Tag Archives: university of florida

UF study hopes to create an app to help with adolescent asthma

11 Apr
Woody Joseph is  a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Woody Joseph is a third-year public relations student at the University of Florida who aspires to become a public relations practitioner in the political realm. His ultimate desire is to become an advocate for social justice and a promoter of equality on all levels of society.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Woody Joseph

A recent study underway at the University of Florida is developing a mobile application, called Team Speak, that will attempt to help young individuals manage asthma. The project was funded by the National Institutes of Health earlier this year.

According to the Department of Clinical and Health Psychology at UF, the Team Speak project uses mobile health technology that researchers hope will help adolescents and their caregivers identify asthma management goals, develop behavioral strategies to meet those goals and strengthen communication skills between adolescents and parents.

The study targets adolescents with asthma between the ages of 12 and 15 and their parents.

“The reason we picked this age range is this is an age when parents look to teenagers to take more responsibility for their care, but sometimes kids aren’t interested in doing that yet,” said David Fedele, the study’s lead investigator in a press release. “They aren’t prepared, or they don’t have the knowledge or skills to take on that increased responsibility, even though they may want to.”

The Team Speak project hopes to encourage interventions to help manage asthma within individual families by collecting data from a small chunk of time and then inform the families on the next possible steps in asthma management, Fedele said.

The project consists of two phases, said Andrew McConville, lab coordinator and research assistant for the Team Speak project.

Phase one of the project involves the creating the app. Using a pilot program, an advisory board consisting of the parents of the participants receives feedback from the target audience.

Phase two of the  project is compiling the feedback and then tailoring the final version of the application for a four-month randomized control group trial.

The trial will include two groups. One group would be assigned to simply use the application. The other group is a self-guided control group that is given a diary to document their symptoms and handouts to better manage their asthma.

“Creating an app that would target self-management in asthma is an important psychological domain for lots of different illnesses, especially chronic illness, McConville said.

A secondary function of this project is to help adolescents take charge of their illness.

We also hope to help adolescents make the transition to independently manage asthma so that later down the line they could prevent avoidable symptoms and possible emergency room visits, McConville said.

When asked about the Team Speak mobile application and how it can help with asthma students’ responses were positive.

“I have been dealing with asthma my entire life,” Denard Smith, a third-year criminal justice major. “When I was younger the resources available to me were limited but it is interesting to see how technology is advancing to the point where a mobile app can help with asthma.”

Sarah Bounaim, a third-year education major, also believes that the app would be effective.

“My younger brother has asthma and being that my parents have always desired to instill independence within us, this app can help him take control over his chronic illness,” she said.

The Team Speak project is currently seeking more participant. If you or a family member is interested in participating in the study and would like to see if you are eligible, contact the UF Youth Asthma Research Lab at 352-273-5124.

 

Gainesville’s recycling questions answered

11 Jun
Brynn Huzzen have grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the  skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world we live in. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle. I truly believe that if everyone in Florida participated more in environmentally friendly

Brynn Huzzen  grew up in Gainesville, Fla. and is now a journalism major at the University of Florida. She has a strong passion for helping animals and the environment and hopes to be able to use the
skills she is learning at UF to later protect the world in which we live. The research she did for this article really opened her eyes to the impact of waste on the environment and how important it is to recycle.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Brynn Huzzen

While researching the recycling and hazardous waste disposal facilities in Gainesville, I realized how much information they have that the majority of people living in Gainesville do not know.  I asked many people to contribute questions about local recycling or waste disposal and did my best to find answers to them, with the help of Steve Joplin, solid waste manager for The City of Gainesville.  Below, he answers all of your submitted recycling answers.

Why is it that there are some apartment complexes in Gainesville that do not recycle?

“There should not be any apartment complexes in Gainesville that don’t recycle. All multi-family units are required to provide convenient and accessible recycling of all designated recyclables (everything recycled in the residential program). Our inspectors should be checking each apartment complex at least once a year to make sure they’re in compliance with the mandatory recycling ordinance. If [residents] know of any apartment complexes that aren’t offering recycling to their tenants, we would like to have the names or addresses of those places.”

 Why is the recycling in apartment complexes not regulated better? For example, residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into the dumpster.

“If residents have seen maintenance men dumping recyclables into garbage dumpsters, that probably means the apartment complex isn’t providing enough recycling containers to handle the amount of recycling being generated there. We have the authority by ordinance to require the complex to provide additional recycling containers if we can document that what they currently have is insufficient. We frequently need help from the residents to deal with this issue since we either need a witness who saw maintenance throwing away recyclables, or we need to have one of our staff witness it. If an apartment resident will alert us to this activity we can usually do something about it, and we can keep the source of the information anonymous.”

 Does it matter if glass or canned recycling is rinsed before it is put in the bin?

“Yes, it does matter if glass and cans are rinsed.  All recyclable materials should be clean for processing.  Recyclable materials that are not clean may be considered contaminated and therefore be thrown away.”

 What sorts of green initiatives/recycling programs are local businesses implementing?

“All businesses in Gainesville for whom designated recyclable materials make up 15 percent or more of their waste stream are required to recycle. Some businesses do the minimum amount needed to comply with the ordinance; others look for ways to recycle everything they can. For example, although Gainesville doesn’t currently require food scraps to be recycled, a number of businesses in town either have an arrangement with someone to collect and compost their food scraps, or they compost them themselves. We also have at least one paint & body shop that recycles its plastic automobile bumpers.”

 What kinds of plastics are recyclable and what can people do with the ones that are not recyclable?

 

“All plastics in the category of bottles, jars, jugs and tubs are recyclable in Gainesville.  Some types of plastics such as Solo cups and clear plastic clamshell containers are not recyclable in our system because it is not economically feasible due to the lack of markets for the material in the area.”

 Is it okay to recycle cardboard that is treated in plastic like for frozen food items?

“Yes, pasteboard from the frozen food section is recyclable in our system.”

 Where can I dispose of Styrofoam?

“During the holidays some stores will even take the formed Styrofoam because of the high mailing demand at those times of the year.  Publix will take their Styrofoam veggie trays to be reused.”

 What types of batteries need to be taken to a hazardous waste facility?

“Regular disposable household batteries are no longer hazardous and can be thrown away.  However, other batteries such as the NiCad or rechargeable batteries are hazardous and will need to be taken to the Household Hazardous Waste Collection Center, 5125 NE 63 Ave, 334-3440. Examples of batteries to be taken to the HHWCC are:  car, boat, lawnmower and lawn equipment batteries.  The smaller [hazardous] batteries are watch and hearing-aid batteries, along with all the household batteries that are rechargeable. Another hazardous material of interest is the fluorescent light bulb.  This type of light bulb has mercury in it and should be taken to the HHWCC. ”

*Note – Keep in mind that garbage and recycling service does not handle hazardous waste so therefore all hazardous waste must be taken to the HHWCC.”

 

If you have any questions, contact Steve Joplin, joplinsh@cityofgainesville.org, solid waste manager at The City of Gainesville.

Eat, love and die. The short, but meaningful lives of love “bugs”

9 May

lovebugs_other_lg

If you live in Florida, you’ve probably already noticed that the second annual swarm of love bugs is here again. So I felt this was an appropriate  repost. If you already haven’t read more about these pesky creatures and why their important to our ecosystem!

Summer Science explained: 

Summer Science explained is a new blog series on Layman’s Terms Media. Each week, phenomena that are unique to summer time will be broken down and explained. I am currently taking suggestions for topics, so if there is something you’ve always wondered about feel free to contact me and pitch an idea!

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The bugs we love to hate

Miss Plecia is all dolled up. She has been stuffing herself full of organic material and nectar in her swampy-syle pad for the past 20 days with hopes of finding her lifelong mate. Continue reading

A Day in the Life of a Sea Turtle Biologist

29 Apr
Kristina Orrego is a  third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Kristina Orrego is a third-year journalism student at the University of Florida. Her interest in writing a feature story about a sea turtle biologist comes from having a passion and love for animals. Her career goal is to become a journalist at an online publication and write about important social issues and economics. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and cooking.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By: Kristina Orrego

For Blair Witherington, the beach is more than just a place where you can lay out a blanket and soak up some sun. It is in his field where he has the privilege and opportunity to interact with the animals he considers the most fascinating.

Witherington, a researcher with over 24 years of experience as a sea turtle biologist, worked with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute since 1992. He recently accepted a new position as part of the faculty at the University of Florida, where he will be working for the Archie Carr Center for Sea Turtle Research.

This job will have him mostly stationed at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, where he will be a part of the Kingdom’s conservation team continuing to research and do hands-on work with sea turtles.

His work as a researcher has allowed him to travel all over the world, participating in projects in the Atlantic Sea, the Florida Keys, the Sargasso Sea, located in the middle of the north Atlantic Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico.

I recently caught up with Blair to learn more about his daily work as a sea turtle biologist and also what kind of advice he’d offer anyone who is thinking about entering this line of research.

Q. What is a regular day of work for you as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “A regular day isn’t always as exciting as one might think,” he said with a laugh. “A regular day is probably me sitting in front of the computer, trying to make sense of the data we’ve collected in the field. But every once in a while we have days in the field where we’re collecting that information and we’re out with the animals themselves. That’s always pretty exciting. But to tell you the truth, the times of discovery, when you’re really finding something out that is interesting to you or to anyone else… those are the times in front of the computer, as odd as it may seem. We go out into the field and we catch sea turtles in a lot of different ways and we see what they do, but it’s only after you sit down and try to make sense of the data that you really discover what’s going on, where you really find out how sea turtles live their lives, how many there are, and what their threats are.”

 Q. What are your favorite aspects of your job as a sea turtle biologist? What is the most rewarding thing about what you do?

A. “I enjoy discovery, as I was talking about. I certainly like going out in the field. It’s nice to, sort of, reinforce what you learn back in the lab and in front of the computer with what you see out in the real world with turtles. We test them in lots of different ways, and it’s kind of fun, really. It’s a challenge. We go offshore for 50 to 100 miles and catch young Yearling turtles out in the Sargasso out on the surface of the open sea. We also go to places like Florida Bay and catch much larger turtles. We catch them by hand… and these are 250-pound turtles. We follow them in boats and then jump into the water and grab them ‘and take them in for questioning’ so to speak. So that’s a challenge and interesting. I’d say probably my favorite part of the job is interpreting science for other people. I really like sharing stories about findings, sharing stories about sea turtles, because that’s the way that we save them. We get people to understand sea turtles. We get people to follow-up with them, and to know what each one of us needs to do in order to have sea turtles around in the future. It’s one thing for us to understand sea turtles, but if we don’t share that with anyone else, they’re not going to get saved.

 Q. How would you compare yourself now to when you first started out as a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I think, as is the case of most students, when I first began I thought I knew a lot. Now as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that I don’t know very much at all. I’d like to think I’ve learned a lot, but the more I learn, the less I realize I really know. I’ve come to realize that the world is a very large and complex place, and it’s a struggle to really make sense of it. There are a lot of mysteries still [when it comes to sea turtles] and every other thing Earth. Over the years I’ve learned a lot about sea turtles, their environment, the people who affect their environment and who can help save sea turtles. It’s a very complex relationship. The more I learn, the more complex it seems.”

 Q. So, you’d say that the connection between sea turtles and human beings is the most important thing you’ve learned over the years?

A. “Yes I think so. It’s easy to get discouraged about environmental issues sometimes. When I was young I was very optimistic and that’s one of the most important things about youth–youthful people are very optimistic and idealistic. I’d like to think I’m still that way. I struggle to be that way. You know, the more you learn the ugly truth, the more you can get discouraged, but you shouldn’t be. You should stay optimistic, idealistic, aim high, try to do the very best you can and solve problems. Even though there are very big problems there are solutions to them. And those solutions are going to come about with a whole lot of hard work. You’ve got to keep pressing ahead. I’ve tried to gain wisdom and not be discouraged by it. Tried to stay optimistic.”

Q. What sort of key advice would you give to someone who aspires to also become a sea turtle biologist?

A. “I would say to be optimistic, but don’t have such high expectations that you become discouraged when the going gets tough. Everyday is not out in the field, with the wind blowing through your hair and having fun with the animals that you find interesting. Sometimes it’s very mundane stuff– it’s entering data and doing analyses. You have to love all of that to persevere. Don’t have expectations that you’re going to be out in the sea every single day, that’s not going to be the case. You have to love every aspect of the work, including the mundane stuff– sitting back in front of the computer, trying to make sense of it all.”

Sweet success: UF researchers find key to sweeter, healthier strawberries

6 Apr
Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Paige Levin is a freshman journalism and political science student at the University of Florida. She enjoys writing opinion pieces and in-depth feature articles, and loves to discover people’s stories. Levin hopes to one day combine her passions for writing, government and politics to work in the nation’s capitol and bring the political information needed back to the people. Paige has been writing for about five years now, she is currently an intern for the Pledge 5 Foundation, and was previously the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By Paige Levin

Whether they are tucked into a shortcake, whipped into a smoothie or sitting atop a yogurt parfait, there is nothing more enticing than a scoopful of juicy, red strawberries. But how many times have you bitten into a berry-laden treat, only to be left grimacing by a less than satisfying bitter burst?

You might be tempted to reach for the sugar to help sweeten your snack, which while tasty, isn’t beneficial to the waistline. Now, researchers at the University of Florida say they have found the compounds that promise a sweeter and healthier berry.

The study, conducted by the University of Florida’s Plant Innovation Program entitled “Strawberry Flavor: Diverse Chemical Compositions, a Seasonal Influence, and Effects on Sensory Perception,” identifies the 30 compounds in strawberries that give the fruit its distinctive flavor. This allows breeders to now create better tasting and possibly healthier varieties of strawberries.

One of the team members, Thomas Colquhoun said in the long term, six of the compounds discovered by Michael Schwieterman and his colleagues may allow scientists to create processed foods that taste sweeter while using less sugar, making the foods healthier.

“Our idea is to make our crops more flavorful and healthy for consumers so that our consumers eat healthier and eat more of it,” Colquhoun said.

Colquhoun, an assistant professor in floriculture biotechnology and genetics, said the study is unique because it uses a very sophisticated type of psychophysics. Psychophysics looks at the relationship between certain physical stimuli, in this case strawberry variety, and the sensations they affect or cause.

For the study,  166 consumers between 18 and 71 years old  were recruited and asked to taste between three and five different varieties of strawberries. After chewing and swallowing a whole strawberry, panelists were asked to rate it based on overall taste, texture  and perceived intensity of sweetness and sourness.download (2)

Linda Bartoshuk, director of human research at UF’s Center for Smell and Taste, was in charge of the consumer taste panel. Bartoshuk compared consumer opinions using a method called cross-modality matching. This method combines the pleasure and sensory scales, making it possible to compare opinions fairly.

“It doesn’t matter what your scale is or what my scale is,” Colquhoun said. “We can compare those two things because they can be mixed and matched and weighted.”

By comparing the psychophysics data from consumer panels with biochemical data, Colquhoun said they identified 30 volatile compounds associated with flavors consumers enjoy. Within that, the study showed a group of six volatiles associated with perceived sweetness intensity, without the contribution of sugar.

“You’re actually sensing this volatile, and there is some sort of signal that is telling your brain what you taste is actually sweet, even though you’re not registering sugar,” Colquhoun said. “So what that indicates is that we may be able to reduce the level of sugar, increase the level of these volatiles, and the strawberry should be perceived as approximately the same sweetness.”

Eventually, those six volatiles may be used to lower sugar content in products like strawberry jam and yogurt, but for now, Colquhoun said this information is passed along to the UF strawberry breeder so that he can grow more flavorful strawberries. He added that more varieties with richer flavor and better health benefits should be hitting the markets within the next two years.

Paul Lyrene, professor emeritus of horticultural sciences, said he thinks the new information will only have minimal effects on improving the strawberry in the short term.

“I think all the information is good and worthwhile and sometimes helpful, but I do not believe that the studies are going to lead to any great breakthroughs in flavors of strawberries because the problem is really not at the molecular level, its at some other level,” Lyrene said.

The reason we currently have such poor-flavored fruit is not because of the chemistry, Lyrene said, but because flavor is given low priority in the marketing system.

“I, as a plant breeder, know exactly how to make my fruit taste better without really knowing any of the molecular biology of what happens,” he said. “I have, for example, varieties of blueberries that everybody says are better than what is being grown, but the growers will not plant them because they yield only half as much.”

Lyrene said other issues come from the fact that a crop has to have a lot of different features to be successful.

“It has to be resistant to various diseases. It has to yield well.  It has to be attractive in appearance for the consumer, and it has to be compatible with the modern packing and shipping methods,” Lyrene said.

The team’s research, which began with tomatoes, and is now expanding to include blueberries, peaches, citrus and culinary herbs.

“UF is a unique place because we have a huge team of very, very highly skilled breeders,” Colquhoun said. “What we can do is just go right down the line and help our breeders with our basic science and applied consumer science.”

Fossil fortune tellers: UF researcher uses fossil record to predict crustacean decline

5 Feb
Victoria Messina is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Florida. Though she typically enjoys writing about fashion and events happening around the UF campus, she decided to try something new by writing a science-based article for Layman’s Terms Media. “I decided to take the plunge into this science world that’s so foreign to me just to change things up a bit. It was really interesting and fun to talk to my sources and hear how passionate they are about this interesting and crucial subject.”

Victoria Messina is a sophomore journalism student at the University of Florida. Though she typically enjoys writing about fashion and events happening around the UF campus, she decided to try something new by writing a science-based article for Layman’s Terms Media. “I decided to take the plunge into this science world that’s so foreign to me just to change things up a bit. It was really interesting and fun to talk to my sources and hear how passionate they are about this interesting and crucial subject.”

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

 By Victoria Messina

By studying fossils from the Mesozoic Era,  a period 251-66 million years ago when reptiles shared the land with dinosaurs, researchers at the University of Florida now have a better understanding of the relationship between coral reefs and crustacean diversity.

The study showed that as coral reefs increased over the course of history, so did the biodiversity of decapod crustaceans such as lobsters, shrimp and crabs. But during a historical decline of reefs 150 million years ago, the biodiversity of crustaceans plummeted due to their  reliance on reefs for shelter and food.

Adiël Klompmaker, postdoctoral fellow at the Florida Museum of Natural History at UF and lead author of the study, said this is the first comprehensive investigation of the rise of decapods in the fossil record.

Postdoctoral researcher Adiel Klompmaker is lead author of a new study suggesting a direct correlation between the abundance of coral reefs and the diversity of many crustaceans. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Postdoctoral researcher Adiel Klompmaker is lead author of a new study suggesting a direct correlation between the abundance of coral reefs and the diversity of many crustaceans.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Klompmaker said data showing the correlation between coral reefs and crustacean biodiversity had been previously lacking from the fossil record perspective.

His study, now available online and published  in November’s print issue of Geology, is also the first to quantitatively show that decapod diversity increased from four to over 1,300 species between the Paleozoic and Mesozoic eras in a time period referred to as the “Mesozoic Decapod Revolution.”

Klompmaker said this historical study gives scientists a clue as to what’s in store for the future of crustaceans.

“If reefs continue to decline at the current rate during this century, then a few thousand species of decapods are in real danger,” Klompmaker said.

Some scientists have predicted that nearly 20 percent of the world’s reefs may collapse within 40 years. Though complete extinction of all decapods is not likely, Klompmaker said adaptation to coral reef collapse would be very difficult for crustaceans that live in reefs and depend on them for food. The overall decline in coral reefs and decapod diversity poses major impacts, such as less availability of crustaceans like shrimp and crabs that are a major food and money source for many.

A small squat lobsters from the Late Jurassic of the Czech Republic. Photo by Adiël Klompmaker, University of Florida

A small squat lobsters from the Late Jurassic of the Czech Republic. Photo by Adiël Klompmaker, University of Florida

To most experts in the field, Klompmaker’s findings did not come as a surprise.

“After diving in reefs all around the Caribbean over the past 20 years, I have experienced their decline firsthand,” said Donald Behringer, assistant professor of Marine Ecological Processes and Field Ecology of Aquatic Organisms at UF.

Most research shows that the recent decline of reefs is due to both natural and human-induced causes.

Although storms and diseases have played a natural role in the deterioration, humans play a much larger role. One major human-influenced impact is ocean acidification, or the decrease in the pH of oceans due to excess carbon dioxide emissions. As the water becomes more acidic, the calcium carbonate base of the corals starts to corrode.

Andrew Zimmerman, associate professor of oceanography and geobiology at UF, said fossil fuel pollution is the root of all the human-influenced impact.

Klompmaker examines fossils of ancient crustaceans at the Florida Museum that may hold answers about the future of modern species. Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

Klompmaker examines fossils of ancient crustaceans at the Florida Museum that may hold answers about the future of modern species.
Florida Museum of Natural History photo by Jeff Gage

“There’s much concern about major loss of species due to global warming on land, but the risk of mass extinction in ocean life is far greater due to combined effects of ocean acidification and global warming,” Zimmerman said.

Slowing the pace of climate change by reducing the release of greenhouse gases is the single most important change that needs to occur, though the positive effects of this change would not be evident for a long time, Behringer said.

However, there are more immediate steps that can be taken to lessen the brunt of direct human impacts on reefs. People who go boating, diving or fishing can take steps to make sure they are treating reefs in a sustainable manner, Behringer said.

For example, overfishing and coral injuries from boat anchors are two problems that can be easily fixed with proper management. Stricter fishing limits and enforcement are needed to ensure that certain areas don’t get overfished, Behringer said.  He also said simply implementing objects like buoys to protect reefs and alter human use patterns can possibly help reduce anchor impact. Behringer is currently working on a study to figure out the best way to tackle the boat anchor problem.

Some students around the UF campus are starting to realize the economic impact of at-risk reefs.

“So many people can be negatively affected by the decline of reefs, whether it’s someone whose job revolves around reefs or just a tourist who wants to enjoy the coral reefs,” said Evan Hill, UF sophomore studying marine sciences.

A quarry with Late Jurassic rocks representing a fossil coral reef in which many crustaceans were found in the Czech Republic. Photo by: Adiël Klompmaker, University of Florida

A quarry with Late Jurassic rocks representing a fossil coral reef in which many crustaceans were found in the Czech Republic. Photo by: Adiël Klompmaker, University of Florida

Klompmaker’s research showing the indisputable correlation between coral reefs and decapod presence has shown how reef deterioration negatively impacts the future seafood supply and the need for direct action. After all, history repeats itself.

“Everyone needs to be aware of it because everyone’s responsible for it,” Zimmerman said.

UF psychologist offers tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolution

16 Jan
Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to  become a teacher one day.

Rachael Holt is a sophomore majoring in journalism at the University of Florida. Her interest in sleep medicine comes from her father who is the director of a sleep clinic in her hometown of Tallahassee, Fla. Rachael is passionate about writing and hopes to use her communication skills to become a teacher one day.

Don’t be one of the 92 percent of Americans who give up, it only takes 3 weeks to make something a habit!

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of contributing bloggers beginning their careers as journalists/public relations professionals at the University of Florida. Please see my earlier post about getting journalists excited about science writing early on.

By:Rachael Holt

GAINESVILLE—Each new year, 45 percent of Americans resolve to break old habits and establish new ones, according to research by the University of Scranton. Creating a routine is never easy, whether it’s honing study skills or losing weight, yet only 8 percent of Americans call their New Year’s resolutions a success.

University of Florida students and Alvin Lawrence Jr., psychologist and clinical assistant professor of the UF Counseling and Wellness Center, offer tips to those who may be struggling.

When forming a new pattern, make the change in increments, Lawrence said. Some people do better with drastic changes, but not everyone can quit cold turkey. Think of what has worked for you in the past.

“I’m a big believer in some is better than none,” Lawrence said.

Stacy Fistel, communication sciences and disorders junior, favors a drastic change for her New Year’s resolution. Fistel is determined to do yoga every day of 2014 after she took her first class on vacation during winter break.

Fistel is partial to the Vinyasa classes at the UF Southwest Recreation Center and said if she can’t make it to the gym, she finds time to stretch in her apartment.

Adam Fox, fitness supervisor at the UF Southwest Recreation Center, said that making a schedule is what keeps him motivated. That, and the three alarms he sets to get up and work out at 6 a.m.

“Creating a new habit is hard because you’re breaking an old habit,” Fox said.

Students that skip a day of working out tend to overexert themselves to make up for lost time, Fox said. It is better to cut the workout short and make your focus getting back on schedule.

Losing weight was ranked the top resolution for 2014 in the US study.

For those trying to drop those extra pounds, skipping desert may not be so easy. Go for a walk during the extra minutes after dinner when chocolate seems most seductive.

“When you’re trying to break a habit, I always encourage people to think about what you’re going to do instead,” Lawrence said.

It is important to fill the empty space with constructive action.

Lawrence estimates the average time to form a habit is three weeks.

If you find yourself struggling with a new resolution, remember: don’t sweat the small stuff. Find what motivates you, make a schedule and stick to it.

“Just get out of bed and do it anyways,” Fox said.