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Public invited to celebrate 50th anniversary of astronomy at UT Oct. 26

The University of Toledo is celebrating a milestone in astronomy: 50 years of education, outreach and celestial exploration.

The public is invited to an open house in honor of the 50th anniversary of UT’s astronomy program, Ritter Observatory and Planetarium, and Brooks Observatory.

The free event will take place Thursday, Oct. 26, at 6:30 p.m. at Ritter Planetarium and will feature a look back through half a century of northwest Ohio’s connection to astronomy.

“One of the joys of astronomy is that people are inherently curious about it, and so sharing our research and our telescopes with the community have been vital in our mission from the beginning,” said Dr. Jillian Bornak, associate lecturer in the Department of Physics and Astronomy and chair of the UT Astronomy 50th Anniversary Committee.

The event will include a presentation of stories submitted by Toledoans of their memories, such as visits to UT for full-dome movies, public viewings with telescopes in the observatories, and special events for Apollo 11 and the impact of the Shoemaker-Levy comet on Jupiter.

The event also will include talks by Dr. Adolf Witt, Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Astronomy, who served on the NASA Universe Working Group, and Dr. Jon Bjorkman, professor of physics and astronomy, who studies stellar winds.

The Ritter facility was dedicated Oct. 13, 1967. It was intended to blend research and public education for the University, local schools and community. The 1-meter-diameter telescope housed on top of the Ritter building is the largest optical telescope in the United States east of the Mississippi River.

UT scientist to discuss importance of rivers for Lake Erie fish Oct. 19

As concerns about algal blooms, fish deaths and invasive Asian carp spawning are under the microscope in Lake Erie tributaries, an aquatic ecologist at The University of Toledo is highlighting the value of healthy rivers for fish in the Great Lakes.

Dr. Christine Mayer, professor in the UT Department of Environmental Sciences, is specifically targeting the Maumee, Sandusky and Detroit rivers in her lecture titled “Swimming Upstream: The Importance of Western Lake Erie’s Rivers to Fish Populations.”


The free, public event will take place Thursday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.

“The rivers and river mouths are a small area compared to the whole lake, but they hold some key habitats for fish, such as the type of environment required for reproduction,” Mayer said. “Some fish species, such as walleye, spawn both in the lake and in the rivers, but having river stocks helps increase the diversity of our ‘fish stock portfolio,’ just like your financial portfolio.”

While the river habitats are important to native fish, Mayer said there also is potential for newly invasive species, such as grass carp, to use rivers for spawning.

“Rivers are highly affected by human alteration of habitat and inputs from the land,” Mayer said. “It is important to try to envision what kinds of conservation or restoration are best suited for the three big rivers entering western Lake Erie to contribute the most benefit to Lake Erie fisheries. Each river has unique issues.”

Mayer’s talk is part of the UT Lake Erie Center’s Public Lecture Series.

UT researcher discovers first grass carp eggs in Maumee River

A researcher at The University of Toledo found the first proof of grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in the Maumee River.

Nicole King, aquatic ecology research technician at the UT Lake Erie Center, collected five grass carp eggs in mid-July just downstream of the I-80 bridge, approximately 11.2 river miles from Lake Erie.

Nicole King held a grass carp captured in early spring.

The U.S. Geological Survey used genetic testing to confirm that three of the eggs collected from the Maumee River are from grass carp. The other two eggs have been retained for possible future analysis.

“These fish have been known to be in the Maumee River area and known to ascend the river during high-flow events, so the fact that they spawn there is not surprising,” said Dr. Christine Mayer, UT professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences.

“While this finding does not indicate the number of grass carp in the Maumee River or Lake Erie, it does underscore the continued need to refine the understanding of where grass carp are currently found so that agencies can take on-the-ground actions,” the U.S. Geological Survey released in a statement.

King also is one of the researchers who found more than 7,000 grass carp eggs earlier this year in the Sandusky River, another tributary to Lake Erie.

A grass carp egg

Last month King participated in a two-day, multi-agency expedition led by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife targeting grass carp in the Sandusky River to assess the ability and best practices to capture grass carp. Crews collected a total of eight adult grass carp using electrofishing boats, gill nets and fyke nets. The action was in preparation for a large-scale, planned response in 2018.

In 2015 in the Sandusky River, UT graduate student Holly Embke was the first researcher to discover grass carp, a type of invasive Asian carp, spawning in a Great Lakes tributary.

“Grass carp feed on vegetation,” King said. “Wetlands are an important habitat for fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians. If these grass carp reach high enough numbers, they could potentially have some serious effects on these wetlands and be dangerous for wetland restoration.”

Although considered a species of Asian carp, wild adult grass carp pose significantly different risks to the Lake Erie ecosystem than bighead carp and silver carp, which are the two invasive Asian carp species of great concern in the Mississippi River basin. Both bighead carp and silver carp consume plankton, and if these species were to make their way into the Great Lakes basin, they would compete for the same source of food that ecologically and economically important native fish species need to survive. Silver carp are well-known for their jumping ability.

Grass carp pose a risk to waterfowl habitat and wetlands, but they do not eat plankton and are unlikely to compete directly with native fish. Grass carp do not jump and are primarily herbivorous.

“One of the goals of carrying out research on grass carp is to provide information about how other Asian carp species might behave if they ever arrive in the Great Lakes,” Mayer said.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the recent discovery of grass carp eggs in the Maumee River “reinforces the need for ongoing coordination of strategic grass carp management actions implemented through member agencies of the Lake Erie Committee.”

Eberly Center for Women highlighting UT researchers

The Catharine S. Eberly Center for Women is focusing on UT researchers with its monthly Lunch With a Purpose program.

The free, public programs take place from noon to 1 p.m. in the Eberly Center for Women Conference Room in Tucker Hall Room 0152.

Listed by date, upcoming UT women faculty members who will discuss their work are:

• Wednesday, Oct. 4 — Dr. Lisa Pescara-Kovach, UT associate professor of educational foundations and leadership, and co-chair of the UT Anti-Bullying Task Force, will discuss, “The Use of Social Media to Recruit College Students as Lone Wolf Terrorists.” Her talk will focus on terrorist organizations that target youth based on information from social media. Pescara-Kovach will provide characteristics of extremist groups and those targeted. She also will share information to help recognize these recruitment efforts.

• Wednesday, Nov. 1 — Dr. Jeanine Refsnider-Streby, UT assistant professor of environmental sciences, will present “Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on Health of Aquatic Wildlife.” She will note how harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie are toxic to humans and pets, and discuss how little is known about the impacts on wildlife populations.

For more information, go to utoledo.edu/centers/eberly, or stop by the Eberly Center in Tucker Hall Room 0168 or call 419.530.8570.

UT algae, health experts reassure residents on safety of drinking water

Water quality experts at The University of Toledo are working with city of Toledo leaders and water treatment plant operators to help keep the public drinking water supply safe.

Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology, and Dr. David Kennedy, assistant professor in the UT Department of Medicine, participated in a news conference Thursday with Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

Watch the video here.

Despite the algal bloom visible in the Maumee River, Bridgeman said, “The Maumee River is over 10 miles away from where we get our drinking water. Our water intake is in Lake Erie. Right now, the water quality at the intake is very good. There is almost non-detect toxins at the intake. And the peak of toxins was over two weeks ago, almost three weeks ago. Toxin levels dropped steadily over the last two weeks.”

“There is a disconnect between the harmful algae that we see and the toxins that the algae produce,” Kennedy said. “Just because you have harmful algal blooms does not mean that they are producing toxin, that they have released toxin, that there is toxin.”

UT celebrates fusion of art and science with Toledo CellulART Sept. 29

Scientists by trade. Artists by association.

Biologists breaking down the building blocks of life to find a cure for cancer and other diseases fuse science and art every day, turning the laboratory into a studio.

This cytoskeletal art was created by Dr. Rafael Garcia-Mata, UT assistant professor of biological sciences.

This week The University of Toledo is hosting a one-day conference to celebrate and explore the creative side of cytoskeletal research.

Toledo CellulART will take place Friday, Sept. 29, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the UT Center for the Visual Arts, a building designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry and attached to the Toledo Museum of Art.

“Much of what we do is microscopy-based, which takes a certain level of artistic expertise,” said Ashtyn Zinn, UT PhD student researcher in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Zinn organized the free, public event with the help of a grant from the American Society for Cell Biology. She works in the cancer research laboratory of Dr. Rafael Garcia-Mata, UT assistant professor of biological sciences.

Toledo CellulART’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Keith Burridge, Kenan Distinguished Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He will speak at 3:30 p.m.

“Dr. Burridge is a modern scientist and pioneer in the field of cytoskeletal research,” Garcia-Mata said. “Among a very long list of seminal contributions, he provided key early insights into the mechanisms of cell attachment and adhesion as one of the very first to characterize focal adhesions and the contractile nature of stress fibers. He discovered and characterized many of the key molecular components of the complex now known as the adhesome.”

The event also will feature a talk and artwork by Dr. Dylan Burnette, assistant professor of cell and developmental biology at Vanderbilt University, at 1:30 p.m.

Oral and poster presentations by students and faculty are scheduled throughout the day. Pieces by past winners of the Nikon Small World Challenge will be on display at 4:30 p.m.

Registration is required for the event, which brings together the regional art and scientific communities. In addition to UT faculty and students, researchers from 15 other universities will attend the conference from Michigan, Indiana and Illinois, including the University of Michigan, Notre Dame and the University of Chicago.

For more information, go to https://toledocellulart.wixsite.com/home.

German physicist to speak at Lake Erie Center on measuring freshwater toxicity using algae, water fleas

A physicist from Germany who invented a water quality instrument used by University of Toledo scientists for Lake Erie algal bloom research is giving a lecture at UT titled “Measuring Toxicity in Freshwater Using Algae and Water Fleas.”

The free, public event will be Thursday, Sept. 21, at 7 p.m. at the UT Lake Erie Center, 6200 Bayshore Road in Oregon.


Dr. Christian Moldaenke, researcher and founder of the German company bbe Moldaenke, has been in Toledo since mid-July using a new device in western Lake Erie to determine how well the instrument can measure the condition of harmful algal blooms and how blooms react to water treatment chemicals.

“Christian Moldaenke’s company produces some of the best water quality instruments in the world,” said Dr. Tom Bridgeman, UT algae researcher and professor of ecology. “Its fluoroprobe, which is capable of quantifying algae in the water and distinguishing between different types of algae, is the Cadillac of algal probes.”

Moldaenke is working with Bridgeman to advance research into how to protect the water supply.

“My presentation will be about measuring and understanding the water and its creatures,” Moldaenke said. “I will demonstrate how water fleas react to toxins and how we can use their movement to determine blue-green algae in order to achieve better treatment for cyanotoxins.”

Bridgeman said the new devices Moldaenke is testing this algal bloom season in Lake Erie may be capable of easily detecting when algal cells are starting to rupture, which would be a powerful tool for water utility managers to minimize toxin release.

Physicists compare drop in power output from UT solar panels during eclipse to cloudy day

While The University of Toledo experienced a solar eclipse last month, the solar panels on Main Campus and Scott Park Campus lost an “effectively inconsequential” amount of power production as the moon obscured as much as 84 percent of sunlight in the middle of the day.

“Much larger deviations result from daily or seasonal weather events,” according to a team from the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy that modeled and analyzed power output during the eclipse Aug. 21.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus lost an “inconsequential” amount of electrical energy generation due to the solar eclipse Aug. 21, according to UT researchers.

The solar photovoltaic array at the R1 Building along Dorr Street lost 33.5 kilowatt-hour (kWh), approximately as much electricity as the average single home in the U.S. consumes in one day.

“This is the typical production for a partly to mostly cloudy day,” Dr. Randy Ellingson, UT professor of physics, said.

The solar photovoltaic array on Scott Park Campus, which is 35 times larger than the R1 array on Main Campus and generates approximately 1,300,000 kWh of electrical energy during a typical year, lost approximately 1,170 kWh of electrical energy generation due to the eclipse.

“The eclipse resulted in the loss of less than 0.1 percent of annual production,” Ellingson said.

The UT team, which includes graduate student David Raker, will share its monitoring data with MDA Information Systems LLC, a Maryland company working to provide forecasts to predict the temporary shortfall from solar arrays up to three days in advance to help grid operators make changes to meet electricity needs for customers.

Toledo is in the path of totality for the solar eclipse in 2024.

UT seeks Toledoans’ planetarium memories to celebrate 50th anniversary of astronomy program

I teach astronomy at The University of Toledo, and I’m known as “Prof. B.” My job is part technical and part inspirational. The excitement of the recent, historic solar eclipse touched hearts and sparked the imaginations of generations of families across the country who crowded streets to witness something powerful in the universe.

Here at UT’s Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory, we also are planning to celebrate a major milestone and are in need of the public’s help to share our rich history of education, outreach and celestial exploration. Friday, Oct. 13, will mark the 50th anniversary of the University’s astronomy program, Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory. We’re in search of your stories and memories to better tell our story.

Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory will celebrate their 50th anniversary Friday, Oct. 13.

As a child, my first visit to a planetarium involved marveling at one of the old “star ball” projectors, but since then I have enjoyed being transported to black holes and other worlds with increasingly beautiful full-dome movies. These visits certainly had an impact on me, for I went on to earn my doctorate in astronomy.

The Ritter Planetarium and Brooks Observatory are woven into the tapestry of this region. What do you remember from your visit?

In the 1920s, astronomy courses were offered through the Math Department at UT, so Professor Helen Brooks would bring students to her house to look through her personal telescope.

The Ritter facility was dedicated Oct. 13, 1967, with Brooks as the first planetarium director. The Brooks Observatory located in the dome on top of McMaster Hall was later named in honor of Brooks and her late husband, Elgin. The 1-meter-diameter telescope housed on top of the Ritter building is the largest optical telescope in the United States east of the Mississippi River.

The Ritter facility was deliberately planned to blend research and public education for the University, local schools and the community. One of the joys of astronomy is that people are inherently curious about it, and so sharing our research and our telescopes with the community have been vital in our mission from the beginning.

Helen Brooks died in 2011, two years before I came to Toledo. I never had the chance to meet her, but some of you did. I would like to learn more about your experiences. Did you attend any of the special events, such as for Apollo 11 and the impact of the Shoemaker-Levy Comet on Jupiter? Have you taken your family to experience programs in the planetarium or public viewings with telescopes in the observatories?

Additionally, with your permission, I would like to share your stories through a poster presentation at the Astronomy Open House at Ritter Planetarium Thursday, Oct. 26, to show the strong connection this community has for astronomy.

Please send your stories to me via email at  jillian.bornak@utoledo.edu or mail a letter to The University of Toledo Department of Physics and Astronomy at Mail Stop 111, 2801 W. Bancroft St., Toledo, OH 43606.

I look forward to reading your stories. Keep looking up!

Bornak is an associate lecturer in the Physics and Astronomy Department and chair of the UT Astronomy 50th Anniversary Committee. 

Math lectures slated for next week

Dr. Miroslav Engliš of the Mathematics Institute at the Czech Academy of Sciences in Prague, will visit campus for the Shoemaker Lecture Series, which will take place Monday through Wednesday, Sept. 11-13.

Each talk will begin at 4 p.m.


Engliš’ first lecture, “An Excursion Into Berezin-Toeplitz Quantization and Related Topics,” will be held Monday, Sept. 11, in Gillham Hall Room 5300.

“This talk will discuss an elegant quantization procedure that is based on methods from analysis of several complex variables,” he said. “Further highlights will include connections to Lie group representations or related developments for harmonic functions.”

The second lecture titled “Arveson-Douglas Conjecture and Toeplitz Operators” will take place Tuesday, Sept. 12, in Memorial Field House Room 1270.

“A basic problem in multivariable operator theory is finding appropriate ‘models’ for tuples of operators. For the case of commuting tuples, this is resolved by a nice theory developed by William Arveson, and the question of the size of the commutators of the model operators with their adjoints is the subject of the Arveson-Douglas conjecture,” Engliš said. “Though the latter is still open in full generality at the moment, we give a proof of the conjecture in a special case, using methods verging on microlocal analysis and complex analysis of several variables.”

The final lecture on “Reproducing Kernels and Distinguished Metrics” will be held Wednesday, Sept. 13, in Gillham Hall Room 5300.

“I will discuss the questions of existence and uniqueness of balanced metrics on noncompact complex domains, where some answers are yet unknown nowadays even for the simplest case of the unit disc,” Engliš said.

His free, public talks are made possible by the Richard Shoemaker Funds and are sponsored by the Mathematics and Statistics Department, as well as the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.

For more information, go to math.utoledo.edu/shoemaker.html.