University of South Florida St. Petersburg



Students examine sediment in a lab at CMS

Xiomara Cruz and Juleika Vega Perez attend the University of Puerto Rico and are participating in the summer REU program at USF.

Students from across the country will spend the summer at USF conducting ocean and weather research

By Sarah Sell, University Communications and Marketing

More than 40 students from across the country will spend the summer at USF St. Petersburg, immersing themselves in research focused on oceanography, weather, climate change and science communication.

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program gives students the interdisciplinary research skills needed for graduate school and future careers.

Funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), students are paid to work alongside faculty and other researchers who are conducting NSF-funded research. The students receive a stipend for travel, food and accommodations on campus.

The St. Petersburg campus is home to two REU programs for Summer 2024. 

  • Making Waves: Science Communication and Interdisciplinary Ocean Research Experiences hosted by USF's College of Marine Science (CMS). 
  • Interdisciplinary Approaches to Climate Change Adaptation Research and Training (PIACCART) hosted by USF's College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). 

"These programs are crucial for undergraduates who may be coming from community colleges or universities where they don't have exposure to mentored research," said Jennifer Collins, a professor in the CAS School of Geosciences whose research focuses on weather and climate. "When they leave here, these students will be trained and can then be ready to conduct graduate-level research."


Students from the St. Petersburg and Tampa campuses took a tour of the National Weather Service on May 31.

The Making Waves cohort will spend ten weeks on campus developing their research skills in oceanography and gaining a better understanding of the interdisciplinary nature of oceanographic research and the relevant field of science communication.

Activities are divided into two focus areas, with most dedicated to hands-on research projects and the rest toward enhanced experiential activities such as professional development, science communication workshops and field trips around the St. Petersburg Innovation District, which includes USF St. Petersburg; Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital; Orlando Health Bayfront Hospital; and multiple government agencies such as the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Coast Guard, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

USF is collaborating with some of those same organizations that have summer interns and will participate in shared experiences, including a meet and greet with speakers at the Nelson Poynter Memorial Library (NPML) and a trolley tour around the area.

"We have a lot of valuable assets around our campus," said Ana Arellano, assistant professor of instruction in CMS whose research focuses on chemical oceanography. "We will do several experiential field trips so the students can start looking at career options and graduate schools for the future."

Participants will conduct research inside the labs at CMS and in the Gulf of Mexico aboard the research vessel F.G. Walton Smith.

Students studying samples

Students are studying the seasonal differences in sediment texture and composition and characterization of benthic macrofauna associated with upside-down jellyfish blooms at selected sites in Jobos Bay, Puerto Rico.

"Students will be able to collect their own samples and work with their data," Arellano said. "So, instead of coming in and using the samples we have in our lab, the students will become familiar with the process of collecting them and present their data at the end of the summer."

The cohort for the PIACCART REU will spend nine weeks on campus focusing on climate adaptation and resiliency research.

The students, who come from diverse and underserved backgrounds, will have the opportunity to gain interdisciplinary research experience related to the effects of climate change on human health and vulnerable communities that are more at risk. Students will measure concentrations of organic pollutants in three neighborhoods with different socioeconomic profiles in the Tampa Bay area. 

Other experiential learning opportunities include trips to the National Weather Service in nearby Lakeland to learn about hurricane hunters, and the Port of Tampa to learn about environmental stewardship.

"We are bringing in students from different backgrounds like engineering, environmental science, music and even literature where the subject of adaptation and resiliency can be applied to their academic area of study," said Richard Mbatu, an associate professor in environmental policy.

Students from the REUs and the interns from the partnering organizations will present their research projects at a Summer Research Symposium held in the NPML on July 24 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. 

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