Tropical Ecology : Coral Reef Ecology & Marine Conservation spends spring break in Roatan Honduras

FSC students in the Tropical Ecology: Coral Reef Ecology & Marine Conservation course spent their spring break exploring the fringing and barrier reefs of Roatán, Honduras with Dr. Jason Macrander and Prof. Ashley Bowers-Macrander. Students practiced identification of the major coral species found in the reefs around the Bay Islands and collected data, using transects, to student their ecology. Students were also able to take part in the maintenance of a coral nursery and outplanting of the critically endangered staghorn coral.

When not focusing on corals, students were able to observe the amazing biodiversity of Roatán, including sharks, spotted eagle rays, sea turtles, dolphins, and an abundance of fish species. They were also able to experience the culture of the island, particularly that of the Mayan, Payan, and Garífuna peoples.

During the trip, students worked closely with Jennifer Keck, the Education & Research Coordinator for the Roatán Institute for Marine Science (RIMS). RIMS was established in 1989 by the owners of Anthony’s Key Resort with the goal of preserving the area’s natural resources through education and research.

The Keys to a Great Education

While most of the country was experiencing some cold weather, the FSC Biology Department was taking full advantage of the Florida sunshine!  Seventeen marine biology students headed to the Keys Marine Laboratory the weekend of February 16th with Dr. Allison Durland and Dr. Kaitlin Gallagher.


The Keys Marine Laboratory is a full-service marine field station situated in the heart of the Florida Keys island chain. The facility offers a unique opportunity for college level students and researchers to study the only tropical marine ecosystems in the continental United States. The station has easy access to the Florida Bay, the Everglades National Park, the Florida Current, and the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. 


The FSC group stayed for two nights at the laboratory dorms, which allowed them to experience what it is like to live at a marine field station. During their stay, the students participated in a night snorkel in the marine lab's harbor, a boat trip to Coffins Patch and Elbow Reef, and a snorkeling trip to a sea-filled quarry. Highlights included a visit from a manatee in the marine lab harbor, multiple sightings of moray eels, many colorful crabs, and even a few stingrays and sharks! 


Looking for Unique Organisms on an Average Beach 

Dr. Kaitlin Gallagher’s Marine Invertebrate Zoology is an important one for students studying the unique organisms that inhabit the world’s oceans.   The course provides a modern survey of the major branches of marine invertebrates, focused on body plans, ecology and evolution of each phylum. 


Gallagher, an Assistant Professor of Marine Biology, knows the value of a hands-on approach to education.  She and her students visited Gandy Beach on February 19th for their first sampling trip of the semester.  The class sieved sediment and searched the intertidal zone and mangrove roots for benthic invertebrates. They found razor clams, annelids, mud shrimp, hermit crabs, fiddler crabs, and even some tunicates!


The students will be returning to this beach after spring break for a snorkeling trip. At that time, they will be in search of sponges, corals, and echinoderms!

Inaugural White Coat Ceremony for the Medical Laboratory Sciences Program

In a special ceremony held in the Mulaney Auditorium at the Lakeland Regional Medical Center on January 19th, students in their last semester at FSC in the Medical Laboratory Sciences (MLS) program were awarded a white lab coat.  This marks their transition from the study of health science into their participation as medical professions.

White Coat Ceremonies are a rite of passage for students in many areas of health care.  During the ceremony, students pledge their commitment to their patients and their profession. 

“MLS professionals are not well known to most people,” explained Dr. Nancy Morvillo, Professor and Chair of the Biology Department.  “They are the scientists that work behind the scenes, in laboratories, to analyze blood, urine and tissue samples.  Over 75% of clinical decisions are based on the work done by MLS professionals.”

The Bachelor of Science degree in MLS is a collaboration between FSC and Lakeland Regional Health.  Students have a unique educational journey.  They spend their first three years taking rigorous foundational science courses on the campus of FSC.  During their third year, they also attend classes at Lakeland Regional Hospital (LRH).  In their fourth and final year, students spend their time exclusively at LRH: fall semester classes cover MLS theory, and the spring semester is devoted to clinical rotations. 

The mission of the Florida Southern College/Lakeland Regional Health MLS degree program is to empower students to attain the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully practice in the dynamic field of laboratory science.  All students obtain a Board of Clinical Laboratory Personnel Trainee License from the State of Florida Department of Health prior to beginning their clinical rotations.  Upon graduation, students are eligible to sit for the American Society for Clinical Pathologists (ASCP) certification exam.

“We believe that by promoting wellness, education and discovery, our graduates will have a positive impact on society and will deliver the best outcomes and safest care to the surrounding community,” said Dr. Maridaliz Rodriguez Rosado, the Program Director at LRH.

The program is a licensed training program by the State of Florida and is fully accredited by the National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), with five years of Initial Accreditation.

“Lakeland Regional provides amazing opportunities for our students to learn and to work in one of the best health care facilities in the country,” said Dr. Morvillo.  “The hospital performs 6 million lab tests each year!  Our students work with state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, and they get to experience bedside testing.”

In addition to the students graduating this spring, several alumni of the program, who are currently employed at LRH, also received their white coats.  Family and friends were invited to the ceremony.

“The white coat worn by each clinical laboratory sciences student is more than just a lab coat,” Dr. Rodriguez said.  “It is a cloak of caring, compassion, and service.”

Alpha Epsilon Delta at FSC: A Great Partnership
for Pre-Health Students

It’s a FACT!  Students present their research at regional meeting



December 12, 2023

For most college students, summertime is an opportunity to return home, recharge their batteries, and enjoy life before resuming classes in the fall. For one Florida Southern College junior, that is the exact opposite of her experience.

Sophi Brice '25, a double major in marine biology and environmental studies, recently discovered she will be heading to South Carolina to conduct research under the mentorship of a seasoned professional. There, she will delve into the intricate world of dolphin aging processes. Her summer promises to be a transformative experience, including making valuable contributions to the field while forging connections with scientists, setting the stage for a future dedicated to environmental conservation.

Setting Sail with NOAA Hollings Fellowship
Sophi is among only 130 Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship recipients from the NOAA, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

"I could not be more grateful to have been selected as a NOAA Hollings Scholar," says Sophi. "I truly could not be more excited for this opportunity, and I want to thank all of the amazing FSC faculty members, especially Dr. Macrander, who has helped prepare me for this!"

Through the Hollings Scholarship, Sophi received a two-year academic scholarship for her junior and senior years, funding to participate in two national scientific conferences, and a paid summer internship opportunity, a rarity in marine biology, where she'll contribute to a more accurate understanding of dolphin ages through innovative techniques involving dolphin tooth and flipper analysis. She hopes her work will improve our knowledge of strandings and mortality rates essential for dolphin conservation.

Understanding the competitive nature of the field, Sophi hopes to use the opportunity as a stepping stone to her dream career. Along with gaining hands-on experience in environmental research and policymaking by working alongside leading scientists and professionals at a designated NOAA research facility, Sophi can also take advantage of professional development training and networking opportunities.

Inspired by Family and Passion for Nature
Sophi's journey into biology wasn't a childhood dream but a thoughtful choice in her junior year of high school. Her inspiration stemmed from her older sister, a pharmaceutical scientist, whose achievements and dedication to research left a lasting impact. 

"In fact, when I was applying to FSC, I wrote my application essay about my sister. And it got me in!"

Sophi's calling, however, is rooted in a desire to impact the planet positively, coupled with a love for science and math. Growing up in Florida, surrounded by nature, further fueled her passion. From annual trips to see manatees to a genuine connection with marine animals, Sophi found the perfect blend of her interests in marine biology and environmental science. Her decision to pursue this path was also motivated by her desire to escape the confines of an office, making conservation the ideal career.


To read the full article, click here :

Sophi Brice '25 Earns Prestigious NOAA Hollings Scholarship - Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL (


FSC students and faculty engage in

conservation education in West Africa

November 29, 2023

In May 2023, Dr. Wolovich and her Tropical Ecology students spent two weeks in The Gambia, West Africa not only viewing amazing wildlife and exploring historical and cultural sites, but actively contributing to conservation efforts of the endangered Western red colobus monkeys (Piliocolobus badius temminckii). Dr. Wolovich has partnered with C4RC (Communities for Red Colobus), a community-based conservation program, to assist with conservation outreach.

Dr. Wolovich’s students spent the spring semester developing conservation education materials that were then presented to C4RC education staff and Gambian school children. FSC students created monkey puppets, wrote a children’s story, and developed reusable worksheets with activities about the benefits of protecting biodiversity and the negative consequences of habitat fragmentation. Students also designed materials used for tree planting initiatives in order to encourage school children to become involved in reforestation efforts.

Dr. Wolovich and several international partners (Dr. Mic Mayhew, University of Cumbria; Lamin Saho, Communities for Red Colobus) were recently awarded a grant from Primate Conservation Inc. to begin a study on the behavioral ecology of the red colobus monkeys in The Gambia and to promote the use of alternative fuel-efficient rocket stoves that could help reduce rates of local deforestation. This project will be carried out by Gambian C4RC team members and will continue throughout 2024. While the FSC students were in The Gambia, they demonstrated the efficiency of rocket stoves using model stoves they made from clay.

The success of the C4RC project and the contributions of Dr. Wolovich and the FSC students to the educational program are highlighted in a recent commentary co-authored by Dr. Wolovich that was published in the American Journal of Primatology.

West Africa School Trip Video

Beach Clean Up Weekend

Biology Department Honors and Awards for 2022-2023

May 19, 2023

Student Awards:

Mia Alikhan John R. Haldeman Award

Kathleen Amendano - Chelsey G. Magruder Foundation Scholarship

Sadie Atkinson - Helen and Charles McConville Scholarship

Delaney Harris Laurence L. Campbel Award

Sophi Brice Presented research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biologists Austin, TX NOAA Hollings Fellowship Award

Abiageal Ketchersid - Presented research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biologists Austin, TX.

Raven Harrison Second Prize Biology Poster Competition; President of the Black Student Union (which won Student Organization of the Year)

Destiny Kimbrough Biology Merit Award, First Place Biology Poster Competition, President of Scientista which was awarded DEI Initiative of the Year

Jill Kinstler Honors Graduate- Emerge Scholar, Second Prize Biology Poster Competition; Orientation Leader of the Year

Rosalie Laconto Biology Post-Baccalaureate Studies Award

Abigail Lillibridge - Helen and Charles McConville Scholarship

Rowan Marshall Honors Graduate, presented research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biologists Austin TX.

Payton McCain Honors Graduate, presented research at the Annual Meeting of the Florida Chapter of the American Fisheries Society and at the Florida Fisheries Meeting.

Natalie McGinniss Outstanding senior award, First Place Biology Poster Competition

Morgan Misenar Honors Graduate

Olivia Miles Laurence L. Campbell Award

Sierra Robertson Boris T. Sokoloff Southern Biological Research Scholarship

Hailee Schalwig Fulbright Scholarship to Taiwan, President’s Medal for the spring 2023 graduating class, Honors Graduate

Jonathan Sellas Biology Merit Award, Academic Fuel Student of the Year for subject matter, First Place Biology Poster Competition

Abby Tarleton Biology Post-Baccalaureate Studies Award, Academic Fuel Student of the Year for the Writing Center, Honors Graduate, presented research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biologists Austin TX.

Haley Thomassy Laurence L. Campbell Award

Coral Tolman Herman and Theresa Tieser Baum Scholarship

Francisco Vargas Helen and Charles McConville Scholarship

Kaela Wilks John R. Haldeman Award

Faulty Awards

Dr. Susan Banks Spirit of the Cornerstone Award, ODK Teacher of the Year

Dr. Jason Macrander Advisor of the Year Award

Dr. Nancy Morvillo Scientista Professor of the Year Award

Congratulations Hailee

May 16, 2023

At the spring commencement ceremony on May 6, 2023, the President’s Medal was awarded to Hailee Schalwig, who has achieved academic excellence and exemplified the values of Florida Southern College at the highest level. An outstanding student, she was recently selected for one of the most competitive and prestigious national academic awards, the Fulbright Scholarship.

Schalwig earned degrees in both Environmental Studies and Marine Biology, with minors in English and Communications. She is a top-performing Honors student and graduated Summa Cum Laude. Her passion for education, our global future, and conservation, combined with her study of Mandarin qualifies her as an outstanding Fulbright Scholar to Taiwan. During her time at FSC, she was a teaching assistant and peer mentor, conducted research at the SharkLab in Bimini, The Bahamas and interned as a biologist and educator at Circle B Bar Reserve.

Taking a Breather

May 5, 2023

Jonathan Sellas ’23 has not decided which medical school he wants to attend, but he has made one big decision ahead of resuming his studies.

“Everyone I talked to has pretty much told me to not do anything this summer, and that I need to relax mentally,” Sellas said.

Since choosing Florida Southern over the University of South Florida four years ago because of the sense of community Sellas discovered during Scholar’s Weekend, he has devoted his time to academics and acquiring his major degrees in Biology and Spanish.


Apr 27, 2023

It makes sense for Hailee Schalwig ’23 to go to Taiwan as a Fulbright Student when she graduates from Florida Southern College in May.

When Schalwig, who is majoring in Environmental Studies and Marine Biology, was confirmed as a Fulbright award winner she was already prepared for her upcoming assignment.

“I took eight years of Chinese in middle and high school,” Schalwig said. “That helped influence me to choose Taiwan over other countries because I have that language background.”

The main language spoken in Taiwan is Mandarin (Chinese), and while Schalwig said she is not completely fluent in that dialect she will be more than comfortable in her new environment.


April 24, 2023

Over spring break Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Susan Banks, Ph.D., and Professor of Psychology Dr. Patrick Smith, Ph.D., took three Florida Southern College students to the Max Plank Florida Institute for Neuroscience Sunposium Conference at the Palm Beach County Convention Center in West Palm Beach.

Biology major Ryan Breitenbach ’24 and Psychology majors Ariana Harris ’24 and Madison Meares ’23 were selected to be Florida Fellows, a program supporting undergraduate student participation in the conference.

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