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Biologists Developing Mobile App for Coastal Marine Assessment

Posted on: November 23rd, 2020 by erabadie

Glenn Parsons and Richard Buchholz lead new Gulf of Mexico Citizen Scientist Initiative

Citizen scientists can take an active role in studying and protecting biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico using the Mobile App for Marine Assessment being developed by UM biologists. The project is funded by federal money through the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Submitted photo

Citizen scientists can take an active role in studying and protecting biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico using the Mobile App for Marine Assessment being developed by University of Mississippi biologists. The project is funded by federal money through the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. Submitted photo

NOVEMBER 23, 2020 BY EDWIN B. SMITH

In the age of crowdfunding and viral media, two University of Mississippi biologists are developing a mobile phone app that will allow “citizen scientists” to conduct marine assessments on the north central Gulf of Mexico.

Professors Glenn Parsons and Richard Buchholz have partnered to create a Mobile App for Marine Assessment as part of the Gulf of Mexico Citizen Scientist Initiative. MAMA’s state-of-the-art technology will allow residents and visitors to upload photos, measurements, GPS location and other data regarding specimens they have captured, observed and identified.

UM biologist Glenn Parsons shows off a tuna caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Parsons is a co-principal investigator on the Mobile App for Marine Assessment project. Submitted photo

UM biologist Glenn Parsons shows off a tuna caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Parsons is a co-principal investigator on the Mobile App for Marine Assessment project. Submitted photo

Users also will be able to submit photos of endangered or unusual specimens of fish and other marine creatures for identification, track the abundance and health of fish species seasonally and regionally, document invasive species in Gulf waters, and monitor changes in the health of coastal ecosystems and shoreline erosional changes.

The initiative has been awarded $1.7 million, including $1.2 million to UM and $500,000 to the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

“In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, I was surprised to learn how difficult it was to quantify the loss of the all the various types of marine and coastal life forms in the Gulf of Mexico,” Buchholz said. “Dr. Parsons and I are both interested in the conservation of biodiversity and felt strongly that the mammoth task of monitoring the populations of living things could only be accomplished with the help of citizen scientists.”

The educators believe the best way to get people to care about conserving biodiversity in the Gulf of Mexico is for them to be actively involved in monitoring and managing it. The Gulf of Mexico Citizen Scientist Initiative will help achieve that goal while also educating the public about biodiversity, population and ecosystem ecology, and the need for them to be involved in restoration efforts.

“Citizen science programs have the potential to educate the average person about how science advances,” Parsons said. “Additionally, at a time when research funding is scarce, citizen science initiatives are capable of providing valuable data to researchers that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive, if not impossible, to obtain.”

The program promises to make science more accessible to the general public, Buchholz said.

UM biologist Richard Buchholz collects data on a research field trip. Buchholz is a co-principal investigator on the Mobile App for Marine Assessment project. Submitted photo

UM biologist Richard Buchholz collects data on a research field trip. Buchholz is a co-principal investigator on the Mobile App for Marine Assessment project. Submitted photo

“These initiatives have broadened opportunities for public participation in science and have served to ‘demystify’ the scientific process for the average citizen,” he explained. “Thanks to the internet and smartphones, data can be acquired, uploaded, evaluated and accessed with amazing rapidity.”

Before being funded, Buchholz and Parsons had already organized Ole Miss faculty across several schools and departments to create a Biodiversity and Conservation Research Group. Parsons is the group’s director and Buchholz is associate director.

Josh Gladden, vice chancellor of research and sponsored programs; Lee Cohen, dean of the College of Liberal Arts; and Gregg Roman, chair and professor of biology, all have been supportive of the efforts.

Roman said his colleagues’ achievements bode well for the department’s reputation for rigorous research.

“Funding of the MAMA program demonstrates that faculty in the biology department at the University of Mississippi are thinking outside the box to lead efforts in biodiversity and conservation research,” Roman said. “Dr. Parsons and Dr. Buchholz came up with the innovative solution of finding ways for all Mississippians to help collect this information and provide everyone with a clearer picture of the health of our marine ecosystems.

“MAMA empowers all of us to contribute to an understanding of what is happening, and all of us can be part of the solution.”

Scientists at coastal organizations, including the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and the National Marine Fisheries Service, are providing advice during the developmental phase of the program.

The Mobile App for Marine Assessment being developed by Ole Miss biologists will allow citizen scientists to easily track the abundance and health of coastal species, as well as enter photos and enter photos and other data on the health of coastal ecosystems. Graphic courtesy Glenn Parsons/UM Department of Biology

The Mobile App for Marine Assessment being developed by University of Mississippi biologists will allow citizen scientists to easily track the abundance and health of coastal species, as well as enter photos and enter photos and other data on the health of coastal ecosystems. Graphic courtesy Glenn Parsons/UM Department of Biology

“The first step is to design a prototype app that includes all the desired features,” Parsons said. “Through face-to-face meetings between our team and those interested parties, we will make decisions on all features to be included in the app.”

“Design is crucial in that it is important to establish how the app will appear, its graphics and so forth, and in how the user experiences the app,” Buchholz said. “Once developed, we will integrate analytics into the app to help track downloads, user engagement and retention of the app.”

Participants will be able to download MAMA to their mobile phones without charge.

The development team will provide a field kit, which includes a tape measure, thermometer, refractometer, scale, meter stick, tags and other items, to select users. Training sessions, conducted by Gulf of Mexico Citizen Scientist Initiative personnel and coordinated with sport fishing clubs, commercial fishing organizations, schools and various community organizations, will be provided for participants.

“The sessions will provide information on how the app works, how to take data, how to input data and pictures, the disposition of data, the procedures for using the field kit, how to apply tags and so forth,” Buchholz said.

All data uploaded will be reviewed and verified by initiative personnel before entry into the database. Information entered into MAMA with the alert function will be immediately reviewed.

Glenn Parsons checks out a blacktip shark during a research trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Submitted photo

Glenn Parsons checks out a blacktip shark during a research trip in the Gulf of Mexico. Submitted photo

“The alert function will simultaneously transmit to GMCSI personnel cellphones such that the appropriate response can be provided,” Parsons said. “Summary data will be provided via a dedicated website. Complete data sets will likewise be provided.”

Mississippi Department of Marine Resources officials praised the MAMA project as “a terrific way to supplement harvest data with multiple species.”

“Our DMR switchboard deals with these calls between 8 and 5 on weekdays only,” said Paul F. Mickle, MDMR chief scientific officer. “This could be expanded to receive posts and location data 24 hours a day.”

For more information about the UM Department of Biology, visit https://biology.olemiss.edu/. For information on the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, go to https://cbcr.olemiss.edu/.

Disclaimer: This project was paid for (in part) with federal funding from the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The data, statements, findings, conclusions and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect any determinations, views or policies of the RESTORE Council or the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.

Bacteria grown by Dr. Patrick Curtis is flying around the Earth every 90 minutes.

Posted on: October 13th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Bacteria grown in Dr. Patrick Curtis’ laboratory are zipping around the Earth about every 90 minutes, racing roughly 250 miles above the planet aboard the International Space Station.

The microbes are part of Dr. Curtis’ research that aims to better understand how bacteria respond in weak gravity, which could lead to better bacterial control mechanisms in space and improve future spaceflights.

To read more click here.

Dr. Jason Hoeksema and Dr. Stephen Brewer Expand Their Research on Co-Invasions of Plants and Fungi

Posted on: October 12th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Using their NSF grant Dr. Jason Hoeksema and Dr. Stephen Brewer expand their research of the co-invasion between plants and fungi
Read the article here.

Stamps Scholarship recipients include three biology majors.

Posted on: August 26th, 2020 by kdbyrd

“With the arrival of 19 incoming freshmen, the Stamps Scholars Program at the University of Mississippi is setting records for growth.  UM is the only university in Mississippi and only one of six Southeastern Conference schools that awards Stamps Scholarships to selected students.  The 2020 Ole Miss cohort represents the second-largest group of incoming freshmen among the 34 Stamps Scholarship partner universities.  The new class also brings the total number of recipients at UM to 58, making Ole Miss the nation’s second-largest in the Stamps Scholars Program.  Stamps Scholars are chosen for their academic excellence, leadership experience and exceptional character.”

Read more here.

Congratulations to Dr. Glenn Parsons for publishing a new paper in the journal “Scientific Reports”

Posted on: August 19th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Dr. Glenn Parsons just published a new paper in the journal Scientific Reports entitled “A hydrodynamics assessment of the hammerhead shark cephalofoil’. In this paper, Dr. Parsons and his coauthors modeled the hydrodynamic properties of the heads of eight species of Hammerheads sharks. They found that structure of the hammerheads resulted in greater maneuverability, but this also results in greater drag and energy cost compared to non-hammerhead shark heads. This modeling work is helping us understand the functional morphology of shark anatomy.

Congrats to Dr. Gregg Roman on his National Institutes of Health grant!

Posted on: July 28th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Dr. Gregg Roman has recently received a $1,028,083 grant from the National Institutes of Health as part of the GlyCORE: Glycoscience Center of Research Excellence COBRE grant awarded to the School of Pharmacy.  This grant will expand the capabilities of the imaging core by adding a new powerful computer workstation for analysis of collected images and by hiring a full-time core manager.  Students and researchers will benefit from this expansion.

Click here to read the article.

“Dr. Tamar L. Goulet Explores Mutualism on Coral Reefs and Throughout our Complex Planet”

Posted on: June 25th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Marine Biologist Dr. Tamar Goulet is featured on the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) website.

Click here to read the article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congrats to Dr. Patrick Curtis on your new grant!!!

Posted on: June 19th, 2020 by kdbyrd

This new grant is to study the Caulobacter crescentus pilus. Pili are cell structures bacteria use to attach to surfaces, as well as perform other functions. The C. crescentus pilus is a rare sub-type that has hardly been studied, and there are a couple unusual facets to it that we and others have uncovered. The grant will focus on two of these. First is the regulation of the pilA gene, which encodes the subunit that makes up the pilus filament. Our data suggests that this gene may use a completely novel regulatory mechanism, and we aim to understand that mechanism. The second part explores how the pilus becomes localized to the cell pole, something we know little about, and may be tied to the localization of developmental signaling proteins.

Dr. Wayne Gray offers some insights that may help the public understand the COVID-19 pandemic

Posted on: May 20th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Dr. Wayne Gray, a virologist in the with more than 40 years’ experience studying viruses, is offering some insights that may help the public understand the COVID-19 pandemic.

Click here to read the full article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congrats to our newest M.S. and Ph.D. Graduates!!

Posted on: May 8th, 2020 by kdbyrd

Pictured left to right:
Reed Scott, M.S.
Brooke Sykes, M.S.
Sarah Amonett, M.S.
Sarah McNamara, M.S.
Maya Kaup, M.S.
Kevin Potts, M.S.
Chaz Hyseni, Ph.D.

Congrats to the advisors of our new graduates: Dr. William Resetarits, Dr. Susan Balenger, Dr. Erik Hom, Dr. Ryan Garrick.

How did we take these pictures while maintaining social distancing? Well, thanks to the photo-editing skills of Brooke Sykes, MS 2020, we took photographs of each graduate separately and then carefully edited them together. We even did a masked version…just to be safe!

Our graduating students couldn’t resist one last, socially distanced, trip to our Biology tailgating spot near Shoemaker Hall.