Francisco "Paco" Serrano Flores discusses his research off the Yucatan Peninsula.

Bulls Notebook: USFSM students welcome Mote guest researcher

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: September 30, 2016

SARASOTA, Fla. (Sept. 30, 2016) As the dozen students prepared to use DNA testing to determine whether their tiny samples came from snails, mollusks or crustaceans, they heard from a researcher who uses a lower-tech form of analysis to learn about such items: He simply looks at them.

The students, members of Dr. Christelle Bouchard’s Research Methods in Biology Class, were preparing to use laboratory instruments to study the dietary habits of rays when they heard from Francisco Serrano Flores, a graduate student from El Colegio de la Frontera Sur in Campeche, Mexico. Known as “Paco” to the USF Sarasota-Manatee students, Flores is a guest researcher of Mote Marine Laboratory, an educational partner of USFSM.

On Monday, as the students gathered inside Dr. Bouchard’s teaching lab, Flores explained how he’s able to identify tell-tale signs, such as tiny eyes perched atop antenna, to discern whether a dime-sized blob came from a snail – and which type.

Carefully examining a ray’s stomach contents, Flores can tell not only how much it ate but precisely what it had for lunch. This, in turn, can reveal clues about the overall health of the creature as well as the animals it’s feeding on.

The stomach contents the students analyzed were coaxed out of several rays using “gastric lavage.” Essentially, Mote researchers induced the creatures to empty their stomachs into a sieve so the items can be analyzed. “It’s basically a non-lethal way to extract dietary information,” Mote marine biologist Dr. Kim Bassos-Hull explained.

With the contents exposed, the students were able to extract tiny samples to prepare for DNA testing.

Flores’ research method is entirely different. By studying various mollusks (bivalves), snails and crustaceans that thrive in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatan Peninsula, he can spot certain characteristics – color, texture and shape – that are representative of particular species. To widen his knowledge, he developed relationships with local fishermen who allow him to examine the rays’ stomach contents.

The students were surprised at his knowledge.

“The fact that he knows what he’s looking at, that he doesn’t have to do any DNA analysis, that he just knows, that’s what amazes me,” said Shawna McInnis, a senior biology major. “I thought it was really interesting.”

Dr. Bouchard said she invited Flores to her classroom to show the students that there’s more than one way to discover information. “It’s very special for the students to have him here. How many people in the world have his knowledge of rays?” she said.

Homecoming almost here

With October around the corner, that can mean only one thing: Homecoming Week.

Starting Monday, USF Sarasota-Manatee students will join their counterparts in Tampa and St. Petersburg in celebrating USF System Homecoming Week activities.

Here at USF Sarasota-Manatee, the week kicks off with the crowning of the USFSM Homecoming King and Queen. The elaborate coronation is set Monday from 1 to 2 p.m. in the rotunda. Afterward, an Oktoberfest party will be held in the courtyard with food, games and music. Bring your lederhosen.

Tuesday, a lip sync battle is set 7 to 10 p.m. at Selby Auditorium.

Wednesday, Homecoming Krazy Kraft Day is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the courtyard, followed by the sixth-annual Bulls in Biz in which top local employers meet with students about possible careers and job openings. Bring your resumes and best business attire? The event runs 5 to 6:30 p.m. in the courtyard.

Thursday, Homecoming Spirits and Sports is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A kickball tourney is planned and students can pick up their rally towels and other USF sports gear. A concert featuring Dreezy and 2 Chainz will happen at 8 p.m. at the USF Sun Dome.

Friday, students have two nighttime options: At the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, a panel discussion, “Women in a Changing World,” will occur from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. At USF in Tampa, a Homecoming Parade and Carnival is scheduled from 6:45 p.m. to midnight at the Sun Dome parking lot.

Saturday, Homecoming wraps up at Raymond James Stadium as the Bulls take on the East Carolina Pirates. Kickoff is at noon. Students needing a ride to the game can catch the bus at the campus at 10 a.m. Don’t forget to RSVP on OrgSync.

Special honors accorded Drs. Cobanoglu and Berezina

Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, MiKibbon Endower Chair and director of the M3 Center for the College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership, can now add another honor to his long list of accomplishments.

The Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology: A Framework for Innovation (JHTT) has been accepted into the Web of Science Core Collection, Emerging Sources Citation Index by Thompson Reuters.

Dr. Cobanoglu is editor of the journal.

Special kudos to Dr. Katerina Berezina, an assistant professor in USFSM’s College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership. Dr. Berezina is the journal’s assistant editor.

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