Spotlight on Grants

JSU Recognized as Top Producer of Fulbright Scholars

The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs has named Jacksonville State University a top producing institution of Fulbright Scholars. One of the most prestigious awards in academia, the Fulbright Scholars program is the US government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

JSU received more Fulbright awards in 2016-2017 than any other university in Alabama and was among the top producers in the nation, with the following three recipients: 

Franciai Guillermo Francia – A computer science professor, Francia is a recipient of a Fulbright Cyber Security Award from the US-UK Fulbright Commission. He is in London, England, for the spring term, working with a group of prominent cyber security experts at Imperial College to perform research on critical infrastructure security. He is part of the first wave of American researchers traveling to the UK as part of the 2015 Obama-Cameron bilateral agreement to strengthen cyber security research collaboration between the US and UK.
lemmons Russel Lemmons – A distinguished professor of history, Lemmons will travel to the Ludwig-Maximilian University of Munich in Germany over the next two springs to research the life of a Jesuit priest, Rupert Mayer, who opposed National Socialism. He plans to spend a great deal of time in the Jesuit archives and the Diocesan archives in Munich. The results of his research will be seen in a biography he is writing about Mayer.
peck Ellen Peck – An assistant professor of drama, Peck is both a theatre practitioner and a musical theatre historian specializing in the early 20th century. She is currently using her Fulbright award to teach classes in musical theatre and American theatre history at Alexandru Ioan Cuza University in Romania.

“JSU’s participation in the Fulbright Scholars program has enabled our faculty to experience international cultures, engage in scholarship with an expanded world view, teach in universities around the world, and bring those perspectives back to our campus,” said JSU Provost Rebecca Turner. “For a campus our size, located in a small town in rural Alabama, we are proud of our global citizenship emphasis and thank the Fulbright program for assisting us in fulfilling our mission.”

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 370,000 participants – chosen for their academic merit and leadership potential – with the opportunity to exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Over 1,100 US college and university faculty and administrators, professionals, artists, journalists, scientists, lawyers and independent scholars are awarded Fulbright grants to teach and/or conduct research each year in over 125 countries throughout the world. 

JSU Professor Appointed to Commission by Governor

carterDr. Robert Carter, JSU professor of Biology, has been appointed to the Alabama Commission on Tick-Borne Illness by Gov. Robert Bentley.

According to the bill, the commission “is created in order to coordinate research on the prevention of tick borne illness in the state.”

In addition to coordinating research, the commission seeks to “make suggestions for the treatment of and reduction and eradication of tick-borne illness in Alabama.”

“Tick-borne diseases are poorly understood health issues,” stated Carter. “There are many people that are left untreated or with improper treatment due to the complexities of understanding disease ecology. I hope that I can contribute to a healthier Alabama by participating in the Tick-borne Disease Commission.”

His first meeting with the commission will be at the end of December.

At JSU, Carter serves as the director of the Center for Tick-Borne Disease Ecology, which provides an avenue for research and education in multidisciplinary areas of tick behavior, ecology, host range effects, microbiology and molecular technique development. The Center facilitates collaboration and partnerships within JSU and across the Southeastern region. 

JSU Biologist Receives Grant to Study Invasive Florida Snail


by Katie Kline

Lori Tolley-Jordan, an assistant professor of biology at Jacksonville State University, has been awarded a $25,000 grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to study an invasive snail species in Florida waters.

Tolley-Jordan, who is referred to as “Dr. TJ” by her students and colleagues, will partner with Michael Chadwick of Kings College in London and Jessica Wooten of Centre College in Danville, Ky. to study the Asian red-rimmed melania snail. This species of snail is what biologists refer to as “invasive,” “non-native” or “introduced,” because it migrated to America from another place – in this case, from Southeast Asia. Invasive species have a reputation for being dangerous to humans or native plants and animals. Snails, however, don’t seem to be a particularly fierce creature.

“Many invasive species are not ‘dangerous’ or harmful to people directly,” explained Tolley-Jordan, “but oftentimes an invasive species can really reek havoc on an ecosystem as they compete with other native species, disrupt food availability for other species, bring in pathogens that make other species sick, or all of the above. In the case of the red-rimmed melania, this snail is host to about 50 different flatworm parasite species, including several human pathogens.”

The red-rimmed melania is a warm-water species that has flourished in the tropical waters of Florida, possibly due to the accidental or intentional introduction of these snails into waterways through aquarium dumpings.  

“They are very common now in Florida waters,” said Tolley-Jordan. “Interestingly, it only takes one snail to establish a population, as they are female clonal. We very much stress to the public to not dump aquaria into waterways.”

Tolley-Jordan and Chadwick will travel to Florida for two weeks in September to collect specimens from freshwater bodies of water and ditches along the state’s east and west coasts. They will travel from Tampa to Miami before ending up in Jacksonville, Fla. They will study the species’ distribution as well as whether certain habitats support the growth of dangerous parasites. The individual snails and any parasites they harbor will be frozen and sent to Wooten in Kentucky, where she and two Centre College students will conduct genetic analysis on the specimens.

Tolley-Jordan and her colleagues hope to determine if habitat plays a role in the snails developing harmful parasites, determine the exact parasites that infect Florida red-rimmed melania and determine whether the influx of the snails in Florida is due to natural dispersion or human disturbance. The team will then create a pamphlet that can be distributed by state and federal agencies to the public at state and national parks and areas with water access. This pamphlet will warn residents and visitors about potential dangers of exposing themselves or their pets to infected water sources.

Tolley-Jordan is an aquatic ecologist from Texarkana, TX who has been at JSU since January 2011. She holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Arkansas, a master’s in biology from Texas State University and a Ph.D. in biology with a concentration in aquatic biology from the University of Alabama. 

NSF and NSA Grant to Support Cyber Security Training for Teachers

JSU was awarded a $98K grant from the National Security Agency and National Science Foundation to create a cyber security training camp for middle and high school teachers.

Twenty-five science, mathematics, computers, technology and social studies teachers will be accepted into the one-week program, to be held on campus in the Summer of 2017. Registration and participation in the program are completely free.

The program is under the direction of Dr. Guillermo Francia, III, with co-directors Dr. Gretchen Richards and Dr. David Thornton. Jay Snellen is serving as senior instructor. 

Dr. Guillermo Francia, III
Dr. David Thornton
Dr. Gretchen Richards
Dr. Gretchen Richards
Jay Snellen

JSU Biologists Using DNA Research to Search for Endangered Fish


By Katie Cline

JSU biologists Chris Murdock and Mark Meade have been awarded a $36,000 grant by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to conduct surveys of threatened and endangered wildlife in Northeast Alabama. Over the next year, they will collect environmental DNA – or eDNA – to look for the presence of two fish species of national concern: the blue shiner and the holiday darter.

“This project is part of a nationwide effort to assess the status of threatened and endangered aquatic species, and we can't be more excited,” Meade said. 

Murdock and Meade have developed species-specific probes to search for the endangered blue shiner and the holiday darter, which are believed to be present in the Coosa River and its many tributaries. JSU researchers, along with graduate and undergraduate students, will collect water samples on Little River, the Cahaba River, Choccolocco Creek and various other major systems in the region using eDNA research. By analyzing eDNA samples collected from water, individual animals do not have to be captured or even seen in order to determine the species’ presence in an environment. 

Data from the study will be used to develop management plans to help ensure the longevity of the species. DNA collected from sites will be also be saved and stored at JSU. The stored DNA samples provide a time-period snapshot of current species at the sites and can be useful in future studies examining changes in populations over time.

“JSU's reputation of contributing to environmental research and education in the Southeast is known, but we often fly under the radar compared to other research institutions,” Meade said. “However, the partnerships between JSU and state and federal agencies are gaining steam, and JSU has been slated for continued funding for future similar projects.”