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The IB Seminar Series will be held in the CAS Multidisciplinary Complex (CMC 147), 3:30PM on Thursdays. (CMC is along Leroy Collins Blvd, parking lot 2A/B, near BSF) MAP



In October 2015, the Department of Integrative Biology, working with the College of Arts and Science, ResearchOne, and the Interdisciplinary Data Sciences Consortium, offered a set of workshops on data analysis. Two of the lectures from the workshop are available (below) as online videos.

  • Introduction to spatial linear models; Spatial linear models in R, by Simoneta Negrete Yankelevich, Instituto de Ecología A.C., Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Spatial phenomena are important in many kinds of data, especially environmental data. This is an introduction to spatial linear models, a central set of tools for assessing spatial phenomena and beginning to quantify them. It is based on the chapter on this topic in Fox, Negrete, and Sosa (eds). 2015. Ecological statistics: contemporary theory and application. Oxford University Press. The workshop was given at the University of South Florida.

  • Introduction to analysis of censored and truncated data. Data in many settings are censored: we know only an inequality about some values - for example, that a particular value weighs less than the scale permits. In other settings, data are truncated: we aren't even recording the existence of certain types of values. There are some well-developed methods for analyzing these data; this is an introduction. It uses the chapter on this topic in Fox, Negrete, and Sosa, eds. (2015). Ecological statistics: contemporary theory and application. Oxford University Press.

Samantha Mangum Named Outstanding TA 2018

Please congratulate Samantha Mangum for her sustained excellence as a teaching assistant in our Biological Diversity course (BSC2011L). Samantha has worked as both a teaching assistant and doing lab prep in this complex course that averages over 800 students and 34 lab sections per semester. Samantha has consistently stood out for her enthusiasm and dedication to the course over the last six semesters. Samantha manages her classes in an organized and proficient manner, is always friendly and professional in her interactions with her students, and is an enthusiastic instructor who fosters interest and excitement in the course. Samantha gets along well with the other teaching assistants and has helped improve the course curriculum and has provided valuable feedback in updating the lab manual. She is always the first to volunteer to help with issues that crop up each semester, for example, she came in right before Hurricane Irma to help transfer over a thousand stock vials of fruit flies into new growth vials so that they could survive the storm if the power went out. Samantha has been selected as a mentor TA for the STEER TA training sessions held each fall, so that she will be able to provide insight from her teaching experiences to help guide the new TAs in our department.

Recent publication by Motta lab

Biomechanics of the jaw of the durophagous bonnethead shark.

Zoology. Vol 129, August 2018, p 54-58

Read more here

Recent Deban Lab Publications

Deban, S.M. and S.V. Bloom. 2018. Ballistic tongue projection in a miniaturized salamander. Journal of Experimental Zoology. A. Online.

Olberding, J.P. and S.M. Deban. 2018. Scaling of work and power in a locomotor muscle of a frog. Journal of Comparative Physiology. B. Online.

Olberding, J.P., J.A. Scales and S.M. Deban. 2018. Movements of vastly different performance have similar underlying muscle physiology. Journal of Experimental Biology, 221, jeb166900.

Stinson, C.M. and S.M. Deban. 2017. Functional trade-offs in the aquatic feeding performance of salamanders. Zoology, 125: 69-78.

Stinson, C.M. and S.M. Deban. 2017. Functional morphology of terrestrial prey capture in salamandrid salamanders. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220: 3896-3907. Deban, S.M. and J.C. Richardson. 2017.

A peculiar mechanism of bite-force enhancement in lungless salamanders revealed by a new geometric method for modeling muscle moments. Journal of Experimental Biology, 220: 3588-3597. Olberding, J.P. and S.M. Deban. 2017.

Effects of temperature and force requirements on muscle work and power output. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 2017-2025. Scales, J.A., M.K. O’Donnell and S.M. Deban. 2017.

Thermal sensitivity of motor control of muscle-powered versus elastically powered tongue projection in salamanders. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220: 938-951.

Dr Jeremy Cohen selected as one of three recipients of the 2017 Outstanding Thesis and Dissertation Award

Richards' lab recieves Australian Research Council Grant.

Multi-trait plasticity in response to a changing climate

Emeritus Professor Sidney Pierce Featured in an Oral History of the Marine Biological Laboratory.

Sea cucumber species named after Professor Emeritus John Lawrence

A new species of brooding Psolidae (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) from deep-sea off Argentina, Southwestern Atlantic Ocean.

Mariano I. Martinez , Pablo E. Penchaszadeh. Deep-Sea Research Part II.

Read more here




Christina Richards Fulbright U.S. Scholar grant.

Enhancing the biology curriculum at University of South Florida and University of Rennes with ecological epigenetics: Merging ecology and epigenomics approaches to understand plant invasion.

Collaborative research and teaching at the Université de Rennes 1 in France, with Professor Malika Ainouche and Dr. Armel Salmon. Read more here

Ryan Carney

USF professor one of 14 world-changers named 2017 National Geographic Emerging Explorers

Groundbreaking research by USF evolutionary biologist and epidemiologist Ryan Carney uses virtual reality to help paleontologists learn more about dinosaurs.

Find out more here and here




American Genetics Association's Evolutionary, Ecological, or Conservation Genomics Grant Received by Nic Kooyers

"Investigating the role of pleiotropy in the adaptive divergence of plant defense arsenals."

Read more here

Former Integrative Biology (Martin Lab) student featured in inspirational 'Fierce Womens Collective' news article

Read more here





NSF Grant Awarded to Downs (Hamilton College), Martin (USF Integrative Biology), Jiang (USF Public Health), Ball (Lowry Park Zoo)

Constraints of biomass on innate immunity across terrestrial mammals

Why are some species more susceptible to and more likely to act as reservoirs for parasites whereas others are resistant? Perhaps the physical size of hosts is important. Host size likely affects i) the chance of exposure to infectious organisms, ii) the ability of immune defenses to keep pace with pathogen replication, and/or iii) the ability of hosts to detect threats in a comparatively large risk space. Although body mass is one of the strongest influences on other physiological traits, effects of body size are effectively unknown for immune systems. Here, Downs (Hamilton College), Martin (USF Integrative Biology), Jiang (USF Public Health) and Ball (Lowry Park Zoo) will investigate whether and how body mass is related to antimicrobial immune defenses in terrestrial mammals. Specifically, they will ask how functional forms of innate immunity relate to body size among >150 terrestrial mammal species spanning 7 orders of magnitude in size. In addition, Downs et al., will ask how protein expression for innate immune defenses relate to body mass among 10 primate species spanning 5 orders of magnitude in size. Such a broad understanding of mammalian immune variation has the potential to enhance models of disease spread by providing predictions about the level of immune defense expected in species never before studied. Finally, participants in this project will use this research to develop outreach activities for zoos and biology classes at local schools. These activities will demonstrate how comparative research is relevant to understanding human and animal health.

Field Trips in the Biology of Sharks and Fish Biology classes with Professor Motta

Brad Gemmel

Read more here




Gordon Fox was featured in an interview on WMNF Public Radio (88.5 FM, Tampa, Florida) on the effects of climate change on the spread of diseases around the world. He pointed out that the recent outbreak of the Zika virus is not the only pathogen spreading in Florida, that the state is also falling victim to the Texas Phoenix Palm Decline , which is infecting trees including date palms and cabbage palms in Florida. Tampa is the center of the outbreak in the state. The disease is caused by a bacteria which was imported into the state with infected plants. Gordon discusses the problem with world travel and human interest in novel plants and animals introducing new species to new parts of the globe. These new species carry new diseases with them. Read his interview, or listen to it, at the WMNF RADIO site.



Tom and Beverly Porter continue to support USF Integrative Biology and Dr. Motta's lab since their daughter, Heather, graduated in 1997. Their donations to USF have helped Department of Integrative Biology students in the lab of Dr. Philip Motta, studying the feeding behavior of sharks, tagging sharks aboard a research vessel, taking field trips to the Florida Keys reefs to study fishes and in one-on-one mentoring, and in the lab of Dr. Stephen Deban, using high speed videography to compare feeding patterns of different salamander species. These are just a few of the valuable research opportunities USF's Integrative Biology students have taken part in. Learn more about the story, and the research opportunities in Integrative Biology in the following video:




The USF Faculty Senate Honors and Awards Council has concluded its deliberations for the 2016 Spring Semester, and selected Dr. Jason Rohr, (USF Integrative Biology), to receive the 2016 Jerome Krivanek Distinguished Teacher Award. The award will be presented later this year by the Provost’s office. Jason began his teaching career as an Assistant Professor in the USF Biology Department in 2007, and is currently an Associate Professor, teaching classes in the Department of Integrative Biology on parasitology, animal behavior, and graduate-level introductory and advanced biological statistics. He was recently appointed Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Ecology Research (CIDER), a newly formed research center at USF, to which the Department of Integrative Biology is affiliated. His world-renowned research includes studies on ecotoxicity of pesticides and herbicides, chytrid fungal effects on amphibians, and anthropogenic changes to ecosystems. Congratulations on your award!



USF and the Florida Board of Governors met recently to officially approve the establishment of a Center for Infectious Disease Ecology Research (CIDER) on campus. The Center will be affiliated with the USF Department of Integrative Biology. The purpose of the Center is to bring together researchers on campus that are interested in diseases ecology. It will also facilitate in the training of disease ecologists and attract new disease ecologist faculty to USF. Disease ecology is the interaction of the behavior and ecology of hosts with the biology of pathogens, as it relates to the impact of diseases on populations.




The USF Transformation Implementation Leadership Team (TILT) has recommended for implementation and will provide support for proposals submitted to the team by two USF Integrative Biology faculty members, Chantale Bégin and Christopher Osovitz. Chantale joined Vasala Mohanakumar from Hillsborough Community College in submitting a proposal titled “Transforming STEM Education at USF and HCC”, while Chris joined an eight-member team that also included faculty from the USF Departments of CMMB, Chemistry, and Mathematics and faculty from HCC in submitting a proposal titled “Mathematics Foundation for Sciences”. Project STEER (Systemic Transformation of Education through Evidence-Based Reforms) is a program supported largely by a $3M NSF IUSE grant to a broadly representative USF team to develop an institutional culture that improves the retention rate and preparation of students who enter USF as STEM majors. STEER has a special focus on underrepresented groups. On January 30, STEER held an interdisciplinary retreat. One of the outcomes of the retreat was an invitation to faculty to submit course redesign proposals with support of STEER. Each proposed project was expected to enhance curricular alignment and adoption of evidence-based strategies, strategies that have been validated by extensive research to be effective in reaching the overall national goal. Chantale and Chris submitted proposals expected to reach these goals. TILT members will serve as advisors and consultants in the development of work plans to implement the proposals. The funding provided in the awards is in recognition of the additional effort the participating faculty will have to expend on these projects. Congratulations on your awards!




Dr. Thomas Crisman, joint professor in USF Integrative Biology and the College of Public Health’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, recently concluded an a one year fellowship with the U.S. Department of State and USAID’s Jefferson Science Fellowship Program. He was one of 13 fellows chosen nationally to offer their insight on bridging science and U.S. policy. Working in the Office of Conservation and Water, Crisman led an expert group working to help with revisions of the environmental safeguards that the World Bank applies to all loans. He was also responsible for reviewing environmental assessment for large dams globally prior to World Bank funding approval. “I would give the State Department’s view before sending it to the Treasury for submittal to the World Bank,” Crisman said. He also helped set up a new program bringing together religious values of local people and water usage, taking into account local social values associated with water management. He started his efforts on the Balkans and will continue on to Albania, Macedonia and Croatia. Although his Jefferson Science fellowship has concluded, he is still continuing his work with the U.S. Department of the State as a Jefferson Science Fellow. In addition to this, Crisman has served for the past 20 years on the board of the United States–Israel Binational Science Foundation as one of five Americans responsible for overseeing the distribution of U.S.-Israeli funding for cooperative science between the two nations. He has also served as a consultant for numerous U.S. embassies around the world on water management issues. More of his story is featured in a story at USF College of Public Health News.


Recent publications coordinated by Christina Richards.


Ecological plant epigenetics: Evidence from model and non-model species, and the way forward

Christina L. Richards, Conchita Alonso, Claude Becker, Oliver Bossdorf, Etienne Bucher, Maria Colomé-Tatché, Walter Durka, Jan Engelhardt, Bence Gaspar, Andreas Gogol-Döring, Ivo Grosse, Thomas P. van Gurp, Katrin Heer, Ilkka Kronholm, Christian Lampei, Vít Latzel, Marie Mirouze, Lars Opgenoorth, Ovidiu Paun, Sonja J. Prohaska, Stefan A. Rensing, Peter F. Stadler, Emiliano Trucchi, Kristian Ullrich, Koen J. F. Verhoeven

Read the Article

A joint effort of the 2015 working group ‘sEpiDiv – Towards understanding the causes and consequences of epigenetic diversity’ organised by K.Heer and L.Opgenoorth. This effort included 25 authors representing 24 institutions across 7 European countries, and was kindly supported by sDiv, the Synthesis Centre of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, funded by the German Research Foundation (FZT 118). All authors contributed to the discussions and participated in drafting the manuscript, and the writing was partially supported by funding from the National Science Foundation DEB-1419960 and the Franco-American Fulbright Commission (to C.L.R.).


Genetic and epigenetic variation in Spartina alterniflorafollowing the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Marta Robertson, Aaron Schrey, Ashley Shayter, Christina J Moss, Christina Richards

Read the article here


Recent Motta Lab Publications


An analysis of extraocular muscle forces in the Piked Dogfish Squalus acanthias.

Gurley M., and P. Motta. In review. J. Fish Biology. (In Review)

Teeth penetration force of the tiger shark Galeocerdo cuvier and sandbar shark Carcharhinus plumbeus.

Bergman, J.N., Lajeunesse, M.J., and P.J. Motta. 2017. J. Fish Biol. Doi: 10.1111/jfb.13351

Theoretical calculations of bite force in billfishes.

Habegger, M.L., Huber, D.H., Lajeunesse, M.J., Motta, P.J. 2017. Journal of Zoology. Doi:10.1111/jzo.12465 PDF

Experimental study of laminar and turbulent boundary layer separation control of shark skin. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics.

Arfoz, Farhana., Lang, Amy., Habegger, Maria., Motta, Philip., Hueter, Robert. 2017. doi:10.1088/1748-3190/12/1/016009 PDF

Modulation of shark prey capture kinematics in response to sensory deprivation.

Gardiner, J.M., Atema, J., Hueter, R.E., and P.J Motta. 2017. Zoology 120:42-52. PDF

A kinematic investigation into the feeding behavior of the Goliath grouper Epinephelus itajara.

Collins, A.B. and P.J. Motta. 2017. Environmental Biology of Fishes. 100:309-323 DOI 10.1007/s10641-016-0543-4 PDF

Martin Lab Publication

Costs of immune response are related to body mass and life history.

Brace, AJ, M LaJeunesse, JS Adelman, DR Ardia, DM Hawley, K Buchanan, JE Fair, J Grindstaff, KD Matson, and LB Martin. 2017. Journal of Experimental Zoology A, in press.

Martin Lab Publication

Corticosterone regulation in house sparrows invading Senegal

Lynn B. Martin, Holly J. Kilvitis, Massamba Thiam, Daniel R. Ardia

General and Comparative Endocrinology, 2017. Read more here

Publication by Jeffrey P. Olberding and Stephen M. Deban

Effects of temperature and force requirements on muscle work and power output. Journal of Experimental Biology. 2017

Read more here

Martin Lab has two publications accepted

Stress hormones predict a host superspreader phenotype in the West Nile virus system.

Gervasi, SS, SC Burgan, E Hofmeister, TR Unnasch, and LB Martin. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, in press 2017.

Epigenetic Potential as a Mechanism of Phenotypic Plasticity in Vertebrate Range Expansions.

Holly Kilvitis. Integrative and Comparative Biology 2017

Kooyers Lab Publication

Optimal Defense Theory explains deviations from latitudinal herbivory defense hypothesis.

Nic Kooyers, Liza Holeski and Ben Blackman. Ecology, 98(4), 2017, pp. 1036–1048

Read more here

Bell Lab. Publication

Three- dimensional interstitial space mediates predator foraging success in different spatial arrangements

Stephen G. Hesterberg, C. Cole Duckett, Elizabeth A. Salewski, and Susan S. Bell. Ecology, 98(4), 2017, pp. 1153–1162

Read more here

Richards Lab. Publication

Genetic and epigenetic variation in Spartina alterniflora following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Marta Robertson, Aaron Schrey, Ashley Shayter, Christina J Moss, Christina Richards. Evolutionary Applications. 2017;1–10

Read more here

Publication by Martin Lab.

Costs of immunity and their role in the range expansion of the house sparrow in Kenya.

Lynn B. Martin, Holly J. Kilvitis, Amber J. BraceLaken Cooper, Mark F. Haussmann, Alex Mutati, Vincent Fasanello, Sara O'Brien, Daniel R. Ardia

Read more here

Publication by Scott lab. selected as 'Spotlight' article in Journal of Bacteriology. January 2017

Proteomic and Mutant Analysis of the CO2 Concentrating Mechanism of Hydrothermal Vent Chemolithoautotroph Thiomicrospira crunogena

Mary Mangiapia, USF MCB4404L, Terry-Rene W. Brown, Dale Chaput, Edward Haller, Tara L. Harmer, Zahra Hashemy, Ryan Keeley, Juliana Leonard, Paola Mancera, David Nicholson, Stanley Stevens, Pauline Wanjugi, Tania Zabinski, Chongle Pan, Kathleen M. Scott.

Including 107 undergraduate student coauthors

Read more here

Nic Kooyers publishes research on how niche divergence between two monkeyflower species is mediated by trait evolution.

'Competition drives trait evolution and character displacement between Mimulusspecies along an environmental gradient'

Read more here

A Preliminary Molecular and Phylogenetic Analysis of the Genome of a Novel Endogenous Retrovirus in the Sea Slug Elysia chlorotica.

Sidney K. Pierce, Padmanabhan Mahadevan, Steven E. Massey, and Michael L. Middlebrooks. Biol. Bull. 231: 236–244. (December 2016).

Find out more here



The new fields of ecological immunology and disease ecology have begun to merge, and the classic fields of immunology and epidemiology are beginning to blend with them. This merger is occurring because the integrative study of host–parasite interactions is providing insights into disease in ways that traditional methods have not. With the advent of new tools, mathematical and technological, scientists could be on the verge of developing a unified theory of infectious disease, one that supersedes the barriers of jargon and tradition. Authors Lynn (Marty) Martin, (USF Integrative Biology), Sarah Burgan, (USF Integrative Biology), James Adelman, (Virginia Tech, Blackburg, VA.), and Stephanie Gervasi, (Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA.) argue that a cornerstone of any such synthesis will be PRNSHOST, the propensity of an individual host to generate new infections in other susceptible hosts. In the last few years, the emergence of systems immunology has led to novel insight into how hosts control or eliminate pathogens. Most such efforts have stopped short of considering transmission and the requisite behaviors of infected individuals that mediate it, and few have explicitly incorporated ecological and evolutionary principles. Ultimately though, scientists expect that the use of a systems immunology perspective will help link suborganismal processes (i.e., health of hosts and selection on genes) to superorganismal outcomes (i.e., community-level disease dynamics and host–parasite coevolution). Recently, physiological regulatory networks (PRNs) were cast as whole-organism regulatory systems that mediate homeostasis and hence link suborganismal processes with the fitness of individuals. The authors use the PRN construct to develop a roadmap for studying host competence, taking guidance from systems immunology and evolutionary ecology research. They argue that PRN variation underlies heterogeneity in individual host competence and hence host–parasite dynamics. Their study is published in the journal Integrative and Comparative Biology.



Microbial source tracking (MST) endeavors to determine sources of fecal pollution in environmental waters by capitalizing on the association of certain microorganisms with the gastrointestinal tract and feces of specific animal groups. Several decades of research have shown that bacteria belonging to the gut-associated order Bacteroidales, and particularly the genus Bacteroides, tend to co-evolve with the host, and are, therefore, particularly suitable candidates for MST applications. In a review paper, authors Warish Ahmed, (CSIRO Land and Water, Brisbane, Queensland, AU), Bridie Hughes, (CSIRO Land and Water, Brisbane, Queensland, AU), and Valerie (Jody) Harwood, (USF Integrative Biology) summarize the current research on MST methods that employ genes belonging to Bacteroidales/Bacteroides as tracers or “markers” of sewage pollution, including known advantages and deficiencies of the many polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods that have been published since 2000. Host specificity is a paramount criterion for confidence that detection of a marker is a true indicator of the target host. Host sensitivity, or the prevalence of the marker in feces/waste from the target host, is necessary for confidence that absence of the marker is indicative of the absence of the pollution source. Each of these parameters can vary widely depending on the type of waste assessed and the geographic location. Differential decay characteristics of bacterial targets and their associated DNA contribute to challenges in interpreting MST results in the context of human health risks. The HF183 marker, derived from the 16S rRNA gene of Bacteroides dorei and closely related taxa, has been used for almost two decades in MST studies, and is well characterized regarding host sensitivity and specificity, and in prevalence and concentration in sewage in many countries. Other markers such as HumM2 and HumM3 show promise, but require further performance testing to demonstrate their widespread utility. An important limitation of the one-marker-one-assay approach commonly used for MST is that given the complexities of microbial persistence in environmental waters, and the methodological challenges of quantitative PCR (qPCR) in such samples, the absence of a given marker does not ensure the absence of fecal pollution in the source water. Approaches under development, such as microarray and community analysis, have the potential to improve MST practices, thereby increasing our ability to protect human and ecosystem health. Their study is published in the journal Water.



Ecological risk assessment (ERA) is the process used to evaluate the safety of manufactured chemicals to the environment. Authors Jason Rohr, (USF Integrative Biology), Christopher Salice, (Towson Univ., Towson, MD.), and Roger Nisbet, (Univ. of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA.) reviewed the pros and cons of ERA across levels of biological organization, including suborganismal (e.g., biomarkers), individual, population, community, ecosystem and landscapes levels. Their review revealed that level of biological organization is often related negatively with ease at assessing cause-effect relationships, ease of high-throughput screening of large numbers of chemicals (it is especially easier for suborganismal endpoints), and uncertainty of the ERA because low levels of biological organization tend to have a large distance between their measurement (what is quantified) and assessment endpoints (what is to be protected). In contrast, level of biological organization is often related positively with sensitivity to important negative and positive feedbacks and context dependencies within biological systems, and ease at capturing recovery from adverse contaminant effects. Some endpoints did not show obvious trends across levels of biological organization, such as the use of vertebrate animals in chemical testing and ease at screening large numbers of species, and other factors lacked sufficient data across levels of biological organization, such as repeatability, variability, cost per study and cost per species of effects assessment, the latter of which might be a more defensible way to compare costs of ERAs than cost per study. To compensate for weaknesses of ERA at any particular level of biological organization, the authors also reviewed mathematical modeling approaches commonly used to extrapolate effects across levels of organization. Finally, they provide recommendations for next generation ERA, submitting that if there is an ideal level of biological organization to conduct ERA, it will only emerge if ERA is approached simultaneously from the bottom of biological organization up as well as from the top down, all while employing mathematical modeling approaches where possible to enhance ERA. Because top-down ERA is unconventional, they also offer some suggestions for how it might be implemented efficaciously. The authors state that they hope this review helps researchers in the field of ERA fill key information gaps and helps risk assessors identify the best levels of biological organization to conduct ERAs with differing goals. Their paper is published in the journal Critical Reviews in Toxicology.



In a previous paper (Blood-brain barrier alterations provide evidence of subacute diaschisis in an ischemic stroke rat model, PLoS ONE), authors Svitlana Garbuzova-Davis, (Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, Morsani College of Medicine, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, Fl.), Edward Haller, (USF Integrative Biology), Naoki Tajiri, (CEABR, USF), Avery Thomson, (CEABR, USF), Jennifer Barretta, (CEABR, USF), Stephanie Williams, (CEABR, USF), Eithan Haim, (CEABR, USF), Hua Qin, (CEABR, USF), Aric Frisina-Deyo, (CEABR, USF), Jerry Abraham, (CEABR, USF), Paul Sanberg, (CEABR, USF), Harry Van Loveren, (Dept. of Neurosurgery and Brain Repair, Morsani C. of M., USF), and Cesario V. Borlongan, (CEABR, USF) demonstrated blood-brain barrier impairment in remote contralateral brain areas in rats at 7 and 30 days after transient middle cerebral artery occlusion (tMCAO), indicating ischemic diaschisis. Their current study focused on effects of subacute and chronic focal cerebral ischemia on the blood-spinal cord barrier (BSCB). They observed BSCB damage on both sides of the cervical spinal cord in rats at 7 and 30 days post-tMCAO. Major BSCB ultrastructural changes in spinal cord gray and white matter included vacuolated endothelial cells containing autophagosomes, pericyte degeneration with enlarged mitochondria, astrocyte end-feet degeneration and perivascular edema; damaged motor neurons, swollen axons with unraveled myelin in ascending and descending tracts and astrogliosis were also observed. Evans Blue dye extravasation was maximal at 7 days. There was immunofluorescence evidence of reduction of microvascular expression of tight junction occludin, upregulation of Beclin-1 and LC3B immunoreactivities at 7 days and a reduction of the latter at 30 days post-ischemia. These novel pathological alterations on the cervical spinal cord microvasculature in rats after tMCAO suggest pervasive and long-lasting BSCB damage after focal cerebral ischemia, and that spinal cord ischemic diaschisis should be considered in the pathophysiology and therapeutic approaches in patients with ischemic cerebral infarction. Their current study is published in the Oxford Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology. The story of their research is featured in an article in ScienceDaily.



Muscle-powered movements are limited by the contractile properties of muscles and are sensitive to temperature changes. Elastic-recoil mechanisms can both increase performance and mitigate the effects of temperature on performance. Authors Jeffrey Scales, Charlotte Stinson and Stephen Deban, (USF Integrative Biology, Deban lab) compared feeding movements in two species of plethodontid salamanders, Bolitoglossa franklini and Desmognathus quadramaculatus, across a range of body temperatures (5-25°C) to better understand the mechanism of elastically powered, thermally robust movements. Bolitoglossa exhibited ballistic, elastically powered tongue projection with a maximum muscle mass specific power of 4,642 W kg -1 while Desmognathus demonstrated nonballistic, muscle-powered tongue projection with a maximum power of 359 W kg -1. Tongue-projection performance in Bolitoglossa was more thermally robust than that of Desmognathus, especially below 15°C. The improved performance and thermal robustness of Bolitoglossa was associated with morphological changes in the projector muscle, including elaborated collagen aponeuroses and the absence of myofibers attaching directly to the tongue skeleton. The elongated aponeuroses likely increase the capacity for elastic energy storage, and the lack of myofibers inserting on the tongue skeleton permits ballistic projection. These results suggest that relatively simple changes in myofiber architecture and the amount of connective tissue can improve the performance and functional robustness of movements in the face of environmental challenges such as variable temperature. Their study is published in the Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A Ecological Genetics and Physiology.


USF Graduate Student Inspired to Make a Difference.

USF Grad Students Prove Good Neighbors Can Also Be Good Science Teachers

Integrative Biology graduate students bring science to the classroom at Pizzo Elementary. Find out more here




IB members participate in STEM outreach with local youth

Members of Integrative Biology volunteered with Athletes For Charity earlier this month to bring STEM activities to children from local schools.  Erin Feichtinger, Haley Hanson, Nicole Ortega and Loren Sackettspent a Saturday with members of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers STEM Squad and other local scientists implementing science-based activities for 5-12 year olds as part of the uniquely focused STEM Expo + Youth Football Camp.  Among the USF activities were a build-your-own-body human skeleton kit and an exercise in which participants obtained DNA sequences from animal poop to understand what those animals are eating.  The kids loved it, and IB may have recruited some future students!

Biology Gradute Student Organization (BGSO) Annual Beach Cleanup event

March 26th 2017 marked the first Biology Graduate Student Organization (BGSO) Annual Beach Cleanup event. BGSO is dedicated to serving the Tampa Bay community and the volunteer arm of BGSO is one of the primary ways the organization looks to do this. The inaugural beach cleanup was conducted at Fort De Soto Park, a beautiful coastal area protected by Pinellas County and home to an abundance of native Florida fauna and flora. BGSO volunteers spent two hours cleaning up the boat ramp at the park and collected a total 46 lbs of trash. Utilizing the Ocean Conservancy's mobile app "Clean Swell", volunteers were able to track the type and amount of debris collected and thus provide the Ocean Conservancy with valuable information on marine debris of the Fort De Soto waterways. The most common item collected came down to a tight race between cigarette butts and tiny plastic/foam bits. BGSO is looking forward to organizing the 2nd Annual Beach Cleanup for Spring 2018. Keep those trash bags ready! Left to right: Jeannie Mounger (Richards lab), Chandler Eaglestone (Mushinsky/McCoy labs), Samantha Mangum (Fox lab), Dawei Tang (Lewis lab), and Shannon Grogan (Bell lab)



Recently, Chantale Bégin, Instructor in USF Integrative Biology, taught a course titled Tropical Marine Ecosystems (BSC 4933). It was 3-credit course that was held half on the USF campus and half in the British Virgin Islands. While at USF, 20 students learned about mangroves, seagrasses and coral reef ecosystems, learning to identify common Caribbean invertebrates (including corals), fish and macrophytes, and acquired scientific diver in training status with AAUS (the American Academy for Underwater Science). After this initial training at USF, students traveled to Tortola, where they boarded the 112ft sailing vessel Argo. Over the 10 days that the class was aboard Argo, they sailed to several sites on the islands Tortola, Peter Island, Virgin Gorda, Guana, Sandy Spit and Jost Van Dyke. They gained experience using scuba diving and snorkeling to carry out standard benthic surveys and gather data on coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves. Students each completed 12 dives while in the BVI, and thereby gained full AAUS scientific diver status. After the BVI, the class met again in Tampa for a couple of days to analyze the data they collected. Among other things, they compared coral reef communities at various depth, quantified invertebrate density and richness in seagrass beds and mangrove roots, and examined the use of mangroves by several species of reef fishes.




Terry-René Brown, (Ph.D. Candidate, Scott lab, USF Integrative Biology), has been awarded a 2016-17 Fulbright-Schuman European Union Affairs Program grant for collaborative research on two environmental policy projects in the European Union (EU). The title of her proposal was “Climate Change and Biodiversity: Science and Policy in the European Union.” The Fulbright grant will provide René the opportunity to work with Dr. Valerie Kapos, Head of the Programme for Climate Change and Biodiversity at the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), on a project investigating the impacts of climate change mitigation on biodiversity. The project will involve identifying the climate change mitigation measures the EU financially supports and assessing the positive and negative impacts these measures may have on biodiversity. Results from these studies will help direct UNEP-WCMC program priorities and will also be used to inform the EU and member states of the effects of climate change mitigation policies on biodiversity with the objective of promoting measures that enhance biodiversity and recommending safeguards for those that diminish biodiversity. René’s second host will be the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) with Dr. Lisette de Senerpont Domis, Head of the Aquatic Knowledge Centre Wageningen. This project will involve a large-scale meta-analysis of climate, biodiversity and water quality data collected in the Netherlands as a requirement of EU law under the Water Framework and Bathing Water Directives. The proposed project would involve analyzing these data along with historical and meteorological data to determine the relationships between climate, biodiversity, and water quality, and to determine the extent to which monitoring targets have been met. During her stay in the Netherlands, René and her host will convene a water management workshop, inviting water managers from other EU member states (e.g., Belgium, Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland, and Spain); the goals of the workshop are to present and discuss their results and to invite related presentations from other water managers, to help shape water quality monitoring practices in the EU. René hopes that the results of both studies will advance the state of climate change policy and biodiversity protection in the EU, and will be applicable to the US and beyond. Congratulations on receiving such a prestigious grant!




Sarah Burgan, Master’s degree candidate in the Martin lab (USF Integrative Biology), was recently awarded an Animal Behavior Society student research grant for her studies on house sparrows. Sarah’s proposal was titled "Repeated Parasite Exposure: Implications for Host Defense Strategy and Transmission." The aim of her research is to investigate the defense strategies (i.e., resistance and tolerance) of house sparrows upon exposure to West Nile virus. By connecting physiological processes within hosts to their competence to transmit parasites, she believes that researchers may better understand the influence of individual hosts on population- and community-level disease dynamics. A reviewer of Sarah’s application wrote: “The ABS student grant proposal entitled “Repeated parasite exposure: implications for host defense strategy and transmission” has significant broad implications in two areas: 1) it concerns the impact of the interaction of disease tolerance and resistance at different levels of biological structure --the individual host and the population as a virus reservoir; and 2) it concerns a significant disease threat to less tolerant bird species as well as a humans. These two points were succinctly reviewed as well as the background of the relevant organisms and virus making this integrative biology study proposal interesting to read. The experimental procedure is clearly indicated including how the threshold and resistance will be measured by specific parameters concerning physiology. The predictions and rationale for the predictions are clearly stated for the measured parameters. It was good to see the thought that was put into the statistical analysis beforehand.” Congratulations, Sarah!




Sewage spills can release antibiotic resistant bacteria to surface waters, contributing to environmental reservoirs and potentially impacting human health. Vancomycin resistant enterococci (VRE) are nosocomial pathogens that have been detected in environmental habitats including soil, water, beach sands and wildlife feces. However, VRE harboring vanA genes that confer high-level resistance have infrequently been found outside of clinical settings in the U.S. Suzanne Young, (USF Integrative Biology), Bina Nayak, (Water Research Manager, Pinellas County Utilities, Pinellas county, FL), Shan Sun, (Dept. of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blackburg, VA), Brian Badgley, (Dept. of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blackburg, VA), Jason Rohr, (USF Integrative Biology) and Valerie (Jody) Harwood, (USF Integrative Biology) conducted a study of culturable Enterococcus faecium harboring the vanA gene in water and sediment up to three days after a sewage spill, and the qPCR signal for vanA persisted for an additional week. Culturable enterococci levels in water exceeded recreational water guidelines for two weeks following the spill, declining about five orders of magnitude in sediments and two orders of magnitude in the water column over six weeks. Analysis of bacterial taxa via 16S rRNA gene sequencing showed changes in community structure through time following the sewage spill in both sediment and water. The spread of opportunistic pathogens harboring high level vancomycin resistance genes beyond hospitals and into the broader community and associated habitats is a potential threat to public health, requiring further studies examining the persistence, occurrence and survival of VRE in different environmental matrices. Journal of Applied and Environmental Microbiology. Their research is featured in an article in Florida Today online news. Suzanne is interviewed on WMNF 88.5FM Radio, whose website carries an article about the study. The study is also featured on WMNF News Channel 10 TV and carried in the Tampa Bay Times newspaper.



Humans are altering the distribution of species by changing the climate and disrupting biotic interactions and dispersal. A fundamental hypothesis in spatial ecology suggests that these effects are scale dependent; biotic interactions should shape distributions at local scales, whereas climate should dominate at regional scales. If so, common single-scale analyses might misestimate the impacts of anthropogenic modifications on biodiversity and the environment. However, large-scale datasets necessary to test these hypotheses have not been available until recently. Authors Jeremy Cohen, (USF Integrative Biology), David Civitello, (USF Integrative Biology), Amber Brace, (USF Integrative Biology), Erin Feichtinger, (USF Integrative Biology), C. Nicole Ortega, (USF Integrative Biology), Jason Richardson, (USF Integrative Biology), Erin Sauer, (USF Integrative Biology), Xuan Liub, (Chinese Acad. of Sciences, Beijing, CN) and Jason Rohr (USF Integrative Biology) conducted a cross-continental, cross-scale (almost five orders of magnitude) analysis of the influence of biotic and abiotic processes and human population density on the distribution of three emerging pathogens: the amphibian chytrid fungus implicated in worldwide amphibian declines and West Nile virus and the bacterium that causes Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi), which are responsible for ongoing human health crises. In all three systems, the authors show that biotic factors were significant predictors of pathogen distributions in multiple regression models only at local scales (~102-103km2), whereas climate and human population density always were significant only at relatively larger, regional scales (usually >104km2). Spatial autocorrelation analyses revealed that biotic factors were more variable at smaller scales, whereas climatic factors were more variable at larger scales, as is consistent with the prediction that factors should be important at the scales at which they vary the most. Finally, no single scale could detect the importance of all three categories of processes. These results highlight that common single-scale analyses can misrepresent the true impact of anthropogenic modifications on biodiversity and the environment. Their study is published in the journal PNAS.




In January Stephanie Gervasi, Sarah Burgan, Nathan Burkett-Cadena, Aaron Schrey, Hassan Hassan, Tom Unnasch and Lynn (Marty) Martin presented a talk titled “Vector preferences and host defenses in the West Nile virus system: A role for avian stress hormones?” at the annual meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Portland, Oregon. Their research showed that significantly more blood was taken by mosquitos from birds that exhibited stress than birds not expressing stress hormones in their blood. Their studies went on to show that mosquitos fed on blood from birds under stress lay more eggs, and lay them more quickly after feeding, implying that mosquitos feeding on stressed populations of animals produce larger populations of mosquitos more rapidly, spreading disease more rapidly. Read more about their research here.


We wish you all the best in the future, and great success along the way!