Spring 2014 Science Seminars

All Seminars will be held each THURSDAY in Powell Hall Auditorium at 4pm. Powell Hall is located next door to the Bailey Science Center

                                 January 30

Canceled due to weather

February 6    

Gang Risk Factors, Gang Membership and Academic Readiness

The current study examines middle-school-aged gang and non-gang members and informs educators, parents, and students about the risk factors of gang membership and its effect on academic achievement.  This research uses the same dataset analyzed in the Martinez, Tost, Hilgert, and Woodard-Meyers (2013) study.  Whereas, Martinez, et al, (2013) focused on risk factors related to gang membership, the current study emphasizes risk factors and gang membership as related to student academic readiness.  Results support the need for more gang surveys of the general adolescent population to clarify the extent of gang association among different racial and ethnic groups and its relationship with academic performance.  As a result of the current findings, families and community, along with teachers and school administrators are encouraged to actively engage in a strategic and systematic assessment of the risk factors associated with academic readiness which in turn can be used to facilitate program development for successful academic transition of middle school grades and on to high school.

Dr. James Martinez and Dr. Jeremy Tost, Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice

February 13

The Covariates of Stratified Trust: Cross-National Differences Between Hierarchy and Horizontalism

A key characteristic of social capital is the quantity and quality of social trust that one possesses. However, the relationship between generalized social trust and political trust—or the trust in all people and the confidence in elite institutions—is unknown. Past research has suggested social and political trust is positively associated (people either trust everyone and political elites, or they do not), but what explains why some people have a negative association between these two forms of trust? This research develops a theoretical model for understanding trust as potentially stratified—trust that is positively oriented toward hierarchical or horizontal relationships. The differences between people with variant levels of social and political trust, across multiple countries, were explored with data from the World Values Survey's fifth wave. Individuals were categorized as either trusters, distrusters, hierarchicalists, or horizontalists, depending on their combined social and political trust. Not only does the average stratified trust of countries fall into different categories, but significant differences also exist between members of these four categories. Crucial individual covariates include education, income, age, political ideology, political action, religiosity, and post-materialist values.

Dr. Dana Williams, Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Sociology, Anthropology, & Criminal Justice

February 20

Public health epidemiologists-working at the interface of the natural and social sciences

The presentation will describe the work of public health epidemiologists. These are disease detectives that use science and data to identify effective disease prevention practices and inform policy.  Put in a different way, the lecture will describe how epidemiologists closely trace germs that spread by taking advantage of stu… unwise… human behaviors and practices.

Carina Blackmore, Florida Department of Health

Hosting Dept: Biology

February 27

Behavioral Variation in the Mangrove Rivulus, Kryptolebias marmoratus, Under Varying Laboratory Conditions

The mangrove rivulus or killifish occurs in subtropical and tropical coastal waters from south Florida, through much of the Caribbean, Central America and down into northeastern Brazil.  Natural populations consist of hermaphrodites and males, but no known populations with females present.  It is also the only vertebrate species in the world that is known in which the hermaphrodites reproduce through self-fertilization.  It occupies a variety of habitats involving waters with low to moderate levels of salinity in mangrove stands, isolated pools and crab burrows.  It is also known for being semi-terrestrial and occupying waterless cavities in logs during periods of low water, a behavior termed log packing.  This seminar will examine work done by Kelly Luke Moore, who studied dyadic interactions in open water, and the work of myself and Levi Vedas who examined log packing under laboratory conditions in an artificial log.  The results of the two studies were markedly different in outcome and show the importance of habitat type on behavioral processes.

Dr. David Bechler, Department of Biology, Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Biology

March 6

VSU, Lake Seminole and the changing dynamic of environmental research

Reservoir systems are aquatic environments behind dam structures that are managed for specific functions based on predetermined needs.  As a result, many facets of these systems are not monitored and therefore, develop alterations to expected ecosystem function and services.  Here, Dr. Waters will trace a multiyear study on Lake Seminole, GA, a large and shallow reservoir in southwest Georgia.  Currently, the lake is overwhelmed with the invasive plant, Hydrilla.  The results are intended to show the variable nature of environmental science and to demonstrate the importance of detailed observations and multiple hypotheses in experimental investigations.  

Dr. Matt Waters, Department of Biology, Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Biology


March 13

How the method for numerical solution of polynomial equations in China evolved from the early methods of square and cube root extraction.

In the 13th century mathematicians in China reached an unparalleled level of sophistication when they developed a method to solve any polynomial equation of degree three and higher. The method could handle positive, negative, integer and decimal numbers and the accuracy could be pushed to any required level. These techniques were entirely indigenous to China and the origin is in the mathematics created since the 6th century BC. The most famous of these is the “Jiuzhang suanshu” or loosely translated as “Nine Chapters on the Mathematical Arts” in which the method for square and cube roots are stated. Over 1100 years Chinese algebraists grew to the point that they were able, around 1250 AD to solve any polynomial equation. We will follow the road that leads from one (Nine Chapters) to the complete solution.

Dr. Iwan Elstak

Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Mathematics and Computer Science


March 27

Effects of the Deepwater Horizon Incident on the Early Life Stages of Mahi-Mahi

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) disaster oiled large portions of the northern Gulf of Mexico pelagic zone that overlapped in space and time with the spawning locations for ecologically and commercially important fish species such as mahi-mahi, yellowfin tuna and cobia.  Aside from the immediate impacts on survival, such exposures, even if brief, may have also imparted subtle developmental and physiological effects with ensuing ramifications of ecological importance.  A synopsis of recent studies using mahi-mahi aimed at linking oil-induced cardiac defects and subsequent mortality, as well as assessments of the acute and latent effects of crude oil exposure on juvenile swimming performance, will be presented.

Dr. Ed Mager, University of Miami, RSMAS

Marine Biology & Fisheries

Hosting Dept: Biology

April 3

From Action to Object: The Case of the Trigonometric Identity

Over the past 25 years, research in mathematics education has explored how learners come to understand advanced mathematical concepts.  Theories such as Dubinsky’s APOS theory, Sfard’s Reification, and Gray and Tall’s Procept attempt to model this process.  What these theories have in common is the progression from a procedurally-driven operational understanding to a deeper structural understanding of the concept.  In my talk, I will share some of the operational-to-structural shifts that occur as students come to understand trigonometric identities.  The discussion will include some influences these structural and operational views have on student reasoning while students verify trigonometric identities.  Results of task-based interviews and student work will be presented.

Dr. Benjamin Wescoatt

Valdosta State University

Hosting Dept: Mathematics and Computer Science

April 10

Challenges to recovery of declining amphibian populations

Globally, amphibian populations are declining at a disturbing rate and are experiencing more severe losses than any other taxonomic group that has been studied thus far. I explore key obstacles to successful recovery of declining amphibian populations and identify strategies that could help overcome these obstacles. First, studies that focus on single stressor effects (e.g., UV-B, emerging diseases, climate change) are still vastly popular even though synergisms among multiple factors are now widely recognized to be the drivers of population declines. The former focus has consumed the valuable and limited commodities of time and funding and, ultimately, may have served as a distraction from a more basic issue; i.e., that habitat loss and degradation are the principle drivers of all biodiversity loss. The rates at which populations are declining are rapidly escalating. There is an urgent need to prioritize conservation efforts due to looming fiscal and logistical constraints that management agencies face. Second, monitoring is a key component of conservation and management programs as it is essential to evaluate the trends and dynamics of populations, as well as the effectiveness of management actions. Yet, long-term studies have largely been unavailable for most species of amphibians. A review of the primary literature for the southeastern U.S. revealed geographic, taxonomic and ecological disparities in efforts to monitor amphibian populations in this region. Third, the U.S. Endangered Species Act affords imperiled species a diversity of benefits, yet there can be lengthy delays in the listing process. Moreover, long time lags often exist between the time a species is listed, the time at which a recovery plan is developed and then implemented, and the timing of critical habitat designation. The consequences of delayed protection are potentially severe, allowing population declines to continue, hindering recovery efforts, and possibly contributing to species extinction events. Last, as with many taxa, amphibians often lack sufficient population-level data such as reproductive or survival rates, dispersal, and spatial dynamics, as well as basic natural and life history information. Moving forward with recovery efforts for imperiled amphibians depends upon our ability to overcome these distractions and challenges. Awareness of these data needs will hopefully guide establishment of research and monitoring priorities using an informed decision-making process, particularly with respect to species, habitats and locations that have been largely overlooked in past and ongoing studies.

Susan C. Walls, Research Wildlife Biologist and Coordinator,
Southeast Amphibian Research & Monitoring Initiative, U.S. Geological Survey

Hosting Dept: Biology

April 17

Evolution and biogeography of New World venomous snakes

There are approximately 600 species of snakes, in four families, that are considered dangerously venomous; these are found both in the New and Old Worlds. Two adaptive radiations have occurred in the New World giving rise to two major radiations, of approximately 220 describes species of venomous pitvipers and coralsnakes. Understanding the evolution and biogeography of these two groups is important for venom-related research, to elucidate shared biogeographic trends, and to accomplish a stable evolutionarily-valid taxonomy. Using molecular and morphological data I will present evolutionary hypotheses for the relationships among these two groups and utilizing relaxed clock methodologies plus geological data I will discuss what processes have helped shaped the evolution and biogeography of these two venomous groups. We also determine that while pitviper taxonomy is largely congruent with phylogeny, there appear to be a number of cases in coralsnakes in which the taxonomy and phylogeny disagree.

Dr. Christopher L. Parkinson

Dept of Biology, University of Central Florida

Hosting Dept: Biology