Youth Oasis Children’s Shelter communication research

For an entire semester I’ve had an opportunity to participate in a public relations service learning class where I partnered with students to create a PR firm that put on a campaign for a nonprofit in the Baton Rouge area. We were assigned the nonprofit Youth Oasis Children’s Shelter. We conducted research on the nonprofit’s past success in communication and awareness.

Our research can be found in our Youth Oasis Research Report

In order to collect primary research, we created an online survey that we sent to individuals in our desired key public across Baton Rouge.

From the survey, we attempted to discover the awareness and attitudes Youth Oasis’s key publics have towards the nonprofit, as well as what people think of when they hear “Youth Oasis.”

Our results have shown us that most people are way off-base when it comes to what the nonprofit is and what it does. We decided that we need to focus on the nonprofits mission in order to correct those views.

The following word clouds depict what the public thinks of when they hear “Youth Oasis” as well as what nonprofits come to mind according to our research.

Our research proves that the Youth Oasis Children’s shelter lacks the necessary community awareness in order for it to thrive. Upon receiving these findings, we developed a fundraiser event to increase its awareness and funding for the shelter in hopes that its image and message would be accepted in the community.


We raised a total of $5,700 for the nonprofit and had more than 200 people attend the event. We plan to send a post event survey to measure the effect on awareness the event created.

To learn more about the campaign and event success visit our blog post titled, “Thrive’s overall experience and service-learning.” You can watch our group’s evaluation video here.



While in I was Houston for the Thanksgiving holidays, I decided to go to the Museum of Natural Science to view the documentary ROBOTS 3D. ROBOTS 3D is about the progress of humanoid robots that are designed to move, see, and even process information like humans. I live tweeted the documentary then created a storify to give a full review of the film.

Science in our National Parks: 5 places where, and why, scientists work

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

It’s ironic that the Great Smoky Mountains are a place of great mystery. With over 8 million visitors annually it’s the most visited national park. It’s free to enter, close to major metropolitan areas such as Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC, and has several highways that traverse it. Dolly Parton even built a theme park right next door.  Yet most of the park remains undiscovered, and even the most seasoned visitors know that its 700 square miles is a stronghold for diverse and ancient habitats. The park is one of the last remaining memories of what the east coast was like before colonization and industrialization. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a holdout in one of the world’s oldest mountain ranges, even though it too was heavily deforested by the lumber industry and settled by pioneers. The Appalachian mountains were once comparable to the size and grandeur of India’s Himalayan Mountains. Though the ceaseless influence of time and human development has changed the park’s nature, approximately 30,000 to 80,000 living in the Smokies remain undiscovered. With only a tenth of the species having been discovered, this well-known park is still something of a mystery to most people.


Many scientists who work in the Great Smoky Mountains focus on the All Taxa Biological Inventory, which is designed to record all the species in the park in a short time period. As one of the world’s most biodiverse places, the Smokies necessarily has the most to lose. Cataloging species is an important aspect of the park’s natural resources management directive. Other scientists address the park’s problematic invasive species.  Native flora, such as hemlock trees, are threatened by invasive insects like the wooly adelgid. Fungal diseases such as White Nose Syndrome in bats have resulted in indefinite closure to caves within the park. Environmental factors such as acid rain and ozone pollution also pose major problems to biodiversity by changing the nature of ancient habitats. Ecologists, biologists and many other professions must work around the clock to protect and preserve the park.

As the most visited park in America, the Smokies are also important for contributing to scientific literacy and learning. I remember first-hand visiting the Tremont Institute when I was in middle school to learn about aquatic habitats and how salamanders are affected by acidic rain and human pollution in natural streams. In retrospect, the outreach performed by scientists at the Tremont Institute and the Appalachian Highlands Science and Learning Center contributed to my academic path towards environmental science as a graduate student. As a frequent visitor to the park, and native of Knoxville, TN, I am very grateful for the Smoky Mountains and the scientists who work there. To learn more about the park, visit this link.

Science in our National Parks: 5 places where, and why, scientists work

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a park ranger? Few people realize that the National Park Service is responsible for more than just picking up trash and collecting fees. To illustrate this point, I decided to use my blog posts to illustrate the many ways that park service scientists are applying scientific knowledge to protect, preserve, and understand the public’s natural and cultural resources.


Glacier National Park

Glacier NP is located in 1,500 square-miles of mountains, forests and pristine lakes near Montana’s border with Canada. One of Glacier’s many features is solitude, and with over 700 miles of isolated trails, there’s no shortage of it. Solitude, however, is a relative term. Glacier’s ecosystems are a bio-diverse memory of what the American West looked like before human settlement. Glacier National Park is home to one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states.  Despite harsh winters and extreme altitudes, life exists both above and beneath the park’s characteristic tree-lines: the alpine edge of the forest biome where trees cannot pioneer but microorganisms and other forms of life thrive. For scientists, Glacier NP’s isolation results in a fresh environment that is almost as pure and natural as one can expect in the modern world.  However, this apparent protection from the direct effects of human civilization gives way to the diffuse threat of climate change.

Climate change is a major threat to Glacier NP. The park’s characteristic glaciers are melting at an astonishing rate, and ecosystems are shifting to adapt as a result. Management strategies to protect existing macro and micro-ecology entails understanding the parks unique landscape. Park rangers often partner with scientists from the United States Geological Survey to study Glacier’s mineral resources, archaeology, geology and ecology. Scientists also contribute to public education in order to address the diffuse threat of climate change. The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center is one of nearly 20 nationwide facilities contributing to scientific literacy and communication of natural resource management in national parks. Learn more here about the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center.

Since 1910, Glacier National Park has lost nearly 67% of its glaciers. Scientists who work with the National Park Service focus on many topics, including geography, ice patch archaeology and paleoecology. Ice patch archaeology and paleoecology are particularly important given anthropogenic threats to the park’s iconic landscape ushered forward by human-induced climate change. Glacier’s highland climate may appear to be made up of barren glaciers and moraines and isolated alpine peaks, but these almost invisible ecosystems are home to many forms of biotic and abiotic resources. As glaciers disappear and the highland climate shifts to adapt, the park may lose biodiversity. Abiotic resources such as glaciers affect animals disproportionately, and amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, reptiles, insects and other forms of biota will respond differently.  To learn more about Glacier National Park’s cultural and natural resources, and the scientific studies being carried out there, visit this link.

Math All Around

One of the biggest concerns when people learn math is that they think they will never use it or say they don’t use it every day. Even if they don’t think they’re using math every day, they might be seeing math without even noticing.

Fractals are geometric features like circles or squares but exhibit a special property: self-similarity, or the whole has the same shape as one or more of the parts. These geometric features are self-similar patterns on infinite scales, meaning that the same patterns continue to reemerge when we repeatedly “zoom in” on the pattern. Numerous examples in mathematics include the elaborate geometric features of the Sierpinski Triangle (seen below), the Koch Snowflake and the Mandelbrot Set, which can be created by a computer calculating a simple formula over and over.


Sierpinski Triangle (Wiki Commons)

But fractals are more than just a mathematical theory. There are many examples of fractals that appear in nature and elsewhere in our daily lives, including art. For instance, self-similar patterns frequently appear in the musical structure of songs. In nature, one of the most commonly discussed examples of fractals is romanesco, a vegetable closely related to broccoli and cauliflower. In fact, romanesco shares a repeating pattern where the number of spirals on a head of romanesco is tied closely with the Fibonacci sequence.


Romanesco (Wiki Commons)

The Fibonacci sequence is a string of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55,…) that continues forever following the rule that the next number in the sequence is created by adding the two previous numbers. For example, 0+1=1, 1+1=2, 1+2=3, and so on. This famous sequence of numbers appears elsewhere in geometry. When squares with the widths of these Fibonacci numbers are placed next to each other, it creates an aesthetically pleasing spiral giving rise to the Golden Ratio (approximately 1.61803398874989484820…). This ratio can be seen in examples of nature like romanesco or in architecture like the Parthenon.

We may not consciously use math every day, but math is all around us, and we see it a lot more than we think.


By David Fertitta



Nautilus shell and the golden ratio (Wiki Commons)

Caffeine and Anxiety


Photo by David Fertitta

Finals week is rapidly approaching at Louisiana State University (LSU). Students will be staying up late studying and overindulging on caffeine-filled drinks to help cram for their exams in an attempt to maintain or achieve good grades. The most notorious of these beverages being consumed on college campuses are coffee and energy drinks.

As any avid coffee drinker can attest, starting the day with a cup of coffee is a necessity. After all, caffeine has been shown to improve alertness, reduce fatigue, and elevate mood. But what happens when we keep reaching for more and more caffeine throughout the day or to help stay up for a late night study session?

As it turns out, excessive intake of coffee can be counterproductive for studying. Caffeine acts to block adenosine receptors in the brain and increase activity in the central nervous system, which is why caffeine is known as a stimulant. However, when too much is consumed, this stimulant can cause issues with sleep deprivation and increased levels of anxiety. Caffeine can remain in the body for several hours and affect both falling asleep and sleep patterns. Sleeplessness can then cause even more stress and feelings of anxiety, all of which can negatively affect academic performance.

When preparing for finals, remember to keep an adequate sleep schedule a part of the study plan. This may help prevent feeling the need for that extra cup of coffee. While there is no reason to completely give up coffee (I know I won’t anytime soon), monitoring caffeine intake is important, and caffeine levels shouldn’t exceed about 400mg per day, which is a little more than 2 or 3 cups of coffee.


By David Fertitta

Winston, A. P., Hardwick, E., & Jaberi, N. (2005). Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 11(6), 432-439.