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Archive for August, 2016

UT grad student trying to save rare songbird wins award at international conference

When golden-winged warblers and their sweet, buzzy voices take flight on the long journey south wearing what look like miniature backpacks, Gunnar Kramer worries how many will return in the spring.

“These birds are very uncommon and have been declining severely in some parts of their range for more than 50 years – more than most other species of birds in North America,” Kramer said. “To help preserve them, we are learning exactly where they go for the winter and how they get there.”

Gunnar Kramer holding a golden-winged warbler wearing a geolocator. Researchers attached the tiny backpack to the bird in 2015 and recovered it in 2016. The data on the geolocator will help Kramer understand the warbler’s migratory route and winter location.

Gunnar Kramer holding a golden-winged warbler, which is carrying a geolocator. Researchers attached the tiny backpack to the bird in 2015 and recovered it in 2016. The data on the geolocator will help Kramer understand the warbler’s migratory route and winter location.

Kramer, a Minnesota-native who studies birds as a Ph.D. student at The University of Toledo, uses cutting edge technology to identify migration routes the tiny birds take once they leave their spring and summer nesting grounds.

The songbirds, which are about the size of a ping pong ball and weigh less than three pennies, travel thousands of miles, and Kramer is mapping their journey using what are called light level geolocators.

“Golden-winged warblers breed throughout the Great Lakes region and the Appalachian Mountains,” Kramer said. “We know they spend the winter somewhere in Central and South America. However, nothing is known about where specific populations settle down.”

The graduate student in the Department of Environmental Sciences was recently honored for a talk he gave at the North American Ornithological Conference in Washington, D.C., about his pioneering research on the silvery gray birds with yellow-crowned heads who are under consideration for federal Endangered Species protection.

The American Ornithologists’ Union awarded Kramer the Council Student Presentation Award at the gathering of 2,000 birding professionals from all over the world.

“The goal is to help improve conservation efforts to boost their numbers,” Kramer said. “If we can figure out golden-winged warblers, we can help the other species make a comeback.”

Kramer and Henry Streby, UT assistant professor and ornithologist, have been looping tiny backpacks around the legs of these birds for three years.

Geolocator recovered from a golden-winged warbler after a full year of recording data. The bird carried this unit for more than 8,000 km.

Geolocator recovered from a golden-winged warbler after a full year of recording data. The bird carried this unit for more than 5,000 miles.

Figure-eight harnesses secure the backpack, which contains a battery, a computer chip and a light sensor. The whole thing weighs less than half of a paper clip and does not inhibit flight or movement.

“We were the first people to put this type of technology on a bird this small,” Streby said. “We developed the tiniest methods for the tiniest birds, and now we’re helping people do the same thing with many other species.”

“The light sensor records ambient light and stores it with a time stamp on the unit every couple minutes,” Kramer said. “We are using differences in day length to predict daily location of the birds throughout the year. Based on how long the day and night are, you can tell approximately where you are on the planet.”

So far more than 100 light level geolocators have been recovered from birds who made the return journey to various locations up north.

Though the research is not complete, preliminary results show golden-winged warblers from declining populations spend their winters in South America on the border of Venezuela and Columbia. The stable population of the species who breed in Minnesota spend the winter spread out through Central America from southern Mexico down to Panama.

A golden-winged warbler carrying a geolocator in Minnesota.

A golden-winged warbler carrying a geolocator in Minnesota.

“There might not be anything we may be able to do up here on the breeding grounds to help preserve this species of warbler if the limiting factors for these populations are on the wintering grounds,” Streby said. “Factors like loss of habitat or human disturbance might be influencing the populations in the wintering grounds to a different effect. Countries have different conservation policies. There are countries that can afford to take care of bird habitat and those that cannot. We have a responsibility to help them.”

These UT researchers are collaborating with scientists from various universities, including the University of Tennessee, the University of Minnesota and West Virginia University.

Funding is provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Science Foundation.

Click here to watch a video showing how the geolocators are put on the birds.

UT researchers awarded grant to study how to increase diversity in engineering workforce

The National Science Foundation awarded $123,859 to a team of researchers at The University of Toledo to study the factors affecting the success and career choices of underrepresented minority engineering students.

The two-year project will compare factors at UT and Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University.

The study will focus on the attitudes and beliefs of faculty and staff, existing institutional support mechanisms and the role of student organizations. The research will examine the effects these have on the social and academic integration of African American students.

“The broader impact of this project is that it addresses the national need to diversify the engineering workforce,” said Lesley Berhan, the project’s principal investigator and associate professor in the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering. “The results will be used to identify areas where existing practices might be improved and to inform the design of programs and intervention strategies to improve the success of underrepresented engineering students not only at our home institutions, but at institutions across the country.”

Berhan will work with Revathy Kumar, professor of educational psychology, and Willie McKether, vice president for diversity and inclusion, on the project titled, “Factors Affecting Underrepresented Minority Student Success and Pathways to Engineering Careers at Majority and Minority Institutions.”

According to the National Science Foundation project summary, “While inadequate college preparation is a contributing factor in the low enrollment and poor retention and graduation rates among underrepresented students in engineering programs, there is evidence that professional persistence is directly linked to identity development and social and academic interactions.”

“Once again, The University of Toledo is on the forefront of cross-cutting, long-term research that will determine our economic destiny,” Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur said. “It’s important for future generations and our economic standing to understand and develop the means to maximize opportunity for all of our citizens to contribute to their best God-given abilities.  This research aims to do that.”

UT to give back to community through Big Event Aug. 28

Hundreds of students along with faculty and staff from The University of Toledo will lend a hand to do some good throughout the city Sunday, Aug. 28.

The volunteers will spread out across the community and spend the day raking, pulling weeds, painting, picking up garbage, washing windows and more at parks, residential homes, businesses and UT’s campuses.

GardenThe annual Big Event is the largest single-day community service event completed by UT students in the Toledo area.

“The Big Event is a great way to give back to Toledoans and businesses who do so much to support us throughout the year,” Joseph Leech, UT engineering student and director of this year’s event, said. “As we start our fall semester, we are enthusiastic to do something special and show we intend to make positive contributions to the city.”

This year’s Big Event will feature a new kick-off called Paint Your Pride.

Students will meet at 10 a.m. at the Student Recreation Center on Main Campus and use stencils to paint the Rocket insignia across campus.

“We are creating a new tradition,” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, said.

Several of the Big Event project locations across the city include:

  • Bancroft Hills, the neighborhood just east of UT Main Campus between Bancroft Street and Dorr Street and between St. Francis de Sales High School and Westwood Avenue, from noon to 2 p.m.
  • Wildwood Metropark from noon to 2 p.m.
  • UT Main Campus along the Ottawa River from noon to 2 p.m.

The next Big Event is scheduled for March 25, 2017, when students will again give back to UT’s neighbors.

“We will also be doing several Service Saturdays throughout school year,” Leech said.

Media Coverage
NBC 24 (August 28, 2016)

Cardio drumming classes provide physical activity and fun for cancer survivors

Thursday nights can get a little noisy in UT’s Health and Human Services Building. The thump of music and the banging of drumsticks can be heard coming from the multipurpose room as cancer survivors gather to literally pound themselves into shape.

 A new, six-week session of cardio drumming begins Thursday, Sept. 1. The class will meet weekly on Thursdays from 6 to 7 p.m. All equipment needed for the class is provided.

Cardio drumming is a cardiovascular workout that blends drumming, movement and dance to get the pulse racing and tone muscles. Participants wield weighted drumsticks to beat on a fitness ball during choreographed routines set to music.

“It can be intimidating at first but the steps are simple and it won’t take long to get the hang of it,” said Yvonne Naserdin, 10-year breast cancer survivor and class participant. “If you can do aerobics or dance, you can do cardio drumming.”

Class instructors said the idea to offer cardio drumming at the Center for Health and Successful Living started after a former student invited them to attend a class.

“It was a great experience and combined physical, social and emotional wellness,” said Wendy Maran, UT associate lecturer of recreational therapy. “We knew cardio drumming would be a hit and worked to get certified to get the foundational knowledge we needed to teach.”

She and UT lecturer of recreational therapy, Holly Eichner became certified through Drums Alive early last year and kicked off the program last fall.

“We have had such a positive response,” Maran said. “Our classes are very upbeat and coordinate the drumming and dance moves with the rhythm of the music to challenge our students mentally and physically.”

While the class is designed to get participants moving, the instructors said they offer modified movements for those who have limited fitness or mobility issues due to treatment.

“We have people who drum while sitting on a chair and we have some who have a little less flexibility who do modified moves,” Eichner said. “Regardless of how they are able to participate, they really get into it. Sometimes it’s hard to hear the music over the banging of the sticks.”

Participants have reported an improvement in fitness, muscle memory, rhythm and patterning. Naserdin said she has noticed a difference in her cardiovascular health and muscle tone since beginning the class.

“I have killer calves,” she laughed. “My arms are firmer too and it helps with my cardio health concerns. I try to maintain a certain weight and I walk and take this class to help me stay in shape.”

The instructors said the classes also are a great way to lift the spirits of cancer survivors.

“Many times participants come into class tired and not feeling like exercising, but we have a lot of fun moving and singing along to the music and before long they are dancing and laughing and leave energized and in a great mood,” she said.

Naserdin said she leaves the class revived and ready to take on a new day and she encourages others to give the class a try.

“I leave with a whole new attitude,” she said. “It was something I always wanted to try, and now I’m hooked. If you try it once, you’ll want to come back.”

Cancer survivors are invited to call UT’s Center for Health and Successful Living at 419.530.5199 to register.

Media Coverage
13 ABC (September 2, 2016)

UT to offer free clinical breast exams at Toledo Pride 2016

The University of Toledo Center for Health and Successful Living will provide free clinical breast exams from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27 at the Toledo Pride Festival in downtown Toledo.

“We hope to reach women over the age of 40 who haven’t recently had an exam,” said Amy Thompson, health education professor and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living. “It is important that women be proactive and take the time for preventative health screenings.”

According to the National Cancer Society, breast cancers found during screening exams are more likely to be smaller and confined to the breast, and early detection is an important factor in the prognosis of someone diagnosed with the disease.

The exams are sponsored in cooperation with UT Health’s Eleanor N. Dana Cancer Center and will be given on a first come, first serve basis.

Media Coverage
WTOL 11 (August 26, 2016)

UT Doctor of Physical Therapy students to receive white coats

White coat ceremonies are a rite of passage for students entering the health-care profession and symbolize the beginning of a career in science and treating patients.

Twenty-eight first year students in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program in The University of Toledo’s College of Health and Human Services will receive their traditional white coats during a formal ceremony 4:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19 in Student Union Room 2582.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony is Tim Berta, former Bluffton Baseball team member and survivor of a 2007 bus accident that occurred while the team was traveling to Florida.

“Mr. Berta will share his remarkable story of recovery after the accident,” said Dr. Michelle Masterson, associate professor and director of the Physical Therapy Program. “His inspirational story helps students to not only see the huge impact that physical therapy can have on a patient’s life, but also what hard work and perseverance can accomplish.”

Physical therapists are experts in the evaluation, treatment and prevention of movement dysfunction, such as conditions arising from injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis or developmental disability. UT’s Doctor of Physical Therapy program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

UT to welcome students for 2016-17 academic year

The University of Toledo is ready to welcome new and returning residents to campus for the 2016-17 academic year.

During the first few weeks of classes, the Office of Student Involvement and Leadership has planned a number of events to encourage students to meet new friends, have fun and learn about the University.

“Studies show that the first few weeks of college are critical for all students,” Dr. Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students said. “That’s why we want to make sure all UT students have the chance to learn as much as possible about the institution and all the resources we have to help them succeed. We also want to make sure they make friends, connect with administrators, faculty and staff, and have some fun, too.”

Fall classes at UT begin Monday, Aug. 22.

The events to welcome students to the new school year include:

Thursday, Aug. 18

  • Bonfire, 8:30 to 10:30 p.m., the Flatlands. The Resident Student Association and the National Resident Halls Honorary will provide paint for the spirit rock and s’mores. WXUT and the Blue Crew will bring the entertainment.

Friday, Aug. 19

  • Bike Ride to the Park, 1 p.m., Rocket Wheels Bike Share Station by Rocket Hall. A guide will lead bicyclists on the University Parks Trail on a ride to Wildwood Metropark Preserve. At the park, a naturalist will offer a tour of the grounds. Need a bike? Go to Monthly Friday rides will continue, weather permitting, Sept. 2, Oct. 7, and Nov. 2 and 17.
  • New Student Convocation, 4 to 5 p.m., Glass Bowl. Rain location will be Savage Arena. UT President Sharon L. Gaber and faculty and staff members will welcome new students.

Saturday, Aug. 20

  • Slip-n-Slide, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., hill by Parks Tower. Meet classmates and have some fun and free food.
  • Paint UT, 9 to 11 p.m., the Flatlands. Sponsored by Campus Activities and Programming, this paint party will feature black lights and electronic dance music.

Sunday, Aug. 21

  • Jam Session, 2 to 4 p.m., Student Union steps. Learn about some of UT’s multicultural student organizations and support offices, and see a step show by members of the UT Greek community.

Monday, Aug. 22

  • Sundae on a Monday with President Gaber, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., Centennial Mall. Share a cool treat with President Gaber. The first 500 people in line will receive a gift; hint: #selfiewithUTPrez.

Wednesday, Aug. 24

  • Student Involvement Fair, noon to 2 p.m., Centennial Mall. There’s an organization for everyone; see for yourself! Get involved!

Thursday, Aug. 25

  • De-Stress Fest, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., University Counseling Center, Rocket Hall Room 1810. Stop by for a chance to win prizes, have a slice of pizza, pet a dog from the Toledo Area Humane Society, color, and spend a few minutes in a massage chair.

Sunday, Aug. 28

  • The Big Event and Paint Your Pride, 10 a.m., Student Recreation Center. Show your school spirit and join the Division of Student Affairs to paint the Rocket insignia across campus. Then give back to the community by volunteering to help in the community.

Thursday, Sept. 1

  • President’s Barbecue, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Centennial Mall. Students and employees are invited to lunch. Activities will include inflatables, limbo competition and more.

Thursday, Sept. 8

  • Pep Rally, noon to 1 p.m., Student Union Steps. Join the UT football team and psych up for the game against Maine.

Saturday, Sept. 10

  • President’s Tailgate Tent, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., lot 25 near Rocket Hall. Students are invited to meet President Gaber. Stop by for food, games and prizes.
  • Toledo vs. Maine, 7 p.m., Glass Bowl. Students are admitted free with their Rocket ID; faculty and staff can buy tickets half off with ID; $25 to $60.

For a full list of events, visit

UT to kick off health coaching program for breast cancer survivors

The University of Toledo Center for Health and Successful Living will hold an open house and orientation for breast cancer survivors enrolled in its new health coaching program from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18 in the Health and Human Services Building Room 1100 on Main Campus.

The 30 breast cancer survivors enrolled in the six-month program sponsored by Susan G. Komen of Northwest Ohio will meet with credentialed health coaches once a month beginning in September and ending in March 2017.

Breast cancer survivors often struggle with long-lasting complications from treatment and find it difficult to maintain optimum health.

“The program is designed to equip survivors with the skills and resources to take control of their nutrition, fitness and mental health in order to live longer, happier lives,” said Amy Thompson, health education professor and co-director of the Center for Health and Successful Living.

Using the survivor’s life goals and priorities as a guide, the health coach and survivor will work together to identify specific health behavior changes that are needed to help her accomplish life goals and priorities.

UT’s Center for Health and Successful Living is a community hub of resources, education and supportive services for individuals living with chronic disease.

Media Coverage
13 ABC (August 19, 2016)



UT College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences welcomes new students with ceremony

First professional-year learners enrolled in The University of Toledo College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences will participate in a professional advancement ceremony at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 18 in Nitschke Auditorium.

White coats will be given to 107 Doctor of Pharmacy students and 35 Bachelor of Science in Pharmaceutical Sciences students as a gift supported by CVS/Caremark and white coat mentors. In addition, eight pharmacy administration majors will receive embossed portfolios. One dual degree learner is among the Bachelor of Science majors.

The traditional ceremony is held at the end of orientation week and marks the student’s transition from the study of pre-clinical to clinical health sciences. It is considered a rite of passage in the journey toward a health-care career.

17“These students have laid the foundation for their future success, but the curriculum is challenging. They will be tested beyond anything they have experienced before. We encourage these students to have a sharp focus and to be ready to work hard to become leaders,” said Dr. Johnnie Early, dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. “The history of the program has shown us that through dedicated effort and solid commitment the vast majority of our students will rise to the occasion and be very successful in their educational journey.”

Twenty-eight students received UT’s Pharmacy Excellence Scholarship. The award is given to academically exceptional students who meet or exceed eligibility requirements for the highly competitive contingent admission program.

Early will speak at the ceremony along with UT President Dr. Sharon L. Gaber, Provost Andrew Hsu, Dr. Dorothea Sawicki, vice provost for health science affairs and University accreditation and Joel Levitan, pharmacist with the Neighborhood Health Association.

Fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences was the first college established at UT in 1904. The college’s guiding principles are personal integrity, professionalism and respect for humanity and human diversity.

UT medical professors, students studying effects of algal bloom toxins on liver

A research team in The University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences is taking an in depth look at Lake Erie algal bloom toxins and the impact they can have on your liver.

“No one knows what safe limits are for a large segment of the public,” said David Kennedy, assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine. “Previous studies only focused on healthy animals.”

During the heart of this algal bloom season, researchers are using mice as a model to study the impact of microcystin exposure on patients who have the most common and often undiagnosed form of liver disease that is tightly linked to obesity.

“Microcystin is a toxin that specifically targets the liver, a vital organ that needs to be healthy in order to process the food you eat,” Kennedy said. “And non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is the most prevalent type of liver disease nationally – particularly in northwest Ohio. Whether diagnosed or undiagnosed, a third of northwest Ohioans have this disease that is silent at first, but predisposes you to big problems down the road, such as the liver becoming scarred and inflamed.”

Team on microcystin and liver research projectAccording to the National Institutes of Health, obesity is a major risk factor for the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which causes the organ to swell with fat. Unchecked, the disease can lead to liver failure and the need for a transplant.

“There is a large population of people who may be susceptible to the effects of microcystin exposure, whether it’s swallowed while swimming at the beach or through the tap should toxic algae once again contaminate the public water supply,” said Steven Haller, assistant professor in the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and co-leader of the project that began in the spring. “The Toledo water crisis inspired us to reevaluate what levels we’re calling safe.”

Two years ago this month the city of Toledo issued a Do Not Drink advisory for half a million water customers due to the level of microcystin detected in the drinking water.

The state awarded UT researchers a $45,000 grant, which is matched by UT, for the project to discover if a pre-existing liver disease makes a person more susceptible to damage from the toxin released by algal blooms.

The goal is to help inform local, state and international health organizations as they form guidelines for safe limits of exposure.

“By focusing on people who may be at risk, we feel we are doing something beneficial to protect them if, in fact, we detect a damaging connection where microcystin causes the liver disease to progress,” Haller said.

“A healthy animal wouldn’t produce symptoms of liver failure at this level of exposure,” Kennedy said.

Haller and Kennedy have enlisted the help of several UT students in their experiments that use a breed of mouse predisposed to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Second year medical student Aaron Tipton helped develop the standards to measure liver function after injecting mice with low doses of microcystin through a tube in their stomachs over the course of a month.

“We developed that from scratch because a big issue that came to light during the water crisis is that the only validated way to measure microcystin is expensive and takes a long time,” Tipton said. “Our work is one of the many ways that University of Toledo researchers are attacking the water quality issue to protect our community.”

“I’m honored to be involved in water quality research that is so important for the health and safety of families not only in our community, but in other places across the world also affected by toxic algal blooms,” said Dalal Mahmoud, a UT junior majoring in biology. “It’s a great opportunity to expand my studies and what I want to do in the future.”

Mahmoud and Tipton were the inaugural beneficiaries of a recent philanthropic gift to the lab, the David and Helen Boone Research Award, which helped fund their summer research.

The toxicity project is expected to be completed next June, but Kennedy and Haller hope this is only the first phase.

“Over the long term, we want to come up with a better diagnostic test that patients can take at the emergency room or doctor’s office – such as a simple blood test – to measure the microcystin levels in the body, for example, if you get sick after swimming in the water during algal bloom season,” Haller said. “Even further, we want to find out if there is a preventative or therapeutic strategy where someone can be treated so they don’t keep going down the road of liver disease progression.”

Media Coverage
13 ABC (August 18, 2016)