June 24: UF in the News, 6/21/21 - 6/24/21

As seagrass habitats decline, Florida manatees are dying of starvation — NPR, 6/21/21
In Florida, wildlife managers and environmental groups are stunned by a record number of manatee deaths. More than 750 manatees have died since the beginning of the year, the most deaths ever recorded in a five-month period. Most of the deaths are in Florida's Indian River Lagoon, where a large die-off of seagrass has left manatees without enough to eat.

Michael Walsh, an associate professor at UF who specializes in aquatic animal health, is worried this mortality event may be far from over. 

Manatee County scrambles to vaccinate staff after deadly COVID outbreak— The Herald-Tribune, 6/21/21
Manatee County officials are dealing with a deadly COVID-19 outbreak among government employees who have not been vaccinated.

Stephen Kimmel, dean of the Department of Epidemiology at UF, agrees with Manatee County's decision to keep masks optional. But he says the death of the two employees should be a call for those who haven't been vaccinated to do so as quickly as possible.

Makeup fails to solve mystery of why jumping spiders have back stripes— The Guardian, 6/22/21
Scientists writing in the journal Royal Society Open Science wanted to establish whether male jumping spiders have evolved colorful stripes to ward off predators. 

“In the field, when a male sees a female, he just kind of ignores his surroundings … they’re just so focused on the female that they’re not really paying attention to what’s going on behind them. So, it made us think that maybe they need some extra protection from things eating them,” said study author Lisa Taylor, an assistant research scientist with UF/IFAS.

For some on unemployment, end of federal benefits a sore subject — The Gainesville Sun, 6/22/21
As a federal unemployment program is slated to end soon, people have been lining up lately to get into a Gainesville office that helps people find work.

Brian Swider, an associate professor at UF, said as the pandemic subsides, many have switched gears into other careers that offer more flexible hours, better pay and benefits.

Gifted education programs don't benefit Black students like they do white students — The Conversation, 6/24/21 
Christopher Redding, an assistant professor at the College of Education at UF, penned a column on how Black students benefited less from participating in gifted education programs than white students. And affluent students gained more from gifted education programs than did students from families with lower incomes.

UF Health epidemiologist talks COVID-19 Delta variant and what it means for the US — WCJB, 6/23/21
A new mutation of COVID-19 known as the Delta variant is becoming a rising concern across the US.

Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist at UF, made it clear that the Delta variant is more transmissible and more likely to lead to hospitalizations. She said this sparks a major concern for areas with low vaccination rates.

Dentists deal with patient overload as COVID wanes — WTSP, 6/23/21
Dentists are packed with in-person appointments and trying to catch up on cancelations since the pandemic. Comprehensive care stopped for a while, said Gretel Viera, assistant program director at UF’s Dental Clinic. 

“Now those patients are coming back to us to finish the treatment," said Viera, adding that private dental practices are also seeing more patients booking appointments.

Dozens of baby squid are orbiting our planet right now — Popular Science, 6/23/21
Earlier this month, NASA launched a routine SpaceX resupply mission to the International Space Station. But onboard that ship were 128 highly unusual passengers: newly hatched Hawaiian bobtail squid. But why? 

“Animals, including humans, rely on our microbes to maintain a healthy digestive and immune system,” said Jamie Foster, a microbiologist with UF/IFAS. Despite the microbiome’s critical role in health, Foster said, “we do not fully understand how spaceflight alters these beneficial interactions.”

Vaccine drive to be held in Orlando as Delta variant raises concerns — Fox 35 Orlando, 6/23/21
The Delta variant of COVID-19 is renewing nationwide efforts to get people vaccinated. 

Health experts are concerned about the Delta variant, which caused widespread infections in India and became the dominant strain in Florida. Cindy Prins, an epidemiologist with UF, said that the variant raises the importance level of vaccine drives. 

'Dog flu' hits Palm Beach County; first local outbreak of respiratory ailment since 2017, The Palm Beach Post, 6/24/21
The first outbreak of canine influenza in Palm Beach County since 2017 has been reported after one dog, then others, tested positive this month at Big Dog Ranch Rescue, resulting in the shutdown of its adoption buildings.

Cynda Crawford, UF assistant professor in shelter medicine, told the Post she has not received any reports about cases outside Palm Beach County either in the state or the nation and recommended getting dogs vaccinated. 

In push against ‘indoctrination,’ DeSantis mandates surveys of Florida students’ beliefs — The Washington Post, 6/24/21
Gov. Ron DeSantis says he is concerned about the free flow of ideas on campus and whether higher education stifles free speech from conservatives.

Under a law he signed Tuesday, which will take effect July 1, public universities must assess “viewpoint diversity” on campus each year through a survey developed by the State Board of Education, a requirement that a free-speech expert predicted as a model for other conservative-led states.

Clay Calvert, director of the University of Florida’s Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project, weighs in. 

Fintech listings surge on Wall Street as smartphones proliferate — Wealth Advisor, 6/24/21
The rate of financial technology companies going public, once a trickle, is now a steady stream as mobile payment apps and online lenders become the norm. The firms, in regulatory filings, indicate that the rise of smartphones made the ascent inevitable.

Jay R. Ritter, a professor of finance at UF, cited the advent of cloud computing over the past decade as another boon.