Tree Love on Arbor Day

Hug a tree and plant one, too! It’s Arbor Day — a global holiday where communities are encouraged to plant trees — on the last Friday of April. The holiday originated in a village in Spain, Mondonedo, in 1594 and first was celebrated in America on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska. The commemorative day promotes tree planting as well as environmental awareness and responsibility.

Dr. K. Greg Murray, Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray and Dr. Jianhua Li are Hope College biologists who have expert insights about a tree’s worth to our environment’s well-being.

Dr. K. Greg Murray and Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray

Dr. Murray, the T. Elliot Weier Professor of Plant Science, has broad interests in community ecology and evolutionary biology, especially as they pertain to plant and animal interactions.  He and colleague Dr. Kathy Winnett-Murray, professor of biology, have also been tracking the ecological shifts in a West Michigan hemlock forest that is undergoing a potentially devastating insect infestation.

Dr. Jianhua Li

Dr. Li, associate professor of biology, uses data from anatomy, chemistry and molecular biology to study plant groups such as conifers, maples, lilacs and privets, and witch-hazels. He has written about The Tree of Life: China Project, for the Journal of Systematics and Evolution, a project that investigates the evolutionary biology of vascular plants in China. Li is also especially well-versed in Northern Hemisphere plant life, having served as a senior research scientist at the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University for 10 years before coming to Hope.

Earth Day

Climate change. Oceanic garbage patches. Deforestation. Endangered species. Oh, the environmental woes we have in the only place we call home.

Let’s talk about creation care then, especially for Earth Day.

Earth Day is celebrated every April 22. First commemorated in 1970, Earth Day now includes events in more than 193 countries, which are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

For Dr. Steven Bouma-Prediger, Earth Day is every day. He is the Leonard and Marjorie Maas Professor of Reformed Theology at Hope, and he oversees the environmental studies minor and chairs the Campus Sustainability Advisory Committee, also known as the Green Team.

As an environmental theologian and a strong proponent of sustainability efforts locally and nationally, Bouma-Prediger actually prefers the term “earthkeeping” since it implies that God and faith have been invited into ecological conversations. “Being a (earth)keeper, in the biblical sense, means being someone who serves and protects,” he says. He has written six books and numerous papers on the subject. He also annually teaches “Ecological Theology and Ethics” in the Adirondack Park of upstate New York.

IRS Tax Filing Deadline

April 15 marks the end of the 2018 tax filing season and is the final day to submit 2018 tax returns. For many, taxes are an unwanted chore made bittersweet by the promise of a refund. Or not. This year’s changes in the tax code have created headaches for taxpayers as unexpected payouts are being discovered by many.

Sheri Geddes, associate professor of accounting, primarily teaches individual taxation, corporate taxation, and managerial accounting at Hope. Her research interests are retirement preparation and financial literacy. Geddes is able to address the changes that have occurred for the 2018 tax filing season and how those changes affect individual taxpayers.

World Parkinson’s Day

April 11 is World Parkinson’s Day, dedicated to raising awareness and support for people who have the disease. Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system, with tremors being the most recognizable symptom. Over the years, researchers have found that dopamine acts as a messenger between Parkinson’s patients’ brain cells and enables them to complete everyday behaviors like moving, eating, and learning.

Dr. Leah Chase, associate professor of biology and chemistry, is one of those researchers conducting Parkinson’s disease investigations at the cellular level. In fact, looking into the brain’s biological and chemical flaws, especially as they pertain to Parkinson’s, has driven her neurological research agenda in Schaap Science Center for the past 15 years. She and her student research team made a first-time discovery about how dopaminergic brain cells naturally protect themselves against oxidative stress, a known problem in the cells of Parkinson’s sufferers. “Our research is the basic science needed in order for somebody, someday to fix the problem with a new drug,” Chase said.

March Madness Tips Off

March Madness — aka the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament — begins on March 17 with Selection Sunday and concludes April 8 with the Final Four. The women’s tournament coincides closely with those dates as well. Office bracket pools will begin and result in distracted co-workers as the “madness” encourages fans to root for expected winners while bemoaning busted brackets due to upsets and Cinderella stories. From a collegiate athletic viewpoint, “fortunes” rise and fall as teams either win or go home.

Dr. Chad Carlson, associate professor of kinesiology and director of general education

In 2017, Dr. Chad Carlson, associate professor of kinesiology and director of Hope’s general education program, published Making March Madness: The Early Years of the NCAA, NIT, and College Basketball Championship Tournaments, 1922-1951 (University of Arkansas Press). A collegiate basketball athlete himself, Carlson focuses his research on socio-cultural aspects of sport in the areas of philosophy and history of sport and their role in cultural trends. He is also especially interested in the connection between sports and Christianity, and in October 2019, he and Calvin College colleague Dr. Brian Bolt will direct the Second Global Congress on Sport and Christianity in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Daylight Saving Time Begins

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is the practice of advancing clocks during summer (and spring and fall) months so that evening daylight lasts longer, while sacrificing normal sunrise times. In effect, DST causes a lost hour of sleep in the spring and an extra hour of sleep in the fall. DST disrupts our internal clock, contributing to productivity wanes at work, significant pedestrian and traffic accidents increases and serious health impacts.

Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology

Dr. Andrew Gall, assistant professor of psychology, is a behavioral neuroscientist who focuses his research on understanding the neural mechanisms and functions of sleep and circadian rhythms. He is able to address questions on how DST affects the mind and body’s ability to cope with lost sleep and disruption in the circadian rhythm.

“Brain regions that receive direct information about light, such as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, must re-entrain to the adjusted time of day following a time change,” Gall says. “It takes our bodies longer to adjust to the spring time change as compared to the fall time change, similar to when we travel east, due to the phase advance in our biological clock. One way to help your bodies adjust more quickly is to wake up about 15 minutes earlier each day starting several days before the time change, and go to bed earlier and earlier each night. Doing so will start to adjust your internal clock before the time changes in the early hours of Sunday morning.”

World Hearing Day: March 3

On World Hearing Day — March 3 — the World Health Organization will draw attention to the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss. According to WHO, 466 million people have disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children) around the world and that number continues to rise. And a recent study by Johns Hopkins University found that the number of Americans aged 20 and older who suffer from hearing loss will double over the next 43 years. Still, many people live with unidentified hearing loss, often failing to realize that they are missing out on certain sounds and words.

Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology

Dr. David Myers, professor of psychology, is the author of the book, A Quiet World: Living with Hearing Loss. In it, Myers writes of his personal experience with hearing loss, interspersed with information about the psychology of hearing and new hearing technologies. Myers is an advocate of Hearing Loop, an assistive listening system, and he recently wrote “Getting People with Hearing Loss in the Loop” for Perspectives on Psychological Science. He recently served four years as a representative of Americans with hearing loss on the advisory board of NIH’s National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.

And the Winner Is…

The 91st Annual Academy Awards, also known as the Oscars, will take centerstage on Sunday, February 24, in Hollywood, California. Deemed to be the highest honor given for artistic and technical merit in the film industry and popular for their extravagant ceremonies, the Oscars create a yearly buzz around the nominees and show. Most recently, the Academy has come under scrutiny for a lack of diversity and inclusion (#oscarssowhite), perceived overemphasis on independent films, and a mangled major presentation when LaLa Land was announced as the best picture of the year in 2017 when Moonlight was the actual winner.

Richard Smith, professor of theatre

For more than 40 years, Richard Smith, professor of theatre, has taught film studies at Hope College in his “Art of the Cinema” class. A specialist in scenography, Smith’s insights go beyond technical artistry as he can address trends, controversies and favorites when it comes to the Oscars such as,

  • How do certain actors and actresses, designers and directors, writers and craftspeople rise to the level of “best” in a certain category when so many films are released each year?
  • What happened to celebrating the “science” part of films? It is, after all, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences that bestows these awards.
  • Does this year’s more diverse nominee slate mean the Academy is on the right track toward more inclusion, or do they have more work to do?
  • Will the Academy make another attempt to save ratings and relevancy and rethink that “Best Popular Picture” category they proposed but reneged on in 2018?
  • And, why hasn’t Meryl Streep won seven Oscars after 21 nominations, instead of three? Or, why does Leonardo DiCaprio have 11 noms and just one win? And what about Spike Lee, who after 30 years directing notable films, finally received his first best director nomination for BlacKkKlansman? Hard luck? Politics? Or, is it really just an honor to be nominated?!

Random Acts of Kindness and the Superhero Effect

Practicing random acts of kindness is emotional nourishment and elevates both the giver’s and receiver’s psychological health. When we practice random acts of kindness, we just feel better about ourselves as do the recipients of our acts which then makes them more likely to be kind and helpful to other people, too. That’s the pay-it-forward effect, and it turns out viewing images of superheroes can actually contribute to it.

And what better time to think about helping, heroic or otherwise, than during Random Acts of Kindness Day on Sunday, February 17 and Random Acts of Kindness Week which begins Monday, February 18.

Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology

New research by Dr. Daryl Van Tongeren, associate professor of psychology, several Hope College students, and colleague Dr. Jeffrey Green of Virginia Commonwealth University have found that when people are exposed to images of superheroes, they were more likely than others to engage in altruistic behavior. The findings of their study were recently published in Frontiers in Psychology, and it reveals that even subtle activation of superhero stimuli increases prosocial intentions and behavior.

Van Tongeren conducts research on the social motivation for meaning in life, the function and nature of religious beliefs, and the relationship-enhancing features of virtues, such as humility and forgiveness. His Meaning, Religion and Virtues Lab at Hope investigates why people search for meaning and how that search may, or may not, result in moral behavior.

 

Valentine’s Day and the Scholarship of Romantic Relationships

Valentine’s Day will soon be here, the day in which people celebrate love and romance with candlelit dinners, Hallmark cards, love letters, red roses, and sentimental presents given to spouses and partners.

But how exactly do those spouses and partners come to choose each other in the first place? And what are some of the things that keep them together?

Dr. Carrie Bredow, associate professor of psychology

Dr. Carrie Bredow, associate professor of psychology, focuses her research on the development and maintenance of adult romantic relationships. She seeks to better understand why people select the life partners that they do and to identify ways to help people avoid “bad choices.” For example, her article entitled “Chasing Prince Charming” in Personal Relationships investigated how holding unrealistic standards for a spouse has partnering consequences. Most recently, Bredow’s scholarly work has looked at how unmarried individuals’ criteria for a long-term partner change or remain the same over a certain period of time in the mate selection process.