Newswise — Professors in the Coastal Biology Flagship Program at the University of North Florida were awarded a grant for more than $300,000 by the National Science Foundation (NSF) to continue the development of an intensive summer research internship for undergraduate students from all over the country to study coastal ecosystems. Drs. Matthew Gilg, UNF professor of biology, and Jim Gelsleichter, UNF associate professor of biology, received renewed funding of $306, 624 for their successful NSF project, “Research Experiences for Undergraduates in Coastal Biology on Florida’s First Coast.” The previous NSF grant of more than $370,000 started in the summer of 2013. The new grant starts May 1 and runs into 2019. This will be the fourth group of students to participate in the internship.

In this project, a total of 10 undergraduate students from all over the country will be recruited to participate in a 10-week summer program, which is focused on coastal biology, particularly threats to the biological resources of the Northeast Florida coast. Some of those threats to our coast include ecological and economic damage due to invasive species, climate change, pollution, overharvest of fisheries resources and habitat loss due to overdevelopment. Students will have the opportunity to conduct independent research on a range of subjects related to coastal ecosystems.

“Gaining research experience is essential for students in the sciences and not all schools can offer the kind of mentorship required to provide students with the skills they need, so our program focuses on pairing students with an interest in coastal biology with faculty mentors that have extensive experience working with undergraduate students,” said Gilg. “Students that take part in our program are more likely to graduate with a degree in the sciences and many are planning on going to graduate school to continue their education.”

The overall goal of the program is to enhance the training and career development of rising sophomores and juniors who haven’t had significant research experience by engaging them in research related to the coastal ocean environment. Students will be paired with biologists from UNF or the collaborating institution, Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve, to conduct mentored research projects on major threats to coastal biological resources in Northeast Florida.

Students will develop short research proposals on their project, which will be presented to faculty mentors and other program participants in an oral format. In the final week, students will present the results of their studies in a poster session that will be open to the campus community. Students will also be encouraged to present their research findings at professional conferences and/or in manuscripts submitted to professional journals.

Additional career guidance on topics such as designing research posters, scientific writing, finding and applying to graduate schools and presenting scientific information to a public audience will be provided in workshops. Students will also attend regular research seminars by UNF faculty, graduate students and scientists from other institutions.

UNF, a nationally ranked university located on an environmentally beautiful campus, offers students who are dedicated to enriching the lives of others the opportunity to build their own futures through a well-rounded education.

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