Students in the Field Experiential Methods course worked with this underwater sensing device.

Students call experimental course on field research a big success

By all indications, an experimental environmental science course taught for the first time during the spring semester was a big success.

The undergraduate selected topics course, “Field Experiential Methods,” combined time in the classroom with hands-on field research in Tampa Bay. It was designed by David Fries, director of the Ecosystems Technology Group at the College of Marine Science.

“This is a terrific example of recent collaborations and expanding opportunities that exist between USF St. Petersburg and the USF College of Marine Science,” said Frank Biafora, Ph.D., dean of the USFSP College of Arts and Sciences.

Students used an underwater sensing device to gather data about water in parts of Tampa Bay. The device, created by Fries originally to gather data about red tide, is “like having a human in a can,” Fries said. The data gathered by the students can be fed into computer models used to predict tides and storm surge, said Fries, who hopes the student work will be published in a research journal.

“This is what we should be doing given recent advances in technology,” said graduating senior Mason Jeffers, one of seven students in the class. “It would be ridiculous to try and learn environmental science only inside the classroom.” He thinks taking the course will help to better position him for graduate school.

“It’s an amazingly good idea,” said Ben Prueitt, a graduating senior who plans to attend the College of Marine Science in the fall. “I think it sets up a balanced teaching model for the future.”

“Applied environmental field sciences is growing in importance, especially for our geographic area and an increasingly important learning objective put forth by the faculty within the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Geography,” said Biafora. Future collaborations between USFSP and the College of Marine Science are already being considered, Biafora said.

Kimberly Kopnitsky placed second in the education category.

Nine students participate in first Statewide Graduate Research Symposium

Nine USF St. Petersburg students participated recently in the first Statewide Graduate Student Research Symposium that brought together graduate students from across Florida to showcase their work.

USFSP Masters of Reading Education student Kimberly Kopnitsky placed second in the education category for her research project, “The Effects of Peer Editing and Response in a First Grade Writer’s Workshop.”

Eight of Florida’s 12 public universities participated in this first-ever event hosted by USF Tampa.

While the primary purpose of the symposium was to showcase the impressive research by graduate students at Florida universities, it also gave the participating students and faculty members a rare chance to network and to discuss possible research collaborations.

“We are extremely proud of our USFSP team,” said Norine Noonan, regional vice chancellor for academic affairs, who served as a judge at the symposium.

Other judges from USFSP were Anna Lewis, Ph.D., visiting associate professor of science education in the College of Education; and Alison Watkins, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate and certificate programs in the College of Business.

The other USFSP students participating were:

  • Masters of Environmental Science Student Rita Beckhorn.
  • Masters of Business Administration student Christopher Brown
  • Masters of Liberal Arts student Veronica Carroll
  • Masters of Environmental Science and Policy student Lauren Drakopulos
  • Masters of Arts in Reading Education fall 2012 graduate Brian Flores
  • Masters of Liberal Arts fall 2012 graduate Jennifer Probst
  • Masters of Environmental Science student Lindsey Schmidt
  • Masters of Arts in Reading Education student Allison Wickman


A scene from last year's Undergraduate Research Symposium.

Research Month spotlights work of students and faculty

April is Research Month at USF St. Petersburg, when the ongoing work of students and faculty is highlighted in myriad ways.

This year’s theme is “The Politics of Food: Rethinking Local Systems.” Events related to the theme include presentations by student journalists from the Neighborhood News Bureau, a lecture on the subject of urban food deserts, a discussion of the slow food movement and talk on the personal nature of food choices.

“Research Month is always a high point of the academic year,” said Norine Noonan, vice chancellor of academic affairs. “It highlights one of the distinguishing features of USF St. Petersburg – the many opportunities for high quality scholarship by both our students and our faculty.”

Two highlights of Research Month are the 10th Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium and the first Faculty Research Lightning Talks.

The Undergraduate Research Symposium celebrates the innovative research and creative work that USF St. Petersburg undergraduate students have produced during the year under with the help and support of the university’s faculty. The symposium is 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 11 at the University Student Center Ballroom.The USFSP Department of Psychology, the Office of Research, and the USFSP Honors Program are the co-sponsors of the Symposium.

The faculty, meanwhile, will have a chance to show their own work during the first Faculty Research Lightning Talks April 3, from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library. The event will feature five-minute talks by 15 USFSP professors in disciplines that include environmental science, visual and verbal arts, marketing, education, psychology, information systems and anthropology.

Here are details about some of the events during Research Month:

  • Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives Called “the most transformational film of 2012,” this documentary examines the controversy surrounding genetically engineered foods. Watch it online for free. It will be discussed during the “World Café,” April 10 a.m. to noon, Coquina Club.
  • What is Slow Food: An Overview of a Movement A talk by Gail Eggeman, a founder of the St. Petersburg Saturday Morning Market. Slow Food is an international movement promoted as an alternative to fast food which seeks to preserve traditional and regional foodways and encourages local farming. April 10, 10 a.m. to Noon, STG 114.
  • Microbe-We-Beasties Local Living Soil A presentation by Hillsborough County folk herbalist Willow LaMonte, a longtime organic gardener. April 12, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., STG 113.
  • GELS/C-SPACE Research Symposium A daylong symposium sponsored by the Green Energy Living Systems (GELS) and the Center for Science & Policy Application featuring panel discussions, presentations and exhibits by faculty and students. April 12, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Clam Bayou Marine Education Center, 4240 35th Ave. S., St. Petersburg
  • The Subject is Food Presentations by student journalists from the USFSP Neighborhood News Bureau. April 16, 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., James B. Sanderlin Family Center, 2335 22nd Ave S, St. Petersburg.
  • Tell Me What You Eat and I will Tell You Who You Are A lecture by USFSP History Professor Emeritus Gary Mormino on the personal choices we make about food and what they say about us. April 17, 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Bay 220.
  • Food Deserts Mapping David Padgett, associate professor of geography at Tennessee State University, discussed the research he has done in Nashville on so-called food deserts, a timely topic in St. Petersburg where a grocery store closing in Midtown has stirred community concern. April 18, 6 p.m., Harbor Hall Community Room.

Graduate student creates documentary on the life and legacy of Nelson Poynter

Walter Gordon knew he faced a monumental task when he decided to create a video documentary of the late Nelson Poynter as his Master’s in Liberal Arts project.

Walt Gordon

Walt Gordon

Poynter was a giant in the newspaper industry and a tireless champion of USF St. Petersburg. When he died in 1978, he left behind a 44-foot stack of papers, documents and filmed interviews. They are housed in Special Collections at the USF St. Petersburg library that bears his name.

The Nelson Poynter Memorial Library collection had only occasional interest by researchers until Gordon decided to dig in.

Gordon, a fall 2012 graduate, spent all last summer poring through the collection. The result is a 30-minute documentary about the man who turned the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times) into one of the most distinguished newspapers in the country.

“I could have made an hours-long documentary on Poynter,” Gordon said. “He had such an interesting life.”

Born in Indiana on Dec. 5, 1903, Poynter knew at an early age that journalism would be his life-long career. His father bought the St. Petersburg Times in 1912 and Poynter wrote his first story for the Times in 1914. In 1938 he became the general manager of the Times. Before that he was the editor and publisher of the Clearwater Sun and the Kokomo (Ind.) Dispatch . Poynter later acquired the St. Petersburg Evening Independent, which folded in 1986, and founded Congressional Quarterly, an influential legislative news service.

He is perhaps best known for leaving the ownership of the Times to the non-profit Modern Media Institute, now the Poynter Institute, to ensure its independence. The Institute is located across the street from USF St. Petersburg.

Poynter died hours after participating in a groundbreaking at USF St. Petersburg on June 15, 1978, during which he was honored for his efforts to establish it.

James Schnur, Associate Librarian in Special Collections and Archives at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library, suggested the Poynter documents as a subject of Gordon’s project. Schnur, who first met Gordon while teaching Florida history at Eckerd College, assisted in the documentary process.

As a librarian and graduate of USF St. Petersburg, Schnur understood the impact Poynter had on the development of the university and downtown St. Petersburg. Schnur says Gordon’s documentary is a great way for community members to understand Poynter’s significance.

“He brought Poynter in to the community,” Schnur says.

Making a documentary came naturally to Gordon, who taught TV production at Countryside High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in history from Eckerd College.

The Poynter Papers include interviews from the 1970s and 1980s that were recorded on film and transferred to video tapes. Because of his experience with TV and film production, Gordon was able to transfer the VHS tapes into digital files in order to make the 35-minute documentary.

Gordon is a staunch advocate for combining the latest technology with other disciplines like the arts and sciences in order to expand educational capabilities.

The documents and videos along with Gordon’s annotations will be available to scholars, researchers, and students interested in learning more about Poynter and St. Petersburg history.

“Altogether, the collection constitutes an amazing amount of data that could still benefit from more research.” Gordon said.

Gordon continues to teach TV production at Countryside High School. He presented his documentary at Heritage Village for its “Speaking of History” lecture series in November. Gordon also presented a 20-minute version of the documentary at USFSP for the 65th Annual Meeting of the Southeast Philosophy of Education Society Feb. 1-2.


Two professors honored with Outstanding Faculty Awards

Two USF St. Petersburg professors were honored recently by USF System President Judy Genshaft during the Outstanding Faculty Award Dinner at the Lifsey House at USF Tampa.

Associate Professor of Political Science Judithanne Scourfield-McLauchlan, Ph.D.,

Judithanne Scourfield-McLauchlan

Judithanne Scourfield-McLauchlan

and Associate Professor of Anthropology Ella Schmidt,

Associate Professor of Anthropology Ella Schmidt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Anthropology Ella Schmidt, Ph.D.

Ph.D., were both honored for their research and designations as U.S. Fulbright Scholars.

Dr. Schmidt was a Fulbright Scholar in Mexico during the 2011-2012 academic year, whle Dr. Scourfield-McLauchlan was a Fulbright Scholar in Moldova during the 2010-2011 academic year.

They were among 25 outstanding USF System faculty members honored Jan. 24.