St. Pete UNdergrad educates on Florida's red widow spider
September 15, 2023
Eli McEuen, an undergraduate biology student studying with Dr. Deby Cassill on the St. Petersburg campus, educates on Florida's native Red Widow Spider in a recent video.
Tampa Bay’s flamingo visitors: Everything you need to knowSeptember 7, 2023
"Why are they suddenly in Tampa Bay? ... The popular theory is that the birds, classified as American flamingos, were living in the Yucatán peninsula, heading for Cuba, got swept up in Hurricane Idalia’s winds and were pushed farther north.
That could be, said Deby Cassill, a biology professor at the University of South Florida, but another possibility is that they are not storm victims. Rather, they are storm captains.
'Flamingos are thrill-seekers, like Tom Cruise in ‘Mission Impossible,’' she said. 'They are thrilled when a big wind comes because it’s smooth sailing. They have a joyful sense of adventure, so they might have flown into the wind to see how far it could take them. They’re on vacation.'"
Why are rare tropical butterflies making a home at USF? 'They're clearly eating something'
August 17, 2023
The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus offers the perfect habitat for professors and students. It turns out a rare tropical butterfly, whose survival as a species depends on a plant in ample supply in the campus’s landscaping, likes it here, too.
In the courtyard behind the Crosley Campus Center, between the back entrance to the
rotunda and the café, visitors can see dozens of Atala butterflies – scientific name,
Eumaeus atala –fluttering among the plantings, especially the coontie (Zamia integrifolia),
which look like a palm or fern but are an ancient type of plant called a cycad (and
may be the only thing Atala caterpillars eat). The colorful butterflies – bright red-orange
abdomens and deep black wings punctuated by rows of ultramarine spots – have also
been spotted among the coontie and other landscaping on the south side of Selby Auditorium.
"They're pretty striking," said Paul Kirchman, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
Kirchman, who had read about efforts to restore the population of Atalas elsewhere, may be partly responsible for what could be the first appearance of the Atala on the Sarasota-Manatee campus.
USF launches study abroad experience in Singapore
August 14, 2023
This summer, Ryan McCleary, an associate professor of instruction in the College of Arts and Sciences, and 23 of his students traveled over 10,000 miles to Singapore to explore the local history and culture through the lens of urban ecology.
“Singapore is often considered a zero-world country because of its advanced infrastructure,” reads McCleary’s syllabus. “Because of its size and population, it faces unique environmental pressures and has had to develop innovative means of satisfying the needs of its population while trying to maintain its biodiversity and halt environmental degradation.”
In Singapore, McCleary’s objective was two-fold: Show students there’s more than one way to do things and demonstrate the age-old proverb, “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”
CROCODILES ROUSED TO ACTION IN A STUDY WHEN THEY HEARD RECORDINGS OF CRYING HUMAN AND APE INFANTS
August 8, 2023
In a study published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, researchers put speakers near crocodiles and played recordings of human, bonobo and chimpanzee infants. The crocodiles were attracted to the cries, especially shrieks that sounded more distressed...
J. Sean Doody, a conservation biologist at the University of South Florida who focuses on reptiles, said he wished the authors had found a way [to identify the sex of the crocodiles]. The information would have helped answer “perhaps the key question,” he said: “Is this response by the crocodiles predation, or is it parental?”
KRAMER LAB FEATURED ON THE SUSTAINABLE LIVING SHOW ON WMNF 88.5 TAMPA
July 31, 2023
IB's Kramer Lab was recently featured on the sustainability living show on WMNF 88.5 Tampa.
Topics of discussion include invasive species and specifically invasive bird species in Florida.
Survival of the seeds: USF researchers examine what it takes for trees to thrive
July 25, 2023
Assistant Professor in the USF College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Integrative
Biology, Dr. Paul-Camilo Zalamea is preparing a four-year research study on plant-soil microbial interactions, after
receiving a $1.5 million grant through the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Growing up in Bogotá, Colombia, Zalamea was surrounded by a diverse ecosystem. But it wasn’t until he was an undergraduate student studying biology at the Universidad de Los Andes, that his desire to pursue tropical ecology came to a head. He had the opportunity to study in the Amazon basin, which changed his perspective and ultimately became the reason for his research today.
Read the full article from The HUB
JOHN PARKINSON INTERVIEWED BY WEST PALM TV NEWS
July 20, 2023
Dr. John Parkinson, Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology, was recently interviewed by WPTV about this summer’s intense marine heatwave and the dire impacts for Florida’s coral reefs.
‘Snakeman’ studies venomous snakes to learn more about fungal disease found in FloridaJuly 13, 2023
When you walk into the USF St. Petersburg herpetology lab, a bold print sign reads, “Danger, venomous reptiles.” The residents inside include a venomous cottonmouth (water moccasin), two diamondback rattlesnakes, and several non-venomous water snakes. The reptiles are part of a student research project involving a fungal disease found in snakes.
Shiv Shukla, a graduate student in conservation biology, is studying the emerging pathogen Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, which causes the snake fungal disease. The skin condition has been found in Florida and can cause abnormal molting and cloudiness of the eyes and lead to higher death rates in certain species of snakes.
Shukla, who often responds to the nickname “Snakeman” around campus because of his unique field of study, said he chose snake fungal disease as his master’s thesis because reptiles are understudied compared to other animals.
USF coral biologists host panel of experts to guide future research
June 16, 2023
In August 2021, Dr. John Parkinson, an assistant professor in the USF College of Arts and Sciences Department of Integrative Biology, was awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to help coordinate and fund a workshop that brought together more than 60 scientists from 12 countries to build consensus around the assessment and interpretation of coral symbiont diversity.
IB’s Margres lab receives NSF award
The Margres lab has received an NSF research grant for over $600,000. The research, carried out by Dr. Mark Margres and collaborators Dr. Andrew Storfer from Washington State University and Dr. Rodrigo Hamede from the University of Tasmania, will study how repeatable coevolutionary interactions are between Tasmanian devils and the species-specific cancer threatening the iconic species with extinction.
Mosquito watch: USF researchers urge use of global dashboard in light of recent malaria cases
June 29, 2023
ABC News video link
Bay News 9 video link
Carney Lab Website
Researchers at the University of South Florida are urging the public to take photos of mosquitoes and share them to help track and mitigate the potential spread of malaria.
The Florida Department of Health has issued a statewide mosquito-borne illness advisory after four confirmed cases of malaria in Sarasota County. An additional case has also been reported in Texas.
Ryan Carney, assistant professor of integrative biology, and Sriram Chellappan, professor of computer science and engineering, developed mosquitodashboard.org, which utilizes data provided by ordinary citizens and artificial intelligence to identify the location and species of disease-carrying mosquitoes.
Conservation biology students forge forward this summer
June 23, 2023
The USF College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) conservation biology program aims to train the next generation of scientists who will address critical issues in biodiversity conservation.
“We recognized that there was a critical local, state and regional need for biologists with training and research experience in conservation to protect and manage our native species, communities, and ecosystems, and we created this graduate program in 2017 to address this shortage,” said Dr. Melanie Riedinger-Whitmore, St. Petersburg campus chair for the Department of Integrative Biology.
The thesis-based Master of Science program introduces students to the critical areas impacting biodiversity (habitat degradation, climate change, invasive species, pollution and over-exploitation), and provides them with the skill sets and knowledge needed for careers and research in wildlife and natural resource management and ecological restoration.
Conservation biology graduate students conduct both applied and basic research, and most students have research projects aligned with faculty research. Many students also work closely with non-profit or government agencies, and these connections help them establish important professional partnerships.
IB Research Engineering Technologist Richard Romeo receives 'Quiet quality award'
June 15, 2023
“Romeo” R. Romeo, Research Engineering Technologist on the Tampa campus, was recently recognized as a recipient of the March 2023 Quiet Quality Award.
This award from Staff Senate recognizes staff who go above and beyond in work performance, conscientiousness, and professional interpersonal relationships.
Ryan Carney receives CAS Liberal Arts Teaching Award
June 20, 2023
Dr. Ryan Carney has been awarded the CAS Liberal Arts Teaching Award. This award recognizes outstanding teaching in the liberal arts and sciences and is based on curriculum development and innovations as well as teaching evaluations and outcomes.
Well done, Ryan!
an interview with Heather Judkins and Tampa Bay Arts and Education Network
June 16, 2023
On this special episode of Innovators in Science, Dr. Heather Judkins discusses her longtime work with studying the mid-water column since 2011 following the major BP Oil Spill, a part of the DEEPEND Consortium and their evolving technologies and work in the Gulf of Mexico and Wider Caribbean. While teaching at USF St. Petersburg, Professor Heather Judkins and a team of experts made a historical landmark with a new live Giant Squid discovery in the Gulf of Mexico aboard a NOAA research vessel in 2019, 250 miles off of the coast of Tampa Bay with the deepwater submersible camera called "The Medusa" by Edie Widder and Nathan Robinson.
USF St. Petersburg IB Student Receives Guy Harvey Scholarship
June 2, 2023
Alex Seigel is one of eight individuals who have recently received the $5,000 Guy Harvey Scholarship and will also receive a certificate designed and signed by world-renowned marine wildlife artist, conservationist and GHF Founder/Chair Emeritus, Dr. Guy Harvey.
Alex Seigel’s research focuses on evaluating the potential species and habitat benefits in the restoration site of the Robinson Preserve, a more than 600-acre coastal preserve located in northwestern Bradenton in Florida. He will utilize environmental DNA (eDNA) to evaluate the spatial and temporal biodiversity of migratory animals, such as sharks and large bony fishes, monitoring where they go and how long they are utilizing the preserve as a nursery.
Zalamea Lab awarded NSF grant
June 1, 2023
The Zalamea lab has received an NSF research grant for over $700,000. The research, carried out by lead PI Dr. Camilo Zalamea and co-PI Carolina Sarmiento, aims to test the hypothesis that beneficial and antagonistic plant-fungal interactions at the seed stage are important to tropical tree recruitment. The researchers will provide inclusive, cross-disciplinary research training and mentorship from the US and Latin America.
IB Student receives Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award
April 24, 2023
Anna Beatriz Machado, an undergraduate student in the Parkinson lab, has been awarded an Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award at the OneUSF Undergraduate Research Conference for her poster detailing how microplastics harm symbiont uptake in sea anemones.
graduate Student awarded sea of change conservation priority grant
April 15, 2023
Matthew Gamache, a PhD student in the Parkinson lab, has been awarded a Sea of Change Conservation Priority Grant to study the application of eDNA for coral restoration monitoring in Honduras.
Graduate Student awarded NSF GRFP
April 10, 2023
Samuel Hirst, a PhD student in the Margres lab, has been awarded an NSF GRFP in the field of Evolutionary Biology.
March 21, 2023
Researchers at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus found that in a container habitat, brown widows were 6.6 times more likely to attack black widows than other related species. The behavior is likely a driver of the black widow spider’s population decline.
“We have established brown widow behavior as being highly aggressive towards the southern black widows, yet much more tolerant of other spiders within the same family,” said Louis Coticchio, who led the study as part of his undergraduate research at USF along with advisor Deby Cassill, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.
Six USF faculty members earn national recognition for research achievements
January 31, 2023
Six University of South Florida researchers, including IB's Dr. Christina Richards, have been named as new Fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the world’s most prestigious honors for academic research.
The group from USF is among more than 500 scientists, engineers and innovators earning the recognition for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements by the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.
Marine biology student helps rescue distressed manatee in Bayboro Harbor
January 26, 2023
Kierstyn Benjamin was doing homework in the library when she noticed a small manatee alone in Bayboro Harbor. When she went out to the water to examine more closely, she realized something was wrong. The USF St. Petersburg campus junior acted quickly, calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Hotline that is used to report injured animals.
Wildlife officials responded quickly to campus. After several tense hours trying to corral the distressed manatee into a boat and then on land, they were able to rescue and transport him to Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park where he is recovering.
2022 Department News
DR. CHANTALE BÉGIN WINS 2022 JEROME KRIVANEK DISTINGUISHED TEACHER AWARD
This is Dr. Bégin's third teaching award at USF. Congratulations, Chantale!!
USF PROFESSOR DISCOVERS NEW SPECIES WHILE PART OF TEAM STUDYING IMPACT OF OIL SPILLS IN THE GULF OF MEXICO
"Even after teaching biology for nearly three decades, Heather Judkins still gets excited about conducting field research. An associate professor of Integrative Biology on the USF St. Petersburg campus, Judkins will continue her studies of cephalopods, such as octopus and squid, on July 26 as part of a team of scientists aboard the R/V Point Sur for a 12-day research cruise around the Gulf of Mexico.
The goal of the cruise is to identify and quantify long-term trends in fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods in the midwaters of the Gulf in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010.
"We're collecting specimens and looking at the biodiversity in that area and how it changes over time," Judkins said. "We want to know what we could see in the future, in the unfortunate event of another oil spill."
CARNEY LAB HOSTS MAKE-A-WISH CHILD SEBASTIAN, WHO WISHED TO BE A PALEONTOLOGIST IN A LAB
Sebastian is a 7-year-old who is battling cancer with ongoing chemotherapy and an
upcoming surgery. Sebastian loves all things dinosaur and has demonstrated an interest
in fossils. His passion for dinosaurs is what helps him mentally escape from his medical
challenges. Since he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up, his greatest wish
was to experience first hand what it is like to be a paleontologist and see how they
study the prehistoric animals.
His wish day began with a limousine ride to the USF Science Center in Tampa where Sebastian met Dr. Ryan Carney, who is a National Geographic Explorer and Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology at USF. Sebastian was welcomed with open arms by everyone and gifted a lab coat before embarking on a tour of the lab.
Dr. Carney said, “It’s absolutely wonderful to see the look of joy on his face. For all of us, being able to fulfill his wish was a very fulfilling experience. It puts things in perspective. We do this kind of stuff every day. We are fortunate to study what we are passionate about. Being able to share that experience with Sebastian is just wonderful.”
The newest paleontologist examined fossils and learned about the evolution of dinosaurs. He scanned replicas of dinosaur skulls, examined mummified skin under a microscope, and used x-ray imaging and computer animation to learn even more about prehistoric creatures. Sebastian even 3D printed a “Sebastianosaurus” based on a Brachiosaurus skull, his favorite dinosaur.
Sebastian’s dad said, “I’m so happy for him, especially because it opens his mind for what he’s interested in. Seeing that everything that he can wish or dream for, it can come true. It’s not impossible. Never give up.”
CHRISTIAN BROWN, DEBAN LAB, RECEIVES THE 2022 CHIH FOUNDATION RESEARCH & PUBLICATION AWARD
The Chih Foundation recognizes groundbreaking research with transformative potential to greatly benefit society. The award seeks to support exceptional third- or fourth-year Science, Engineering or Medicine PhD, PharmD, or MD students.
Through their generosity, the Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award provides a monetary award to exemplary scholars who reflect these qualities.
DR. CHRISTOPHER OSOVITZ RECEIVES THE 2021/22 OUTSTANDING UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING AWARD
These awards are made as part of USF’s continuing effort to enhance undergraduate teaching by recognizing and rewarding excellence in undergraduate teaching.
THREE GENERATIONS OF USF ACADEMICS TRAIN TO ROW ACROSS THE ATLANTIC IN SUPPORT OF MARINE CONSERVATION
Integrative Biology Professor Chantale Bégin is preparing for what is called “the world’s toughest row.” The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is an annual race to row 3,000 miles from Spain’s Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. Bégin’s team, Salty Science, includes Lauren Shea and Noelle Helder, two of her former USF students, and Isabelle Côté, her doctoral advisor at Simon Fraser University. Salty Science is dedicating its race to marine conservation to support training the next generation of diverse scientists who will develop creative solutions to global ocean challenges.
Salty Science signed up for the challenge having no experience in rowing, but the multigenerational team of marine scientists shares a love for the water and pushing their limits. The team has a never-ending sense of adventure and is made up of certified scuba divers, licensed captains, triathlon racers and endurance runners.
“I’m stoked to combine my passion for marine conservation with some solid type II fun by rowing across the Atlantic,” said Helder, who graduated from USF in 2017. “I’m excited to be a part of this science dream team, working towards this mission with women who have inspired me throughout my career.”
BIOLOGY PROFESSOR WHO MADE MIDLIFE CAREER CHANGE GIVES $1 MILLION ESTATE GIFT TO USF ST. PETERSBURG CAMPUS
At the age of 40 and nearly 20 years into a career in health care administration, a nature documentary seismically shifted the life of Deby Cassill.
“It was a David Attenborough documentary on African wildlife, and I realized sitting there that I didn’t just want to watch science, I wanted to do science,” Cassill said.
Shortly thereafter, she went back to college to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology. By the time she was 50, she had earned a doctorate in the field and in 2001, Cassill was hired on as the first full-time biology professor on the USF St. Petersburg campus.
Cassill said the university has provided her with a wonderful opportunity to explore her passion. Now she is providing the institution with a $1 million estate gift to create the Cassill Endowed Scholarship in Biology to aid the next generation of aspiring biologists.
CARNEY LAB LAUNCHES THE GLOBAL MOSQUITO OBSERVATIONS DASHBOARD; COAUTHORS STUDY ON DINOSAUR HIPS IN THE JOURNAL NATURE
The Carney Lab just launched the Global Mosquito Observations Dashboard (mosquitodashboard.org), along with a new study about fighting mosquito-borne diseases around the world using citizen science and artificial intelligence (AI). This research is part of the lab's National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and collaboration with NASA and the CDC, and was featured on the USF homepage and NSF website. The AI techniques developed through collaboration with the Chellappan Lab include multiple patents pending, and in a follow-up student paper were also used to classify bees and bee mimics.
Dr. Ryan Carney's research on the iconic Archaeopteryx served as a key component in a Nature paper on dinosaur hip "evodevo" (evolutionary developmental biology). As covered in various media outlets, these discoveries demonstrate that the developmental changes in a bird embryo's hip over two days mirror what is seen in fossil dinosaur hips over millions of years. "In this context," remarked Carney, "the modern bird egg is a time capsule of ancient dinosaurian features."
IB RESEARCHERS PUBLISH 'TERMITES AND TEMPERATURE, WOOD DECOMPOSITION ACROSS LATITUDES'
Assistant Professor Camilo Zalamea and Research Associate Carolina Sarmiento from IB in collaboration from colleagues around the planet published a paper in Science.
DR. SANTIAGO ALARCON PUBLISHES PNAS ARTICLE ON
'WILDLIFE SUSCEPTIBILITY TO INFECTIOUS DISEASES AT GLOBAL SCALE'
During the last decade many studies have investigated how different biotic and abiotic factors determine pathogen infection, particularly for zoonotic diseases affecting humans. As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to better understand the influential factors underlying zoonotic transmission to inform future disease management strategies. Here, authors created a model using machine learning to understand the underlying environmental, geographic, and phylogenetic factors that influence zoonotic transmission. They applied it to three different host-pathogen systems: coronaviruses and bats, West Nile Virus (WNV) and birds, and malaria and birds. The results suggest that transmission of avian malaria is mostly affected by environmental distance between hosts, WNV is influenced by a combination of all three factors, while bat-coronaviruses are mostly affected by the geographic distribution of susceptible host species. The data point to bird species that are particularly susceptible to transmission, which includes songbirds and perching birds in the Passerine order. As well, several hotspot regions around the world were identified, with Eurasia being particularly susceptible to avian malaria and North America to WNV. Coronaviruses are likely to successfully invade any geographical region of the world reachable via natural dispersal or human-assisted dispersal. Results agreed with the known ecology of each analyzed system, providing a tool to discover potential host species and novel geographical hot spots for a pathogen. Thus, it can help guiding sampling decisions both in terms of host species and geographical locations. Finally, this tool can be applied at different spatial scales with few incidence data.
THE GLOBAL SUCCESS STORY OF KNOTWEED
The University of Tübingen magazine has recently published a IB's Christina Richards'
research on Knotweed.
Check it out here (in German and English) - starting on page 6: