17 actually worthwhile things to know about mosquitoes

ATanjim Hossain is an NSF graduate research fellow at the University of Miami. His research focuses on the intersection of microclimatology and mosquito vector ecology from an epidemiological perspective. Follow him on twitter here

BuzzFeed: the epitome of unnecessary hyperbole and an amalgam of often unoriginal content. I’ve long been convinced that this website is a waste of time and that it parrots bullshit in exchange for pageviews. Imagine my surprise, then, when I saw a recent article headlined, “17 Things Only Chronic Mosquito Victims Will Understand.”For a brief moment I was encouraged, hopeful even, that BuzzFeed might have turned a page and published something worth reading. You, wise reader, likely know this this turned out. Below I present 17 things which I think are actually worth knowing relevant to mosquitoes.

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New “Exploration Science” program is open for applications, looks pretty freakin’ awesome.


exploration-scienceThe University of Miami has started a new Master of Professional Science program called “Exploration Science“. The program will teach students both the theory and skills behind field-based research, and graduates will be well equipped to lead field research expeditions in a variety of environments around the world.

Classes include “Exploration Technology”, a course on the history of exploration, and an introduction to citizen science which will involve planning a citizen science project. There are also numerous electives available at both the marine science school and main campus, as well as field experiences involving SCUBA diving, aviation, and tropical ecology. The program can be completed in 12-18 months.

“Successful exploration involves a mix of scientific and practical skills as well as sensitivity to the ethical and cultural dimensions of working in different parts of our globe,” said Kenny Broad, director of the Abess Center and 2011 National Geographic Explorer of the Year in a provided press release. “New technologies allow researchers to communicate and share the experience of discovery—from the nosebleed heights to unimaginable depths­—with an audience beyond just scientists. We believe that a specialized curriculum combining risk assessment, decision sciences, and hands-on training in skills ranging from navigation to science diving to remote medicine can further the next generation of explorers.”

Applications are due July 15th.

Disclaimer: my department, the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy, is a partner in this new program, but despite this conflict of interest, I consider myself more than objective enough to declare that this program sounds pretty freakin’  awesome.

Your homework: Find an environmental problem on campus, and fix it! Increasing sustainability at the UM food court

davesquaregreenuIn the fall of 2012, I took a class entitled “Using Communications to Influence Health and Environmental Policy: Theory and Practice”. The readings and discussions were fascinating, but what really got me excited was the semester project. Working with a group of other students, we were asked to identify an environmental problem on campus, and come up with a detailed plan to fix it. Our group was concerned by the lack of sustainable and recyclable options at the University of Miami’s food court, and focused our project on that issue. Below are modified excerpts from our group’s final project (the full document is approximately 50 pages). Though the class is over, I and others from my group will still be working with the University’s Office of Sustainability to help implement our project in the coming months. We welcome your feedback, suggestions for improvement, and assistance in achieving these goals! 

That's it- only trash cans. There are no recycling bins in the food court.

That’s it- only trash cans. There are no recycling bins in the food court.

The University of Miami has made a series of public commitments to campus sustainability, but progress has been extremely slow. One of the most obvious and public examples of waste occurs in the food court. Located in a central area of campus, the UM food court has over 3,000 transactions each day, and serves students, faculty, and visitors alike. Most of the food court restaurants provide packaging materials, plates, cups, and utensils that are not recyclable. Almost 2,000 pounds of plastic wrappers and utensils are thrown away every week, a figure that does not include the national chain restaurants. There aren’t even recycle bins located in (or near) the food court for the few recyclable materials provided by vendors!

The first step was determining what other universities do to reduce waste at their on-campus restaurants. We evaluated reports on this topic by four leading institutions: the Sierra Club, the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, the Sustainable Endowment Institute, and the Princeton Review. Interestingly, no schools appeared on all four reports’ lists of the schools with the best sustainable practice, but Oberlin College appeared on 3, and three schools (University of Washington, Cal Tech, and Arizona State) appeared on 2 lists each. No schools located in the state of Florida were on any list, but the (relatively) nearby University of Florida received an overall grade of a B+.

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What killed this lemon shark? University of Miami scientists perform necropsy to solve this mystery

Last week, volunteers monitoring a sea turtle nesting beach on Virginia Key came across a beached lemon shark. They called in scientists from the University of Miami’s RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation program, including myself . Dunlap program director Dr. Neil Hammerschlag decided to film the necropsy to use as an online teaching tool. The end result, edited together by Dunlap program multimedia specialist Christine Shepard, is below. Check it out to learn about the internal anatomy of a shark, as well as the process that scientists use to determine causes of death in marine organisms. If you have any questions about the process or about the animal, please leave them as comments below.

Shark Research with RJD: necropsy on mysteriously beached lemon shark from R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation on Vimeo.


WhySharksMatter is headed to Miami for his Ph.D. !

As those of you who follow me on Twitter know, I have been accepted into a Ph.D. program at the University of Miami and will be starting there in the fall. In the immortal words of the great philosopher LeBron James, I’ll be taking my talents to South Beach.

The specific program I’ve joined is the new Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. I will be working in the lab of Dr. Neil Hammerschlag, Director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.

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Vote for the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program

The University of Miami Shark Research Program is in the running for a $25,000 grant from the Pepsi Refresh Project. The money will be used for tags, boat time, underwater video cameras, and paying for local underprivileged children to participate. Among their many other projects, UM scientists are attempting to track sharks to see if they head into the region of the Gulf affected by the oil spill. To win, they need your votes! Please click here, register, and vote!