KU News: US to see more toxic algal blooms in lakes with climate change, study shows

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Research shows climate change boosts likelihood of toxin releases from algal blooms in American lakes

LAWRENCE — A broad analysis of lake water quality across the United States reveals human-driven climate change is increasing risks of high toxin concentrations from algal blooms in U.S. lakes, posing increasing hazards to people and wild and domestic animals, including dogs. The investigation, co-written by a University of Kansas researcher, relies on data from lake-water samples from 2,804 U.S. lakes collected between 2007 and 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Second dean candidate for School of Engineering to present Oct. 25

LAWRENCE — Adrienne Minerick, the second candidate for the University of Kansas School of Engineering dean position, will give a public presentation on her vision for the school. Her presentation will take place 1:30-2:30 p.m. Oct. 25 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union, and the event will be livestreamed. Minerick is currently a professor of chemical engineering and affiliated professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University.

Review of trials comparing depression therapies ACT and CBT may indicate CBT’s superiority

LAWRENCE — A study led by University of Kansas psychologists calls into question whether one common treatment for depression, known as acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), has enough evidence to support its use over the traditional approach of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). That doesn’t make it ineffective, according to Alex Williams, program director of psychology at the KU Edwards Campus, but findings underscore that CBT might be better — and that more funding and research are needed to refine therapies for patients struggling with mental health.

New book provides guide to librarians, scholars on open access, scholarly communication

LAWRENCE — There has been a significant push in recent decades among academic libraries to make information as freely available as possible. So when a group of scholarly communications experts wrote a book on the topic, they didn’t hide it behind a paywall. That book, “Scholarly Communication Librarianship and Open Knowledge,” is an open access text to guide librarians, scholars and students interested in scholarly communications and open knowledge through theory, practice and case studies in the movement.

Full stories below.

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Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, [email protected], @BrendanMLynch

Research shows climate change boosts likelihood of toxin releases from algal blooms in American lakes

LAWRENCE — A broad analysis of lake water quality across the United States reveals human-driven climate change is increasing risks of high toxin concentrations from algal blooms in U.S. lakes, posing increasing hazards to people and wild and domestic animals, including dogs.

The investigation, recently published as the cover story in Nature Water, relies on data from lake-water samples from 2,804 U.S. lakes collected between 2007 and 2017 by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The authors, including a researcher at the University of Kansas, use the EPA’s data to predict the likelihood that a toxin called microcystin, produced by some blue-green algal species, will spike above water quality thresholds in the years ahead. Microcystin can damage the liver in humans and can kill wild and domestic animals.

“We found toxic blue-green blooms thrive under climate change conditions and warmer temperatures, particularly in the optimal temperature range of 20 to 25 degrees Celsius, with the highest levels at about 22 degrees Celsius, or 72 degrees Fahrenheit,” said co-author Ted Harris, assistant research professor with the Kansas Biological Survey & Center for Ecological Research at KU. “It’s clear regions with a history of fewer toxic blooms are likely to experience an increase in such occurrences due to climate change. High-nutrient lakes, which serve as a fuel source for these blooms, are particularly vulnerable to this trend.”

Harris’ collaborators were lead author Julian Merder, along with Anna Michalak and Gang Zhao of the Carnegie Institution for Science, as well as Dimitrios Stasinopoulos and Robert Rigby of the University of Greenwich.

Among the team’s other key findings:

· Climate change forecasts show a northward shift in areas that will be at higher risk for algal blooms, particularly the northern Great Plains and northwestern United States.

· Parts of the U.S. with fewer toxic blooms on record are likely to see more of them because of climate change.

· Many agricultural regions with high-nutrient lakes will see more frequent temperatures ideal for algal blooms, with associated risks for drinking water sources, recreational activities and human and animal health.

Harris said public health officials and lake visitors should be mindful of conditions that foster algal blooms — and dog owners in particular should pay attention to the findings.

“The negative effects of these toxins, particularly those affecting the liver, can lead to death, with rare cases of human fatalities,” he said. “However, more commonly, animals, especially dogs, are adversely affected. Blue-green algae differ from other algae as they can float due to small buoyant structures within them. This behavior causes them to be pushed downwind and accumulate near coasts, often where launching ramps are located, and where people take their dogs. This is also where toxin accumulation is more likely.”

As an example, Harris recounted a significant toxic bloom at Milford Reservoir in Kansas in 2011 that led public officials to warn “complaints after recreational exposure include vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, eye irritation and respiratory symptoms. These toxins also caused deaths in pets.”

Harris specializes in studying algal blooms, including work monitoring harmful algal bloom distribution, abundance and toxicity. He also works to develop modeling techniques for predicting and forecasting harmful cyanobacterial blooms. He said the statistical findings in the paper lined up with his experiences doing fieldwork.

“On this paper I served as the bloom expert,” he said. “I made sure our results were robust and that we were saying things that we find in general to be true in the field.”

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The official university Twitter account has changed to @UnivOfKansas.

Refollow @KUNews for KU News Service stories, discoveries and experts.

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Contact: Savannah Rattanavong, Office of the Provost, 785-864-6402, [email protected], @KUProvost

Second dean candidate for School of Engineering to present Oct. 25

LAWRENCE — Adrienne Minerick, the second candidate for the University of Kansas School of Engineering dean position, will give a public presentation on her vision for the school.

Her presentation will take place 1:30-2:30 p.m. Oct. 25 in Woodruff Auditorium at the Kansas Union. The event will also be livestreamed, and the passcode is 925939.

Minerick is currently a professor of chemical engineering and affiliated professor of biomedical engineering at Michigan Technological University.

The remaining candidates will be announced approximately two days before their respective campus visits. Their public presentations are scheduled for the following times and locations:

· Candidate 3: 1:30–2:30 p.m. Oct. 31, Beren Petroleum Conference Center, Slawson Hall G192

· Candidate 4: 9:30-10:30 am. Nov. 2, Burge Union Forum A

Members of the KU community are encouraged to attend each presentation and provide feedback to the search committee.

A candidate feedback survey will be open for two business days following the conclusion of each finalist’s visit. The survey and a recording of Minerick’s presentation will be available after the presentation on the search page until the survey closes.

Additional search information, including Minerick’s CV, is also available on the search page.

In addition to her professorship, Minerick is the director of ADVANCE, a program promoting faculty retention, career success and STEM equity at Michigan Tech. There, she has served in multiple administrative roles, including as the associate dean for research and innovation in the College of Engineering, assistant to the provost for faculty development, dean of the School of Technology, founding dean of the College of Computing and interim dean of the Pavlis Honors College.

Outside of her duties at Michigan Tech, Minerick has served as president of the American Society for Engineering Education, and she is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

Minerick has led or helped establish three formal faculty mentoring programs and the Safe Zone workshops at ASEE, which raises awareness for LGBTQ inclusion in STEM fields. She served as chair of ASEE’s diversity committee and as the organization’s president during its “Year of Impact on Racial Equity.”

The AES Electrophoresis Society awarded Minerick the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2014, Michigan Tech recognized her as its Michigan Professor of the Year nominee. Minerick holds a patent and has written or co-written dozens of research and educational publications.

Minerick earned a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from Michigan Tech as well as a master’s in chemical engineering and a doctorate in chemical and biomolecular engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

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Contact: Brendan Lynch, KU News Service, 785-864-8855, [email protected], @BrendanMLynch

Review of trials comparing depression therapies ACT and CBT may indicate CBT’s superiority

 

LAWRENCE — A new study from psychologists at the University of Kansas gauges the quality of the evidence from more than 500 randomized controlled trials of a common treatment for depression, acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT).

 

The research confirms evidence for ACT is “credible” when compared to weak control groups (for example, when ACT is compared with those on a waitlist who receive no treatment at all). But other key findings appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Behavior Therapy are less clear about the efficacy of the therapy, including:

 

· When comparing ACT with other psychotherapies, the trials were often too small to credibly indicate superiority of any treatment over the other.

· When compared to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), the evidence that existed suggested credible superiority for CBT. But, again, the trials were often too small to draw firm conclusions.

“There have been questions in the last decade or so about the credibility of findings in science broadly, including in psychology, and we’ve been interested in questions about how credible the research findings are for different forms of psychotherapy,” said lead author Alex Williams, program director of psychology at the Edwards Campus of the University of Kansas. “We’ve taken to evaluating quantitatively the credibility of bodies of research in psychology about different forms of therapy. This paper is an in-depth look at acceptance and commitment therapy — where we thought, ‘Let’s find every article we can about it.’”

Developed in the 1980s, ACT’s mindfulness-centered approach has grown in popularity. Today, thousands of practicing psychotherapists offer ACT to clients, while the Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes ACT as an evidence-based therapy for depression. While ACT is considered a form of cognitive behavioral therapy, it differs from traditional CBT in several respects.

“Traditional cognitive behavioral therapy is focused on reframing your thoughts,” Williams said. “So, if you’re depressed and you have thoughts about how bad your life is or how bad you are as a person, it’s focused on helping you develop an alternative, more helpful and accurate thought. But ACT is less focused on changing your mind about the thought and more about accepting that thought and detaching from it. ACT also is focused on helping you take actions congruent with your values in life — there’s more of an emphasis on it in ACT than traditional CBT.”

However, poring over randomized control trials of ACT’s efficacy, the authors found concerning signs regarding credibility (for example, too few participants in the studies to draw conclusions from them). In part, this stems from a lack of financial support in recent decades for up-to-date studies of depression therapies that use modern research and statistical methods.

“This area has been woefully underfunded forever,” said co-author Eugene Botanov of Pennsylvania State University-York. “Now, the only people really funding it is the federal government, but they’re not really interested in funding randomized control trials for depression or anxiety because we had so much research starting in the 1970s. But we know the world now a little differently than we did 50 years ago. Those studies were great for their time — they’re just not so strong now. We need more high-quality studies to really understand which of the possibly effective treatments work better than others.”

Indeed, this lack of strong evidence in studies that directly compare ACT with other treatments, like CBT, has resulted in “ambiguous evidence” that makes drawing definitive conclusions difficult, according to the authors.

“We found with ACT, when compared to traditional cognitive behavioral therapy in treating depression, it was really hard to credibly know, ‘Is one better than the other?’” Williams said. “But to the extent that there was signal amongst that noise, the indications were that CBT is superior as a depression treatment. You could take away from our paper that the best-case scenario for ACT compared to CBT is you throw your hands up and say, ‘Nobody can know.’ But there’s no real way you could look at the paper and say, ‘Oh, ACT is probably better than CBT at treating depression.’”

Williams and Botanov’s co-authors were KU graduate students Annaleis Giovanetti, Victoria Perko and Westley Youngren, along with Carrie Sutherland of Avila University and John Sakaluk of the University of Western Ontario.

The researchers said more reliable trial results would make it easier for patients, therapists and organizations to know which treatments are best. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 8.4% of all U.S. adults had at least one major depressive episode in 2020.

“These findings matter if we’re therapists or patients or clients considering which treatments to use, or agencies that have concerns about what treatments to fund,” Williams said. “Our paper suggests there’s a lot of work to do to develop more credible evidence, one way or another, about the efficacy of ACT.”

That ACT stacks up well against no treatment or a placebo treatment isn’t a compelling enough case for funding or endorsing the therapy, according to Botanov.

“When we’re looking at weak control groups in studies of ACT, like receiving ACT compared to no therapy at all, those studies do fairly well,” he said. “But really, we don’t care so much about ACT versus ‘no treatment.’ We care about, ‘Should we advise a person to get traditional CBT or ACT for their depression?’ If I’m the Veterans Administration or a university, and I want to hire therapists — which therapy should I be looking for, or training my therapists to do? We need better clinical trials to help us know.”

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Don’t miss new episodes of “When Experts Attack!,”

a KU News Service podcast hosted by Kansas Public Radio.

 

https://kansaspublicradio.org/when-experts-attack

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Contact: Mike Krings, KU News Service, 785-864-8860, [email protected], @MikeKrings

New book provides guide to librarians, scholars on open access, scholarly communication

LAWRENCE — There has been a significant push in recent decades among academic libraries to make information as freely available as possible and as appropriate. So when a group of scholarly communications experts wrote a book on the topic, they couldn’t hide it behind a paywall. That book, “Scholarly Communication Librarianship and Open Knowledge,” is an open access text to guide librarians, scholars and students interested in scholarly communications and open knowledge through theory, practice and case studies in the movement.

Edited by Maria Bonn of the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, Josh Bolick of the University of Kansas and Will Cross of North Carolina State University, the book addresses issues in scholarly publishing and open knowledge movements.

Bolick, head of the David Shulenburger Office of Scholarly Communication & Copyright in KU Libraries, said the collaborative book was about seven years in the making and the idea was hatched when he started his position at KU in 2015, then scholarly communication librarian, and became responsible for leading open education initiatives.

“Open education was an area I was less knowledgeable about, so I set about learning as much as I could, as quickly as possible. I saw an intersection of scholarly communication and open education, where they could be a vehicle for learning about both: an open textbook for scholarly communication work,” Bolick said. “Almost everyone in an academic library is engaging in this work in some form, so broader literacy on the issues is important to supporting our mission and having agency in the evolving landscape.”

Open access, which refers to scholarly literature that is digital, free of charge and free of most copyright and licensing restrictions, has roots in the early internet and has accelerated in recent years. The book, published by the Association of College and Research Libraries and available in an open access edition (pdf) examines that concept as well as scholarly communication, open data, open education and open science and infrastructure.

The text is divided into three parts:

· What is scholarly communication?

· Scholarly communication and open culture

· Voices from the field: Perspectives, intersections and case studies

The opening section, written by Bonn, Bolick and Cross, defines topics and explores how the economic, technological, social, and policy and legal forces shape scholarly communication work in libraries. Part one’s chapters also consider how these forces affect higher education and academic publishing more broadly.

“The internet created an opportunity to share knowledge in a new way, and it changed things immediately. Open access arose from a crisis in scholarly publishing, where increasing costs for access to the literature coincided with flat or declining higher education budgets and have sometimes forced reductions of library acquisitions,” Bolick said. “The entire landscape is highly dynamic. We’re looking at how libraries, researchers and publishers are adapting to new realities and how we practice as a result.”

Part two takes a deep dive into open culture and how it is operationalized in libraries, with contributions from librarians and allies in the U.S. and Canada. The section is divided into subsections focused on open access, open data, open education, and open science and infrastructure. Each subsection is edited by an expert in that area who selected authors and framed their chapters according to their expertise.

“We didn’t want to present the field according to Maria, Josh and Will,” Bolick said of his co-editors. “Rather, here is our field according to a broad subset of experts working in it.”

Part three gives features practitioner case studies, perspectives on aspects of scholarly communication work and essays on how scholarly communication intersects with other areas of academic librarianship.

While the book is a collection of knowledge on a rapidly evolving field, it is not neutral, and Bolick said it does take positions, including advocating for greater openness in the higher education landscape and for libraries and educational institutions to participate in the shift to open knowledge. A downloadable PDF version of the book is free, and costs are only associated with an order of the print version. The co-editors do not stand to profit financially from the book, having waived royalties, and said they welcome readers to engage with it broadly by adapting it, improving it and sharing it wherever they wish, all possible because it is published under an open license.

“In the end, we can only write to our knowledge and expertise, but we can’t pretend that is the entirety of knowledge on the subject, or that our way of doing is the only way of doing,” Bolick said.

KU Libraries will mark the celebration of Open Access Week with a special edition of “Fridays on Fourth,” a weekly, collaborative graduate student engagement initiative in Watson Library on Oct. 27. The University of Kansas and KU Libraries are longtime leaders in the field of open access and knowledge, but the new book includes a wide range of perspectives from practitioners at Research I institutions as well as from community colleges, K-12 libraries and others.

“Openness has become something that libraries, in particular, have embraced,” Bolick said. “I often tell researchers that if you’re not making your work open, there is an audience that can’t access it, cite it or learn from it. We saw openness as integral to this project and is a baked-in value of the book.”

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