/articles/2017/02/mary-tyler-moores-death-a-reminder-of-the-toll-of-diabetes.php

Mary Tyler Moore’s death a reminder of the toll of diabetes

February 1, 2017
Desmond Schatz

Desmond Schatz, professor and medical director of the UF Diabetes Institute, observes that diabetes, which kills 69,000 people annually, is an epidemic bound to worsen.

Mary Tyler Moore debuted on television in the 1950s, appearing in commercials that aired during a popular show. Her star continued to rise until Moore landed the eponymous sitcom that became a staple of 1970s pop culture.

But it was another event that cast her in a new, unfamiliar and lifelong role: a diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes at age 33. Moore, who died Jan. 25 at age 80, did more than just fight her disease. She leveraged her star power to become an advocate for diabetes research.

Moore’s official cause of death, cardiopulmonary arrest, was released Jan. 30. Diabetes was listed as a contributing factor.

As a physician who directs a diabetes institute at an academic medical center, I see this moment as a teaching opportunity about her disease. I also hope to show how Moore used her celebrity for good in the fight against diabetes, which kills 69,000 people a year, more than the toll of HIV/AIDS and breast cancer combined.

An old problem, with new and growing numbers

The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes, in all forms, in the U.S. increased by 382 percent from 1988 to 2014.

There are two types, but both involve the build-up of sugar in the blood, which can damage blood vessels and organs and lead to death and disability.

Type 1 diabetes arises when the pancreas fails to produce insulin that allows the body to extract energy from food. Sugar builds up in the blood rather than going to cells, where it is used for energy. About 1.25 million people have this type of diabetes, and it is what Mary Tyler Moore suffered from.

Type 2 diabetes is much more common, with about 30 million people suffering from this condition and another estimated 86 million people in the U.S. considered prediabetic. In Type 2 diabetes, the body does not use insulin properly, causing blood sugar levels to fluctuate and metabolism of sugar to be inconsistent. Lifestyle changes can help treat Type 2, also, but medication is frequently needed.

Moore, who was otherwise healthy when diagnosed with diabetes, said in 2006 that she was “incredulous” to learn that her blood sugar was nearly seven times the normal level. Not satisfied to just manage her condition, Moore immersed herself in the fight against the disease.

Moore’s persistence paid off: Her lobbying of Congress helped boost the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s funding by more than US$1 billion over the years, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Medline Plus magazine.

Such is the positive power of being a celebrity. For Moore, the diagnosis was never about mere acceptance of the disease or simply going public about its effect on her life. Later in life, Moore spoke candidly about the diabetic complications she was suffering. Through it all, her trademark smile and determination were a beacon of hope to other patients.

In 2001, Moore rallied a group of experts and some 200 diabetes patients as part of an effort to gain more federal research funding. Moore could have emphasized her diabetes when she testified to Congress then, but instead spoke about how it affects others.

“A child with Type 1 diabetes is a living time bomb. Each child faces a future with the risk of early blindness, kidney failure, amputation, heart attack, and stroke,” Moore told USA Today. “Even if they do all they can to be as normal as possible, they’re not. And long before these children become old, they’re forced to face the possibility of their own mortality.”

An epidemic bound to worsen

Diabetes in all its forms is now at epidemic proportions: Each day, 3,800 people in the United States are diagnosed. Of the estimated 86 million people with prediabetes, nearly 90 percent of them are unaware of their condition. Education and awareness are especially important for this group. Prediabetes can be treated, and diabetes can be averted. This is important, because diabetes itself cannot be cured. With care, it can be managed. But it does not go away.

Diabetes is not merely a public health threat. It is also creating a fiscal calamity. Caring for a diabetes patient costs 2.3 times more than treating someone who doesn’t have the disease. Lost productivity and medical expenses related to diabetes cost our country $322 billion a year.

Despite being 30 times more prevalent than HIV/AIDS, per-patient spending on diabetes research by the National Institutes of Health pales when compared to research spending on the immunodeficiency virus. In 2012, for example, NIH spent $5.6 billion on cancer research, compared to $1 billion for diabetes.

In Mary Tyler Moore, the millions of current and future diabetes patients had a tireless supporter. Moore often spoke about overcoming the denial, anger and fear that came with her diabetes diagnosis. In her memoir, “Growing Up Again: Life, Loves, and Oh Yeah, Diabetes,” Moore recalled being gripped with fear of self-injecting insulin, along with journaling, charts, urine testing and other aspects of disease management. Ultimately, she overcame all of that and gave hope to millions of her fellow patients.

As the principal investigator in numerous National Institute of Health and Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation-funded studies aimed at preventing and/or reversing Type 1 diabetes, I see the power and promise that research holds.

Now, it’s our turn to carry on Mary Tyler Moore’s message. Diabetes researchers and the public can honor her commitment to diabetes research by lending our voices to the cause. Our nation lacks a sense of urgency about the need for more research for a cure and education about self-management of the disease.

Tell your state officials and congressional representatives that diabetes is an urgent public health problem. Left unchecked, it may only get worse. Help ensure that funding the best research, education and treatments is a priority.

Like Mary Tyler Moore’s on-screen persona, we can make it after all.

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

Science & Wellness
/articles/2017/02/research-connects-overeating-during-national-sporting-events-to-medical-problems.php

Research connects overeating during national sporting events to medical problems

February 2, 2017
Dan Leveton

New study says higher percentage of patients seek treatment

People who overeat during national holidays and national sporting events – like this weekend’s Super Bowl – are 10 times more likely to need emergency medical attention for food obstruction than any at other time of the year, according to a new study led by a University of Florida researcher.

Dr. Asim Shuja, a gastroenterologist at UF Health Jacksonville, led the research team. The study used data collected over an 11-year period from the emergency room at St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Boston.

“Though the sample size was small, it’s clear that a pattern emerged showing a higher percentage of people seeking treatment during or just after the holiday or event,” Shuja said, “and a much greater percentage during those times needed help because food was impacted in their esophagus. It’s a very serious problem that people need to be aware of.”

Most of the problems affected men, and most of the cases came during or just after the Thanksgiving holiday. But Shuja and the other researchers say other holidays, such as New Year’s Day or events such as the Super Bowl, also were associated with a higher incidence of cases.

Serving size and how quickly people ate were listed as possible risk factors, as was alcohol consumption.

Over the study period, from 2001 to 2012, 38 people underwent an emergency procedure on the esophagus during or just after the holiday or sporting event time period (within three days of the event). Nearly 37 percent of those were due to a food impaction. Comparatively, of the 81 who had the same procedure two weeks before and two weeks after the event during the “control period,” just under 4 percent were due to food impaction. During holidays and national sporting events, the most common impacted food was turkey (50 percent), followed by chicken (29 percent) and beef (21 percent).

“We think the main message here is for people to be aware and not to, for lack of a better term, overindulge,” Shuja said. “Not only the amount of food you’re eating during the holiday or event, but the size of the portion you’re eating can have a tremendous impact.”

The paper was published in the December issue of the journal Gastroenterology Report.

Other institutions involved in the study were Tufts Medical Center in Boston and Central Texas VA Healthcare System in Temple, Texas.

Science & Wellness
/articles/2017/02/mythbusters-contestant-brings-shows-lessons-to-water-treatment-work-.php

‘MythBusters’ contestant brings show’s lessons to water-treatment work

February 3, 2017
Alisson Clark
MythBusters, Science Channel. engineering

For three-time Gator grad Tracy Fanara, appearing on the Science Channel show “MythBusters: The Search” wasn’t just a shot at stardom, but a chance to get people excited about science.

“‘MythBusters’ breaks barriers of political parties and cultures,” said Fanara, who edged out 3,000 applicants for a spot on the show. "It reaches such a broad demographic."

Fanara drew on her bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering to tackle the challenges posed in each episode. Principles from UF’s Interfacial Phenomena class informed her strategy for painting a room with explosives, while her football fandom helped her shine in the Deflategate challenge.

tracy fanara catches footballs

While Fanara’s chance to become a host of the rebooted show ended in the fourth episode, the skills she gained are shaping her work at Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, where she studies how water quality impacts public health. Before filming the show, she didn’t have much experience building the technologies she designs. But fabricating a sideways ejector seat, a cardboard boat, and a contraption to separate needles from a haystack gave her newfound confidence. After 10- to 12-hour days on the set, Fanara would go back to her hotel room to build a NASA-sponsored project for Mote Marine.

Since returning to Florida, she has submitted a proposal for a water-treatment technology that retrofits watersheds to reduce toxins and nutrients — and she’s planning to build it herself.  

dr. tracy fanara holds a water sample

photo courtesy of Mote Marine Laboratory

Even better than the build skills she gained, she says, is hearing from girls and their parents who reach out to say she has inspired them.

“Being a role model for young girls was the coolest part of the whole thing. I want them to know that science is cool, and that anyone can be a scientist or engineer with passion and hard work.” 

Science & Wellness
/articles/2017/02/university-of-florida-partners-in-new-manufacturing-usa-institute.php

University of Florida Partners in New Manufacturing USA Institute

February 6, 2017
UF News

The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI) will receive nearly $300 million in public-private investment from leading manufacturers, universities, non-profit organizations and the federal government to develop scalable manufacturing processes for engineered tissues and organs.

On a battlefield in the not-too-distant future, a soldier whose leg was shattered by a roadside bomb could have a brighter future. The injured soldier’s bone may ultimately be replaced with a biomanufactured version that could perform as well as the original and – most importantly – would not be rejected by the body.

This is one of the goals of the Department of Defense (DoD), which has tapped the University of Florida (UF) to lead efforts in the Southeastern United States in biofabrication – the manufacturing of tissues and living implants for numerous applications.

UF is the Southeastern node of a new public-private Manufacturing USA initiative, the Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI).  Headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, ARMI is the 12th Manufacturing USA Institute.  It brings together nearly 100 partner organizations from industry, government, academia and the non-profit sector to develop next-generation biomanufacturing processes and biotechnologies.

Approximately $80 million from the federal government will be combined with more than $200 million in cost share to support the development of tissue and organ manufacturing capabilities. As a part of continuing efforts to help revitalize American manufacturing and incentivize companies to invest in new technology development in the United States, ARMI will lead the Advanced Tissue Biofabrication (ATB) Manufacturing USA Institute on behalf of the Department of Defense.

The need is as real and as urgent as today’s headlines.

“The Department of Defense has a significant number of warfighters who experience horrific injuries.” Blast injuries, for example, often involve burns and the loss of bone. “The Department of Defense has tackled this because they believe – and I too believe – that we can make a difference,” said Greg Sawyer, a Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering professor in UF’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering.

Sawyer, who is directing UF’s research efforts said, “One of our goals is to develop bone that can be implanted in people and won’t be rejected, but will be incorporated into their existing bone and skeleton.”  UF’s research spans multiple areas in biofabrication including 3D biosystems for drug screening, organ life support systems, and implantable living tissues.

One of UF’s key contributions is its Soft Matter Engineering Center, which has developed technologies for 3D printing of soft materials. These printing techniques pioneered by Sawyer’s colleague, professor Tommy Angelini, enable the precise placement and support of cells, tissues, and materials in 3D.  Direct printing of these materials into a “Liquid-Like Solid” medium provides continuous support and stability in an aqueous environment that contains nutrients and drugs needed for development.

Prior to Angelini’s discovery, printing an extremely soft object in three dimensions was impossible because, by its nature, most 3D printing methods require an object to solidify layer by layer, with the printing tip depositing a material such as a plastic or metal, which hardens to provide its own support.

One of the first areas that Sawyer believes UF can make an impact is in the development and fabrication of microtissues – essentially making miniature pieces of liver, for instance, or small precise tumors, and use them to test treatments for disease.

“We’ve already demonstrated the ability to do this,” Sawyer said.

Other UF researchers involved in the project and critical to its success include David Hahn, professor and chair of the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering; Dr. Parker Gibbs, a professor of Orthopedic Surgery and Chief Medical Officer for UF Health Shands; and Steve Ghivizzani, a professor in the Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation in the UF College of Medicine.

Under the umbrella of Manufacturing USA, a public-private network that invests in the development of world-leading manufacturing technologies, ARMI will work to integrate and organize the fragmented collection of industry practices and domestic capabilities in tissue biofabrication technology in order to better position the USA relative to global competition. ARMI will also focus on accelerating regenerative tissue research and creating state-of-the-art manufacturing innovations in biomaterial and cell processing for critical Department of Defense and civilian needs.

“We need to develop 21st century tools for engineered tissue manufacturing that will allow these innovations to be widely available – similar to how a 15th century tool (the printing press) allowed knowledge to spread widely during the Renaissance,” said inventor Dean Kamen, ARMI’s chairman.

ARMI’s efforts are supported by forty-seven industrial partners, twenty-six academic and academically affiliated partners, and fourteen government and non-profit partners. The ARMI partnership continues to grow.

About ARMI:
The Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute (ARMI), headquartered in Manchester, New Hampshire, is the 12th Manufacturing USA Institute.  It brings together a consortium of nearly 100 partners from across industry, government, academia and the non-profit sector to develop next-generation manufacturing processes and technologies for cells, tissues and organs. ARMI will work to organize the current fragmented domestic capabilities in tissue biofabrication technology to better position the USA relative to global competition. For more information on ARMI, please visit www.ARMIUSA.org.

Science & Wellness
/articles/2017/02/uncovering-the-roots-of-racist-ideas-in-america.php

Uncovering the roots of racist ideas in America

February 6, 2017
Ibram X. Kendi

UF assistant professor of history Ibram X. Kendi maintains that ignorant and hateful people and those who lack patriotic sentiments rarely are at the root of racist ideas, despite what Americans are taught so often during Black History Month.

Donald Trump proclaimed during his inaugural address, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

Opening our hearts to patriotism will not solve the problem of racist ideas. Some of the nation’s proudest patriots have also been the nation’s most virulent racists. The organizing principle of the Ku Klux Klan has always been allegiance to the red, white and blue flag.

Lacking patriotism is not the root of racist ideas. But neither is ignorance and hate, as Americans are taught so often during Black History Month.

Contrary to popular conceptions, ignorant and hateful people have not been behind the production and reproduction of racist ideas in America. Instead, racist ideas have usually been produced by some of the most brilliant and cunning minds of each era. And these women and men generally did not produce these ideas because they hated black people.

In my new book, “Stamped from the Beginning,” I chronicle the entire history of racist ideas, from their origins in 15th-century Europe, through colonial times when early British settlers carried racist ideas to America, all the way to their emergence in the United States and persistence into 21st century. I distinguish between the influential producers of racist ideas, and the consumers of them. And I study the motives – and historical circumstances – behind the production of racist ideas. My persisting research question was not merely what racist ideas influential Americans produced, but why they produced those racist ideas at a particular time and how those ideas impacted America.

What caused Thomas Jefferson to decry “Amalgamation with the other color” in 1814 after he had fathered several biracial children with Sally Hemings?

What caused U.S. Sen. John C. Calhoun of South Carolina in 1837 to produce the racist idea of slavery as a “positive good” when he knew slavery’s torturous horrors?

What caused President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to affirm that “the greatest existing cause of lynching is the perpetration … of the hideous crime of rape” when he probably saw the data that showed that rape was not the greatest existing cause?

What caused think tankers and journalists after the presidential election of Barack Obama in 2008 to produce the racist idea of a post-racial society during all that post-election violence against black bodies?

Time and again, racist ideas have not been born and bred in the cradle of ignorant, hateful or unpatriotic minds. Time and again, powerful and brilliant men and women have produced racist ideas in order to justify the racist policies of their era, in order to redirect the blame for their era’s racial disparities away from those policies and onto black people.

The common conception that ignorance and hate lead to racist ideas, and that racist ideas initiate racist policies, is largely ahistorical. It has actually been the inverse relationship – racial discrimination has led to racist ideas which has led to ignorance and hate.

“Stamped from the Beginning” shows that the principal function of racist ideas in American history has been to suppress resistance to racial discrimination and its resulting racial disparities. The beneficiaries of slavery, segregation and mass incarceration have produced racist ideas of black people being best suited for or deserving of the confines of slavery, segregation or the jail cell. Consumers of these racist ideas have been led to believe there is something wrong with black people, and not the policies that have enslaved, oppressed and confined so many black people.

From the beginning, Americans have been trying to explain the existence and persistence of racial inequities. Racist ideas considering racial inequality to be normal due to black pathology have locked heads with anti-racist ideas that consider racial inequality to be abnormal and the effect of racial discrimination. Anti-racist ideas have called for the justice of equity, while racist ideas have called for the law and order of inequality.

A year after young black men were nine times more likely than other Americans to be killed by the police, President Trump has not said anything about protecting black lives from police violence. He is not issuing any executive orders banning racist cops or armed white supremacists from black communities. He made abundantly clear what lives matter to him on his new White House website.

“The Trump administration will be a law and order administration,” reads the page, “Standing Up for Our Law Enforcement Community.” It adds: “President Trump will honor our men and women in uniform and will support their mission of protecting the public. The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump administration will end it.”

In his inaugural, Trump suggested there can be racial unity in his law-and-order America. He quoted the Bible. “‘How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.’”

One thing from my research is clear: Racial unity is impossible when racial inequalities are created and maintained by racist policies that are justified by racist ideas. Racist ideas have always been like walls built by powerful Americans to keep us divided, and these walls have always normalized our racial divisions and inequities.

Americans no longer need the law and order of inequality, poverty and black death. Americans no longer need walls of racist ideas. Americans need the ordering justice that honors and protects the women and men in that unfailingly imperiled uniform – the uniform of blackness. Only then, I believe, will God’s people have a chance to live together in unity.

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

Society & Culture
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Gators in Coral Gables!

February 7, 2017
Margot Winick

University of Florida office to welcome alumni, provide enhanced engagement in South Florida

To further its commitment to the thousands of alumni, students, research, programs, partnerships and shared aspirations that the University of Florida enjoys with South Florida, the University has dedicated UF Coral Gables, an office that consolidates a multitude of operations that already have a Miami footprint.

Building with sign

Located at 1 Alhambra Plaza in downtown Coral Gables, the office is not intended as a site for instruction, but will house advancement and admissions staff, UF Online, and the UF College of Education’s Lastinger Center for Learning, creating efficiencies and consolidating staff already located in the area.

Ribbon Cutting

Enhancing alumni engagement in South Florida at the dedication of UF Coral Gables: Kelley A. Bergstrom, MBA '68, UF Foundation board member and past chair; UF President Kent Fuchs; Provost and Senior VP of Academic Affairs Joseph Glover and Tim Cerio,  BA '90, JD '95 Past President of the University of Florida Alumni Association.

“UF Coral Gables is part of the vision for the University of Florida to impact the lives of people across our state and beyond,” said President Kent Fuchs. “This office embodies the many connections the flagship Florida university has in South Florida, and helps support our goal toward becoming a premier university that the state, nation, and world look to for leadership.”

“South Florida is the home of thousands of alumni, friends, parents, corporate leaders, and current and future students,” said Tom Mitchell, UF’s vice president for advancement. “UF can now offer a unique way to share the Gator experience with our diverse constituencies.”

Some of the University’s successful and active alumni and donors include:

Al (BSBA ’58) and Judy Warrington are UF’s most generous benefactors. Al, a UF Distinguished Alumnus, is the namesake of the Warrington College of Business. Following a 32-year accounting career with Arthur Andersen, he founded several companies, including Sanifill, which became Waste Management. Instrumental in creating UF's School of Accounting and Business Advisory Council, he also served as president of the Alumni Association and Gator Boosters and was a Trustee and UF Foundation director. The Warringtons established endowments for UF's libraries, athletic programs and Florida Opportunity Scholars, and were honored with the Academy of Golden Gators Lifetime Philanthropy Award in 2014.

John (BSIE ’66, MBA ’70, JD ’73) and Mary Lou (JD ’80) Dasburg received the Academy of Golden Gators Lifetime Volunteer Award in 2014. John led numerous American companies, including Burger King, Northwest Airlines and Marriott. A Trustee and UF Foundation director, he received Honorary Doctorate and Distinguished Alumnus awards. The Dasburgs contributed endowed chairs in Business, Engineering and Law and provided the lead gift for the Dasburg House, the new family residence for UF’s president. 

Charles Stuzin, BSBA ’64, is chairman of Coconut Grove Bankshares, Inc., and president of SF Partners Financial, LLC, which is a family office involved in various investments. He is former CEO and president of Citizens Federal Bank. Stuzin has served on the UF Foundation board and the Business Advisory Council for many years.  To honor the family patriarch, a gift by the Stuzin Family named David Stuzin Hall in the College of Business.

Herbert “Herbie” (Engineering ’62-’63) and Nicole Wertheim received the Academy of Golden Gators Transformational Leaders Award in 2016. Herbie is a Distinguished Alumnus, a member of Blue Key and is the namesake of the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering and the FIU Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine. Nicole is the namesake of the FIU Nicole Wertheim College of Nursing and Health Sciences. In 1971 he founded Brain Power Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic instruments and chemicals. A scientist, clinician and entrepreneur, his enduring discoveries have improved lives for millions of people. He is renowned as an educator, business leader and philanthropist supporting a variety of causes most notably public higher education and is Trustee Emeritus at Florida International University.

Earl (Liberal Arts & Sciences ’60) and Christy (BS ’71) Powell are generous supporters of UF, contributing endowments to Medicine and Athletics. Earl, a Distinguished Alumnus, is chair of Powell Investment Advisors. With more than 25 years of investment experience, he is chair emeritus and co-founder of Trivest Partners, the oldest private equity firm in the Southeast. Earl helped establish and served as chair of the UF Investment Corporation and was a Trustee and UF Foundation director for many years. Christy served on the board of National YoungArts Foundation for many years and is a past president of the Young Patronesses of the Opera. She was a vice president of the Junior League of Miami and serves on the board of Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.

Alan Pareira, BSBA ’60, is CEO of Florida Atlantic Securities and has been active in the investment business since 1961. He has served as director of several public companies and on multiple finance committees. He is a founding member UF’s College of Business Advisory Council and the UF Investment Corporation, completing multiple terms on the UFICO board Aug. 2016. He has served on the UF Foundation board for many years and is a lifetime member of the board. A generous supporter, Pareira has established funds in Business, Education, the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine.

Juan Galan, Jr., BSIE ’66, is the former founder and principal owner of GATO Distributors, a Miami-based beverage company and one of the top 50 Hispanic businesses in the United States. A former chair of the UF Foundation board, he has served as a member since 1991. Galan has been instrumental in UF fundraising efforts, serving as the regional chair for Dade County during UF’s first capital campaign, “Embrace Excellence,” and as national regional chair of the university’s “It’s Performance That Counts” campaign. Galan and his wife, Martha, have also supported UF through generous contributions to Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In 2005, Galan was recognized as the “Gran Caiman,” an award presented to an outstanding member of the UF Hispanic alumni community.

Gary Gerson, BSBA ’54, MBA ’55, is the namesake of Gary R. Gerson Hall, home of the Fisher School of Accounting. He is the founding partner of Gerson Preston, one of Florida’s leading accounting firms. At age 21, Gerson distinguished himself as the youngest CPA in the country and has continued his role of leadership as a philanthropist, civic leader and entrepreneur. He and his wife, Niety, have generously supported the Warrington College of Business and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Gerson is the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Alumnus Award, and has served on the UF Foundation board and campaign committees since the 1990s. He was inducted into UF’s Athletic Hall of Fame and received the first-ever UF Volunteer Lifetime Achievement Award.

The Hon. Bob Graham, BA Poli Sci ’59, is a retired United States Senator and former Florida governor with more than four decades of public service. In 2006, he founded UF’s Bob Graham Center for Public Service with a mission to train the next generation of public and private sector leaders for Florida, the United States and the international community. A Distinguished Alumnus, Sen. Graham received an honorary doctor of public service degree from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and was inducted into the UF Hall of Fame. His wife, Adele, was honored in 2007 as UF’s Alumnae of Outstanding Achievement.

Roberto Vizcón, BSBR ’79, is an award-winning broadcaster and producer with nearly 40 years of experience in newsgathering and television station management. He is the news director of WLTV- TV Univision 23, a Spanish-language newscast, and previously worked for Univision Puerto Rico and WFUN TV, the largest independently owned TV station in the United States. In 2013, Vizcón received an Emmy Award for News Excellence and in 2002 another Emmy Award for News Series Producing. He is the recipient of two additional Emmy Award nominations and the Silver Circle award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences for 25 years or more in television.

Aminda Marques Gonzalez, BSJ ’86, is the executive editor and vice president of the Miami Herald, where she began her journalism career as an intern and later became the paper’s first Hispanic editor. Under her leadership, the Miami Herald was twice named a Pulitzer Prize finalist. In 2016, Gonzalez received the Presidential Award of Impact from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. A Distinguished Alumnus, she serves on the boards of the Pulitzer Prize, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Poynter Institute’s advisory council.

Paul Castronovo, BSBR ’84, is the host of "The Paul Castronovo Show" on WBGG-FM (Big 105.9), a South Florida commercial radio station, and president of Castronovo Vineyards in Italy. He previously co-hosted "The Paul and Young Ron show," a morning radio program that consistently led ratings on five stations from Vero Beach to Key West. The show ran for 26 years and featured celebrity interviews and trademark banter about entertainment, idiosyncrasies of life and Miami sports. Castronovo was named a UF Distinguished Alumnus award in 2013.

The University of Florida enjoys the following programs in Miami, among others:

  • The UF College of Veterinary Medicine partnership with Miami-Dade Animal Services Pet Adoption and Protection Center.
  • The UF College of Dentistry’s Hialeah Dental Center provides all phases of dentistry care to thousands of residents of all ages.
  • The UF Lastinger Center for Learning, part of the College of Education, has a long track record of innovations in teaching in every county in the state, including partnering with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools Office of Early Childhood Programs to create the VPK Academy, a job-embedded form of professional development to help teachers and paraprofessionals from Title I schools improve teaching practices and child outcomes in Miami’s Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) classrooms.
  • Since UF is the university partner to New World School of the Arts, NWSA graduates can easily apply for enrollment after completing Associate degree requirements.
  • UF brings the arts to STEM education at St. Thomas Episcopal School
  • UF’s climate variability and change research through the Florida Climate Institute.
  • The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension Office works on commercial vegetable, tropical fruit and ornamental industries, offers pesticide training, commercial urban and homeowner horticulture, and water quality research; and the IFAS Tropical Research and Education Center does research, extension and teaching in ornamental, vegetable, and tropical-subtropical fruit and biofuel crops.
  • Through UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, UF assesses healthcare and educational needs of Miami-Dade children and provides the state with the gold standard of population data.

UF Coral Gables is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., weekdays. To schedule a visit contact, Alexa Butler, 786-482-6350. To learn more visit ufcoralgables.com.

Campus Life
/articles/2017/02/extinct-tortoise-yields-oldest-tropical-dna.php

Extinct tortoise yields oldest tropical DNA

February 7, 2017
Emily Mavrakis

An extinct tortoise species that accidentally tumbled into a water-filled limestone sinkhole in the Bahamas about 1,000 years ago has finally made its way out, with much of its DNA intact.

As the first sample of ancient DNA retrieved from an extinct tropical species, this genetic material could help provide insights into the history of the Caribbean tropics and the reptiles that dominated them, said University of Florida ornithologist David Steadman. It could also offer clues to the region’s future, as the tropics undergo significant transformation due to climate change.

“This is the first time anyone has been able to put a tropical species into an evolutionary context with molecular data,” said Steadman, an ornithology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and co-author of the study discussing the finding.

“And being able to fit together the tortoise’s evolutionary history together will help us better understand today’s tropical species, many of which are endangered.”

skull photo

The fossil skull of the Bahamian tortoise, which yielded the first ancient tropical DNA. Photo courtesy of Nancy Albury.

He called the finding “boundary-pushing” and said that even after DNA was extracted from the tortoise bones, the researchers were not optimistic that much information could be gleamed from it.

“Not only did we have DNA, we were surprised to find we could amplify it and sequence DNA beyond what we had available,” Steadman said.

Most ancient DNA has come from mammals that lived in temperate regions, he said.

“The two things that are really good for the long-term preservation of DNA are coldness and dryness,” Steadman said. “And the tropics typically provide neither one.”

A plastic 3-D model created from the ancient tortoise’s shell rests easily in two hands, about the size of a football. Bite marks from crocodiles and other predators are visible on the surface.

“The tortoise went through a pretty ugly existence,” he said.

After retrieving the tortoise from Sawmill Sink, a deep blue hole in the Bahamas with steep vertical walls, scuba divers found not only the shell intact, but the entire skeleton.

“That’s really unheard of in the fossil record, especially in the West Indies,” Steadman said.

cascade photo

Two divers explore deep inside a blue hole in the Bahamas. Photo by Brian Kakuk

Access to the tortoise’s skeleton and DNA enabled Florida Museum herpetologist emeritus and study co-author Richard Franz to describe its anatomy and structure in as much detail as modern species. Divers found other giant tortoises preserved in the water, but performed DNA analysis on only one for the published study.

“In the fossil record, so many species are described just from a few fragments that exist, and while it’s a lot better than nothing, you don’t get to characterize the entire critter,” Steadman said. “Whereas, with this tortoise, well, here it is.”

The tortoise skeleton contained bone collagen, a protein, which allowed scientists to radiocarbon date the animal and find out when it died. Several other tortoises that were also found in the Bahamas—though not as well preserved—helped researchers determine the species went extinct about 780 years ago, soon after the arrival of human settlers in the area.

“There’s a correlation that the arrival of humans spelled the demise of the tortoises,” Steadman said. “It’s probably a blend of direct hunting and habitat loss as the humans started burning the forests in the dry season.”

The chemical composition of the water in Sawmill Sink prevented the decay of animals that fell into the water, died about fell to the bottom 80 feet down. The secret: water with no oxygen. The water in Sawmill Sink is stratified, or has several layers. The decay of plants and animals removes the oxygen from the water deeper than 70 feet, helping to preserve the fossils.

tourtoise photo

Photo courtesy of Nancy Albury.

Although the conditions in Sawmill Sink are an exception rather than a rule, the findings give scientists more hope of finding material from other extinct tropical species.

“We now know so much about the tortoise’s anatomy, how it lived and its evolutionary context,” he said. “To be able to do that with other species is a goal.”

Science & Wellness
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New bat barn expands one of the world's largest urban colonies

February 9, 2017
Alisson Clark

The University of Florida’s bat house — and the bat barn that was built to accompany it in 2010 — shelters one of the world’s largest urban bat populations.

The story of its success begins with a conflagration and ends with a tourist attraction, with ridicule, public protest and the intervention of two Florida governors along the way. This month, the bat village grew with the addition of another bat barn. With the original house crumbling, officials hope the resident bats will move from the original house into the new barn, a longer-lasting design that builds on what they’ve learned over the years. But as they learned from the first bat house, bats don’t always take a hint.

screen shot of story on Atavist about UF bat house 

Campus Life
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The most important thing you’re not discussing with your doctor

February 9, 2017
Melissa J. Armstrong

UF assistant professor of neurology Melissa J. Armstrong suggests ways individuals can watch out for themselves and ultimately have an impact on health care quality.

Politicians and policymakers are discussing what parts of the Affordable Care Act to change and what to keep. While most of us have little control over those discussions, there is one health care topic that we can control: what we talk about with our doctor.

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released the landmark publication Crossing the Quality Chasm 15 years ago. The report proposed six aims for improvement in the U.S. health system, identifying that health care should be patient-centered, safe, effective, timely, efficient and equitable.

The idea that health care should be patient-centered sounds obvious, but what does that mean? The IOM defines it as care that is “respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values” and that ensures “patient values guide all clinical decisions.”

For this to truly happen, doctors’ appointments need to cover more topics than how one is feeling and what can be done. Does your doctor know your values?

If you answered no, you’re not alone. Fewer than half of people report that their physician or other health care provider asks about their goals and concerns for their health and health care.

Your doctor can discuss medical tests and treatments without knowing your life goals, but sharing your values and needs with your doctor makes discussions and decisions more personalized – and may lead to better health.

How does patient-centered care happen?

In order for your health care to center around you, your doctor needs to know your values, preferences and needs. Everyone is different. Your values and needs may also vary from one appointment to the next.

From www.shutterstock.com

As a neurologist, when I’m working with a 76-year-old widow whose main goal is to remain independent in her home, we frame her care in that context. We weigh benefits of medications versus the complexity of adding one more drug to her crowded pill box. We discuss how a walker helps her be more independent rather than less, as she can move around her home more safely.

When a stressed college student comes to my office for a bothersome tremor, his preference is to avoid medications that he might forget to take or that might harm his school performance. This guides our discussion of the pros and cons of different options, including using medications but also doing nothing, an option that almost half of patients feel strongly should always be discussed. A year from now after graduation, we’ll revisit the conversation, as his goals and needs may be different.

In sharing their values and goals with me, these individuals enabled a health care approach that respected their needs and also responded to their life circumstances.

Values and shared decision-making

Incorporating your values alongside what we know from medical research is the basis of shared decision-making, described as the pinnacle of patient centered care. Shared decision-making is a partnership between you and your physician. If you involve someone else like a spouse in decision-making, they can be engaged in shared decision-making, too.

Shared decision-making is not just relevant when deciding whether or not to start a treatment, but also when deciding whether to undergo screening (e.g., mammography) or get testing to tease out a diagnosis. The key element of shared decision-making is incorporating your values and preferences alongside the best available evidence.

To do this, your physician should explain the medical information associated with each of the different options – the research, the anticipated benefits and how likely they are, the risks and how often complications or side effects happen, the costs, etc.

Your physician should also discuss your values and preferences as they relate to these options. For example, when partnering with a person with chronic daily headache and a high-stress job, I’ll help him or her reflect on the potential benefits of fewer headaches on work productivity but also the potential impact of the side effect of morning grogginess.

With so many options and so much uncertainty in medicine, individualized care is critical. That happens most effectively if you and your doctor are on the same page about your goals and needs.

Tools for navigating shared decision-making

There are three-step and five-step outlines for shared decision-making, which are primarily aimed at helping physicians be intentional about this process.

These models frame the steps of medical discussions slightly differently, but both emphasize that patients and health care professionals need to be engaged – it’s a partnership. Alternatives are compared, values discussed and a decision made. Reassessment is also an important part of shared decision-making, as alternatives and values can change over time.

For common decisions, different health care organizations have created decision aids to help physicians and patients talk through the scientific evidence, pros and cons, and values that are likely to impact the specific decisions to be made.

The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has decision aids on topics including lung cancer screening, nonsurgical treatment options for women with incontinence and treatments for men with localized prostate cancer.

The Mayo Clinic Shared Decision Making National Resource Center has decision aids for common topics such as choosing the right medicine for depression and deciding whether you should treat osteoporosis (and if so, what treatment makes the most sense).

Decision aids are not designed for patients to make decisions on their own. They are created to enhance your partnership with your doctor, providing a structured way for you to talk through a decision by reviewing the evidence and your preferences.

What you can do

While busy lives can hinder introspection, it is helpful for you to know your own goals and needs. Are you focused on working two more years until retirement? Do you want to explore physical therapy or diet changes before considering medications? Are you walking your daughter down the wedding aisle in two months and want something to hide the tremor that never really bothered you before?

If you know your values and your goals for the coming months or years, it’s easier to share them with your doctor.

Shared decision-making also requires you to be an active participant. Listen to the options, the pros and cons. Ask questions. Think through how each option relates to your personal values and preferences. Take time if you need it. And then with your doctor, decide what’s best for you.

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

Science & Wellness
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Can a dying patient be a healthy person?

February 10, 2017
James W. Lynch

UF professor of medicine James W. Lynch describes how some individuals can remain at peace even as they face death.

The news was bad. Mimi, a woman in her early 80s, had been undergoing treatment for lymphoma. Her husband was being treated for bladder cancer. Recently, she developed chest pain, and a biopsy showed that she had developed a secondary tumor of the pleura, the space around one of her lungs. Her oncology team’s mission was to share this bad news.

Mimi’s case was far from unique. Each year in the U.S., over 1.6 million patients receive hospice care, a number that has been increasing rapidly over the past few years. What made Mimi’s case remarkable was not the grimness of her prognosis but her reaction to it.

When the members of the team walked into Mimi’s hospital room, she was lying in bed holding hands with her husband, who was perched beside her on his motorized wheelchair. The attending oncologist gulped, took a deep breath, and began to break the news as gently as he could. Expecting to meet a flood of tears, he finished by expressing how sorry he was.

To the team’s surprise, however, no tears flowed. Instead Mimi looked over at her husband with a broad smile and said, “Do you know what day this is?” Somewhat perplexed, the oncologist had to admit that he did not. “Today is very is special,” said Mimi, “because it was 60 years ago this very day that my Jim and I were married.”

The team members reacted to Mimi with astonishment. How could an elderly woman with an ailing husband who had just been told that she had a second, lethal cancer respond with a smile? Compounding the team’s amazement, she then went on to share how grateful she felt for the life she and her husband had shared.

Mimi thanked the attending oncologist and the members of the team for their care, remarking how difficult it must be to deliver bad news to very sick patients. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Mimi was expressing sympathy for the people caring for her, exhibiting a remarkable generosity of spirit in the face of a grim disease.

The members of the team walked out of Mimi’s room shaking their heads in amazement. Once they reached the hallway, the attending physician turned and addressed the group: “Mimi isn’t the only person in that room with cancer, but she is surely the sickest. And yet,” he continued, to nods all around, “she is also the healthiest of any of us.”

“Be thine own palace, or the world’s thy jail.” - John Donne

Disease need not define us

Mimi’s reaction highlights a distinction between disease and illness, the importance of which is becoming increasingly apparent. Simply put, a body has a disease, but only a person can have an illness. Different people can respond very differently to the same diagnosis, and those differences sometimes correspond to demographic categories, such as male or female. Mimi is a beautiful example of the ability to respond with joy and gratitude in the face of even life’s seemingly darkest moments.

Consider another very different patient the cancer team met with shortly after Mimi. Ron, a man in his 40s who had been cured of lymphoma, arrived in the oncology clinic expecting the attending oncologist to sign a form stating that he could not work and therefore qualified for disability payments. So far as the attending knew, there was no reason Ron couldn’t hold a job.

Ron’s experience of disease was very different from Mimi’s, a phenomenon familiar to cancer physicians. Despite a dire prognosis, Mimi was full of gratitude. Ron, by contrast, though cured of his disease and apparently completely healthy, looked at his life with resentment, even anger. He felt deeply wronged by his bout with cancer and operated with a sense that others should do what they could to help make it up to him.

Mimi was dying but content with her life. Ron was healthy but filled with bitterness. Both patients had the same diagnosis – cancer - but the two human beings differed dramatically, and so too did their illness experiences. Mimi felt blessed by 60 years of a good marriage, while Ron saw in his cancer just one more example of how unfair life had been to him.

“Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so…” - John Donne

The real meaning of health

When the members of the cancer team agreed that Mimi was the healthiest person in the room, they were thinking of health in terms of wholeness or integrity. In fact, the word health shares the same source as the word whole, implying completeness or fullness. Ron felt repeatedly slighted, but Mimi looked at life from a perspective of abundance.

A full life is not necessarily marked by material wealth, power over others, or fame. Many people who live richly do so modestly and quietly, never amassing fortunes, commanding legions, or seeing their picture in the newspaper. What enriches their lives is not success in the conventional sense but the knowledge that they have done their best to remain focused on what really matters.

Mimi easily called to mind many moments when she and those she cared about shared their company and their love. Any sense of regret or sorrow over what might have been quickly gave way to a sense of gratitude for what really was, still is, and will be. Her outlook on life was shaped by a deep conviction that it had a meaning that would transcend her own death.

Couple enjoying the snow. Via Shutterstock. From www.shutterstock.com

When someone has built up a life ledger full of meaningful experiences, the prospect of serious illness and death often do not seem so threatening. For Mimi, who had lived most of her days with a keen awareness that they would not go on forever, death’s meaning had been transformed from “Life is pointless” to “Make every day count.”

Mimi regarded the prospect of dying as a lens through which to view the meaning of life. She saw her illness as another adventure through which she and Jim would pass. Death would separate them, but it would also draw them closer together, enabling them to see more clearly than ever how much their love meant to them.

From Mimi’s point of view, death is not a contaminant, fatally introduced to life at its final stage. Instead death is a fire that burns away all that is not essential, purifying a person’s vision of what is most real and most worth caring about. Though not happy to be ill, Mimi was in a profound sense grateful for death. Her sentiments echo those of the poet John Donne:

“One short sleep past and we wake eternally: And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.”

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

Science & Wellness
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Gator entrepreneurs return to Gainesville

February 13, 2017
Kaitlyn McKinley

Alumni are increasingly choosing to locate their world-class companies near UF

For years, Gainesville was often perceived as the launching point for people shaped by the University of Florida, but now more entrepreneurial-minded alumni are returning to launch their global businesses from the college town turned tech-savvy center.

For many of these companies, their close ties to UF play a significant role in their success. Others chose Gainesville due to its large talent pool, low cost of living, tax incentives, high quality of life, and the abundance of affordable, customizable office space.

Nanotherapeutics, SharpSpring and Feathr are three of the latest companies headed by UF alumni to establish headquarters in the Gainesville area. The rising success of these companies has signaled Gainesville’s transformation into a thriving hub ideal for business growth.

“The heart of all of this is the university,” says Nanotherapeutics’ Chairman of the Board, Weaver Gaines. “If we are doing it right, and I think we are, it will look like San Diego in a few years.”

Nanotherapeutics, a biopharmaceutical company that specializes in development and manufacturing, is one such example of a successful company rooted in years of collaboration with UF. Founded in 1999 by James Talton, who received his Ph. D. in Pharmaceutical Science at UF, Nanotherapeutics has thrived since starting out at the Sid Martin Biotech Development Institute.

Talton’s decision to stay in Gainesville was motivated by the quality and affordability of lab spaces available to UF licensed companies. The continued support from the biotech incubator and Talton’s focus on National Institution of Health grant acquisition led the company to rapid growth.

In 2011, Nanotherapeutics collaborated with UF to become the prime offeror on the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority flu vaccine contract. At the time, Nanotherapeutics was too small to handle the $1 billion contract, so UF assembled a team to partner on the proposal.

Nanotherapeutics was a finalist in the running for the contract to develop large scale vaccines for influenza, and the support from UF was integral to this success. Although they did not receive the contract, it prepared Nanotherapeutics to submit a similar proposal in 2013 for which they received a Department of Defense contract to manufacture medical countermeasures. This $450 million contract provided the funding to open their 183,000 square-foot plant near Progress Park in Alachua.

For Nanotherapeutics, the proximity to UF is a catalyst to their success, especially given the talent graduating from UF, noted Gaines.

Emergence of the Gainesville Tech Scene

Biomedical and pharmaceutical companies are not the only ones thriving in Gainesville. 

The Innovation Square corridor, a newly developed area located between the UF campus and downtown Gainesville, is pulsing with life as new tech startups move in and capitalize on the resources of the research institution in their backyard.

Aidan Augustin and Aleksander Levental are among the mix of UF alumni who created a name for themselves in Innovation Square. Feathr, their digital event marketing software company, started at UF’s Innovation Hub, an incubator for startups and small businesses to collaborate and grow through mentorship and training. When they graduated from the Hub, they relocated to Austin, Texas, to grow and ultimately reinvent their business. After a year in the city renowned for startup culture, they pursued a more permanent location where they could start hiring their team.

outside photo

The façade of UF’s Innovation Hub. Photo by Hannah Pietrick.

inside photo

Inside UF’s Innovation Hub. Photo by Hannah Pietrick.

When deciding where to relocate Feathr, Augustin and Levental considered several cities that could provide a platform for their business to continue evolving and expanding. In the running for Feather’s new home were metropolitan areas like New York, Orlando and Miami. But during their search, Gainesville was a top contender.

"The density of tech company peers and eminent walkability make Gainesville's Innovation Square/downtown area perfect for startups. Everyone is an important part of the community, whether you just launched or have 300 employees. There are a lot of opportunities for visibility and involvement,” Augustin said.

Aside from the city’s startup culture, Levental and Augustin said that the talent pool in Gainesville is full of qualified potential hires eager for jobs at fast-growing companies.

“Some of the smartest kids in the state of Florida go to UF, and that’s not just a thing Gator fans say,” Augustin commented. “That’s meaningful from a recruiting standpoint.”

They found that recruiting in Gainesville was easier than in larger locales. The ability to network with faculty and students was another invaluable asset that contributed to their decision.

Another Gainesville-based corporation was founded by Rick Carlson, UF MBA and CEO of SharpSpring. Located in Innovation Square, the global headquarters of this publicly traded digital marketing automation company is attracting UF students and producing exponential growth.

“The downtown area, including Innovation Square, is attracting high quality companies, and there is a lot of momentum here for it to continue. That, combined with the talent coming out of UF, is fueling the emergence of a true tech center,” Carlson said.

SharpSpring founder Rick Carlson sat down to discuss his state-of-the-art business. Photo courtesy of SharpSpring.

In September 2016, SharpSpring made a move to the newly constructed Nimbus office building, the final chapter in a year-long collaboration between the company and local developer, Trimark Properties. John Fleming, managing partner at Trimark Properties, is a UF alumnus with deep ties to the Gainesville community.

The goal was to customize a state-of-the-art 15,000 sq. ft. building to embody the culture of SharpSpring while paying tribute to the company’s roots in the Gainesville community, Fleming said.

“The trending emphasis on office culture and work-life balance will position SharpSpring to attract the new millennial workforce,” Fleming said.

The mounting success of local startups has driven the need for further expansion of Innovation Hub. With the completion of the second phase of construction at the end of 2017, more entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to establish competitive businesses by joining the Innovation Square family.

“The downtown area, including Innovation Square, is attracting high quality companies, and there is a lot of momentum here for it to continue. That, combined with the talent coming out of UF, is fueling the emergence of a true tech center,” Carlson said. 

Society & Culture
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UF convenes Early Childhood National Summit

February 14, 2017
Alisson Clark
early childhood, College of Education

Starting Ahead, Staying Ahead

Giving children a strong start in their first five years doesn’t just help children and their families. The benefits of their success radiate throughout their communities – as do the consequences when they struggle. But the many fields that help shape what happens for young children and their families during these critical years don’t always work together.

Collaborating across disciplines related to early childhood development and learning was one of the challenges posed to over 100 scholars, policy makers, advocates, philanthropists and practitioners who gathered in Orlando for the University of Florida’s Early Childhood National Summit Feb. 8-10. In the first five minutes, UF President Kent Fuchs made it clear that the summit was focused on creating actionable ideas and steps to move the field forward.

“It is crucial that our work on behalf of children is tangible, that it is scalable, and that it reaches the children who need it,” Fuchs said.

The summit, also attended by UF Provost Joseph Glover, professors from six UF colleges and the deans of UF’s College of Education, Levin College of Law, College of Medicine, and College of Public Health and Health Professions, brought together early-childhood leaders from around the country.

University of Kansas special-education professor Judith Carta, the interim director of early childhood research at KU’s Juniper Gardens Children’s Project and one of the summit’s expert panelists, lauded UF for recognizing the importance of the issue and taking action.

“We’re using the University of Florida as an example of what universities can do if they just get behind the right issues,” she said.

anita zucker making a speech

After a welcome from philanthropist and InterTech Group CEO Anita Zucker, a UF alumna who created the Anita Zucker Center for Excellence in Early Childhood Studies at her alma mater, the group heard from keynote speaker Jacqueline Jones of the Foundation for Child Development. After her speech, Jones, who served as the U.S. Department of Education’s first deputy assistant secretary for policy and early learning, stressed the importance of working to retain bipartisan support for early childhood initiatives.

“Where is the common ground, and how do we get to it and hold on to it?” Jones said. “We have to do that, or we’ve failed the children and families we work for.” 

panelists at the UF early childhood summit

Before summit attendees broke out into workgroups, panelists with expertise in psychiatry, pediatrics, psychology, law, education and advocacy shared perspectives to inform the discussions. Their presentations illustrated just how high the stakes are during early childhood, detailing chronic medical conditions with roots in early childhood and factors that influence children’s potential before they’re even born. Then the workgroups got down to the business of the summit: creating recommendations and actions on how to move forward.

summit attendees in their workgroups

By the afternoon, each workgroup had addressed three themes – discovering the keys to opening young minds, influencing the influencers to unlock children’s potential, and inspiring new initiatives for the next generation – drawing on the diverse backgrounds and expertise of participants such as New York University pediatrics professor Dr. Benard Dreyer, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The summit’s multidisciplinary approach “is absolutely the only way we’ll make progress,” Dreyer said.

The day closed with talks by Glover, Zucker and early childhood advocate David Lawrence Jr., a UF alum, president of the Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and chair of the Children’s Movement of Florida. The next morning, Anita Zucker Center director Patricia Snyder, UF’s David Lawrence Jr. Endowed Chair in Early Childhood Studies, presented each workgroup’s recommendations for feedback and further development.

The recommendations and action steps will compel us to continue to be a convener of early childhood activities and will help elevate this work to a broader level,” Snyder said.

After final input from the summit attendees and facilitators, the recommendations and action steps will be shared with the policy makers, practitioners and scholars who will shape the future of early childhood.

As Anita Zucker Center co-director Maureen Conroy put it: “We really want this summit to be the beginning, not the end.”

Society & Culture
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Red hot oysters

February 14, 2017
Beverly James
Valentine\'s Day

Many turn to oysters for Valentine’s Day energy, UF researchers say

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, you might be thinking about revving things up by eating a few oysters. We’ve all heard that oysters are aphrodisiacs, but researchers with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say there’s more to the story.

“Oysters might be perceived as an aphrodisiac because they have a high proportion of glycogen, a form of stored carbohydrate that can give you energy,” said Peter Frederick, a research professor with the UF/IFAS department of wildlife ecology and conservation.

Leslie Sturmer, a regional UF/IFAS Extension agent specializing in molluscan shellfish aquaculture, says the high nutritional content of oysters helps people feel good, hence the reputation for being an aphrodisiac.

“Oysters have a high zinc content, have very little fat and are full of essential vitamins and minerals,” she said. “So, consumers who eat oysters regularly may attribute extra energy to the oysters.”

Directions: Heat a sauté pan to high heat; add the butter and garlic, sauté the fresh oysters for 2 minutes. Remove them from the sauté pan; add the heavy cream, Creole seasoning and saffron. Reduce the cream until it thickens, put the oysters back into the cream and add your favorite hot sauce. Cook for another 2-4 minutes and serve over linguini. Top with the fresh Parmesan cheese.

Illustration by Michael McAleer

While scientists are not sure that oysters are an aphrodisiac, they are sure that more and more people are falling in love with the creatures. Oyster bars are popping up across the country, and prices have never been higher, Sturmer said. “Branding is focusing on the different taste of oysters from different bodies of water,” she said.

The French use the word “terroir” to describe the characteristics of a vineyard or cropland – soil composition, slope of the land, climate – that gives unique local flavor to food.  The word “merroir” (from the French word for the sea mer) has now come to be applied to the taste of seafood, and particularly oysters, Frederick said. Consumers say that oysters from Apalachicola taste different from those in Cedar Key, and oysters from individual rivers in the northeastern U.S. have their own, well-defined merroir, he said.

“Consumers request oysters based on location, which reflects brininess, saltiness and mineral flavors,” Frederick explained. “They know what they want, and the depth of flavor appreciation has exploded.”

For more information on oysters, click here.

Society & Culture
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UF applications hit a record high

February 14, 2017
Steve Orlando

Applications to the University of Florida reached a new record this year, with more than 34,000 prospective students vying for admission during the summer and fall semesters of 2017.

This year’s total application number – 34,553 – represents a nearly 8 percent increase over last year’s total of 32,026.

Of those who applied for summer and fall 2017, UF admitted 13,214 for a 38 percent acceptance rate – down from last year’s acceptance rate of 42.5 percent.

The latest numbers were released in connection with Decision Day, when applicants learn whether they have been admitted to UF. This year’s Decision Day was Friday, Feb. 10.

“This group of students is absolutely among the most competitive ever,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “The growing interest in UF is a reflection of what an amazing place this is. Congratulations to those who were admitted. I look forward to seeing all of the new Gators this fall.”

Academically, the group admitted this year is a strong one. Its average GPA is 4.4, while its average SAT score is 1349 and its average ACT score is 30.

In addition to the traditional application track, UF offers Innovation Academy, which pulls students from 30 majors into a cohort that attends classes on a spring-summer schedule, and Pathway to Campus Enrollment, or PaCE, in which students complete a minimum of two semesters via UF Online before becoming residential students.

Innovation Academy launched in 2013, while PaCE was created in February 2015.

Those who applied for summer/fall 2017 have until May 1 to notify UF of whether they intend to register for classes.

Decision Day at a glance

Application Numbers:

Nov 1st                  32,526

Post Nov 1st            2,027

Total                      34,553

Enrollment Goal:  6,600 Summer B/Fall

Admits = 13,214 (Fall = 10,074; Summer B = 3,140)

Fall Admit Profile

Average GPA     4.4

Average SAT      1349

Average ACT      30

Innovation Academy:

Total Admits 979

Pathway to Campus Enrollment – PaCE

Total Admits 2,420

Campus Life
/articles/2017/02/buy-now-floridians-say-this-is-the-time-to-purchase-a-home-survey-shows.php

Buy now: Floridians say this is the time to purchase a home, survey shows

February 15, 2017
Colleen Porter

Even as homeownership nationwide is at a record low, a slim majority of Floridians say now is a good time to buy a house, according to a newly released University of Florida survey.

Half of Floridians (50.1 percent) think it is a good time to buy a house, according to the survey UF researchers conducted in October and November. About 19.3 percent thought it was a bad time, while 30.6 percent were uncertain, the survey shows

A recently released report from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that as of 2016, the Florida homeownership rate has dropped 8 percentage points to 64.4, the lowest since the government started tracking in 1984. Florida’s homeownership rate reached a peak of 72.4 percent in 2006, right before the Great Recession.

The Florida homeownership rate is still higher than the U.S. rate, but the drop since the pre-recession high was greater in Florida than nationwide. The U.S. homeownership rate had peaked at 69.0 percent in 2004, then fell 5.6 percentage points to 63.4 percent in 2016.

Among the survey respondents who favored buying a home now, the most common reason given was favorable interest rates (46.1 percent), a situation that might change in the months ahead as the Federal Reserve increases rates.  Other reasons are low home prices (18.7 percent), the availability of many homes (13.6 percent) and favorable economic conditions (12.4 percent). 

Of those who thought it was a bad time to buy a house, unfavorable economic conditions topped the list (41.5 percent) followed by high house prices (31.1 percent) and difficulty qualifying for a mortgage (11.4 percent). 

Opinions varied by gender, with “good time” chosen by 52.4 percent of men but only 47.2 percent of women. Positive attitudes increased with age: Only 37.9 percent of young adults under age 30 said “good time,” compared with 54.4 percent of those age 60 or older. 

The purchase of a home depends largely on economic conditions and the purchaser’s lifecycle factors, such as forming a household or the exit of young family members from the home.

“Home ownership is seen as an important way to accumulate wealth and build assets over time, in particular among low-income and minority groups,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research and an author of the study.

He noted that some Floridians may not have the means to invest in the stock market, but their home will likely appreciate in value over time, provides a legacy to the next generation and could be used as collateral for a loan in times of need.

Regardless of volatility in house prices and maintenance costs, owning a home is not only associated with personal financial gains, but it also benefits the community.

“Homeowners have greater incentive to care about their community because their home values depend on both the physical characteristics of the house and the neighborhood,” Sandoval said.

Since World War II, home ownership has been considered part of the American Dream. Is that dream still alive in Florida? In the survey, 45 percent of Floridians strongly agreed (14.2 percent) or agreed (30.8 percent) that “owning a home is necessary to live The American Dream.” Over a quarter (26.8 percent) neither agreed nor disagreed while 21.4 percent disagreed and 6.8 percent strongly disagreed.

There were significant differences by race and region regarding home ownership and the American Dream: 42.7 percent of whites agreed or strongly agreed, compared with 51.5 percent of non-whites. Only 38.2 percent of those in North Florida agreed or strongly agreed, but over half (50.5 percent) of those in Southeast Florida. 

The survey sample included 362 non-owners who were also asked about their own likelihood of buying a house. Almost a third (32.3 percent) said they were unlikely to ever buy a house, while 10.8 percent planned to buy in the next year, 44.5 percent in the next five years and 12.4 percent in the next 10 years. 

“Following the Great Recession, mortgage lending practices tightened,” Sandoval said. “Slow job growth together with the debt load of young adults, many of whom are paying down student loans, have prevented the entrance of new buyers to a rebounding housing market.” 

Conducted Oct. 1 to Nov. 30, the UF study reflects the responses of 1,058 individuals who were reached on cellphones, representing a demographic cross section of full-time Florida residents. These analyses did not include those who were part-time residents or “snowbirds.”

Details of the survey can be found at http://www.bebr.ufl.edu/.

Society & Culture
/articles/2017/02/uf-alumnus-selected-for-gates-cambridge-scholarship.php

UF alumnus selected for Gates Cambridge Scholarship

February 20, 2017
Mark Law

36 future leaders chosen for prestigious Cambridge University Scholarship, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Thirty-six of the most academically outstanding and socially committed US citizens have been selected to be part of the 2017 class of Gates Cambridge Scholars at the University of Cambridge. The University of Florida is pleased to have an alumnus selected as a Gates Cambridge Scholar for the third year in a row. Mr. Simpson follows Yevgen Sautin (UF class of 2012, 2016 Gates Scholar) and Juan Serrano (UF class of 2014, 2015 Gates Scholar) to Cambridge.

Photo of Grant Simpson

Grant Simpson

Grant Simpson will pursue an MPhil in Chemistry with the aim of developing new, more selective cancer therapeutics. His research project involves using quadruple helical DNA structures as platforms to hold both cancer-targeting antibodies and cancer-cell-killing drugs. He intends to develop synthetic methods to chemically link these different classes of biomolecules in order to circumvent the poor efficacy and side effects of current, standard-of-care chemotherapy and increase the therapeutic utility of first generation antibody-drug conjugates. Grant, majored in Chemistry and Cognitive and Behavioural Neuroscience and minored in Philosophy at UF.

The prestigious postgraduate scholarship programme – which fully funds postgraduate study and research in any subject at the University of Cambridge - was established through a US $210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000; this remains the largest single donation to a UK university. Since the first class in 2001 there have been more than 1,600 Gates Cambridge Scholars from 104 countries who represent more than 600 universities globally (more than 200 in the USA) and 80 academic departments and all 31 Colleges at Cambridge. The gender balance is approximately 50% men and women.

In addition to outstanding academic achievement the programme places emphasis on social leadership in its selection process as the mission of the programme is to create a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.

In the US round 2017 approximately 800 candidates applied for the scholarship; 200 of these were nominated by their prospective departments in Cambridge and 97 were put forward for interview by shortlisting committees and were interviewed by panels of academics from the UK and USA in Washington D.C. at the end of January.

The 36 US Scholars-elect will join 54 Scholars from other parts of the world, who will be announced in early April after interviews in late March and will complete the class of 2017. The class of 2017 will join current Gates Cambridge Scholars in October to form a community of approximately 220 Scholars in residence at the world-leading University of Cambridge.

Campus Life
/articles/2017/02/why-trumps-epa-is-far-more-vulnerable-to-attack-than-reagans-or-bushs.php

Why Trump’s EPA is far more vulnerable to attack than Reagan’s or Bush’s

February 28, 2017
Walter Rosenbaum

Walter Rosenbaum, UF professor emeritus of political science, observes that today’s political climate gives new EPA head Scott Pruitt a clear path to seriously cut back EPA enforcement – more so than previous administrations.

For people concerned with environmental protection, including many EPA employees, there is broad agreement: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is in deep trouble. The Conversation

The Trump administration has begun the third, most formidable White House-led attempt in EPA’s brief history to diminish the agency’s regulatory capacity.

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s newly appointed EPA administrator, is a harsh critic and self-described “leading advocate against EPA’s activist agenda.” Pruitt’s intention to reduce EPA’s budget, workforce and authority is powerfully fortified by President Donald Trump’s own determination to repeal major EPA regulations like the Obama’s Clean Power Plan and Climate Action Plan.

Previous presidents have tried to scale back the work of the EPA, but as a former EPA staff member and researcher in environmental policy and politics, I believe the current administration is likely to seriously degrade EPA’s authority and enforcement capacity.

The vanished majorities

This latest assault on EPA is more menacing than previous ones in part because of today’s Republican-led Congress. The Democratic congressional majorities forestalled most past White House efforts to impair the agency’s rulemaking and protected EPA from prolonged damage to its enforcement capability.

Anne M Gorsuch, an outspoken critic of the EPA who was forced to resign as administrator, was appointed by Reagan who vowed to roll back regulations. EPA

Presidents Ronald Reagan (1981-1988) and George H. W. Bush (1989-1993) both sought to cut back EPA’s regulatory activism. Reagan was fixated on governmental deregulation and EPA was a favorite target. His powerful assault on EPA’s authority began with the appointment of Anne Gorsuch, an outspoken EPA critic, as EPA administrator. Gorsuch populated the agency’s leadership positions with like-minded reformers and supervised progressive reductions in EPA’s budget, especially for EPA’s critically important enforcement division, and hobbled the agency’s rule-making – a key step in the regulatory process – while reducing scientific support services.

Bush’s forays against EPA authority were milder, consisting primarily of progressive budget cuts, impaired rule-making and disengagement from international environmental activism.

During the Reagan years, Democratic majorities in the House (1981-1991) and Senate (1987-89) launched continuing committee investigations that revealed the agency leadership’s pervasive obstruction of regulatory rule-making and forestalled massive damage to EPA programs.

Wastewater from a paper mill in Louisiana pollutes water downstream in 1972. U.S. National Archives

Gorsuch was forced from office together with many upper and middle politically appointed managers; the budget stabilized, and new administrators William Ruckelshaus (who returned after serving as the first EPA administrator) and Lee Thomas revived staff morale, rule-making and scientific research. In the end, Reagan impeded and delayed regulation but ultimately failed to impair permanently major air, water and toxic waste programs.

I worked for one of EPA’s assistant administrators during the first Bush administration, when EPA’s leadership and staff were acutely aware of White House aversion to much of EPA’s regulations. But it was nothing like the state-of-siege mindset so pervasive at EPA during the Reagan years and already returning to EPA now, as witnessed by protests by former and current EPA employees to Pruitt’s nomination.

The agency’s budget, rule-making and regulatory impact were sometimes impaired during the Bush years, but then EPA administrator William Reilly was committed to EPA’s mission, and congressional Democrats prevented severe reductions in the agency’s budget, workforce and regulatory authority.

An unfortunate time to regulate

Paradoxically, EPA’s accomplishments may also leave it vulnerable to its opponents. Forty years of regulation have diminished such publicly convincing evidence of severe pollution that led to EPA regulation in the first place, including rivers polluted by raw sewage, hidden toxic waste dumps like New York’s Love Canal, smokestacks emitting dense clouds of pollutants and uncontained mine wastes contaminating Appalachian mountainsides.

Today’s most significant environmental hazards, such as climate warming or plasticizers in rubber products, are less visible, their adverse consequences requiring years or decades, to become apparent. “To a certain extent,” EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, has observed, “we are victims of our own success. Right now, EPA is under sharp criticism partly because it is not so obvious to people that pollution problems exist and that we need to deal with them.”

Scott Pruitt addresses EPA employees. An ally of the oil and gas industry who has sued the EPA 14 times, Pruitt has caused concern among employees and many others who fear the agency’s budget will be slashed and environmental protections loosened. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Additionally, a public rally to EPA’s defense seems improbable. Most Americans customarily express to pollsters considerable concern for environmental protection when asked, but it is a passive attitude. Neither EPA nor the environment are important issues when most Americans vote – and that’s what most concerns Congress and the White House.

For instance, in the 2016 presidential elections, the Pew Research Center poll revealed “the environment” was only twelfth in importance among registered voters, well behind the leading concerns about the economy, terrorism and foreign policy. Exit polls in the 2016 presidential elections indicate that environmental issues are irrelevant to voters’ candidate preferences. Moreover, the currently pervasive public distrust and anger directed toward the federal government may further inhibit public engagement in EPA’s defense.

Pruitt and his administrative team can also inflict immense damage upon regulatory capacity in ways that are not very evident to the public. Almost half of the EPA budget supports such crucial pollution abatement activities as regulation enforcement, scientific research and international collaboration. Moreover, public doubts about the credibility of climate warming science and environmental risk analysis can be deliberately amplified through public discourse during efforts to rescind existing regulations and to abort new ones.

Defense strategies

Environmentalists, deeply apprehensive and infuriated by this new EPA onslaught, have a multitude of opposition options. Lawsuits – a traditionally effective strategy – can be initiated in federal courts to suspend or reverse unacceptable EPA regulatory decisions. But a new wave of litigation will impose considerable delay in important rule-making, and a court-imposed impasse can discourage compliance by regulated interests, such as polluters.

Environmental organizations can attempt to mobilize public support and pressure Congress to counteract Pruitt-led revisions of EPA’s organization and rule-making. In particular, increased activism at the state level can be a countervailing force to federal environmental retrenchment. Since major federal environmental legislation has often been crisis-driven, a new environmental disaster may be the perverse catalyst to renewed regulatory vigor at EPA.

None of these alternatives, however, will likely avert an early, comprehensive onset of Pruitt’s regulatory regression at EPA. In short, EPA’s time of trouble will be dangerous and tenacious.

Article updated on Feb. 24 to correct the state that Love Canal is located in.

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

Society & Culture
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Florida consumer sentiment in February drops from record high

February 28, 2017
Colleen Porter
BEBR

After three months of positive gains, consumer sentiment among Floridians fell 3.3 points in February to 94.0, according to the latest University of Florida consumer survey.

The pattern in Florida is similar to consumer sentiment at the national level, which also dropped 2.2 points in February to 96.3 from January’s record 98.5 according to the University of Michigan’s survey of consumers.

“While readings about current economic conditions increased slightly, expectations for the future decreased sharply among Floridians in February,” said Hector H. Sandoval, director of the Economic Analysis Program at UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

Floridians’ perceptions of their personal financial situation now compared with a year ago ticked up six-tenths of a point this month, from 87.7 to 88.3. Opinions as to whether now is a good time to buy a big-ticket household item such as an appliance inched up seven-tenths of a point, from 100.7 to 101.4.

“The increase in these two components reflects that current economic conditions have improved in general among Floridians. These perceptions are particularly strong among men, those 60 and older and those with income levels over $50,000,” Sandoval said.

However, all three components that ask about future economic conditions showed a marked decrease. Expectations of personal finances a year from now showed the greatest decline in this month’s reading, dropping 6.6 points from 106.0 to 99.4.

Opinions about the national economy were also negative: Expectations of U.S. economic conditions over the next year decreased 5.2 points, from 96.8 to 91.6. Anticipated U.S. economic conditions over the next five years fell from 95.1 to 89.3, a 5.8-point drop.

“Expectations about future economic conditions increased between November and December of last year, but have declined since then. Floridians are pessimistic about their future personal finances independent of their socioeconomic and demographic status. The greatest declines in perceptions about the national economy were among women, those under age 60 and those with annual income above $50,000,” Sandoval said. 

Until September 2016, the current economic conditions components and the future expectations components moved together in tandem. But from September 2016 until February 2017, the future expectations components went up faster and stayed above the components reflecting current conditions.

“Expectations about the U.S. economy improved greatly before and right after the presidential election, perhaps because the population was optimistic about the incoming administration,” Sandoval said. “However, these expectations are turning pessimistic in February and the gap between the present perceptions and future expectations has disappeared.”

Overall, economic activity has expanded and the labor market continued to strengthen in the U.S. As a result, earlier this month the Federal Open Market Committee decided to keep the benchmark overnight lending rate target at a range of 0.5 percent to 0.75 percent.

In recent months, Florida job gains have remained strong and the unemployment rate has remained low, reflecting the state’s positive economic environment.

Economists look to consumer sentiment as an early signal of future conditions, because confidence among consumers leads to spending and consumption. “High levels of confidence are important to keep the economy growing,” Sandoval said. “The next few months will be key to assessing the potential economic outlook for the following years.”

Conducted Feb. 1-23, the UF study reflects the responses of 489 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
/articles/2017/02/mollusk-graveyards-are-time-machines-to-oceans-pristine-past-.php

Mollusk graveyards are time machines to oceans’ pristine past

February 28, 2017
Natalie van Hoose

A University of Florida study shows that mollusk fossils provide a reliable measure of human-driven changes in marine ecosystems and shifts in ocean biodiversity across time and space.

Collecting data from the shells of dead mollusks is a low-cost, low-impact way of glimpsing how oceans looked before pollution, habitat loss, acidification and explosive algae growth threatened marine life worldwide. Mollusk fossils can inform current and future conservation and restoration efforts, said Michal Kowalewski, the Jon L. and Beverly A. Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum of Natural History on the UF campus and the study’s principal investigator.

“These fossils are like marine time machines that can unveil bygone habitats that existed before humans altered them,” he said. “Shells can help us understand past marine life and more precisely gauge recent changes in marine ecosystems. Fossils are the only direct way of learning what these ecosystems looked like before human activities altered them.”

Because mollusks, such as conchs, oysters and mussels, are abundant and often have sturdy shells, their remains litter much of the Earth’s sea floor. These mollusk graveyards offer a treasure trove of information about the state of oceans over thousands of years, recording patterns in the diversity and distribution of marine animals across and within habitats with surprising accuracy, said Carrie Tyler, who conducted the work as a postdoctoral researcher at the museum and is now an assistant professor of invertebrate paleontology at the Miami University of Ohio.

Many scientists have questioned whether mollusks alone can provide insights into entire ecosystems. Currents and storms can carry organisms’ remains away, while others are fragmented, destroyed or—in the case of soft-bodied animals such as jellyfish and worms—completely absent from the fossil record. Also, shell graveyards are often a mix of specimens from many centuries, which can muddle ecological interpretations.

“The remains that do accumulate only represent part of the whole ecosystem,” said Tyler, the study’s lead author. “These and other factors can create bias in the fossil record, making comparisons between modern and fossil ecosystems suspect.”

To test mollusks’ ability to faithfully record biodiversity, Tyler and Kowalewski surveyed living and dead marine animals at 51 sites off the coast of North Carolina, selecting spots that differed in environmental conditions and the kinds of species they hosted. Aiming to capture a range of habitats, the researchers surveyed inlets, estuaries and open ocean, from the coast to miles offshore. They tested whether changes in diversity from place to place were accurately recorded by the newly-forming fossil record. They also assessed whether mollusks could reflect these ecosystem-wide changes.

Tyler and Kowalewski found that live and dead mollusks accurately recorded spatial diversity patterns in both living and fossil communities of marine bottom-dwelling organisms. By comparing present-day communities of marine animals to dead remains, they discovered that mollusk shells alone accurately reconstructed differences in ecosystems across habitats and correctly tracked changes in the distribution of animals from shallow to deeper waters.

A unique aspect of the study, Kowalewski said, was investigating whether mollusks reliably recorded shifts in entire communities of bottom-dwelling animals across habitats and space.

“If we look at many spots on the sea floor and evaluate how living bottom-dwelling animals vary in space, do we recover the same information by analyzing shell remains of only one type of organism, such as mollusks? Our data indicate that we can,” he said. “The good match between dead and living organisms suggests that we can use historical data to look at not just which species existed in the past, but also whether the spatial structure of these ecosystems changed.”

Understanding how the diversity of species changes within habitats and from site to site across the sea floor is crucial for effectively planning protected marine areas and coastal resource management, Kowalewski said. It is also a part of an increased effort to approach ecosystem conservation more broadly, focusing not only on the vulnerability of individual species but also on how species congregate within and across habitats.

Whether mollusks can provide insights into an ecosystem’s more mobile animals, such as fish, remains unclear. But regardless of how much mollusks can tell us about fish, turtles or mammals, understanding marine invertebrate biodiversity is critical to restoring and protecting ocean health, Tyler said.

“Invertebrates provide food for fish, birds and marine mammals, purify water and are important for commercial fisheries,” she said. “The ability to use mollusks to understand how invertebrate communities are changing in response to human activities can help us protect and manage ecosystems that are critical for maintaining life in the oceans and to society.”

The study was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B and is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2839. Funding from the National Science Foundation helped support the research.

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