Salsa and Scientists – An Unlikely, But Welcomed Combo at RSMAS

“Una Bulla!”
“Hey!” …

Every Tuesday and Thursday after work, a dozen RSMAS scientists gather in the Commons, chanting, laughing and dancing. It sounds unlikely that salsa could find its place in a building of science. For me, salsa has been a quite affordable luxury I reward myself after a day of lab work.

I started dancing salsa about a month after joining RSMAS as a graduate student. Although I always enjoyed watching dance performances, I had never thought of being part of this graceful and exciting art. Worried about being too clumsy, I asked Brent, the salsa instructor, “I have never danced before. How should I get prepared for the class?”

“You need to have shoes and legs and you will be fine!” He answered cheerfully, “First you are a mover, then a shaker; then you blossom into a dancer!”

Now, after dancing with my fellow scientists for almost two years, I have been promoted to Brent’s teaching assistant. Although I don’t have to worry about being clumsy any more, my excitement and curiosity about dancing salsa have never faded. Things I learn from the salsa class are far beyond memorizing complicated move combinations. People join the dance with different styles and personalities. Some are flashy and confident; others are gentle and moderate. The essential part of salsa dance is not about showing off one’s own strength and skills, but about understanding one’s partner and building the connection. Good dancers can make themselves look good; great dancers can make their partners look good.

It is probably this unique aspect of salsa that makes the class a group of good friends. Everyone is willing to share thoughts and help others improve. As a result, the class is progressing very fast. At the beginning of the second semester, March 2nd, we had a group performance at the Magic City Casino.

“We are probably the most intelligent dancers,” I once joked with my classmates. After all, nobody is too smart to dance.

This blog post is part of a series of stories written by RSMAS graduate students enrolled in the Spring 2012 Scientific Communications (RSM 545) course.

Jie He
PhD student – Meteorology & Physical Oceanography
Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science
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Towed-Diver Surveys Provide Fantastic Photos of Reef Sharks

Rosenstiel School Ph.D. candidate, Marc Nadon, is making headlines today, for a study published in the journal Conservation Biology. As the lead scientist of an international collaboration, Marc and team have spent the last decade surveying reef shark losses in the Pacific Ocean, providing the first estimates on this subject matter. A scientist at the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (JIMAR) located at the University of Hawaii, Nadon and colleagues used a unique survey method, called ‘towed-diver surveys,’ which were designed specifically for the census of large, highly mobile reef fishes like sharks. The surveys involve paired SCUBA divers recording shark sightings while towed behind a small boat. This type of method allowed Marc and his team to capture some beautiful images of these reef sharks up close.

Read more about the survey and its results here.

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RSMAS Storms into AMS Conference

This past week (April 16-20th) was the American Meteorological Society (AMS) 30th Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology where experts in the field gathered to discuss their research. The conference is more specialized than the AMS Annual Meeting, providing a forum for better discussions and debate on a variety of hot research topics (such as the Madden-Julian Oscillation and tropical cyclogenesis). In addition, it is known for being one of the best for graduate students as all students are given the opportunity to give a talk (rather than a poster) if they wish. This week was no exception with excellent talks from many of our RSMAS Meteorology and Physical Oceanography graduate students.

I was fortunate enough to give a talk on my recent work with the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclone tracks, which focused primarily on the North Atlantic region. As with all conferences, you never know who will be in your audience. Dr. Jeff Masters (co-founder of Weather Underground) happened to be in the audience during my talk and discussed my work on his blog. I was very excited about all the positive feedback I received about my work and cannot wait for the next conference.

RSMAS Attendees included (but not limited to):
Dr. Chidong Zhang, Dr. Shuyi Chen, Dr. Nick Shay, Dr. Sharan Majumdar, Dr. Dave Nolan, Dr. Jodi Brewster, Dr. Eui-Seok Chung, Dr. Brandon Kerns, Dr. Benjamin Jaimes, Marcela Ulate, Will Komaromi, Ting-chi Wu, Gino Chen, Emily Riley, David Yeomans, Kieran Bhatia, Yumin Moon, Falko Judt, Atul Kapur, Chiaying Lee, Claire McCaskill, Mike McGauley, Matt Onderlinde, David Zermeno

Recent Alums included (but not limited to): Dr. Eric Rappin and Dr. Daniel Stern

Angela Colbert
Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
Graduate Student
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Beautiful Fish are Causing Problems in Bocas del Toro, Panama

Zach Lipshultz and Katy Shaw removing the lionfish spines and examining the stomach contents. Photo Credit: Dr Daniel Suman

We spot one resting on a large coral head. It’s a fish with beautiful feathery fins, maroon and white bands and painfully venomous spines. It is a lionfish, an invasive species that is spreading south from Florida.

I traveled to Bocas del Toro, Panama with my Fieldwork in Coastal Management class to study the impacts of invasive lionfish. Bocas is a small little town on the Caribbean coast of Panama, with a wonderful mix of rainforests and coral reefs. Along with my colleague Zach Lipshultz, I surveyed the reefs for lionfish, assessed the biodiversity of the reef in areas with and without lionfish, and studied the stomach contents to determine their diet.

Lionfish are not naturally found in these waters and are becoming a major problem because they do not have any predators. They reproduce and spread rapidly, prey on native fishes and are competing with them for food. I am studying lionfish in Panama to determine if they will decrease the diversity of other fish on the coral reefs.

Zach and I spotted a total of 34 lionfish during our scuba surveys. Our study reveals that the lionfish in Bocas del Toro are reaching greater sizes than has been recorded in the area previously. The largest one caught in a November 2010 derby in was 29.5 cm, and our largest was 31 cm.

But to know what the lionfish are eating, we had to get down and dirty and open up each of the their stomachs. Zach, wearing protective gloves, carefully cut the venomous spines from the fish. I then held it and cut its belly open, being careful not to pierce any of the internal organs. Next, I located its stomach and cut the tip of the stomach off, squeezing the contents out like a tube of toothpaste. They swallow their prey whole, which allowed me to more easily identify what is inside. I found shrimp, small fish, and even a baby lionfish in the stomachs.

While our study shows that the invasive fish are increasing in size, a more extensive study is needed to determine the effects of lionfish on the coral reefs of Bocas del Toro. We hope students in next years Fieldwork in Coastal Management class will continue our study to track the effects lionfish are having on the beautiful coral reefs of Bocas del Toro.

What can we do to stop increasing Lionfish populations? Comment below.

This blog post is part of a series of stories written by RSMAS graduate students enrolled in the Spring 2012 Scientific Communications (RSM 545) course.

Katherine Shaw
MS-Marine Affairs and Policy
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Dr. James Sanchirico Accepts 2012 Rosenstiel Award

From Left to Right: UM Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, Ph.D., Dr. James Sanchirico, Rosenstiel Dean Roni Avissar, Dr. Dave Letson, Dr. Kenny Broad

Last night, the prestigious Rosenstiel Award was presented to this year’s recipient, Dr. James Sanchirico, for his research interest in improving the understanding of the economics and ecology of spatial-dynamic processes inherent in renewable resources management, particularly as a guide to the design of marine protected areas (MPAs).

The award’s banquet was held on the Rosenstiel Patio, where guests were able to mingle with Dr. Sanchirico and other attendees. Provost LeBlanc and Dean Avissar spoke prior to dinner, speaking highly of Dr. Sanchirico and past recipients. Dr. Dave Letson, chair of Marine Affairs & Policy, introduced Dr. Sanchirico. Long time colleague and friend, Dr. Kenny Broad, was on hand as well to congratulate Dr. Sanchirico.

“Jim is a critical team player with the rare intellectual skill-set to integrate ecological and social data, resulting in novel theoretical findings with policy relevant applications,” said Broad.

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(Video) The Waterlust Project: Woodsled – Kiting the Alaia

The Waterlust Project is a film series that focuses on the relationships we have with water and how humans connect with it on a personal level. As such, the scope of this project is broad, encompassing science, sports, conservation, and everything in between. The goal is to inspire more people to care about our oceans and the threats that they are currently facing, through showcasing the many ways in which we interact with water.

Our first Waterlust film was a short trailer designed to bring attention to the project, and get people excited about it. The second film by Patrick Rynne, R.I.P, addressed rip current safety, utilizing recent research conducted in Australia by Rob Brander, Jaime MacMahan and Ad Reniers.

We’re now happy to announce that our third film has just recently been released! Woodsled, by Fiona Graham, is a short film that explores the joys of building and riding your own alaia kiteboard. The alaia is the original wooden, finless, strapless surfboard used by the ancient Hawaiians. As a supplement to the film, we’ve created a “how to” manual and board templates for building your own alaia, which can be found on our website.

Lastly, we’d love for anyone and everyone to get involved with the Waterlust Project! Please think of it as a way to showcase your research, encourage conservation through art, or simply get creative in expressing what water means to you. Applications can be found on our website or shoot us an email if you have any questions.

We hope you enjoy the films so far and continue to follow our progress as we explore these connections and inspire people to think and enact change both within themselves and the world around them.

What did you think of the new Waterlust Project film? Leave comments below.

Fiona Graham
Student, Marine Affairs & Policy
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