We do best when we follow science wherever it takes us, even if it takes us outside our field of expertise. It allows us to keep focused on the search for solutions, not the tools we use to search.
Richard Raid at the UF/IFAS Everglades Research and Education Center exemplifies this. That’s how he got to be honored by the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association and World Owl Hall of Fame in the same year.
I was proud to see FFVA name Raid its 2019 researcher of the year in Palm Beach late last month. Letters of nomination had streamed in from across the state. As a plant pathologist, he’s been an invaluable scientist to the lettuce industry, which counts disease among its toughest challenges.
As much as he’s done to fight fungus, he’s actually achieved more visibility in recent years with work outside his academic field and outside his job description. His began the line of inquiry that led him to become identified as the “owl guy” with a high school science fair project.
Though he doesn’t have a teaching assignment, he granted a high school teacher’s request to mentor a student. Raid put that student to work on a bunch of unused owl nest boxes from a grower.
Years after he helped that student, owl nest boxes have proliferated throughout Florida cane fields and vegetable farms. When Raid puts up a box, a barn owl frequently moves in within 24 hours. Just as quickly they start hunting rats that can destroy crops. The owls are a boon to both growers and the environment.