Population Structure and Reproductive Ecology of Gopher Tortoises in the Pumpkin Hill Preserve
Dr. Joe Butler, Department of Biology
Gopher tortoises are listed as a Threatened Species in Florida due to extreme human pressure to develop their habitats coupled with their low natural reproductive potential. Previous researchers have predicted the extinction of this species within the 21st century. I have begun a project with several undergraduate and graduate students in the Pumpkin Hill State Preserve that includes locating and marking tortoise burrows on the 19,000 acre property. The protected status of this environment offers a unique opportunity to study this dwindling species over the long term. I propose to continue the burrow marking through September 2007 and add several other aspects to the work. A simple burrow count will allow us to offer a population estimate. In mid-April we will begin bucket trapping for tortoises several days each week. We will determine the sex, and will weigh, measure, mark and release all captured tortoises. These data will allow us to calculate a sex ratio and estimate the demographics of the population. From mid-May through the end of June we will cease trapping in order to allow tortoises to deposit nests. During that time we will search burrow aprons for nests. If we locate at least 10 or 12 nests, we will cover half of them with nest protectors to deter predators. All will be monitored to determine the extent of nest predation, and the successful ones will be used to determine the incubation period.
The Use of a Multiyear Student Senior Design Competition to Involve UNF Students in "Green Engineering"
Dr. Daniel Cox, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Joseph Campbell, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. James Fletcher, Mechanical Engineering
Dr. Alexandra Schonning, Mechanical Engineering
Solar Splash has existed for fourteen years under the authority of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the sponsorship of various corporate benefactors. The goal of the competition is to design and build a solar-powered boat that will have a successful balance of speed, agility, and endurance as measured by three different competitions. The competition courses are a sprint, slalom, and distance (endurance) course, each emphasizing different aspects of ship design in a broad range of operating conditions while using solar irradiance as the energy source. Power, length, and stability standards must be adhered to, as well as requiring a technical paper, a presentation, and an inspection of the students' workmanship. The overarching project goal is an introduction to an energy-sustainable design process for the mechanical and electrical engineering students. The students also get a chance to explore alternative energy sources that will help to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in a nontraditional application. The project acts as a bridge to the engineering profession and the community in general to show that the use of alternative energy can be fun and exciting and not just a particular choice for the future.
At UNF, the project emphasizes the commitment of the School of Engineering to the instruction of "green" engineering to our students. This multiyear project matches the University's commitment to "green education" and interfaces nicely with the JEA Energy Laboratory (under the direction of Dr. James Fletcher), a facility dedicated and funded by JEA to bring "clean and green engineering" projects to the student of the College of Computing, Engineering, and Construction.
The present UNF team seeks to establish a multiyear program to design, build, redesign, and modify increasingly competitive entrants to the Solar Splash student design project. It is seeking support (see the Proposed Budget section) from the Environmental Center for the remainder of the 2006-07 academic year, with the recognition that the project will continue for a number of following academic years but using, in those years, its own funding sources. It is believed that by the end of the 2007-08 academic year, the succeeding Solar Splash teams can then sustain the project, in conjunction with the Center, but without needing its direct funding support.
Remote Monitoring of Sinkhole Development in Dry Retention Ponds to Mitigate potential
Dr. Nick Hudyma, Civil Engineering
Dr. Tayeb Guima, Electrical Engineering
Dr. Dean Krusienski, Electrical Engineering
Dr. Alan Harris, Electrical Engineering
Retention ponds are routinely constructed to contain runoff rainwater from highway systems. In central Florida, dry retention ponds are often used because the natural sand acts as a filter and the treated runoff rainwater can recharge shallow unconfined aquifers. Since the retention ponds are gravity fed, they must be constructed at a lower elevation than the highway systems. The excavation required for construction brings the bedrock surface closer to the ground surface and increases sinkhole activity. The formation of sinkholes undermines the effectiveness of dry retention ponds and allows unfiltered runoff rainwater to pollute shallow groundwater resources.
This collaborative project brings together civil and electrical engineers to design, develop, and test a low-cost, remote sinkhole monitoring system which will incorporate radio-frequency identification technology. The system will be tested in both a laboratory setting and field setting. If sinkhole development can be remotely monitored, crews can be proactive and repair the forming sinkholes before unfiltered water can pollute shallow groundwater resources.
Young Florida Naturalists
Dr. Janice Wood, Florida Institute of Education
Dr. Janice Hunter,
Florida Institute of Education
Ms. Frances Gupton, The Don Brewer Early Learning and Professional Development Center
The Young Naturalists project focuses on increasing the background knowledge and concept development of 3- and 4-year-old children (n = 55) enrolled in three classes at the Don Brewer Early Learning and Professional Development Center. This study builds on the work of, Novak & Gowin (2004), Zimmerman (2005), Hirsch (2006), and Neuman & Celano (2006) regarding concept mapping, elementary science learning, and the knowledge gap of at-risk, young children. Learning experiences will involve plants and their role in the environment. Instructional activities will include advance organizers or statements of scientific beliefs to guide the children's investigations. Investigations will include activities such as determining the effects of fertilizer on plant growth. Building background knowledge will be emphasized as the children engage in concrete experiences with plants in a butterfly garden to be developed on the center's grounds. Vocabulary development will be emphasized through read aloud activities based on environmental books purchased with grant funds. Concept mapping will be used to document the hierarchical relationships described by the children before, during, and after learning experiences have been initiated. Instructional materials, teacher training materials, and family involvement materials will be made available to other child care centers, especially those in high-needs neighborhoods.
Preliminary Characterization of Aquatic Viruses in Northeast FloridaDr. Michael Lentz, Department of Biology
Dr. Dale Casamatta, Department of Biology
Viruses are a ubiquitous and important component of every ecosystem. There are as many as 50,000,000 virus particles in 1 milliliter of seawater. Despite this abundance, we know very little about virus diversity in most ecosystems, and virtually nothing is known of the viral component of the critical aquatic ecosystems of northeast Florida. Recent advances in DNA technology provide new tools to explore virus genetics on a scale not previously possible. This proposal will fund a pilot project for a new initiative at UNF to explore the viral diversity of the aquatic systems of northeast Florida. Our objective is to demonstrate the feasibility of concentrating, cloning, and direct DNA sequencing of virus isolates from local aquatic ecosystems. It is hypothesized that many harmful algal blooms eventually die off through viral infection. A thorough understanding of this component of the ecosystem will be critical for predicting and managing future algal blooms and their potential economic impact. Our long term project will sample the genetic diversity of the viral populations in fresh- and near-shore saltwater ecosystems in northeast Florida.
GeoCaching: A Technological Game of Hide and Seek
Dr. Peter M. Magyari, Clinical & Applied Movement Sciences
Mr. Ryan Myers, Eco Adventure
This project is designed to encourage University of North Florida students to experience the natural assets of the UNF campus while increasing physical activity and gaining experience utilizing Environmental Science Technologies in a recreational and educational atmosphere.
Health practitioners and academics in Community Health have been lamenting for years about how technological advancements have lead to the reduction in leisure time physical activity in America's youth. Our challenge has been finding ways to utilize technology in a manner that encourages physical activity in a segment of the population that is drawn to technology for their leisure time pursuits. GeoCaching is a widely popular environmental adventure game where players use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) technology to locate a hidden object (cache) based on its longitude and latitude coordinates. These caches are often located in relatively remote areas that require the player to hike in a short distance and then hike back out again. Players will typically walk several miles in a search session.
We propose to offer students the opportunity to check out a OPS unit and pedometer through the Eco Adventures program and complete a questionnaire that relates caches found, information learned, and distance walked during each session.