Wilmington, NC, United States

University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Wilmington, NC, United States

The University of North Carolina at Wilmington, sometimes referred to as UNC Wilmington, is a public, co-educational university located in Wilmington, North Carolina, United States. UNCW enrolls approximately 14,000 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students each year as part of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. Wikipedia.

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Agency: European Commission | Branch: H2020 | Program: RIA | Phase: BG-01-2015 | Award Amount: 9.21M | Year: 2016

ATLAS creates a dynamic new partnership between multinational industries, SMEs, governments and academia to assess the Atlantics deep-sea ecosystems and Marine Genetic Resources to create the integrated and adaptive planning products needed for sustainable Blue Growth. ATLAS will gather diverse new information on sensitive Atlantic ecosystems (incl. VMEs and EBSAs) to produce a step-change in our understanding of their connectivity, functioning and responses to future changes in human use and ocean climate. This is possible because ATLAS takes innovative approaches to its work and interweaves its objectives by placing business, policy and socioeconomic development at the forefront with science. ATLAS not only uses trans-Atlantic oceanographic arrays to understand and predict future change in living marine resources, but enhances their capacity with new sensors to make measurements directly relevant to ecosystem function. The ATLAS team has the track record needed to meet the projects ambitions and has already developed a programme of 25 deep-sea cruises, with more pending final decision. These cruises will study a network of 12 Case Studies spanning the Atlantic including sponge, cold-water coral, seamount and mid-ocean ridge ecosystems. The team has an unprecedented track record in policy development at national, European and international levels. An annual ATLAS Science-Policy Panel in Brussels will take the latest results and Blue Growth opportunities identified from the project directly to policy makers. Finally, ATLAS has a strong trans-Atlantic partnership in Canada and the USA where both government and academic partners will interact closely with ATLAS through shared cruises, staff secondments, scientific collaboration and work to inform Atlantic policy development. ATLAS has been created and designed with our N American partners to foster trans-Atlantic collaboration and the wider objectives of the Galway Statement on Atlantic Ocean Cooperation.

Pawlik J.R.,University of North Carolina at Wilmington
BioScience | Year: 2011

Sponges are now the dominant habitat-forming animals on Caribbean reefs, where the combined effects of climate change, pollution, and disease have decimated reef-building corals. Natural products chemists have been isolating novel secondary metabolites from Caribbean sponges for many decades, but relevant studies of the ecological functions of these compounds have been more recent. Bioassay-guided surveys have revealed sponge chemical defenses against predators, competitors, and pathogens, but many common sponge species lack chemical defenses and appear to have followed a different evolutionary trajectory, investing instead in greater reproduction or growth. The emerging conceptual model predicts that changes in the abundances of fish-and sponge-eating fishes on Caribbean reefs will have a cascading impact on the sponge community, with indirect effects on the broader community of corals and seaweeds. Caribbean sponges provide an important alternative to terrestrial plant and insect communities for testing basic ecological theories about chemical defenses and resource allocation. © 2011 by American Institute of Biological Sciences. All rights reserved.

The present invention provides methods for determining the toxicity of fresh-water and marine sediments and sediment pore water containing indigenous or introduced toxicants from each as a one-time analysis and/or for analysis over a period of time. The present invention further provides kits assembled for the afore-mentioned determination. The methods and kits of the present invention can be used for analyzing sediment and pore water samples from, among other locations, all environments where species having a dormant life stage may exist including, for example, natural zooplankton.

University of North Carolina at Wilmington | Date: 2016-01-13

Disclosed are compounds that are conjugates of ladder frame polyether compounds and biologically active compounds or research compounds, pharmaceutical formulations comprising the conjugates, and methods of transporting the conjugates across biological membranes.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: WORKFORCE IN THE MATHEMAT SCI | Award Amount: 253.68K | Year: 2017

This NSF supported REU Site will provide undergraduate students interdisciplinary research experience in statistical learning and data mining with applications in computer vision and pattern recognition at the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW), for ten weeks during each summer of 2017-2019. UNCW has an institutional commitment to undergraduate education and research through applied learning, and is ideally suited to provide a complete REU experience for the participants. This project is motivated by the shortage of data scientists with analytical skills, recent surge of interests from students, and bringing in awareness of data science career options in academics, industry, and government. The program is designed to involve students in undergraduate research experiences through applied learning and to provide opportunities to develop quantitative and critical thinking skills, and opportunities to improve effective communication skills with professionals from other disciplines.

The intellectual focus of the program is to introduce contemporary statistical learning theory and data mining techniques, with applications in analyzing human facial features. Students will be given lectures on the significant impact of computer vision and pattern recognition, challenges in human image analysis, review of fundamentals in mathematics and statistics, image preprocessing, and contemporary statistical learning theory and data mining techniques. The following topics will be discussed in detail: data cleaning and visualization, dimension reduction, regression and classification, software engineering, high performance computing, etc. Research projects are applications of these techniques and emphasize on real world application with interdisciplinary integration. The values of the problem, background, modeling assumptions, statistical theory, numerical solutions, and visualization with computational technology and its interpretation will be well articulated among the participants. Critical and reflective thinking are encouraged, under proper intervenes by mentors, through team-based collaboration and cooperation, group meetings and feedback from weekly presentation and reports.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 818.02K | Year: 2016

Sponges are bottom-dwelling animals that dominate Caribbean reefs now that reef-building corals have been declining for decades. Sponges feed by filtering huge volumes of seawater, providing a mechanism for recycling organic material back to the reef. A new theory has been proposed called the sponge-loop hypothesis that is potentially the most important new concept in marine ecology in many years, because it seeks to explain Darwins Paradox: how do highly productive and diverse coral reefs grow in desert-like tropical seas? The sponge loop hypothesis proposes that sponges on coral reefs absorb the large quantities of dissolved organic carbon (molecules such as carbohydrates) that are released by seaweeds and corals and return it to the reef as particles in the form of living and dead cells, or other cellular debris. This project will use a rigorous set of techniques to test the sponge-loop hypothesis in the field on ten of the largest and most common sponges on Caribbean reefs. For each species, the contributions of particles and dissolved organic carbon to sponge nutrition will be measured, as well as the production of cellular particles in the seawater flowing out of the sponge. For selected sponge species, the concentration of dissolved organic carbon entering the sponge will be experimentally enhanced to determine the capacity of the sponge to absorb this potential food source, and to gauge its effect on the production of cellular particles. This project will provide STEM education and training for postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students and public outreach in the form of easily accessible educational videos. Further, this project is important for understanding the carbon cycle on coral reefs where the effects of climate change and ocean acidification may be tipping the competitive balance toward non-reef-building organisms, such as sponges.

The cycling of carbon from the water-column to the benthos is central to marine ecosystem function; for coral reefs, this process begins with photosynthesis by seaweeds and coral symbionts, which then exude a substantial portion of fixed carbon as dissolved organic carbon (DOC) that may be lost to currents and tides. But if sponges, with their enormous water filtering capacity, can return DOC from the water column to the reef, it would represent a major unrecognized source of carbon cycling. The sponge-loop hypothesis has the potential to transform our understanding of carbon cycling on coral reefs. Building on preliminary data from studies of the giant barrel sponge, this project will investigate each of the three components of the sponge-loop hypothesis for ten common barrel, vase and tube-forming species that span a range of associations with microbial symbionts, from high microbial abundance (HMA) to low microbial abundance (LMA) in the sponge tissue. Specifically, the experimental approach will include InEx techniques (comparative sampling of seawater immediately before and after passage through the sponge), velocimetry, and flow cytometry to determine whether each species consumes DOC and produces particulate organic carbon (POC) in the form of cellular detritus. Then, for species that consume DOC, the same techniques will be used in manipulative experiments that augment the amount of DOC from three categories (labile, semi-labile and refractory) to determine the types of DOC consumed by sponges. In addition to testing the sponge-loop hypothesis, this project will use molecular techniques to investigate the differences among HMA and LMA sponge species, targeting the microbial symbionts that may be responsible for DOC uptake.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: IUSE | Award Amount: 294.15K | Year: 2016

Many science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students are required to take chemistry courses, learn to construct representations to help them visualize the structures of molecules that make up matter, and use these representations to understand the properties of matter. This structure-creation process is often difficult for students and may be hindered by issues associated with cognitive load, which is the global amount of mental effort connected to a task. In instances where the overall cognitive load is high, students may struggle with completing the task and learning may be adversely impacted. The goals of this project are to study fundamental issues surrounding the role that cognitive load plays in undergraduate chemistry students ability to construct representations, to use the results of these studies to develop an adaptive learning system that will help students become more proficient at creating chemical representations, and to assess the impact this system has on students construction abilities and learning of chemistry. This work has the potential to enhance students proficiency with chemical representations, and therefore, help them gain a more thorough understanding of key chemistry concepts that promote success in STEM.

This NSF Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE: EHR) project seeks to better understand the interplay between cognitive load and students abilities to construct representations of chemical structure. It constitutes one of the first formal research studies to use physiological metrics such as heart rate and electroencephalography to measure cognitive load as undergraduate chemistry students work to solve problems. Unlike other methods of measuring load, these techniques can be gathered in real time and have been shown, in research conducted in other disciplines, to be responsive to small changes in load. Results of these studies will then be used to design and develop an adaptive learning system that will focus on helping chemistry students construct Lewis and skeletal structures of molecules. The system will make use of an initial diagnostic system that is informed by the research results to ascertain the students construction ability and provide Socratic-style feedback as they seek help in creating their representations. Although the system developed for this project will be specifically designed for the chemistry classroom, the general methodological approaches developed will likely have broad applicability to other STEM disciplines and serve as models for similar work in those fields.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: BIOLOGICAL OCEANOGRAPHY | Award Amount: 335.16K | Year: 2016

Biomineralization by marine phytoplankton has had a profound impact on our planet. The production of special cell wall material, calcite coccoliths by coccolithophores and silica frustules by diatoms, are major drivers in global biogeochemical cycles, but the underlying cellular processes remain poorly understood. It is widely considered that calcification in coccolithophores occurs through a very different process to silicification in diatoms, however some ecologically important coccolithophore lineages possess diatom-like silicon (Si) transport systems and have an absolute requirement for Si during coccolith formation. Importantly, the abundant bloom-forming coccolithophores such as Emiliania huxleyi exhibit no requirement for Si. There is a clear need to understand how these different physiological requirements for dissolved Si have driven the ecology and evolution of the coccolithophores. The project will yield a more complete understanding of the Si requirements of coccolithophores, its role in the calcification process, and the impacts of Si availability on the biogeography of these important bloom forming phytoplankton. The results are expected to strengthen our ability to predict the responses of coccolithophores to short and long-term environmental change, and therefore the consequences for the marine biogeochemical cycles in which they participate. In addition to the scientific outcomes, the project provides independent research opportunities to a diverse pool of undergraduate students, provide interdisciplinary training for graduate students, and facilitate the professional development of post-doctoral researchers. Public engagement in the research is facilitated through participant involvement in regional science festivals, public outreach events, production of educational resources, and targeted K-12 summer camp activities.

Calcification in coccolithophores appears to represent a distinct process from silicification in diatoms, another major group of biomineralized phytoplankton. The apparent absence of a requirement for silicon (Si) in coccolithophores has been proposed to play a critical role in their ability to out-compete the otherwise dominant diatoms in areas of low dissolved Si availability. However, the investigators recently demonstrated that some globally important coccolithophores possess diatom-like Si transporters and exhibit an obligate requirement for Si in the calcification process. This discovery has important implications both for phytoplankton ecology and for the evolution of biomineralization. Using a range of physiological, molecular and computational approaches the project will 1) Establish Si requirements of ecologically important coccolithophore groups; 2) Determine the physiological role of Si in coccolithophores; 3) Determine the evolutionary events leading to the differing requirements for Si in calcification; 4) Examine the ecological distribution of Si-requiring coccolithophores, and 5) Determine the impact of the Si requirement on coccolithophore ecology. This project therefore integrates the molecular identification of genes (Si transporters), the physiological role of these transporters, and ecosystem scale models in order to examine how the requirement for Si influences ecosystem functioning and coccolithophore biogeography. The results of this work provides essential data that describes the cellular mechanisms of calcification and the range of physiological diversity between major coccolithophore lineages. The research also explores a previously unforeseen aspect of phytoplankton ecology; examining how the differing requirements for Si in calcifying coccolithophores may have shaped competitive interactions with other phytoplankton over both contemporary and evolutionary timescales. Overall, the research provides novel insights into physiology, ecology and evolution of coccolithophores, including information on how and why coccoliths are produced, which is currently poorly understood. This information is vital in order to understand how coccolithophores have been influenced by past changes in the Earths climate, and their potential responses to future oceans.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: Chem Struct,Dynmcs&Mechansms B | Award Amount: 330.00K | Year: 2016

In this project funded by the Chemical Structure, Dynamics and Mechanism B program of the Chemistry Division, Professors Hee-Seung Lee and Robert Hancock of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington are developing new types of sensors that emit light in the presence of specific ions. In particular, they are exploring a new design principle for efficient turn-on fluorescent sensors that exploits a fluorescent molecule competing with the anion for an interaction with a metal atom. The project brings together various subfields of chemistry and provides many opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in high level research. Fluorescent probes have become indispensable tools in modern biology and biotechnology because they provide real time information concerning the quantity of ions or molecules of interest within the living cell. Thus, the anion sensors developed in this project may spur significant advances in our understanding of cell biology.

In tethered fluorescence sensors, a key factor in quenching fluorescence is metal-fluorophore pi-contact. Disruption of these pi-contacts by coordination of target anions leads to restoration of fluorescence that can be exploited to develop efficient turn-on anion sensors. New ligands are being synthesized and the complexes of these ligands with a variety of metal ions are being evaluated as the basis of anion sensors. Different fluorophores are being examined to identify their ability to form pi-contacts with metal ions. Anions of biological, biomedical, and environmental interest such as nitrate are being studied. An integral part of this project is the use of density functional theory (DFT) and time-dependent DFT to understand the fluorescence quenching by metal ions and the ability of metal-ligand complexes to act as anion sensors.

Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: ANTARCTIC ORGANISMS & ECOSYST | Award Amount: 424.58K | Year: 2015

The Antarctic marine ecosystem is highly productive and supports a diverse range of ecologically and commercially important species. A key species in this ecosystem is Antarctic krill, which in addition to being commercially harvested, is the principle prey of a wide range of marine organisms including penguins, seals and whales. The aim of this study is to use penguins and other krill predators as sensitive indicators of past changes in the Antarctic marine food web resulting from climate variability and the historic harvesting of seals and whales by humans. Specifically this study will recover and analyze modern (<20 year old), historic (20-200 year old) and ancient (200-10,000 year old) penguin and other krill predator tissues to track their past diets and population movements relative to shifts in climate and the availability of Antarctic krill. Understanding how krill predators were affected by these factors in the past will allow us to better understand how these predators, the krill they depend on, and the Antarctic marine ecosystem as a whole will respond to current challenges such as global climate change and an expanding commercial fishery for Antarctic krill. The project will further the NSF goals of training new generations of scientists and of making scientific discoveries available to the general public. This project will support the cross-institutional training of undergraduate and graduate students in advanced analytical techniques in the fields of ecology and biogeochemistry. In addition, this project includes educational outreach aimed encouraging participation in science careers by engaging K-12 students in scientific issues related to Antarctica, penguins, marine ecology, biogeochemistry, and global climate change.

This research will help place recent ecological changes in the Southern Ocean into a larger historical context by examining decadal and millennial-scale shifts in the diets and population movements of Antarctic krill predators (penguins, seals, and squid) in concert with climate variability and commercial harvesting. This will be achieved by coupling advanced stable and radio isotope techniques, particularly compound-specific stable isotope analysis, with unprecedented access to modern, historical, and well-preserved paleo-archives of Antarctic predator tissues dating throughout the Holocene. This approach will allow the project to empirically test if observed shifts in Antarctic predator bulk tissue stable isotope values over the past millennia were caused by climate-driven shifts at the base of the food web in addition to, or rather than, shifts in predator diets due to a competitive release following the historic harvesting of krill eating whale and seals. In addition, this project will track the large-scale abandonment and reoccupation of penguin colonies around Antarctica in response to changes in climate and sea ice conditions over the past several millennia. These integrated field studies and laboratory analyses will provide new insights into the underlying mechanisms that influenced past shifts in the diets and population movements of charismatic krill predators such as penguins. This will allow for improved projections of the ecosystem consequences of future climate change and anthropogenic harvesting scenarios in the Antarctica that are likely to affect the availability of Antarctic krill.

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