Four years of research could be lost if Hurricane Irma hits Fort Pierce.

Carey Minteer, assistant professor of weed biological control at UF’s Indian Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce, evacuated her lab area and prepared her field research for the hurricane.

To prepare for the hurricane, Minteer and her team brought plants, insects and greenhouses indoors. They also backed up their data. However, there are still lab plants outside.

“If the hurricane comes through and messes up my plants, that’s potentially four years worth of data that could be useless depending on what the damage is,” Minteer said.

Minteer and her research team conduct much of their studies on biological control of invasive plant species on outdoor fields at the research center. The Minteer lab’s current research on air potatoes and brazilian peppers has been going on for four years.  

Minteer and her team also had to disassemble outdoor tents that have the potential to be damaged in the hurricane.

“Usually, taking down our tents takes about two weeks. We had to do it in two days,” Minteer said. “It took a lot of people and a lot of hard work.”

The lab also sent leaf beetles to Florida homeowners who requested them before taking down the tents. The beetles serve as biological controls to the invasive air potatoes in Florida and are a part of her lab’s four-year-long study.

The potential threat Hurricane Irma poses on her research adds an additional level of stress for the lab group, Minteer said.

“We all have to worry about our homes and our livelihood and our safety,” Minteer said. “But we also have to worry about data and long-term experiments.”


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