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Faculty in the News, Jan. 17

NOTE: Faculty, if you are interviewed and quoted by news media, or if your work has been cited, and you have an online link to the article or video, please let us know. Contact us at news@csusb.edu.


CSUSB professor Stuart Sumida comments on latest research on fossil he helped excavate
The Associated Press/U.S. News & World Report
Jan. 16, 2019
 
How did the earliest land animals move? Scientists have used a nearly 300-million-year old fossil skeleton and preserved ancient footprints to create a moving robot model of prehistoric life.
 
Evolutionary biologist John Nyakatura at Humboldt University in Berlin has spent years studying a 290-million-year-old fossil dug up in central Germany's Bromacker quarry in 2000. The four-legged plant-eater lived before the dinosaurs and fascinates scientists "because of its position on the tree of life," said Nyakatura. Researchers believe the creature is a "stem amniote" — an early land-dwelling animal that later evolved into modern mammals, birds and reptiles.
 
Stuart Sumida, a paleontologist at California State University in San Bernardino and part of the initial team that excavated Orobates fossils, called it "an exciting study." Sumida, who was not involved in the robot project, said the work provided "a much more confident window in to what happened long ago. It isn't a time machine, but Nyakatura and colleagues have given us a tantalizing peek."
 
Read the complete article at “Robot recreates the walk of a 290-million-year-old creature.”

CSUSB paleontologist Stuart Sumida discusses latest research on ancient crocodile-like animal
Wired
Jan. 16, 2019
 
Nearly 300 million years ago, a curious creature called Orobates pabsti walked the land. Animals had just begun pulling themselves out of the water and exploring the big, dry world, and here was the plant-eating tetrapod Orobates, making its way on four legs. Paleontologists know it did so because one particularly well-preserved fossil has, well, four legs. And luckily enough, scientists also discovered fossilized footprints, or trackways, to match.
 
The assumption has been that Orobates—a cousin of the amniote lineage, which today includes mammals and reptiles—and other early tetrapods hadn’t yet evolved an “advanced” gait, instead dragging themselves along more like salamanders. But today, in an epically multidisciplinary paper in Nature, researchers detail how they married paleontology, biomechanics, computer simulations, live animal demonstrations, and even an Orobates robot to determine that the ancient critter probably walked in a far more advanced way than was previously believed possible. And that has big implications for the understanding of how locomotion evolved on land, not to mention how scientists study the ways extinct animals of all types got around.
 
So thanks to a heady blend of disparate disciplines, the researchers could essentially resurrect a long-dead species to determine how it may have walked. “Because they have brought digital modeling and robotics and all those things together to bear on this one animal, we can be pretty confident that they've come up with a reasonable suggestion for how it moved,” says paleontologist Stuart Sumida of California State University San Bernardino. He’s got unique insight here, by the way: He helped describe Orobates in the first place 15 years ago.
 
It’s key to also consider where Sumida and his colleagues found the fossil, in Germany. Around 300 million years ago, there was no running water at the dig site. And it’s running water that paleontologists typically rely on to preserve specimens in mud. “This was an utterly terrestrial environment that just happened to flood occasionally,” says Sumida. “And so you get a very unusual snapshot of what life was like not in the water.”
 
The upright gait of Orobates, then, would make sense. “This is a thing that walked around with great facility on the land, and this is exactly what the geology suggested,” says Sumida. What that means, he adds, is that Orobates and perhaps other early land-going species adapted to their environment faster than expected.
 
Read the complete article at “A crocodile-like robot helps solve a 300-million-year mystery.”

CSUSB professor praises latest research on fossil he helped excavate
Science News
Jan. 16, 2019
 
Orobates pabsti lived between 280 million and 290 million years ago, but it was pretty advanced at doing the locomotion.
Using computer simulations, re-created skeletons, fossil trackways and a walking robot dubbed the OroBOT, scientists found that this ancient four-footed creature had a surprisingly efficient gait. The result suggests that developing a more advanced way of walking may not have been as closely linked to the later diversification of tetrapods as once thought, the researchers report January 17 in Nature.
 
Researchers first described O. pabsti in 2004, following the discovery of beautifully preserved fossils of the creature at a site in central Germany known as the Bromacher locality. “The preservation is phenomenal,” says Stuart Sumida, a vertebrate paleontologist at California State University, San Bernardino who was not involved in the new study. “These are things preserved from the tip of the nose to the tip of the tails,” Sumida says. “They are so well preserved that we can generate hypotheses about how they moved.”
 
.” Sumida praises the study’s multipronged design, which allowed the scientists to test their findings in multiple ways, from fossil to digital simulations to robot. Furthermore, he notes, the team’s biomechanical analysis has confirmed something that previously was strongly suspected only by the fossil’s finders: that O. pabsti was indeed a fully terrestrial animal that probably had a relatively modern gait.
 
Sumida and others have demonstrated that amniotes from the same locality were using a range of different walking styles. Some had erect limbs like O. pabsti, some sprawled, and at least one animal walked on two legs. “What these studies are showing is that when amniotes first showed up, they were doing lots of things more quickly than we ever realized,” he says.
 
Read the complete article at “A four-legged robot hints at how ancient tetrapods walked.”

CSUSB’s Astrid Sheil appointed as new dean for Shenandoah University’s business school
Virginia Business
Jan. 16, 2019
 
Shenandoah University announced Wednesday that Astrid Sheil will become the next dean of its Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business.
Sheil’s appointment will take effect July 1.

Sheil will be the sixth dean of the business school and the first woman to serve in the role. Sheil currently is a professor of business and communication at California State University San Bernardino. She also serves as dean’s fellow for program outreach and promotion at the university.
 
Read the complete article at “New dean for Shenandoah’s business school.”

Brian Levin, director of CSUSB’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, comments on state hate crime laws
Vice News
Jan. 16, 2018
 
The nationwide uptick in hate crimes last year has helped to create a renewed sense of urgency around protecting victims. In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in at least six other states have already introduced bills this year that seek to expand existing hate crime laws to cover new groups like homeless people, transgender Americans, and even police — or increase penalties. In 2017, the FBI received reports of more than 7,000 bias or hate crime incidents in 2017 — a 17 percent increase from the previous year, which continues a three-year trend.
 
“We have to remember that while 45 states have hate crime laws on the books, we’re not just looking at the last five,” said Brian Levin, who heads the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. “Some of the others don’t cover gender identity or sexual orientation.”
 
Seventeen states plus Washington, D.C., currently have hate crime laws prohibiting discrimination against gender identity. This year, New York — and even red states like Virginia, Kentucky, and Indiana — want to join them.
 
Corporate America has proven an unlikely force of change for transgender Americans, and lawmakers have started to realize the financial and political incentives to extending hate crime protections to them as a group. North Carolina’s infamous “bathroom bill,” for example, ultimately cost the state $3.76 billion in lost business.
 
“This is now a business question,” Levin said. “In an increasingly competitive market, why would businesses want to be located in a state that doesn’t offer protections for its employees?”
 
Read the complete article at “States are trying to pass hate crime laws that protect trans people, the homeless — and cops.”

Kelly Campbell, CSUSB professor of psychology, interviewed for article about making relationships last
Romper
Jan. 16, 2018
 
People have been trying to figure out what makes a relationship last for about as long as there have been people. But as it turns out, there's no magic trick to making love last. Sometimes it just comes down to work.
 
"Another secret for a long marriage: Both partners need to commit to making it work, no matter what. The only thing that can break up a relationship are the partners themselves," said Kelly Campbell, professor of psychology at California State University, San Bernardino, in Greatist. Although there might not be any great love songs about working on your relationship, it's still the foundation for so much success. Keep this in mind as you review the signs your partner is in it for the long haul. It'll take effort from both of you, but a lasting, healthy relationship is worth the work.
 
Read the complete article at “If your partner says these 7 things, they think of you as their teammate for life.”

Jennifer Alford of geography and environmental studies participates in Trout in the Classroom event
Redlands Daily Facts
Jan. 16, 2019
 
A feature on Loma Linda Academy fourth grade students’ participation in the Classroom Aquarium Education Program, known regionally as Trout in the Classroom, mentioned that Jennifer Alford, an associate professor of geography and environmental studies Cal State San Bernardino, took part in the program.
 
On the day the trout were released at Lytle Creek, Alford had a station on water quality for the students. 
 
Read the complete article at “Fourth-graders at Loma Linda Academy participate in Trout in the Classroom program.” 

These news clips and others may be found at “In the Headlines” at inside.csusb.edu.
 


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