All posts by Erica Moulton

Mother’s Day with Mother Ocean

Under an SPC Titan Grant, students have been working on cataloging, documenting and processing the flora and fauna on the property of world famed oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle.

An SPC Alumni herself, Dr Earle is working to change the zoning and permitting of her family homestead in Dunedin, Fl. A portion of that process involves knowing what is there, what is invasive and what can be enhanced to encourage more natives. Dr Earle was recently in town to address fines assessed to her property as well as the need for green space. She spoke to a packed audience at the Dunedin Library on Saturday, May 11th. In recognition of their efforts conducting the biological assessments the SPC students were invited to her home on Sunday, May 12th, Mother’s Day, for an evening with Dr Earle and her family.

Bird Banding and Survey Work

Student volunteers are helping to catalog the bird species at SPC’s Bay Pines STEM Center.

Under the permitted work of ornithologist Jim McGinity and funded through an SPC Titan grant, the efforts have logged 22 species of birds in the Cornell/Audubon curated “ebird” program.

Fellow birders can follow along on the e-bird app or website and receive updated lists of bird species that are identified here at the STEM Center. Students are also learning how to use the Merlin Bird ID App to properly identify species through feather color, body characteristics, habitat and observed behavior. These birds are also adding to the curated list for the STEM Center.

Student work on this project involves every level of observation, from binoculars to permitted deployment of mist nests and eventual bird banding. Students will then complete the survey at the STEM Center and move onto another habitat in Dunedin, Fla.

SPC and Mote Marine Lab Collaboration

Marine debris has become an increasing problem impacting Florida’s wildlife and habitats.  In early 2017 FWC and Florida DEP released a draft version of the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan for stakeholder review and input.  This document was created after 3 years and several meetings of multiple collaborating agencies and non-profits including Mote Marine Lab in Sarasota.  The purpose of the Marine Debris Reduction Guidance is to highlight strategies and actions to achieve desired goals – reducing impacts on wildlife and critical habitats.

Ms. Bassos-Hull, a Senior Biologist at Mote also currently serves as co-lead of the Wildlife

Student volunteers learn how to identify and catalog marine debris.

and Habitats Impacts Group within this guidance plan and is working with SPC’s Dr Erin Goergen to bring this work to Pinellas County.  SPC’s STEM Center at Bay Pines is pleased to be their initial location.

Why? One critical need that was addressed in this plan was to identify trends and hot spots by collecting data on marine debris in specified areas.  The areas around St Pete College and the new marine lab provide excellent areas to engage students in targeted collection of marine debris data (and to participate in cleanups) along with asking students to brainstorm debris reduction measures and outreach in the community.  Students have begun training

Mote Senior Scientist Kim Bassos-Hull gives SPC student participants instruction on how to use the marine debris tracking app.

Quick field lesson on how to collect and catalog debris collected in the field.

to conduct marine debris surveys and cleanups using the Marine Debris Tracker App and identify problem area hotspots.  Communication of results to community and regional park and waste managers will be required of students through a CAPstone (Community Awareness Project).  While this proposed research is a start, eventually it can be expanded to look for microplastics in both gut contents of fish and invertebrates as well as in water samples from around the St Pete area.

Girls Inc Summer Camp Visits STEM Center

Inspiring all girls to be strong, smart and bold, Girls Inc has teamed up with the SPC STEM Center to provide a unique opportunity to learn about SPC, STEM careers and the new Center.  Each day this week, groups of 18 to 20 girls have been traveling to the Center to participate in scientific learning groups all tailored around their age and grade level.  Activities include how to use a dichotomous key, how to observe the environment as a scientist and how the scientific method can be used to help aid in reducing marine plastics. Its been a great week and we hope they all see themselves as future SPC STEM students!



Inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference Highlights

The college’s new Bay Pines STEM Center served as the home for Dr. Erin Goergen’s inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference, held in January.
The first day of the event, attendees had the opportunity to attend a variety of concurrent sessions, a working lunch, and panel of professionals session. After lunch, student posters were presented. 
Saturday was filled with a variety  of hands-on STEM workshops ranging from Citizen Science to Drones, Arduino and Biostatics. The weekend culminated in a Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service project. Nearly 50 participants helped install a native plant garden along the perimeter of the building. Additionally, the group partnered with Keep Pinellas Beautiful and helped to remove a total of 3,260 pounds of trash and 25 pounds of aluminum from the STEM Center property!

Highlights from inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference Highlights from inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference Highlights from inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference Highlights from inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference

Inaugural STEM by the Bay Conference

Organizers designed the conference – set for January 12, 13, and 15 – to allow students to meet with STEM professionals and learn how they entered their chosen fields and to get  hands-on experience while exploring what areas were a best fit for them.

Bay Pines STEM Center

The center is dedicated to supporting collaboration and training opportunities for students in STEM disciplines. Science labs at the center are dedicated to Dr. John Chapin. The retired dean of natural sciences at the college, he passed away in February 2017.