Hike for General Ecology

Today we went out to explore pine flatwoods and some freshwater wetlands for General Ecology Lab. The students were able to see an aquifer recharge area, some cool spiders and native plants while learning about controlled burns, succession and enjoying Florida native habitats.

Little look at our seahorses

We’ve been busy here at the lab! Here’s a quick look at some of our dwarf seahorses which have taken over the lab.

Dwarf seahorses in the Aquatic Research Laboratory

Public Seminar on Seahorse Research at our HBCU, Bethune-Cookman Univeristy

The Marine Discovery Center’s October online lecture will focus on “Exploring Seahorse Research at Bethune-Cookman University.”The online presentation is set for Thursday, Oct. 15, at 7 p.m. Eastern.Guest speaker for this webinar will be Dr. Sarah Krejci, assistant professor of biology and integrated environmental science at Bethune Cookman University in Daytona Beach.Seahorses are a unique group of fish which have captivated generations of people around the world. However, their wild populations are facing threats from habitat loss, collection for the aquarium and curio trades and climate change.Krejci and her students conduct research on laboratory and field populations of seahorses and their relatives, the pipefish, to illustrate the impacts that humans have on coastal ecosystems.Krejci will share highlights of their studies, including photos and videos of their recent conjoined seahorse twins that were born in the university’s lab.This lecture will introduce webinar attendees to the details of seahorse biology and ecology and students’ research projects from Bethune-Cookman University, one of 101 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in America.Krejci will also discuss the importance of training diverse researchers, as well as the barriers that racism presents for black students in science by sharing their stories and future aspirations.Interested guests for the October lecture may log in for the Zoom presentation at:
https://us02web.zoom.us/…/reg…/WN_uXB4u12hT_CRUrVTSAon7QThe program is free, but participants must set up a personal Zoom account to access the webinar. MDC will continue to offer programs online during COVID-19 precautions for the remainder of 2020.
For more information about the lecture, contact the Marine Discovery Center at 386-428-4828.

Oyster microbiome student training

I put together this quick video of work I’m collaborating on with Dr. Raphael Isokpehi and Dr. Yungkul Kim for NSF’s Excellence in Research grant. The Aquatic Research Lab is developing a study examining the microbiome in oyster larvae in different nitrate concentrations. Dr. Kim is working on a study in field collected adult oysters. This video is showing some of the collection and laboratory processes we’re training the students to do.

Student training on oyster research

Mentor Interview Assignment

In my undergraduate Research Methods courses, I infuse interviewing and career planning lessons to build students’ professional skills and confidence.

We’ve all been there: preparing for an interview, unsure of what questions will be asked of us and what questions we should ask of a potential mentor. We’ve also seen our peers struggle with mentors they don’t mesh will with, or maybe have experienced this ourselves. How can we train our students to identify red flags when they search for new mentors?

Some of these mismatches can be addressed by both the mentor and the student understanding the roles they play in each other’s lives. As a part of my course I assign the book “On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition” which you can get as a free download here. It is a very quick and easy read filled with great information for young scientists on mentoring, ethics, publication author order, and all the wonderful information you wish someone would have taught you early in your career!

Here is a PowerPoint I created based on the book you might find useful:

If your school has access to CITI Program training there are some great lessons that compliment the ethics portion of the book. Our Internal Review Board requires our students and faculty complete CITI training certificates with their IRB applications and I make my students complete this as part of the course too.

I have summarized the book’s roles of a “mentor” and “mentee” in this chart below that I present to my students in lecture. This quick visualization shows the expectations the student should have of a mentor and what the student should be accountable for when they join a research lab:

Roles of the MentorRoles of the Mentee
•Oversees the research
•Offers guidance and advice
•Takes a personal and professional interest in the researchers development
•Makes research suggestions
•Offers encouragement during difficult periods
•Help beginner researchers gain credit for works accomplished
•Help with career placement
•Offer continuing advice throughout their career
•Develop clear expectations on meeting times and availability
•Take initiative to seek out and work with mentors- Not the other way around!!
•Learn about the standards in your discipline and uphold them
Roles of a research mentor and mentee summarized from National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. 2009. On Being a Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research: Third Edition. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/12192.

In my first year teaching this assignment I arranged with the Bethune-Cookman University faculty in the College of Science, Engineering and Mathematics to present a seminar of lightning talks for the students in the college. The faculty were allowed 3 slides to introduce themselves, their research, and potential undergraduate research opportunities in their lab. It was an amazing seminar and highly comical with the faculty (of course) not abiding by the 3-min, 3 slide rule, but hey, it was a great ice breaker for the faculty and students! This seminar helped the students see what research opportunities there were and introduced them to faculty that they may not have met before.

After the seminar, the students were tasked with interviewing three faculty members. For my bio students they had to interview two bio faculty and one faculty member outside the department. Our Integrated Environmental Science department is very small, and when I teach the Research Methods course in that department I have the students do 1 inside faculty and two outside.

The assignment also emphasizes, and provides an example of, how to contact a mentor with professional emails.

The full interview assignment is here for your use:

When the students contact a faculty member for an interveiw I ask them to cc me and I provide the faculty form below. The student can then receive anonymous constructive criticism from the faculty on how they were perceived from the first email to the last question. (Can I just give a quick shout out to how awesome our CSEM faculty are to do all this for our students??)

Feel free to share your feedback on the lesson in the comments. Let me know if you tried it or if you have any additions you’d recommend for future versions!

Thank you to everyone that showed an interest in this lesson! You are all preparing your students with fantastic skills for their future.

Manuscript submitted!

A first author manuscript submitted! Fingers crossed for the “accepted with major revisions” email and the comments from Review #2 🤣🤣 congrats to my coauthors Drs. Shirma R. Butts, Hector Neftali Torres and Raphael Isokpehi.

Manuscript title: Visual Literacy Intervention for Improving Undergraduate Student Critical Thinking of Global Sustainability Issues

Journal: Sustainability (MDPI)

Former student; new partner

I had the great pleasure of assisting a former B-CU biology major, Asihia Hines-Mack with her proposal submission to the Blue School Grant from St. John’s River Water Management District for funding.

Asihia is a 6th and 7th grade science teacher at Hinson Middle School in Volusia County and was one of my first researchers in the Aquatic Research Lab.

If funded, she will partner with us, the Marine Discovery Center and FWC to develop a data investigations lesson on living shorelines. Her students will “hopefully” hydroponically grow mangrove propagules for a future restoration project while learning about nutrient pollution to aquatic systems. I’m very proud of their efforts to enrich her students lessons and building partnerships with local environmental researchers ❤️

Environmental Microbiology Lab

Our Environmental Microbiology lab was in the field yesterday collecting phytoplankton and environmental data for a lab on culture methods using dilution and agar plating. The students learned to filter water, prepare media and agar plats, autocalve and how to ID and count algal cells on a hemocytometer. They’ll be monitoring algal growth over the next few weeks to create growth curves.

The awesome thing about being at B-CU is we are a 5 minute drive from the Halifax River Lagoon and running out for a field experience in the middle of the day isn’t difficult! The local fisherman on the pier always love hearing our impromptu lessons and asking in the Halifax is “healthy”.

Is the lagoon healthy? It’s hard to say. The Halifax is an incredibly understudied system with substantial urban development along the shores. We are working on publishing a study on water quality and there are definitely areas of concern with nutrients and evidence of with low oxygen.

Safety first! We wore our masks and social distanced as much as we could.

The fluid the students are working with in the video below is sterilized seawater.

Some of our upcoming labs will take our students kayaking to collect water samples 🌊

Integrated Environmental Science students Lauren Albury, Mario Watson and Cameron Eskew