Study Abroad in Florida

Marine science students visit diversity of exotic locations on around-the-state tour of Florida's rich aquatic ecosystems.

Special to USF News

By Kevin Burke

TAMPA, Fla. (Oct. 28, 2013) – Concentrating the expertise of faculty experts in multiple types of marine environments around the Sunshine State, the five-week summer Study Abroad in Florida program is helping prepare the next generation of marine and coastal biologists at a time when climate change is putting increasing pressure on aquatic habitats.

Florida's ocean economy is No. 2 in the nation at more than $560 billion a year. Almost 80 percent of the state's gross domestic product (GDP) relies upon ocean and/or coastal-related commercial and recreational activity. Expanding knowledge about the biodiversity, geochemistry, and ongoing impact of humans on Florida’s coastal and offshore ecosystems is critical to ensuring their health and longevity.

Organized and coordinated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) hosted by the University of South Florida, the Study Abroad in Florida program takes students on a counterclockwise tour of the state including stops at collaborative partners USF-St. Petersburg, Florida Gulf Coast University in Ft. Myers, Florida Atlantic University (through the Keys Marine Lab), and the University of North Florida in Jacksonville.

The course, available to all students within the SUS system, is designed to expose undergraduates interested in marine science to as many faculty researchers and habitats as possible at a cost consistent with other summer travel abroad programs.

"No one university or faculty member could expose students to such an array of experiences," says FIO Director Bill Hogarth. "While each university may have expertise in specific areas and have access to local marine and coastal habitats, no one university has them all.

"But, collectively, the universities engaged in the program cover just about every knowledge base and local coastal and marine habitat. This collaboration allows us to better utilize the entire intellectual resource of Florida's universities with respect to marine and coastal biology and without their enthusiastic cooperation this program wouldn't be possible."

"The course takes students from the shallow tropical estuaries of the western Everglades and the temperate estuarine and coastal environments of northeast Florida tothe reefs of the Florida Keys and the open Gulf of Mexico aboard state-of -the-art research vessels."

The program adds the University of West Florida — located in the Panhandle city of Pensacola — as a host university in 2014 so that students can experience the totality of Florida’s coastal and marine habitats.It also looks to expand to as many as five cohorts, each comprised of 16 students eager to earn four college credits and have the experience of a lifetime.

To learn more about the Florida Institute of Oceanography, visit