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The New Climate: Stronger storms, longer droughts, record temps

Listen Up • Reinventing Itself: the SREL at 60


ugaresearch is published by the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Georgia. The magazine is printed with funds from the University of Georgia Research Foundation, Inc., a nonprofit foundation that supports UGA research. Michael F. Adams, President Jere Morehead, Senior VP for Academic Affairs/Provost David C. Lee, Vice President for Research Terry Hastings, Director, Research Communications


The New Climate: Stronger storms,

longer droughts, record temps

ugaresearch staff Editor: Helen Fosgate (hfosgate@uga.edu) Circulation, Media Shelf: Laurie Anderson Contributing editor: Steve Marcus Design: Lindsay Robinson/UGA Public Affairs Photo Liaison: Paul Efland/UGA

Writers: Charles Seabrook, Sam Fahmy, Helen Fosgate, Kathleen Raven, Laurie Anderson, Rebecca Ayer, Michael Childs, Chelsea Toledo, Julie Sartor, Keith Poole. Photographers: Victor Gensini, Paul Efland, Dot Paul, Helen Fosgate, Dorothy Kowalski, Peter Frye, Bill Evelyn, Geof Gilland, NASA.

UGA scientists concur that climate change is real, already producing impacts, and likely to cause upheavals worldwide. A research priority now is how best to respond.


Listen up

By Sam Fahmy


Reinventing itself: The SREL at 60

By Helen Fosgate

Cover photo by: Victor Gensini. See more of his photographs at dryline19.blogspot.com

Articles may be reprinted with permission. For additional copies of the magazine or address changes, please contact Research Communications at 706-583-0599 or rcomm@uga.edu. Access the electronic edition at www.researchmagazine.uga.edu. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Research Magazine, OVPR, University of Georgia, 708 Boyd GSRC, Athens, GA 30602-7411. Call 706-583-0599; or email rcomm@uga.edu. In compliance with federal law, including the provisions of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Sections 503 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the University of Georgia does not discriminate on the basis of race, sex, religion, color, national or ethnic origin, age, disability, or military service in its administration of educational policies, programs, or activities; its admissions policies; scholarship and loan programs; athletic or other University-administered programs; or employment. In addition, the University does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation consistent with the University non-discrimination policy. Inquiries or complaints should be directed to the director of the Equal Opportunity Office, Peabody Hall, 290 South Jackson Street, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602. Telephone 706-542-7912 (V/TDD). Fax 706-542-2822

By Charles Seabrook

William Kretzschmar discusses the fundamental truths about language.

Having pioneered nuclear and thermal ecology, the worldrenowned Savannah River Ecology Lab is now shifting its focus from the assessment of polluted sites to their remediation.

Spring 2012


Vol 41, No. 1 ISSN 1099-7458

newsbriefs 2 Abstinence-only sex education equals higher teenpregnancy rates 3 Already-anxious teens reject negative anti-smoking ads 4 Exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety in women 5 Reading, computer literacy lagging in U.S.

Want to support UGA research? If you would like to support research featured in this issue, contact Keith Oelke, executive director of corporate and foundation relations at: koelke@uga.edu To see back issues of ugaresearch, visit us online at: www.researchmagazine.uga.edu

24 interview

Gambling as an addiction Psychologist Adam Goodie explains the nature of pathological gambling and how to address it.


media shelf

A sampling of books, recordings and other creative works by UGA faculty, staff, and students.

32 viewpoint

Graphic picture of a polarized Congress Political scientist Keith Poole analyzes the deadlock between Republicans and Democrats in Congress.


Abstinence-only sex education equals higher teen-pregnancy rates


tates that limit public-school sex education programs to abstinence-only have significantly higher rates of pregnancies and births among teens than do states that offer comprehensive sex-education programs, according to a University of Georgia study published online in the journal PLoS ONE. The researchers used teen pregnancy and birth data from 48 U.S. states to evaluate the effectiveness of various approaches to sex education. Theirs is the first large-scale study to show evidence that sex education programs in public schools have a significant influence on teen-pregnancy rates. “Our analysis adds to the overwhelming evidence that abstinence-only education does not reduce teen pregnancy rates,” said coauthor Kathrin Stanger-Hall, assistant professor of biological sciences at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. And “not only does abstinence-only education in public schools not lead to abstinent behavior,” added coauthor David Hall, assistant professor of genetics at the Franklin College, “it may actually contribute to the high teen-pregnancy rates in the United States compared to those of other industrialized countries.” Even when accounting for family socioeconomic status, education level, access to Medicaid waivers, and ethnic background, one relationship between sex education programs and teen pregnancy stands out on the study: the more strongly abstinence-only sex education is emphasized, the higher are the average teenage pregnancy and birth rates. “While our analysis doesn’t necessarily show that abstinenceonly sex education causes higher teen pregnancy and birth rates, 2


it certainly doesn’t lower the rates, as proponents claim,” said Stranger-Hall. “If it did, the correlation would be in the opposite direction.” The researchers also found that states with the lowest teenpregnancy rates are those that offer comprehensive sex education, which includes abstinence alongside proper contraceptive use. These results come at an important time. A new evidencebased Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative that became federal law in December 2009 has now been awarded $114 million for implementation. In addition, federal support of abstinence-only sex education was renewed for 2010 and beyond; $250 million of mandatory abstinence-only funding was specified in an amendment to the Senate Finance Committee’s health-reform legislation. With these two types of federal funding available, state legislators now have an opportunity to choose between sex-education programs. The UGA researchers actually conducted their largescale analysis in part to provide scientific evidence for helping to inform the legislators’ decisions. To the researchers themselves, the proper decisional direction is clear. Said Stanger-Hall: “Advocates for continued abstinenceonly education need to ask themselves: If teens don’t learn enough about human reproduction, including safe sexual-health practices that prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, then when should they learn this and from whom?” Contact Kathrin Stanger-Hall by email at: lamyrids@gmail.com

— Chelsea Toledo

Already-anxious teens reject negative antismoking ads


hen confronted with an anti-smoking video ad that describes how cigarettes lead to disease, death, or harm to others, already-anxious teens and young adults tend to reject the message or avoid considering it altogether, according to a new University of Georgia study published in the journal Health Communication. “Health messages usually include a threat meant to instill fear,” said study coauthor Jennifer Monahan, a professor of speech communication at UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. But “our study found that this is not a good strategy for reaching highly anxious people, who often are more likely to smoke in the first place.” Lead author and PhD candidate Christin Bates Huggins, noted that conveyors of these health messages have not sufficiently considered how such populations perceive them. Huggins worked with data, gathered by UGA’s Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty under a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on 200 UGA college students aged 18 to 31. Participants completed personality questionnaires and then watched three video ads produced by different anti-smoking organizations. Researchers found a strong correlation between those scoring high in anxiety and those who avoided listening to or considering messages that evoked fear or sadness. Essentially, they rejected the message that smoking is harmful. Not only did high-anxiety students avoid negative anti-smoking messages, they also rejected an ad about the dangers of secondhand smoke, saying they considered the information biased and untrustworthy. Huggins explained that such “maladaptive responses” were common among highly anxious smokers who reacted to ads mostly with their feelings. Contact Jennifer Monahan by email at: jmonahan@uga.edu; or Christin Bates Huggins at: cebates@uga.edu For more information about UGA’s Southern Center for Communication, Health, and Poverty, see: southerncenter. uga.edu/ — Kathleen Raven Spring 2012


Exercise reduces symptoms of anxiety in women


bout 3 percent of Americans suffer from anxiety severe enough to damage their health and quality of life. This medical condition, called generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), comes with a host of symptoms that include fatigue, muscle tension, worrying, irritability, insomnia, and pain. But while GAD is difficult to overcome without treatment, a new UGA study shows that regular exercise can significantly reduce symptoms. In a study published in the online journal Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, researchers randomly assigned 30 sedentary women with GAD, ages 18-37, to six weeks’ participation—with two sessions per week—in an exercise group focused either on strength training (weightlifting) or aerobic training (leg cycling).



Remission of the disorder, as determined by psychologists who were unaware of the treatment each client received, was highest among those in the weightlifting group. But moderateto-large symptom reductions were also observed among the aerobic exercisers as well. The study also examined potential interactions between exercise and drugs used to treat GAD. Half of the participants in each group were on such medication during the program. Exercise training lessened anxiety symptoms to the same degree whether the participants were on drugs at the time or not. Matthew Herring, now a research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, led the research as a doctoral student in UGA’s

department of kinesiology. The team also included Patrick O’Connor and Rodney Dishman (codirectors of UGA’s Exercise Psychology Laboratory), psychology professor Cynthia Suveg, and doctoral student Marni Jacob. “Given the prevalence of GAD and the drawbacks of drugs, our findings are particularly exciting,” said Herring, “because they suggest that exercise training is a feasible and well-tolerated therapy with low risks.” Added Suveg: “Exercise is available to everyone, is relatively inexpensive, and has benefits beyond reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression.” The study was supported by a grant from the UGA College of Education. Contact Patrick O’Connor by email at: pocconor@uga.edu

— Julie Sartor

Reading, computer literacy lagging in U.S.


eople need a high level of literacy—in print and digital media alike—to navigate most aspects of 21st-century life. Yet a recent survey by the National Research Council (NRC), an arm of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, estimates that more than 90 million American adults lack the literacy skills needed for a healthful, productive, and secure existence. The report, Improving Adult Literacy Instruction: Options for Practice and Research, synthesizes the research previously carried out on literacy and learning, and it recommends a more systemic approach to further research as well as to effective policy and implementation, according to Noel Gregg, associate dean of UGA’s College of Education. Gregg served as Georgia’s only representative on the NRC committee, of more than a dozen members, that analyzed the data. “Our report looks at strategies that will best help adults improve their own literacy,” said Gregg, a UGA Distinguished Research Professor. “But the bigger picture is the issue of literacy as it relates to the economic and health crises in the United States today.” Gregg and her colleagues have found that only 38 percent of U.S. 12th-graders meet or exceed proficiency standards in reading. Of high-school graduates who go no further in school, 53 percent are at or below the basic level of reading comprehension. And even among those with a two-year degree, 24 percent post scores at or below that basic level. One result is that parents who don’t read well are far less likely to read to their children or have reading materials in the home. These parents also tend to have less access to nutrition and other health-related information—and many lack the reading comprehension to follow the basic instructions given to them for home care following medical procedures or hospital stays. How best to remedy the problem through adult-literacy instruction is not clear, said Gregg, as there is a surprising lack of rigorous research on

effective approaches. “Research with younger populations can guide the development of instructional approaches for adults, but two major differences between the groups should be taken into account,” she said. One difference is that adults may experience age-related cognitive declines that affect their reading and writing processes as well as the speed at which they learn. The second is that adults possess varied life experiences, hardwon knowledge, and motivations for learning that often aren’t considered in the design of literacy programs. As a result, many adults drop out of these programs before getting sufficient instruction. The report stresses that the effort to improve adult literacy will require strong leadership from the U.S. Departments of Education and Labor. And partnerships between administrators across agencies are but one critical element, said Gregg. Given the scope of the problem, the active involvement of researchers and curriculum developers will also be needed, together with the support of business and community leaders. Contact Noel Gregg by email at: ngregg@uga.edu To access the full National Research Council report, see: www. nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13242.

— Michael Childs

Spring 2012


MULTIMEDIA UGA Gerontology Videos produced by Leonard Poon, University of Georgia Distinguished Research Professor and director emeritus, Institute of Gerontology, College of Public Health, and Alan Stecker, former lecturer, Grady College of Journalism http://goo.gl/9sOoW Visitors to this YouTube site can view oral histories of vibrant elderly citizens, as well as films about health care for the elderly, dementia, the science of aging, and other issues related to getting older.


Bring It To Class: Unpacking Pop Culture in Literacy Learning (The Practitioner’s Bookshelf) by Margaret C. Hagood, associate professor of teacher education, College of Charleston, Donna E. Alvermann, Distinguished Research Professor of Language and Literacy Education, College of Education, University of Georgia, and Alison Heron-Hruby, adjunct literacy instructor, College of Education, University of Kentucky (Teachers College Press, 2010). The authors offer a “how-to” guide on new ways to educate using the full spectrum of current media, including computer apps, comics, social media and video games. Each chapter includes classroom activities, adaptable lessons, and professional study-group questions.



Personal Relationships: The Effect on Employee Attitudes, Behavior, and Well-being

An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science

edited by Lillian Turner de Tormes Eby, professor of psychology, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences; and Tammy D. Allen, professor of psychology, University of South Florida (Routledge Academic, 2012).

by Edward J. Larson, adjunct professor of history, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, and Hugh and Hazel Darling Chair of Law, Pepperdine University (Yale University Press, 2011).

We know that positive, fulfilling and satisfying relationships are strong predictors of life satisfaction, psychological health, and physical well-being and that negative relationships can have detrimental effects on individuals. This edited volume integrates these two distinct streams of research to look at how relationships affect individual attitudes, behaviors and wellbeing.

Larson focuses on the scientific aspects of the early Antarctic explorations, but his narrative—rich with detail and drama—also gives a fascinating picture of how politics, culture, social attitudes, and individual hubris influenced the scientists and explorers who first probed one of the world’s harshest environments.

Soul Searching: Black-Themed Cinema from the March on Washington to the Rise of Blaxploitation by Christopher Sieving, assistant professor of theatre and film studies, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences (Wesleyan University Press, 2011). For the U.S. film industry, the battle for civil rights in the 1960s did not just involve a struggle for equal representation within its ranks, but also of its output—the demand for more accurate portrayals of the African American experience. Sieving examines both the internal movement for change and attempts by independent film producers at this time to create commercially viable movies that avoided stereotypes.

TOOLS Discover Life coordinated by John Pickering, associate professor of ecology, Odum School of Ecology www.discoverlife.org/ This huge natural history survey features online tools that anyone can use to contribute to or study its ever-growing database of 1.1 million species of plants and animals. Funded by the Polistes Foundation and now in its 15th year, Discover Life celebrated a billion hits in October 2011. IntLawGrrls Created and co-edited by Diane Marie Amann, Emily and Ernest Woodruff Chair in International Law, School of Law www.intlawgrrls.com/ Created in 2007 by international law expert Amann and edited with a team of fellow scholars, this blog provides crisp commentary and insight on contemporary international issues from a wide range of women. The nearly 250 contributors include judges, prosecutors and defenders, professors in law and other disciplines, law students, advocates at nongovernmental and intergovernmental organizations, and filmmakers. Linguistic Atlas Project Stories Wanting Only to Be Heard: Selected Short Fiction from Sixty-Five Years of The Georgia Review Stephen Corey, editor, Douglas Carlson, assistant editor, David Ingle, assistant editor, and Melinda Wilson, managing editor, The Georgia Review; foreward by Barry Lopez. (University of Georgia Press, 2012). Marking the sixty-fifth anniversary of The Georgia Review, this anthology features 28 of the many hundreds of fiction writers who have appeared in the journal since 1947, including Nobel Prize winner William Faulkner and National book Award winner Joyce Carol Oates. Send suggestions for Media Shelf of work by UGA personnel to Laurie Anderson at: laurie@uga.edu.

William A. Kretzschmar, Harry and Jane Willson Professor in Humanities and professor of English, Franklin College of Arts and Sciences http://www.lap.uga.edu/ This collection of language and dialect studies performed around the country over the last 80 years explores the many varieties of English spoken in the United States. The data can be used to correlate geography with gender, age, race, and other social variables, making the site useful not only to linguists but also to historians, educators and speech pathologists as well as those in the legal profession. AUDIO Sacred Sites of the Dalai Lamas - Music for a Pilgrimage Steve Dancz, academic professional associate, Hugh Hodgson School of Music (independent release, 2011) http://stevedancz.com/?page_id=15 www.amazon.com/Sacred-Sites-DalaiLamas-Pilgrimage/dp/B0051IB8AC This soundtrack release from a 2007 documentary on Dancz’s pilgrimage to the holy sites of Tibetan Buddhism is a meditative blending of traditional Tibetan songs, sacred Buddhist chants and original melodies that evoke the roof of the world. Spring 2012 7

The New Climate:



Stronger storms, longer droughts, record temps UGA scientists concur that climate change is real, already producing impacts, and likely to cause upheavals worldwide. A research priority now is how best to respond.

By Charles Seabrook Storm photos by Victor Gensini

Spring 2012


The lake at Sweetwater Creek State Park in Lithia Springs, Georgia (above), is an important source of drinking water for area residents.




rom anthropologists to zoologists, dozens of University of Georgia scientists are in agreement: The reality of climate change is no longer a debatable issue. Climate change is real, they say, most of it driven by rising concentrations of heattrapping (“greenhouse”) gases from human activities such as fossil-fuel burning and deforestation. The task now, according to these researchers, is to learn how to cope with the resulting adversities, which include hotter temperatures, prolonged droughts, and coastal flooding. UGA climatologist and geography professor Marshall Shepherd sums up the general feeling. “Human-related activities are a clear contributor to climate change along with natural variability, and changes are happening on time scales much shorter than those of natural changes.” he said. The evidence, some of it from UGA scientists, indicates that climate-change

impacts are already upon us. Sea level is rising, and 10 of the planet’s warmest years (in terms of global average temperature) on record have occurred during the past 12 years. Moreover, some of the impacts are occurring sooner than expected. Thawing of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have accelerated, and the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice is rapidly declining. “People are sailing in the Arctic Ocean now. We’re talking about now, not 50 years from now,” says Shepherd, president-elect of the American Meteorological Society. “The climate is changing quickly; it’s here, it’s real,” agrees James Porter, assistant professor in the Odum School of Ecology, and the rate of change will only accelerate over the next 50 years. He notes that climate scientists a few years ago were predicting the Arctic Ocean would be ice-free during summers by 2040. Now, the forecast is that it may occur in this decade.

“The climate is changing quickly; it’s here, it’s real.”

- UGA ecologist James Porter

A Grim Picture Campus-wide, at least 70 UGA faculty members from an array of disciplines are engaged in climate-change research. In the ecology school, the entire faculty is involved, says Porter. No other issue has galvanized scientists from so many different backgrounds as climate change. The widespread interest prompted a core group of researchers in 2010 to launch the Georgia Initiative for Climate and Society, sponsored by UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The initiative’s overarching goals, says director Patricia Yager, an oceanographer in the department of marine sciences, are “to understand what’s coming and to start planning for adaptation and mitigation.” That, in fact, is the aim of the bulk of UGA’s investigations—deciphering the consequences of a warmer planet and determining how society can grapple with them. “There will be really dramatic changes that we have to prepare for,” says Ron Carroll, director for science at UGA’s River Basin Center, which is studying the possible effects of climate change on Georgia’s rivers, streams, and coastal communities. He and other scientists point out that while there are still limits to their knowledge of the extent and intensity of climate change, they can draw some preliminary conclusions from computerized climate models, remote-sensing data, coring samples, tree-ring information, and other sources. The data paint a grim picture of what’s in store for Georgia through the end of

Rick o’quinn

this century, according to the university’s researchers and reports from the U.S. Global Change Research Program, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA, and other sources. Average temperatures in the state are predicted to rise as much as 5 degrees Fahrenheit by mid-century and up to 9 degrees by 2080. Droughts will be more severe, and longer lasting. Rainfall patterns will change—the time between rain events will increase, and when it does come, the rain will fall in heavier downpours that cause more storm runoff and erosion. Summer river flow will decline and some rivers may dry up altogether, exacerbating already serious squabbles over water supply. The number of days with 90-degree-plus temperatures could increase from about 60 days a year to as many as 135 days a year. Diseases such as dengue fever and cholera could become serious public health threats. Heat-related

UGA climatologists Marshall Shepherd (left) and Tom Mote.

Spring 2012


2011 was an exceptionally destructive and deadly year for tornadoes. Worldwide, at least 577 people died in tornadoes, 553 in the United States (compared to 564 US deaths in the prior 10 years combined).

Victor Gensini

The 2009 Southeastern floods affected Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas. Some of the worst flooding was in Metro Atlanta (far right), where the Chattahoochee River reached 500-year flood levels. Losses included 10 deaths and property damages of more than $500 million.



health problems such as sunstroke would rise. The floral and faunal diversity of forests and other ecosystems could change substantially. On Georgia’s coast, the most ominous threat is a sea-level rise of as much as three feet by the end of this century, the result of thawing glaciers and warmer seawater. The higher seas could put as much as 50 to 100 square miles of currently dry coastal land under water at high tide, according to some computer models. UGA River Basin Center scientists are producing maps to show where the flooding is expected. The researchers hope that coastal residents, developers, and elected officials will use these maps to make sound land-use decisions.

Global-Scale Interactions UGA’s climate-change research is not confined to Georgia and the Southeast. Several of the university’s scientists are conducting studies around the world to discern a global picture of climate change. Yager, for example, is investigating how an altered climate may affect the oceans in Antarctica, the Arctic, and the Amazon River. UGA climatologist Thomas Mote, Head of the Department of Geography, has been closely monitoring the two-mile-thick Greenland ice sheet. He and colleagues reported last year that the melting is speeding up, and a likely reason is human-induced climate change. Chris Cuomo, professor of philosophy and

Gulf Coast residents underestimate destructive power of hurricanes People who live along the Gulf Coast often underestimate the potential danger and destructive power of hurricanes, especially when based only on the category number, ranging from 1 to 5, of the SaffirSimpson Hurricane Scale (SSHWS). “As the intensity of a hurricane increases [linearly] on the SSHWS, the economic damages increase exponentially, yet people are not aware of this relationship,” said Alan Stewart, a weather psychologist at UGA’s College of Education. This is unfortunate, given that people are much more likely to evacuate when given information about the destructive potential of a hurricanes, rather than its category number. In each of two studies, one that polled university students and the other involving a random sample of Gulf Coast residents, a majority of respondents believed that damage increases in a straight-line manner—that is, proportionally with the SSHWS number. Coastal residents underestimated damages by a factor of about two for a Category 2 hurricane—and up to a factor of 15 for a Category 5 hurricane. A third study involving Gulf Coast residents found that when people received exponentially increasing damage estimates, they were far more likely to evacuate. All three studies were published in the journal Weather, Climate, and Society, a quarterly publication of the American Meteorological Society. To learn more about the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, visit: (www.nhc. noaa.gov/sshws.shtml).

director of UGA’s Institute for Women’s Studies, is keeping track of how the Inupiaq people of northern Alaska are coping with melting ice caps, thawing permafrost, and other calamities that are jeopardizing their way of life. “Climate change is not a possible future problem,” Cuomo says. “It is already causing disconcerting changes and even social and ecological catastrophes worldwide.” As a case in point, she says, “high Atlantic Ocean temperatures in 2010 contributed to the intense monsoons that led to catastrophic flooding in Pakistan, causing more than 2,000 deaths and displacing 20 million people, 85 percent

—Michael Childs

Courtesy Marshall Shepherd

Contact Alan Stewart by email: aeswx@uga.edu

Spring 2012


NASA satellite images showing the Artic Ice Cap in 1980 (above left), and 2012 (above right).



of whom were women and children.” In remote areas of northern Alaska, she adds, the thawing permafrost is causing landscape collapse that drains lakes, threatens entire villages and makes traveling and hunting treacherous. Erin Lipp, an environmental microbiologist in UGA’s Department of Environmental Health Sciences, and colleagues made international headlines last year when they reported that the growth and spread of harmful Vibrio bacteria in coastal waters of the Southeast may be enhanced by climate change in western Africa’s Sahara desert. Lipp concluded that iron-laden dust blows from the Sahara region across the ocean and settles in U.S. coastal waters, where the iron can stimulate rapid and abundant growth of the bacteria. Various Vibrio species can cause life-threatening gastrointestinal ailments, including cholera, and Vibrio cases have jumped 85 percent in the United States in the past 15 years, according to Lipp. This threat, moreover, will likely grow. “Climatechange scenarios suggest that desertification in western Africa will worsen over the coming century, leading to enhanced dust transport

and associated mineral and nutrient deposition to waters of the southeast U.S.,” she and her colleagues noted in the 2011 report.

A Change in the Weather Climate disruptions on the other side of the world also can influence Georgia’s weather. (Scientists caution against confusing weather with climate. The difference is in the time scale. Weather is the condition of the atmosphere on an hour-to-hour and day-to-day basis; climate is a locale’s average weather over relatively long periods.) “If you want examples of how changes in another part of the world can affect our weather, look at El Niño and La Niña,” says Shepherd. El Niño is a periodic warming of the ocean surface along the equator in the Pacific Ocean that can change global atmospheric circulation and disrupt weather patterns in many regions around the world. La Niña, essentially the opposite of El Niño, is marked by the appearance of unusually cold surface waters along the equator in the central and eastern Pacific. It is known to trigger fall, winter, and spring weather patterns that are drier and warmer than normal over much of the

Southeast, including Georgia. Mote has revealed still another strong connection. He and former graduate assistant Emily Kutney reported last year that snow piling up over a band of frozen tundra from Siberia to far-northern Europe may rival El Niño and La Niña in influencing the U.S. climate. The researchers compared 45 years’ worth of North American winter temperatures with 45 years of satellite imagery that recorded snow cover in Northern Europe and Asia. They found that years with heavy autumn snow in northwest Eurasia corresponded to subsequent lower winter temperatures—as much as seven degrees Fahrenheit cooler—in North America. These natural phenomena and others probably have been influencing global climate systems for eons. But now, superimposed on the age-old natural variations is the human factor—the rapid buildup of heat-trapping gases in the air. The most important of these gases by far is carbon dioxide, derived mostly from the burning of coal, petroleum, and other fossil fuels as well as from the loss of “carbon sinks” due to deforestation. Shepherd emphasizes that carbon dioxide levels show natural variability, but only since the start of


Environmental microbiologist Erin Lipp (above), studies the growth and spread of harmful Vibrio bacteria in coastal waters of the Southeast. Cases of Vibrio have jumped 85 percent in the past 15 years.

Spring 2012



Ecologist Jackie Mohan (above), says climate change is altering the species makeup of Eastern forests.

the Industrial Revolution around 1750 have carbon dioxide values moved beyond the “natural bound” of 270 to 280 parts per million in the past 700,000 years. Current levels are approximately 390 ppm, Shepherd says. And some computer models predict that by the end of this century concentrations will be more than double the current levels if quick and decisive action is not taken worldwide to curtail carbon emissions.

Developing Coping Strategies Some UGA scientists have devised elaborate experiments to help predict the impacts. One of them is being carried out in a remote section of UGA’s Whitehall Forest, four miles from downtown Athens. Ecosystems ecologist Jacqueline Mohan and her graduate assistants maintain several living-room-size plots, enclosed by plastic fences, where the soil stays 6 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the natural ambient temperature. Growing in the various plots are several native tree saplings—tulip poplar, longleaf pine, Southern magnolia, maples, oaks, and others. The extra 16


warmth is delivered via black electric cables buried five inches in the soil. Electronic monitors continuously measure temperature, moisture, respiration, and other variables to help determine how the trees, soil, and microbes—even earthworms—respond to the higher temperatures. From the experiment, Mohan and her colleagues hope to learn how a hotter climate might affect the vast forests of Georgia and other Eastern states. Mohan notes that climate alteration definitely will cause changes in the makeup of southeastern forests, but she and other scientists are still uncertain over the extent of the restructuring. “One of our goals is to determine if shifts in species’ ranges will occur in a warmer climate,” Mohan says. It could be that trees such as the Southern magnolia and slash pine, whose ranges now are confined almost entirely to the South, will extend their northern reaches as far as New England, while cool-climate trees such as the sugar maple may vanish altogether from their southernmost haunts. Implementing new forest-management strategies, forestry experts say, might boost the ability of southeastern forests to adapt

to the predicted drought stress and hotter temperatures of climate change. To help develop such strategies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded a $1.34 million grant to several researchers in UGA’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources. Other UGA researchers are trying to develop strategies to help Georgia and other states deal with one of the most crucial challenges of climate change—ensuring adequate water supplies. Even as climate experts predict decreased water availability for Georgia in coming decades, the state faces demands for more water from agriculture, industry, power generation, and a rapidly growing population. To help quench future thirst, Ron Carroll at UGA’s River Basin Center is studying, among other things, the use of “constructed wetlands”—such as human-made marshes and swamps—to treat and store storm water and wastewater. Such artificial wetlands, he says, could help rivers and streams continue flowing even during drought. Although the inevitability of climate change is clear, major questions remain: Are the more dire consequences of climate change inevitable? Or is there still time to prevent them? At this point, answers are elusive. But regardless, most scientists say that we had better start preparing now for climate upheaval. Says climatologist Shepherd: “I do think we are experiencing the beginning of the ‘new climate.’” (Charles Seabrook is retired from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, where he covered the environment and health sciences for 33 years. His latest book, The World of the Salt Marsh, was published in April by UGA Press).

UGA Symposium examines links between climate change, infectious diseases Researchers from the University of Georgia, Emory University, and the University of Liverpool, UK, met on the UGA campus in April for a symposium that examined how a changing climate affects infectious disease outbreaks around the world. The theme emphasized the “One World, One Health Initiative,” which recognizes that human, animal, and ecosystem health are irrevocably linked. An analysis of research on important human and animal pathogens in Europe, including anthrax and West Nile virus, showed that 60 percent of these diseases are influenced by prolonged droughts, more intense storms, and hotter temperatures. “We need to recognize there is no simple or single answer,” said Matthew Baylis, a veterinary epidemiologist at the University of Liverpool, who led the study. “For many diseases—and animal diseases in particular—climate still remains a driving factor for infection.” Researchers said that in a few cases, humans have been able to break the link between climate and the incidence of disease. Malaria infections, for example, once strongly influenced by climate, are now driven by the availability of mosquito nets, breakthrough drugs, and other interventions. Erin Lipp, a marine microbiologist in UGA’s College of Public Health, said her studies on Vibrio, a common cause of shellfish poisoning, as well as ear, eye, and wound infections in the southeastern United States, show that infections are expanding. “Prior to 1997, 95 percent of Vibrio cases in the Gulf of Mexico were seen between May and October,” she said. “But as the average daily temperatures in April and November have risen, the seasonality of Vibrio infections has widened. It’s no longer just a summer disease. It has now become a spring, summer, and fall disease as well.” The One Health mini-symposium was sponsored by UGA’s Faculty of Infectious Diseases, the Biomedical and Health Sciences Institute, the Georgia Oceans and Health Initiative, the University of Liverpool, UK, and the British Consulate-General in Atlanta. For more information, visit www.onehealth.uga.edu.

--Rebecca Ayer Spring 2012




Listen Up:

William Kretzschmar challenges everything you think you knew about language. By Sam Fahmy You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto. Let’s call the whole thing off.


ra Gershwin was a lyricist and not a linguist, but his 1930s classic suggests a fundamental truth about spoken language. Its richness, complexity, and diversity are so mind-boggling that trying to understand it all in a systematic way seems daunting, if not impossible. Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, one of the fathers of 20th-century linguistics, asserted that “language in its totality is unknowable.” Then along comes William Kretzschmar, who in the 1970s took a job with linguist Raven McDavid at the University of Chicago because he needed to pay the rent while he finished his dissertation on medieval poetry. In the years since, Kretzschmar (pronounced “kretchmar”) has redefined how we view language, with implications for everything from voicerecognition technology to the analysis of government and industry records for ferreting out fraud. Bill Kretzschmar (left) next to a reel-to-reel recorder at the Atlas that plays archival tape of spoken interviews, not out loud, but into a computer to create a digital version that can be maintained long past the usable life of both the tape and the recorder.

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Kretzschmar retrieves a box of records from the Library’s Repository, where the Atlas stores thousands of audio tapes and gold archival CDs of spoken interviews—and an estimated one million pages of paper field records.

An ambitious project In the midst of the Great Depression, a team of linguists fanned out across the middle-Atlantic states on a long-term project to document regional and social variations in speech. Over the next five decades, they would interview more than 1,100 native speakers in 483 communities from New York to northeastern Florida. The “technology” that the field workers used initially consisted of a pen and a 104-page questionnaire, but they later incorporated rudimentary recording machines (which cut grooves into aluminum disks) and, eventually, to reel-to-reel recorders and portable recording devices. It was on this project, the Linguistic Atlas of the Middle and South Atlantic States (LAMSAS), that Kretzschmar worked as an assistant to McDavid, one of the nation’s most prominent linguists. Kretzschmar left the project in 1982 when he took



a faculty position in Wisconsin, but McDavid’s sudden death in 1984 drew him back to it. “If I didn’t do it, nobody would, and the project would just disappear,” said Kretzschmar, now the Harry and Jane Willson Professor in Humanities in UGA’s Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. “At that point [LAMSAS] was over 50 years old. It was a landmark in the study of American English, and it was my responsibility.”

Going digital The project had amassed nearly 8,000 hours of tapes and hundreds of boxes of records, and Kretzschmar was convinced that computers would help him discover patterns in the data that others had missed. The idea of using computers to store, share, and analyze linguistic data is a no-brainer in 2012. But in the early 1980s it was revolutionary. “He was the first scholar to recognize the enormous potential of electronic data processing

for the handling of the kinds of large data masses that the Linguistic Atlas Project has left current generations of scholars with,” said Edgar Schneider, chair of English linguistics at the University of Regensburg in Germany. When Kretzschmar came to the University of Georgia in 1986, he brought the Linguistic Atlas Project with him and developed the first interactive geographic information system (GIS) tool for linguists. With the click of mouse, it allows users to make maps of linguistic features, such as word choices and pronunciations, found in the project. In addition to reducing the time it took to make such maps from hours to seconds, the maps refined how linguists view language variation. Kretzschmar’s work revealed a consistent statistical pattern known as the A-curve (his term for an “asymptotic hyperbolic curve”), whereby approximately 80 percent of speakers use the most common variant for a given region or context, while the other 20 percent use other variants. So

Anna Wilson (left) and Sara Terry listen to digitized interviews to locate and remove personal information and create an index of topics before the interviews are released to the public.

while you may find a New Yorker who says “y’all,” her word choice is in the 20-percent end of the curve for that part of the country. In Georgia, “y’all” is at the 80-percent end. When the Internet was in its infancy, Kretzschmar launched the Linguistic Atlas website (http://www. lap.uga.edu/) with GIS, and now it gives the world the opportunity to hear what people sounded like in our greatgrandparents’ time. With funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Kretzschmar and his students digitized the recorded interviews so that listeners could search by topic, using software that Kretzschmar created in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oulu in Finland, where he is an adjunct professor. Kretzschmar’s knowledge of language variation makes him uniquely qualified to offer guidance on American pronunciations. For the past 20 years he has consulted with the Oxford English Dictionary,

the definitive record of the English language. Because the 600,000 or so words in the dictionary include many on which he doesn’t have data, he developed a formula that fills in the gaps. It specifies the pronunciation that is most likely to identify the speaker as being from a specific geographic area. People have strongly held beliefs about how words should be pronounced, however, and Kretzschmar is no stranger to criticism. “We didn’t put theater in as [the-A-ter] because that sounds antiquated,” he said, citing an example of one his more controversial pronunciations. “So we have it just as [THE-a-ter] … We’re not wrong very often.”

Roswell Voices Kretzschmar’s pronunciation work and collaboration with European colleagues has given him an international reputation in linguistics, but his research also has strong ties to Georgia. In 2002, the Convention

and Visitors Bureau in Roswell asked him to conduct a linguistic study of the community. Similar studies had been done before on isolated barrier islands and in mountain communities, but the rapid population growth that Roswell experienced following World War II made it a particularly intriguing study site. Kretzschmar and his team of students have talked to a total of 75 people so far from the oldest living generation, their children, and their children’s children—the latter being approximately the age of undergraduates at UGA. The team spoke to people of various races and classes to document the many voices of this diverse and rapidly changing community, effectively turning it into a living laboratory. The researchers found that some of the previous pronunciation features of the older generations have indeed faded with time, but there are still distinct speech patterns. Today’s students typically don’t use

Spring 2012


One page from a 1937 interview from South Carolina illustrates the fine phonetic transcription--here for days of the week, “Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday”-used by field workers before the inception of field recording on audio tape.

an unstressed “r” in words like father or brother, for example—that is, older-timers are much more likely to say “fa-thuh or bro-thuh,” but just about all of them still pronounce the word “pen” as if it were “pin,” hence the need to ask for an ink pen. “We didn’t lose Southern speech in the youngest generation in Roswell,” Kretzschmar said. “We still have it; it’s just different.”

Practical applications In addition to offering insights into culture and history, understanding language has some very practical applications. Along with colleague Don Rubin from the department of communication studies and a team of students, Kretzschmar sampled and analyzed more than seven million internal memos and related documents from tobacco companies for evidence that they distorted or hid information. This National Institutes of Health-funded study, the first analysis of its kind, didn’t find outright deception but it did reveal a shift in focus from cigarettes to more innocuous-sounding market-speak, such as cartons and units. Kretzschmar and his students have used similar methods to analyze documents from the Enron accounting scandal, and he has developed techniques that will allow companies to flag e-mails suggestive of fraud. Although voice-recognition software is virtually



ubiquitous today, most users would agree that there’s still tremendous room for improvement. “It’s a shame that people with a Southern accent can’t make themselves understood on Delta Airlines’ phone system,” Kretzschmar said, “and I would like to fix that. It’s also a shame that you can’t talk to an ATM to make it work instead of having to use a card, and I would like to help make that possible too.”

Complex systems Kretzschmar is like a craftsman who delights in creating things—websites and software, for example—and making them well. But he’s also a theorist who uses the vast amounts of data that he has analyzed to propose radically new ways of understanding language. He makes his case in his landmark book, The Linguistics of Speech (Cambridge University Press, 2009), which one reviewer called “an exciting, sometimes dizzying, book, which incorporates ideas from areas rarely brought together.” Rather than trying to understand language by reducing it to a set of rules, Kretzschmar views it as a complex system consisting of components, such as words and pronunciations that interact to form emergent overall properties. Complex systems are found throughout nature—consider, say, how the behavior of individual ants

Students (from left, Hannah Hall, Jeremiah Wood, Emily Jessup, and Kelsea Olson) in Kretzschmar’s “Style” course follow along on their laptops to learn about American English from a large online language corpus.

in a colony influences others to create an orderly system— and applying this concept to language opens the door to a new understanding of how language varies and evolves. Linguists can now analyze texts, for example, knowing that they can expect to see certain statistical patterns. “Complex systems not only explain things that we couldn’t explain before about language,” Kretzschmar said, “but they also connect language and linguistic study to other sciences.” The English-language historian Michael Adams, an associate professor at Indiana University Bloomington, said that while Kretzschmar has long been a remarkably productive and creative scholar, “the last decade or so has seen him at his most intellectually radical. [His ideas] promise a revolution in thinking about language in all registers of use, present and historical.” Kretzschmar is currently writing a history of the English language that combines his interest in medieval English with his work in language variation and complex systems. The book is titled The Emergence of the English Language, and words that Kretzschmar uses in it to describe how the language evolves could very well be used to describe him. “It keeps becoming something new all the time,” he said. (Sam Fahmy is news director for the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences. He says potato and tomato).

Say What? The diversity of words that people use to describe the same object or event can be shown in these data taken from the 2009 Honors thesis of Samantha Knoll, one of William Kretzschmar’s students. She used data from the Linguistic Atlas project to show that word choices fall into a clear statistical pattern, known as an “A curve,” for any given region—in this case, the Middle and South Atlantic States survey (from New York state south to northern Florida). “Meadow” meadow 872 swale 128 savanna 56 hayfield 37 meadowland 23 prairie 22 bog 18 pasture 17 savanna land 11 old field 8

“Corn Bread” corn bread 743 corn pone 277 johnny cake 198 pone 122 pone corn bread 56 pone bread 48 pone of bread 47 hoecake 34 bread 32 corn cake 32

“Swamp” swamp marsh bog swamp land pond slough boggy bay branch river swamp

“Pancakes” pancakes 757 batter cake 358 flitter 304 fritter 260 flapjack 192 flannel cake 180 griddle cake 149 hotcake 76 slapjack 49 wheat cakes 37

1,186 133 103 51 37 25 24 23 18 16

Spring 2012




The Goodie File Hometown: Wilmette, Illinois Education: A.B., Psychology, Washington University M.A., Psychology, University of California—San Diego Ph.D., Psychology, University of California—San Diego Courses I teach/taught: Elementary Psychology, Judgment and Decision Making, UGA at Oxford Study Abroad Research Areas: Decision neuroscience, pathological gambling, and decision-making Greatest Honors: UGA: American Psychological Association Science Leadership Conferee; Russell Hall Last Lecturer, 2010



Adam Goodie: Gambling as an addiction Adam Goodie, associate professor of psychology in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and director of the Georgia Decision Lab, explains to writer Kathleen Raven the nature of pathological gambling and how to address it.

Q: What are some of the signs of pathological gambling, and what can friends or family members do to help? A: Betting more than intended, taking

out credit-card loans to pay back losses, getting in trouble at work, and lying about one’s gambling to acquaintances are all signs of the pathology. We’ve studied the personalities of pathological gamblers and have found that they tend to exhibit a few main attributes: 1) they are more sensitive than others to negative emotions; 2) they tend to “discount for time,” meaning they would rather get as much money as possible now than wait and save (and not gamble) in order to have more money later; and 3) regardless of the amounts of money bet or lost, they act to cover up the gambling. If you think a friend or relative is a pathological gambler, approach him or her carefully and sensitively. Explain that you’re concerned that he or she may have a problem. Be prepared with a reference or two, such as Gamblers Anonymous, or provide the name of a local clinic or therapist known to treat pathological gambling.

Q: How did you come to study pathological gambling? A: Years ago I asked myself, “Where can I make an impact on mental health?” Pathological gambling leapt out at me as centrally related to making poor decisions—especially financial decisions. We all like to win and we all like to gain, but how we assess risk and uncertainty governs—or should govern—our actions. The possibility of gain makes us more

likely to do something promising, while the possibility of loss makes us less likely to do something negative. But these basic tenets of psychology, which hold true for healthy individuals, tend to break down for the pathological gambler. Help may be on the way, however. In the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, pathological gambling will be reclassified from an impulse-control disorder to a behavioral addiction, just like alcoholism and other forms of substance abuse. It’s the first time a behavioral addiction—as opposed to a chemical addiction—has been officially recognized.

Q: How will reclassification affect treatment? A: First, there’s a broader array

of treatment options for addictive disorders, including behavorial, congnitive, and pharmacotherapies. Second, the new classification will help others understand the serious nature of pathological gambling and those affected by it. Lastly, it will influence how problem gamblers view their own condition and the seriousness of their particular problem.

Q: How much of the U.S. population struggles with pathological gambling? A: About one percent of Americans are considered pathological gamblers, though about 80 percent of us gamble in one way or another, including through small actions such as buying a lottery ticket. Still, any disorder that affects 1 percent of the population is serious. Also, figure that the average person has an immediate family of three or four people and a slightly more extended

family of 10 people. So we can say that about 10 percent of people have a family member who struggles with pathological gambling.

Q: Does a struggling economy affect the rate of gambling? A: Higher unemployment rates mean less disposable income for gambling, which means it doesn’t take as large a loss to get a person into trouble. Another interesting way to look at the current economic crisis is to note that more are people in the “loss domain”—when you feel like you’ve lost money, you have a greater temptation to take risks. So, tough economic times are especially tough on pathological gamblers. Q: What’s next in your research in this area? A: We are beginning studies of the social networks of gamblers. For example, we know that pathological gamblers have comorbidities—they often like to smoke and/or drink. And we’re finding that the relationship between gambling and other addictive behaviors also extends to gamblers’ social networks. Gamblers’ friends tend to smoke and drink more than the friends of non-gamblers. If we nail down these relationships, we can start to help people one network at a time rather than one person at a time. If you deliver a good message to a centrally located person in the network, that person may start talking about it with his or her family and friends, who can then share the message with their own groups. This may be a way to exponentially increase who we can reach—and help. Contact Adam Goodie at: goodie@uga.edu

Spring 2012


Reinventing Itself:

The Savannah River Ecology Lab at 60

Having pioneered nuclear and thermal ecology, the world-renowned Savannah River Ecology Lab is now shifting its focus from the assessment of polluted sites to their remediation—all while continuing to educate new generations of scientists about how to deal with the consequences of the Atomic Age. By Helen Fosgate


ene Rhodes eases his truck off the deserted two-lane road and turns off the engine. A quarter mile away, across a field of broom straw, sits what looks like an abandoned prison. “That’s the old ‘R’ reactor,” says Rhodes, nodding toward the enormous windowless structure. “It was closed in 1964; three years ago they filled it with concrete grout—truck after truck of concrete. It took months to fill it up.” The wind is swirling, and as Rhodes turns to face the photographer—the reactor looming ominously behind him—his hair blows up from two sides. “I’m afraid this is as good as I get,” he says, laughing. “Just do your best.” Those latter words could serve as Rhodes’ personal

mantra as he begins his job as new director of the Savannah River Ecology Lab (SREL). He inherits an SREL that was cut to the bone in 2007, when the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) discontinued its support after six decades. “UGA helped the SREL stay open after the cuts, but going forward, we must pay our own way,” he says. “We have to reinvent ourselves by building new partnerships and securing new sources of external funding. We already have the expertise to respond to needs now emerging on the Savannah River Site and in the nuclear power industry. We’re particularly excited about the opportunities in radioecology and renewable energy.” New SREL director Gene Rhodes (right).



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Pioneering efforts University of Georgia scientists, through their work at the Lab, have played a critical role in the management and stewardship of the 310-square-mile Savannah River Site (SRS) since 1951. The relationship began when Eugene Odum, then an associate professor of biology at UGA, responded to a request from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the forerunner of the DOE. The Commission invited scientists from the nearby universities of South Carolina and Georgia to inventory the plants, animals, and unique physical and geological characteristics of the site before construction of five nuclear reactors commenced. “When the Truman administration established the SRS here in 1950 to support its nuclear weapons program, no one knew what the effects of processing and storing radioactive materials would be,” says Rhodes. “Odum and other UGA scientists pioneered radiation ecology to study the effects of radiation on the environment; and [they also pioneered] thermal ecology so that they could study the effects of hot water released from the reactors on streams and impoundments. There were literally boiling streams and creeks here at SRS.” Odum was especially excited about the opportunity to conduct research where scientists could compare natural habitats alongside those affected by the plant’s activities. He and his colleagues documented the diverse flora and fauna of the tract, and they also identified 10 unique habitat types, which they asked the DOE to set aside. These areas, which served as controls, or clean research references, represented only one half of one percent of the site’s total land. They included bottomland forests, swamps, sand hills, pine forests, upland hardwoods, freshwater streams, and numerous Carolina bays—shallow, oval-shaped seasonal wetlands. Today, the SRS encompasses 30 set-aside areas that support some of the world’s richest populations of native plants, waterfowl, amphibians, reptiles, and rare birds. The researchers also began to study the impacts of gamma radiation—and boiling water released from the reactors—on a wide range of native species. Using radioisotopes, they traced the movement of heavy metals through different soils and ecosystems. The scientists Eugene Odum (top) “the father of ecology” in 1951; Ecologist Frank Golley (right), pictured here in 1953, served as the SREL’s first director.



Courtesy Terry Camp/ UGA Ecology

Courtesy Terry Camp/ UGA Ecology

had no idea at the time that their work would serve as the foundation for the world-renowned Savannah River Ecology Lab. One key development early on was that Frank Golley, a UGA ecologist and the Lab’s first director, decided that SREL scientists should not have weapons-level clearance. “This decision proved to be critical,” says Whit Gibbons, professor emeritus of ecology and SREL scientist for 45 years. “Frank understood that we would have more credibility—and freedom to publish our findings—if we weren’t too close to the operations.”

A Mecca for researchers In the 61 years since, SREL scientists have churned out more than 3,200 scientific papers and 65 books about their work on the SRS. Among them are the most extensive and longest continuous studies ever conducted on Carolina bays, reptiles and amphibians, and the fate of contaminants and their effects on the ecosystem, including native wildlife, and migratory birds. Such landmark research has made the SREL a Mecca for researchers from across the United States and from many foreign countries as well. More than 1,000 graduate students and undergraduate research participants have come through the SREL. Since 1991, the SREL has also provided wildly popular environmental outreach and education programs for school children, civic groups, and SREL visitors. Under the direction of Gibbons, these environmental lessons have reached thousands with the message that each species, in their many and varied forms, represents an important piece of a healthy ecosystem. Gibbons, his grad students, and staff

A satellite view of the 310-square mile Savannah River Site (green circle above), the largest fenced area east of the Mississippi River. The Savannah River (purple ribbon), separating Georgia and South Carolina, forms the southwestern boundry of the SRS. The SREL is located in the northwest section, just inside the green circle, but scientists and grad students conduct research throughout the site. (Right) an early SREL logo.

who deliver the presentations, usually bring along snakes, turtles, or baby alligators, giving many in the audience their first such up-close encounter. “One thing the SREL did from the beginning was to open its doors to people from around the world,” says Rhodes. “As a result, it got some of the best and brightest students, and we’re going to continue that tradition.” Rhodes, who started as SREL director in January, said that today the

Lab has moved beyond assessment and into remediation, including long-term solutions for nuclear storage. Among his immediate priorities as new director are to stabilize and diversify funding, continue to use the Lab’s considerable expertise for the public good, and rebuild its outstanding graduate program.

Spring 2012


Courtesy Terry Camp/ UGA Ecology

UGA graduate student Ed Standora (above left) outfits a slider turtle in 1972 for tracking in the field, one of the earliest uses of biotelemetry to measure the movement patterns of wildlife. Standora, one of more than a 1,000 graduate students to come through the SREL, is today a professor of biology at Buffalo State University, where he continues to use radio telemetry to track sea turtles.

“We must invigorate the radio ecology graduate program because it’s clear from recent events at Fukushima and ongoing remediation efforts around Chernobyl that we need scientists who understand how to deal with issues of nuclear contamination,” says Rhodes. “And currently, there are no graduate programs in radio ecology anywhere in the country—and no graduates to fill these critical positions.”

from its roots in nuclear production,” says Carl Bergmann, associate vice president for research at UGA. Bergmann, and long-time SREL scientist Ken McLeod, helped the Outreach photos courtesy of Whit Gibbons/SREL

Coming full circle The Savannah River Site, of which the SREL is a small but critical part, is a land of extreme ironies—at once one of the more biologically diverse, ecologically intact sites in the country, perhaps the world, and also among the most contaminated. But as the U.S. military shifts its focus from Cold War concerns, the SRS’s role, too, is changing from cleanup-only to a recycling, stabilization, and permanent nuclear storage site. The SRS also has a new director, David Moody, a scientist from the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico, whose vision also is centered on finding new missions, partners, and enterprises for the site. “The Savannah River Site has now come full circle 30


The Savannah River Site is home to 101 reptile and amphibian species, which represents a biodiversity surpassing any national park, wildlife refuge, or other restricted land area in the U.S. (Above) a rare rainbow snake is one of 36 native snake species at SRS.

Lab weather the budget cuts and find a new way forward when the DOE withdrew support in 2007. “As a country we’ve looked at lots of energy options—wind, coal, solar, bioenergy, and, more recently, fracking,” says Bergmann. “They all have drawbacks and environmental costs. “We already have the nuclear technology—and we’ve spent considerable time and money on research. So, we’re now at a place where we have to decide: Was Fukushima a dire warning not to embrace nuclear energy—or was it an opportunity that can inform the design, siting, and longterm impacts of the nuclear age?” To learn more about the Savannah River Ecology Lab visit: www.srel.edu (Helen Fosgate is editor of ugaresearch). Ecologist Whit Gibbons (above right) with a resident snapping turtle. Gibbons, a professor emertius, has directed the Lab’s popular education and outreach programs since 1991. SREL education program coordinator Sean Poppy (below left) shows local school children a flying squirrel nest.

Spring 2012



Graphic picture of a polarized Congress By Keith Poole The deadlock between Republicans and Democrats is verified by a graphical mapping technique and analyzed by one of the method’s scholar-inventors.




ven the most casual of political observers have noticed that American politics has grown more divisive, charged, and dysfunctional in recent years. The political parties seem to have become ever more distant from one another, with few national political leaders staking out the middle ground. Commentators use the term “polarization” to describe this phenomenon. But can political polarization—defined, say, as the distance between Democrats and Republicans in Congress— actually be measured? The answer is yes, and our results illustrate the full extent to which polarization is now part of the American political zeitgeist. Thirty years ago, Howard Rosenthal and I developed a statistical procedure (“NOMINATE”) that estimates the ideological positions of members of Congress based on their voting records. NOMINATE places legislators who rarely vote together—for example, liberal Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and conservative Senator Rand Paul (RKY)—far apart, while members who have similar voting records are placed close to one another. The underlying logic is similar to that used to produce a road map from a set of distances between cities. Much like a road map, a spatial map based on rollcall votes provides a way of visualizing the political character of a legislature. In this case, though, the “map” represents not “north-south” or “east-west” but rather two

Helen Fosgate

ideological dimensions. The first dimension represents the familiar “liberal-conservative” spectrum, which reflects the two major parties’ division on the fundamental role of government in the economy. The second dimension separates legislators by region, mainly over issues involving race and civil rights. In the modern era, most congressional voting is explained by legislators’ positions along the liberal-conservative scale, so we focus on this dimension in our analysis of political polarization. What we find is that, since the mid-1970s, Democrats and Republicans in Congress have continued to move away from the ideological center and toward their respective liberal and conservative poles. This trend can be seen in the accompanying graph, which shows the mean score of the Democratic and Republican parties on the liberal-conservative dimension in the House since the end of Reconstruction (the Senate graph is very similar). NOMINATE scores (shown on the vertical axis) range from -1 (most liberal) to +1 (most conservative), with a 0 score representing the midpoint of the extremes (the most ideologically moderate position). Because the Democratic Party was split into North and South throughout much of this period, the means of both wings are shown separately on the graph, which also depicts the party as a whole. Two important trends are evident in the graph. First, while both parties have become

more ideologically polarized in the last 40 years, congressional Republicans have moved further to the right than Democrats to the left during this period; moderate-to-liberal “gypsy moth” or “Rockefeller” Republicans have virtually disappeared from Congress. Second, because the mean ideological position of Northern Democrats has changed very little in the modern era, most of the change among congressional Democrats can be attributed to the loss of moderate-to-conservative Southern Democrats. (Most recently, after the 2010 midterm elections, the ranks of white Southern Democratic Representatives were cut by more than half.) The result is that the parties are now ideologically homogenous and distant from one another. With almost no true moderates left in the House of Representatives, and just a handful remaining in the Senate, bipartisan agreements to fix the budgetary problems of the country are now almost impossible to reach. During Ronald Reagan’s administration, about half of the members of Congress could be described as moderates. Reagan was thus able to forge major bipartisan agreements to cut taxes in 1981, raise taxes in 1982, fix Social Security (the Greenspan Commission) in 1983, and pass immigration reform (which included amnesty) and major tax simplification in 1986. But now, in contrast to the Reagan years, both parties have become increasingly paralyzed by their activist bases (the “true believers”), putting much-needed reform in our tax, entitlement, and education systems out of reach. Given that trends in polarization have continued unabated for decades and appear to be related to underlying structural economic and social factors—income inequality, cultural conflict, and “hot button” issues such as abortion, for example—it is unlikely that this deadlock will be broken anytime soon.

The Poole File: Keith T. Poole is Philip H. Alston Jr. Distinguished Professor, department of political science. Ph.D. political science University of Rochester, 1978. Research interests include: methodology, politicaleconomic history of American institutions, economic growth and entrepreneurship, and the politicaleconomic history of railroads. He is the author or coauthor of more than 50 articles as well as a number of books and chapters, including Spatial Models of Parliamentary Voting (Cambridge University Press, 2005), Political Bubbles: Financial

Crises and the Failure of American Democracy (forthcoming, Princeton University Press, 2012), Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches (MIT Press, 2006), Ideology In Congress (Transaction Press, 2007), and Congress: A PoliticalEconomic History of Roll Call Voting (Oxford University Press, 1997). Major research funding: National Science Foundation, the Carnegie-Bosch Foundation, and the Center for Political Economy. Contact Keith Poole at: ktpoole@uga.edu

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behind the scenes Researchers in UGA’s River Basin Center are studying the benefits of constructed wetlands, a relatively new, natural treatment technology for conserving and cleaning wastewater. Plants such as cattails and aquatic grasses take up excess nutrients, boost microbial activity that decomposes pollutants and kills pathogens, and traps sediments that often contain toxic chemicals. Research has shown that constructed wetlands can eliminate most human pathogenic bacteria, parasites and viruses; degrade or sequester many pharmaceuticals, endocrine disruptors and pesticides; slow down surging stormwater; create wetland habitat for waterfowl, amphibians and wildlife (without providing breeding ground for mosquitoes); and reduce the cost of electricity

for pumping water, since water movement is gravity-driven. Researchers are also looking at whether the significant plant biomass produced in these wetlands can be harvested for biofuels. Researchers recently completed a feasibility study for a constructed wetland on the campus of the University of the South (Sewanee), and a site selection study for another at Wormsloe Historical Site near Savannah, Georgia. Much of the River Basin Center research is conducted at the Clayton (County) Natural Treatment System near Atlanta (below). For more about research in UGA’s River Basin Center: http://www.rivercenter.uga.edu/

Profile for UGA Research

ugaresearch Spring 2012  

University of Georgia research magazine

ugaresearch Spring 2012  

University of Georgia research magazine


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