Recap from 2010: New Summer Marine Bio Course

August 25, 2010

Recap_2010Four Saint Leo University undergraduates dove into a new course over the summer that exposed them to the wonders of marine biology, not only through classroom sessions, but also at coastal sites in Florida and Georgia.

“I think the students really did enjoy it,” said William Ellis, Ph.D., who taught the new offering, Field Problems in Marine Biology (BIO 345), and its required laboratory complement. The labsection meant a field trip and outdoor research every week over an eight-week period. Students earned six credit hours for the courses.

“They can now flip to any page in a marine biology textbook, and they’ve been to the habitats in the book: corals reefs, mangrove swamp, salt marshes, an island in the Gulf of Mexico, and a seagrass bed,” said Ellis, an ecologist and assistant professor now in his third year of teaching at the university.

Not that those places were necessarily what the students expected when they signed up for the eight-week course. Ellis knew his students, like most people, would think of marine expeditions only as the kinds of trips filmed for documentaries for television audiences, showing settings with “clean coral reefs and deep sea.” In fact, most marine biologists work in a variety of other areas, including marshes, swamps, creeks, and shallower depths of ocean life––no less interesting, but not necessarily televised.

Ellis saw “tremendous growth” on the part of the students. They not only learned about the plant and animal life, they came to understand how to plan and judge a field experiment and its results, and how to handle the rigors of the field. The students did not see any direct environmental impacts from the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico over the summer, but did discuss the accident.

The students were: Rosanne Cannizo, Anthony Espin, Jessica Moreira, and January Watters.

Ellis would like to offer Field Problems in Marine Biology again in the summer of 2011. In the current (fall) semester, he is offering course that is a new addition to the curriculum, Introduction to Oceanography (OCE 201). The three-credit course will acquaint students with the physical aspects of the ocean habitat, including geology, waves, currents, temperatures, and the chemical properties of seawater.

For more information, e-mail: bill.ellis@saintleo.edu