Winners of President’s Holiday Greeting Card Contest announced

November 1, 2016
UF News

Andrea Gomez, a junior and graphic design major in the University of Florida’s College of the Arts, has been named the winner of UF’S first President’s Holiday Greeting Card Contest.

There were two runners-up: Jennifer Adler, a doctoral student in interdisciplinary ecology in the School of Natural Resources & Environment; and Shannon Brown, a doctoral student in biomedical engineering in the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

UF students were invited in September to submit original artwork in all media for the competition.  UF President Kent Fuchs and his wife, Linda Fuchs, chose the winner and runners-up after a committee of six UF faculty and staff members recommended finalists and semifinalists from 87 submissions, including digital illustrations, watercolors, photographs and drawings.

“It was a difficult decision for us because so many of the submissions were outstanding, reflecting the remarkable artistic talent of students across our university,” Kent Fuchs said. “In the end, we chose the three submissions that we felt most beautifully represented the holiday season, the uniqueness of our university and the beauty of North Central Florida.”

As the winner, Gomez will receive a $500 prize. Adler and Brown will each receive $250. Their winning entries will appear at www.president.ufl.edu after the holiday cards are sent out in early December.

Campus Life

Matthew aftermath

November 1, 2016
Stephenie Livingston

UF students assess storm’s damage to historic properties

Maanvi Chawla is from the mountains of northern India — far from any threat of hurricanes. When she volunteered to assess Hurricane Matthew’s damage in St. Augustine, the University of Florida student was given a crash course in coastal disasters that you can’t get from books.

“This has been life changing,” she said, standing outside a flood-damaged historic home on a street lined with storm debris.

Chawla and eight other graduate students from UF’s historic preservation program volunteered Oct. 17-19 to help the Federal Emergency Management Agency assess flood damage from the storm that hammered America’s oldest city in early October. By going door-to-door and recording flood damage, the team gathered critical information included in reports leading to President Barack Obama’s approval of the individual assistance portion of a federal disaster declaration.

Looking under house

Thanks in no small part to the student team, now flood victims in St. John’s County can apply for relief needed to rebuild their lives and homes, said Morris Hylton III, director of the historic preservation program. The team logged 190 volunteer hours in just three days.

“The level of assistance flood victims receive is based on data like ours that’s coming out of the field,” Hylton said. “This city has been unbelievably resilient and quick to clean up. But flooding leaves less visible, long-term damage as well. It’s a bit deceiving.”

Of the approximately 2,000 historic properties in St. Augustine’s National Register Historic Districts, Hylton suspects flooding affected 50 percent or more. His team also assisted in the evaluation of nearly 800 properties in the Davis Shores neighborhood, which is populated with many postwar-era bungalows and ‘50s and ‘60s ranch-style homes. Assessments also showed business along St. George Street, the center of downtown St. Augustine, is down 70 to 80 percent, Hylton said.

During the flood, the city’s sewer systems were dramatically compromised and sewage mixed with floods water, contaminating streets, homes and businesses. The less-visible signs of flooding, like sewer contamination and water damage, will be a long-term restoration process lasting anywhere from three to 12 months. 

Assessments collected by the student team will help create awareness of the hurricane’s damage among officials and provide preservation recommendations to flood victims as they begin to repair their historic homes, Hylton said.

“Insurance companies and FEMA are usually focused on taking out damaged materials. Well, that’s historic fabric that cannot be replaced,” Hylton said. “As important as it is to get people back into their homes, it’s important not to make quick decisions that are irreversible. That’s where we can help.”

Pile of rubble

St. Augustine officials plan to use the assessments to map damaged historic sites and track the recovery process. As the city begins this process, the students’ experience in planning, architecture and historic preservation was hugely beneficial, said Jenny Wolfe, historic preservation planner for the city of St. Augustine.

“It’s helpful to have the labor force to do these assessments, but we also hope the students’ fresh perspective will reveal new approaches for recovery that we may not be considering,” Wolfe said.

UF historic preservation graduate student Anulekha Chakraborty said she gained invaluable firsthand experience, making the volunteer work a “win-win” for herself and St. Augustine.

“You can learn topography and the way the water enters houses from books, but when you get out and you talk to people and hear their problems it puts things into context,” Chakraborty said. “Each community will have a different reaction to this, and that’s something you can only learn when you come to the site.”

Global Impact

Yearning for a new phone? You might be suffering from ‘comparison neglect’

November 2, 2016
Milenko Martinovich

If you’re reading this on a shiny new iPhone 7, new research suggests you might not have given your old phone its due before trading up.

Decades of research support the theory that people tend to rely on comparisons when making decisions. But when one of their options is a perceived upgrade over the status quo, consumers’ rationality disappears, according to new research by University of Florida marketing professor Aner Sela.

Sela and Robyn LeBoeuf of Washington University examined the phenomenon of “comparison neglect,” where people favor an upgraded product without evaluating the product they already own.

In Sela’s work, 78 percent of consumers in one study readily admit that “comparing the upgrade to the status quo option is a necessary component in the decision,” and 95 percent agreed that comparisons were important.

Yet, when faced with that decision, consumers fail to practice what they preach.

“We don’t do as well as we know we should,” Sela said. “People know this is important; there’s a consensus about it. But, in the moment of truth, we’re susceptible to these biases. That’s the striking thing: Knowing is not enough.”

The researchers conducted a series of five studies of more than 1,000 smartphone users from age 18 to 78. When consumers were asked to select the status quo or an upgraded smartphone or app — even when they were supplied with a list of features of both products—the majority chose the upgrade.

Only when consumers were explicitly reminded to compare the status quo’s existing features with the upgrade’s features did the likelihood of upgrading decrease.

Considering people’s tendency to use comparisons—and the high value people place on the status quo—Sela said the study’s findings were unexpected.

“We were not asking people to recall existing features from memory,” Sela said. “We put them in front of people side-by-side. But unless we tell them to compare, they don’t do it. They don’t use the information in the way they themselves say they should be using it. That’s what makes this so surprising.”

Sela noted that comparison neglect only occurs when a perceived upgrade is one of the options. When the same decision is perceived as a “choice” between two options—one more advanced than the other — comparison neglect isn’t influential.

Overcoming comparison neglect is a difficult hurdle for consumers, Sela said. Therefore, companies bear an ethical responsibility to market their products accurately — an unlikely outcome, Sela said, considering the financial boon they receive from consumers paying for unnecessary upgrades. 

Sela’s work, “Comparison Neglect in Upgrade Decisions,” has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Marketing Research.

Society & Culture

What’s that? Exercise is also good for hearing?

November 2, 2016
Morgan Sherburne

Listen up: Everybody has heard that exercise can help keep you slim and is good for heart health, but University of Florida researchers have also found that exercise may also help prevent age-related hearing loss — at least in mice.

The researchers found that the sedentary mice lost structures that are important in the auditory system — hair cells and strial capillaries — at a much higher rate than their exercising counterparts. This resulted in a roughly 20 percent hearing loss in sedentary mice compared with a 5 percent hearing loss in active mice. The researchers published their results today (Wednesday, Nov. 2) in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Age-related hearing loss plagues about 70 percent of adults age 70 and older, and occurs when people lose hair cells, strial capillaries and spiral ganglion in the cochlear system of their ear. Hair cells sense sound, strial capillaries feed the auditory system with oxygen and spiral ganglion are a group of nerve cells that send sound from the cochlea to the brain. Shaped like a snail shell, the auditory system is always running, says lead author Shinichi Someya, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of aging and geriatric research

“The cochlear, or inner ear, is a high-energy demanding organ,” said Someya, also a member of the UF Institute on Aging. “The auditory system is always on and always processing sound. To process sound, it needs a huge amount of energy molecules.”

The system needs to be well-fed with oxygen, delivered to the inner ear by strial capillaries, to generate those energy molecules. To test how exercise affects the loss of strial capillaries, hair cells and neurons, Someya and his fellow researchers separated mice into two groups: mice that had access to a running wheel and mice that did not have that access. The mice were also housed individually so that the researchers could keep track of how far the mice ran on their running wheels.

The exercise regimen for the mice peaked when the animals were 6 months old, or about 25 in human years. As the mice aged — to 24 months, or 60 human years — their exercise levels decreased. At their peak, the mice were running about 7.6 miles per day, but at the lowest, the mice were still running about 2.5 miles per day. The researchers then compared the group of exercising mice with a control group of non-exercising mice.

The researchers think age-related inflammation damages the capillaries and cells, and that exercising provides protection against that kind of inflammation. In another part of the study, the researchers compared inflammation in the bodies of the sedentary mice to inflammation in the exercising group. The mouse runners were able to keep most markers of inflammation to about half that of the sedentary group, which may help preserve the capillaries and hair cells involved in hearing.

While epidemiological studies have shown a link between hearing sensitivity and exercise, this is the first research to show that regular exercise can prevent age-related hearing loss in mice, Someya said. The research also translates well to humans, Someya said. Christiaan Leeuwenburgh, Ph.D., a co-author of the study and professor and vice chair of research for the Institute on Aging, said the National Institutes of Health is currently beginning an initiative to discover other molecules that may be released by exercise that preserve biological function in humans. UF has submitted applications to the $170 million initiative, called Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity in Humans, for research funding.

“Exercise likely releases some growth factors yet to be discovered that maintain capillary density as compared to the control animals who were not exercising,” Leeuwenburgh said. “Also, exercise may release other beneficial factors, but can also attenuate and blunt negative factors, such as inflammation.”

Science & Wellness

The brains behind the campaigns

November 4, 2016
Alisson Clark
election, politics, political science, campaign

For one group of University of Florida students, the 2016 election holds a special fascination. They’re not just looking at their future president, but their future careers.

Founded in 1985, UF’s master’s program in political campaigning – one of just a handful in the country – prepares tomorrow’s consultants and strategists for jobs in politics and public service. On a Tuesday night not long before the election, five students gathered in the political-science library in Anderson Hall for campaign management class with Roger Austin, an adjunct professor and Gainesville-based political consultant. It’s their first semester in the campaigns program, so Austin’s class gives them an overview of the components of a campaign, from fundraising and budgeting to polling and research.

“Campaigns are both complicated and easy,” Austin says. “They’re very predictable: You announce your candidacy, you run around like a nut raising money, and two months before Election Day when voters start paying attention, you start spending money. It's very simple. But it’s also complex, because of percentage of voters who vote early or absentee instead of on Election Day changes with every successive election.”

Austin, who has taught the class since 2001, shows students what goes on behind the scenes of a campaign. He coaches them on everything from how much of the candidate’s budget to spend on voter contact (70 cents for every dollar) to why candidates in local races don’t need campaign headquarters. (“You want people knocking on doors and working phone banks, not sitting around drinking coffee while they craft your new strategy.”)

Despite their interest in politics, some students like 21-year-old Taryn Boyer have never voted in a presidential election before: They were too young. Students in the program often go on to become campaign managers, consultants and pollsters. Boyer, however, hopes to be on the ballot herself. After law school and military service, she’s planning to run for office, eventually for president. An insider’s perspective on elections has been eye-opening, Boyer said.

“When I see campaign managers doing interviews on CNN or Fox, I can pick up on the strategy now,” she says. “Whatever question they ask, they flip it into the message they want to deliver.”

The Trump and Clinton campaigns have given the class plenty to discuss throughout the semester. But while the events of the 2016 election might seem unprecedented, Austin says he sees more similarities than differences with past years’ contests.

“The shenanigans are different this year due to who the candidates are,” he says, “but every election has that ebb and flow.”

Society & Culture

The fear election

November 8, 2016
Ron Chandler

UF instructor and academic programs liaison Ron Chandler writes about the influence of fear as an influential element in decisionmaking – one that both presidential candidates tried to harness during the last stretch of the campaign.

Over the weekend, pollster Peter Hart told NBC News that this has been “an election about fear.”

“Donald Trump’s message was the fear of what was happening to America,” he continued, “and Hillary Clinton’s was about the fear of Donald Trump.”

Indeed, Trump has made fear central to his campaign strategy. Using divisive and isolationist rhetoric, he has invoked images of immigrants and terrorists streaming into the country unaccounted for, of inner cities rife with poverty and crime.

Clinton, on the other hand, has used Trump’s words and actions to instill fears about what would happen to the country under a Trump presidency.

Given the fraught tone of the campaign, it’s no surprise that a poll from over the summer found that 81 percent of voters said they were afraid of one or both of the candidates winning.

For political candidates, why is it so effective to tap into voter fears? And what does the psychology research say about fear’s ability to influence behavior and decision-making?

How fear influences action

At its core, fear is an emotion that compels people to fight or take flight from a real or perceived threat.

Psychological research has also shown that when we band together, the raw experience of fear – especially fear of a common enemy – can become amplified.

In the early 1980s, a group of psychologists developed a way to study and understand how fear influences how we think and what we do.

Their approach to understanding the influence of fear is now known as Terror Management Theory (TMT). Using TMT these psychologists were able to determine that, in general, fear can create and maintain some of the worst aspects of human behavior, whether it’s “offensive aggression” (aggression that’s not prompted by an actual threat), an unwillingness to compromise or racism and bigotry. On the other hand, if fears are understood, they can motivate some of the best types of human behavior, like extraordinary generosity and altruism.

Psychologists have also found that when fear – instead of reason or critical thinking – influences our decisions, we make our worst mistakes.

Fear is in the message

As noted earlier, people will band together in response to a common threat. It’s also important to remember that the threat needs only to be perceived; it doesn’t need to be real.

For centuries, individuals campaigning for power – emperors, kings, business tycoons, politicians, military leaders – have used fear to frighten people enough so that they set aside level-headed thinking and act on their behalf.

The strategy is known as fear messaging, and it’s easy to recognize. It includes repeated name-calling and denigration of a person, group of people or nation. Those with different views and other cultures and ways of life are deemed a great threat or labeled as a common enemy. The most effective fear messaging uses grossly oversimplified and generally false statements to promote verbal assaults (for example, bullying and racist and sexist phrases) and even physical violence.

Fear messaging contributed to the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. More recently, fear messaging in response to 9/11 resulted in the wrongful implication of Iraq, public outcry for war and one of America’s worst military and international relations debacles.

Today fear messaging fuels racism, sexism, Islamophobia and an obsession with national security that overrides virtually all other domestic and foreign concerns

As part of their message, fear campaigners will also insist that they are the only ones who understand the common threat – and the only ones who can save the masses.

Campaign scare tactics

Let’s return to the presidential campaign.

Observe just one of Trump’s rallies and you will see that fear messaging – with all its violence, vulgarity, bigotry and divisiveness – is alive and thriving in America. Trump’s terrorism “plan” draws heavily from the scare tactics of the Cold War era, promises “extreme vetting” of immigrants, insists on an “ideological war” against radical Islam and promotes military acquisition of Middle Eastern oil fields. He has exploited the fear that many men have of women leaders and has subtly encouraged violence against Clinton.

Each candidate has tried to flip fears into votes. But one has made it a centerpiece of his campaign. Reuters

In an effort to fight fire with fire, Clinton has leveraged fear in her favor by encouraging voters to imagine the disastrous results of a Trump presidency. At a rally in Florida last week, she wondered aloud if the nuclear codes would be safe in his hands and hinted that black and Hispanic people might be in physical danger.

“I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse,” she told The New York Times back in October.

This is not to say that we should ignore what frightens us. But it’s also important to understand why something is frightening us and whether or not the threat is real.

Years ago, cognitive psychologist Dr. Dianna Cunningham told me that thinking creates emotion, and emotion creates behavior. She said it was our responsibility to know what we’re thinking; this way, we won’t do things we’ll later regret.

Cunningham’s main point is that fear is a reaction. But it’s also a choice, a choice that intelligent human beings have the privilege and responsibility to exercise.

Like reason and civility, fear is a choice. When casting your ballot, ask yourself: What will the consequences be? What role is fear playing in your decision? And is what scares you real?

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Society & Culture

UF reveals Strategic Development Plan

November 10, 2016
UF News
strategic development plan, community planning, preeminence

Eastward focus, connection to downtown, housing shifts among recommendations

After hundreds of interviews with local residents, the University of Florida took the next step toward forging a shared vision with the Gainesville community when it revealed the findings of its strategic development process.

“The future of the university hinges on the future of the surrounding community, and vice versa,” said Charles Lane, UF’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, who oversaw the nine-month process. Lane described the results at a meeting at Emerson Alumni Hall on Thursday.

In December, UF’s Board of Trustees asked the university to put its campus master plan in context of the surrounding community, kicking off the strategic planning effort. UF partnered with Boston-based firms Dumont Janks and Elkus Manfredi on the process, which began in February and included 97 interviews with community members, 114 interviews with UF stakeholders, eight public meetings and a symposium drawing on the experiences of universities and towns from Ohio State to the University of Virginia.

Some of the plan’s recommendations will be put into action immediately, while others might not be fully realized for decades.

“Significant changes don’t just need a plan, they need a vision,” Lane said. “We’re not planning for the people in this room, but for generations yet to come.”

The plan recommends four initiatives for UF and the community to focus on when crafting the future of the university and city:

New American City

Aligning the city and university could turn Gainesville into a proving ground for solutions to challenges facing cities nationwide. The plan calls for creating a joint planning group and a “Smart City Lab” to gather and analyze data to inform future decisions. It also suggests leveraging the expertise of UF researchers to address local issues and establishing an investment strategy to translate UF research and ideas into local start-ups. Finally, the plan recommends evaluating ways to establish a presence in downtown Gainesville for some of the university’s programs, especially its cultural amenities.

To support this initiative, UF is providing $250,000 in community research awards to help connect UF’s talent to community issues.


To enhance collaboration and innovation, the university will concentrate future development in the eastern third of campus and coordinate with the city to encourage development between downtown and campus. Increasing density in these areas will foster interdisciplinary discovery as well as sustainable growth. The plan recommends studying transportation and parking, the best uses for existing space, facilities maintenance and growth, and ways to make Newell Drive a core connection between UF’s academic core and medical center. Because living on campus supports student success, the plan also calls for re-evaluating the current student housing situation with a residential life plan that includes a strategy for the city’s student housing stock. The housing discussion will extend to creating a strong urban core that enhances neighborhoods, attracts talent and investment and makes it feasible for faculty and staff to live close to campus. 

Immediate plans to support this initiative include renovating the Plaza of the Americas and redesigning Newell Drive, which will open up the road as a main artery to further unite the UF campus with Gainesville.

Strong Neighborhoods

The plan recommends that the university and city collaborate to preserve historic neighborhoods, creating a diverse housing stock and improving amenities while defending them from gentrification. The city-university collaboration would also examine the east-west corridors connecting downtown and campus, University Avenue, Southwest Second Avenue, Southwest Fourth Avenue and Archer Road/Depot Avenue, investigating fixed-route transit options and revisiting the master plan for Innovation Square with the goal of promoting interaction, connection and future development. The plan also calls for improving the identity of Southwest 13th Street as a gateway to campus and the city, evaluating existing regulations with an eye toward defining appropriate height and density for development, and promoting better relations between student and other residents of neighborhoods near campus by catalyzing housing diversity between campus and downtown.

In support of this initiative, UF will enrich neighborhoods with a $50,000 College of the Arts/city arts initiative. UF will also earmark a portion of the $250,000 community research awards and explore further monetary and talent resources to help preserve and strengthen neighborhoods.


When the consultants studied what people like about Gainesville, outdoor spaces emerged as some of its greatest attractions. It’s also part of UF’s land-grant mission to be a good steward of the environment on and around campus. With that in mind, the plan recommends studying open space, landscaping, street and utility networks, stormwater and other infrastructure, and partnering with the city on large-scale open spaces, bike-pedestrian trails and stream-corridor restoration to advance the region’s ecological health and outdoor amenities. Recommended collaboration with the community extends to energy, water, waste and recycling issues as well as healthy food initiatives with the local agricultural community.

Immediate plans to support this initiative include the creation of a UF landscape master plan and providing $50,000 to identify solutions that will address a UF/city/county environmental issue.

The next step is to form a group of city and campus representatives to begin creating a shared future for Gainesville and UF.

“This process is not going to stop when our consultants leave,” Lane said, “it’s going to begin.”

Campus Life

Painting the town

November 10, 2016
Alisson Clark
College of the Arts, 352 walls

Students work alongside three leading muralists while learning about the ethics of street art.

Campus Life

There is no female president this time, and women are divided about it

November 10, 2016
Aida Arfan Hozic

UF associate professor of international relations Aida Arfan Hozic observes that women simultaneously rushed to vote even as they were sharply divided by the 2016 presidential election, which represented the biggest gender gap in voting since 1973.

This is what we learned on November 8th: a white pantsuit is not an antidote to global Trumpism. Here is why.

Donald Trump’s victory is more than just an election of another American president, it is a regime change. This momentous event will affect the functioning of both American and global institutions. But it will also affect the politics of everyday life, especially those domains often associated with women and minorities – household economies, health and education, welfare and social care, migration and reproduction. This is a victory for a particular kind of masculinity – paternalistic and violent, punishing to those who do not fit its standards.

Yet Trump is not a unique political phenomenon, but a symptom of disenchantment with globalisation. As he often pitched it to his voters on the campaign trail – “This is ‘BREXIT-plus-plus-plus’”. His victory is a product of homegrown economic problems gone viral, pandering to white fears, botched military interventions in the Middle East and millions of wounded bodies.

It is also a reflection of the worldwide shift toward populism in reaction to the increases in economic inequality, the perceived elitism of politicians and parties, uncertainty about the future and threats to economic and physical security from within and without. Whether it’s in Brazil, Russia, Poland, Turkey, the Philippines or the UK – and soon, possibly, France and even Australia – liberal elites have been sent packing because of their apparent failure to sustain the entitlements of blue collar, white men. They were unable to deliver on the expectations of key constituencies with the unleashing of competitive globalisation.

Thus, it should not surprise us that Trump’s win was not pulled off by poor working class whites alone, as was reported from Florida “Economic victims didn’t elect Trump. The well-off and segregated did”. .

Women simultaneously rushed to vote and were sharply divided by it. The 2016 election represents the biggest gender gap in voting since 1973, but Hillary Clinton has not benefited much — if at all — from group solidarity among women.

Trump beat Clinton 53% to 41% among men and Clinton won among women by 54% to 42%. More women voted Democrat than ever before, and more men voted Republican. Shockingly, 53% of white women voted for Trump, even though early polling showed them more likely to support Clinton.

Even 45% of women with a college degree voted for Trump. Whatever gains Clinton made among women, it was thanks to women of colour. White women have clearly made patriarchal bargains: they may benefit economically as part of male breadwinner, heterosexual family households from a Trump Presidency tax cut dividend. On the down side, they now also will be represented by a President who advocates “grabbing pussy”.

There are several implications of Trump’s victory for women in general and feminism in particular. First, after this election, and despite Hillary Clinton’s emotional concession speech, it is unlikely that politics would now seem like an attractive calling to young women. One look at what happened to Clinton would deter most. It seems you can’t win even when you’re smart, capable and qualified. This indicates a deeply ingrained sexism within US democracy, which is echoed in other western polities. One example of this is the United Kingdom, where women’s perspectives hardly featured in the pre-referendum Brexit debate, and are still hard to find despite the ascension of a female prime minister.

Second, Trump would not have been elected in a world serious about tackling violence against women and girls. We can expect the further trivialisation and normalisation of sexual and gender-based harassment, abuse and violence.

Finally, the vote highlighted that those who were worst affected by the global financial crisis and housing bubble in the US – African American women – voted for Hillary in droves (93%). These women know that women of colour, women-headed households, and women employed in the public sector with less income and assets than men will not be helped by slashing the corporate tax rate and Obamacare.

What does Trump’s win mean for feminism? There is no doubt that feminism now operates between two poles – rising misogyny and scapegoating of women (Hillary Clinton was more hated than Donald Trump) and the potential for moblisation (women came together after revelations about Trump’s sexually abusive language and behavior).

Perhaps Clinton’s version of feminism is outdated – stuck in the 1990s, under the shadow of her husband’s term as US President, and surrounding herself with generals, CIA officials, former Republicans, in order to prove her competence. There was little appeal for millennials in this, as seen in the drop of young people’s vote for Hillary as compared with Obama.

Feminism – and feminist activists – now need to recharge their batteries, forge solidarity with people of colour, immigrants and minorities everywhere. This needs to happen in local elections, non-profits and grassroots organisations. We need to take economic concerns – of men and women, and particularly of men and women of colour - very seriously. We need not feel ashamed of appealing to emotions as much as reason in advocating for equality and social justice.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Society & Culture

Nature already dramatically impacted by climate change, study reveals

November 10, 2016
Beverly James

Global climate change has already impacted every aspect of life on Earth, from genes to entire ecosystems, according to a new University of Florida study.

The paper appears today in the journal Science.

“We now have evidence that, with only a ~1 degree Celsius of warming globally, major impacts are already being felt in natural systems,” said study lead author Brett Scheffers, an assistant professor in the department of wildlife, ecology and conservation in UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. “Genes are changing, species’ physiology and physical features such as body size are changing, species are shifting their ranges and we see clear signs of entire ecosystems under stress, all in response to changes in climate on land and in the ocean.”

During this research, Scheffers, a conservation ecologist, collaborated with a team of researchers from 10 countries, spread across the globe. They discovered that more than 80 percent of ecological processes that form the foundation for healthy marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems already show signs of responses to climate change.

 “Some people didn’t expect this level of change for decades” said co-author James Watson, of the University of Queensland in Australia. “The impacts of climate change are being felt with no ecosystem on Earth being spared.“

Many of the impacts on species and ecosystems affect people, according to the authors, with consequences ranging from increased pests and disease outbreaks, unpredictable changes in fisheries, and decreasing agriculture yields. But research on these impacts also leads to hope.

“Many of the responses we are observing today in nature can help us determine how to fix the mounting issues that people face under changing climate conditions,” Scheffers said. “For example, by understanding the adaptive capacity in nature, we can apply these same principles to our crops, livestock and aquacultural species.”

“Current global climate change agreements aim to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius,” said Wendy Foden, co-author and chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Specialist Group. “We’re showing that there are already broad and serious impacts from climate change right across biological systems.“


The broad footprint of climate change from genes to biomes to people by Brett R. Scheffers et al. is published in Science. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7671

Science & Wellness

UF joins society for diversity in academia

November 15, 2016
Gabrielle Calise

The University of Florida has become the 13th college to join a national honor society that amplifies diversity in graduate education.

The Edward A. Bouchet Graduate Honor Society creates a community for students and postdocs who have traditionally been underrepresented in academia. Founded in 2005 by Yale University and Howard University, the organization has over 500 student members.

“Graduate students are going to have the greatest impact on our world,” said Tyisha J. Hathorn, director of UF’s Office of Graduate Minority Programs. “They are our thinkers, our creators.”

The society is named after Edward A. Bouchet, the first African American doctoral student in the U.S. Bouchet was a member of Phi Beta Kappa at Yale before earning his doctorate in physics in 1876.

“He was only the 6th U.S. citizen to get a Ph. D in the Western hemisphere,” said Henry Frierson, dean of the UF graduate school. “For the University of Florida to be involved also points out the commitment that we have for diversity and the type and caliber of Ph. D students that we have.”

UF was inducted into the Bouchet Society during an annual conference held around Bouchet’s birthday in September. Faculty and staff traveled to Howard University in Washington D.C. for the induction.

The UF chapter will accept applications from doctoral candidates in the spring.  Members will work as ambassadors to promote diversity across campus. They will also be able to present their research during the Bouchet Society’s spring conference at Yale University.

“It helps our students to be linked to other graduate societies in the country,” Hathorn said.

Campus Life

Climate change is affecting all life on Earth – and that’s not good news for humanity

November 16, 2016
Brett Scheffers

UF assistant professor Brett Scheffers discusses his recent study, in conjunction with more than a dozen authors from other universities and nongovernmental organizations, that shows the footprint of climate change already is vast as species try to adapt to rising temperatures.

More than a dozen authors from different universities and nongovernmental organizations around the world have concluded, based on an analysis of hundreds of studies, that almost every aspect of life on Earth has been affected by climate change.

In more scientific parlance, we found in a paper published in Science that genes, species and ecosystems now show clear signs of impact. These responses to climate change include species’ genome (genetics), their shapes, colors and sizes (morphology), their abundance, where they live and how they interact with each other (distribution). The influence of climate change can now be detected on the smallest, most cryptic processes all the way up to entire communities and ecosystems.

Some species are already beginning to adapt. The color of some animals, such as butterflies, is changing because dark-colored butterflies heat up faster than light-colored butterflies, which have an edge in warmer temperatures. Salamanders in eastern North America and cold-water fish are shrinking in size because being small is more favorable when it is hot than when it is cold. In fact, there are now dozens of examples globally of cold-loving species contracting and warm-loving species expanding their ranges in response to changes in climate.

All of these changes may seem small, even trivial, but when every species is affected in different ways these changes add up quickly and entire ecosystem collapse is possible. This is not theoretical: Scientists have observed that the cold-loving kelp forests of southern Australia, Japan and the northwest coast of the U.S. have not only collapsed from warming but their reestablishment has been halted by replacement species better adapted to warmer waters.

Flood of insights from ancient flea eggs

Researchers are using many techniques, including one called resurrection ecology, to understand how species are responding to changes in climate by comparing the past to current traits of species. And a small and seemingly insignificant organism is leading the way.

One hundred years ago, a water flea (genus Daphnia), a small creature the size of a pencil tip, swam in a cold lake of the upper northeastern U.S. looking for a mate. This small female crustacean later laid a dozen or so eggs in hopes of doing what Mother Nature intended – that she reproduce.

Water flea; Daphnia barbata. photo credit: Joachim Mergeay

Her eggs are unusual in that they have a tough, hardened coat that protects them from lethal conditions such as extreme cold and droughts. These eggs have evolved to remain viable for extraordinary periods of time and so they lay on the bottom of the lake awaiting the perfect conditions to hatch.

Now fast forward a century: A researcher interested in climate change has dug up these eggs, now buried under layers of sediment that accumulated over the many years. She takes them to her lab and amazingly, they hatch, allowing her to show one thing: that individuals from the past are of a different architecture than those living in a much hotter world today. There is evidence for responses at every level from genetics to physiology and up through to community level.

By combining numerous research techniques in the field and in the lab, we now have a definitive look at the breadth of climate change impacts for this animal group. Importantly, this example offers the most comprehensive evidence of how climate change can affect all processes that govern life on Earth.

From genetics to dusty books

The study of water fleas and resurrection ecology is just one of many ways that thousands of geneticists, evolutionary scientists, ecologists and biogeographers around the world are assessing if – and how – species are responding to current climate change.

Other state-of-the-art tools include drills that can sample gases trapped several miles beneath the Antarctic ice sheet to document past climates and sophisticated submarines and hot air balloons that measure the current climate.

Warmer temperatures are already affecting some species in discernible ways. Sea turtles on dark sands, for instance, will more likely be feminine because of higher temperatures. levork/flickr, CC BY-SA

Researchers are also using modern genetic sampling to understand how climate change is influencing the genes of species, while resurrection ecology helps understand changes in physiology. Traditional approaches such as studying museum specimens are effective for documenting changes in species morphology over time.

Some rely on unique geological and physical features of the landscape to assess climate change responses. For example, dark sand beaches are hotter than light sand beaches because black color absorbs large amounts of solar radiation. This means that sea turtles breeding on dark sand beaches are more likely to be female because of a process called temperature dependent sex determination. So with higher temperatures, climate change will have an overall feminizing effect on sea turtles worldwide.

Wiping the dust off of many historical natural history volumes from the forefathers and foremothers of natural history, who first documented species distributions in the late 1800s and early 1900s, also provides invaluable insights by comparing historical species distributions to present-day distributions.

For example, Joseph Grinnell’s extensive field surveys in early 1900s California led to the study of how the range of birds there shifted based on elevation. In mountains around the world, there is overwhelming evidence that all forms of life, such as mammals, birds, butterflies and trees, are moving up towards cooler elevations as the climate warms.

How this spills over onto humanity

So what lessons can be taken from a climate-stricken nature and why should we care?

This global response occurred with just a 1 degree Celsius increase in temperature since preindustrial times. Yet the most sensible forecasts suggest we will see at least an increase of up to an additional 2-3 degrees Celsius over the next 50 to 100 years unless greenhouse gas emissions are rapidly cut.

All of this spells big trouble for humans because there is now evidence that the same disruptions documented in nature are also occurring in the resources that we rely on such as crops, livestock, timber and fisheries. This is because these systems that humans rely on are governed by the same ecological principles that govern the natural world.

Examples include reduced crop and fruit yields, increased consumption of crops and timber by pests and shifts in the distribution of fisheries. Other potential results include the decline of plant-pollinator networks and pollination services from bees.

Bleached coral, a result of higher acidity in the oceans from absorbing CO2. Corals provide valuable services to people who rely on healthy fisheries for food. Oregon State University, CC BY-SA

Further impacts on our health could stem from declines in natural systems such as coral reefs and mangroves, which provide natural defense to storm surges, expanding or new disease vectors and a redistribution of suitable farmland. All of this means an increasingly unpredictable future for humans.

This research has strong implications for global climate change agreements, which aim to keep total warming to 1.5C. If humanity wants our natural systems to keep delivering the nature-based services we rely so heavily on, now is not the time for nations like the U.S. to step away from global climate change commitments. Indeed, if this research tells us anything it is absolutely necessary for all nations to up their efforts.

Humans need to do what nature is trying to do: recognize that change is upon us and adapt our behavior in ways that limit serious, long-term consequences.

The Conversation

Brett Scheffers, Assistant Professor, University of Florida and James Watson, Associate Professor, The University of Queensland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Science & Wellness

UF to conduct UF Alert test Nov. 17

November 16, 2016
UF News

The University of Florida will conduct a test of its UF Alert emergency notification system for the Gainesville campus between 11:30 and 11:45 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 17, which is between fourth and fifth class periods.

Included in Thursday’s test message will be a link to the UF Alert website http://ufalert.ufl.edu, where UF students, faculty and staff can learn more about the UF Alert features. Those include the MyUFL emergency contact information screen, which displays the cell phone number indicated to receive an individual’s UF Alerts. It also allows the user to opt into or out of location-based emergency notifications for the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, UF Health at Shands and the UF Research and Academic Center at Lake Nona. All users will receive system-wide alerts.

The text portion of Thursday’s message will be sent to students, faculty and staff via text messaging, email, UF Alert social media accounts, the UF home page, IP telephones and speakers, GatorSafe app and the Department of Housing and Residence Education visual displays.

The audio portion of the message will be broadcast to essentially all Cisco IP telephones on the UF campus, as well as outdoor speakers in high-pedestrian traffic areas, including the Plaza of the Americas, the Reitz Student Union North Lawn, Turlington Plaza and the Sun Terrace at the UF Health Science Center as displayed on the UF Campus Map in the Campus Safety sections. In addition, most UF academic classrooms and class laboratories on campus include an IP telephone or speaker to receive broadcasted UF Alerts. The audio message may repeat for up to two minutes during the test.

To ensure that they will receive text messages, students, faculty and staff should update their emergency contact information and location preferences in MyUFL. Updates can be made at MyUFL by clicking on “My Account” and then on “Update Emergency Contact.”

The emergency text messaging system is used only in cases when a threat may affect the university’s campus. In such cases, the UF home page is the official source of university emergency-related information. The UF community can review emergency response and evacuation procedures online at https://emergency.ufl.edu/takeaction and within the GatorSafe app’s Take Action section.

Anyone may elect to receive UF Alert notifications on a mobile device by downloading the GatorSafe app on the Apple App Store or Google Play store. Learn how at http://ufl.to/gatorsafe.To learn more about UF Alert, including subscription settings, notification methods and additional information, go to http://ufalert.ufl.edu.

Campus Life

UF named to Victory Media’s 2017 Military Friendly Schools

November 16, 2016
UF News

The University of Florida announced today that it has earned the 2017 Military Friendly School designation by Victory Media, publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM Jobs and Military Spouse.

First published in 2009, Military Friendly Schools is the most comprehensive, powerful resource for veterans today. Each year, the list of Military Friendly Schools is provided to service members and their families, helping them select the best college, university, or trade school to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from Victory Media’s proprietary survey. More than 1,600 schools participated in the 2017 survey; 1,160 were awarded with the designation. Ratings methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Victory Media with input from the Military Friendly Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher education and military recruitment community. Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the assessment of the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for Student Retention, Graduation, Job Placement, Loan Repayment, Persistence (Degree Advancement or Transfer) and Loan Default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

According to Daniel Nichols, a Navy Reserve veteran and Chief Product Officer at Victory Media, “Our ability to apply a clear, consistent standard to the majority of colleges gives veterans a comprehensive view of which schools are striving to provide the best opportunities and conditions for our nation’s student veterans. Military Friendly helps military families make the best use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other federal benefits while allowing us to further our goal of assisting them in finding success in their chosen career fields.”

For more information about UF’s commitment to attracting and supporting military students, go to the Collegiate Veterans Success Center website at www.dso.ufl.edu/veteran.

UF will be showcased along with other 2017 Military Friendly Schools in the annual Guide to Military Friendly Schools, special education issues of G .I. Jobs and Military Spouse Magazine, and on militaryfriendly.com.

Campus Life

Alzheimer’s expert appointed director of McKnight Brain Institute

November 16, 2016
Michelle Koidin Jaffee

Todd E. Golde, M.D., Ph.D., an internationally known expert in the scientific understanding of Alzheimer’s disease, has been appointed executive director of the Evelyn F. and William L. McKnight Brain Institute of the University of Florida. His appointment will be effective Dec. 1.

“We are very fortunate to have Dr. Golde lead the McKnight Brain Institute,” said David S. Guzick, M.D., Ph.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health. “He is a world-class translational scientist and is committed to promoting collaborative neuroscience among an expanding base of research programs under the institute’s umbrella. Dr. Golde’s expertise will also stimulate cross-cutting investigation at the MBI, creating interfaces, for example, between basic, translational and clinical scientists who are supported by the McKnight Brain Research Foundation.”

Golde, currently a professor of neuroscience and director of UF’s Center for Translational Research in Neurodegenerative Disease and the 1Florida Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center consortium of institutions, has served the MBI for six years as both an investigator and a leader, pioneering programs to closely link basic-science laboratory work with patient-based studies to translate new discoveries into diagnoses and treatments.

Golde was selected as the new MBI director after an extensive national search. Interim executive director Steven T. DeKosky, M.D., will continue as deputy director.

“Dr. Golde stood out among the candidates as the person with a vision for bringing together the MBI to build on the current research and education programs, taking them to the next level,” said Thomas A. Pearson, M.D., M.P.H., Ph.D., UF Health executive vice president for research and education and the chair of the MBI director search committee.

Golde came to UF Health from the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, bringing a wealth of administrative and strategic-planning experience. As chair of Mayo’s department of neuroscience, he oversaw an extramural grant portfolio that exceeded $10 million a year.

An investigator into the study of Alzheimer’s disease for almost three decades, Golde has published more than 220 papers that have been cited more than 25,000 times. He has expanded his leading-edge research to include other neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and even malaria.

“In this new role, I hope to use these experiences to ensure that our broad neuroscience research and education programs flourish and are viewed as world-class,” Golde said. “My passion is to assemble multidisciplinary teams of physicians and scientists to conduct research into neurological disorders that could one day help change the current understanding of many of these diseases from being incurable, inevitable and largely untreatable to a new reality in which these disorders can be cured, prevented and treated.”

Nationally, Golde is a member of the medical and scientific advisory board for the Alzheimer’s Association and the BrightFocus Foundation. He also serves on several state advisory boards related to Alzheimer’s disease.

At the MBI, Golde will succeed Tetsuo Ashizawa, M.D., who is now director of the neurosciences research program at Houston Methodist Hospital.

Golde aims to align the vision and mission of the MBI, at a time when UF is preparing to open a new hospital devoted solely to neuromedicine in 2017.

“We’ve made a lot of investments in neuromedicine and neuroscience research at the Health Science Center over the last five years,” he said. “We have outstanding investigators, and I want to help them collaborate and find synergy and share resources so we can continue our growth in this area. Moving forward, we’d like more connections between research at the lab bench and care at the bedside.”

Campus Life

Simple genetic test shows promise for better outcomes in heart stent patients

November 16, 2016
Doug Bennett

A quick, precise genetic test can significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events by helping to identify more effective medication for some heart patients, a group led by University of Florida Health researchers has found.

The test identifies a genetic deficiency that affects the body’s ability to activate clopidogrel, a common anti-clotting drug given after a coronary artery stent is inserted. During a recent study from the National Institutes of Health’s Implementing Genomics in Practice (IGNITE) Network, researchers at UF Health and other sites throughout the country analyzed medical outcomes in 1,815 patients who had genetic testing at the time of their cardiac procedure. The genetic testing allows physicians to pinpoint the best anti-clotting medication for each patient.

The study reported significant results: About 60 percent of patients with the genetic deficiency were given a different, more effective medication. Using the genetic data to guide changes in therapy reduced the percentage of deaths, heart attacks or strokes by nearly half compared with those who continued taking clopidogrel, the researchers found. Among those who had the genetic deficiency and continued taking clopidogrel, 8 percent of patients experienced one of those complications. Their findings are being presented today (Nov. 15) at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

The study examined the effect of genotype-guided treatment on cardiovascular outcomes after a heart procedure known as percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI, in which a metallic stent is inserted into a heart artery to treat a blockage. More broadly, one UF Health researcher said it shows the power and the promise of personalized medicine, which tailors medical decisions based on a patient’s genetic information and other unique characteristics.

“We saw significantly fewer adverse events among patients who were switched to an alternative drug,” said Larisa Cavallari, Pharm.D., director of the Center for Pharmacogenomics at the UF College of Pharmacy and associate director of the UF Health Personalized Medicine Program, which was created in 2011 within the UF Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

About 30 percent of all patients have a genetic deficiency that impairs their ability to activate the drug, which can lead to decreased clopidogrel effectiveness and increased risk for adverse cardiovascular events such as strokes, heart attacks and death. Having timely access to a patient’s genetic information can be particularly helpful as physicians work to prescribe the most appropriate medicine.

“This is an important breakthrough in personalized medicine because it shows how a genetic marker can be used to modify treatments and improve patient outcomes,” said Dominick J. Angiolillo, M.D., Ph.D., a cardiologist, professor of medicine and director of cardiovascular research at UF Health Jacksonville.

In addition to pinpointing the best drug for PCI patients, the genetic testing is efficient. On average during the study, a patient’s genetic information was available in about one day and an alternative medication was provided within a similar time.

“There was prompt genotyping and the patients were quickly given the drug we thought would work best for them,” Cavallari said.

Yet decoding a patient’s genetic tendencies isn’t just about rapid treatment: Many patients take an anti-clotting drug for a year or longer. Patients who had the genetic deficiency and received an alternative medication were less likely to have a major adverse cardiovascular event compared with those who received clopidogrel during the follow-up period of up to a year, researchers found.

The findings are the first from a large group of U.S. patients to show that the risk of cardiovascular problems is reduced when PCI patients with a genetic deficiency get an alternative medication, said Deepak Voora, M.D., a cardiologist and member of the Center for Applied Genomics & Precision Medicine at Duke University and a co-author of the current study.

“This should give patients who carry the genetic variant and their providers confidence to use more effective, alternative medications,” Voora said.

The genetic test that identifies a patient’s response to clopidogrel is already being used at UF Health hospitals in Gainesville and Jacksonville and other sites that contributed to these results. Patient samples for the UF Health sites are analyzed by UF Health pathology labs, which helps to expedite results. In most cases, test results at UF Health Jacksonville are available within an hour. That helps physicians decide in a timely manner which drug to prescribe, Angiolillo said.

The findings being presented today are encouraging, said R. David Anderson, a UF Health interventional cardiologist and professor in the department of medicine division of cardiovascular medicine who assisted with Cavallari’s study. The results of pending clinical trials may help to determine whether or not the genotyping for clopidogrel response becomes more widely used in cardiac care, Anderson said. However, clinical trial data may not be available for several years. In the meantime, Cavallari said, data such as these from patients genotyped as part of clinical care support broader implementation.

The current research was organized through a collaborative genomic medicine network funded by the NIH and known as Implementing Genomics in Practice, or IGNITE. Other institutions that participated in the clopidogrel research were the University of North Carolina, the University of Maryland-Baltimore, the University of Pittsburgh, the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of Illinois-Chicago, Indiana University-Indianapolis, Sanford Health, Duke University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Science & Wellness

UF historian Ibram Kendi wins National Book Award, discusses racism past and present

November 17, 2016
Stephenie Livingston

Ibram X. Kendi won the National Book Award for nonfiction on Wednesday for “Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America.” The book has been praised nation-wide for turning our ideas about racism upside-down.

In his relentless odyssey through the making of America’s particular brand of prejudice, Kendi, an assistant professor of African American history at the University of Florida, calls into question everyone from well-meaning historical heroes to our country’s Founding Fathers.

Kendi is the third African-American to win in the nonfiction category, according to the National Book Foundation’s website. His book challenges our assumptions about racism by exposing the development of racist ideas—and their connection to racist actions and policies throughout our history. Racist ideas prevent us from seeing racial discrimination and that is why it’s so important for us to understand how they were developed, disseminated and enshrined, Kendi told UF News.

“I spent years looking at the absolute worst of America, but in the end, I never lost faith,” said Kendi during the National Book Award ceremony held in New York City on November 16. “In the midst of the human ugliness of racism, there is the human beauty of the resistance to racism.”

While pro-slavery thinkers were the first to advance racist thought, some who waved protest banners or wielded war against racial injustice also helped to cement racist ideas, according to Kendi’s book.

They did so by seeking freedom, but not equality, for example.             

“That's why this history is so complex, and why I chose to write a history of racist ideas, instead of racists. Because some, if not most Americans have held both racist ideas of black inferiority and antiracist ideas of racial equality,” he said.

Kendi said racist ideas have played a part in the historical development of national policies, ranging from enslavement to incarcerations to healthcare.

“Since the days of American slavery, racial disparities and inequities between the racial groups have been a consistent part of American society,” Kendi said. “For generations of Americans, racist ideas about there being something genetically, culturally or behaviorally wrong or inferior about black people, for example, have rationalized and normalized these disparities and inequities.”

But racist ideas usually wash away when the racist policies they are defending and rationalizing are washed away, he said. Kendi describes racist ideas as the public relations arm of a company of racial discriminators that produces racial disparities.

“Eliminate the company, and the public relations arm goes down too,” he said.

Despite our painful history of racism and current racial tensions, Kendi has hope. He says he has to have hope because without hope for change, we won’t press for change, and then no change is guaranteed.

“I will never lose my faith that you and I can create an anti-racist America,” he said Wednesday night.

Society & Culture

UF ranks third nationally for licensing its technologies

November 18, 2016
Sara Dagen

The University of Florida is ranked third in the nation for licenses and options executed on technologies developed at the university level, a measure of how successful its ideas are in the marketplace, according to the latest statistics recently released by the Association of University Technology Managers as part of its annual licensing survey.

In fiscal year 2015, the most recent statistics released by AUTM, UF was in the top 20 in every single category in the survey when compared with all universities reporting to AUTM. With 261 licenses and options executed, UF came in just behind the Minnesota system (268) and the University of Washington (337). That statistic includes agreements completed by UF's Office of Technology Licensing and the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

“Being ranked third in the nation for licenses and options executed is a testament to the excellent work by our researchers as they put more than $724 million in research dollars to work,” said David Norton, UF vice president for research. “It is also a testament to the hard work of our tech transfer professionals. Licenses and options are more than just agreements between UF and companies or marks of success for technologies. They’re also opportunities to see the positive difference our research can make once it’s out in the marketplace. That’s what makes the numbers exciting.”

In addition, the survey listed UF as 14th in the number of invention disclosures received (337), 16th in patent applications filed (206) and 10th in patents issued (118).

UF ranked 10th in the AUTM survey with 15 startups in 2014-15; the university helped launch another 17 startups in the fiscal year that ended in June 2016.

One of the startups launched in 2014-15 was TAO Connect (http://www.taoconnect.org/), which is committed to making treatment for anxiety and other mental health problems accessible and affordable by offering Therapist Assisted Online (TAO), a telemedicine platform that helps mental health providers, clinics, universities and patients by providing online therapeutic tools.

Anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety and panic disorder, affect as many as 40 million Americans over the age of 18, making it the most common mental illness in the nation.

UF OTL in 2015 also launched Myolyn, a startup that creates rehab technology for people with neurological disorders fighting to achieve health and athletic goals. By drawing on advanced functional electrical stimulation technology, Myolyn (http://myolyn.com/) is building equipment that allows people with paralyzed or weak muscles to perform functional movements, reversing muscle atrophy, reducing muscle spasticity, increasing blood flow and increasing range of motion.

Startup companies such as Myolyn help bridge the gap between lab and market for technologies that aren’t ready for commercialization by larger, established companies; startups are key to UF’s licensing efforts.

“It is often the startup companies who have the vision and passion and the willingness to put in 100-hour weeks that give the technology a real chance to make a difference,” said David Day, assistant vice president for technology transfer and director of the Office of Technology Licensing. “They share their vision and develop financial support to get technologies to end users – or into the hands of larger companies that will. It’s an essential role in the cycle of innovation.”

The Office of Technology Licensing at the University of Florida was established in 1985 to work with inventors to facilitate the transfer of technologies created at UF to industry partners who turn the discoveries into products that are changing the world. Technology licensing staff work with UF faculty members who disclose an average of 300 new discoveries generated from the more than $700 million in research annually.

In the past 15 years, UF OTL has launched more than 193 biomedical and technology startups. They include

Honor My Decisions


Honor My Decisions provides an app and step-by-step instructions for creating an advance care plan so easy to use that even the technology-phobic can use it successfully. It includes an opportunity to designate a healthcare surrogate to represent your medical care wishes, a living will, a video living will, an emergency contact list, a last will and testament, and a legacy video.



GeneAidyx aims to improve the lives of individuals with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency and their families through research and development and service by removing significant impediments to research by sharing resources and by developing and using cutting edge technologies to improve the early identification of individuals with alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency.

Applied Genetic Technologies Corp. 


AGTC uses gene therapy to develop long-lasting treatments for patients with genetic disorders. Gene therapy replaces broken genes with normal functional genes, allowing a patient’s own body to produce proteins to treat their illness. A single treatment provides long-lasting benefit – sometimes even for a lifetime - leading to a better quality of life for patients worldwide.



AxoGen Inc. seeks to provide surgeons with solutions to repair and protect peripheral nerves. The company has created and licensed a unique combination of patented technologies and has a rich pipeline of new products to change the standard of care for patients with peripheral nerve injuries.

Shadow Health


Shadow Health is a multidisciplinary educational software developer of rich learning environments and Digital Clinical Experiences™ (DCEs). Using the Shadow Health DCE, educators increase clinical efficiency giving them more time to focus on student achievement. Shadow Health develops these educational environments to address the critical issues facing the national and global health care systems - maintaining quality of care in the face of increasing provider shortages.



Prioria Robotics is an unmanned systems company dedicated to making UAVs smarter. Prioria believes a smart UAV is more useful, more efficient and improves the lives of customers. The company delivers cost-effective and innovative solutions to civilian and commercial markets, and to the nation's military.

See more UF startups at http://research.ufl.edu/otl/for-investors-and-entrepreneurs/engage-with-uf-startups.html.

Global Impact

Old teeth, new stories

November 18, 2016
Stephenie Livingston

Thanks to a method known for helping forensic scientists solve cold cases, University of Florida doctoral student Ashley Sharpe created a map for tracking ancient people using a curious source: millennia-old teeth.

Science & Wellness

Identifying damage to the brain’s superhighway

November 18, 2016
Tracy Gale
College of Health and Human Performance

University of Florida researchers have developed a template showing the brain’s superhighways and how they are impacted by a stroke. The brain images required to create the template were processed on HiPerGator, UF's supercomputer.

“We’re interested in the structure of the brain after a stroke,” said Stephen Coombes, assistant professor of applied physiology and kinesiology, who developed the template with post-doctoral research associate Derek Archer. “Collecting and analyzing images of brains from people that haven’t experienced a stroke helps us track the different motor pathways in the brain; sort of a ‘Google Maps’ for the brain’s corticospinal tract.”

The benefits of mapping the corticospinal tract — it’s a superhighway for movement — can have a significant impact to the care and recovery of stroke patients. 

“Knowing which part of the tract is damaged may be extremely helpful in predicting recovery after stroke,” Coombes said. “Physical therapists can also use this information to prescribe more individualized rehabilitation exercises.”

Utilizing 3,000 HiPerGator cores, the team's imaging needs were completed in three months. Without HiPerGator’s processing power, analyzing the data on a single computer would have taken 42 years of processing time. For more information about Coombes’s and Archer’s work on the corticospinal tract template and its applied use capabilities, visit the Laboratory for Rehabilitation Neuroscience web page.

Science & Wellness

UF leads in study abroad, international students

November 22, 2016
Alisson Clark
study abroad, international center

Global Gators are on the rise.

The number of University of Florida students studying abroad rose 6 percent to 2,286 for 2014-15, making UF No. 11 in the nation. That’s more than double the increase for American students nationwide, according to the 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.

“Now more than ever, it is imperative to foster global understanding and respect for diversity,” said Angela Miller, director of study abroad services at UF’s International Center.

Although study abroad is at an all-time high nationwide, only 10 percent of U.S. undergraduates take part. The UF International Center works to extend opportunities for coursework, service learning, internships and research abroad to all students through exchanges, UF-led programs and third-party providers, Miller explained.

For international students coming to the U.S., UF ranked 23rd, the highest of any Florida school. The 6,752 students come from 140 countries, with China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Brazil the top five. Nationwide, international students represent just over five percent of those enrolled in U.S. higher education, up from around 4 percent in previous years.

The Open Doors report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

Global Impact

Florida consumer sentiment up slightly in time for holiday shopping

November 23, 2016
Colleen Porter

Consumer sentiment among Floridians increased slightly in November to 90.2, up four-tenths of a point from October’s revised figure of 89.8, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

This is the first reading after the national presidential election. Because the survey procedures attempt to spread out the interviews over every day of the month, around 40 percent were completed before the presidential election was decided, and 60 percent afterward.

“Consumer sentiment in Florida remained stable throughout the presidential election process. Over the past year, consumer sentiment has fluctuated between a low of 88.1 and a high of 94.1, averaging 91.1 points,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Among the five components that make up the index, two decreased and three increased.

Perceptions of one’s personal financial situation now compared with a year ago showed the greatest decrease this month, dropping 4.1 points from 84.8 to 80.7. The downturn is shared by all Floridians with the exception of those with incomes above $50,000.

Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket item such as an appliance rose 2.5 points, from 90.3 to 92.8.

“As the election approached, this component had experienced a significant decline as a result of the uncertainty, but November’s reading shows an important recovery, just in time for the holiday season,” Sandoval said.

Expectations of personal finances a year from now rose 3.4 points from 98 to 101.4.

Views of the future of the U.S. economy were mixed:  Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year increased 2.9 points from 85.3 to 88.2, while anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years dropped 2.5 points from 90.6 to 88.1.

“Economic indicators in Florida have remained generally positive, helping to maintain overall high consumer sentiment without major fluctuations over the last two years despite the election,” Sandoval said.

The unemployment rate in Florida went up one-tenth of a point to 4.8 percent in October after remaining flat at 4.7 percent for five consecutive months. Nonetheless, job gains have been solid for the past six years. The number of jobs added statewide increased by 3.1 percent compared with last October. Furthermore, record numbers of tourists continue visiting Florida, with an increase of 5.1 percent over the year as of the third quarter of 2016.

The increase in consumer sentiment coincides with the holiday shopping season, suggesting positive growth in holiday sales this year. According to the Florida Retail Federation, “The upcoming shopping season looks very bright for Florida’s retailers, thanks to the strength of the state’s economy and increased confidence among consumers.”

The new year is harder to predict because of the upcoming change in government.

“Consumer sentiment readings and the performance of the stock market during the presidential transition period will be important to gauge consumer and investor confidence in the economy during the upcoming administration,” Sandoval said.

Conducted Nov. 1 – 20, the UF study reflects the responses of 504 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross-section of Florida.

The index used by UF researchers is benchmarked to 1966, which means a value of 100 represents the same level of confidence for that year. The lowest index possible is a 2, the highest is 150.

Details of this month’s survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/csi-data

Society & Culture

Five UF faculty members named AAAS Fellows

November 23, 2016
Steve Orlando

Five University of Florida faculty members have been named American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellows, a recognition awarded for their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.

The five join 46 other UF professors listed by the AAAS as fellows, a distinction also earned by UF President Kent Fuchs in 2010.

The awardees are

John J. Ewel, emeritus professor, department of biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences -- For distinguished contributions to the field of ecology, particularly to our understanding of tropical ecosystem functioning and management.

Hugh Fan, professor, department of mechanical and aerospace engineering, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering – For distinguished contributions to the field of microfluidics, particularly for platform development and their biomedical applications.

Alice C. Harmon, professor, department of biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – For advancing her profession by meritorious service on several editorial boards and for seminal biochemical work on calcium-dependent protein kinases in plants.

Robert Dan Holt, eminent scholar, Arthur R. Marshall Jr. Chair in Ecology, department of biology, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – For distinguished fundamental contributions to ecological theory, and in particular for advancing the integration of ecology and evolution.

Laura P.W. Ranum, professor, department of molecular genetics and microbiology, College of Medicine – For distinguished contributions to molecular and translational neuroscience, particularly in disease mechanisms for microsatellite expansion diseases and discovery of repeat associated non-ATG (RAN) translation.

This year, 391 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS. New Fellows will be presented with an official certificate and a gold and blue (representing science and engineering, respectively) rosette pin on Feb. 18 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2017 AAAS Annual Meeting in Boston. This year’s AAAS Fellows will be formally announced in the AAAS News & Notes section of the journal Science on Nov. 25.

Campus Life

UF’s Plaza of the Americas renovations scheduled to begin next week

November 23, 2016
Carter Boydstun

Renovations to the Plaza of the Americas, one of the most popular outdoor spaces on the University of Florida campus, are scheduled to begin the week of Nov. 28 and are expected to last about six months.

Located in UF’s historic district, the plaza represents the heart of the campus to students, faculty, staff and alumni. Over 1.2 million people use and traverse the plaza each year.

a rendering of newell drive looking southMurphree Way bordering the Plaza of the Americas

Renovations will include new and widened pedestrian sidewalks and infrastructure improvements, as well as plans to preserve the lawn and tree canopy. Other highlights will include:

  • a central space at the north end to accommodate student groups on a decorative hardscape platform for special events and general group uses;
  • new seating and tables on the west side to provide permanent seating for student general use and group functions;
  • new benches along sidewalks and in other areas;
  • wifi throughout the plaza area and new emergency blue phones with speaker/alert capabilities;
  • pipe bollards to prevent driving and parking on the plaza; and
  • conversion of a service drive on the plaza’s east side to a brick pedestrian walkway.

The project is expected to cost $2.2 million. Private donors, led by Herb and Catherine Yardley working with UF President Kent Fuchs, have contributed over $1.3 million.

a rendering of newell drive looking south

Newell Drive looking south

UF hired the Tampa landscape architecture firm David Conner + Associates to outline a strategy for improving the plaza, originally designed as the University Quadrangle in the 1920’s, to ensure it would be preserved and enhanced. This strategy has been incorporated into UF’s Strategic Development Plan which seeks to provide a roadmap for smart growth, innovation and collaboration over the next 40 to 50 years.

The construction area will be fenced off with pedestrian directional signage around the perimeter of the project site until work is complete. The work will be done in two stages with the east side of the plaza being renovated first.

Campus Life

UF No. 1 among public universities for graduate employability

November 22, 2016
Steve Orlando

U.S. employers say the University of Florida is the best public university in the country for finding new hires, according to the latest Times Higher Education rankings of the top universities in the nation for graduate employability.

The list of nearly 100 universities was the result of the Global University Employability Survey 2016. The rankings are part of the London-based Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

UF came in 8th overall in a group that included some of the nation’s most prestigious institutions. The top 10 were:

  1. New York University
  2. Harvard University
  3. Princeton University
  4. California Institute of Technology
  5. Stanford University
  6. Boston University
  7. Yale University
  8. University of Florida
  9. Arizona State University
  10. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

“I am immensely pleased that UF graduates are among the most highly regarded college graduates among U.S. employers,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “Our leadership as the No. 1-ranked public university in this area speaks to both the high caliber of our students and the excellence of our faculty and staff in preparing them for successful careers.”

The survey has been running for six years as a collaboration between Human Resources consultancy Emerging and employment research group Trendence. It is published exclusively by Times Higher Education.

Campus Life

O’Connell Center on schedule to be ready for December commencement

November 29, 2016
Steve Orlando
commencement, O\'Connell Center, O\'Dome

Crews are working non-stop on renovations at the University of Florida’s Stephen C. O’Connell Center, which UF officials say will be ready in time for fall commencement scheduled for Dec. 16.

Progress on the $64.5 million project, which began in October 2015, is on schedule, said O’Connell Center director Lynda Reinhart.

“After more than a year of construction work, it is very exciting to see everything coming together.  We cannot wait to show off the new building to our fans and guests,” Reinhart said. “I think people will be really amazed at the transformation that has taken place over the past several months.”

Work left to be done includes painting and the installation of tile, flooring, cabinetry and concessions equipment, as well as landscaping, she said.

“We’re extremely excited about the upcoming completion of Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center project next month,” said Chip Howard, executive associate director for internal affairs at the University Athletic Association. “The partnership between UAA and UF on managing this project has been fantastic, and the construction team at Brasfield and Gorrie has been working around the clock, seven days a week to make sure that the facility is complete, not only for commencement but for all of the events scheduled in December and beyond. 

“The fan experience will be second to none when you walk in to the new arena, and we look forward to all of our patrons being able to experience this new facility,” Howard said.

In June, UF’s Board of Trustees approved the naming rights of the main arena space to locally based Exactech, a medical orthopedic device company that has significant ties to the university and provided a $5.9 million sponsorship.

The Stephen C. O’Connell Center has been a community icon since it opened in December 1980. The arena is home to several University of Florida athletics teams including men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics, volleyball and men’s and women’s swimming and diving. In addition, the arena is the proud home to University of Florida commencement and several community events like Dance Marathon, charity events and concerts.

Fall Commencement Information

Campus Life

UF to receive nearly $10 million to support new agricultural safety and health center

November 29, 2016
Evan Barton

The University of Florida has received a grant of nearly $10 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, or NIOSH, for a five-year project to explore the occupational safety and health of people working in agriculture, fishing and forestry in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North and South Carolina. 

The goal of the new center is to conduct research and educational activities designed to promote occupational health and safety among Florida’s 47,000 farm operators and their families, as well as their employees and contractors.

“Much of the data about Florida’s agricultural safety and health is over a decade old,” said J. Glenn Morris, M.D., M.P.H., director of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute and a professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions and the UF College of Medicine. “We need to add to the body of knowledge about farming, fishing and forestry workers in the region, so we proposed establishing a center that will facilitate collaboration with researchers throughout the Southeast.”

Morris is the director of the center, called the Southeastern and Coastal Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, or SEC-CAgSH. It will be the 11th U.S. Agricultural Safety and Health center sponsored by NIOSH.

While the University of Florida is the hosting institution, researchers from the University of South Florida, Florida State University, Emory University and Florida A&M have all agreed to work together on projects aiming to better understand the region’s occupational safety and health needs. NIOSH has awarded the grant to UF’s College of Public Health and Health Professions. Researchers from several UF colleges will participate.

“This center provides an exciting opportunity for UF faculty to use their scientific expertise to address vital public health questions that will enhance the safety and well-being of people whose work is critical to our agricultural and seafood industries,” said Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., dean of the College of Public Health and Health Professions.                                                                                                          

Faculty members from the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, or IFAS, are also involved in the project.

“Protecting the health of those who provide the labor for the $155 billion-a-year agriculture and natural resources industry has long been a focus area of IFAS research and Extension,” said Jack Payne, Ph.D., senior vice president of agriculture and natural resources. “UF is particularly qualified to address such complexities because of the comprehensive expertise it has.

“The partnership between IFAS research and Extension, PHHP and EPI will create a powerful interdisciplinary focus on agricultural safety and health that will provide the industry with the tools and training to maintain a healthy workforce,’’ Payne said.

The center will provide an opportunity to expand UF’s current training and outreach programs throughout the state and eventually the Southeast region, while developing new educational materials and methods of dissemination for diverse audiences.

Several projects are already underway. Andrew Kane, Ph.D., an associate professor in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions’ department of environmental and global health, serves as the center’s associate director and lead investigator of the research project focused on Gulf seafood worker safety.

Seafood industry workers are exposed to some of the greatest occupational risks nationally, according to Kane. While there are numerous anecdotal reports of injuries, very little data exists on worker health and safety in this largely self-employed and self-insured population. Kane’s team seeks to extend current knowledge about everyday hazards and risks in northeastern Gulf fisheries through surveys, direct observations, community engagement and expanded academic and community partnerships. The team will then develop, implement and assess community-based training activities aimed at reducing injuries.

Gregory Glass, Ph.D., and Joseph Grzywacz, Ph.D., will also lead projects at the center. Glass, a professor of geography and a member of the Emerging Pathogens Institute, will use remote sensing technology to estimate the levels of pesticide and herbicide usage in Florida’s croplands. Grzywacz, a professor in Florida State University’s College of Human Sciences and the chair of the department of family and child sciences, will develop and test whether safety and education materials produce changes in safety behaviors among Latino farmworkers.

Tracy Irani, Ph.D., a professor in UF/IFAS and the chair of the department of family, youth, and community sciences, will oversee the center’s outreach and community engagement efforts.

“Our role in the center will entail working with communities to identify the particular needs that are specific to agricultural production in Florida and the Southeast,” Irani said. “We also plan to develop new materials and utilize new media to reach our target populations in new ways.”

Agriculture, fishing and forestry comprise a multibillion-dollar industry in the state of Florida. Florida is the second largest producer of fresh fruit and vegetable crops in the nation. Oranges alone generate more than $1.3 billion of annual sales, ranking as Florida’s second most important single commodity after greenhouse/nursery products, according to the USDA. The farm value of fresh market tomatoes, the state’s third most important commodity, averages about $500 million annually.

The production and harvesting of these and other specialty crops grown in Florida depends on agricultural workers who produce and harvest citrus, fresh market vegetables, strawberries, blueberries and melons, as well as ornamental plants for the landscape and environmental horticulture sector.

According to a UF/IFAS study, one acre of tomatoes is estimated to require more than 200 labor hours to plant, grow, harvest and pack for the fresh market. One acre of citrus harvesting requires between 50 and 60 hours of manual labor.

Science & Wellness

Experts’ roundtable: the future of journalism in Trump’s America

November 30, 2016
Frank Waddell

UF College of Journalism professor Frank Waddell, along with academics from four other universities, weighs in on the challenges journalists face in covering the next administration


Navigating the fake news landscape

After the proliferation of fake news during the 2016 election cycle, the journalism field has come to a grim realization: Accuracy is no longer necessary for news to reach a broad audience. This is particularly problematic on social media, where traditional journalistic functions such as gatekeeping aren’t necessary.

For journalists hoping to cope with the deluge of fake news, the first step is to understand why fake news stories are so successful. One reason is our default instinct to believe what we have been told, a phenomenon that psychologists have coined “truth bias.” We are also easily persuaded by the opinions of others, so the likes, comments and shares of those in our social networks can affirm the validity of fake news stories.

Meanwhile, when we’re overwhelmed with information, we’re more likely to take mental shortcuts like truth bias. The average social media user often must sift through hundreds of news stories on Facebook or Twitter. When deciding whether to click the “share” button, it’s simply easier for readers to trust their gut and go along with the crowd than to carefully consider the veracity of the news story in question.

With these obstacles to accuracy in mind, what can legacy media do? The burden falls on journalists and social media platforms.

News outlets can educate the public in media literacy, debunking viral fake news along the way. Social media sites like Facebook must also do their part, not just by banning the most popular fake news sources, but also through offering their users with easy-to-process cues (like implementing a “verified news” tag) to indicate when news that has been posted by a reliable and established source.

It may be our tendency to believe what we read, but that doesn’t mean our natural instincts can’t be reversed.

The ConversationThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Society & Culture

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