Among senior citizens who live in assisted- and independent-living communities, those who engage in online activity are less lonely than their peers, according to a University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) study.
This research, “The Impact of Information and Communication Technologies Use on Loneliness and Contact with Others among Older Adults,” is forthcoming in “The Journal of Medical Internet Research.”
Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., professor of sociology in the UABCollege of Arts and Sciences, along with her colleagues William Anderson and Brandi McCullough, discovered that using the Internet provides seniors with the social connections they need to help decrease feelings of depression and isolation.
“Older adults are at an increased risk of experiencing loneliness and depression, particularly as they move into different types of care communities,” Cotten said. “Information- and communication-technology usage has been shown to help older adults maintain contact with social ties.”
Residents in both assisted- and independent-living facilities were surveyed to examine how Internet use affects perceived social isolation and loneliness, as well as the perceptions of how Internet use affects communication and social interaction.
The data revealed that using the Internet made it easier for seniors to reach people, contributed to their ability to stay in touch, made it easier for them to meet new people, increased the quantity and quality of communication with others, made them feel less isolated and helped them feel more connected to friends and family.
“For those who move into those types of communities, loneliness can be a big issue,” Cotten said. “It is hard to stay connected as they make the transition, moving from their home. We need to encourage older adults to go online to find information and to communicate with their friends and family members. For them, using the Internet can decrease loneliness.”
UAB College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is pleased to announce the first round of Graduate Student Entrepreneurship Awards. The goal of this initiative is to promote student innovation and entrepreneurship across graduate programs in CAS. This program is open to all students in Master or Doctoral graduate programs in CAS. Graduate students supported within this program will go through basic training regarding issues of intellectual property disclosure, copyrights, and patent filings. Students will also gain hands-on experience in assessing market and business potential of early-stage technologies, ideas, and concepts. This CAS program is organized in collaboration with the UAB Research Foundation (UABRF), the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), and the Innovation Depot. The start date for these awards is March 1, 2013.
CAS graduate students submitted proposals in response to this initiative. The following proposals were selected after a campus-wide review.
(1) John Osborne (Ph.D. Student, Computer and Information Sciences, Mentor Thamar Solorio, Ph.D.). Project entitled “"Enhancing Semantic Interoperability through Machine Learning of Post-Coordinated Concepts in SNOMED CT". External Partner: IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, N.Y.
(2) Jamin Johnston (Ph.D. Student, Physics, Mentor: Aaron Catledge, Ph.D.), Project entitled “Vapor-deposited Metal-boride Interfacial Layers as Diffusion Barriers for Nanostructured Diamond Growth on Cobalt Alloys”. External Partner: Wedge Manufacturing, Birmingham, AL
(3) Yasin Oduk (Ph.D. Student, Physics, Mentor: Veena Antony, Ph.D.), Project entitled “Designed Multipurpose Therapeutic Nanoparticles for Malignant Mesothelioma”, External Partner: Soluble Therapeutics, Birmingham, AL.
The $10,000 award is for research expenses incurred to generate proof of concept data for potential commercialization and completion of the graduate thesis project. Funds may also go towards travel support to commercial partner sites as needed.
CAS Interim Dean Bob Palazzo stated that these Graduate Student Entrepreneurship Awards are an important step towards driving innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship for students, faculty, the university, and our community. A sentiment echoed by CAS Associate Dean Yogesh Vohra who is particularly excited about this initiative as graduate students along with their faculty mentors are key drivers behind innovations on UAB campus. Vohra believes this seed funding will promote interactions between UAB research team and external partners and lead to new intellectual property being generated. It would also expand opportunities for graduate student employment as well as fostering ideas for nucleating new businesses in Alabama and nationally.
An international team led by the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has documented a 78 percent decline in the number of nests of the critically endangered leatherback sea turtle (Dermochelys coriacea) at the turtle’s last stronghold in the Pacific Ocean.
The study, published online today in the Ecological Society of America’s scientific online journalEcosphere, reveals leatherback nests at Jamursba Medi Beach in Papua Barat, Indonesia – which accounts for 75 percent of the total leatherback nesting in the western Pacific – have fallen from a peak of 14,455 in 1984 to a low of 1,532 in 2011. Less than 500 leatherbacks now nest at this site annually.
Thane Wibbels, Ph.D., a professor of reproductive biology at UAB and member of a research team that includes scientists from State University of Papua(UNIPA), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Marine Fisheries Service and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Indonesia, says the largest marine turtle in the world could soon vanish.
“If the decline continues, within 20 years it will be difficult if not impossible for the leatherback to avoid extinction,” said Wibbels, who has studied marine turtles since 1980. “That means the number of turtles would be so low that the species could not make a comeback.
“The leatherback is one of the most intriguing animals in nature, and we are watching it head towards extinction in front of our eyes,” added Wibbels.
Leatherback turtles can grow to six feet long and weigh as much as 2,000 pounds. They are able to dive to depths of nearly 4,000 feet and can make trans-Pacific migrations from Indonesia to the U.S. Pacific coast and back again.
While it is hard to imagine that a turtle so large and so durable can be on the verge of extinction, Ricardo Tapilatu, the research team’s lead scientist who is a Ph.D. student and Fulbright Scholar in the UAB Department of Biology, points to the leatherback’s trans-Pacific migration, where they face the prevalent danger of being caught and killed in fisheries.
“They can migrate more than 7,000 miles and travel through the territory of at least 20 countries, so this is a complex international problem,” Tapilatu said. “It is extremely difficult to comprehensively enforce fishing regulations throughout the Pacific.”
The team, along with paper co-author Peter Dutton, Ph.D., discovered thousands of nests laid during the boreal winter just a few kilometers away from the known nesting sites, but their excitement was short-lived.
“We were optimistic for this population when year round nesting was discovered in Wermon Beach, but we now have found out that nesting on that beach appears to be declining at a similar rate as Jamursba Medi,” said Dutton, head of the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center’s Marine Turtle Genetics Program.
The study has used year-round surveys of leatherback turtle nesting areas since 2005, and it is the most extensive research on the species to date. The team identified four major problems facing leatherback turtles: nesting beach predators, such as pigs and dogs that were introduced to the island and eat the turtle eggs; rising sand temperatures that can kill the eggs or prevent the production of male hatchlings; the danger of being caught by fisheries during migrations; and harvesting of adults and eggs for food by islanders.
Tapilatu, a native of western Papua, Indonesia, has studied leatherback turtles and worked on their conservation since 2004. His efforts have been recognized by NOAA, and he will head the leatherback conservation program in Indonesia once he earns his doctorate from UAB and returns to Papua.
He has worked to educate locals and limit the harvesting of adults and eggs. His primary focus today is protecting the nesting females, eggs and hatchlings. A leatherback lays up to 10 nests each season, more than any other turtle species. Tapilatu is designing ways to optimize egg survival and hatchling production by limiting their exposure to predators and heat through an extensive beach management program.
“If we relocate the nests from the warmest portion of the beach to our egg hatcheries, and build shades for nests in other warm areas, then we will increase hatching success to 80 percent or more,” said Tapilatu.
“The international effort has attempted to develop a science-based nesting beach management plan by evaluating and addressing the factors that affect hatching success such as high sand temperatures, erosion, feral pig predation and relocating nests to maximize hatchling output,” said Manjula Tiwari, a researcher at NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, Calif.
Wibbels, who is also the Ph.D. advisor for Tapilatu, says that optimizing hatchling production is a key component to leatherback survival, especially considering the limited number of hatchlings who survive to adulthood.
“Only one hatchling out of 1,000 makes it to adulthood, so taking out an adult makes a significant difference on the population,” Wibbels said. “It is essentially the same as killing 1,000 hatchlings.”
The research team believes that beach management will help to decrease the annual decline in the number of leatherback nests, but protection of the leatherbacks in waters throughout the Pacific is a prerequisite for their survival and recovery. Despite their prediction for leatherback extinction, the scientists are hopeful this species could begin rebounding over the next 20 years if effective management strategies are implemented.
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