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Field Courses

Field Studies in Marine Biology (OCB 3108L)

students in coastal marine snorkelingCredits: 3
When offered: Modified Summer Session A (May 8-June 14, 2019)
Prerequisites: BSC 1010/1011C & CHM 2045/2046
Total class size: 16 (includes students from UNF and 4 other Florida State University System institutions: FAU, FGCU, USF, and UWF)
Additional fees: $1,500 (does not include tuition). A limited number of partial scholarships are available (see below)
Contact for additional information: Dr. Kelly Smith (


The Field Studies in Marine Science course is a 5.5-week, field intensive course designed to expand student knowledge of the biodiversity, geochemistry and human impact of Florida's coastal and offshore ecosystems through a round-robin trip around Florida to explore marine ecosystems. This course takes students from Florida Key Reefs to the open Gulf of Mexico aboard a research vessel as well as the shallow tropical estuaries of the western Everglades and north to the temperate Estuarine and beach dunes of North Florida. Students stay at universities and research stations.

After an online 2.5 day introduction, students will spend five weeks on tropical reefs in the Florida Keys, bays and mangrove forests of Southwest Florida, sea grass meadows in Tampa Bay, collecting oceanographic data aboard an FIO research vessel in the Gulf of Mexico, along the seashores and sounds of the Florida Panhandle, examining the salt water- Freshwater boundary of the St Johns River and exploring dunes, oyster reefs and salt marshes in Northeast Florida.

The additional fees cover the cost of meals (5 days/week) and housing at all sites from Sunday-Friday nights. Transportation between institutions, and meals on weekends are not covered. Housing on all Saturdays can be arranged for an additional cost of $200.

A limited number of $500.00 meal/housing scholarships are available for enrolled students.

Interested students must:

  • Complete a typed, Statement of Interest as to how this course will benefit your studies, future career decisions, and your plan once you graduate. Include: complete name, email, home campus, home address, phone number, grade level, unofficial transcript, and biology courses taken to date. Statement of Interests will be accepted beginning 02/01/2019 to Dr. Smith (59/1314). Email attachment or hard copies are accepted. Schedule an interview with Dr. Smith by March 1.
  • Enroll for OCB 3108, Marine Field Studies, during spring registration. Permits will be submitted by Dr. Smith.
  • Students will be contacted via email within 1 week of interview to confirm status of enrollment. Deposits of $500.00 will be accepted at any time. Deposit deadline: 3/9/19 to lock in your spot.

Shark Ecology (ZOO 4559L)

shark swimming near surfaceCredits: 3
When offered: Summer Session C (May 8-Aug 2, 2019)
Prerequisites: None
Instructor permission required: Yes
Total class size: 10
Additional fees: None
Contact for additional information: Dr. Jim Gelsleichter (


Have you always wanted to work on sharks? UNF’s Shark Ecology field course is a 12-week, field-intensive course in which students become full-fledged members of the UNF Shark Biology Program, contributing to our now over 10-year annual survey of shark populations in northeast Florida. Every week between Monday and Thursday, each student will devote one entire day to field research; catching, tagging, and releasing sharks to study their abundance and movement patterns. Every Friday, all students meet together to attend talks on shark research, participate in laboratory exercises such as shark identification workshops and dissections, or attend field trips to other shark research facilities in Florida.

Dolphin Behavioral Ecology (BSC 4930L)

two dolphins at the surface togetherCredits: 4
When offered: Summer Session A (May 8-June 18, 2019)
Prerequisites: BSC 2012C
Instructor permission required: Yes
Total class size: 9
Additional fees: None
Contact for additional information: Dr. Quincy Gibson (


The St. Johns River estuary is home to a resident population of “urban” bottlenose dolphins that the UNF Dolphin Research team has been monitoring since 2011. Doing so enables us to study their complex social lives, which are surprisingly similar to humans, as well as the factors that may be impacting the population’s health and survival. In the 6-week Dolphin Behavioral Ecology course, students become part of the program team and devote one entire day per week (Tues or Th) to field research; non-invasively tracking individual dolphins over time using the shape and scar patterns of their dorsal fins. Every Wednesday, all student meet together for lectures on dolphin behavioral research.

Crocodilian Behavioral Ecology (BSC 4930L)

student holding alligatorCredits: 4
When offered: Summer Session B (June 24-Aug 2, 2019)
Prerequisites: BSC 2012C
Instructor permission required: Yes
Total class size: 9
Additional fees: None
Contact for additional information: Dr. Adam Rosenblatt (


In the brand new Crocodilian Behavioral Ecology course, students will learn about the fascinating biology and ecology of the most dominant group of tropical freshwater apex predators on the planet. Students will gain hands-on experience with these amazing reptiles and contribute to exciting research projects taking place in Jacksonville and Georgia.

Biology Facilities

Shared Scientific Equipment

  • Walk-in freezer (-20֯ C)                                  
  • Walk-in cold room (3֯ C)                                
  • -80 ֯C freezers                                                   
  • Ice machines
  • DMA-80 Direct Mercury Analyzer
  • Percival temp-controlled incubators
  • Steris autoclaves
  • Steris lab glassware washer
  • Olympus Fluoview FV100 confocal microscope
  • Olympus DP21 microscope camera
  • Olympus BX60 epifluorescent microscope
  • Beckman LS6500 scintillation counter
  • Wizard 1470 gamma counter
  • Epoch microplate reader w/ micro-volume plate
  • Millipore Milli-Q water system
  • Avanti JXN-30 centrifuge
  • BioRad CFX Connect q-PCR thermal cycler
  • BioRad C1000 Touch thermal cycler
  • Corning LSE Shake control system
  • Amersham Imager 600
  • Gel Logic 1500 imaging system
  • Temperature controlled Insectary


  • F-350 Pickup
  • Chevy Express 15-passenger van
  • Ford Explorer XLT SUV


  • R/V Osprey - 27’ Twin V
  • Genetic Drift - 21’ Carolina Skiff
  • Mud Minnow - 15’ Jon Boat
  • GTM Observer - 20’ Sea Arc
  • UNF Sea Arc - 20’ Sea Arc
  • Canoes/Kayaks

Directed Independent Study (DIS)

Please contact your instructor to request a DIS and obtain the following information:

  • Course prefix (i.e. "BSC" for Biology)
  • Course number (i.e. "4905")
  • Course title (30 characters max, incl. spaces)
  • Faculty name (Must be full time faculty member)
  • Term for course
  • Course proposed activities (500 words or less)
  • Course evaluation method (500 words or less)
  • Proposed timeline of course and required date of completion (500 words or less)

 How to Register for a DIS:

  1. Login Into your myWings account. 
  2. Click on the “Student Records” tile.
  3. Select “Student Forms” from the popup and then click on Appeals, Petitions, and Online Forms.
  4. Under Records and Registration select “Individualized Instruction Request.”
  5. Read the instructions at the top ensuring that you have completed all the steps and have the information required to complete this application.
  6. If you are ready select “Yes” and click Next.
  7. Select the term you will be doing the independent study in and click Next.
  8. Your general student information will appear in the section below.
  9. Enter the Course Prefix (Subject Code), Course Number, Credit Hours, Course Name, and Select the Instructor ID in the Course Information section.  
  10. Enter in or Copy and Paste the information in Proposed Activities, Evaluation Method, and Course Material sections. 
  11. Read the Statement of Understanding and check the box for “I Agree.” 
  12. Click Submit.  
  13. You will get a confirmation message at the top. 


Starting in 2013, the University of North Florida became one of the newest host sites for the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program. The UNF REU Program offers paid research training experiences in Coastal Biology to 10 undergraduate students during a 10-week period between late May and late July. REU participants are paired with Coastal Biologists at UNF, the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTMNERR) and conduct mentored research projects related to their advisor’s expertise. Prior to this, students complete a 1-week orientation to performing research in Coastal Biology to prepare them for their directed research projects. Students also gain experience in science communication by presenting the results of their project at a departmental-wide research poster mini-symposium. Participants attend research seminars and workshops on career skills in science. Students may also have the opportunity to present their research findings at professional conferences.

A program for summer 2023 will be offered pending final recommendations and budgets from NSF.

Learn more about the REU Program

GTM Fellowship

About the Friends of the GTM Reserve Fellowship

The Friends of the GTM Reserve Fellowship is a competitive award granted to individual scholars pursuing research and monitoring projects that align with the management needs of the GTM Research Reserve. This fellowship provides an opportunity for graduate students to conduct research within the GTM Research Reserve, engage with the region’s scientific community, and build a portfolio of skills that will position the student for a successful career in their chosen field.  

Friends fellows work alongside Reserve staff in the field, the lab, and the office. Under the supervision of their faculty advisor and with the support of the Reserve team, they build proficiency through hands-on research, collaborative engagement, and independent work. After their fellowship, fellows present their findings at the Reserve’s annual science symposium and to the Friends board of directors.

The fellowship is funded by Friends members and donors who recognize the value of estuarine research and wish to further science through the support of graduate students entering into the next phase of their professional careers.

About the Friends of the GTM Reserve

The Friends of the GTM Reserve is the 501(c)(3) citizen support organization for the GTM Research Reserve. Their mission is to support and enhance the research, education, and stewardship of the Reserve through volunteer initiatives, fundraising, and community partnerships. Founded in 2000, the Friends have given their time, treasure, and talents to help the Reserve achieve its mission and support its management goals. To learn more, visit

History of the Fellowship

In 2018, the Friends of the GTM Reserve was approached by the Reserve’s research team to help raise money for a comprehensive water quality study of the Guana Lake and River in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL. Located within the GTM Research Reserve’s northern component, the Guana system had been monitored periodically by visiting investigators and GTM staff. Still, other water bodies had outranked it in the region for long-term monitoring.  As questions mounted about the impact of development on Guana, members of the surrounding community reached out to the Reserve to request data on the status of the lake and river. With limited data available, the need for a study became evident, but funding was needed. At this time, the Friends stepped in and launched the first community-based campaign to raise money for water quality monitoring in Guana. With the community’s support, the Friends raised the money to fund monitoring for the first year.

As the data came in, the research team identified the subsequent need for Guana – a dedicated study and analysis that could be translated into informative management decisions. From there, the Friends Fellowship was created.

Project Objectives

To be awarded the Friends fellowship, the graduate student’s project must address one or more of the GTM Research Reserve’s management objectives:

  • Knowledge of the status and trends of habitats is increased
  • Knowledge of the status and trends of keystone, sentinel, foundation, endangered and threatened species is increased
  • Estuarine habitat management techniques that maintain or enhance natural biodiversity are implemented
  • Prescribed fire and other management techniques that maintain or improve natural upland biodiversity are implemented
  • Invasive plant and animal species within the GTM Research Reserve and its watersheds are reduced
  • The public’s and local professionals’ knowledge of GTM Research Reserve biodiversity and relevant best management practices is increased.
  • Spatial and temporal trends in water quality are monitored and analyzed
  • Solutions to negative impacts caused by point and non-point source pollution are identified
  • Biological indicators of changes in water quality are investigated
  • The public’s and local professionals’ knowledge of GTM Research Reserve water quality and relevant best management practices is increased
  • Short- and long-term changes in local climatic variables are monitored and analyzed
  • The effects of climate variability on ecosystem services, habitat distribution, biodiversity, and community resilience are investigated
  • The public’s and local professionals’ knowledge of sea-level rise, storm, and climate change impacts on local habitats, species and human communities is increased.

Friends of the GTM Reserve Fellows

Jessica Lee

Friends of the GTM Reserve Fellow 2019-2021 Estuary Water Quality Response to Impoundment Management

Annie Hurley

Friends of the GTM Reserve Fellow 2021 - 2023 Algae of GTMNERR: Cyanobacterial Diversity & Epiphyte Responses to Nutrient Additions

To Apply

To apply for a Fall 2023 fellowship, send your CV and a 1-2 page research proposal to Dr. Matt Gilg,, before 11:59 pm on March 1, 2023. The proposal should be co-authored by the student and their graduate advisor and summarize the proposed work and how it fits the objectives of the program.