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

FY2021 PFRDG & QOL Grant Applications due January 22, 2020

The President’s Faculty Research and Development Grant (PFRDG) applications are due on January 22, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. For access to the application portal and guidelines, please visit the PFRDG website at http://www.nova.edu/pfrdg. For questions and additional information, please email pfrdg@nova.edu. The two categories for PFRDG Awards are:

  • The Research Development Track – The Research Development Track continues to provide seed money up to $15,000. These projects are expected to lead to external funding. Eligibility open to all full-time faculty/research scientists, regardless of discipline.
  • The Research Scholar Track – Started in FY2018, the Research Scholar Track is designed to encourage applicants in the areas of Humanities and Social Sciences (including Education, Business and Law). Applicants can apply for up to $3,000 towards publications in scholarly journals, book chapters, books, copyrights and trademarks.

The Quality of Life (QOL) applications are also due on January 22, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. via electronic submission to npascucci@nova.edu. For more information and application guidelines, please visit https://www.nova.edu/qol/; for questions, please contact Nick Pascucci at npascucci@nova.edu. The main categories for the Quality of Life Awards are:

  • Autism – Addresses issues related to children, youth and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and/or service provision to this population
  • Children and Families– Addresses issues related to the goals and priorities of the Children’s Services Council, in addition to other top priority issues affecting children, families in Broward County
  • Criminal Justice – Addresses issues related to the Broward Sheriff’s Office identified needs and priorities. The Broward Sheriff’s office has identified the following areas of interest: Guns/Violence, Gangs, Hate Crimes, Police Stress
  • Elderly Services – Addresses issues related to the elderly population
  • Foster Care – Addresses issues related to Foster Care and ChildNet’s identified needs
  • Adult General – Addresses a wide range of issues impacting adults in Broward County and beyond

PFRDG & QOL Applicant Trainings are set. Follow the link below to see sessions and register.

For information and registration, please visit http://www.nova.edu/pfrdg

Experts Share Knowledge about Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease

In early August, experts from around the Caribbean region met at the Eco-Discovery Centre in Key West to share information on an emerging and unprecedented threat to Caribbean coral reefs posed by a coral disease first documented in Florida and now being reported at sites across the region.

Since 2014, the Florida Reef Tract has been severely impacted by a newly documented coral disease which scientists are calling “Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease” (SCTLD) because it affects only hard stony corals and is characterized by the rapid loss of live coral tissue. The disease has rapidly spread across coral reefs from Palm Beach to the lower Florida Keys and in the last year has been reported elsewhere in the Caribbean, including in Mexico, Jamaica, Sint Maarten, the Dominican Republic, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos Islands and Belize. Scientists from NOAA and the state of Florida, sanctuary managers and academic partners, including Halmos College researchers Brian Walker, Ph.D. and Karen Neely, Ph.D, have been working to document the outbreak, identify causes and contributing factors, and develop treatments and interventions

The meeting is an initiative of the MPAConnect Network which comprises marine protected area managers in 10 Caribbean countries and territories, working in partnership with the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Conservation Program, with funding from NOAA CRCP and the NFWF Coral Reef Conservation Fund.

Inauguration and Installation of NSU’s Sigma XI Chapter – The Scientific Research Honor Society, Sept 19

WHO: Harry K. Moon, M.D., NSU Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer NSU President’s Council, Faculty, Staff, and Students

WHAT: Reception, Inauguration, and Installation of NSU’s Sigma XI Chapter (The Scientific Research Honor Society)

WHERE: NSU’s Carl DeSantis Bldg., 3rd Floor Sales Institute, 3301 College Ave. Fort Lauderdale

WHEN: 3 p.m. Thursday, September 19

WHY: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is more than 125 years old with chapters all over the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. Sigma Xi has a long-standing history of service to the field of science and engineering. The organization is a source of scholarships/grants and conferences, publications and other resources.

NSU submitted a petition to Sigma Xi beginning two years ago and through an extensive review process has been granted the honor of having a Sigma Xi chapter installed. At this installation, we will also be inducting new members. Having the NSU chapter of Sigma Xi puts us among the ranks of more than 500 chapters in North America and around the world. Membership in this International organization has exceeded 100,000 members. NSU is becoming one of these noted chapter members.

Nova Southeastern University Receives Grant to Research Pediatric Sarcoma from Thorek Memorial Foundation

Researchers at NSU have received a $200,000 grant from the Thorek Memorial Foundation of Chicago. This grant will be used to support research aimed at identifying biomarkers and developing novel therapies for pediatric sarcoma.

Children diagnosed with sarcoma present significant challenges to the medical community, as many of these cancers can metastasize and are refractory to treatment, with an overall five-year survival rate of only 20-30% in those patients who relapse following standard therapy. Current treatment options remain largely ineffective in increasing overall survival in cases of metastatic refractory disease. There is an unmet need for developing better treatment strategies for pediatric sarcoma patients. A multidisciplinary team of NSU researchers who form the NSU Sarcoma Research Network (SRN) will utilize the award from the Thorek Memorial Foundation to identify novel treatment targets, diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers as well as develop cutting-edge next generation immunotherapies for sarcomas.

Dr. H. Thomas Temple, a renowned oncological orthopedic surgeon for Translational Research and Economic Development and special assistant to President Hanbury, will collaborate with a team of cancer researchers led by Dr. Adil Duru at NSU Cell Therapy Institute in the Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Allopathic Medicine to generate a unique biobank of pediatric sarcoma cell lines. Subsequent detailed characterization of the patient material will offer useful insights into the individual tumor’s genome, proteome, secretome, phenotype and function, as well as of the tumor’s microenvironment including immune cells. This will provide a unique resource in the form of a comprehensive database of information and primary material biobank for sarcomas, which will facilitate the discovery of novel diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers. Researchers involved in this project are also working on developing novel patient-tailored targeted cancer therapeutics. The ultimate goal of this collaborative and multidisciplinary project is to develop unique strategies for designing safe and efficient personalized therapeutics for the treatment of pediatric sarcoma patients.


About Thorek Memorial Foundation: Thorek Memorial Foundation was created to provide service to the community and to promote and foster understanding of various health and wellness concerns affecting the members of the community. The Foundation will use its resources to identify healthcare needs, improve population health, and address other needs within the community it serves. The Foundation will provide financial support to organizations in the community to assist their operations, activities, and fulfill their missions. Thorek Memorial Foundation will sponsor various scientific, educational and charitable endeavors that result from the identification of certain community health issues. Thorek Memorial Foundation will also support and enrich Thorek Memorial Hospital through various educational activities.

About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, NSU is ranked among U.S. News & World Report’s Top 200 National Research Universities and is a dynamic, private research university providing high-quality educational and research programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. Established in 1964, NSU now includes 16 colleges, the 215,000-square-foot Center for Collaborative Research, a private JK-12 grade school, the Mailman Segal Center for Human Development with specialists in Autism, the world-class NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research and Information Technology Center, which is Florida’s largest public library. NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is one of only 50 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the largest private institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. For more information, please visit www.nova.edu.


NSU, Yale Faculty Collaborating on Research with Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse

For over 20 years, the online community MaleSurvivor has been a support outlet for male sexual and gender minority survivors of sexual abuse/assault. Now, members of that community are collaborating in grant-funded research with faculty from NSU’s College of Psychology and Yale University’s School of Medicine.

“I’m really passionate and interested in working with sexual and gender minorities and noticing that there’s a whole span of issues that are going on and we’re not seeing in therapy,” said Assistant Clinical Professor Amy Ellis, Ph.D., of NSU’s College of Psychology.

Societal stigmas and outdated stereotypes that men cannot be raped or that sexual assault changes sexual orientation create barriers for men seeking treatment. Ellis noted that on average, male survivors take 25 years to disclose sexual abuse.

“You have that stigmatization that leads to shame and guilt and even questioning the reality of your own experiences,” Ellis said. “If the entire world is telling you that something can’t be and wasn’t, then why would you step forward and say that it is?”

Now, peer online motivational interviewing for abuse survivors is the subject of a $1.3 million grant from the nonprofit Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, or PCORI. The principal investigator is Joan Cook, Ph.D., an associate professor at Yale, collaborating with Ellis and MaleSurvivor.

The groundwork for a partnership with MaleSurvivor was already laid due to the fact that the Trauma Resolution Integration Program (TRIP), a clinic at NSU’s Psychology Services Center, answers the help desk emails for MaleSurvivor. In contrast to traditional research, Ellis said the project is taking a community-based participatory approach, where focus groups and an advisory board have informed every aspect of the process. Ellis said this approach creates comfort and trust, compared to the stereotype of researchers in lab coats.

As part of the project, 20 peer leaders from within the MaleSurvivor community received training on leading motivational interview groups with other survivors. The project will recruit 344 survivors who will be divided into 42 groups and participate for three years. Participants will be involved in six session interventions for 90 minutes each.

Full story: https://psychology.nova.edu/news-events/2019/cop-survivors-pcori.html


Halmos Researcher Part of Team Studying Blue-Green Algae in Florida

For months, Florida residents have followed stories about blue-green algae (scientifically known as cyanobacteria) blooms that are severely impacting local communities. Starting in July 2019, Halmos College faculty member Jose Lopez, Ph.D. will co-lead a project to study this ongoing issue by applying his genomics expertise.

Funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the Caribbean Cooperative Ecosystems Studies Unit, Dr. Lopez will co-lead the project along with Barry Rosen, staff scientist for the USGS Southeastern Region. Halmos biological sciences faculty Robert Smith, Ph.D. will also contribute modeling skills. Halmos master’s student Eric Fortman will assist with the project. Other project researchers are from Florida Gulf Coast University and the USGS Caribbean-Florida Water Science Center.

Halmos College Oceanographic Campus will be the home base for this project. “The time has come for us to research what factors contribute to these blue-green algae blooms, what we can do to mitigate them when they happen and, more importantly, what can we do proactively to stop them from happening or lessen their impact,” said Dr. Lopez.

Dr. Lopez said the research could run up to three years with a focus on how water quality, nutrients and harmful algae blooms interact in Lake Okeechobee and the Caloosahatchee River, looking at the factors that come into play when these blooms occur.

“There are many species of cyanobacteria, so we need to characterize the diversity and better understand which ones contribute to the blooms and what their normal function is in the ecosystem when there is no harmful algae bloom. This project will have a strong molecular basis [reading DNA and RNA sequences]” said Dr. Lopez.

NSU Researchers Part of Team on Ambitious Expedition to Explore the Deep Sea

Left to right Nathan Robinson, Sonke Johnsen, Tracey Sutton, Captain of the Pt Sur- Nick Allen, Edie Widder & Megan McCall gather around to watch squid

Researchers from Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography joined with colleagues from other research institutions to explore the water column in some of the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico.

The project – Journey Into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone is ran from June 8 – 22, 2019 and featured Tracey Sutton Ed.D, Tamara Frank, Ph.D. and graduate assistant Ruchao Quian from NSU – they were three of the 10 explorers on this voyage.

The team made some remarkable findings which were featured in multiple media outlets across the country. You can read those stories below:

Giant Squid

Giant Shrimp

Giant Acanthephyra caught between 1,200 and 1,500 meters (3,937 and 4,921 feet) with the Tucker Trawl

You can learn more about Journey Into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone ONLINE.

This site, created by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, contains a wealth of information about the research expedition, including biographical info on the explorers, a photo gallery of the strange and wonderful sea life found deep in the Gulf of Mexico and more.

Halmos College Researchers Explore Light and Life Below the Ocean’s Twilight Zone

Three species of bathypelagic dragonfishes (Stomiidae) displaying the range of shapes and colors of chin barbels. Image courtesy of Journey into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone.

From June 8-22, 2019, a team of NSU researchers was exploring the water column in some of the deepest parts of the Gulf of Mexico to determine what happens to deep-sea animals when a very important constraint is taken away from them – light. The scientists were making observations and collecting samples for further study on the characterization of visual systems, bioluminescence, and fluorescence of organisms living below 1,000 meters (3,280 feet), in the bathypelagic (midnight) zone. Participating in this research are Halmos faculty members Tamara Frank, Ph.D. and Tracey Sutton, Ph.D.

Frank is collecting live animals using 9m2 Tucker Trawl with a carefully designed collecting vessel at the end of the net, called a cod-end. The cod-end is constructed of three-quarter-inch thick PVC pipe and closes via ball valves when the net closes. The net is remotely opened at depth, and while it is fishing, the ball valves at either end of the cod-end are open, and animals are trapped inside in a mesh bag. When a signal is sent to close the net, the ball valves on the cod-end snap shut, trapping animals inside the cod-end in water at their normal ambient temperatures. The thick PVC walls insulate the water against temperature changes on the trip to the surface.

“Animals without air-filled spaces, like fish without swim bladders, crustaceans, and squids, can handle the pressure, but they can’t handle the temperature changes. At their normal depths, the temperature is around 7°C (45°F), while surface waters in the Gulf of Mexico in June can be up to 30°C (86°F). This temperature shock will kill them, so the insulated cod-end is essential to live collections of deep-sea animals”, says Frank.

Sutton is investigating the extraordinary adaptations exhibited by fishes of the midnight zone. “Our goal as ocean exploration researchers is to expand on these discoveries, as well as add much more to our knowledge of the inhabitants of this ‘harshest ecosystem on Earth.’”, says Sutton.

These adaptations help fishes find and eat prey, and find each other, in a permanently sunless habitat. In some cases, the adaptations have driven the radiation of entire fish families in the bathypelagic zone, where in other cases, these adaptations allow individual species of primarily shallower-living fish families (e.g., lanternfishes, hatchetfishes) to survive.  One of the most striking adaptations of predatory fishes of the deep is the astounding variety of bioluminescent “lures” that fishes use to attract prey (rather than swimming and searching, which is energetically expensive). This adaptation largely defines the deep-sea anglerfishes, the most species-rich taxon of primarily bathypelagic fishes.

Representatives from a primarily mesopelagic fish family, the dragonfishes (Stomiidae) are also among the dominant predators of the midnight zone, particularly when they approach maximum size. Dragonfishes do not possess the dorsal luring apparatus of the anglerfishes, but do possess a spectacular variety of chin barbels, some of which are as long as the fish itself and terminate in a chandelier of branches and multi-colored luminescent bulbs.

Both dragonfishes and anglerfishes display another adaptation common to bathypelagic predators – large, sharp, backwards pointing teeth set in a large, terminal mouth. Presumably in an environment where prey is hard to find, once prey are lured, one does not want them to escape capture! These are just a few of the extraordinary adaptations exhibited by fishes of the midnight zone.

The Journey into Midnight: Light and Life Below the Twilight Zone expedition offers a unique opportunity for explorers of all ages to investigate and understand bioluminescence in the deepest portion of the Gulf of Mexico. Lessons, career information, background essays, videos and images can all be found here to help bring this science expedition to life https://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/19biolum/

Halmos College Fish Specimen Makes Cover of Science

NSU is among the world leaders in the exploration of the world’s least-known ecosystem, the deep sea. Recent expeditions led by faculty in the Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences (DoMES) have produced a wealth of new information, new species discoveries, and collections of rare specimens that change our view of how animals adapt to Earth’s harshest conditions. For example, a fish specimen collected by Halmos faculty member Tracey Sutton, Ph.D. was featured on the cover of Science, the leading journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. This fish, photographed by Dr. Danté Fenolio (Department of Conservation and Research, San Antonio Zoo), was featured in an article that showed that deep-sea fishes, though living in darkness, actually see in color. This finding proves that our traditional views of vertebrate vision have been very limited.

For more information: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6440

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