Students (left to right) Rob Cuba, Laura Wiggins and Krista Austin with Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences Heather Judkins, Ph.D., with the rare Asperoteuthis squid.

Biology professor and students examine and document rare squid

Christmas came early for Heather Judkins, Ph.D.

Two large species of squid, so rare they are destined for the Florida Museum of Natural History, made their way by cruise ship from the Caribbean Sea off Grand Cayman to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg last week to be examined by Judkins, assistant professor of biological sciences at USFSP.

The squid were not only rare but huge, measuring more than six feet in length each. The squid – an Asperoteuthis and a Megalocranchia – dwell thousands of feet below the surface. Adult specimens are so rare only a few have been examined by scientists. The specimens scientists usually examine are under a foot long.

“We don’t get them as big as this or in as good a condition,’’ Judkins said as one of the squid lay on a lab table at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. “It’s like Christmas!”

Both were found floating on the surface by fishermen. The Megalocranchia was found in July and the Asperoteuthis four years ago.They were frozen by the Cayman Islands Department of Environment and shipped to Judkins in a chest freezer aboard the Royal Caribbean Freedom of the Seas cruise ship to Port Canaveral. Judkins then drove them in the freezer to USFSP.

Little is known about the biology of these deep-sea species of squid, including how they reproduce and their role in deep-sea food webs Judkins said. “This adds pieces to the puzzle,’’ she said of the specimens.

Judkins specializes in cephalopod research. She has published five articles in scientific journals, presented at scientific conferences and teaches a course in marine invertebrates, including squid. She was drawn to squid partly because of the mystery that surrounds them, she said.

“We don’t know much about the deep-sea squid,” she said. “I think it’s important to know the diversity differences for ecosystem and fisheries management.We need to know what we are looking at.”

The Asperoteuthis was so rare that the specimen Judkins examined was the first found in the Caribbean. The Megalocranchia is so gelatinous, and had gotten twisted in transit, that she could not determine if it was male or female.

Frank Biafora, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said the fact that these rare specimens were entrusted in Dr. Judkins’ care underscores her standing in the scientific community. “We are fortunate to have Dr. Judkins at USF St. Petersburg,’’ Biafora said. “As our newest full time biology member, Dr. Judkins’ exciting and recognized research enhances our emerging reputation as an important resource for applied marine research and marine biology training.’’

Measuring the Megalocranchia.

Measuring the Megalocranchia.

Judkins weighed, dissected, measured and documented the squid in minute detail with the help of three students in her marine invertebrate class — Krista Austin, Rob Cuba and Laura Wiggins.

Now that the squid have been examined, both specimens will be added to the squid collection at the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.

The examinations took nearly four hours. Water dripped off the examination table and the room filled with the pungent odor of dead squid. None of that dampened Judkins’ excitement. “I really was like a kid in a candy store,’’ she said.

Left to right: Psychology Professor Christina Salnaitis, Ph.D.; William C. Nicks; Elizabeth Southard; and Anthropology Professor John Arthur, Ph.D., at the inaugural Student Research Colloquium at Poynter Memorial Library.

Student Research Colloquium Series begins at Poynter Library

Elizabeth Southard worked on three research projects, including two summers spent studying the Gamo people in Ethiopia, before graduating in December with a B.A. in Anthropology.

William C. Nicks, a double-major December graduate in psychology and political science, spent a year studying near-infrared spectroscopy technology and is preparing the findings for publication in a scholarly journal.

On Wednesday they presented their work during the inaugural Student Research Colloquium Series at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library.

Both said the chance to conduct research with top-flight professors as undergraduates was a highlight of their time at USF St. Petersburg and they encouraged their fellow students at the Colloquium to take advantage of such opportunities.

“I don’t think there are that many universities that give undergraduates the opportunities I’ve been given here,’’ said Southard. “Being able to work on three different research projects, one of which took me all the way to Africa, is a pretty amazing opportunity.”

Southard worked closely on her Ethiopia research with Anthropology professors John Arthur, Ph.D., and Kathy Arthur, Ph.D.. Nicks collaborated with Psychology Professor Christina Salnaitis, Ph.D.

Nicks said his research helped him decide his career path. Near-infrared spectroscopy technology is a non-invasive method to analyze the brain . His research found the technology is very reliable and “has so many applications, not just psychology.’’ He plans to attend graduate school and become a brain researcher.

Southard also plans to attend graduate school to become an anthropologist. Besides Ethiopia, Southard helped curate the “Butch” Evans artifact collection at the Poynter Library and studied ancient artifacts at Weedon Island in St. Petersburg. Earlier this year the Tampa Bay History Center awarded her the Leland Hawes Prize for best undergraduate research paper for “The Cultural Importance of the Prehistoric and Historic History of Weedon Island.” She also presented the paper at a conference of the Society for Ethnobotany in Denver.

Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D., interim regional vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the Student Research Colloquium Series underscores the importance of student-faculty collaboration at USF St. Petersburg. “Giving our students opportunities to conduct research one-on-one with professors is what USF St. Petersburg is all about,’’ she said. “It’s a great way for them to expand the knowledge they gain in the classroom and increase their engagement in learning.’’

The library-sponsored colloquium series is designed to allow students to gain valuable experience by presenting their research, project or idea to their fellow students and to USFSP faculty, said Carol Hixson, Dean of the Poynter Library. “We are delighted to provide this opportunity for students to practice their presentation skills and to spread their knowledge with their fellow students,’’ she said. “In addition to providing the venue for a live presentation, we are further supporting student research by archiving the presentations in the USFSP Digital Archive.”

The series will be held in the library’s Poynter Corner on the third Wednesday of each month.

MBA student Chris Brown (left) and Alison Watkins, USFSP professor of information systems and associate dean for graduate and certificate programs.

Graduate student and business professor collaborate on insider threat research

Chris Brown wants to find the next Edward Snowden before he strikes.

The USF St. Petersburg College of Business graduate student is researching a new way for government agencies and businesses to identify potential insider threats like Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who admitted leaking classified information.

“The NSA has the ability to track what people do on computers but they’re not making sense of all that data,” Brown explains.

Brown aims to fix that and is working closely with Alison Watkins, USFSP professor of information systems and associate dean for graduate and certificate programs. “She basically helped me advance what I had done” during his fellowship, Brown says. They have published three research papers for national conferences.

“This is a really good idea he has developed,” Watkins says. “Chris is great to work with. You give him an idea and he runs with it. Everybody dreams of finding someone like that.”

Brown’s interest in insider threat research began three years ago with a fellowship at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Wash, working with Frank Greitzer, then the lab’s chief scientist of cognitive informatics. “He let me go on a wild good chase,” Brown recalls, “and I came up with this linguistic approach.”

His USF St. Petersburg BA in Anthropology informed his research. “As an anthropology student I knew a fair amount about linguistics,” he explains. “So I thought, there’s got to be a way to infer behavior by looking at subtle variations in the way they use common words.” He ties that to demographic information on social media. “We can’t say that a person is absolutely going to do something,” Brown explains. “But what we can say is this person represents a statistically higher risk.”

They are in discussions with a major U.S. bank about testing the method.

Brown, who is a semester away from graduating with an MBA, praises the collaborative atmosphere of USF St. Petersburg. “I think that one of the unique things about this place is that a student like me can develop a working relationship with a faculty member that can lead to applied research that can make a difference,”he says.

Anthropology Professor Jay Sokolovsky conducting field research in Mexico.

Jay Sokolovsky wins national award for innovative aging research

USF St. Petersburg Anthropology Professor Jay Sokolovsky, Ph.D., has won a national award from the American Anthropological Association for his nearly four decades of groundbreaking research and leadership that led to the creation of a new area of study focused on aging.

Sokolovsky, coordinator of the USFSP Anthropology Program, will receive the 2013 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology during the American Anthropological Association’s annual meeting in November. The award honors pioneering contributions in anthropology that encourage informed policy choices.

Before Sokolovsky began studying impoverished elders living in single room occupancy hotels in Midtown Manhattan in 1974, aging was not recognized as a subspecialty among anthropologists. “It was considered an off the wall topic,’’ Sokolovsky recalls. “Until the late ‘70s or early ‘80s, aging wasn’t a dignified place for anthropologists to work in.” Other anthropologists discouraged him from focusing on aging, he says.

Sokolovsky pressed on, developing some of the first university courses on the subject, writing the primary textbook in the field used at 70 universities, working as the founding editor of a book series on aging, co-organizing and leading the Association for Anthropology and Gerontology and presenting at conferences around the world and at the United Nations.

Today the American Anthropological Association Interest Group on Aging and the Life Course, which he helped found, boasts 750 members.

“For over three decades, Jay has labored to direct anthropological attention toward late life maturity as both a process that all human populations experience and the lived experience of older citizens,” wrote Dena Shenk, Ph. D., director of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte Gerontology Program, in a letter nominating Sokolovsky for the Textor award. “I have been witness not only to his literally helping chart a new subfield of anthropology….but also benefitted from his mentorship early on in my career.”

“I am especially honored to be recognized by my professional peers, who when I began doing research on aging more than two decades ago, warned me that I should direct my intellectual energy in other areas,” Sokolovsky said. He has has been invited to be a keynote speaker on Global Aging at the Open University in Barcelona in November.

Sokolovsky has been at USF St. Petersburg since 1996. He came to Florida in 1993 as a National Institute on Aging Senior Research Professor in the Department of Aging and Mental Health at the Florida Mental Health Institute. He conducted a study of how different ethnic communities in the Tampa Bay area dealt with symptoms of dementia among family members.

He earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Penn State University and a B.A. from Brooklyn College. He is the author of The Cultural Context of Aging, Growing Old in Different Societies, Teaching the Anthropology of Aging, Old Men of the Bowery and Indigenous Mexico Engages the 21st Century (to be published in 2014).

“We are fortunate to have one of anthropology’s intellectual leaders on our faculty,” said Vivian Fueyo, interim regional vice chancellor for academic affairs. “Dr. Sokolovsky is an example of the kind of world-class scholarship we enjoy at USFSP and our students are the greatest beneficiaries.”

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left) and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

USF St. Petersburg hosts breakfast for Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students

For the fourth year in a row, USF St. Petersburg hosted a breakfast on Wednesday for leaders of the Concerned Organizations for Quality Education for Black Students (COQEBS) to discuss their ongoing collaboration to improve student readiness in Pinellas County schools.

COQEBS is a coalition of community organizations and individuals working to ensure the Pinellas County School District is providing quality education for black students. James McHale, Ph.D., USFSP psychology professor and director of the Family Study Center, is a member of COQEBS and works closely with the group’s School Readiness Committee.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska welcomed the group to the breakfast and discussed her commitment to student success and the importance of community partners such as COQEBS. “With a sound education, you can accomplish anything,” she said.

COQEBS President Ricardo Davis thanked Dr. Wisniewska and USFSP for its ongoing support of the coalition’s work and Dr. McHale for the work he has done to promote infant child readiness.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left), Psychology Department Chairman James McHale and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska (left), Psychology Department Chairman James McHale and COQEBS President Ricardo Davis.

Dr. McHale discussed the success of the Baby Talk workshops the Family Study Center has conducted in partnership with the COQEBS School Readiness Committee for the past three years.

Getting children socially and emotionally ready for school starts when the child is an infant, McHale said. He said the aims of the Baby Talk workshops are to help child-care providers make changes in the way they approach and work with infants and toddlers, to help them become “safe, secure and powerful” children ready to learn when they are old enough for school.

He also discussed an innovative prenatal co-parenting program for African-American parents called Figuring It Out for the Child (FIOC), which has to date served two dozen families in south Pinellas County. The program helps moms and dads find ways to work together to raise their child even if they are not married or romantically involved. Every expectant father who has completed the 10-session program so far has remained committed to the baby and mom at post-natal follow-up, he said.

Figuring It Out for the Child is the subject of a new publication by McHale and Vikki Gaskin-Butler, USFSP psychology instructor and Co-Investigator for the FIOC project. The article, in the July issue of the Zero to Three journal, published by the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, details one remarkable family’s successful journey through the FIOC program.

Family Study Center research has been funded since 2003 by a series of grants from the National Institute of Child Health and Development and by the Brady Education Foundation.