Psychology Team Dives In to Study the Benefits of SCUBA

with-the-founders-of-Life-Waters

OU students and faculty with the founders of LifeWaters: Jody Paniagua, John Carton, Charley Wright, Katee Gmitro, and Harry Dodsworth.

Dr. John Carton, psychology professor and chair of the Behavioral Sciences division at Oglethorpe, recently led an a innovative research project to investigate the psychological benefits of SCUBA training for individuals with spinal cord injuries and other mobility impairments. He partnered with LifeWaters, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping spinal cord injured patients and disabled veterans experience the benefits of SCUBA, and enlisted the help of students in his psychology lab at Oglethorpe.

In conjunction with Veterans Day, LifeWaters brought 12 veteran divers and 6 dive “buddies” specially certified to assist divers with spinal cord injuries and limited mobility to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta to dive in the monstrous tank containing 16-foot whale sharks and hundreds of other species. Dr. Carton and two students from his psychology laboratory, Katee Gmitro ’16 and Harry Dodsworth ’16, observed the dive and spent the entire day immersed in the process of SCUBA therapy.

While on site, Dr. Carton, Katee and Harry were able to meet and interview all the divers, their dive support staff (buddies) and families. They also toured behind the scenes of the entire aquarium and met the director of the aquatic therapy program and the founding directors of LifeWaters. They observed the divers entering and exiting the large tank where they were diving—which included the whale sharks and 12-foot span manta rays.  And, they had the chance to watch the whale sharks’ feeding during a private viewing.

A paralyzed diver with his "buddy" and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

A paralyzed diver with his “buddy” and a diver from the Georgia Aquarium.

Prior research has shown that SCUBA training can positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms. Working with the students in his psychology laboratory, Dr. Carton designed a longitudinal study that involves measuring participants’ mental health prior to entering SCUBA training with LifeWaters and comparing it to their mental health after their certification, after their first dive, and a year later. A “wait list” control group will provide data for comparison.

“Many veterans with paralyzing injuries suffer from a variety of anxiety and mood disorders, for which there is continued need to identify therapies that produce lasting positive effects,” says Dr. Carton. “Anecdotal observations support the hypothesis that SCUBA may go well beyond teaching dive-related skills, to also positively affect the mental well-being of participants and even help reduce psychological symptoms.”

A small scale study that was sponsored by the Cody Unser First Step Foundation several years ago provided some preliminary data to support the hypothesis. Unfortunately, that study was not formally published, replicated, or expanded upon. That is where Dr. Carton’s laboratory stepped in. He brought in his students from his laboratory to help them “better understand the research and to mentor them in the development of additional hypotheses for this research project.”

While at the aquarium, the students collected qualitative data for future hypothesis development and witnessed firsthand the therapeutic outcomes of the program, both for physical and mental health issues. Both students were invited to collect additional data on future dive visits to this facility and other locations.

Conservation biology class gets hands-on at Sapelo Island

Conservation Biology class trip to Sapelo Island & Okefenokee Swamp
Curated by Debbie Aiken '12 Debbie Aiken '12

Every two years, Oglethorpe biology professor Dr. Roarke Donnelly takes his Conservation Biology class on a 4-day trip to Sapelo Island and the Okefenokee Swamp. The trip provides real-world context for many lessons in his course—not to mention a few bumpy rides in the back of this truck. 

Just after arriving on Sapelo Island, students set up a motion and heat-sensitive camera in a secluded area in hopes of catching a glimpse of the island’s resident bobcats. The camera was retrieved at the end of the trip with shots of deer, raccoons and opossums, but no cats.

The team set up a series of five nets in order to trap, identify, band, and release birds. Here, students use a bird guide to identify the species of the bird Dr. Donnelly untangles. 

Biology major Yidi Amha prepares to release a Carolina Chickadee. 

Students observe Brown Pelicans and Double-Crested Cormorands nesting on a shipwreck in the ocean. They had the opportunity to see some of the rare or endangered bird species they’d learned about in class.

Learning happened everywhere—even on the beach! Dr. Donnelly led students on a hike from the beach inland to learn about sand dune formation and how the vegetation in these areas changes over time. 

With very few vehicles on Sapelo Island, the biology team spent a lot of time walking from the dorms at UGA’s Marine Institute to various parts of the island. 

Students were eager to explore an old lighthouse to look for owl pellets, which can be dissected to learn about the birds’ diet. 

This is an OU classroom! Dr. Donnelly explained the history of Sapelo Island, while students sat “poolside” at a mansion built by R.J. Reynolds. The tobacco mogul eventually sold the estate and other island property to the state of Georgia. 

The group stopped at the Okefenokee Swamp on the way back to Atlanta to learn about the natural cycle of wildfires—one in particular burned for more than 13 months in 2011, changing the landscape for years to come.

What better place to learn about the geographic features that allow for the formation of swamps—than to stand in the middle of one?

The class took a guided boat tour through the swamp where they learned about plant species that thrive in this environment, like Bladderwort and Neverwet.

The swamp tour gave students the chance to see adult and baby alligators, Great Blue Heron, Snowy Egrets and Red-Shouldered Hawks.

Dean Easton, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, explained his team’s efforts to monitor, protect and preserve the endangered Red-Cockaded Woodpecker. 

The students who travel with Dr. Donnelly on this biennial trip always stop to pose for a photo amid the branches of this spectacular Live Oak, and would likely agree there’s no substitute for out-in-the-field learning. “You can talk about it all you want,” says Dr. Donnelly, “but to actually see and touch is a completely different experience.”

 

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The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards Grant to Support Oglethorpe’s Core Curriculum

IMG_4685The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has selected Oglethorpe University to receive a sizable three-year grant to support “Explorations in the Core,” an initiative to evaluate and implement innovations in the Oglethorpe Core curriculum.  The grant is awarded through the foundation’s Liberal Arts Colleges Program.

Oglethorpe’s award-winning, groundbreaking core curriculum has been a unifying academic experience for all students since its inception seventy years ago. The Oglethorpe Core is a sequential four-year general education program deeply rooted in the liberal arts tradition, and has been recognized by the Association of American Colleges and Universities and funded twice by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The “Explorations in the Core” program will enable Oglethorpe faculty to pilot variations of standard courses by testing new methods, texts, and pedagogies. The grant from the Mellon Foundation will directly support resources for planning, creating, and implementing the new courses.

“The Mellon Foundation grant will allow Oglethorpe to preserve our Core’s fundamentals, while incorporating new ideas, approaches, and perspectives,” said Dr. Charles Baube, professor of biology and director of the Oglethorpe Core. “Our goal is to ensure that this rigorous, interdisciplinary course of study in the arts and sciences remains relevant and continues to be a model for liberal arts instruction in the 21st century.”

“This initiative is critical to the ongoing development of the Oglethorpe Core, and builds on seven decades of delivering an interdisciplinary education program that is at the heart of our university,” said Oglethorpe President Lawrence M. Schall. “While the Core has evolved significantly over time, its goals have largely remained the same:  to educate our students to make not only a good living, but an enriching life and a significant difference in their communities.”

 

“STEALING BASE: Cuba at Bat” Explores Baseball, Culture, Politics and More

STEALING BASE: Cuba at Bat is a visual exploration of baseball through the varied perspectives of Cuban-born artists, and will be on view at the Oglethorpe University Museum of Art through December 7, 2014.

Arlés del Rio2

Arlés del Rio, Untitled from the series Esperando que caigan las cosas del cielo or Deporte nacional (Hoping That Things Fall from the Sky or National Sport), 2012. Shelley and Donald Rubin Private Collection.

The exhibition, part of the Shelley and Donald Rubin Exhibition Series, features works by 16 established and emerging artists: Jesoviel Abstengo-Chaviano, Alejandro Aguilera, Carlos Cárdenas, Yunier Hernández Figueroa, Duniesky Martín, Frank Ernesto Martínez González, Bernardo Navarro Tomas, Juan Padrón, Douglas Pérez Castro, Arlés del Rio, Perfecto Romero, Reynerio Tamayo, José Angel Toirac, Harold Vázquez Ley, Villalvilla, and Quisqueya Henríquez.  Mr. Rubin is a 1956 alumnus of Oglethorpe University.

The exhibition is curated by Rachel Perera Weingeist, director and curator of The 8th Floor in New York, and Elizabeth Peterson, director of the OU Museum of Art, with an exhibition essay by Orlando Hernández, a Havana-based curator. The original exhibition concept was the result of a long collaboration between Weingeist and Hernández that culminated in the summer of 2013 at The 8th Floor Gallery in New York.

Baseball is today, without distinction of classes, age and sex,
the preferred diversion of all [Cubans].”
– El Sport (Havana), Sept. 2, 1886

The arrival of baseball in Cuba coincided with the emergence of the independence movement in 1868. The sport quickly became a collective emblem of national identity. A love for baseball connects Cubans across race, religion, politics and geography. Pop-flys, stolen bases, and home runs provide meaningful and accessible imagery for Cuban artists. Responding not only to the sport as national pastime, their work has further sought to convey larger complexities within Cuban society. Stealing Base presents the work of a diverse range of contemporary artists, living in Cuba and in the U.S., who have found potency in the imagery of the sport.

“Without question, baseball is a great generator of meanings,” writes Orlando Hernández in his exhibition essay. “The game can and should be used as a grand metaphor to express or to understand not only art but the very reality in which we live.”

“Baseball has played an important role in the impugning, critical, and revolutionary spirit that Cuban artists have demonstrated when faced with acts of dogmatism, official intolerance, and censorship,” Hernández concludes. “Thanks to these brave artists, we realize that the game is not over yet.”

A series of events celebrating baseball and Cuban culture will accompany the exhibition:

  • September 17, 7:00 p.m., “Art, Activism & Social Justice,” by Elizabeth Peterson, Director, Oglethorpe University Museum of Art. Ms. Peterson who is also an adjunct professor for a CORE Art & Culture class at OU, will explore the use of art in propaganda and protest in both Cuba and elsewhere.
  • October 1, 7:00 p.m., “Ideas & Inspirations,” by Atlanta-based artist Alejandro Aguilera.  Mr. Aguilera is an Atlanta-based artist creating a special installation in Stealing Base.  He will talk about his personal connections to the island and how his memories play out in his art.
  • October 15, 7:00 p.m., “Baseball:  A Bridge for Reconciliation” by Hoji Silva Miret, a freelance consultant in leisure travel and tourism.  Mr. Miret immigrated to the U.S. recently and is living in New York City.  He will be talking about travel and tourism and U.S./Cuba relations.
  • October 22, 7:00 p.m., “From Peter Pan to Atlanta,” by Jorge Fernandez, Vice President, Global Commerce, Metro Atlanta Chamber. Mr. Fernandez came to the U.S. via Miami at the age of 10 through Operation Peter Pan.  He was a command pilot for the United States Air Force for 22 years, a Vice President for Delta Air Lines, and is now a Vice President for MAC.  He will discuss his personal story.
  • October 29, 7:00 p.m., “Snowplows in Havana: Irony in Cuban Art,” by Dr. Gail Gelburd, Professor of Art History, Eastern Connecticut State University. Dr. Gelburd curated Aijaco: Stirrings of the Cuban Soul. Her research projects focus on socio-political discourse, environmental issues, global perspectives and non-Eurocentricities.
  • November 5, 7:00 p.m., “Rundown between Spain and the USA: Cuban Independence and National Identity,” by Dr. Nicholas Maher, Associate Professor of History, Oglethorpe University. Dr. Maher will lecture about the late 19th century Cuban Independence Movement and the background to Cuban national identity in navigating a path between Spanish and U.S. cultures.

OUMA is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 12 noon – 5 p.m. General admission is $5 or free with a Petrel Pass and for OUMA members and children 12 and under.