Bringing butterflies back from the brink

August 19, 2015
Alisson Clark
butterflies, environment, Gator Good

In a hotel room in South Florida, Jaret Daniels fed red Gatorade to twelve brand-new butterflies.

Three had wriggled out of their pupae as Daniels drove down the Florida Turnpike; the others had emerged the day before at his University of Florida lab. In the safety of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity, they had hatched from their eggs and grown from larvae smaller than chocolate sprinkles into butterflies with a wingspan of four inches or more. Tomorrow they would leave his care and fly free.

After their meal, Daniels numbered their lower wings with a Sharpie, slipped them into individual translucent envelopes and placed them in a cooler where they would rest overnight.

The butterflies were Schaus’ swallowtails, a species so rare that few people have seen them in the wild. When a count turned up just four in 2012, UF began a captive breeding program to bring the species back from the brink. This year, Daniels and his colleagues released more than 400 UF-reared Schaus’ in the Florida Keys. Without the program, Daniels says, the species would be hanging on by a very thin thread – if at all.

“I just don’t want to have them in that vortex toward extinction,” he said.

Schaus' swallowtails are vulnerable, but they’re also resilient. They’re cued to emerge from their pupae with the spring rains, but if the weather is too dry, they can hibernate until the next season, or the next. They’re acrobatic flyers that can stop in midair and fly backward. As caterpillars, their coloration protects them by mimicking bird or lizard droppings, but that’s just the beginning of their grosser defenses: They can regurgitate digestive juices and smear predators with smelly goo from a fleshy, antenna-shaped gland that emerges from their heads. Entomologists say it smells like a particularly ripe Parmesan.

Those defenses, however, don’t go far against the threats posed by humans, including the loss of tropical hardwood hammock habitat, pesticides and illegal collectors who pay poachers up to $500 for a perfect pair. Daniels takes all of this into consideration when choosing where to release his brood.

In the morning, in an out-of-the way area at a state park, Daniels opened the cooler as a ranger intercepted curious onlookers. The introduction to the wild didn’t happen majestically, all at once, like releasing doves. Instead, Daniels removed one pair at a time, trying to cajole them into mating — mostly successfully — before sending them on their way. He watched pairs fly up into the tree canopy while a solitary male gathered nectar in a nearby field.

“People always ask, what is the value of a Schaus' swallowtail? Why do they have value beyond simply existing?" he said. "If they disappeared, the system wouldn’t collapse.” But he knows that charismatic species like butterflies — moreso than the wood rats and tree snails who live alongside them — can help generate interest in nature and ultimately open our eyes to the impact we have on our surroundings.

“If the public learns about the Schaus’ swallowtail, maybe they’ll think about the ecosystem differently. It can connect people back to the environment,” he said.  

Daniels hopes to see a day when the butterflies no longer need UF’s help, but until then, he’ll keep giving them every advantage he can.

“When something is lost forever, that’s a travesty,” he said. “That’s not going to happen on my watch.”

Global Impact

It's official: Workplace rudeness is contagious

July 22, 2015
Alisson Clark

Rudeness in the workplace isn’t just unpleasant: It’s also contagious.

Encountering rude behavior at work makes people more likely to perceive rudeness in later interactions, a University of Florida study shows. That perception makes them more likely to be impolite in return, spreading rudeness like a virus.

“When you experience rudeness, it makes rudeness more noticeable,” said lead author Trevor Foulk, a doctoral student in management at UF’s Warrington College of Business Administration. “You’ll see more rudeness even if it’s not there.” 

The findings, published June 29 in the Journal of Applied Psychology, provide the first evidence that everyday impoliteness spreads in the workplace.

“Part of the problem is that we are generally tolerant of these behaviors, but they’re actually really harmful,” Foulk said. “Rudeness has an incredibly powerful negative effect on the workplace.”

The study tracked 90 graduate students practicing negotiation with classmates. Those who rated their initial negotiation partner as rude were more likely to be rated as rude by a subsequent partner, showing that they passed along the first partner’s rudeness. The effect continued even when a week elapsed between the first and second negotiations.

Rudeness directed at others can also prime our brains to detect discourtesy. Foulk and his co-authors, fellow doctoral student Andrew Woolum and UF management professor Amir Erez, tested how quickly 47 undergraduate students could identify which words in a list were real and which were nonsense words. Before the exercise began, participants observed one of two staged interactions between an apologetic late-arriving participant and the study leader. When the leader was rude to the latecomer, the participants identified rude words on the list as real words significantly faster than participants who had observed the neutral interaction.

The impact of secondhand rudeness didn’t stop there, however: Just like those who experience rudeness firsthand, people who witness it were more likely to be rude to others. When study participants watched a video of a rude workplace interaction, then answered a fictitious customer email that was neutral in tone, they were more likely to be hostile in their responses than those who viewed a polite interaction before responding.

“That tells us that rudeness will flavor the way you interpret ambiguous cues,” Foulk said.

Foulk hopes the study will encourage employers to take incivility more seriously.

“You might go your whole career and not experience abuse or aggression in the workplace, but rudeness also has a negative effect on performance,” he said. “It isn’t something you can just turn your back on. It matters.”

Society & Culture

Evidence suggests climate trends could yield 20-foot sea-level rise

July 22, 2015
Andrea Dutton

When past temperatures were similar to or slightly higher than the present global average, sea levels rose at least 20 feet, suggesting a similar outcome could be in store if current climate trends continue.

Findings published in the journal Science showed that the seas rose in response to melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, said lead author Andrea Dutton, a University of Florida geochemist.

“This evidence leads us to conclude that the polar ice sheets are out of equilibrium with the present climate,” she said.

Dutton and an international team of scientists assessed evidence of higher sea levels during several periods to understand how polar ice sheets respond to warming. Combining computer models and observations from the geologic record, they found that during past periods with average temperatures 1 to 3 °C (1.8 to 5.4 °F) warmer than preindustrial levels, sea level peaked at least 20 feet higher than today.

“As the planet warms, the poles warm even faster, raising important questions about how ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica will respond,” she said. “While this amount of sea-level rise will not happen overnight, it is sobering to realize how sensitive the polar ice sheets are to temperatures that we are on path to reach within decades.”

The researchers concluded that sea levels rose 20 to 30 feet higher than present about 125,000 years ago, when global average temperature was 1 °C higher than preindustrial levels (similar to today’s average). Sea level peaked somewhere between 20 and 40 feet above present during an earlier warm period about 400,000 years ago, when global average temperatures are less certain, but estimated to be about 1 to 2 °C warmer than the preindustrial average. 

During those times, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels peaked around 280 parts per million, but today’s levels are around 400 ppm and rising. The team of researchers looked at the last time period when carbon dioxide was this high – about 3 million years ago – but couldn’t get a confident estimate on sea-level rise, in part due to land motion that has distorted the position of past shorelines.

The researchers also sought to understand how quickly sea level rose and which ice sheets may be most susceptible. They acknowledged that the rate of sea-level rise associated with polar ice sheet retreat is not well known, and that this is an important target for future research. Developing a better sense of which ice sheet sectors were most susceptible in the past, as well as how quickly this process occurs, could inform how policymakers plan for and mitigate sea-level change.

Global Impact

Majority of Floridians support requiring Spanish in public schools

July 20, 2015
Colleen Porter

Two-thirds of Floridians support requiring Spanish language instruction in Florida public schools, according to a new University of Florida survey.

“Overall reactions to the notion that Spanish should be a required subject in public schools was far less polarized and more popular than we imagined,” said Chris McCarty, director of the University of Florida Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which conducted the survey. “As immigration and the Hispanic vote will be front and center in the 2016 presidential election and Florida a swing state, we can expect this to be a topic of discussion.”

The questionnaire was designed to gather opinions about requiring Spanish instruction without focusing explicitly on that subject. The questions asked by professional telephone interviewers included five topics of instruction, with emphasis on requirement:  “The next questions are about REQUIRED classes in Florida public schools. For each class, please tell me if you think it should be REQUIRED.”

The highest support was for basic computer skills, with 95 percent saying “agree” or “strongly agree.” Next was “a second language of student’s choice” with 81 percent agreement, followed by Florida history (77 percent) and geometry (75 percent). 

The magnitude of support for requiring Spanish (67 percent) is important because a constitutional amendment requiring Spanish instruction would need 60 percent of voters. However, the survey did not ask about funding, which may pose a barrier to implementation.

“We expected support for requiring Spanish to vary considerably by characteristics of the respondent, but this was not the case,” McCarty said. Age differences were not significant. Of those age 18-59 years, 68 percent agreed, compared with 65 percent of those age 60 and older. 

While the highest level of support was in Southeast Florida (72 percent), there were majorities in every area: North Florida (66 percent), Central Florida (63 percent) and Southwest Florida (62 percent). 

There was no difference in support by income level. Hispanic respondents were more likely to agree that Spanish should be required (84 percent) than non-Hispanics (62 percent). Democrats were more supportive (76 percent) than Republicans (65 percent).

Ester de Jong, a professor at UF’s School of Teaching and Learning, said, “These are encouraging data that show Floridians are understanding that technology and the ability to communicate with and work with others from diverse backgrounds needs to be a priority to prepare our K-12 students for the 21st-century world.”

A landmark 2013 study published by the Pew Research Center estimated that 11.7 percent of the U.S. population (37 million people) speak Spanish. The number of Spanish speakers is projected to grow as a percentage of the population over the next two decades. Florida is unique among all U.S. states in that the large Hispanic population is not primarily Mexican. Miami-Dade County is home to the nation’s largest Cuban, Columbian, Honduran and Peruvian communities.

Most states in the U.S. do not require any foreign language as a condition of graduation from the public K-12 school system. Several states, such as Florida, require some credits in a foreign language as a condition to entering their university system, although many allow substitution of credits in other courses, such as technology or performing or fine arts. 

Between 1997 and 2008 there was a decrease from 31 percent to 25 percent of U.S. elementary schools offering foreign languages, and from 75 percent to 58 percent among middle schools as an option, although about 91 percent of all high schools offer foreign languages. The result is that in 2010 only 18 percent of Americans spoke a language other than English. By contrast, 53 percent of Europeans spoke at least two languages. 

“As we know from research, bilingualism has many advantages—cognitive, educational, sociocultural, and economic. It is increasingly recognized that intercultural competence and multilingualism has the future competitive edge,” de Jong said. “I hope these data will lead to advocate for more funding and policies that support strong, well-designed dual language programs where students develop the level of proficiency in two languages needed for the workplace. This is a growing trend nationally with excellent academic and language outcomes.”

The questions about the Spanish language requirement were added during the April implementation of the monthly Florida consumer survey. Interviews were conducted with 506 respondents on their cell phone; 6,245 telephone numbers were attempted, for a response rate of 9 percent.

For more information about the survey, visit https://www.bebr.ufl.edu/content/majority-floridians-support-requiring-spanish-public-schools.

Society & Culture

Secrets of the sea floor

July 23, 2015
Alisson Clark

Miles below the ocean’s surface, where the water is just above freezing and the pressure crushes in at two tons per square inch, Mike Perfit feels right at home.

Few people have spent more time on the sea floor than Perfit, a University of Florida geologist who studies volcanoes that result from seafloor spreading. Here, he shares secrets from one of the planet’s last mysterious places, including some from his new book “Discovering the Deep.”

Science & Wellness

Hands-on humanities

July 22, 2015
Alisson Clark

They might have arrived thinking of the humanities as something that happens in a classroom, but they left knowing that these fields – from history to philosophy to archaeology and beyond – touch every aspect of their lives.

During the University of Florida’s Humanities and the Sunshine State program, 24 high-school students visited a secluded spring, an archaeological site, an organic farm and more to see the humanities in action. As they canoed and swam at Silver Glen Springs, they learned about thousands of years of interaction between people and their environment. At Forage Farm, they tasted locally grown organic food and considered how eating can be a political act. A trip to Native American shell mounds in Cedar Key touched on the ancient past and its significance for our future, while a visit to Rosewood – an African-American community destroyed in a 1923 massacre – sparked discussions about race relations. The week wrapped up with student teams proposing crowdfunded campaigns to address issues they learned about during the program.

The six-day program was intended to open eyes and minds not only to the issues presented, but to possible majors and careers, said Sophia Acord, associate director of UF’s Center for the Humanities and the Public Sphere.

“We wanted them to see cutting-edge research in the humanities and give them a taste of all the disciplines, tying it all together with focus on Florida,” she said.

Acord hopes to discover if the program can spark interest in the humanities by showing students the disciplines at work. For Luly Hernandez, a participant from Miami, the answer was yes. After a farm-to-table lunch showcasing local produce, cheese, eggs and bread, she found herself thinking about food choices – and plenty of other topics – in a new way.

“I’ve learned so much,” Hernandez said. “I feel like I'm more well-rounded now.”

She’s also thinking about majoring in women’s studies.

Campus Life

Survey: Floridians care about endangered species, want to know more

July 24, 2015
Beverly James

Floridians are passionate about conserving and protecting plants, animals and their habitats, but they feel woefully uninformed, according to a survey by the UF/IFAS Center for Public Issues Education in Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“People seem to want to do the right thing, but don’t necessarily know what that is or how to go about it,” said Ricky Telg, PIE Center director. The center conducts four public opinion surveys every year that focus on key issues to Floridians.

An online survey of 502 Floridians showed that only a quarter of residents believed they had seen news coverage of endangered species in the past month. But, 85 percent said they would pay attention to future coverage.

More than half of those surveyed didn’t know what species were endangered in Florida, while many were also unaware of government, industry or policy impacts on endangered species.

Despite feeling uninformed, a majority of Floridians surveyed -- people who harm endangered species. Also, 88 percent agreed with imposing fines on those who harm habitats of endangered species.

When respondents were asked to prioritize which native species should be conserved, 90 percent agreed that mammals should be saved, followed by birds at 85 percent, and fish and plants at 84 percent. Floridians felt reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and microorganisms were the least important to protect.

In addition, 79 percent of Floridians agreed that the importance of maintaining a diverse ecosystem was the most important criteria to consider when prioritizing which species to protect. More than 70 percent identified the severity and urgency of the threat to endangered species as major concerns, but fewer than 30 percent prioritized the size, intelligence or attractiveness of the species.

Survey respondents said they were more likely to engage in conservation by donating to organizations and visiting zoos and museums compared to joining an organization. Floridians also showed mixed results when evaluating current policies and punishments for interfering with endangered species. More than half believed that lighting restrictions protecting sea turtles should be strengthened, while almost 60 percent felt penalties for harming gopher tortoises or their habitat were adequate.

Society & Culture

Concrete and steel royalty

July 24, 2015
UF News

Call them the kings and queens of concrete and steel.

University of Florida civil engineering students have captured not one but two separate national recognitions.

In the more recent victory, UF earned the “America’s Cup of Civil Engineering” at the 28th annual American Society of Civil Engineers’ National Concrete Canoe Competition June 20-22 at Clemson University in South Carolina.

And in May, another team of Gator engineering students took the top prize in the National Student Steel Bridge Competition at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. They competed against 208 teams from the United States, Canada, Mexico and China.

“We were completely shocked,” canoe competition team captain Danielle Kennedy said after learning her team took home first. “We didn’t even get top five in final product, so I was not expecting this at all.”

After three days of competition against 21 other teams, the UF team and its canoe, Forever Glades, came out on top.

Over the course of the school year, 215 teams of civil engineering students logged thousands of hours researching, designing and constructing their unique concrete canoes in a quest for the winning combination of creativity, knowledge and teamwork to advance to the national competition.

The competition consists of both academic and athletic events, and the scores are divided into four components which are each worth 25 percent of the team’s final score. Students write a technical paper detailing the design and construction of their canoe and then give oral presentations about their year-long project. They are also judged on their final product, the canoe, and their accompanying display, which further explains their design process.

Finally, they put their canoe to the test in a series of five race events—men’s and women’s slalom/endurance races and men’s, women’s and co-ed sprint races. The winning team receives a $5,000 scholarship and a trophy.

After UF, the top overall winners were the California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (second); University of California, Berkeley (third); École de technologie supérieure (fourth); Clemson University (fifth).

In the steel bridge competition, the UF team won for lightness and structural efficiency, making UF the only school to win in two of the six categories.

After designing four prototypes, the group selected a final bridge design, which was then fully optimized by team captain Juliana Rochester.

In practice runs, assembly team members Justin Rayl, Kyle Willems and Andrew Jenkins got their time down to 7:29. During the competition, the polished floors were slick and they had to be careful with their speeds while they put the bridge together. Everything went according to plan with one minor exception – a bolt fell and touched the ground and incurred a 15-second penalty. The final time was 8:48, and the weight of the bridge was 10 pounds lighter than any other team’s.

Campus Life

Native-American archaeologist unearths a complex cultural history

July 24, 2015
Stephenie Livingston

A few miles from Lake Okeechobee, the ancient village site known as Fort Center lies on the shore of Fisheating Creek as it snakes through the area and blends with the wet prairie landscape of South Florida.

It was here that a 1960s excavation by the late University of Florida archaeologist William Sears uncovered dozens of human remains, along with the remnants of a wooden structure and carvings of animals. Worn by time, but preserved deep in muck at the bottom of a man-made pond, these intricate carvings offer highly realistic representations of wildlife held so sacredly that natives gave them the same resting place as their dead.

It was these carvings – 150 of which are now housed at the Florida Museum of Natural History – that brought Margaret Spivey to UF this spring. A member of the Pee Dee Indian Nation of Beaver Creek and an assistant chief of the nation’s Upper Georgia Tribal Town, Spivey is working on a doctorate in archaeology at Washington University.

“I’m definitely an agenda-driven archaeologist,” Spivey said. “It’s not just about reporting what’s there for me, it’s about sharing the implications of my research. The reason I’m an archaeologist is because I believe we need more research that shows the complexity of Southeastern Native American groups.”

Named for a small fort that existed during the second and third Seminole wars, the archaeological site was likely used by more than one ethnic group over about 4,000 years. Over centuries, generations passed down the remarkable skill of capturing animal likenesses—bears, foxes, eagles, otters, a cat in full gallop—in wooden carvings.

The people who lived there were likely related to the Calusa, or the “shell Indians” of Florida’s southwest coast. But researchers are not certain exactly who they were and why they meticulously carved representations of wildlife, though archaeologists have recovered carvings dating back to about 300 AD.

 Spivey’s dissertation aims to understand how Southeastern Native Americans interacted with animals—but also to decipher the more-deteriorated carvings and identify which animals were depicted. To do this, she uses a mixture of archaeology and ethnography, utilizing her intuition and personal experiences, rather than relying solely on hard, scientific facts.

“It’s like staring at clouds,” Spivey said, holding one of the wooden carvings in her hands. This piece, she thinks, is some kind of carnivorous mammal—maybe a fox.

“You have to use your imagination a lot. Many archaeologists aren’t comfortable with imagination coming into the data portion of your work. But really opening your eyes to see more than numbers and hard facts is something that iconographers all over the world do, and I’m trying to bring that into my process.” 

But Spivey doesn’t get too fantastical in her analysis.

“I’m being less specific about my determination of what types of animals are being represented than the original archaeologists were and I’m trying to make it more verifiable,” she said.

The identities of these animal carvings could provide another key to unlocking the true complexity of early Native American cultures in the Southeast, a group that has been largely misunderstood and underestimated, especially hunter-gatherer groups prior to European arrival, Spivey said.

She is slowly building a list of animals represented by the carvings, which are housed at the Florida Museum and at the state of Florida’s conservation lab at Mission San Luis in Tallahassee.

“I’m using the species list as a lens to examine the way people interact with animals across the site,” Spivey said. “I’m comparing my findings to faunal remains from the site and the southeastern iconography.”

Spivey has spent many hours at the conservation lab, where everything from civil war artifacts to remnants of shipwrecks to chamber pots from the old capitol building are stored and studied. Here, artifacts from a 2013 excavation of Fort Center by Daniel Seinfeld, an archaeologist with the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, sat on a large table across from boots pulled from a Civil War shipwreck in the St. Johns River.

The recent excavation was conducted as a sort of rescue mission, after wild hogs in the area began wallowing in the pond and disrupting artifacts during a drought. Archaeologists found pieces of artifacts Sears left behind—pieces he thought were not as important. However, Seinfeld said the new findings will allow researchers to build a more complete picture of what took place nearly 2,000 years ago.

“It shows that sometimes the scraps leftover help you build a larger, better picture,” he said. “Plus, today our technology is more advanced than in the ’60s and we have a better understanding of archaeology in the Southeast. We’re able to update Sears’ interpretation.”

“We’re on the cusp of having a full, broad-strokes picture,” Spivey said. 

Sears thought the carvings and other wood salvaged from the site was part of a structure that collapsed into the pond during a fire. Other archaeologists have hypothesized the carvings were associated with burial. Spivey and Seinfeld are re-evaluating these theories. Spivey suggests it is possible the carvings were put into the mortuary after they were no longer used. 

an otter carving

But, she said, we may never know for sure why people carved life-sized animals (such as the otter pictured above) or how they ended up in the pond.

“The hardest thing to get at is the why,” Spivey said. “You’re lucky if during your career as an archaeologist you get any solid whys. But we’re trying to find some answers by comparing this site to other similar sites in Florida and in the Southeast that have wooden carvings.”

The practice of carving animals from pieces of wood has continued into the present day, so Spivey said the reasons why Southeastern Native Americans carved might have changed over time.

“It is possible that the practice is not related to the burial,” she said. “The fact that they ended up in the same final resting place might be indicative of how important the carvings were in the daily life of these people. When they were no longer appropriate for use, they could be disposed of in a respectful way.”

Spivey pointed to knots in one of the pieces. She explained that native people utilized the natural grain of the wood to form unique likenesses of animals, which makes identifying them even more challenging. To chisel away at the wood, she said the carver probably used a combination of shells and wooden tools embedded with shark teeth. Some may have even been painted. Now, the badly deteriorated pieces look more like driftwood than carvings. For an untrained eye, it is difficult to imagine them in their original glory.

“Maggie’s got an eye for this,” Seinfeld said. “She’s seeing things that I didn’t see in the wood.”

Spivey hopes her research will expand the old world of the carvings’ original owners. Archaeologists have often viewed the early Native Americans of South Florida as culturally separate from the rest of the Southeast. But when Spivey compared the Fort Center site to ethnohistorical sources, she found that it might have been affected by social movements with connections to many other tribes in the Southeast.

“We’re doing out best to describe the cultural context,” she said. “The story for what people were doing, to better understand the culture.”


Raised on land in central Georgia owned by her tribe since shortly after the American Revolution, Spivey left her tightly knit family to attend Harvard in 2004.

“It gave me the opportunity to get out of poverty,” Spivey said. “Poverty is something that a lot of Native Americans face. But my parents taught me to take advantage of the very few opportunities you get when you’re very poor.”

She was interested in law, but soon switched to archaeology when she discovered that by improving the public’s understanding of Native Americans’ complex cultural past, she may be able to influence today’s social and political atmosphere and help other Native Americans facing challenges similar to her own.

Spivey said too little of the information archaeologists discover makes its way into public policy discourse, but she wants that to change.

But this personal connection to her work does not skew her results, she said.

“I don’t think there is a reason to ignore a Native perspective in favor of an outside perspective when looking at materials deposited by Native Americans,” Spivey said. “This isn’t me looking at it wrong. This is me looking at it differently.”

Because she wants to correct public misconceptions, Spivey is attracted to places that defy all expectations. She previously worked at Poverty Point near the Mississippi River, which like Fort Center had characteristics contrary to stereotypes about hunter-gatherer groups.

“People assume hunter-gathers aren’t capable of sedentary life,” Spivey said. “We don’t know for sure if the people at Fort Center were sedentary, but we do know that it was occupied over a long period of time by humans, so it’s a good place to look for that kind of sedentism.”

It is likely there was at least permanence in native people’s understanding of the place. It was ingrained in the memory-scape of their culture, Spivey said.

"Right now I find myself trying to cobble things back together that were lost between my mother and her grandmother’s generation."

-Margaret Spivey

“It’s sort of like knowing a place from your grandmother telling you about it, then eventually seeing it yourself,” she said. “The knowledge was passed down. Landscape is very important to modern native people as far as where you derive your cultural and spiritual understanding.”

The tradition of passing down cultural and religious practices has existed for millennia among Native Americans. But during Jim Crow segregation in the ’60s, many Native American children were placed in black or white segregated schools, depending on how light or dark their skin color, and forced to assimilate. Spivey said Native Americans in the Southeast have been struggling to hold onto traditional practices ever since.

“Right now I find myself trying to cobble things back together that were lost between my mother and her grandmother’s generation,” Spivey said. “That’s a common thing in eastern tribes, trying to cobble some ceremony and traditions back together, maybe even your language.”

Due to factors like segregation and a longer period of European intervention and interaction in the eastern states, Spivey said there has been more assimilation of Native American culture with the larger hegemonic American cultures in the east than in the west.

“I hope my long-term research will help us enrich and reclaim some of our cultural practices that were unfortunately lost,” she said. “We just didn’t catch them in time.”

Global Impact

Helping farmers save water, money with one simple change

July 29, 2015
Kimberly Moore Wilmoth

Sanjay Shukla looked out over row upon row of tomato and pepper plants and had an idea: What would happen if he made the compacted soil rows taller and more narrow? Would the plants need less water, fertilizer and fumigation? Would the plants grow as tall? Would the plants produce as many vegetables?

And so, instead of planting rows that were normally 6 to 8 inches high and about 3 feet across, the University of Florida professor planted them 10 inches to a foot high and 1 ½ to 2 feet across. Instead of needing two drip lines to irrigate each row, they required only one.  In addition, they needed fewer square feet in plastic mulch covering. He calls it “compact bed geometry” or “hilling.”

Shukla, who specializes in agricultural and biological engineering, was astounded by the answers.

Not only did the tall narrow rows grow the same amount of vegetables, they retained more fertilizers – reducing what would have leached into groundwater – and they would need half the amount of water. In addition, he cut fumigation rates for pests by as much as 50 percent.

He estimates the revamped rows could save farmers $100 to $300 an acre, depending on the crop, the setup of their farm and how many drip lines they use per row; with a 1,000-acre farm, that can add up to a $300,000 savings. If used statewide, the potential cost savings for vegetable growers who use plastic mulch, could run into millions per crop per year.

“I’m looking at a business solution - you do this, you save money,” said Shukla, whose primary interest is water quality and supply issues.  His location at the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Research and Education Center in Immokalee puts him at the northern edge of one of the most delicately balanced environments in the world - the Everglades. “And oh, by the way, it’s better for the environment.”

By using less water and plastic, he explained, fields will be less flooded and, thus, water contaminated with fertilizer is not being discharged into nearby lakes, streams and rivers.

Several farms have already adopted Shukla’s tall, narrow rows, including a 2,000-acre tomato farm. Chuck Obern, who grows eggplants and peppers at C&B Farms in Clewiston, has switched 140 acres of eggplants and estimates he has saved at least $500 an acre on the cost of drip tape for irrigation, fumigation, and the pumping of water and fertilizer.

“His experiment was in a production field and they were side by side with our crops,” Obern said.  “His experiment used half the water and half the fertilizer as our crop, yet you couldn’t see any difference.  It told us we were wasting half our water and fertilizer.” 

Obern said he is excited to see what Shukla can do for his pepper crop in the fall.

Shukla’s discovery is vital, as Florida is already struggling to provide enough water for an ever-increasing population.  The state has seen a 32 percent increase in population since 2005 and, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the state will likely not be able to meet the demands for water – 31 million cubic meters per day – by the year 2030.

Shukla says his next step is to explore if the compact bed geometry will work elsewhere. If it does, it has the potential to help improve agriculture globally. 

“I’m hoping to go to California and Georgia to learn about their production systems and see what can be done at a larger scale,” he said.

Science & Wellness

How does this grab you? Grip strength may identify disease

July 29, 2015
Jill Pease

Whether you grasp it right away or not, your grip strength may indicate whether or not you have undetected diabetes and high blood pressure, University of Florida researchers say.

The findings appear online ahead of print in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Grip strength measures could be especially useful for identifying diabetes and high blood pressure in adults who have healthy weight obesity, also known as normal weight obesity or “skinny fat.” The condition is characterized as having a body mass index within the normal range, but a high proportion of fat to lean muscle, typically more than 25 percent body fat in males and 35 percent in females. These individuals may be less likely to get regular screenings for diabetes and hypertension because they aren’t considered overweight or obese by BMI measures alone, said Arch G. Mainous III, Ph.D., the study’s lead investigator and chairman of the department of health services research, management and policy in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, part of UF Health.

“We’ve had a significant amount of interest and focus on obesity, and rightfully so,” said Mainous, the Florida Blue endowed chair of health administration. “But there is a concern that health problems in people who have decreased muscle mass, but don’t fit the criteria of being overweight, are being missed because these people aren’t targeted by screening programs.”

People with healthy weight obesity are four times more likely than people with lower body fat to develop metabolic syndrome, which includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar and abnormal cholesterol levels, according to a study by Mayo Clinic researchers. As many as 30 million Americans have healthy weight obesity and many don’t know it.

For the UF study, researchers analyzed data from the 2011-2012 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a nationally representative study that uses a combination of interviews and physical examinations. The team assessed grip strength measurements, blood pressure readings and blood sugar levels for nearly 1,500 adults age 20 and older who had a BMI within the healthy weight range -- 18.5 to 24.9. People with undiagnosed and diagnosed high blood pressure and diabetes had weaker grip strength than other healthy weight individuals who did not have those conditions.

“In our study, grip strength was able to identify people with undiagnosed hypertension and diabetes relatively easily, even after we adjusted the analyses for age, sex and whether or not they had a family history of disease,” Mainous said. 

The reason for decreased muscle strength in healthy weight individuals with high blood pressure and diabetes isn’t well understood, but it could be caused by lower muscle quality or a condition called “diabetic hand syndrome,” which limits finger movement.

Because most patients visiting the doctor have their blood pressure tested, grip strength may be most valuable as a non-invasive, low-cost tool for identifying people who could possibly have diabetes. But more research is needed before it can be put into practice as a screening tool, including investigating how variables such as gender, age and height might affect grip strength levels, Mainous said.

“We still have a ways to go before we can actually implement grip strength testing and make it clinically useful to a primary care physician, but I think this a good first step toward determining who might need further testing, particularly among this group of people who would otherwise not be recommended for screening,” he said.

Science & Wellness

State-of-the-art medical education building opens

July 28, 2015
Karen Dooley

After years of planning and construction, a historic day for the University of Florida has arrived with the unveiling of the nation’s premier medical education facility.

The George T. Harrell, M.D., Medical Education Building, which opens its doors to students July 29, is designed to support the UF College of Medicine’s updated medical education curriculum as well as the training of students from the other UF Health Science Center colleges and staff from UF Health to ensure the highest level of patient care. The 95,000-square-foot space will provide a dynamic environment for all learners as they hone the skills necessary to respond to society’s changing health care landscape.

“This new building provides a model for the entire university — architecturally and pedagogically. In this model, teaching is an important driver of our university’s rise among the best universities in the country,” said Kent Fuchs, Ph.D., president of the University of Florida. “And with this rise, our medical students and health care providers throughout UF Health become ever more prepared to care for patients and to join all UF graduates in helping to bring prosperity and health to the world.”

The $46 million facility, located on the north edge of the UF Health Science Center campus on Newell Drive across from the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute, includes spaces for collaboration, quiet study and reflection, and hands-on interprofessional and team-based education.

“The Harrell Medical Education Building embodies the commitment by the University of Florida and UF Health to medical and health care education of the highest order,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “The building exemplifies how to design a space around a forwarding-looking curriculum. It will provide an identity that our students and faculty can be proud of as they set the standard for medical education.”

Named after the college’s visionary founding dean who pioneered the expansion of the UF Health Science Center in the 1950s, the four-story building features a specially designed atrium surrounded by glass, metal and wood accents, providing a bright and welcoming entrance that fosters interaction among students, trainees, faculty and staff. The first floor includes two 4,600-square-foot circular learning studios wired to accommodate collaborative and applied learning activities as well as the medical school admissions office and the H. James Free, M.D., Center for Primary Care Education and Innovation, reflecting the college’s commitment to primary care within the state of Florida.

The second floor is designed to address student needs with additional classrooms, gathering and small-group learning spaces and the Office of Student Affairs.

The top two floors of the Harrell Medical Education Building are dedicated to practice-based learning with a learning and assessment center featuring 18 standardized patient examination rooms, two hospital rooms and several classrooms. The state-of-the-art experiential learning theater on the fourth floor can be configured to represent hundreds of simulated health care scenarios to help bring clinical situations to life and teach students, residents and health care professionals new and complicated, high-risk skills.

“The best medicine and patient care are delivered by interdisciplinary clinical teams — physicians, physician assistants, nurses, therapists and many other health professionals — who come together in examination rooms, operating rooms, intensive care units and many other spaces to help patients heal,” said Michael L. Good, M.D., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “With that in mind, we have moved from the lecture hall to active, team-based learning in the same type of small-group environments that our students will encounter as practicing physicians and physician assistants.”

Construction of the facility was driven largely by philanthropy, with $31 million raised for the building by alumni and friends of UF. Charles Perry Partners Inc., of Gainesville, was awarded the contract to construct the Harrell Medical Education Building. Heery International and Ballinger designed the facility.

Campus Life

Why many free fitness apps fall short

July 29, 2015
Elizabeth Hillaker Downs

Are you planning on ramping up your exercise regimen this summer? There may not be an app for that -- at least not a reliable one.

UF Health researchers recently found that only one of 30 popular free fitness apps for iPhones meets the majority of guidelines for physical activity from the American College of Sports Medicine, the world’s largest sports medicine and exercise science organization. The findings were published this month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

When compared to the guidelines for aerobic exercise, strength or resistance, and flexibility, the top-scoring app was the Sworkit Lite Personal Workout Trainer App with 9.01 out of a possible 14 points. Each app was scored across those three categories, examining to what extent they adhered to the specific American College of Sports Medicine guidelines, including parameters for safety, warm-ups, cool-downs, stretching, intensity, frequency and progression.

While more than half the apps included some of the recommendations for aerobic exercise and 90 percent met at least one criterion for strength and resistance, two-thirds of the apps did not meet any of the flexibility criteria.

“While apps have great potential to give more people access to workouts that could help them achieve a healthy weight and fitness level, we found that the vast majority of apps are not as safe as they could be and do not give users the type of well-rounded workouts known to be most effective,” said François Modave, Ph.D., associate professor in the UF department of health outcomes and policy and lead author of the study.

Ultimately, only Sworkit Lite Personal Workout Trainer met more than half of the criteria. Three apps met more than half the criteria in the aerobic category: Sworkit Lite Personal Workout Trainer, C25K® – 5K Trainer Free and Running for Weight Loss. Four apps earned half the possible points in the strength or resistance category: Sworkit Lite Personal Workout Trainer, Ultimate Fitness Free, JEFIT Workout and StrongLifts 5X5. Ultimate Fitness Free was no longer available on the App Store at the time of this release. No app scored above 50 percent in the flexibility category. See scores for each of the apps here.

“Several of the apps contained high-quality content in one of the three categories, but almost none of them had high-quality content in all of them, especially flexibility” said Heather Vincent, Ph.D., FACSM, assistant professor in the department of orthopaedics and rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine. “This is a problem because flexibility is important for good exercise form, relaxation and cool-down.”

In addition to not meeting the specific criterion for each category, 23 out of 30 apps did not provide an actual training plan, explain how to choose a workout or explain how to organize the workouts through the week. That makes it difficult, especially for beginners, to follow a safe and physiologically sound progression in their exercise regimen.

“The issues with these apps place users at risk for injury because the apps fail to prepare them to take on the exercises, use proper techniques and address safety issues surrounding different types of exercise,” said Modave. “Our hope is that this study, which is the first to explore what extent fitness apps are adhering to the ACSM Guidelines, starts a conversation about how to harness apps to give people high-quality, safe and effective workouts.”

Science & Wellness

Medieval studies: The past is always present

July 30, 2015
Mary Watt

Mary Watt, chair of UF's Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, explains why medieval studies may be more relevant than ever.

I am neither an engineer nor a physicist. If I were I would probably spend much of my time trying to build a time machine so I could go back to the past and find out what it was really like to be in Rome when marauding Visigoths sacked the city in 410, to feel the mixture of joy and guilt at surviving the Black Death that devastated Europe in 1348 or to understand what inspired Columbus and Vespucci to take to the open seas guided only by a signal in the heavens.

In truth it was my impatience (apparently time travel is taking a lot longer to develop than it does in the movies) and my insatiable desire to experience the past, to  engage in conversation with my cultural ancestors that led me inexorably to medieval studies and to Italian medieval literature in particular.

As a child I had been fascinated with cultural transformation. I knew about Romans and I knew about Italians, but I wondered how the former had become the latter and equally intriguing to me was how Latin had become Italian, and Spanish and French for that matter. Had the world changed that much in two thousand years? Had the people?  In some respects it seemed that the people of Pompeii shared pretty much the same worries and enjoyed the same things we do today. The mosaic sign “cave canem” (beware of the dog) discovered under the ashes of Vesuvius, suggested on one hand that those people were not all that different from my own neighbors. On the other hand, regular inoculations and visits to the doctor were a normal part of my childhood and dying from bubonic plague or leprosy was unthinkable. I wondered what it must have been like to live in times where the possibility of sudden death through violence, starvation or disease was immediate and ever present. I began to wonder how living “in the valley of the shadow of death” affected the way people felt about their own lives, whether it made them hopeless or spurred them to live life to the fullest, carpe diem and all that.

mary watt in Italy

Francesco Petrarca’s "Canzoniere" allowed me some insight into such questions. The work consists of 366 poems and is dedicated to his beloved muse, Laura, who died far too young. Petrarch’s poems describe the searing sweetness of unrequited love, the anger he feels at Laura’s death, his desire to die just to be with her while at the same expressing his hunger for fame and his desire to live forever. St. Augustine's "City of God" describes the shock and despair of the Romans who thought their lives were secure and their city impregnable until Alaric and his hordes breached its walls and ran amok in the streets, raping and pillaging for days on end. Augustine recounts their terror and suffering as he tries to console the survivors and provide an explanation for the incomprehensible. In his "Decameron," Giovanni Boccaccio chronicles the response of the Florentines to the Black Death that stalked fourteenth century Europe, encapsulating the horror of the plague in his chilling description of a woman sewing her funeral shroud from the inside out because there was no one left to bury her.

These are real voices that still speak loudly above the noise and constant technological stimulation that surrounds us. They make us wonder if, despite all the technological and political changes the world has seen, humans have remained unchanged? Or have the many advances in technology transformed us as well? Does the probability of a long life affect how we value life, our own lives and those of others? Do the extra twenty or thirty years we imagine we have cause us to put off our lives’ great ambitions or motivate us to do more? And if so more of what? 

Moreover, reading the notebooks of Da Vinci, the dialogues of Galileo or the consolations of Boethius, allows us also to see how humans many centuries ago imagined the world could be and gives us a sense of why our world is the way it is. I have recently been reading an unfinished book by Christopher Columbus in which he lists all of the many prophesies he believed he was fulfilling by sailing west to reach the east. It makes me ask myself if he would have made his daring journey had he not been aware of these prophesies. At the same time, it makes us think about the extent to which we are, even today, guided by the predictions and expectations of the past.

It is, I believe, only in knowing what our forebears anticipated, dreamed of and hoped for that we can begin to understand how we have ended up where we are. In conversing with the past, I have a deeper appreciation for the journey that we continue to make. Making sense of the transformative processes out of which modernity struggles to emerge is not only a means of interpreting the present but it is also a very powerful tool in making the future what we have long hoped it might be.  

Society & Culture

UF’s education dean named among the nation’s best

July 31, 2015
Paul Bernard

Glenn E. Good of the University of Florida has been recognized as one of The 30 Most Influential Deans of Education in the U.S. by Mometrix Test Preparation. A recently published article honored “an outstanding group of people for their contributions to the field of education and the impact they've had on the next generation of teachers.”

Good, who ranks No. 14 on the list, was appointed dean of UF’s College of Education in September 2011. He is nationally recognized for his spotlight on research, which mainly focuses on gender issues in education, counseling interventions and psychosocial well-being.

Earlier this year, AC Online named the University of Florida the No. 1 school in the country in terms of having the best online teaching degree. Good himself was recently named to the blue-ribbon International Advisory Panel for the Emirates College for Advanced Education, a panel affiliated with the Abu Dhabi Education Council. He is the author or co-author of five books and more than 80 journal reports and book chapters.

Researchers analyzed ranking systems, honors, awards and commendations to determine the top deans in the country. That data was then compiled, organized and ranked. The complete list can be found out http://www.mometrix.com/blog/the-30-most-influential-deans-of-education-in-the-united-states/

Mometrix Test Preparation is a privately owned company based in the southeast Texas.

Campus Life

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