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Center for HOPE debuts at ASU

October 19, 2018

'Science of hope' practices to flourish at university, changing the perceptions about at-risk children

In 1776, when members of the Second Continental Congress met at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to sign a document declaring the Thirteen Colonies’ independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, they were embarking upon an experiment to prove to the world that the common man could govern himself.

The democratic gamble paid off, resulting in one of the most successful countries in the world.

If America’s forefathers were able to recognize that everyone is equally capable and worthy of pursuing the life they desire, mused ASU Sanford School Professor of Practice Richard Miller, “shouldn’t we have a similar commitment to our young people, to prove to the world that all kids are capable of success, no exceptions?”

That mantra has been the driving force behind Miller’s lifelong commitment to challenge the prevailing conventional wisdom of youth at risk. The culmination of that work, the not-for-profit organization Kids at Hope (KAH), was founded in 1999 with ASU’s support as a research partner and the goal of changing the way America thought about its kids.

Over the years, Miller maintained a strong relationship with ASU, even teaching courses on not-for-profit management and youth development as a practitioner in residence for the Lodestar Center. But he always felt there would come a point in time when he had established a strong enough body of evidence of the efficacy of his initiative’s practices that could be combined with the research prowess and infrastructure of the university to take this new “science of hope” to the next level.

That time is now. A series of events will celebrate the launch of The Center for the Advanced Study and Practice of HOPE, a unit of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

Antwone Fisher, whose personal story of hope inspired a film that bears his name starring Denzel Washington, will be joining the festivities for a screening of the film from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24 at Murdock Hall on the Tempe campus. And Valerie Calderon, who manages the Gallup Poll’s national student hope survey, will be a featured guest and presenter at a daylong series of panel discussions on Thursday, Oct. 25.

The film screening is open to the ASU community and general public. There is limited seating and reservations, in addition to a modest registration fee, are required. More info can be found on the center’s website.

“The biggest reason for taking this next big step is to bring together in a very comprehensive and integrative way the three arms of what needs to happen when we talk about the promotion of the success of all children with no exceptions,” said Sanford School director and Professor Richard Fabes.

The first arm is a strong evidence-based research foundation that establishes best practices to help children and the adults who care for them be more effective in promoting their success. The second arm is academic and involves creating a unique curriculum that allows hope to be taught and fostered, whether in K–12 classrooms, college lecture halls or corporate environments. And the third is the clinical arm, which translates research and curriculum into actionable plans.

“This center is the combination of the scientific, academic and clinical practices, not just standing as individual separate pillars, but truly integrated to advance the science of hope and make a difference at scale,” said Fabes, co-executive director of the new Center for HOPE.

Miller’s career in youth development began in 1983 when he was hired as president executive director for The Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix. But his interest in the field began when he was much younger.

As a 16-year-old high school sophomore in Southern California, Miller watched with dismay as several of his Mexican-American classmates dropped out. He was certain that the reason was that nobody cared, and made the decision then and there to be the one person who did.

That was 54 years ago. Every step he’s taken in his career since then, Miller says with pride, has been with that in mind.

“I just felt that society had found an easy excuse as to why some kids do well and other kids struggle,” he said. “And we bought into that and began to divide the world into kids with risk and kids without risk. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy; if that’s what we believe about kids, that’s what we’ll always get. So I thought, what if we change the belief?”

The organization operates on four research conclusions: 1. It’s not risk factors that prevent kids from being successful, it’s the absence of hope. 2. Adults who interact with children — from teachers to parole officers to bus drivers — don’t control any of the risk in children’s lives, but they do control much of the hope. 3. Hope can be taught and learned in the same way as reading, writing and arithmetic. 4. It’s not programs or curriculum alone that make the greatest difference in children’s lives, it’s meaningful relationships with caring adults.

Based on the four research conclusions are three cultural frameworks and five practices that emphasize a change in culture, rather than prevention methods, in order to engage adults in children’s lives in ways that encourage hopeful thinking about their future.

All of this is taught through workshops, classes, symposiums and the weeklong Kids at Hope master’s institute.

“I think there is a change happening where we are starting to move away from deficit models that focus on what are people lacking and toward strength models that focus on their assets,” Fabes said. “The strength model is more effective and transformational because it works with strengths that individuals already possess. It flips a switch, conceptually.”

The Center for HOPE at ASU will be much more than Kids at Hope, though, said Terry Rosch, co-executive director of the center and president of Kids at Hope.

Rosch met Miller in 1999 when she was in the midst of founding the Chicago Education Alliance and became one of Kids at Hope’s founding board members. She sees ASU as a great place to continue advancing hope-related research and community outreach.

“The mission of the Center for HOPE is to encourage partnerships, conduct research and expand or develop activity that will transform organizations, families, schools and entire communities to create cultures of hope where children and youth and families experience success,” Rosch said.

“Given ASU’s goal to pursue research that contributes to the public good, I felt it would be a wonderful place to host the center.”

Research at the center is already underway. One project in particular is a longitudinal study looking at connections between hope and hope assets and academic performance in first-time ASU freshmen. It demonstrates how the center will go beyond studying the role of hope in childhood success to investigating the role of hope throughout one’s life.

The relationships already in place between Kids at Hope and local schools and organizations will help advance research at the HOPE Center, said associate director of research Tashia Abry, an assistant professor at the Sanford School.

“Our efforts are guided by the principal of partnership and dialogue between researchers and practitioners,” she said.

Researchers at the center are able to consult with Kids at Hope partners and advise them on the expansion of their data collection and analysis, while also collecting data for their own purposes.

“It’s one of the first, and I think will become an increasingly recognizable model by which community agencies can be integrated into the work of ASU so that these centers are not just academic or community-focused, but are true hybrids that bring the community to ASU and ASU to the community,” Fabes said.

ASU In the News

The continuing disappearance of America’s archaeological data

Most archaeological fieldwork in the U.S. is federally mandated for historic preservation. That means that the agencies doing that fieldwork are legally required to make the data from their findings public.

As ASU Professor Keith Kintigh of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change points out in his op-ed piece, however, that information rarely makes it into the hands of the American people or other researchers. And what little data is stored is often done so in a way that gives it a limited lifespan. photo of Montezuma's Castle site Download Full Image

“Government agencies are responsible for appropriately managing sites for their scientific, cultural and educational values,” he said. “But to do so effectively, they must have access to full documentation of past investigations.”

Kintigh argues that the best way to accomplish this is by preserving the data on publicly available, online databases, such as the Digital Archaeological Record he helped develop. Such resources ensure that the precious archaeological information is usable to scientists, historians, descendant communities and average citizens for future decades.

Read the full article to learn more.

Article Source: The Conversation
Mikala Kass

Editorial Communications Coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


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ASU professors tackle large-scale public health challenges in partnership with Dignity Health

October 19, 2018

Dignity Health and Arizona State University have announced the 2018 awardees of the Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program, which offers grants to ASU faculty and Dignity Health investigators for collaborative research projects that accelerate the health and well-being of the community.

Grant recipients will embark on projects that address an array of public health challenges — from diabetes to brain tumors to Lou Gehrig's disease — and will result in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices into public health, clinical practice and community settings.

“ASU’s partnership with Dignity Health reflects the spirit of collaboration, discovery and community impact that is central to the university’s mission,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “The work being done through these grants advances scientific inquiry and knowledge and also offers hope for solutions to some of our most pressing health challenges.”

Dignity Health and ASU launched the program in 2017 to advance joint research in key programmatic areas like population health, educating a prepared health care workforce and building a healthy clinical workforce.

“It’s exciting to see ASU faculty partnering with Dignity Health investigators as they work together on new ideas and concepts,” said Dr. Keith Frey, chief physician executive at Dignity Health and clinical professor in the College of Health Solutions at ASU. “The anticipated outcomes from this second funding cycle will add real benefit for our patients and the health of our community.”

Originating in 2015, the Dignity Health and ASU partnership is a vibrant, innovative collaboration, formed on the foundation of clinical and academic excellence.

The next funding cycle for the Dignity Health/ASU Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program is expected in spring 2019.

Program award recipients:

Shannon Dirksen and Liz Harrell

College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dignity Health Investigator: Nicole Piemonte, PhD

Project: Expanding impacts of student-run free clinics; the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) sustainability plan

Rodger Kessler and Siddhartha Angadi

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Edward Paul, MD

Project: The ASU-Dignity Health Type 2 diabetes medical and behavioral lifestyle management program  

Vikram Kodibagkar

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigator: C. Chad Quarles, PhD

Project: One-shot morphologic, hemodynamic and metabolic MR imaging of brain tumors

Julie Liss and Visar Berisha

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Jeremy M. Shefner, MD and Shafeeq Ladha, MD

Project: Speech analysis in ALS patients with and without cognitive abnormalities: Evaluation of sensitivity and disease progression

Kristin Mickelson

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Dignity Health Investigator: Claudia Chambers, MD

Project: Racial disparities in low birth weight: Discrimination, resilience and biomedical pathways in a sample of black, Hispanic and white pregnant women

Brent Vernon

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Mark C. Preul, MD and Andrew Ducruet, MD

Project: Multi-institutional program to translate liquid embolics to the clinic

Wendy Wolfersteig

Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, School of Social Work, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Anna Alonzo

Project: Assessing the effectiveness of the 2MATCH Project on social determinants of health and healthcare utilization


Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency helps secure the nation

In its first year, the consortium of academic, industry, government and laboratory partners has provided valuable research and technologies

October 19, 2018

Every day, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security faces complex challenges to ensure a safe, secure and resilient nation, from enhancing domestic defense to facilitating lawful travel across borders.

To help fulfill the department’s mission, the homeland security enterprise’s Science and Technology Directorate chose Arizona State University to lead the Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency, one of nine DHS S&T Centers of Excellence. A TSA agent searches luggage at airport security checkpoint. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock Download Full Image

Housed in ASU’s Global Security Initiative with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering as a core partner, the center is a consortium of academic, industry, government and laboratory partners that develops advanced analytical tools and technologies to enhance planning, information sharing and real-time decision-making in homeland security operations, including border security and airport screenings.

Innovative institutional design and interdisciplinary expertise

Over the past year, the center has been conducting groundbreaking research to improve efficiency and security at national borders, seaports and airports by using multidisciplinary, customer-driven and practical solutions.

“We’re able to innovate at the intersection of use-inspired and use-based research to tackle real homeland security problems,” said Ross Maciejewski, director of the Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency and associate professor of computer science in the Fulton Schools. “Our research can be translated into the field with useful tools and technology to make a broader impact and become more efficient in the process.”

The success of the center’s research on homeland security problems relies heavily on Maciejewski’s vast knowledge of DHS’s mission statement and the university’s innovative institutional design. These enable the center to build diverse research teams with expertise spanning several disciplines.

Nadya Bliss, the director of the Global Security Initiative, believes all of these factors and the collaboration with the Fulton Schools may have played a significant role in the department’s decision to partner with ASU.

“We had a deep understanding of the homeland security enterprise’s mission and a track record of excellent and consistent execution with problem-centric and mission-focused research,” said Bliss, a professor of practice in the Fulton Schools. “We also had a network of established internal and external partnerships as well as institutional investment and support to address the enterprise’s complex challenges.” 

Improving efficiency at TSA checkpoints

When heading to the airport, most people dread going through Transportation Security Administration screenings. The challenge of keeping airports and flights safe has resulted in unpredictable wait times for passengers and constantly changing guidelines for screenings of passenger belongings.

To raise passenger satisfaction and reduce wait times without compromising security, researchers in the Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency are developing a decision-support tool to simulate and visualize TSA security screening checkpoint operations with ever-changing passenger demands.

The team consists of Kelvin Cheu, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas, El Paso; Ronald Askin, a professor of industrial engineering in the Fulton Schools; and Jorge Sefair, an assistant professor of industrial engineering in the Fulton Schools.

“The problem is they never know exactly who is going to be coming to the airport and when they’re going to come,” Askin said. “Flight schedules are always changing so there’s a constant flux of passengers arriving and going through security.”

The decision-support tool will consist of three interacting modules: a passenger arrivals estimator, a multilane, multiserver dynamic queue analyzer and a transportation security officer scheduler. Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and El Paso International Airport will be test sites for the tool.

Askin and Sefair have been working on the passenger arrivals estimator by mining the web for publicly available data, such as flight schedules, aircraft type, aircraft capacity, passenger location of origin and so forth. The data helps predict passenger demand at different checkpoints ahead of time.

The input of forecasted passenger arrivals will feed the dynamic queue analyzer. Cheu and his team will use a simulation-based approach to analyze checkpoint operations and determine the flow of passengers and their potential wait times based on how many lanes are open and how many transportation security officers are assigned.

Sefair will take the lead on the third module, which uses the tool’s insight to better deploy transportation security officers throughout the airport to improve checkpoint performance and reduce wait times.

“In an ideal system, you have all the lanes open, all the security officers working and all passengers waiting for minimal times,” Sefair said. “But since we have limited resources and limited capacity, we need to be smart and allocate security officers where they are needed most.”

The tool is expected to benefit up to 900 million passengers per year by reducing wait times for passengers at U.S. airports.

Securing the border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is a federal law enforcement agency of the homeland security enterprise tasked with the challenge of securing the nation's air, land and sea borders. On an average day, the agency welcomes nearly 1 million international travelers, inspects more than 67,000 cargo containers and confiscates nearly four to six tons of illicit drugs.

The agency also facilitates lawful travel between ports of entry. To help detect, deter and disrupt illegal passage into the country more efficiently, researchers in the Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency are creating a simulation toolkit to identify probable pathways individuals might take to cross national borders, with a pilot effort in several sectors in Texas.

“We’re attempting to use the best available knowledge about how individuals traverse through open terrain for border protection to use at the field level to better inform operations,” said Brandon Behlendorf, principal investigator for the project and an assistant professor at the University at Albany, State University of New York.

The underlying technology for Behlendorf’s toolkit is based upon the same modeling and algorithm approach Google Maps uses to get people from a point of origin to a destination. It’s known as Dijkstra's algorithm, a mathematical graph theory for finding the shortest paths between nodes in a graph.

“In Google Maps, you might want to avoid tolls, highways or some other facet related to your travel,” Behlendorf said. “In the border protection environment, an individual crossing the border may want to avoid populated areas or stay close to low-line elevation to maintain their cover and ease the traverse.”

Each station or sector can change the modeling criteria and build its own customized profile for how individuals in a particular environment may act based on their knowledge of the border-area landscape, prior apprehension locations, sensor and security camera positions and so forth.

Moreover, the toolkit utilizes open-source software so it can be field deployed on a government laptop in environments lacking instant and consistent internet access.

“This algorithm will help border protection optimize their placement of intel and analysis resources to best disrupt routes of individuals trying to cross the border,” said Behlendorf, “thereby providing greater security along the border.”

The Center for Accelerating Operational Efficiency's strength in security research comes from its diverse collaborations and innovative mindsets. As such, the center is helping bridge the gap between academic research and agency needs to develop advanced tools that will improve operations in the homeland security enterprise.

This material is based upon work supported by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate under Grant Award Number 2017-ST-QA001-01. The views and conclusions contained in this document are those of the authors and should not be interpreted as necessarily representing the official policies, either expressed or implied, of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Removing the shroud from the concept of death

October 18, 2018

Project Humanities event seeks to open up a conversation about death and dying — an experience all humans share

“And so it stays just on the edge of vision,/ A small unfocused blur, a standing chill/ That slows each impulse down to indecision./ Most things may never happen: this one will.”

So wrote British poet Philip Larkin in his 1980 poem “Aubade.” Though the title evokes the welcoming of a new dawn, the subject of the poem — this thing that is certain to happen to all — is death.

Death is the only experience aside from birth that is shared by all, and it happens every day. Yet it is one of the hardest topics for humans to address.

Some confront this reality of life more than others. On Thursday night, a group of them — including social workers, police officers, EMTs and hospice caregivers — came together to talk about their experiences with it at an event hosted by Arizona State University's Project Humanities, “The Bell That Tolls: A Conversation on Death and Dying.

The public panel discussion kicked off the fall 2018 season of Project Humanities events, which include more discussions on such topics as PTSD, documentary screenings and even a drag performance, as part of the initiative’s effort to bring people together to listen, talk and connect.

“We hear a lot lately about suicide, self-harm, the shooting of unarmed men and women by police officers. … So death is everywhere,” Project Humanities Director and ASU English Professor Neal Lester said. 

“The idea behind this panel was to take the conversation of death and dying — probably the most universal thing we can imagine — and move it into a space where it’s not taboo and look at all the different aspects of it in order to understand what it is to live.”

The notion that one must accept death as part of life in order to fully live was a popular refrain Thursday evening. The Rev. Franklin Evans, medical chaplian and director of emerging ministrites and spiritual formation at Central United Methodist Church in downtown Phoenix, who moderated the discussion, called Americans today “a culture of avoidance of death,” citing a host of euphemisms we use to refer to it, such as kicking the bucket, biting the dust, passing away, departing and being laid to rest. 

Neal lester
Neal Lester (center), director of ASU Project Humanities, speaks with attendees at a discussion called "The Bell That Tolls: A Conversation on Death and Dying." Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Fifteen-year Hospice of the Valley veteran Rose Takyuka-Johnson only proved his point when explaining her history with death, catching herself after saying her parents had “passed away.”

Takyuka-Johnson was born and raised in Uganda, a place where death was considered spooky, surrounded by myths and legends.

“Growing up as child, I was terrified of death,” she said. But after moving to America and becoming a hospice worker, she “learned quickly that it’s not spooky and it can be a beautiful thing.”

It can also be painful. Chandler Fire Department Battalion Chief Keith Welch talked about the “raw emotion” he sees as a first responder. 

“You feel that,” he said. “But you have a job to do. I think we build walls to protect ourselves because if you don’t, it can really affect you long-term.”

Thursday marked the second anniversary of a murder-suicide in which a man drove his estranged wife and their three children into Tempe Town Lake, killing them all. Jeff Glover, Tempe Police Department commander of criminal investigations, said he knew of at least two of the first responders to the scene who were still grappling with PTSD and pointed out that the suicide rate of officers and those in public-safety professions has been on the rise in recent years.

“It’s a cumulative effect,” he said. “They’re dealing with a lot of heavy baggage.”

Fortunately, many police and fire departments nowadays have a team of peers or counselors on hand to help first responders cope and talk through their experiences.

And just being comfortable talking about death is half the battle.

Angelica Lindsey-Ali, a social worker for HIV and AIDS patients, said she was surrounded by death and dying from a very young age, having grown up in Detroit, and that she talks to her kids about it all the time.

“I’m morbid mommy,” she said. “But I want them to be prepared. I told my 5-year-old daughter that one day I’m going to die, that we’re all going to die. She started to cry, but I said it’s OK, I’m here now and I’ll always be with you in your prayers.”

A Muslim, Lindsey-Ali believes in the prophet Muhammad’s teaching that people are asleep, and when they die, they wake up.

There are also practical concerns about the consequences of avoiding the topic of death. If a loved one suddenly dies without a will or any instructions about whether they want to be buried or cremated, for example, family members have to make those decisions themselves. 

Evans recommended Googling “Five Wishes,” a tool that can help to prepare what is called an advanced directive; basically a guide for how you’d like to experience death that can detail preferences from whether to use life-sustaining methods like feeding tubes to what color coffin you want.

In Muslim culture, Lindsey-Ali said, a body must be buried within 72 hours. As a result, she said, “You’ll find 21-year-old Muslims with a will.” But it’s not viewed as morbid. She makes it a priority in her line of work to research how different cultures and religions prefer to handle death, “because we want to make sure people die with dignity and in the way they deem appropriate.”

Evans added, “When we talk about death (and make sure it’s understood how we want to deal with it), it frees us up to enjoy time at the end of life and make those last days really count.”

Top photo: Rose Takyuka-Johnson, a social worker with Hospice of the Valley, speaks at "The Bell That Tolls: A Conversation on Death and Dying." This conversation was made possible by ASU Project Humanities. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Making the most of conservation money

October 18, 2018

New decision-making tool helps align investment with objectives in biodiversity conservation

One of the balancing acts faced by conservation agencies is how to conserve and protect as many species as possible from extinction with limited funding and finite resources. In the U.S., conservation agencies are supported and guided by the Endangered Species Act, the seminal wildlife conservation law signed by President Nixon in 1973 that is currently being reviewed by Congress.

Over time, the number of threatened and endangered species added to the ESA has grown faster than the funding for their recovery. As a result, conservation agencies have struggled in making decisions about how to apply the available resources to the greatest effect.

The result of this inadequate funding has been that while the ESA has brought back many species from the brink of extinction, many of those species remain on “life support,” never fully recovering to independence once again. This adds fuel to the debate over the effectiveness of the ESA.

“The ESA requires that responsible agencies restore listed species to a point where they are secure, self-sustaining components of their ecosystem,” explained Leah Gerber, an Arizona State University professor in the School of Life Sciences and the founding director of the Center for Biodiversity Outcomes. “This is arguably an impossible goal given the significant human impact on species and their habitat, and a budget that is a fraction — roughly 20 percent — of what is needed to recover listed species.” 

california condor
A USFWS worker releases a California condor into the wild. The birds were brought back from the brink in the 1980s thanks to a successful breeding program. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Where to spend those precious funds is a complex issue.

So Gerber, as part of a team of researchers, developed a tool that can be used to help guide conservation scientists to decisions on how to best use limited funds to conserve the greatest number of species. The tool was developed in collaboration with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS) in a two-year project supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center. The tool, called the Recovery Explorer, can be used to evaluate potential consequences of alternative resource allocation strategies. This work was motivated, in part, by past critiques of USFWS recovery allocation processes.

The researchers write about the Recovery Explorer in “Endangered species recovery: A resource allocation problem” in the Oct. 19 issue of Science. Gerber said that Recovery Explorer can be used on a laptop or in a decision-theater type environment. 

For example, it can be used to examine how different values-based inputs (e.g., desires for taxonomic representation or regional parity in funding) influence optimal allocation and recovery outcomes; or the effect of uncertainty in technical inputs (e.g., extinction risk, cost) on funding allocation and outcomes.

“The tool is meant to be exploratory, not prescriptive, allowing decision makers to examine alternative approaches to resource allocation by making the important components of the decision process transparent,” explained Gerber, who also is an ASU senior sustainability scientist.

“In my view, one of the most promising possibilities of the tool is that it can be used to estimate what outcomes will be gained for a given investment,” she added. “For example, if a private donor is willing to give $3 million toward biodiversity conservation, we can provide a list of possible actions that align with the specified objectives.”

Gerber and Michael Runge, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, led the team of conservation scientists from around the world in developing the tool.

“We designed the recovery explorer tool to allow managers to compare the consequences of different allocation approaches,” Runge explained. “We also include options for managers to include objectives related to taxonomic, regional inclusion or other societal values.”

“The Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for leading and catalyzing recovery efforts for more than 1,500 species in the United States,” said Gary Frazer, USFWS assistant director for ecological services. “This is a valuable addition to our tool kit, applying modern decision science to help us consider how best to allocate our limited resources to conserve the many species that are in trouble and need our help.”

kokia cookei
Not all endangered species are fauna: Plants also get recovery plans. The kokia cookei, native to the Hawaiian island Molokai, was thought to be extinct in the 1950s. There are currently only 23 known plants, all existing as grafts. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The methods used by Recovery Explorer are referred to as optimal resource allocations. Other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, have reported success using comparable frameworks, Gerber said. The reason for this is that fully funded recovery plans tend to be more successful than partially funded recovery plans.

“Resource allocation is not about saving some species and letting others go extinct,” the authors state. “It is about finding a way to better order the work so that as many species as possible are recovered given the limited resources available at any moment in time.”

Top photo: Once thought to be extinct, the black-footed ferret is making a resurgence thanks to the efforts of conservation groups. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Journalists visit ASU to discuss 'Religion in the Civic Sphere'

Experts wonder if evangelical women's support for Trump is waning.
NY Times op-ed columnist skeptical that Kavanaugh won't overturn Roe v. Wade.
October 17, 2018

Rousing discussion about evangelical votes, civil religion and more part of series looking at 'Religion, Journalism and Democracy'

Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict interim director John Carlson warned audience members at an event Tuesday evening on Arizona State University's Tempe campus that they’d better be having a late dinner.

“Many of us grew up being told not to talk about religion and politics at dinner, so I’m going to assume we’re all eating late tonight, because that’s exactly what we’re going to do now,” he said. “Tonight, we’ll be exploring the role religion plays in public life — the good, the bad and the ugly — with a focus on the civic sphere.”

Sponsored by the School for Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as part of its “Polarization and Civil Disagreement” lecture series, “Religion in the Civic Sphere” featured New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat; editor-at-large for the National Review Kathryn Jean Lopez; and Chicago-based journalist Amy Sullivan, who has covered religion and politics for TIME, Yahoo and the Washington Monthly. Carlson served as moderator, and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict as a co-sponsor, along with the University of Mary.

The panel discussion was the second of three public talks related to a project spearheaded by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “Religion, Journalism and Democracy” brings together journalists and religious scholars to exchange insights and expertise in a series of workshops, public talks and private luncheons throughout the fall semester.

“What makes this panel — and the center’s yearlong project — so exciting is the opportunity to advance public understanding about the role of religion in public life," Carlson said. "Religion has always been part of democratic life. The question we need to explore are the ways in which it informs or distorts our visions of what it means to be citizens in a republic.”

The third public talk, “A Conversation on Religion, Journalism and Democracy with Daniel Burke,” takes place Monday, Oct. 29, from 7 to 8 p.m. at the Cronkite First Amendment Forum on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The conversation at Tuesday evening’s event was lively, ranging from religious female voting patterns to abortion to civil religion in the Donald Trump White House.

Much of what was discussed was framed by how it might affect the upcoming midterm elections in November. And the “perennial question,” Sullivan said, “is whether Trump is losing evangelical women or not.”

Panelists were uncertain, but Douthat said it’s likely that many evangelical women who voted for Trump did so while “holding their nose,” and that perhaps some of them regret it — something that will be revealed on Nov. 6.

Regarding concerns about freshly appointed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s stance on abortion rights, Douthat pointed out that while pledging her support for him, U.S. Sen. Susan Collins attempted to reassure the public that Kavanaugh would not overturn Roe v. Wade.

Douthat was skeptical: “Somebody is getting taken for a ride here, and we’ll find out who in the next five years.”

When conversation turned to the state of civil religion in the Trump administration, Sullivan shared an anecdote about her 4-year-old son, who made a comment about the president being mean. She felt it demonstrated how even young children are picking up on public sentiment that the current president is lacking in moral character.

Carlson explained civil religion as the guiding principles of the country that include such notions as freedom and human dignity for all.

“This president is not a real strong voice of civil religion,” Carlson argued, citing Trump’s reluctance to halt a billion-dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia despite the country’s apparent sanctioning of the alleged murder of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

What Carlson wanted to know from the panelists was whether we, as a nation, can recover from what he called a seeming moral descent.

“I do think we can recover,” Lopez said. “But it depends on who’s willing to fight for principles and party leadership.”

The discussion concluded with questions from audience members, one of whom posited a question in the same vein, about how a nation so divided can possibly come together again in light of major differences of opinion on political, religious and general life issues.

Lopez’s response was simple but poignant: “We all have something in common.”

Top photo: New York Times columnist Ross Douthat speaks during "Religion in the Civic Sphere: A Panel Discussion," on Tuesday in Old Main. From left, panelists Kathryn Jean Lopez, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute; Douthat; and Chicago-based journalist Amy Sullivan held a lively political discussion moderated by John Carlson, interim director of ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Ross Douthat was also a featured speaker at the lecture, "One Country, Three Faiths: America's Real Religious Divide," hosted by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership on Wednesday, Oct. 17.


Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

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Fighting fake photos, one social stream at a time

October 16, 2018

ASU teams up with tech company to fight fake news ahead of midterm elections

In 1855, an English photographer named Roger Fenton traveled to Crimea to document the war there. British troops dubbed one spot on the Sevastopol peninsula the “valley of death” because it was under constant shelling.

Fenton photographed the spot, a shallow defile littered with cannonballs. The photo (above), titled “Valley of the Shadow of Death,” became famous as one of the first and most well-known images of war.

The problem is it’s faked. Another photo without cannonballs in the image exists. Filmmaker Errol Morris exhaustively researched both images and came to the conclusion Fenton and his assistant tossed cannonballs along the valley so it made a better picture.  

Flash forward to now, when most of the images coming out of Syria were taken not by journalists but individuals. Was the hospital bombed yesterday, as the rebels say, or not, as the regime claims?

How can you tell if you see it in your news feed? A new technology aims to answer that.

Truepic is a tech company focused on image authenticity. The company is launching a first-of-its-kind partnership with Arizona State University's Weaponized Narrative Initiative to push back on disinformation with authenticated images and videos throughout the country ahead of the midterm elections.

When photos are loaded into the Truepic app, their patented technology verifies that the image hasn’t been altered or edited and watermarks it with a time stamp, geocode and other metadata. Truepic stores a version of the photo in its digital vault and assigns it a six-digit code and URL for retrieving it. Truepic also immediately logs the image or video onto the Bitcoin blockchain.

“It will allow you to know whether or not an image you’ve received is valid,” said Braden Allenby, founding co-director of the Weaponized Narrative Initiative. “The reason that’s important is that a lot of disinformation swirls around Ukraine, Syria, areas where combat makes it very difficult for the average person to know what’s real and what’s not.”

As soon as something like a hospital bombing or a chemical attack happens, an immediate swell of disinformation flows out, primarily from Russian sources, Allenby said.

“You have this mass of information — conflictual, difficult and complex — that most people don’t understand,” he said. “If you have this technology, what you can do is you can go to the image itself and find out if it’s valid, if it’s taken at the place it was purported to be taken and at the time it was purported to be taken.”

News operations also can verify the validity of photographs.

“We’re not very far from a time when CGI and voice technology is going to make it possible to have anybody saying anything and nobody except an expert with a lab full of equipment is going to be able to know whether it’s true or false,” Allenby said. “It means you have no way of verifying that what you want to think is true. This technology becomes more important going forward than it is now.”

Both ASU and Truepic are members of the State Department's Global Engagement Center, which is charged with leading the federal government's efforts to counter disinformation.

“It’s not going to be a tech fix, and it’s not going to be an academia fix,” said Mounir Ibrahim, leader of strategic initiatives for Truepic.

Going forward, verification and trust will take something more than an app or a study, Ibrahim said. It will require information consumers to be an active part of the solution.

Top photo: "Valley of the Shadow of Death," Roger Fenton, Crimea, 1855. The famous image came under scrutiny in 2007 when an identical photo was found, one that did not feature the cannonballs on the road. Some have speculated that the additional cannonballs were added to increase the impact of the photo. 

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Staying ahead of cyberattacks

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. Are you on alert?
October 15, 2018

During National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, ASU's Paulo Shakarian shares how he and other researchers are using cybercriminals' weaknesses against them

Cyberattacks make the headlines seemingly every week, with few untouched by the breaches. But there is positive news as researchers take aim at malicious hackers.

In the newest ASU KEDtalk, Paulo Shakarian tells us how mining the dark web can throw light on these cybercriminals and thwart their impending attacks. He likens his research strategy to that of a soldier running reconnaissance on the enemy.

Shakarian, an Arizona State University assistant professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, explains that like all of us, malicious hackers have their limitations and weaknesses. He and his collaborators are taking advantage of both to head off cybercriminals at the pass.

Shakarian's talk is part of the ASU KEDtalks series. Short for Knowledge Enterprise Development talks, KEDtalks aim to spark ideas, indulge curiosity and inspire action by highlighting ASU scientists, humanists, social scientists and artists who are driven to find solutions to the universe’s grandest challenges. Tune in to research.asu.edu/kedtalks to discover how researchers are attacking locust plagues, why baby steps are not the best way to achieve change and more.

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Media projects manager , Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

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Volunteers at inaugural Tempe health fair brave the elements

Even outside downtown PHX, homeless and underserved populations need resources.
Student-led health outreach org provides holistic health resources.
October 14, 2018

Students, faculty and community volunteers bring student-led SHOW health outreach fair to Tempe's underserved community

The gloom of Saturday’s rainstorm did nothing to dampen the spirit of the roughly 30 volunteers gathered at Sixth Street Park in Tempe for the first annual Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) Mill Avenue Health Fair.

For the past five years, the tri-university, student-led organization has held a similar annual outreach fair to provide health services to vulnerable populations in downtown Phoenix. Through field assessments and observations of the Tempe area, director of programs Samantha Matta and the students of SHOW came to realize there was a need there as well.

“We noticed that there was basically the same issue here as in Phoenix, and we already had this whole framework set up, so we thought we may as well use it in Tempe, too,” said Matta, a biochemistry senior at Arizona State University.

health fair
Student volunteers and members from local schools and community organizations set up a series of booths on different topics at the SHOW health fair in Tempe on Saturday. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

To fund expanding the health fair to Tempe, SHOW was awarded an ASU Woodside Community Action Grant. The students reached out to community organizations and city officials to secure volunteers and a location for the event.

“There are people living on the street who are chronically homeless, meaning they’ve been living on the street for many years with chronic, disabling conditions,” said Kim Van Nimwegen, the homeless solutions coordinator for Tempe who was contacted by SHOW to make sure the city’s outreach team helped spread the word about the health fair.

“Any time there is a low barrier of access for people to come as they are and get the kind of help they need, it’s just amazing, and we’re very thankful to the students who have the compassion and care to do this.”

On Saturday, volunteers from a number of community organizations and local schools filled the booths outside Tempe City Hall, offering health assessments, food, clothes and resources.

Beth Walker, a clinical assistant professor at ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, provided blood sugar checks and shared smoking cessation and stress management tools.

“Anything that addresses the needs of the homeless and underserved is a priority for those in health care,” she said. “It’s also a great opportunity for students to interact with other disciplines. It’s very collegial and collaborative.”

Student volunteers from the A.T. Still University physician assistant program who were on hand to offer blood pressure testing spoke of health care’s transition toward a more holistic approach and how participating in the health outreach fair was a great real-world example of that in action.

Just a couple of booths down, students from ASU’s School of Social Work were putting together weatherproof emergency-contact cards to pass out that include numbers for local resources. The cards can be filled out to list an individual’s personal medical needs, such as allergies and medications. They were also handing out sweatshirts, snacks and mindfulness tips.

“Often people living outside or in shelters experience a lot of stress,” said Rachel Rios-Richardson, a social work graduate student at ASU. “But tips for coping skills is something that’s not typically offered to this population — who in my experience are extremely resilient — so we thought this could just add to their toolbox.”

Spirits were high despite the rain for the volunteers and health care workers who helped out at SHOW's Tempe health fair. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Also braving the weather were volunteers from the local nonprofit Women4Women Tempe, who were passing out feminine hygiene products, which are often overlooked and sorely needed among homeless and underserved populations, and students from Midwestern University who were providing nutrition information and information about nearby food resources.

Jordan Walker, 18, who has lived in Tempe for six years, many of them on the street, said the information on how and where to get food and medicine was especially helpful. After visiting each booth, he sat down with the students at the social services table to enjoy a quick meal and some conversation. And despite the wetness and the chill around them, everyone was smiling.

Top photo: (From left) Psychology and biochemistry senior Kayla de Jesus, global health junior Nina Patel and biology junior Pnina Rokhlin pulled out their umbrellas to promote the SHOW health fair on Mill Avenue on Saturday. The student-led fair aimed to help connect homeless populations to health care resources. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now