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Faculty Findings

Protecting Marine LifePut on Your Rose-Colored GlassesAn Order to Your Order? • Relationship GoalsRising Tides = Rising Costs for California



Protecting Marine Life

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Off the coast of Thailand, Associate Professor of Geography Ellen Hines is looking out for marine mammals -- literally and figuratively.


"If you don’t know how many animals there are or where they prefer to live, it’s difficult to conserve and manage those populations," Hines says. "You don’t know what’s at stake."


Her latest project focuses on the blunt-nosed Irrawaddy dolphin, a species that faces accidental capture in commercial fishing nets, among other threats. For each field survey, Hines and local researchers travel the Gulf of Thailand, recording the number of animals they observe per kilometer and estimating the angle of each sighting and the distance from the boat. Captured on GPS devices, their data is used to calculate statistically viable estimates of the local animal population.


"The good news is that we are seeing more animals than we expected," says Hines, whose surveys suggest a local population of about 1,200 dolphins.


While her Thai colleagues interview residents about their fishing practices and atti- tudes toward conservation, Hines and her team talk to village councils, schools and community organizations about the species in their waters, informing them of the dangers of pollution and fishing nets.

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Put on Your Rose-Colored Glasses

"We found that highly extraverted people are happier with their lives because they tend to hold a positive, nostalgic view of the past and are less likely to have negative thoughts and regrets," says Ryan Howell, assistant professor of psychology, discussing a study he coauthored with Jia Wei Zhang (B.A., ’11). "People high on the neurotic scale essentially have the exact opposite view of the past and are less happy as a result. "The study was published in the June issue of Personality and Individual Differences.

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An Order to Your Order?

For decades, menu designers have assumed that a diner’s eye wanders, drawn to highlighted items and then hovering over a "sweet spot" just above the midline of a right-hand page. Photo of girl reading menuRestaurants use boxes, colored fonts and that sweet spot to nudge diners in the direction of certain dishes, says Sybil Yang, an assistant professor in hospitality and tourism management.


Except ... is that really how diners read menus? "I could only go from my own experience," Yang recalls, "so I was thinking, ‘am I just weird?’ Because I don’t read [a menu] that way."


Yang tested the conventional wisdom using retinal–tracking video to record the eye movements of volunteers reading a mock menu. Her study suggests that diners read menus sequentially like a book and spend slightly more time reading the entrées -- perhaps because they first choose an entrée and then build a meal around it.


Yang’s study didn’t reveal any sweet spots, but she did find a possible sour spot: the lower left corner, where readers tended to look for the least amount of time.

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Relationship Goals

Assistant Professor of Sexuality Studies David Frost has compared the relationship goals of lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals with those of heterosexuals. Photo of two clapsed hands wearing rainbow braceletsHis findings, published in the June issue of the Journal of Social Issues, "challenge stereotypes about the role of intimacy in LGB relationships," he says. Regardless of sexual orientation, the participants in his study rated their relationship goals as highly meaningful and valuable."This goes against the commonly held myth that intimacy and romantic relationships aren’t as important for LGB people as they are for heterosexuals," Frost says. What did differ between the two groups? The LGB participants perceived significantly more barriers to achieving their intimacy goals than heterosexuals and felt that their goals were less valued by family and friends.

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Rising Tides = Rising Costs for California

Sea level rise could cost California beach towns hundreds of millions in tourism revenue during the next century, according to a state-commissioned study conducted by SF State economists.

The study examined the cost of coastal storm damage and erosion, both of which are expected to increase as sea levels rise, and also forecasted the economic impact of sea level rise on tourism as eroded beaches lose their appeal to visitors and their ability to sustain wildlife.

The results suggest that visitor hot spots like Venice Beach could lose up to $440 million in tourism revenue between now and 2100 if sea levels rise by 4.6 feet, a projection based on recent scientific studies. At San Francisco’s Ocean Beach, accelerated erosion could cause up to $540 million worth of damages.

"In California, our coastline is one of our most valuable natural resources," says Philip King, associate professor of economics. "More than 80 percent of Californians live in coastal communities, and California’s beaches support local economies and critical natural species."

King and co-authors Aaron McGregor and Justin Whittet hope the findings will elicit an appropriate response. "Seawalls have become the de facto policy for dealing with erosion and sea level rise," King says, "but our findings suggest that other policies such as beach nourishment or where possible, allowing the coastline to retreat, could be more cost effective."

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