Halmos Faculty Explains What Are Floating Up on Our Beaches

Every so often, strange items wash up on our beaches. This one came from West Africa and landed on Palm Beach. Called “fish aggregating devices,” or FADS, the sometimes raft-like structures can get sucked into the North Equatorial Current and travel as far as the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico and Florida.

Often made from refuse such as oil jugs or bamboo sticks lashed together, the curtains of netting dangle beneath them with a reach that can be more than 300 feet deep. They attract large fish that gather for shelter or to feed on small fish and other organisms that grow in this artificially created ecosystem.

Halmos College faculty member David Kerstetter, Ph.D. discussed the situation with the Palm Beach Post. “The presence of these things around the Caribbean is starting to get more attention,” said Kerstetter, “Things like sea turtles can get entangled in them and the other concern when they break free is that all that netting and other material smashes into coral reefs.”

This recent device’s information was collected by Halmos College graduate student Erin Kimak, who is collecting information on where lost FADS are landing as part of the Caribbean FAD Tracking Project. Kerstetter said he hopes to identify which fisheries are losing the most devices to provide more ways to reduce ocean plastics and debris.

Halmos Faculty Member Presents at Health Professions Research Day

On February 21, the NSU Health Professions Division held their 7th annual research day. A consortium of eight academic colleges—Allopathic Medicine, Dental Medicine, Health Care Sciences, Medical Sciences, Nursing, Optometry, Osteopathic Medicine, and Pharmacy, banded together to offer poster displays and oral presentations of their current cutting-edge research.

Among the presenters was Halmos College faculty member Santanu De, Ph.D. His talk, entitled “Navigating Healthcare Science Student Learning and Engagement through Implementation of a Virtual Classroom” discussed his research on whether virtual classrooms can be utilized to facilitate student learning and engagement.

This study was funded by the HPD Research Grant at Nova Southeastern University.


2020 Pi Day is Coming-Cancelled

On Monday, March 16, the Halmos College Department of Mathematics will host its annual Pi Day Celebration in conjunction with the Chemistry Club. Rounding up this year (Pi day is March 13, a Saturday), students, faculty and staff can enjoy pizza supplied by the Chemistry Club for dessert, there will be pieces of apple, cherry, peach, and other pie flavors!

This year the event will be held outside of Parker under the awnings from 12-1 p.m.! At 12:30 the event will also host a Pi Contest with Pi prizes! All are encouraged to enter!

Come learn how Pi, a mathematical constant, is so important to space exploration. Everyone also had a chance to play Pi games and learn how important Pi is in chemical equations.

Pi (Greek letter “π”) is the symbol used in mathematics to represent a constant — the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter — which is approximately 3.14159.

Halmos Faculty Featured in New York Times Lionfish Article

Matthew Johnston, Ph.D.

On February 4, the New York Times published the article, “Open Sores, Lower Numbers Likely Not Invasive Lionfish’s End”. The article discusses a new disease which has caused open sores that can eat into the muscles of the invasive lionfish. While the disease contributed to an abrupt drop in the northern Gulf of Mexico populations, researchers quickly state that this is not the end of these showy invaders.

Halmos College biology faculty member Matthew Johnston, Ph.D. contributed to this article. Johnston, who has written scientific papers about the lionfish commented, ““We’ve always been wondering if they’re ever going to reach their limit in certain locations,” he said. “To date it seemed the populations just kept getting larger and larger and larger.”

Genetic studies have shown the invaders are descended from lionfish that were first sighted off Florida in 1985; aquarium hobbyists may well have started the invasion by dumping fish into the ocean, according to NOAA.

Halmos College Alumna and Research Scientists Find a “Core” Sponge Specific Microbiome

Sponges occur across diverse marine biomes and host internal microbial communities that can provide critical ecological functions. In this study, genetics researchers investigated the relative roles of host population genetics and biogeography in structuring the microbial communities hosted by the excavating sponge Cliona delitrix. In general sponges host many different microbial species and filter seawater as part of their lifestyle.

This resulted in a publication by former Halmos College researcher Cole Easson, Ph.D. and Halmos College alumna Andia Chaves-Fonnegra, Ph.D. for a project they worked on while in the research laboratory of Halmos biology faculty, Jose Lopez, Ph.D. The paper, published in Ecology and Evolution is entitled, “Host population genetics and biogeography structure the microbiome of the sponge Cliona delitrix

“The bottom line”, says Lopez, “is that there appears to be a “core” sponge specific microbiome, but  they may not be the most common in the sponge, and yet they appear across the whole Caribbean.”

Citation: Easson, C. G., Chaves-Fonnegra, A., Thacker, R. W., & Lopez, J. V. Host population genetics and biogeography structure the microbiome of the sponge Cliona delitrixEcology and Evolution. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.6033

Halmos Faculty Helps Create Astronomy Network in Florida

Stefan Kautsch, Ph.D.

In November 2019, Halmos associate professor Stefan Kautsch, Ph.D. travelled to Tampa Bay, Florida to meet with other astronomers and astrophysicists from almost all universities and colleges across the state. The mission of the meeting was to create a professional network that would develop a strategy how to better connect the astronomy scientists and simultaneously engage the public community to learn more about the universe.

Kautch, the winner of the 2018 NSU’s President’s Distinguished Professor in Community Engagement, said “Our goal is to promote collaboration across the research and academic institutions in order to advance astronomy and space exploration in Florida, the gateway of the nation to the cosmos”. The proposed name of the group is AstroFlorida. The first research conference is planned for spring 2020.

Halmos Faculty Publishes Microbiome Article in Nature Scientific Reports

This November, Halmos biological sciences faculty member Andrew Ozga, Ph.D. was lead author in a paper entitled, “Oral microbiome diversity in chimpanzees from Gombe National Park”. This research is the first to examine the bacteria within the wild chimpanzee oral cavity.

Historic calcified dental plaque (dental calculus) can provide a unique perspective into the health status of past human populations but currently no studies have focused on the oral microbial ecosystem of other primates, including our closest relatives, within the hominids. Advances in next generation sequencing and bioinformatic analyses have allowed researchers to study the oral microbiota of modern as well as historic and prehistoric populations through the investigation of dental calculus. Dental calculus is commonly found in living populations without adequate dental care as well as archaeological skeletal assemblages and has been estimated to contain 200 million cells per milligram. This study looks at dental calculus recovered from chimpanzee skeletal remains buried in Gombe National Park in Tanzania from the 1960’s to the 2000’s and includes several chimpanzees that Jane Goodall herself studied.

This article discussed the significant differences in oral microbial phyla between chimpanzees and anatomically modern humans. The results showcase core differences between host species and stress the importance of continued sequencing of nonhuman primate microbiomes in order to fully understand the complexity of their oral ecologies.

For more information: https://twitter.com/NSUHalmos/status/1199070486627520512 

Link to the article: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-53802-1

Halmos College Faculty Publishes Review on Plants and Animals ‘Gone Wild’

This fall, Halmos College Biology faculty member Eben Gering, Ph.D. was the lead author for the paper, “Getting Back to Nature: Feralization in Animals and Plants” in the highly respected and widely read journal, Trends in Ecology & Evolution. The article brings together experts in animal behavior, plant genetics, and evolutionary theory to examine how feral organisms evolve after escaping into the wild.

From weedy rice to feral hogs – formerly domesticated crops, pets, and livestock are now ubiquitous worldwide. Nonetheless, their evolution is poorly studied. The new article addresses this gap by synthesizing information from disparate species, and by outlining future research avenues. This work can ultimately illuminate adaptive evolution, while enhancing our understanding of domestic organisms we rely on for food, labor, and companionship. Included in the paper is a video showing the evolutionary forces that shape feral gene pools and traits, and featuring illustrations provided by teen artists at REACH, a community art center in Lansing, Michigan.

Guy Harvey Research Institute Celebrates 20 Years

Halmos Faculty Member Mahmood Shivji, Ph.D. and Guy Harvey, Ph.D.

During November, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation (GHOF) celebrated the 20th anniversary of the NSU Guy Harvey Research Institute (GHRI). Housed in the Halmos College of Natural Science and Oceanography, GHRI specializes in pelagic fish conservation, or large open-ocean fish such as sharks, marlin and tuna. Their recent work focuses on satellite tagging and tracking, as well as genetic research, among other topics. They also led a team that has successfully decoded the White Shark genome, which could potentially have applications for human health research due to their low incidences of cancer and rapid wound healing.

“The work that’s being done at the GHRI is very cutting-edge, very high-level scientific research that’s had some tremendous results for the conservation of our oceans and the big animals that live there,” said Greg Jacoski, executive director of the GHOF. “I know there’s a lot of great research that the university turns out as a whole, but I think the work that is being done out of the Oceanographic Center and the Guy Harvey Research Institute specifically is some of the best going on in the world right now, and [NSU] should be proud of the work that’s being done there.”

AAUW-NSU, Halmos College, and MEEC Team Up to Build PACE E-STEAM

Eight students from the PACE Center for Girls visited NSU for a session of the “E-STEAM (Exploring – Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Math) Project for Girls”. This experiential learning initiative is dedicated to encouraging girls to pursue higher education and STEAM careers by way of mentorship, interactive activities, and academic success workshops. They started their day at the Marine Environmental Education Center (MEEC). There they built enrichment toys for Captain, the resident green sea turtle. Also participating in this event were NSU-AAUW volunteers Maureen McDermott Ed.D., and undergraduate students Haley Perkins and Nafisa Nazir.

In the afternoon they went to Halmos College Oceanographic Campus. Led by NSU-AAUW volunteer Melissa Dore, Ed.D., they visited the library, where librarian Jaime Goldman talked to them about 3D scanning and other technologies available in the library. Following this, they looked at deep sea fishes with Halmos College alumna Nina Pruzinsky and current MS student Natalie Slayden. After this, they learned about shark tracking from MS student Sydney Harned and corals from MS student Kyle Pisano.

The Nova Southeastern University branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW-NSU) has been collaborating with the Alvin Sherman Library and Broward’s PACE Center for Girls, a delinquency prevention/intervention program for adolescent girls ages 12-18 since 2008. Anyone interested in joining NSU AAUW or participating in the E-STEAM Project for Girls should contact Julie Torruellas Garcia, Ph.D. (jg1511@nova.edu).

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