Coastal Biology Flagship Program

The Florida coast has been assaulted by humans and nature in ways we are just beginning to understand. UNF is uniquely positioned to take a lead role in determining the impacts of many current risks to coastal systems, such as hurricanes, pesticide runoff, over fishing and invasive species. These impacts affect the aesthetics of the coast, recreation, development, and many commercial enterprizes in both local and national communities. Recent algal blooms in the St. Johns River brought this to the attention of the Jacksonville community, when recreational and commercial use of the river, and in some cases simply proximity, led to illness among some Jacksonville residents. Why did these blooms occur? Why now? What can we do to prevent or lessen their

impact in the future?


The recent high profile hurricane seasons have also brought attention to coastal issues. We currently have little idea as to what the short- and long-term impacts of past and inevitable future hurricanes have on local and regional plants and animals. Other recent high-profile news items include the discussion of drilling for oil closer to Florida’s Gulf Coast and wetlands development, both locally and nationally. These are the very issues that UNF Biology faculty members think about every day.


With the focus afforded by Flagship status, our faculty’s day to day research and teaching efforts can have a significant positive impact on the future of the First Coast. These are the types of important questions that a Flagship Program in Coastal Biology at UNF can begin to address. With the day-to-day importance of coastal issues on the First Coast, this Flagship program will generate consistent positive local publicity for UNF and the broader scientific community.  There is a great deal of energy and optimism among the faculty and students for continued development of a truly outstanding, nationally recognized Coastal Biology program at UNF.


Upcoming  Events



Oyster Reef


 Genetic Drift




Florida Institute of Oceanography




May 10 - June 16, 2017 (Modified Summer Session C)


Field Studies in Marine Biology:  OCB 3180L 4930; 3-4 credits

Prerequisites:  General Biology 1 & 2 (BSC 1010C & 1011C) and Chemistry 1 & 2 (CHM 2045C & 2046C)


The University of North Florida will be one of 5 host universities sponsoring the Florida Institute of Oceanography Study Abroad in Florida “Field Studies in Marine Biology” (BSC 4930) course in summer 2017.  This is a field intensive course.   Faculty at five universities serve as hosts as students travel to locations around the state to experience varied Marine and Coastal habitats.  After a few days of general orientation at the home institution, students will travel to the far ends of Florida returning the final week to UNF.  The course carries 4 credits.  There is a special lab fee, which also covers rooms during the course as well as meals during the work week.  Class size is limited and an interview is required of all applicants.


Students will spend a week at the University of West Florida in Pensacola examining Landscape Impacts on Coastal Waters, followed by a week at the University of South Florida-St Pete working on marine collection techniques, low energy shorelines and aboard an ocean-going research vessel.  Students then move to the Florida Gulf Coast University Vester Marine Laboratory in Ft Myers where they study coastal geology, oyster reefs, coastal currents and seagrass meadows.  Florida Atlantic University will host a week at the Keys Marine laboratory in Layton on the Florida Keys.  There students study reefs and reef communities, mangroves and algal communities.  Finally, students return to the University of North Florida for an experience with estuaries and lagoons where temporal and spatial variability are the themes.


The course is open to all qualified students, regardless of university affiliation.  Students not enrolled at one of the five host universities must  complete a summer transient form.  For additional information contact Dr. Kelly Smith,


Click here to link to a video describing the FIO Study Abroad experience from Summer 2013. FIO VIDEO


For more information about the experience please read the blog entries by students in this program. Student Blog link