Study Investigates ‘Landscape of Fear’ with Sharks and Turtles

Special to UM News

SharksandTurtles_GraphicMIAMI, Fla. (July 23, 2015)–Scientists at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy who examined predator-prey interactions between tiger sharks and sea turtles in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean found that tiger sharks alter their movements to take advantage of nesting turtles.

The research team used long-term satellite tagging data from large tiger sharks and adult female loggerhead sea turtles—common prey of tiger sharks—to examine their movement patterns and evaluate if turtles modify their behaviors to reduce their chances of a shark attack when turtle and shark home ranges overlapped.

The study revealed that tiger sharks undergo seasonal movements to take advantage of the turtles nesting off the Carolinas during the summer. Tiger sharks are ambush predators, primarily attacking surfacing turtles from below. In theory, loggerhead turtles should reduce their exposure at the surface in regions of high habitat overlap with tiger sharks. However, surprisingly, the researchers found that when shark-turtle overlap in the study region was high, turtles did not alter surfacing behavior to reduce the risk. But sharks did exhibit modified surfacing behavior believed to enhance predation opportunity.

“We suggest that sharks may not be an important factor influencing the movements of turtles,” said Neil Hammerschlag, research assistant professor at the Rosenstiel School and Abess Center. “In fact, it is possible that fishing of tiger sharks in our study area has reduced their populations to levels that no longer pose a significant threat to turtles at the individual level, with other factors becoming more important for turtles, such as the need to avoid boat strikes, which is a huge threat to turtle survival.”

The study is one of the first to test if the “landscape of fear” model, a scientific theory used to explain how animals move and interact with the environment based on their fear of being attacked by their predators, is applicable to large open marine systems involving wide-ranging species, like sharks and turtles.

“This is one of the first studies to compare the large-scale, long-term movements of sea turtles with their natural predators, tiger sharks,” said study co-author Lucy Hawkes of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Ecology and Conservation.

“These data are essential for setting and prioritizing marine protection for these species, which are both of conservation concern,” said another co-author, Matthew Witt of the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Unit.

The study, titled “Evaluating the landscape of fear between apex predatory sharks and mobile sea turtles across a large dynamic seascape,” was published in the July 23 online edition of the journal Ecology. Other co-authors include Kyra Hartog and Emily Rose Nelson of the University of Miami; Annette C. Broderick and Brendan J. Godley of the University of Exeter; John W. Coker, DuBose B. Griffin, Sally R. Murphy, and Thomas M. Murphy of the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources; Michael S. Coyne of SeaTurtle.org; Mark Dodd of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources; Michael G. Frick of the University of Florida’s Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research; Kristina L. Williams of the Savannah Science Museum’s Caretta Research Project; and Matthew H. Godfrey of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission.


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Global Service

Text by Robin Shear
Photos by Byron Maldonado

Ten University of Miami students spent part of their summer vacation, from June 23 to July 1, helping advance construction of a sturdy house for a woman and her eight children in the village of San Lucas Toliman, Guatemala. To get to the remote site, the students crossed a narrow footbridge suspended about three stories above a river. Their daily physical labor included laying floors and building rebar towers for scaffolding.

“The house was about a third of the way finished when we left,” said Sophia Raia, chair of the UM student group Miami International Outreach, which organized the trip with the aid of faculty advisors and UM’s William R. Butler Center for Volunteer Service and Leadership Development.

The group’s community partner in Guatemala, Friends of San Lucas, supplied the building materials and supports the San Lucas Mission’s many other efforts related to housing, health care, nutrition, education, and reforestation.

It was Raia’s third summer doing outreach in San Lucas Toliman. “By this year, I had learned to speak Spanish proficiently enough that I could have real conversations with the men and women that we met every day,” she said. “It was a wonderful feeling to be able to form real relationships and connections with the families we were building for.”

Raia made sure her group had time to explore the area she’s become familiar with. They hiked, traveled by boat to other small towns surrounding Lake Atitlan, and played soccer and freeze tag with some of the local kids.

“It was awesome because the language barrier for a lot of our students melted away with simple games,” said Raia, a rising senior in UM’s premed/biology program.

Raia’s agenda included time for reflection as well. Each evening she led an exercise she referred to as “the rose of the day,” based on the idea of stopping to smell the flowers and experience the moment.

“I would ask each participant to describe a moment during the day during which something happened that really made them stop and think,” she explained. “This trip was meant to broaden our students’ horizons and also force them to ponder things like poverty and different cultures that they wouldn’t normally think about in their day-to-day lives.”

Launched by Marissa Orenstein, B.S. ’10, M.D. ’14, Miami International Outreach has spent five summers providing services to those in need while immersing UM students in new cultures and environments and introducing them to social issues affecting humanity.

The group’s advisors are Michelle Gonzalez Maldonado, associate professor of religious studies; photographer and UM employee Byron Maldonado, who hails from San Lucas Toliman; and Andrew D. Wiemer, director of the Butler Center.


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Canine Companion: Puppy Comes to College to Learn How to Help People

By Maya Bell
UM News

The Beverly family—from left, Alexandra, Joy, Samantha, Jerry, and Gabriela—show 8-week-old Trenton the campus, and some potential new friends.

The Beverly family—from left, Alexandra, Joy, Samantha, Jerry, and Gabriela—show 8-week-old Trenton around campus, and introduce him to some potential new friends near Lake Osceola.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 19, 2015) — Barely a foot tall and weighing just over 10 pounds, Trenton is not a typical college freshman. But don’t be fooled by his irresistible, tail-wagging cuteness. The eight-week-old puppy arrived on the University of Miami Coral Gables campus this month to do some very serious learning—and a good bit of teaching, too.

For the next 18 months, the yellow Labrador-golden retriever mix will be learning house manners, public etiquette, social skills, and basic commands from his volunteer puppy raisers, the family of Joy Beverly, a math instructor and associate faculty master at Pearson Residential College, and a handful of students. Together, they are committed to establishing UM’s first service club dedicated to raising puppies who could become highly trained assistants for people with physical and developmental disabilities.

Though they’re starting by providing the preliminary training and socialization Trenton needs to become an assistance dog for Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), they have bigger dreams. They think UM could become a permanent training ground for puppy raisers who, year after year, will help the nonprofit organization match people who could enhance their independence with help from a dog who can open doors, pull a wheelchair, turn on lights, pick up dropped objects, push elevator buttons, and perform innumerable other  tasks most of us take for granted.

“It’s the start of a legacy, and Trenton is the founding father,” said junior Lindsey Slavin, a psychology major who learned about the club in Beverly’s calculus class. “It’s an awesome and unique way to get involved in something that will really make an impact.”

But assistance dogs aren’t just born; they are specially bred and, in the case of CCI’s charges, raised in a very structured environment for 18 months by volunteers who agree to provide them safe homes, proper diet, and obedience training, plus lots of love, opportunities for socialization, and exposure to real-world situations.

“Being on a college campus is really ideal for that,” says Beverly, who with husband Jerry and their three daughters raised their first assistance dog-in-training, Colin, six years ago, when they lived off campus. “Service dogs can’t flinch when they hear noises; they can’t be afraid of getting on an elevator or a bus. They can’t freak out when a skateboarder zips by, and they’ll get exposure to all of that on campus, and more.”

 Samantha Beverly, an education major and resident assistant, will be on the Trenton's primary handlers.

UM student Samantha Beverly, an education major and resident assistant, will be one of Trenton’s primary handlers.

Indeed. Don’t be surprised to see Trenton in Pearson Residential College, where the Beverlys’ middle daughter, Samantha, an education major, will be a residential assistant. Or in Joy Beverly’s calculus class, or at the Rathskeller, the Wellness Center, the library, on the Metrorail, in the grocery story, or, by next fall, a Hurricanes football game. After all, his job is to soak up all the experiences he can, and remain calm, unfazed, and focused through all of them.

Then he’ll be ready for his advanced training with professional instructors at CCI’s Regional Training Center in Orlando. He’ll spend nearly a year there, and if he shows he is the kind of gold-medal athlete it takes to become a Canine Companions assistance dog—only a minority are—he’ll be paired with a recipient who has requested an assistant, and they’ll train together for another two weeks.

For now, Trenton, who is largely housebound until he’s had all his shots, has no idea about his important mission. After being weaned from his mom, who gave birth to him at CCI’s California breeding facility, and arriving in Miami on June 12 in the cargo hold of a jetliner, he’s been busy napping, nipping, and exploring his new surroundings. He was curious, but calm, when four ducklings checked him out during a brief visit to Lake Osceola and he’s already accustomed to the strange sounds of daily life—the sneezes, the coffee grinder, the dishwasher— in the Beverlys’ apartment.

If he was absorbing the lesson imparted last week, he’s also learning from big brother Colin not to be possessive. Colin, who was returned to the Beverlys when, like nearly 60 percent of CCI candidates he did not place with a recipient, was unbothered when Trenton snagged and trotted off with his bone.

Once Trenton is allowed out and about, he won’t be hard to spot. If he’s working—and training is work—he’ll be wearing his bright yellow-and-blue CCI vest, a signal that those inclined to pet him should resist the temptation. It’s also a reminder to the Beverlys, Slavin, and Trenton’s other student handlers that he is not their dog.

“Puppies melt your heart, but people, including us, have to use self-control around assistance dogs,” says Jerry Beverly, who with Samantha plans to be Trenton’s primary puppy raiser. “When they want to hug him and say, ‘Oh I love your dog,’ we have to say, ‘He is not our dog. We’re just raising him.”’

Jerry Beverly, who owns the leadership development firm Leaders Unlimited, credits his family’s experience with Colin with making both him and his wife better parents and his daughters more consistent, empathetic, and responsible. “We’re so eager to get UM deeply involved with CCI because with Colin I saw what it did for my daughters,” he said. “It opens you up to a new phase of development, which is why having a puppy-raising club on college campuses makes sense.”

It also makes sense to Cathy Benson, the executive director of CCI’s Southeast region, which welcomed a puppy-raising club at Tulane University about two years ago and is working with the University of Central Florida on establishing its own program.

“Recruiting college students to become volunteer puppy raisers is a big interest of ours,” Benson wrote recently. “It opens us up to a whole new demographic, and college students can provide great socialization opportunities for our dogs. In addition, they help us promote awareness of our mission and help increase other students’ awareness of disabilities.”

It will also give Slavin, who over her lifetime has raised nine yellow labs as family pets, the most unexpected but cherished opportunity. The vice chair of the eco branch of Student Government and a member of the Honor Council, she transferred to UM last year specifically to become more active on campus.

“But never in a million years did I think that I’d be able to help raise a Labrador for someone who really needs one,” she said. “Dogs are true life-changers; I can’t imagine my life without the special bond I share with my own labs. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to raise an intelligent, supportive companion for someone in need. It feels meant to be.”

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Taking the Stage with Samantha Dockser

By Megan Ondrizek
UM News

Actress Samantha Dockser.Photo by Lonnie Tague 2

Acting major Samantha Dockser landed the lead role of Rachela in the world premiere of Las Polacas: The Jewish Girls of Buenos Aires at the GALA Theatre in Washington, D.C. Photo by Lonnie Tague.

CORAL GABLES, Fla. (June 10, 2015) – The first time Samantha Dockser performed in front of an audience, she was rewarded with a plate of cookies rather than a standing ovation.

“I played Grandma in my kindergarten class performance of No One Makes Cookies Like Grandma,” Dockser recalled, speaking from her home in the Washington, D.C. suburb of McLean, Virginia. “After the performance, we were all allowed to eat the cookies.”

At this stage of her career, Dockser can expect a packed house and plenty of applause. A rising senior acting major in the University of Miami College of Arts and Sciences Department of Theatre Arts, Dockser is spending the month of June starring in Las Polacas: The Jewish Girls of Buenos Aires at the GALA Theatre in Washington.

The bilingual musical tells the true story of girls and young women from poor, Jewish villages in Poland and Russia who were lured to Argentina in the early 1900s with false promises of a better life. Instead, they ended up as prostitutes or sex slaves for an international slave trading organization.

During her return home for spring break, Dockser auditioned for the musical’s lead role of Rachela after seeing the call for auditions on the industry website Backstage.com.

“Rachela’s struggle was interesting to me because of the cultural similarities the character and I share,” she said. “My family is from Eastern Europe; I’m Jewish. It’s such a dark subject matter but an interesting thing to make a musical about. Rachela is so hopeful and so brave after everything she had to endure.”

Dockser wasn’t, however, very confident after the audition. She told her father she doubted she’d get the part. But a week later, while in UM’s theatre department, the call came. Dockser had just landed the lead role in her first professional show—a world premiere.

But singing in both English and Spanish proved daunting. Dockser admits she hadn’t practiced her Spanish since high school. The production team for Las Polacas provided a Spanish tutor, and the two Argentine cast members offered support.

“Beyond rehearsal, I spend many hours at home practicing my lines. I’ve watched some Argentine shows and films to get the accent down,” Dockser said. “I feel much more confident with my Spanish now.”

She’s also already lined up a summer encore. Following her role in Las Polacas, she’ll head to Los Angeles, where she’ll intern for the president of casting at Twentieth Century Fox studios.

Stepping into the character of Rachela in Las Polacas may be Dockser’s first professional performance, but she has many other stage credits to her name, thanks to her talent and the theatre arts conservatory program, which casts students in productions at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre and Black Box Theatre at the Hecht Residential College.

At the Black Box, the theatre department faculty take more artistic risks in their staging and choice of productions, allowing for those shows—and the students involved—to be more experimental. As such, Dockser has appeared in Adding Machine: The Musical, Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Assistance, Our Town, and Lessons from an Abandoned Work. And when she returns to Coral Gables in August for her senior year, she’ll star in Tennessee’s Treasures.


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Students Screen Top Films in Los Angeles, Fill UM with Pride

By Robin Shear
UM News

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow 'Cane Michael Robin, A.B. '85.

At Raleigh Studios Hollywood, UM alumnus Paul Orehovec, far left, shows UM film students and recent graduates around the set of Major Crimes, the TV series he co-produces with fellow ‘Cane Michael Robin, A.B. ’85.

LOS ANGELES, Calif. (June 5, 2015) —From a migrant worker in Beijing to a would-be “Marielito” in Cuba, from hacking computers to “hooking up” in college, the ’Canes Film Showcase offered a wide variety of subject matter and style for the 450 attendees who filled the Directors Guild of America Theater on Hollywood’s famed Sunset Boulevard last Thursday.

The annual event, in its 10th year, showcases five student films selected by judges as the best of the ’Canes Film Festival, held each spring at UM. Those students then get to travel to Los Angeles to mingle with an impressive array of industry professionals and alumni.

“I swell with pride when I see the quality work our students produce,” commented School of Communication Dean Gregory Shepherd after the screening. “The quality is tied to the education they receive and the amazing job our faculty are doing.”

In addition to a Hollywood who’s who that included industry veteran David Isaacs (M*A*S*H, Mad Men), A.B. ’71, actor Dawnn Lewis, B.M. ’82, and director John Herzfeld, ’69, among many others, there were a number of University Trustees in attendance, along with Interim President and Provost Thomas J. LeBlanc, who called the students’ films “fabulous,” citing their “incredible professionalism” and impressive range of subject matter.

The films included Espionage 101, Home, I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, The Mermaid, and El Mar y Él. Tony Mendez, producer and director of El Mar y Él, grew up in Miami and took his inspiration from his uncle’s tale of trying to leave Cuba in the 1980s. Mendez said HBO Latino has optioned his project in the U.S. and that it is set to be released in October.

The highlight of the showcase came when audience members had the chance to vote via Internet for their favorite film. I Want to Beat Up Clark Peters, about a college guy who seeks revenge after the woman he’s casually seeing starts seeing someone else, won both the City of Angels audience favorite award and the Best of the Fest Award from the professional panel of judges.

Accepting the awards, Joseph Picozzi, the movie’s writer, director, and producer who graduated this spring from the School of Communication, credited his cast and crew of fellow ’Canes, many of whom were in the audience.

“It’s great that people like it. There were some amazing films that also deserve the same recognition,” said Picozzi. “I saw a story that wasn’t being told about the hook-up culture. It’s something all of my friends were going through.”

Picozzi said he plans to move to Los Angeles in July with a fellow ’Cane to pursue his chosen career.

It’s a decision Paul Orehovec, B.S.C. ’02, encouraged as he showed a group of 20 UM film students through the inner sanctum of Raleigh Studios Hollywood, where he has worked for “one third of his life.”

The students had ample opportunity to ask technical and detailed questions, examine advanced camera equipment, and see a working set, thanks to Orehovec, co-producer with Michael Robin, A.B. ’85, of the TV series Major Crimes.

Speaking from his experience of 11 seasons with the studio, Orehovec urged UM students to get out of Miami and give L.A. a shot.

“There’s this excitement about being here, about creating. I highly recommend it. At the very minimum give it a try,” he said. “I learned more in my first year of being here about the way things actually work than can ever be taught in school. You just have to be in it, you just have to see it. It’s an adventure. It’s fun.”

But it’s also highly competitive, he noted. “Out here you’re a small fish. You have to work harder, but the reward is definitely bigger.”

Kenny Langer was one of those inspired by Orehovec’s pep talk. This year was the first time screenplays were judged at the Canes Film Festival at UM, and Langer’s feature-length Villify was the inaugural winner. Langer, who received recognition Thursday evening, is shopping around his script about a closeted teen who agrees to sleep with his best friend’s girlfriend to help break them up. Like Picozzi and several other recent UM film grads, Langer plans to move to L.A. in the coming months. “Here I go!” he exclaimed with a smile.

UM is also going to L.A., noted Dean Shepherd, with its Los Angeles semester program launching in January 2016.

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