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Biology Learning Community: An Introduction to Engaged Learning

Oct 19, 2022

by FSC Staff


The Florida Southern College Biology Department oversees a learning community that includes all students who major in Biology, Biotechnology, Environmental Studies, Integrative Biology, Marine Biology, and Medical Laboratory Science.

Dr. Morvillo (Professor of Biology, Department Chair, Nelson C. White Chair in the Life Sciences), Dr. Banks (Associate Professor of Biology), and Dr. Brandon (Assistant Professor of Biology) have been directly involved with the department’s learning community for the last five years. Professor Moore (Visiting Instructor of Biology) has participated for four years and Dr. Macrander (Assistant Professor of Marine Biology) for three years. BIO 1500 (Biology I: Biological Essentials) and BIO 1501 (Current Perspectives in Biology) are core classes taught by the co-coordinators within the learning community.

“We are so excited to get to know our first-year students as they learn more about biology and the future career path they may choose,” Dr. Banks said. “Through the learning community, students can connect with the faculty and our outstanding peer mentors to explore all the options available to them at FSC and beyond.”

Students have the opportunity to learn more about a wide variety of Biology related careers. Biology Learning Community events allow the students to engage with professionals across many fields, support their career planning, and help them to make progress towards career goals. 

“Students participate in a novel research project in collaboration with Tiny Earth as part of the lab component of the BIO 1500 course,” Dr. Banks said. “They isolate, identify, and perform initial characterization of bacteria that produce antibiotics.  The goal of the project is to potentially find a novel antibiotic that may help with the antibiotic resistance crisis.”

Collaborating with Tiny Earth is an example of the engaged learning opportunities FSC students have that go beyond campus. The organization refers to college students as “Tiny Earthlings” and has the stated goal for college students to “enroll in a Tiny Earth research course to discover antibiotics from soil bacteria in their own backyards.” The Tiny Earth network is worldwide and teaches evidence-based, hands-on science. Experiential engaged learning like the collaboration with Tiny Earth is continuous throughout students’ time in the Biology Learning Community and at the College.

Every year, the Biology Learning Community collaborates with other learning communities from across campus for a series of events that involve screening a blockbuster film and interdisciplinary discussions. Those events are a way for students to have fun, as well as get to know other faculty and students from across the college.


Florida Southern College Medical Laboratory Sciences Program Earns National Accreditation

Jun 6, 2022

by Tangela Walker-Craft
Senior Writer


The National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences (NAACLS), the premier agency for the international accreditation and approval of educational programs in the clinical laboratory sciences and related health care disciplines, has fully accredited Florida Southern College’s Medical Laboratory Sciences program.

Florida Southern is one of only two private, not-for-profit institutions in Florida accredited by the NAACLS to offer the MLS degree. First introduced to FSC students in 2017, the MLS program earned accreditation in the first year it was eligible.

“We are so excited for this amazing achievement,” said Dr. Nancy Morvillo, Professor and Chair of the Department of Biology and Nelson C. White Chair in the Life Sciences. “Up to 70 percent of decisions about a patient’s health care are based on the laboratory tests done by MLS professionals. There is currently a huge shortage of MLS professionals, and the field is growing as more and more types of medical testing become available. NAACLS accreditation will greatly help attract students to our program and address this shortage, not only in Florida, but nationwide.”

Medical laboratory scientists work as detectives, investigating and working as vital members of a patient’s health care team to determine the cause of illness. They use the instrumentation to perform diagnostic analyses on patient samples and provide laboratory results to clinicians and commonly work in hospital clinical laboratories, commercial laboratories, pharmaceutical, chemical, or biotechnology companies, and in research and teaching institutions.

The Medical Laboratory Sciences program is part of the Healthcare Professional and STEM (HPSTEM) curriculum at Florida Southern. It is an allied health career opportunity for students interested in working in a clinical laboratory. The FSC Medical Laboratory Sciences program is a licensed training program by the state of Florida.

Unlike other clinical laboratory programs, Florida Southern offers MLS training as a four-year program leading to a Bachelor of Science degree. Students spend their first two years in small classes taught by FSC faculty, building an extensive foundation in the basic biological sciences. They take courses in anatomy and physiology, biology, biochemistry, chemistry, immunology, microbiology, and parasitology. After gaining advanced laboratory skills, students transition to Lakeland Reginal Health to complete their specialized medical laboratory courses, clinical internships, and a capstone course requiring an original research project.
“Smaller class sizes means that students have basically one-on-one interactions with the FSC faculty,” said Dr. Morvillo. “Our faculty get to know our students very well, so we can work with them and help them on their journey.”
  A four-year program provides FSC students the opportunity to pursue higher paying jobs and affords them more opportunities as they advance in the field. A Bachelor of Science degree allows them to continue their education in Master’s and Doctoral programs. That can be an avenue to continue on to medical school. There are many more options available with a four-year degree than with a two-year certification program. 

LRH approached FSC to start this program as they found MLS professionals with Bachelor’s degrees were better prepared for the lab, and had better analytical, critical thinking and communications skills than their counterparts who had not obtained a Bachelor’s degree.

“The FSC/LRH MLS program provided me with comprehensive classroom instruction and amazing hands-on experience in the laboratory,” Katherine Hall ’22 said. “The faculty and clinical instructors were always willing to help students and ensure our success. I am extremely proud to be a graduate from this program!”

The classes FSC students take at LRH are with outstanding FSC faculty who are practicing MLS professionals. Each of them has advanced degrees and certifications in their area. They work in the hospital lab facilities and are responsible not only for the extensive testing that occurs, but also for the management of the labs. FSC students get to work in the heart of these amazing facilities with outstanding professions. There are employment opportunities for current students in the LRH hospital labs, so students can work in the labs, gaining valuable experience, even before they complete the program. 

“The engaged learning in these classes allows students to work in laboratory settings, study real world examples, and understand the essentials in each of these disciplines,” Dr. Morvillo said. “Our faculty are well versed in these areas and dedicated to engaged learning.”

“The students work with the analytical instruments, quality control, maintenance, etc. They are exposed to new technologies and procedures before they start with their clinical rotations,” said Dr. Maridaliz Rodriguez Rosado, Ph.D, MLS(ASCP)CM, Education Specialist/Medical Laboratory Scientist Coordinator, and MLS Program Director. “In addition, they have the opportunity to work at the hospital as Laboratory Assistants, that helps them to have the skills in the pre-analytical area of the lab. That makes our program very promising in comparison with other institutions.”

Medical laboratories preferentially seek graduates of NAACLS programs to assure quality, value, innovation, and safety for healthcare consumers. Approval by the NAACLS requires external peer review in which the NAACLS grants public recognition to education programs that meet established education standards in the clinical laboratory science disciplines of Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS), among other clinical laboratory disciplines.

Human Anatomy & Physiology

After much anticipation, the house sorting is complete for the upcoming semesters Human Anatomy & Physiology 1’s lecture sections with Professor Tim Moore. Students completed a survey and from those results, were sorted into one of four houses for the entire semester. Students also received a custom sticker for their house commemorating the occasion.  The house options were as follows:

House Martin –Named after Dr. Camille Martin

House Animal: Pangolin

Inspired by the Integumentary System

House Carrasquillo – Named after Dr. Yarimar Carrasquillo

House Animal: Octopus

Inspired by the Nervous System

House Tandon – Named after Dr. Nina Tandon

House Animal: Kingfisher

Inspired by the Skeletal System

House Tanaka – Named after Dr. Mikiko Tanaka

House Animal: Great White Shark

Inspired by the Muscular System

Each house is inspired by an organism and a scientist representing one of the organ systems covered in
A&P 1. These scientists are currently active in the research community and excelling, some even
becoming CEOs of their own companies! Their work includes new research on pain in the nervous
system, groundbreaking research on the evolution of limb development, harnessing a compound
discovered in molluscs to create a new line of bioskincare products for all skin types, and attempting to
revolutionize the treatment of bone injuries.
When reached for comment, student Linda Erlanson had this to say, “I like the house sorting process
and contest because it is a fun way to actively engage in class.” Additionally, Linda praised the
competitive aspect of the houses, saying it spoke to her own competitive nature. She also stated that it
was helping her practice active recall with the material that helped her identify troublesome areas when
Another student, Natalie Bauman, shared the following, “I think what Professor Moore did was original,
fun, and included a lot of thought on his part." Natalie enjoyed the sorting quiz (which was heavily
inspired by pop culture) and how it helped create groups with students of similar vibes. Like Linda,
Natalie also enjoys the competitive aspect and enjoys how it helps motivate the students to participate.
So what’s next for Linda, Natalie, and the rest of their peers? An intense semester-long competition to
earn the most points. There will be blood, sweat, and even some tears but come December… there will
only be one CHAMPION.
UPDATE: At the end of the W.O.M.B.A.T. 1 Exam Period, we have our first set of champions!
In the 001 section, House Tandon won a decisive victory against the others. Section 003 was much closer
and narrowly won by House Martin. Will these teams continue their success and win again during the
T.H.O.R. 2 Exam Period or will another house rise up and seize the victory? Only time will tell!



This week we are getting to know Florida AFS Student Member, Catherine Fox, a little better! Catherine is a former Marine Biology & Environmental Science Student at Florida Southern College who has a serious passion for science!!! Also make sure to check out Catherine's recent blog "A Summer Spent Catching Sharks? Count Me In!" which details her summer research experience studying sharks in Florida!


Now, let's get to know Catherine a little better!

1.) What is your favorite part about being a member of AFS?

Being a part of AFS has given me a wonderful opportunity to meet others in the field and feel supported by a large network of researchers with similar interests. Everyone I have met has been so friendly and helpful!

2.) Why did you choose to go into the aquatic sciences?

Having grown up near the beach, I’ve always been curious about the ocean and it’s inhabitants. This curiosity led me to follow my dreams of learning more about the ocean by getting my degree in Marine Biology and Environmental Sciences.

3.) What is your favorite fish? And why?

My favorite fish is the yellow headed jawfish!! They’re so cute, and I love that the males take care of the eggs for the females.

4.) What is a fact about yourself that others may find interesting?

I’m moving to South Korea in August to teach English for a year!

5.) What kind of music are you listening to while you're in the field/lab?

I listen to 80s rock!! It’s the one thing everyone agrees on


Developing Future Biologists

Another Saturday spotlight! Victoria Dearman ('25) participated in the "Developing Future Biologists" program at the University of Michigan this summer. The program, led by postdocs and graduate students at the University of Michigan, aims to teach undergraduate students the core concepts in fundamental biology.

Florida Southern College Biology Professor Dr. Macrander Receives Grant to Research Florida’s Coral Reefs

Jun 29, 2022

Florida Southern College Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Dr. Jason Macrander, Ph.D. has been awarded a research grant by the "Protect Our Reefs" Program through Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The project is titled “Can Coral Venom Expression Predict Propagule Growth,” and is a collaborative research grant between Florida Southern College and the University of South Florida.

Florida Southern College will lead the research project, receiving two-thirds of the grant funds. The project involves opportunities shared between the two schools, specifically benefiting and involving two undergraduate students from each institution. Florida Southern students enrolled in their capstone research for fall and spring semesters in 2022-23 will collect genetic signatures of coral propagules in a high-food and low-food environment to determine the role venom may have on coral propagule health and long-term coral reef recovery efforts.
“The grant includes providing financial compensation for students as they are expected to contribute additional time outside of class to meet the project objectives,” Dr. Macrander said.
FSC student Rose Laconto ‘23 will be able to work with corals, but also gain new skills in genetic and bioinformatic analysis to meet the objectives of the proposed research. Laconto, who is from Oxford, Mass., is involved with the Tri-Rho Marine Biology Honors Society.
"I’m super excited to be learning more about coral biology through this project,” Laconto said. I’m hoping that our findings can really make a difference in restoration efforts!

Research will begin during the summer of 2022, with coral propagule growth analysis and tissue sample collections taking place in Tampa, with RNA extractions happening in Lakeland. In the fall, RNA samples will be shipped to an off-campus sequencing facility in New Jersey for comparative cnidarian RNA-sequencing analysis. Students will begin preliminary data analysis collaboratively between both institutions.

In January, the students will present their preliminary findings at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) conference in Austin, Texas. Students will begin to finalize data analysis in the spring semester, with the results to be published in a peer review journal next summer.
The collaboration with USF is “essential to establishing connections among other institutions and provide opportunities for students to network and be exposed to new ideas and form collaborative research projects like this one,” Dr. Macrander said. “We have complementary skills to accomplish the goals of the grant, with a shared interest in coral reef restoration and coral biology.” 
  The project is one of the many examples of engaged learning opportunities afforded to FSC students. The multi-institutional collaboration will provide training opportunities for future coral reef restoration scientists. Macrander expects that this current grant will serve as a seed grant for a larger National Science Foundation (NSF) or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant in the future.

  “The Mote grant is for one year; I anticipate our results will be published in a scientific journal summer 2023, with students taking lead author positions,” Dr. Macrander said. “A main focus is student training in this area as there is so much that needs to be done to restore our coral reefs.”
The grant is funded by the state of Florida through the Mote Marine Laboratory. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles sells vehicle specialty license plates for a variety of causes.

“Protect Our Reefs” plate purchases help to fund research.

Biology Honors students spend their summer nights conducting behavioral research with owl monkeys

Florida Southern Student Dives Into Internship

Jun 27, 2022

Molly Kennedy ’25 is used to spending time in the water as a member of Florida Southern’s swim team but this summer she was in unfamiliar waters. The Marine Biology major and rising sophomore spent two months in Sodwana Bay, South Africa interning with Sharklife Conservancy. Established in 2005, Sharklife addresses the exploitation of both shark populations and ocean fisheries in South African waters. 

Sharklife’s three aims are to develop a compassionate desire to conserve sharks by removing the stigma, reduce anthropogenic threats to over exploited marine species by increasing awareness and encouraging sustainable seafood choices, and evolving shark populations into sustainable living resources by promoting educational ocean experiences for all South Africans. 

“We educate the public about real shark behavior and not what people assume sharks are,” Molly said. 

During her internship, Molly assisted in monitoring shark and marine animal movements by maintaining Baited Remote Underwater Video cameras and cataloging footage obtained from the BRUVs. 

She was also able to achieve her advanced Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) certification as part of the internship process. 

This was a unique and once in a lifetime experience, as Sharklife operates within a marine protected area, known as a sanctuary. Those involved in Sharklife are the only people allowed access to the protected area of the ocean. 

“It’s an extremely unique opportunity that allows me to gain field and data collection experience,” Molly said. “I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to get their foot in the door with shark research.”

It didn’t hurt that Molly was surrounded by a stunning location and wonderful people to do her internship with.

Although Sodwana Bay is a small town, the people Molly met there were one of her favorite parts of the overall experience. 

“Upon landing in Durban, I met people from all over the world who were all conservation minded and extremely smart,” she said. “They have taught me that no matter where we come from, that everyone has something in common that can lead to a beautiful conversation and potentially a friendship.”

Molly not only got to put her passion for marine biology to work, but witnessed marine life in a way most will not have a chance to in their lifetime. 

While diving she observed sharks, rays and a pod of humpback whales traversing the bay. Molly was also able to visit iSimangaliso Wetland Park and spend time with land creatures such as rhinos, elephants, hippos, giraffes and zebras.   

FSC Inspired Internship

  Molly credits Florida Southern academic advisor Dr. Gabriel Langford for helping her identify and pursue the incredible opportunity. 

“Dr. Langford asked me to look into summer opportunities/internships that were related to my major,” she said. “Naturally I wanted to find something that would have me doing hands on work in the field!”

When she found Sharklife, Molly felt like she hit the jackpot. The engaged learning opportunity was imperative to her education and something she could never have experienced in a classroom.   
“It allows aspiring marine biologists, or whatever major you want to be, to see what a day in the life really looks, feels, and, in the case of shark research, smells like – and spoiler alert: it’s sardines,” Molly said.

At Florida Southern we encourage you to be an active participant in your education by being involved with internships throughout the college experience. 

This was Molly’s first internship, and she even made the decision to extend her time in Sodwana because she was not ready for it to be over.

“Experience oriented internships are the best way for a student to test the water when they’re considering a career path; and can help them avoid getting stuck in a job that they don’t actually enjoy down the line,” Molly said. “I cannot encourage college students enough to take advantage of experienced based internships; there’s truly nothing else like it!”
Let’s Go Mocs!

Promoting Primate Conservation Across the Globe

One FSC faculty member is working to help local communities understand the importance of primate conservation through children’s books.

Dr. Christy Wolovich, Associate Professor of Biology, recently co-authored a children’s book about the ecology and conservation of the critically endangered Temminck’s red colobus monkeys in West Africa.  A GoFundMe campaign raised funds to print and ship the books to the Gambia, West Africa where a local non-profit organization, The Communities for Red Colobus Project (C4RC) has been using the books in schools around the country to sensitize children and their families to the need to protect these primates. 

Funding Grants Expand Research Capabilities of Florida Southern's Marine Biology Program

The Mosaic Company is partnering with Florida Southern College for the second time in two years to support the purchase of a shallow draft boat to be used by marine biology faculty and students to collect samples and conduct research in Tampa Bay and related water ways!

Marine Biology Research Grant to Fund Study of Environmental Impacts on Florida Stone Crabs

A grant sponsored by the Tampa Bay Environmental Restoration Fund (TBERF) will support important student/faculty research on Florida's stone crab fisher, to be conducted in summer 2021 by Florida Southern College's Department of Biology

FSC Marine Biology Students Participate In An International Conference

Students conducting research with Marine Biology professor Dr. Jason Macrander had the opportunity to participate in their first ever international conference at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology (SICB) meeting, which took place in Austin, Texas from January 3rd to January 7th, 2020. 

Macrander Lab Summer Research

What happens when you take the sting out of venom? Well, Assistant Professor of Marine Biology Jason Macrander and two undergraduate student researchers set out to explore just that as part of their Faculty-Student Collaborative research project this past summer. Sophomore Sophi Brice `25 and Rising Senior Abigail Ketchersid `23 ventured into the estuaries surrounding Marineland, Florida to capture the elusive starlet sea anemone Nematostella vectensis. This population is of particular importance as they had experienced a significant gene loss through genomic reshuffling, resulting in the nearly complete loss of an essential Nv1 venom gene. Although the species had been reported to be found there previously, Dr. Macrander and his long-term collaborators failed to recover any in the wild despite multiple sampling attempts. After surveying numerous mudflats and temporary ponds, Dr. Macrander and his students finally happened upon an isolated population, indicating that the species distribution did in fact reach this far south. Further evaluation in the lab indicated that the gene loss negatively influences the populations’ ability to capture prey and potentially defend against predators. Reflecting on the summer research experience Sophi Brice stated "I really enjoyed the connection between going out in the field and designing experiments in the lab.” Upon returning to campus for fall semester, the students have continued their research in this area by attempting to characterize toxin gene expression of the elusive Florida population. Dr. Macrander hopes that this research will gain insight into how complex venom cocktails evolve across taxa, and help scientists better understand consequences of genomic reshuffling resulting in toxin gene loss.

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