Master Gardener Conference

Concurrent Session Speaker Biographies

Abid Al Agely

Dr. Abid Al Agely works in soil microbial ecology with an interest in microbial symbiotic association. He teaches soil microbial ecology during the fall semester and conducts mycorrhizal training courses during the summer semester in the University of Florida’s Soil and water Science department. His research focus is phytoremediation for contaminated soils and symbiotic association for plant growth and development.

Lynn Barber

Lynn Barber is a UF/IFAS Extension Agent in Hillsborough County and has been responsible for educating residents on the nine principles of the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ program since 2008. She became a Master Gardener in 2002 and has donated several thousand hours teaching others about creating a more sustainable Florida. Lynn has received numerous awards for programming, publications, and television and radio segments.

Shirley Barber

Shirley Barber has been a Master Gardener with St. Johns County for 10 years. She is a lifelong gardener with a focus on community service. Shirley has installed thousands of plants in public gardens in Georgia, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. She designs several gardens at the St. Johns Ag Center, installing plants grown from seed and cuttings. She is the project leader and propagator for the AAS Demonstration Garden. Shirley is presenting her favorite topic: Beautiful Gardens Begin with the Seed.

Tom Becker

Tom Becker has a Bachelor’s degree in Agronomy and a Master’s degree in Training & Development, both from Penn State University. He currently works for UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension as a Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Horticulture Assistant. His focus is outreach education directed to homeowner and Community Associations who are re-landscaping and retro-fitting community-owned areas to save water & improve water quality.

Mary Jane Cary

One of Missouri’s oldest farms inspired Mary Jane Cary’s discovery of our natural world. Grandpa Ike showed her how to work with the environment to sustain land and life, for its plants, animals and humans. Her trail of sustainable landscapes across three climate zones acknowledges this wisdom. And now, as a Collier County Master Gardener and Florida-Friendly Lead Community Advisor, Mary Jane is delighted to share Florida landscapes that are Teaming with Nature!

Lesley Fleming

Lesley is a registered horticultural therapist and 14-year Master Gardener volunteer. Recipient of several national awards for her work in horticultural therapy, she has been recognized for her writing on issues within the profession and has been published twice in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture on HT at botanical gardens and in 2015 on nature-based programming for veterans transitioning into farming. Lesley has presented at 3 previous Master Gardener Conferences, including 2010’s general session.

Dale Galiano

Since 1997, Dale has volunteered over 5300 hours as a St. Lucie County Master Gardener and has participated in all of the community projects and educational programs available – from County Fairs, to Farmer’s Market, to Speakers Bureaus, to Homeowner Retrofits and Recognitions. As an artist, Dale enjoys creating interest and surprises in the garden. To her, being able to give personality to a garden by repurposing recycled items and thinking outside the box is the best.

Bill Giuliano

Bill Giuliano holds a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. He has more than 20 years of experience in teaching, research, and extension in wildlife management. His research interests include integrating wildlife management with other land uses, human dimensions of wildlife conservation, and developing wildlife education programs that better serve students and the public.

Suzanne Greene

Suzanne Greene is a 15-year member of the Brevard Rare Fruit Council and Master Gardener Program. She developed her passion for growing in Hawaii while exploring the gullies with her father. She studies growing tropicals using organic practices and researches their propagation methods, medicinal values, and overall health benefits. Suzanne shares the practice of Air Layering with all ages, elementary school children, garden clubs, Master Gardener events, nurseries and groups on private property!

Gail Hansen

Dr. Gail Hansen is an associate professor in the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida. She is also a member in the Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology, a faculty advisor for the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program, and the Extension Specialist in Landscape Design. Dr. Hansen has both a Master’s and PhD in landscape architecture.

Carrie Harmon

Carrie Harmon directs the UF/IFAS Plant Diagnostic Center, which serves as the hub lab for the Southern Plant Diagnostic Network, providing training and leadership in plant pathogen detection and disease diagnosis and management. Her contribution to the IFAS Extension system and to diagnostic laboratories in the U.S. and abroad has been the delivery of concise, practical, and hands-on training in plant health diagnostic concepts and methods, and the management of plant diseases.

Mark Hoyer

Mark is currently the Director of Florida LAKEWATCH at the University of Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Biology from Iowa State University and his Master of Science in Limnology from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Mark has been with the University of Florida for 33 years, participating in many research projects on streams, lakes, and estuaries throughout the state of Florida focusing on eutrophication.

Steve Johnson

Dr. Steve Johnson is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida in Gainesville. His formal appointment is 70% Teaching and 30% Extension. His area of expertise is amphibian and reptile ecology and conservation. His extension program emphasizes management of introduced and invasive vertebrates.

Christine Kelly-Begazo

Ms. Kelly is the CED, Master Gardener coordinator, and agriculture agent for Indian River County. She has worked for UF/IFAS for over 20 years, and she was the first statewide Florida Yards & Neighborhoods coordinator for 6 years before transferring to Indian River County. Her main expertise is in sustainable agriculture and she also participates in regional working groups for the Green Industry.

Claire Lewis

Claire Lewis holds a Master’s Degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Florida and serves as the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Statewide Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Coordinator. Ms. Lewis functions as liaison with County agents around the state to promote adoption of environmentally sound landscape practices at new and existing communities. Prior to joining the FFL team, she worked 12 years for private landscape architecture firms in Gainesville. Design projects included large scale commercial, institutional, and residential home sites.

Deah Lieurance

Deah Lieurance is the coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment in Gainesville where she uses various methods to determine the invasive potential of non-native species in the state of Florida. She received her doctorate in environmental studies from Wright State University in December 2012 where she investigated plant herbivore interactions of non-native bush honeysuckles. Previously, Deah worked in Ft. Lauderdale at the USDA Invasive Plant Research Laboratory on biocontrols for Melaleuca and Brazilian pepper tree.

Catharine Mannion

Catharine Mannion is a Professor and Extension Specialist with the University of Florida, Tropical Research and Education Center. She has been with the University of Florida for 15 years. She is responsible for developing a research and extension program on integrated pest management of ornamental plants with an emphasis on invasive pests. Her research has focused on the biology and management of several introduced pests such as whiteflies, scales, thrips, and weevils.

Gabrielle Milch

Gabrielle Milch is currently the Urban Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Volunteer Coordinator for UF/IFAS Extension at Seminole County. Prior to being in this position she was the Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Program Agent. She is an Environmental Studies graduate of Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. She has over 20 years of experience working with water resource protection and horticulture. She has three grown children and loves to garden and kayak.

Rao Mylavarapu

Rao Mylavarapu is a professor of Soil & Nutrient Management in the Department of Soil & Water Science at the University of Florida, as well as the director of IFAS Analytical Services Labs in Gainesville. He has nearly 30 years of teaching, research, and extension experience in soil, nutrients, crop nutrient, and water requirements, diagnostic testing, and water quality, including $16 million in collaborative grant activity and 150 extension publications. Rao is the president of the Soil & Plant Analysis Council of North America and Chair-Elect of the Nutrient Management Division of the Soil Science Society of America.

Holly Ober

Dr. Ober is an Associate Professor and Extension Specialist in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida. She is stationed at the North FL Research and Education Center in Quincy. Her research and extension programs encompass a wide variety of topics including the influence of forest management activities on wildlife, restoration of forest biodiversity and ecosystem functions, management of threatened and endangered species, and development of tactics to moderate wildlife damage issues.

Sydney Park Brown

Sydney Park Brown recently retired from UF/IFAS after 39 years in Extension and Teaching. She was a horticulture program assistant in Volusia County and the Urban Hort/MG Coordinator for Hillsborough County before taking a teaching/extension appointment at the UF Plant City campus. Today she is happily retired and enjoying gardening at a fever-pitch!

Norma Samuel

Dr. Samuel holds both a BS and MS degree in Plant Protection and Pest Management from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Agricultural Education and Communication from the University of Florida. She serves as Master Gardener Coordinator in Marion County. Her areas of specialty are pest management, volunteer development, risk management, and international extension.

Sally Scalera

Sally Scalera graduated from Iowa State University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Horticulture. With degree in hand she left Iowa to work for a mouse! Since graduating, Sally has worked at Walt Disney World’s EPCOT Center in landscaping, the Land Pavilion at EPCOT, City of Winter Park, and the Tree Farm & Nursery at Disney. In 1993 she joined the UF/IFAS Extension in Brevard County where she is the Urban Horticulture Agent and Master Gardener Coordinator.

Joe Sewards

Joe Sewards holds a Bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from the Ohio State University and a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from the University of Florida. He has worked in Extension for more than 10 years. He is a member of the Florida Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals and an affiliate faculty member at the UF/IFAS Center for Landscape Conservation and Ecology.

Laurie Trenholm

Laurie Trenholm received both her B.S. and M.S. degrees from the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida, majoring in Turfgrass Science. Her Ph.D. is from the University of Georgia’s Crop and Soil Science Department in Turfgrass Physiology. She is currently a Professor of Environmental Horticulture based in Gainesville. Her appointment is 70% extension, 15% research and 15% teaching. She has been active in development of the Green Industries and Golf Course Best Management Practices.


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