WUFT News

If You Can’t Fight Them, Fry Them

By and on September 16th, 2014 | Last updated: September 19, 2014 at 8:51 am

Kill. Capture. Cook. That’s what you should do to lionfish; a poisonous fish that is a carnivorous invasive species growing in booming numbers in Southern Florida.

Previous removal attempts involved consistent and widespread removal by both citizens and conservation workers. However, a recent trend in Florida for lowering the invasive species population involves something a little more simple: Eat more lionfish.

Similar in taste to the hogfish, lionfish are also a white, flaky fish. Like tilapia, lionfish have a mild taste, said Tommy Thompson, executive director of Florida Outdoors Writers Association and food columnist for Florida Sportsman magazine.

Pan-searing, grilling and frying are simple ways to cook lionfish.

“They make great fish tacos and can easily be complemented by an herb and mushroom cream sauce, lemon juice or pico de gallo,” Thompson said.

The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) also released a cookbook, “The Lionfish Cookbook”, featuring recipes devoted wholly to preparing and cooking the invasive species.

The dish titled “Chef Michael’s Lionfish Ambassador” is complete.

Photo by Tommy Thompson

The dish titled “Chef Michael’s Lionfish Ambassador” is complete.

For Florida, lionfish consume native fish at an alarming rate, creating a local problem. They not only target ecologically and recreationally important fish but fish people like to eat, according to Martha Klitzkie, director of operations for REEF.

While eating lionfish seems like an easy fix, it’s not that simple.

“Despite the fact that they’re good to eat, they’re not easy to catch,” Thompson said.

Hunting and preparing lionfish is very complicated due to their 18 venomous spines. Lionfish are most commonly captured using a spear and hand-held nets. When hunting, scuba divers should be considerate not to damage the surrounding coral reefs. Divers should also consider their own safety when catching and filleting lionfish and use chain-linked gloves when scaling the fish, according to Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

“If you’re shooting a lionfish, you’re going to get stung,” warns Lloyd Bailey, owner of Lloyd Bailey’s Scuba Watersports in Gainesville.

Although some people react better than others to the venomous stings of lionfish, it is still very painful. In extreme cases, some divers have been transported to the hospital in order to receive medical care.

Some dive shops, such as the one Bailey owns, sell tools to decrease the likelihood of being stung. At his store, Bailey sells “zoo keepers”, which are tools used to put lionfish in a tube to keep the spines away from the diver once captured.

In order to increase public interest in hunting these creatures, REEF holds lionfish derbies annually. The 2014 summer lionfish derby hunting locations included Ft. Lauderdale, Palm Beach, Key Largo and Green Turtle Cay in the Bahamas.

Since 2009 when the lionfish derbies began, over 12,000 lionfish have been removed from Florida’s ecosystems, according to REEF.

Because an individual female lionfish can release around two million eggs a year, there are still plenty of lionfish waiting to be captured, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Lionfish are commonly found in shallow waters, deep waters, mangroves, coral reefs and other diverse environments, Klitzkie said. Thus, Floridians will be hard pressed to ever remove them, she said.

However, she also pointed out that eliminating this problem relies heavily on help from the communities they are affecting.

“We won’t ever be able to get rid of them,” Klitzkie said. “The good news is, a local control can make a difference.”

Do your duty. Kill. Capture. Cook.

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UF Researchers Develop “Mixed-Reality” Training Technology for Military

By on September 16th, 2014 | Last updated: September 16, 2014 at 4:09 pm
Samsun Lampotang (left) and David Lizdas practice using the simulator to deliver a dose of anesthesia. They believe this euiptment can be used to help military doctors practice difficult procedures with limited resources.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

Samsun Lampotang (left) and David Lizdas practice using the simulator to deliver a dose of anesthesia. They believe this euiptment can be used to help military doctors practice difficult procedures with limited resources.

Experts at the University of Florida are developing a real-life version of the classic board game Operation. The difference is this technology is much larger and will be designed to better care for wounded soldiers overseas.

Dr. Samsun Lampotang, a professor of anesthesiology in the UF College of Medicine, is the lead investigator on this joint project funded by the Department of Defense. He is also the director of UF’s Center for Simulation, Safety and Advanced Learning Technology, which focuses on simulation in medicine.

Lampotang’s team was granted $1.7 million by the Department of Defense to develop simulators over the next five years to help military doctors. The goal of the simulators is to provide doctors an opportunity to practice techniques to better care for wounded soldiers. The five-year grant will help Lampotang and his team to create, test and validate five different simulators.

“We’re trying to marry the virtual and the physical,” Lampotang said. “We’re trying to make it practical. We take it from the lab, where everything is clean and ideal, into the real world.”

One simulator allows physicians to practice delivering anesthesia to a patient who may have broken ribs. The procedure requires precision in its delivery because one false step with the needle could puncture a lung or artery.

This simulator allows students to practice delivering anesthesia to a patient's back. The simulator mimics the feel of a patient's body, including bones and ligaments, to allow students to get as real of an example as possible to practice on.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

This simulator allows students to practice delivering anesthesia to a patient's back. The simulator mimics the feel of a patient's body, including bones and ligaments, to allow students to get as real of an example as possible to practice on.

Another simulation has a section of a real patient’s spine scanned and reproduced with 3-D printing. It’s embedded in a thick gel and covered with a synthetic skin to be as realistic as possible. The reproduction is connected to a computer that shows each part of the model, including those that do not actually exist such as ligaments, arteries, veins and nerves.

The simulator tracks each minute movement made with the needle. In ways similar to the board game Operation, the “mixed-reality” model, alerts the user when the needle unintentionally hits a lung or artery.

David Lizdas, a simulation engineer at the UF College of Medicine, has been working with Lampotang since 2000 to develop mixed-reality simulators. He said each part of the model is designed to train those who use it and help correct any mistakes they may be making. The procedure can be played back to the user so they can understand exactly what they may be doing wrong.

“The ligaments are important because they have a particular feel with the needle, and there is a way you can use those to feel your way into the space,” Lizdas said.

As required by the Department of Defense grant, the simulators will be designed for use wherever soldiers are deployed. Lampotang said the concept behind the technology is “turnkey,” meaning the user doesn’t need to be trained by a person to use it; an ideal feature for doctors deployed in war zones. Conceptually, the equipment could even be airdropped.

The simulators will also be designed for a severe environment, much similar to what military medical personnel face while deployed. That could mean no internet connection, an unreliable or inaccessible electricity source and/or no cellphone service.

Lampotang said the 3-D printed bone structure also gives the model a realistic touch that would otherwise be lost with an artist’s rendering of a “perfect spine.”

“There are people who train on these simulators who get big egos. They are failing but claim there is a flaw in the model because they usually never miss,” Lampotang said. “But what I say to that is that this is a real person’s spine. So you’ve got to go talk to the guy upstairs about it.”

Lampotang said he and several of his colleagues were among the first to begin developing medical simulation technology at UF in the late 1980s.

UF researcher and professor of anesthesiology, Samsun Lampotang, explains how this life sized mannequin works. He helped develop this quarter of a million dollar mannequin that is connected to seven different computers. It is used to help student learn proper technique for delivering anesthesia and other procedures.

Leanna Scachetti / WUFT News

UF researcher and professor of anesthesiology, Samsun Lampotang, explains how this life sized mannequin works. He helped develop this quarter of a million dollar mannequin that is connected to seven different computers. It is used to help student learn proper technique for delivering anesthesia and other procedures.

They and their peers at Stanford University were among the pioneers in the development of this mixed-reality software. Lampotang also calls this “augmented reality” and says that anyone who has watched a football game on TV has experienced it.

“When you see the yellow line on your TV marking the first down, you’re experiencing an augmented reality,” Lampotang explained. “That line doesn’t exist in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, but you can see it on your TV.”

“In the same way, you see on the computer screen this virtual spine is actually exactly located on top of that bony spine. But physically these nerves, arteries and veins do not exist.”

Lampotang said UF is filing for intellectual property of this technology. The team is required to test them to demonstrate they can improve a physician’s work and that they are cost effective, among other criteria.

“I am not a physician, so I cannot actually touch a patient,” Lampotang said. “But I think it will be very gratifying when we hear that patients’ lives have been saved by people who trained on these simulators.”

 

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Sept. 16, 2014: Morning News In 90

By on September 16th, 2014 | Last updated: September 16, 2014 at 11:35 am

Stephanie Alvarez produced this update. 

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UF Self-Defense Device Rules Relaxed in Wake of Assaults

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

University of Florida students are taking safety into their own hands.

Students are becoming more cautious about their daily routines and surroundings since three assaults occurred on or near UF’s campus over the last couple of weeks.

According to the UF Student Code of Conduct, the possession, use, sale or distribution of weapons, which include stun guns and “any dangerous chemical or biological agent…capable of causing, and used by the offending person to cause, or to threaten physical harm” is prohibited.

There is an exception, though. Students with concealed carry permits may carry simple self-defense stun guns on UF’s campus. No permit will allow for stun guns that have projectiles.

Some administrators feel self-defense weapons alone may not be enough to fend off an attacker, especially since recent assaults happened when the women were approached from behind.

“I don’t see how you’d blow a whistle,” said Jen Day Shaw, UF Dean of Students. “I guess you could try and pepper spray them, but you would have to have it open in your hand, so my recommendation is really to follow the UPD guidelines.”

Shaw believes students should take other precautions to ensure their safety, such as taking advantage of services offered by university groups and the police department.

“I realize now that you shouldn’t compromise with your safety even if you feel like a dork carrying a Taser around,” said Isha, a University of Florida student. “If someone attacks you, it only takes one time.”

While stun guns may be considered a weapon in the Student Code of Conduct, Shaw said she can’t remember a time when a student was in trouble for having or using a stun gun. Every situation brought before her is considered on a case-by-case basis.

UPD recommends students stay alert to their surroundings and avoid walking alone at night.

Some of the services offered to students include the cell phone application TapShield, the student government-run Student Nighttime Auxiliary Patrol (SNAP) and the Walk Safe Student Escort Program.

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New Legislation Lowers Cost of Florida Prepaid College Plans

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Current and future families with a Florida Prepaid College Plan may receive refund benefits, price reductions and waived enrollment fees beginning Sept. 20.

As of this date, payment reductions will be applied to Prepaid Plans and refund checks will be processed and mailed within four to six weeks after, according to the Florida Prepaid College Board website, MyFloridaPrepaid.com.

Only plans purchased since 2008 that include a tuition differential fee component are affected.

According to a UF Student Government breakdown of student fees, tuition differential fees are used to expand course offerings, decrease class sizes and increase academic advising. Additionally, 30 percent of the fees are given back to students through financial aid.

For the first time ever, the board will now offer a one-year Florida University Plan that allows families to purchase up to four years at a state university in one-year increments as their budgets afford them, said board spokeswoman Shannon Colavecchio.

One-year plans start at $43 per month, and the board is waiving the $50 enrollment fee for anyone who purchases a plan between Oct. 15 and the end of the year, she said.

“This is a historic moment for Florida Prepaid,” Colavecchio said.

Earlier this month, the board announced a 50 percent price reduction from last year’s prepaid plans after Gov. Rick Scott signed House Bill 851.

This new law, which became active on July 1, restricts the maximum increase of tuition differential fees to 6 percent for the University of Florida and Florida State University, with no increase for any other state universities.

Before the bill was signed, the tuition differential fee could increase by up to 15 percent for all state universities, according to MyFloridaPrepaid.com.

About 18,000 families are expected to receive the refunds and more than 22,000 families will see a reduction in their monthly payments, according to the Florida Prepaid College Foundation’s website.

The Florida Prepaid College Program was created by Stanley G. Tate in 1987 to provide families with an affordable means to save for their children’s future college educations, according to the website.

“Probably one of the best benefits of Florida Prepaid is that it’s guaranteed by the state,” Colavecchio said. “You’re going to get out of it exactly what you put in.”

This past year, a plan’s cost was nearly $54,000, but beginning Oct. 15 the new law will allow newborn plans to cost approximately $27,000 less, the foundation’s website said.

“We’re very pleased at the legislation. It makes our plan much more acceptable to not just middle-income families, but frankly, to some of our lower-income families,” Colavecchio said.

University of Florida’s Director of Student Financial Affairs Rick Wilder said the plan gives Florida families more options.

“Some families… might find that the Florida Prepaid Plan is a better option for them because they’re locking in. It’s all set up to pay, and sometimes that works better for them,” Wilder said.

Out of 45,995 UF students who received general financial aid in 2013, more than 11,600 students received Florida Prepaid, Wilder said.

“I think it’s really dependent on what families decide to do based on all the options that they have for funding their educational expenses,” he said.

Fourth-year UF student Rachel Roth is glad her parents purchased a Florida 529 Plan more than 18 years ago.

“I do see a benefit because families who formerly couldn’t afford (a plan) may be able to now,” Roth said. “I didn’t have to worry about expenses while I was in college.”

When enrollment begins on Oct. 15, families will have the opportunity to purchase a 4-year Florida University Plan without any change in plan coverage for $173 a month, or a 2 + 2 Florida Plan, which covers two years at a state or community college and two years at a university, for $136 a month.

These price reductions are half of what they were the last enrollment period, Colavecchio said.

“Our mission has always been to open the door to college and college students for more families, and so we see this legislation as a benefit to that mission,” she said.

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Champions Park Brings New Name and New Expectations

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm

The City of Newberry had high hopes when Nations Park, a 16-stadium baseball tournament complex, one of the largest in the country, opened in 2012.

Under the management of Lou Presutti, the park was expected to hold regular
four-day tournaments with at least 30 teams. He also signed a contract to create 21 new jobs.

After two years, Presutti produced only a “handful” of small tournaments and created two jobs, said Conrad.

After Presutti failed to fulfill his contract, the city commission decided to bring in
new management, Newberry Mayor Bill Conrad said.

Mike Spina, owner of Elite Pro Ball Academy in Newberry and a former baseball
player, was selected as the new management director of the park. Shortly after, the name of the complex was changed from Nations Park to Champions Park.

“We wanted to get rid of all the memories of Nations Park and market it under a new name,” Conrad said.

Champions Park’s contract was updated after Spina was appointed as the new manager, which was discussed at the commission meeting on Aug. 25. The new contract included requirements to create three jobs by December 2014 and hold three tournaments by January 2015.

Spina said the three jobs (groundskeeper, tournament director and manager) will be created by the end of September. He said he has seven or eight events scheduled for the fall, and he’s working on scheduling events for next spring that will bring over 50 teams to the area.

“We’ve got some huge organizations coming in that are going to hold some very national-exposure tournaments with a lot of teams,” Spina said.

So far, Champions Park has hosted two small tournaments as a trial run to see what fits in the park, Spina said.

Newberry City Commissioner, Jordan Marlowe, said planning for baseball tournaments is usually done a year in advance, so most of the success of the park will be visible at the end of the year.

“The fact that they’ve had two tournaments and are advertising and taking deposits on six more,” Marlowe said, “I think that’s the tangible evidence we have that they’re working a little bit more industriously than our previous management group.”

Conrad said Champions Park, which is funded by Alachua County, was created to increase tourism. The City of Newberry received $7 million from hotel bed taxes to build the baseball complex and subsequently generate business for hotels and restaurants in the area.

A hotel bed tax is a 14 percent tax paid when a person stays at a hotel in Alachua County.

Additionally, Newberry received $700,000 as a grant from the Department of Economic Opportunity to build infrastructure, such as installing sewer lines on the baseball fields. A condition of the grant was that 21 jobs had to be created after the fields were up and running.

“We ran out the time limit last summer, and Mr. Presutti never created sufficient jobs,” Conrad said. “We’re optimistic that with Spina we’re going to be able to create those jobs and satisfy the requirements of the grant.”

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Clay County Mother Files Complaint Over Dress Code Violation Punishment

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm

A Clay County high school student’s mom is firing back against her daughter’s school dress code policy following an incident on the first week of school.

When Miranda Larkin was told by a teacher her skirt’s length did not comply with Oakleaf High School’s dress code on Aug. 14, she was given a dress code violation outfit to wear for the rest of the day. The outfit was a pair of red pants and a bright yellow T-shirt, both visibly dispalying the words “Dress Code Violation.”

Miranda Larkin, 16, stands in front of a mirror showing the outfit she wore to Oakleaf High School on her third day of school. Her black skirt, which sits about three to four inches above the knee, was the article of clothing that violated the school's dress code.

Photo courtesy of Dianna Larkin

Miranda Larkin, 16, stands in front of a mirror showing the outfit she wore to Oakleaf High School on her third day of school. Her black skirt, which sits about three to four inches above the knee, was the article of clothing that violated the school's dress code. Miranda Larkin’s mother, Dianna Larkin, calls the outfit a form of "public shaming."

Clay County School District spokesman Gavin Rollins said the original reasoning behind the outfit was not to shame the student.

“The intent of the policy and the design of the shirt is not in any way to humiliate or publicly call out or draw attention to a student,” Rollins said. “It was simply used as mechanism to know which shirts were ours so we didn’t lose them.”

Students were taking home the clothes supplied by the school and never returning them, so this was a way to keep track of the outfits.

Rollins said Clay County schools give three options to dress code violators: change into the school outfit, call a parent or legal guardian to bring a change of clothes or in-school suspension.

However, Miranda Larkin said she was only given one option that day, which was to wear the outfit. She was then allowed to call her mother, who was shocked when her daughter sent her a picture of the outfit.

“I was furious,” Dianna Larkin said. “I told her, ‘You’re not going to classes dressed like that.’ My problem was not with the punishment — it was the style of punishment. There’s just not a viable reason to shame students. It’s just cruel.”

Dianna Larkin has since filed a complaint with FERPA. She said the policy breaches the privacy of her daughter’s disciplinary record.

Miranda Larkin, 16, stands in a Oakleaf High School bathroom after changing into the dress code violation outfit given to her by the school nurse. This is the photo she sent to her mother, Dianna. The yellow T-shirt and red pants have "Dress Code Violation" written on them.

Photo courtesy of Dianna Larkin

Miranda Larkin stands in an Oakleaf High School bathroom after changing into the dress code violation outfit given to her by the school nurse. This is the photo she sent to her mother, Dianna. The yellow T-shirt and red pants have "Dress Code Violation" written on them.

Miranda Larkin, who has just moved to Florida, said her skirt was three inches above the knee that morning, which complied with the Clay County School District’s dress code. However, each individual school has the ability to tighten the grip on dress code policies, which in Oakleaf’s case meant requiring skirts to be at the knees or lower — a detail Miranda was not aware of on her third day of school.

“I was really embarrassed and really upset because I don’t get in trouble a lot,” she said. “I felt like I had done something wrong without even realizing it.”

If a student violates the dress code in Alachua County, the first offense is met with a verbal warning and a call to parents, according to the Student Code of Conduct.

Eileen Roy, an Alachua County School Board member, said the punishment in this case was “bizarre.” In an email, she likened it to branding young women with scarlet letters.

“It would never be a policy in this county,” Roy said.

On Friday, Dianna Larkin met with the superintendent of Clay County Schools, Charlie Van Zant Jr. She was told the school board is collecting feedback for a possible policy revision.

“We’re (Clay County Schools) reviewing the policies and looking at possibly standardizing the dress code across the districts, but that’s still in preliminary discussion,” Rollins said. “We’re not open to the possibility of watering down discipline, but we are open to figuring out what the best way to do that is.”

Rollins said the school district has received both positive and negative responses from parents regarding the punishment.

Diana Larkin said her goal isn’t only to deal with Clay County Schools regarding the recent incident.

“I’m going to make it stop here, but really it has to stop nationally,” she said.

Education | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Sept. 15, 2014: Afternoon News In 90

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 5:06 pm

Taylor Trache produced this update. 

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Backlash Leads to Cancellation of FAIR Testing

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm

FAIR testing for students in kindergarten through the second grade has been discontinued for the year.

According to a letter by Alachua County Superintendent of Schools Owen Roberts, the reading diagnostic tests, which were required to be taken three times over the course of the year, will be temporarily replaced by a basic observational sheet on each student.

Alachua County teacher Susan Bowles led the protest against the new online testing system that required teachers to sit for as long as 45 minutes with each individual student. During the testing, significant instruction time was sacrificed.

Although FAIR testing has been in place since 2009, the move to online tests was met with backlash and technical issues.

Roberts said the district would be doing a review of all testing to find possible ways to “reduce the burden on schools, teachers and students” while meeting the legal state testing requirements.

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In the News: Orlando Pulls Nuclear Plant Funding, Gas Prices Continue to Fall, Snails Invade Broward

By on September 15th, 2014 | Last updated: September 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm
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