to share expertise: ValleyCrest's Richard Restuccia contributes to our certification video
The Water Bloggers were also present and conducted several twitter interviews throughout the conference days. As they are my social mentors, it was a joy reconnecting with them while we each focused on different aspects of the conference.
Doing work: @theweathermatic interviews @H2Otrends
We ride free, or...

Longhorn life!
On the final conference day, I had a moment to explore the larger city. Only days earlier I had read about the water conservation measures initiated by the University of Texas, Austin campus, and suddenly there I was – surrounded by xeriscape and multi-stream spray heads, etc.
The UCU made it to Austin by winning a magazine drawing for complementary conference registration. Suffice to say we’ll be hitting those giveaways just as hard in 2014. For us, Arizona would mean staying abreast of the latest in urban landscape irrigation gear, while also reconnecting with our west coast colleagues.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Full steam ahead to ATX!

Did I mention October would be an eventful month for our group? Conferences, symposiums, app releases, videos, etc. With just two months left in 2013, the work surges forward.

Dr. Kati Migliaccio presided over another successful South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium last month. The fall 2013 edition took place at Palm Beach County’s Extension Office and once again proved that private/public sector partnerships can be effective – convening vendors and a full house for UF/IFAS presenters from Gainesville, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, with Allstate Resource Management issuing CEUs to all in attendance.

Let's talk success: U.C.U.'s Jesus Lomeli on the mic
The next South Florida Landscape Irrigation Symposium is slated for May 1st, 2014, at the Miami-Dade County Extension Office! Keep watching this space for further information.

Coast to coast for conservation

Last month was also notable for the WaterSmart Innovations Conference. I attended with UF’s IrriGators and while there produced a video for Miami-Dade’s Urban Conservation Unit (U.C.U.) about successful water conservation initiatives in the arid, often drought-stricken western U.S.

Clockwise top-left: Mackenzie Boyer, Stacia Davis, Dr. Michael Dukes and Peter Mayer
What does this topic have to do with the U.C.U.? Only everything! Conferences like WaterSmart help make tangible the importance of water management and showcase the sundry players from all sectors working not only to implement proven conservation measures, but also developing new approaches.

In the coffee line with Denver Water's Reyna Yagi
I had the opportunity to meet software coders, irrigation techs, communications experts and water authority reps, everyone willing to share about their work and expertise.

L to R: Water blogger Richard Restuccia and Economist Laura Grant
Just as we create content to educate locally about water-use efficiency, UF/IFAS research and Miami-Dade programs, we’re also aware of the larger picture and are happy to use our platform to highlight the great work of others in our field.   

In session: Southern Nevada declares multi-streams inefficient...and the crowd goes wild!
See the video filmed on location at WaterSmart Innovations 2013 here or below.

Next stop: ATX!
This week I’ll be traveling to Austin, Texas, for the Irrigation Association Show and Education Conference.

This event was not in the plans for us, but a few months ago the U.C.U.'s Jesus Lomeli struck gold and won a drawing for complementary full registration. I’ll be attending in his otherwise occupied place: taking hundreds of pictures, filming for a future video and live-tweeting from the technical sessions and the Expo floor.

At WaterSmart and on that tweet board!
Stay tuned for a report back later this month!