Science Cafe

Science Café

Science Cafés help to promote scientific literacy by encouraging relaxed, open conversations among scientists and nonscientists of all ages.

Coffee, Chocolate, Conversation.

Spring 2017

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The Pollinator Project in the Volusia Sandhill Teaching Landscape

April 20, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

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Cindy Bennington and Peter May, Professors of Biology; Sarah Garcia, Environmental Sciences major

April's Science Café topic is ideal for Earth Week because it relates to engaging our community in science and encouraging sustainable practices. The talk will provide an update on current research in the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem, a restoration project on the museum grounds. As part of a larger comparative study, Stetson biology professors Cindy Bennington and Peter May are measuring pollinator visitation rate and species composition in this campus restoration, acquiring baseline data to be built upon as the site matures. A related project—a feasibility study of citizen-generated data for pollinator monitoring—has been completed by Sarah Garcia, a senior environmental sciences major.

Supported by a Stetson University research grant, in the summer of 2016 Professors Bennington and May recorded more than 1300 insect visitors to two plant species (Spanish needles, Bidens alba, and Partridge pea, Chamaecrista fasciculata).  “With increasing anthropogenic impacts on native ecosystems, urban habitat fragments may become important repositories for biodiversity, especially for plants and small animals. We are investigating the way in which the Volusia Sandhill Ecosystem, a small, recently established restoration site on our campus, supports insect pollinators,” explains May. “Our results from a single season suggest that urban habitat fragments with a high density of native flowering plants, like the Volusia Sandhill, can support a diverse native bee community,” reports Bennington, “but butterfly and moth abundance may be limited by a lack of larval host plants."

In addition to providing baseline data through this survey, the Pollinator Project seeks to enlist volunteers in collaborative field work and to educate about the importance of ecosystem restoration to native pollinators. Sarah Garcia’s research has focused on what undergraduate students learn when engaged in monitoring insect pollinator activity in the site. “I feel that I've played a small role in teaching fellow students about an important topic that affects us all,” says Garcia. 

While enhancing the use of the Gillespie Museum as an outdoor classroom, the Pollinator Project also includes a research station with an insect collection in the Gillespie Museum's east gallery.

Cultural Credit for Stetson Undergraduates

To Sleep, Perchance To Remember

March 23, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

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Camille King, Professor of Psychology

The Gillespie Museum’s March “Science Café” will feature Stetson neuroscientist, Camille Tessitore King. “To Sleep, Perchance to Remember” will address the complex biological intersection of sleep and memory. The presentation will focus on the neuroscientific research that highlights the negative impact a lack of sleep has on learning and memory. “The inability to remember affects all of us,” explains King. “Understanding more fully sleep’s role in memory processing might lead to new approaches to help students learn more effectively and older people hold onto their memories as they age.”

Camille Tessitore King, Chair and Professor of Psychology, received her undergraduate (B.A) and graduate (M.A. & Ph.D.) degrees in biological psychology from the University of Virginia and completed post-doctoral positions at the University of Michigan and the University of Florida. King has published numerous articles on the effects of taste nerve degeneration and regeneration on neuronal activity and taste-related behaviors in rats as well as on the role of the taste cortex in taste behaviors. She has been a co-investigator on several grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, including one with her husband, Michael King, Professor of Biology at Stetson. King has received the Hand Award for Excellence in Research; was honored for her outstanding work with undergraduates by a Faculty Advisor Research Grant from Psi Chi, (the international honor society in psychology); and has also received Stetson’s prestigious McEniry Award for Teaching.

Her passion is teaching about the brain. In addition to her regular courses, she previously served as coordinator of the Betty Batson Bell Brain & Learning Lecture series and has plans to restart the series in 2017-18. She is also passionate about cooking and admits that she secretly hopes to open a small restaurant one day.

Cultural Credit for Stetson Undergraduates

African Dust, Shanghai Smog, Georgia-Florida Wild Fires: An Environmental Tale on Three Continents

February 2, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

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Song Gao, Professor of Chemistry

In this Science Café talk, Song Gao, Associate Professor of Chemistry at Stetson, will discuss his research on the characteristics and mechanisms of pollution in the atmosphere and hydrosphere. He will illustrate, using field observations and satellite images, the atmospheric transport and chemical transformation of particulate matter in Africa, Asia, and North America. “The cross-boundary nature of environmental pollution,” explains Gao, “requires a globally coordinated approach to remediation.” His talk will also address some of the latest science-based policy advancements in mitigating climate change.

Dr. Gao joined the chemistry faculty at Stetson University in Fall 2016 after serving on the faculty at Nova Southeastern University and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. He received his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Washington and completed postdoctoral research on atmospheric chemistry at California Institute of Technology. His research and teaching interests include atmospheric chemistry mechanisms, megacity air pollution, and science-based climate mitigation. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers in international journals and served on several review panels at National Science Foundation. He was a co-recipient of the Alan Berman Research Publications Award from the Naval Research Laboratory. Song enjoys music (Bach and Mendelssohn, in particular), hiking and spending time with family.

Cultural Credit for Stetson Undergraduates

Fall 2016

Field Notes From Archbold

November 10, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

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Ethan Royal '15, biology

At this café, recent Stetson graduate Ethan Royal will talk about his current ecological research and reflect on a recent grad's experiences in science and his path to graduate school.  Ethan has worked on a wide variety of ecological projects, both as a field tech and as a lead researcher. He is currently a visiting researcher at Archbold Biological Station, a world-renowned site and resource center dedicated to long-term ecological research. Staff, visiting investigators and students conduct research primarily focused on the organisms and environments of Lake Wales Ridge and adjacent central Florida, including population ecology and conservation biology.

Royal’s current research at Archbold examines the response of fish and larval amphibian populations in seasonal wetlands to a wide range of biotic and abiotic factors, including predator presence, pond isolation, pond elevation, pond area, vegetative cover and water chemistry. This is the first year of a multi-year pond sampling program designed to shed some light on how an abnormally wet year like this one affects fish and amphibian communities in normally temporary wetlands, and will allow for study of the effects of an invasive fish predator (Hemichromis letourneuxi, the African jewelfish) on native communities as it colonizes new wetlands.

In January, Royal will begin a Ph.D. in biological sciences at the University of Arkansas, working with herpetologist J.D. Willson on a project assessing the ability of timber managed loblolly pine forests to support longleaf associated herp communities (reptiles and amphibians) in northwestern Louisiana.

Cultural Credit for Stetson Undergraduates

The St. Johns River, An Overview

October 27, 7:00-8:30 p.m.

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Rob Mattson, Senior Environmental Scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District

In his talk at the Gillespie Museum’s October 27 Science Café, Rob Mattson will discuss the hydrology, water quality and ecology of the St. Johns River system and will also discuss some of the main management issues affecting the river and steps being taken to address those. This is a community event in partnership with the City of DeLand’s Water Festival, an outdoor celebration of water and art at Earl Brown Park, on Sunday, October 16.

Rob Mattson is a Senior Environmental Scientist with the St. Johns River Water Management District. He has been with the District for 11 years and prior to that spent 17 years as a Biologist with the Suwannee River Water Management District. He has a B.A. in Biology and M.S. in Zoology from the University of South Florida. At SJRWMD, his work mainly focuses on investigations of the ecology of the springs of the St. Johns River and application of that science to their restoration and management. Rob is also an Adjunct Instructor at St. Johns River State College in Palatka, where he teaches the course Introduction to Environmental Science.

Cultural Credit for Stetson Undergraduates

Fall 2017

October 17, Nury Penagos         "Our Birds Are Your Birds Too: Avian Conservation in Colombia"

October 26, Ben Tanner              "Sea Level:  Past, Present, & Future Change"

November 16, Harley Means       "Florida Formations"

2016/2017

September 15, Gregor Falk     "Vulnerability of Coastal Regions in South Asia"

October 27, Rob Mattson           "The St. Johns River, An Overview"

November 10, Ethan Royal     "Field Notes From Archbold"

February 2, Song Gao          "African Dust, Shanghai Smog, Georgia-Florida Wild Fires: An Environmental Tale on Three Continents"

March 23, Camille King                "To Sleep Perchance To Remember"

April 20, Sarah Garcia, Cindy Bennington, Peter May      "Pollinator Project at the Volusia Sandhill"