Texas Tech University

A&S Faculty News

November 2017

Gamez Presents at Conference in Japan

Gerardo Gamez, Assistant Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, received a $500 International Travel Fund (ITF) award from Texas Tech University to give his invited talk entitled "Ultra-high Throughput Elemental Mapping via Glow Discharge Optical Emission Spectroscopy" at the Asia-Pacific Winter Conference on Plasma Spectrochemistry in Matsue, Japan, Nov. 12-17.

Kendall Named SETAC Fellow, Klaine Awardee

Ron Kendall TTURon Kendall, Professor in the Department of Environmental Toxicology and founding director of The Institute of Environmental and Human Health (TIEHH), received two major awards from the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC) during the organization's 38th annual meeting Nov. 12-16 in Minneapolis. Kendall was named a SETAC Fellow and also receive the 2017 Stephen J. Klaine Environmental Education Award. "To be elected a SETAC Fellow is a significant honor and recognition from my colleagues at SETAC in terms of my long-term scientific contribution to the field of environmental toxicology. I am very appreciative of this recognition," Kendall said. The SETAC Fellow designation represents only the top 1 percent of members in the organization. Being elected a SETAC Fellow is among the highest honors the SETAC scientific organization can bestow. The identification and appointment of Fellow status is intended to provide additional recognition of excellence and contributions of SETAC members to ecotoxicology, environmental chemistry, risk assessment and life cycle assessment. "Receiving the Stephen J. Klaine Environmental Education Award from SETAC is also deeply appreciated. When you spend a career being part of developing programs and educational materials for the field of environmental toxicology, it is a significant honor to be recognized by your colleagues for this contribution," Kendall said. The Stephen J. Klaine Environmental Education Award was established to identify outstanding contributions of either individuals or organizations contributing to environmental education. "It is a great honor for any academic program to have a faculty member selected for such a prestigious award as the Stephen J. Klaine Environmental Education Award," said Steve Presley, Chair of the Department of Environmental Toxicology. "This award not only recognizes Dr. Ron Kendall's significant and long-term contributions to environmental education through educating other educators, but also reflects great credit upon his many colleagues and alumni of the Department of Environmental Toxicology and The Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University." Kendall was chosen for his leadership in establishing three successful graduate programs in environmental toxicology, including programs at Western Washington University, Clemson University and Texas Tech. In addition, Kendall has provided leadership in developing 12 textbooks related to environmental toxicology and chemistry. Many current members of SETAC emerged from graduate programs Kendall provided leadership in establishing during his 37-year career. Kendall has been a pioneer in the area of wildlife toxicology in SETAC. He is a past-president of SETAC and has served on the editorial board of the scientific journal Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry for more than 30 years. SETAC is a global organization with more than 6,000 members engaged in the study, analysis and solution of environmental problems; the management and regulation of natural resources; environmental education; and research and development. Its mission is to support the development of principles and practices for the protection, enhancement and management of sustainable environmental quality and ecosystem integrity.

Phillips Receives Grant to Study Cotton Rat

Caleb Phillips, Assistant Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Curator of Genetic Resources Collection at the Natural Science Research Laboratory, received grant funds of $99,588 from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service/Texas Parks & Wildlife Department for his research project, "Status, Distribution, Morphology and Genetics of Sigmodon fulviventer dalquesti [tawny-bellied cotton rat] in the Chihuahuan Desert Ecoregion." The grant was announced by TTU's Office of Research Services the week ending Nov. 8.

Lewis Gets Grant for Workforce Education

Col. David Lewis, M.A. (USAF Ret.), Assistant Professor of Practice in the Department of Political Science, received incremental grant funds of $9,100—with an anticipated total funding amount of $36,400—from the HRSA/TTUHSC for his work on the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program. The grant was announced by TTU's Office of Research Services the week ending Nov. 8.

Maloney Gets Grant to Study Campus Carry

Patricia Maloney, Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Social Work, received grant funds of $7,982 from the American Sociological Association for her research project, "Longitudinal and Contagion Effects of Campus Carry on Faculty and Students at a Large Southwestern State University." The grant was announced by TTU's Office of Research Services the week ending Nov. 8.

Davis Studies Reasoning of Disease Spread

Tyler Davis, TTUTyler Davis, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, is lead author of the study, "Can you catch Ebola from a stork bite? Inductive reasoning influences generalization of perceived zoonosis risk." On Nov. 8, Science Daily published an article about the study, in which Molly Ireland and Jason Van Allen, both Assistant Professors in the Department of Psychological Sciences; Micah Goldwater from the University of Sydney's School of Psychology; and independent research consultant Nicholas Gaylord also took part. Science Daily summarized the study this way: "Psychologists have applied science to health communication and found that the way the message is conveyed can have a significant impact on awareness about diseases, like Ebola, that jump from animals to people. The researchers found that the more animals that are known to carry a virus, the more people will perceive a risk from any animal." The story, provided to Science Daily by the University of Sydney, continued: "We've been interested for a while in how everyday people reason about risks associated with animal contact," Davis said. "An overwhelming number of new emerging diseases come from animal sources and get introduced to the human population as a result of animal contact. Thus, everyday people without expertise in infectious diseases or how to interact with animals are at the front lines of potential future pandemics, yet very little is known about how they reason about the risks of animal contact." Davis said this study tested whether people use knowledge about the range of animals that are susceptible to a disease when judging their own risks of contact with a specific type of animal. The researchers measured this in a variety of ways, including the likelihood of reporting animal bites to a health professional and the perceived safety of eating different animals' meat. The study found that risk perception increases in two different scenarios. First, if the animal you encountered is similar to a type of animal you believe may carry a disease—for instance, encountering a coyote when you know that local foxes can carry a disease—you may perceive a greater risk to your own health. Second, if you know that a particular disease is found in a wide variety of animals, you may perceive a greater likelihood that the animal you encountered could carry it—for example, if bats, cats and birds all carry a disease, then the coyote you encountered may well pose a risk, as well. "Although there has been a lot of research on inductive reasoning, this research has not been widely applied to health behaviors in general and perception of disease risk from animals in particular," Davis said. "We're also very hopeful that this work can inform better public health messaging in the developing world, where awareness of risks can be very low and responses to outbreaks are often slow and costly."

Hayhoe a Lead Author of Climate Report

Katharine Hayhoe TTUKatharine Hayhoe, Professor in the Department of Political Science and Director of TTU's Climate Science Center, is one of the lead authors of the Climate Science Special Report (CSSR), released Nov. 3 by The U.S. Global Change Research Program, a consortium of 13 federal agencies and a 60-member federal steering committee. It's the most comprehensive look at climate science and its effects to date. The CSSR is part one of the Fourth National Climate Assessment (NCA4), a required quadrennial assessment authorized in 1989 by Congress in the Global Change Research Act (GCRA) of 1990. Hayhoe authored the chapter on climate models, scenarios and projections, and co-authored the chapters on temperature trends and the potential for surprises in the climate system. "This report is the most up-to-date summary we have on how the climate is changing and what that means for our planet," Hayhoe said. "The main findings of this report confirm what we've known for decades—climate is changing, humans are responsible and the risks are serious. However, it also quantifies new science—what's happening in the Arctic and the oceans, and the potential for unforeseen impacts. It puts numbers on how much carbon we can produce if we want to limit how much and how fast the world warms." Also released Nov. 3 was the public review draft of the second part of NCA4, which addresses regional and sectional impacts. Hayhoe served as a lead author on this report as well, authoring chapter two, "Our Changing Climate." She previously authored the Second and Third National Climate Assessments, and NCA4 builds on those findings.

Mechref Co-Chairs Glycosciences Panel

Yehia Mechref, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, co-chaired the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Special Emphasis Panel at the  National Career Development Consortium for Excellence in Glycosciences (K12), 2018/01 ZHL1 CSR-J (F1) 1, Nov. 3.

Mayer Co-Authors Analysis of Project

Greg Mayer TTUGreg Mayer, Associate Professor of Molecular Toxicology in the Department of Environmental Toxicology, is co-author of "A communal catalogue reveals Earth's multiscale microbial diversity," published online Nov. 1 in the journal Nature. The abstract reads thusly: "Our growing awareness of the microbial world's importance and diversity contrasts starkly with our limited understanding of its fundamental structure. Despite recent advances in DNA sequencing, a lack of standardized protocols and common analytical frameworks impedes comparisons among studies, hindering the development of global inferences about microbial life on Earth. Here we present a meta-analysis of microbial community samples collected by hundreds of researchers for the Earth Microbiome Project. Coordinated protocols and new analytical methods, particularly the use of exact sequences instead of clustered operational taxonomic units, enable bacterial and archaeal ribosomal RNA gene sequences to be followed across multiple studies and allow us to explore patterns of diversity at an unprecedented scale. The result is both a reference database giving global context to DNA sequence data and a framework for incorporating data from future studies, fostering increasingly complete characterization of Earth's microbial diversity." Further into the main body of the paper, the authors explain more fully the purpose of the Earth Microbiome Project (EMP),  which was "...founded in 2010 to sample the Earth's microbial communities at an unprecedented scale in order to advance our understanding of the organizing biogeographic principles that govern microbial community structure. We recognized that open and collaborative science, including scientific crowdsourcing and standardized methods, would help to reduce technical variation among individual studies, which can overwhelm biological variation and make general trends difficult to detect. Comprising around 100 studies, over half of which have yielded peer-reviewed publications, the EMP has now dwarfed by 100-fold the sampling and sequencing depth of earlier meta-analysis efforts; concurrently, powerful analysis tools have been developed, opening a new and larger window into the distribution of microbial diversity on Earth. In establishing a scalable framework to catalogue microbiota globally, we provide both a resource for the exploration of myriad questions and a starting point for the guided acquisition of new data to answer them."

Morales Receives Visiting Professorship in Brazil

Jorge A. Morales, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry, has received a visiting professor position at the level of full professor in the Department of Chemistry at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil. This is a six-month position starting on June 1, 2018. During his stay in Brazil, Morales will conduct theoretical chemistry research with several groups in the University of Pernambuco and will teach a graduate course on theoretical chemistry.