Department News

USF St. Petersburg IB Student Receives Guy Harvey Scholarship

Alex Seigel is one of eight individuals who have recently received the $5,000 Guy Harvey Scholarship and will also receive a certificate designed and signed by world-renowned marine wildlife artist, conservationist and GHF Founder/Chair Emeritus, Dr. Guy Harvey.


Alex Seigel’s research focuses on evaluating the potential species and habitat benefits in the restoration site of the Robinson Preserve, a more than 600-acre coastal preserve located in northwestern Bradenton in Florida. He will utilize environmental DNA (eDNA) to evaluate the spatial and temporal biodiversity of migratory animals, such as sharks and large bony fishes, monitoring where they go and how long they are utilizing the preserve as a nursery. 
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IB's Zalamea Lab receive an NSF grant.


The Zalamea lab have received an NSF research grant for over $700,000. The research, carried out by lead PI Dr Camilo Zalamea and co-PI Carolina Sarmiento aims to test the hypothesis that beneficial and antagonistic plant-fungal interactions at the seed stage are important to tropical tree recruitment. The researchers will provide inclusive, cross-disciplinary research training and mentorship from the US and Latin America.


Student receives Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award

Anna Beatriz Machado, an undergraduate student in the Parkinson lab, has been awarded an Excellence in Undergraduate Research Award at the OneUSF Undergraduate Research Conference for her poster detailing how microplastics harm symbiont uptake in sea anemones. April 2023.

Congratulations, Anna!

graduate Student awarded sea of change conservation priority grant

Matthew Gamache, a PhD student in the Parkinson lab, has been awarded a Sea of Change Conservation Priority Grant to study the application of eDNA for coral restoration monitoring in Honduras. April 2023.

Congratulations, Matt!

Graduate Student awarded NSF GRFP

sam hirst

Samuel Hirst, a PhD student in the Margres lab, has been awarded an NSF GRFP in the field of Evolutionary Biology. April 2023.

Congratulations, Sam!

USF researchers featured in new york times article 

Black Widow

Researchers at the University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus found that in a container habitat, brown widows were 6.6 times more likely to attack black widows than other related species. The behavior is likely a driver of the black widow spider’s population decline.

“We have established brown widow behavior as being highly aggressive towards the southern black widows, yet much more tolerant of other spiders within the same family,” said Louis Coticchio, who led the study as part of his undergraduate research at USF along with advisor Deby Cassill, associate professor in the Department of Integrative Biology.

Read more here and here

Six USF faculty members earn national recognition for research achievements

Six University of South Florida researchers, including IB's Dr. Christina Richards, have been named as new Fellows by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the world’s most prestigious honors for academic research.  

The group from USF is among more than 500 scientists, engineers and innovators earning the recognition for their scientifically and socially distinguished achievements by the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals.

Read more from USF News

Marine biology student helps rescue distressed manatee in Bayboro Harbor

Kierstyn Benjamin was doing homework in the library when she noticed a small manatee alone in Bayboro Harbor. When she went out to the water to examine more closely, she realized something was wrong. The USF St. Petersburg campus junior acted quickly, calling the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Wildlife Hotline that is used to report injured animals. 

Wildlife officials responded quickly to campus. After several tense hours trying to corral the distressed manatee into a boat and then on land, they were able to rescue and transport him to Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park where he is recovering. 

In this video, Benjamin shares her story of how the day unfolded and what it was like playing a part in rescuing a manatee. Read more from CAMPUS NEWS 


This Chantale's 3rd teaching award at USF, Congratulations and thank you Chantale!!

Chantale's Faculty Profile
Read more about the Jerome Krivanek award

USF professor discovers new species while part of team studying impact of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico

"Even after teaching biology for nearly three decades, Heather Judkins still gets excited about conducting field research. An associate professor of Integrative Biology on the USF St. Petersburg campus, Judkins will continue her studies of cephalopods, such as octopus and squid, on July 26 as part of a team of scientists aboard the R/V Point Sur for a 12-day research cruise around the Gulf of Mexico.

The goal of the cruise is to identify and quantify long-term trends in fishes, crustaceans and cephalopods in the midwaters of the Gulf in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in 2010.

"We're collecting specimens and looking at the biodiversity in that area and how it changes over time," Judkins said. "We want to know what we could see in the future, in the unfortunate event of another oil spill."

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Carney Lab hosts Make-A-Wish child Sebastian, who wished to be a paleontologist in a lab

sebastian carney lab

Make-a Wish video link
Good Morning America video link

Sebastian is a 7-year-old who is battling cancer with ongoing chemotherapy and an upcoming surgery. Sebastian loves all things dinosaur and has demonstrated an interest in fossils. His passion for dinosaurs is what helps him mentally escape from his medical challenges. Since he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up, his greatest wish was to experience first hand what it is like to be a paleontologist and see how they study the prehistoric animals.

His wish day began with a limousine ride to the USF Science Center in Tampa where Sebastian met Dr. Ryan Carney, who is a National Geographic Explorer and Assistant Professor of Integrative Biology at USF. Sebastian was welcomed with open arms by everyone and gifted a lab coat before embarking on a tour of the lab.

Dr. Carney said, “It’s absolutely wonderful to see the look of joy on his face. For all of us, being able to fulfill his wish was a very fulfilling experience. It puts things in perspective. We do this kind of stuff every day. We are fortunate to study what we are passionate about. Being able to share that experience with Sebastian is just wonderful.”

The newest paleontologist examined fossils and learned about the evolution of dinosaurs. He scanned replicas of dinosaur skulls, examined mummified skin under a microscope, and used x-ray imaging and computer animation to learn even more about prehistoric creatures. Sebastian even 3D printed a “Sebastianosaurus” based on a Brachiosaurus skull, his favorite dinosaur.

Sebastian’s dad said, “I’m so happy for him, especially because it opens his mind for what he’s interested in. Seeing that everything that he can wish or dream for, it can come true. It’s not impossible. Never give up.”

Christian Brown, Deban Lab, receives the 2022 Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award

christian brown

The Chih Foundation recognizes groundbreaking research with transformative potential to greatly benefit society. The award seeks to support exceptional third- or fourth-year Science, Engineering or Medicine PhD, PharmD, or MD students.

Through their generosity, the Chih Foundation Research & Publication Award provides a monetary award to exemplary scholars who reflect these qualities.

Congratulations, Christian!

Dr. Christopher Osovitz receives the 2021/22 Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award

chris osovtiz

These awards are made as part of USF’s continuing effort to enhance undergraduate teaching by recognizing and rewarding excellence in undergraduate teaching. 

Congratulations, Chris!

Chris's Faculty Profile

Three generations of USF academics train to row across the Atlantic in support of marine conservation


Integrative Biology Professor Chantale Bégin is preparing for what is called “the world’s toughest row.” The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge is an annual race to row 3,000 miles from Spain’s Canary Islands to English Harbour in Antigua and Barbuda. Bégin’s team, Salty Science, includes Lauren Shea and Noelle Helder, two of her former USF students, and Isabelle Côté, her doctoral advisor at Simon Fraser University. Salty Science is dedicating its race to marine conservation to support training the next generation of diverse scientists who will develop creative solutions to global ocean challenges.

Salty Science signed up for the challenge having no experience in rowing, but the multigenerational team of marine scientists shares a love for the water and pushing their limits. The team has a never-ending sense of adventure and is made up of certified scuba divers, licensed captains, triathlon racers and endurance runners.

“I’m stoked to combine my passion for marine conservation with some solid type II fun by rowing across the Atlantic,” said Helder, who graduated from USF in 2017. “I’m excited to be a part of this science dream team, working towards this mission with women who have inspired me throughout my career.”

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Biology professor who made midlife career change gives $1 million estate gift to USF St. Petersburg campus

At the age of 40 and nearly 20 years into a career in health care administration, a nature documentary seismically shifted the life of Deby Cassill.

“It was a David Attenborough documentary on African wildlife, and I realized sitting there that I didn’t just want to watch science, I wanted to do science,” Cassill said.

Shortly thereafter, she went back to college to pursue an undergraduate degree in biology. By the time she was 50, she had earned a doctorate in the field and in 2001, Cassill was hired on as the first full-time biology professor on the USF St. Petersburg campus.

Cassill said the university has provided her with a wonderful opportunity to explore her passion. Now she is providing the institution with a $1 million estate gift to create the Cassill Endowed Scholarship in Biology to aid the next generation of aspiring biologists.

Read the full article

Carney Lab launches the Global Mosquito Observations Dashboard; coauthors study on dinosaur hips in the journal Nature

The Carney Lab just launched the Global Mosquito Observations Dashboard (mosquitodashboard.org), along with a new study about fighting mosquito-borne diseases around the world using citizen science and artificial intelligence (AI). This research is part of the lab's National Science Foundation (NSF) grant and collaboration with NASA and the CDC, and was featured on the USF homepage and NSF website. The AI techniques developed through collaboration with the Chellappan Lab include multiple patents pending, and in a follow-up student paper were also used to classify bees and bee mimics.

carney news pic

Dr. Ryan Carney's research on the iconic Archaeopteryx served as a key component in a Nature paper on dinosaur hip "evodevo" (evolutionary developmental biology). As covered in various media outlets, these discoveries demonstrate that the developmental changes in a bird embryo's hip over two days mirror what is seen in fossil dinosaur hips over millions of years. "In this context," remarked Carney, "the modern bird egg is a time capsule of ancient dinosaurian features."

IB researchers publish 'Termites and Temperature, Wood Decomposition Across Latitudes'

science cover image

Assistant Professor Camilo Zalamea and Research Associate Carolina Sarmiento from IB in collaboration from colleagues around the planet published a paper in Science.


Dr. Santiago Alarcon Publishes PNAS Article on
'Wildlife susceptibility to infectious diseases at global scale'

pnas image

During the last decade many studies have investigated how different biotic and abiotic factors determine pathogen infection, particularly for zoonotic diseases affecting humans. As demonstrated by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a need to better understand the influential factors underlying zoonotic transmission to inform future disease management strategies. Here, authors created a model using machine learning to understand the underlying environmental, geographic, and phylogenetic factors that influence zoonotic transmission. They applied it to three different host-pathogen systems: coronaviruses and bats, West Nile Virus (WNV) and birds, and malaria and birds. The results suggest that transmission of avian malaria is mostly affected by environmental distance between hosts, WNV is influenced by a combination of all three factors, while bat-coronaviruses are mostly affected by the geographic distribution of susceptible host species. The data point to bird species that are particularly susceptible to transmission, which includes songbirds and perching birds in the Passerine order. As well, several hotspot regions around the world were identified, with Eurasia being particularly susceptible to avian malaria and North America to WNV. Coronaviruses are likely to successfully invade any geographical region of the world reachable via natural dispersal or human-assisted dispersal. Results agreed with the known ecology of each analyzed system, providing a tool to discover potential host species and novel geographical hot spots for a pathogen. Thus, it can help guiding sampling decisions both in terms of host species and geographical locations. Finally, this tool can be applied at different spatial scales with few incidence data.


The University of Tübingen magazine has recently published a IB's Christina Richards' research on Knotweed.

Check it out here (in German and English) - starting on page 6:

attempto! Research Magazine of the University of Tübingen