Researchers from the USF College of Marine Science use the research vessel Weatherbird II to assess environmental damage and identify the fates of spilled oil. 

USF researchers share findings on 10-year anniversary of oil spill

TAMPA — April 20 marks the 10-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Since the event, scientists from the University of South Florida have made a number of key findings in their research on the disaster’s long-term impact on the marine ecosystem. Their most significant recent finding follows a survey of 15,000 fish in which marine scientists detected oil exposure in all of them.

The results stem from the first comprehensive baseline study of oil pollution in the Gulf of Mexico, including waters off the United States, Mexico and Cuba. A study published this month in Nature Scientific Reports looked at 2,500 individual fish representing 91 species from 359 locations across the Gulf. USF marine scientists found the highest levels of oil exposure were detected in yellowfin tuna, golden tilefish and red drum.

Over the last decade, the USF College of Marine Science has led more than 25 research expeditions and published hundreds of studies in academic journals. Researchers mounted the first academic Gulf-wide research expedition devoted specifically to Deepwater Horizon using the then-recently acquired research vessel Weatherbird II to assess environmental damage and identify the fates of spilled oil.

The unprecedented research was funded by a nearly $37 million grant from the independent Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to establish the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), an international consortium of professors, post-doctoral scholars and students from 19 collaborating institutions.

“Leading this research effort throughout the past decade has been an amazing experience,” said Dr. Steven Murawski, endowed chair of biological oceanography at the USF College of Marine Science and director of C-IMAGE. “We’ve been pulling together all of these critical pieces of research and incorporating them into larger ecosystem-wide modeling studies. This allows us to make predictions of how the Gulf will respond to future spills and deep blowouts.”

USF and C-IMAGE researchers:

  • Discovered that oil contamination not only occurred widely in surface waters, but that significant quantities of crude oil were deposited at the bottom of the deep sea.
  • Found that oil from the 1979 Ixtoc 1 spill, the world’s largest oil spill, remains on the seafloor four decades later.
  • Built the USF-funded Marine Environmental Chemistry Laboratory, a multi-room laboratory with state-of-the-art analytical instrumentation.
  • Summarized their major research findings in over 250 research publications and two books.

CCC High School reports success of Virtual Learning Program

CLEARWATER — On March 16, Clearwater Central Catholic High School launched its Virtual Learning Program in response to a directive from the Diocese of St. Petersburg to close all campus classrooms.

The program has been a success, according to a press release from CCC.

In 2011, CCC began developing a Virtual Learning Program following a visit to New Orleans to learn about how schools there dealt with virtual learning in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, CCC has made substantial investments toward online infrastructure and technology upgrades.

Factors that helped make the program a success include:

• One-to-one iPad program, which was implemented several years ago giving all students access to and familiarity with this technology including online textbooks, educational apps, and more

  • Interactive classroom instruction and online faculty office hours
  • Canvas Learning Management System and Microsoft Office 365 utilization.
  • Full-day structured class schedule
  • Real-time attendance and grading policy
  • Frequent and comprehensive communications with and support for parents

New short-term programs starting this fall at SPC

St. Petersburg College has added two new certificate programs that will kick off this fall term. These short-term training certificates — Laboratory Specialist Advanced Technical and Event Planning Management — provide students the opportunity to earn in-demand skills.

SPC's Laboratory Specialist Advanced Technical Certificate prepares students to work as a laboratory technician in a range of work environments, from government laboratories to manufacturing laboratory environments. The program focuses on the principles of biological sciences, chemistry and mathematics necessary for success in a scientific work environment.

Students can also transfer the credits to SPC’s Biotechnology Laboratory Technology Associate in Science and Bachelor of Science in Biology.

Dr. Natavia Middleton, SPC Dean of Natural Science and Engineering, said employment opportunities for laboratory staff are expected to grow at least 10-15 percent in the next decade.

“The laboratory specialist certificate at St. Petersburg College will help to build a pipeline of personnel, who will work within diverse settings that include healthcare, industry, research and educational institutions,” Middleton said.

SPC’s Event Planning Management Certificate prepares students to become a supervisor in event planning management in the hospitality industry. In Florida, the average salary for meeting, convention and event planners is $45,130. This certificate transfers to the college’s Associate in Science in Hospitality & Tourism Management.

“Companies are looking for individuals who have a well-rounded understanding of the industry and are able to manage different events that result in an enhanced customer experience,” said SPC Dean of College of Business Marta Przyborowski. “The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the main drivers of economic activity in Florida, and the certificate will provide students with the skills and knowledge to be successful in this area.”

For more information about the certificates and programs at SPC, visit

Tarpon Springs High senior a semifinalist for national award

TARPON SPRINGS — Alexander Theophilopoulos, a senior and valedictorian at Tarpon Springs High School, has been selected as a semifinalist in the 2020 U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.

Semifinalists were selected from nearly 5,300 candidates. Theophilopoulos is one of 620 semifinalists. Inclusion in the program is one of the highest honors bestowed on high school seniors. Students are selected based on superior academic and artistic achievements, leadership qualities, strong character and involvement in community and school activities.

Annually, up to 161 U.S. Presidential Scholars are chosen. Scholars will be announced in May.

Six Eckerd students awarded NOAA scholarship

ST. PETERSBURG — In early April, six Eckerd College students were awarded the 2020 National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Ernest F. Hollings Undergraduate Scholarship.

The NOAA scholarship provides up to $9,500 per year for two years of full-time study and a 10-week, full-time, paid internship at a NOAA facility for summer 2021. Since the program launched in 2005, Eckerd College has had 95 recipients, the most in the nation.

This year’s Hollings Scholars from Eckerd include Max Miller, a marine science and biochemistry student from Georgetown, Indiana; Hana Koilpillai, a marine science and animal studies student from Northville, Michigan; Mathias James Stamper, a marine science student from Terre Haute, Indiana; Nicole Vandale, a marine science student from Holden, Massachusetts; Renee Veldman, a marine science and Spanish student from Stevensville, Michigan; and Mark Yamane, a marine science and computer science student from Seattle, Washington.

Students credited undergraduate research opportunities and mentoring from Eckerd’s Fellowship and Scholarship Advisor Kathleen Robinson, Ph.D., with helping them secure the coveted award given to around 120 qualified U.S. second-year college students a year.

Eric Culbreath earns academic recognition

SEMINOLE — Eric Culbreath of Seminole recently was named to the chancellor's list at Troy University for Term 3 of the 2019-20 academic year.

The chancellor's list honors full-time undergraduate students who are registered for at least 12 semester hours and who earn a grade point average of 4.0.

Nicholas Cottrell inducted into Phi Kappa Phi

SEMINOLE — Nicholas Cottrell of Seminole was recently initiated into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, the nation's oldest all-discipline collegiate honor society.

Cottrell was initiated at University of North Florida. He is among approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year. Membership is by invitation only and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10% of seniors and 7.5% of juniors are eligible for membership.

Sarah Weber named to Troy University provost's list

TARPON SPRINGS — Sarah Weber of Tarpon Springs recently was named to the provost's list at Troy University for Term 3 of the 2019-20 academic year.

The provost's list honors full-time undergraduate students who are registered for at least 12 semester hours and who have a grade point average of at least 3.65. Term 3 includes students at Troy's campuses in Dothan, Phenix City and Montgomery, Ala., along with students outside of Alabama and online.