New USFSM Labs at Mote Marine

Partnership opens new doorway to exploration.

By Katy Hennig

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. (Aug. 20, 2013) – New science laboratories set to open for the start of the Fall 2013 semester will enhance the partnership between the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and Mote Marine Laboratory and will open up a new world of STEM education and science exploration.

“We’ll actually be able to get our students involved not only in the research projects that our scientists have designed, but we’ll pair them up with Mote scientists so they may be going out on a boat together, they may be collecting samples together,” said Arthur Guilford, chancellor at USFSM.

Guilford highlights the important role that the new labs will play in the inaugural science courses offered through the campus. The location of the new lab space, a renovated section of an existing building along the scenic Sarasota Bay front, will provide a direct hands-on approach, pairing students with world-class researchers. Mote researchers will hold courtesy faculty positions alongside USFSM professors.

That type of engagement is one of the focus points for a program that has been in the works for more than five years and fast-tracked within the last two due to donations.

“Mote is an extremely unique marine research institution. I’ve been to a lot of marine labs all around the world, and there is nothing like Mote Marine Laboratory,” said Mote Marine Laboratory President and CEO Michael Crosby.

Crosby has spent his career working to raise awareness about science and reinforces the importance of building bridges between the scientific community and the local community. He explained that Mote Marine was built more than sixty years ago on a partnership between marine scientist Eugenie Clark and a local fisherman and said that knowledge exchange is crucial.

“Enhancing the level of ocean literacy amongst the public and forming partnerships wherever you can between the community of scientists and the community of traditional knowledge that exists out there amongst the people that live and work on the water, have grown up for generations around a bay or a coral reef environment; there’s an amazing amount of knowledge that is there,” said Crosby.

According to Crosby, the labs will be an innovative learning center that values the environment while utilizing science and technology to create jobs and economic growth.

“We have to be thinking about future generations: future generations of scientists, future generations of educators, future generation of aquarists. And the partnership that we’ve formed with USFSM is all about the next generation,” said Crosby.

Erin Martin is a biology professor at USFSM and will be teaching at the new labs.

Biology professor Erin Martin is the general education coordinator at USFSM and has been working with Jane A. Rose, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at USFSM, to develop the STEM curriculum for incoming freshman.

“I know who I want to come work in my lab. Somebody with skills; I want those workforce skills and I want people to be capable of critical thinking and making decisions based on evidence,” said Martin.

Martin said she feels like it’s time for a new approach to how science is taught, highlighting the discovery process and creating an environment where students can be totally engaged in what they are learning about.

“I just really feel like for a science program, it’s very important that with the way the we are rethinking the way we teach science now; instead of memorize, memorize, memorize, you do these steps and you’ll get this outcome, rather, let's discuss this,” said Martin.

Martin is excited about the partnership and said it’s a way for students to see how scientists are actively using marine research to solve problems.

It’s not only science majors who will be taking classes out at the Mote Marine labs. All incoming freshman will need to satisfy science education credits, and science classes will be taught in the new labs.

Additionally, Crosby and Mote scientists are encouraged by what the students will bring to the Mote environment, including new ideas and energy.

I am extremely happy about the partnership,” said Guilford. “And you know it’s not just Mote and USFSM that wins, it’s the whole community.”

Katy Hennig can be reached at 813-974-6993.