UF in Madagascar:

Madagascar is among the largest islands in the world. Located off the east coast of Africa, it has an unparalleled flora and fauna. Students learn about biodiversity, conservation, and sustainable development through attending guest lectures, meeting stakeholders, and doing fieldwork in one of the world’s most biodiverse landscapes.

Especially for Pre-Health Students:

Our new faculty will be offering a range of courses, from Behavioral Drivers of Disease to Neurobiology. In the meantime, their arrival has allowed our existing outstanding faculty to develop new courses such as Cancer Biology and Stem Cell Biology.

Plus, we now have a second study abroad program especially for pre-health students: UF in Mérida. Through this program, students immerse themselves in the study of epidemiology and Spanish in the heart of the ancient Mayan empire. Today, Mérida is home to one of Mexico’s most prestigious universities and is also a center for research on mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever. Mérida is the ideal place to study about the interplay between humans, the environment, and infectious disease.


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Dr. Cherie Bond, Lecturer. Dr. Bond brings a wealth of teaching experience to Biology! Her specialties are genetics and cell biology, both face to face and online.


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Dr. Connie Rich, Lecturer. Dr. Rich is contributing both in the classroom, specializing in physiology and development, and beyond! Dr. Rich is our new experiential learning coordinator and brings to the position her experiences of living in the U.K.


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Dr. Gareth Fraser, Assistant Professor. Dr. Fraser studies the evolution and development of vertebrates, mainly fishes. One of his specialties is understanding how animals like sharks develop and continuously regenerate their teeth.


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Dr. Hua Yan, Assistant Professor. Dr. Yan studies the molecular regulation of neural development and plasticity in social animals. He is using ants to understand how neurons and neural circuits are established, maintained, and even altered in response to social cues.



Dr. Nick Keiser, Assistant Professor. Dr. Keiser studies how animal behavior influences infectious disease dynamics, focusing on various invertebrate systems like social spiders, ants, and flies.


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Dr. Ana Longo, Assistant Professor. Dr. Longo studies global amphibian declines due to fungal infectious diseases. She wants to understand differences in susceptibility by identifying ecological factors and evolutionary processes that affect host–parasite interactions.

Biology Teaching Laboratories Renovation

It took less than five months from first notification in April through design, planning, demolition, and construction, to teaching in our beautifully updated labs this fall. More than 4,000 undergraduate students per year pass through these labs for courses ranging from introductory biology to vertebrate anatomy. We are thrilled with the Provost’s generous funding of our renovation. Successfully managing a complex project like this with such a tight timeline could not have happened without the amazing teamwork of our building managers, our teaching labs team, and the CLAS Dean’s office. Thank you to all.

University of Florida student Aaron Sandoval, a biology sophomore, has been awarded a Goldwater Scholarship for the 2018-2019 academic year.

Sandoval plans to earn an M.D. and a Ph.D. in Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology before pursuing a research career in regenerative medicine. He is also a UF University Scholar and currently conducts research with Dr. Malcolm Maden, UF biology professor and researcher in the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex.

“I’m proud to have Aaron Sandoval and [honorable mention] Andrew Sack receive recognition from Goldwater for the outstanding records they have compiled at UF,” said Mark Law, director of the UF Honors Program. “They will go on to great things with their research and academic interests.”

The Goldwater Scholarship is the most prestigious undergraduate award in the fields of natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. It is awarded to students who demonstrate outstanding work in these areas and encourages them to continue their career paths.

This year, 1,280 students from 470 institutions were nominated for the scholarship. The Goldwater Foundation awarded 211 nominees with scholarships and named an additional 281 as Honorable Mentions.

Past Goldwater Scholars include other members of the UF Honors Program, Mihael Cudic (2017, electrical engineering), Tiffany Paul (2016, physics), Colin Defant (2015, mathematics) and Lauren McCarthy (2015, chemistry).

Edited from article originally published on UF News.

This year, Doug Soltis was named a member of the National Academy of Sciences, honoring his seminal role on the Tree of Life project, which aims to catalogue and portray the relationships among Earth’s 2.3 million named species. Knowledge of these relationships is crucial for ecology, agriculture, medical science, and conservation. The Tree of Life, a traditional symbol of connection and natural wonder, now serves as an organizing principle of biodiversity. As the project’s chief metaphor, the Tree of Life deftly threads scientific and cultural meaning, providing a unique connector to the public. Indeed, Soltis and his colleagues are developing innovative means of engaging the public in celebration of biodiversity and its practical benefits, such as the discovery of medicines and improvement of crops. In November, Doug and Pam Soltis worked with the Florida Museum and international multimedia artist Naziha Mestaoui to present the Tree of Life to the local community. The Tree of Life collaborators will continue to offer novel methods of visualizing Earth’s remarkable variety of life.

Two biology faculty and staff members coauthor new book, Getting In

David G. Oppenheimer, associate professor, and, Paris H. Grey, coordinator of research programs, have published Getting In: The Insider’s Guide to Finding the Perfect Undergraduate Research Experience, which is available at Amazon.com (http://www.amazon.com/Getting-Insiders-Undergraduate-Research-Experience/dp/0692488340/). As medical and graduate admissions committees continue to place a high value on research experiences, undergraduate research positions are becoming more competitive. In Getting In, Oppenheimer and Grey help undergrads decide which research positions to pursue, how to contact potential mentors, nail interviews, and ultimately choose the perfect research experience. Getting In provides new researchers with the tools they need to manage their time inside and outside the lab. The book also includes an overview of what to expect from a research experience. In addition to the book, Oppenheimer and Grey created several social media channels including Instagram (@undergradinthelab and @youinthelab), Twitter, Facebook, and a blog, which provide advice, tips, and useful lab hacks for novice and experienced researchers alike.

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Christine Davis

Biology’s outstanding teacher-scholars were recognized by three nominations for the CLAS Teacher of the Year competition. Drs. Brad Barbazuk, Keith Choe, and Christine Davis were all nominated, which in itself is a singular honor. Among this stiff competition (which also included excellent teachers from many other departments in CLAS), Dr. Davis was awarded a 2017-2018 College Teaching Award. Among her many other accomplishments, Dr. Davis has pioneered (along with Dr. Alice Harmon) the Learning Assistants program that has transformed one of our foundational courses, BSC 2011. Moreover, Dr. Davis has the distinction of being the sole CLAS nominee for the university-wide competition, administered by the Office of Academic Affairs. Congratulations on this well deserved distinction and good luck in the UF competition, Christine!!!

Undergraduates enjoy amazing research opportunities

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Gabby Mizell, undergraduate student in the Palmer Lab, conducts field research in Kenya

Many of our undergraduate biology, zoology and botany students are engaged in exciting research projects with our faculty, post-docs and graduate students. The University Scholars Program and the Biology URAP program are two ways for students to get involved. Each spring, many of our undergraduate students present their research in the Undergraduate Research Symposium. This year, two presentations were recognized by the graduate student judges as particularly meritorious: Collette Cook, for her poster titled “Sexually dimorphic dorsal coloration in a jumping spider: do male color patterns mimic bees?” (Taylor Lab, Entomology) and Emily Griffith for her talk, “The evolution of tarsal spurs in Galliformes” (Kimball Lab). Additionally, small research grants ($250) were awarded to two outstanding undergraduates from Biology: Daniela Perez to support her project, “Variation of Organ Position in Snakes” (Lillywhite Lab) and Gabby Mizell for her project, “Ontogenetic variation in costs & benefits of a widespread ant-plant mutualism” (Palmer Lab).

Biology graduate student research awarded $8,000 in funding in 2017

The Department of Biology is fortunate to have funds dedicated to graduate student research. These funds have been established by friends and families of our faculty and students. We rely on these private donations to provide essential support for our graduate students, support that is not available from state funds or grants. Through the generosity of our donors, our graduate students will receive financial assistance for years to come to pursue their academic goals. We would like to recognize these donors by briefly describing these funds, ordered by date of establishment. This year’s awardees were announced at our annual graduate student dinner in February. A total of $8,000 was awarded to our graduate students this year!

The Lewis and Varina Vaughn Endowment for Orchid Biology was established by the Vaughn-Jordan Foundation in honor of Lewis and Varnia Vaughn in recognition of their long devotion to the study of orchids. The fund supports a graduate student con¬ducting research on the biology of orchids. This year, the award went to Haleigh Ray (Gillett-Kaufman Lab, Entomology) for her study, “Pollination and floral fragrance of native, epiphytic orchids in south Florida.”

The Brian Riewald Memorial Fund was established in 2002 by the family and friends of Brian Riewald after his death while still a graduate student in the Department of Zoology at UF. The fund provides small research grants for graduate students in Biology who have deserving projects but inadequate funding. This year, the award went to two graduate students, Shamindri Tennakoon (Kowalewski Lab) for her study, “Impact of artificial reefs on mollusk communities: a comparison between dead and living mollusk assemblages,” and Scott Cinel (Kawahara Lab) for his study, “Determining the physiological and molecular mechanisms affecting induced stress responses and fitness after long-term exposure to bat ultrasound in an agricultural pest mot.”

The Carrie Lynn Yoder Memorial Endowment was established by Carrie’s parents in memory of her. Carrie earned her bachelor’s degree in botany from the University of Florida. The fund supports graduate students in the Department of Biology with an emphasis on coastal ecology. This year, the Yoder award went to Andre Naranjo (P. Soltis Lab) for his study, “Understanding the evolution of narrow endemics for conservation.”

The Michael L. May Fund in Honor of Brian McNab and in Memory of Minter Westfall. Michael May graduated with a PhD from the Department of Zoology at UF and is now a professor in the Department of Entomology at Rutgers University. He established this fund to honor two of his UF professors – Brian McNab (pro¬fessor emeritus), who was chair of May’s PhD advisory committee, and Minter Westfall (deceased), who served on May’s committee. This fund supports graduate student research in any area of biology. This year the May Fund award went to Ian Ausprey (Robinson Lab) for his study on “Mechanistic explanations for dispersal limitation in neotropical montane birds: The role of morphology” and to Harlan Gough (Reed Lab) for his study, “Phylogeny and anti-bat adaptations of tiger beetles (Cicindelinae).”

A second May Fund Award recognizes interdisciplinary research. This award went to Chris Johns (Kawahara Lab) and Ummat Somjee (Miller Lab, Entomology) for their collaborative study, “The hidden costs of large weapons: Does large weaponry affect flight performance in an armed insect?”

Mildred Mason Griffith Botany Grant. This fund was established by the estate of Mildred Mason Griffith in 2008. Mildred Griffith was a botany professor specializing in plant anatomy. She was the first female professor of either botany or zoology. The recipient of this year’s Griffith award was Blaine Marchant (Soltis’ Labs) for his study, “The evolutionary significance of alternative splicing in fern and seed plant transcriptome diversity.”

H. Jane Brockmann Graduate Research Award was established in 2011 by zoology professor Jane Brockmann’s students and colleagues upon her retirement from the Department of Biology after 35 years. As a graduate student, Brockmann’s summer field research was made possible by endowed funds from her department, so she and her students wanted to return the favor with a similar research award. This fund supports graduate student research in animal behavior. This year, the award went to Alexandra Gulick (Bjorndal Lab) for her study, “Greener pastures: Impacts of green turtle recovery in the age of global seagrass decline.”

Davis Award. The fund was established in 2012 in honor of John Henry Davis, a former professor of botany. This year, the Davis Award went to Prabha Amarasinghe (Cellinese Lab) for her study, “An integrated approach for understanding the drivers of diversification in Memecylon (Melastomataceae).”

Biology has many students past and present from Puerto Rico, so when we heard about the terrible destruction from Hurricane Irma, we acted quickly. With the help of the Office of Research, we hosted Dr. Catherine Hulshof, a professor at University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez, so that she could continue her research and forge collaborations with UF while infrastructure was rebuilt. UF Professors Wayne and McDaniel also wrote a proposal to NSF and received funds to bring five graduate students to UF, so that they could continue their research and take advantages of unique opportunities here before returning home to finish their graduate studies. These students are continuing their work with world-renowned investigators in Biology and the Florida Museum of Natural History; they are at every seminar we have. Their excitement about biology is inspiring! We hope that when they return home, they’ll help bring UF scientists to Puerto Rico, too!

Jaaziel Garcia Hernandez is passionate about marine sponges, and is working with Dr. Gustav Paulay. Raiza Gonzalez Rodriguez is learning the latest on phylogenetics from Dr. Gordon Burleigh. Glorimar Franqui Rivera is a shark biologist, and is working with Drs. Gavin Naylor and Larry Page. She is delighted to have a broad exposure to marine biology and to take courses that simply aren’t available at her home institution. Edgardo Lopez Dejesus is studying genomic analysis with Charlie Baer, and Yoana Guzman Salgado is doing comparative genomics with Dr. Ed Braun, extending her studies of bacterial communities in compost piles. We are so fortunate to have these great students with us for spring semester.