The GED/UWF Science Training in Ecology Program (STEP) is designed to provide undergraduate students with cooperative and collaborative scientific research and training opportunities. It is anticipated that most, if not all, research will be conducted at the Environmental Protection Agency, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Gulf Ecology Division, Gulf Breeze, FL (GED) (http://www.epa.gov/ged/).
I. Facilitate and enhance the training of emerging scientists by coordinating high caliber research opportunities for Undergraduate students in the ecological and environmental sciences with emphasis on marine, estuarine, and coastal wetlands research.
II. Provide assistance to Universities in their efforts to train high quality research scientists in ecology and environmental science through research opportunities for students at GED.
III. Provide students with unique training experience by participating in research activities at GED, a fully operational federal estuarine and marine research laboratory.
This training cooperative agreement is designed to provide stipend, travel, and tuition funds for participants, depending on the level of the award. Individuals with partial sources of support (co- funding) are encouraged to apply.
I. Effects of elevated temperature and ultraviolet radiation (UVR) on the growth of selected Symbiodinium spp. (symbiotic algae, or “zooxanthellae”) and/or cyanobacteria isolated from Pensacola Bay- The objective is to determine the impact of the combined effects of temperature and UVR on the growth of coral zooxanthellae and/or cyanobacteria in an effort to understand the impacts of global climate change on coral reefs and algal blooms. EPA Mentor: Dr. John E. Rogers
Approach: Cultures of coral symbiotic algae and cyanobacteria will be incubated under a range of temperatures and levels of UVR over a period of 2-3 weeks. Cultures will then be sacrificed and analyzed for total cell counts, photosynthetic pigments, and photosynthetic activity. The student will be mentored in developing research plans and experimental designs within the above objectives. The student will become familiar with a number of exposure systems for both temperature and UVR as well as laboratory equipment used in the analysis of exposed cultures. Equipment for this project will include PAM fluorometers, spectrophotometers, autoclaves for preparing media, and microscopes. The student will also learn a variety of common laboratory techniques, following all principals of laboratory safety, environmental compliance and quality assurance. The student will be required to present his/her results to their mentor in written and oral format, and maintain his/her own laboratory notebook. A final report summarizing research results is required at the end of the student’s traineeship. The project holds high potential for student trainees to submit an abstract to a national meeting and present results.
II. Effect of nutrient addition on phytoplankton growth and physiology. The objective is to develop a working protocol for a multiplexed nutrient addition bioassay. EPA Mentor: Dr. Michael C. Murrell
Approach: Nutrient addition bioassay experiments are a commonly used method
to evaluate the nutrient status of phytoplankton in natural waters, yet are
relatively labor intensive. Traditionally a bioassay experiment requires a minimum
of 12 relatively large incubation bottles (500 ml or 1000 ml). This approach
makes it difficult to conduct a large number of experiments/treatments/replicates.
This project would involve conducting a series of paired bioassay experiments
using 2 different methods in order to evaluate whether a small volume method
(using multi-well plates) could replace the traditional method. Water collections
for these experiments will be made from the laboratory dock and/or from selected
sites in Pensacola Bay. The phytoplankton response to nutrient treatments would
be measured using a combination of in vivo fluorescence and extracted chlorophyll
techniques. This method, if robust, would allow us to examine the interaction
between nutrient status and other environmental variables. Possible variables
include light levels, temperature, nutrient ratios and concentrations, nutrient
forms, humics/DOC, DON, etc. Multiplexing this type of assay would allow us
to design whole experiments on a plate or series of plates in a tightly controlled
The student will be mentored in developing a research plan within the above objectives, and become familiar with standard laboratory equipment and methods. Equipment for this project will include most of the following: a multi-well plate reading fluorometer, a bench-top fluorometer, a temperature-controlled, lighted incubator, an electronic balance, a pH meter, an autoclave, and compound and dissecting microscopes. Methods will include media preparation, chlorophyll analysis, microscopic counting techniques, etc. The student will learn a variety of common laboratory techniques, following all principles of laboratory safety, environmental compliance and quality assurance. The student will be required to present his/her results to their mentor in written and oral format, and maintain his/her own laboratory note book. A final report summarizing research results is required at the end of the student’s traineeship. The project holds high potential for student trainees to submit an abstract to a national meeting and present results.
III. Effects of landscape patterns on structural
and functional characteristics of biota in shallow, near-coastal habitats.
The objective is to determine the chemical and biological effects of terrestrial landscape patterns on ecosystem services associated with the flora and fauna inhabiting shallow coastal habitats. EPA Mentor: Dr. Michael Lewis
Approach: Anthropogenic stressors have deleterious effects on coastal resources
such as seagrass communities, coral reefs and mangroves, and the ecosystem services
they provide may be compromised as a result. This project contains two tasks
that address this problem; first, a literature survey will be conducted that
summarizes and compares the effects of anthropogenic contaminants on seagrasses,
corals and mangroves. The student will conduct this search and summarize the
data. The student, with the mentor’s assistance, will publish the summary
in the scientific literature and be a co-author.
The goal of the second phase of this project is to assess habitat value based on ecosystem services provided, such as support of estuary-dependent coastal fisheries. Both field and laboratory duties are associated with this effort including: field collection of nekton and shrimp, water quality monitoring, and data analysis. Some travel will be required. The student will work with several different scientists and will be trained in field sampling methods, mesocosm growth study procedures, and will work with equipment such as remotely-deployed water quality recording instruments and YSI hand-held multi-meters. Maintenance of a detailed laboratory notebook and adherence to QA procedures will be required. In addition to preparing a final report summarizing research results, the student may have the opportunity to prepare a presentation for a scientific meeting that summarizes the field research and be a co-author with the mentor. The student will learn aquatic ecological field techniques, and receive training in all elements of the scientific process from planning to writing.
***Application will remain open until the positions are filled. Review begins April 25, 2007***
Undergraduate Associates (UG) Successful UG applicants must be in good standing with their universities and have strong academic records. Grade point averages in science courses should be equal or greater than 3.0. Undergraduate students pursuing science degrees will benefit greatly from working with scientists at GED, a dedicated research facility. Both part-time and full-time training positions will be established dependent on the academic commitments of the prospective students. It is expected that UG participants will participate in research activities at GED 3 - 5 days per week during the academic year and 5 days a week during summer months. Independent research in the form of an undergraduate honors thesis or directed study credits may be options, dependent on the nature of the training opportunity, the recommendation of the academic advisor, and home institutional guidelines. Once admitted into STEP, a training plan will be developed by the UG with assistance from the GED mentor and a faculty member (advisor) from a cooperating university and approved by the EPA Project Officer and UWF Program Manager.
Applications from prospective UGs will require a statement of research interests, career goals, and how working at GED-GB will enhance those goals. All applications must include letters of support from Department chairs and academic advisors.
Maximal Levels of Support per student-Year 1
Application Materials Summary: Application is made by submitting the materials described below prior to the April 25 deadline.
Recommendations for the positions will be based on the following criteria:
1) Statement of intent (i.e. statement of research interests, career goals, and how working at GED-GB will enhance those goals) and potential for research (25%).
2) Academic performance and letters of recommendation (75%).
Further information may be obtained from and completed applications should be sent to: