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UNF collaborates with the Florida Institute of Oceanography to Honor the Ocean

Various honors students helping bring in a net on a boatThe University of North Florida, along with four other State University System (SUS) universities, had the opportunity to embark on an expedition in a new interdisciplinary experiential program sponsored by the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) called “Honoring the Ocean.”

The interdisciplinary course explores humankind’s relationship with the ocean and was imagined by FIO director, Monty Graham. UNF was one of the institutions to collaborate on the first year of the "Honoring the Ocean" program under UNF Hicks Honors College dean Dr. Jeffrey Chamberlain's guidance and support.

Before setting sail on the FIO research vessels, students from honors colleges including UNF, University of Central Florida, Florida International University, University of South Florida and University of Florida took a six-week online pre-course taught by honors faculty that prepared them for the adventure at sea. Each faculty member gave a lecture within their field of expertise through the lens of sustainability and the sea, including UNF English instructor, Dr. Dorsey Olbrich, who gave a lecture on poetry, and UNF English associate instructor, Jennie Ziegler, who gave a lecture on creative nonfiction and science communication.

The program targeted students from a broad spectrum of backgrounds with no required experience in marine science. The program was intentionally designed to foster collaboration among students and faculty from different fields. By working together, students are exploring interdisciplinary approaches to addressing critical issues facing Florida’s coastlines and oceans.

UNF students Abigail Remke and Jessie Roncevic went on an expedition out of Tampa Bay while Dakota Jacks and Sarah Boyd embarked from the Florida Keys. On both sailings, the 20 participating students learned about the Gulf of Mexico - its history, oceans and world politics - the ocean as a subject in poetry, and the sea interpreted through the visual arts.

Activities included collecting water samples at different sea levels to help provide information about the conditions of the water and using a large net to examine various creatures living within the ocean. Students also used a remotely operated underwater vehicle to better visualize the gulf’s depths.

After the two sailings, which completed the course that ran from February through March, each student submitted a final project inspired by the curriculum and the experience. Dakota Jacks submitted an audio essay that captured his journey from shore to sea; clips were collected from the onboard hydrophone equipment. Sarah Boyd submitted a creative nonfiction essay. Jessie Roncevic submitted a hand-drawn illustration of a whale as well as a poem. Abigail Remke submitted a vlog-style documentary.

To showcase the student’s work, Ziegler has organized an ehibit in the front display case of the UNF library, which can also be accessed on the FIO Honoring the Ocean webpage along with more information on the program.