FSU Zooplankton Ecology and

Biogeochemistry Lab


EVR1001: Introduction to Environmental Science


EVR1001 is a liberal arts course designed for non-majors.  Dr. Rob Spencer and I designed this as a new course (never previously offered at FSU) in Spring 2015 and it has rapidly grown into the largest course offered by EOAS.  We teach two sections each semester.  During our first semester, we averaged 74 students per section; we now consistently reach max capacity of 496 students per semester.


EVR1001 covers the entirety of environmental science (a daunting task), while highlighting three core concepts:  1) the scientific method and how it can be applied to earth systems science, 2) scientific uncertainty and how it differs from language used in the media or politics, 3) an ability to read scientific literature.  The first two concepts are taught in the first week of the course and later reiterated with examples as we cover topics ranging from biogeochemical cycles to weather and from freshwater scarcity and pollution to alternative energy sources.  One of the primary goals of the course is to teach students scientific literacy so that they can understand news stories of relevance to their lives, such as flooding in Miami Beach.


Course delivery in a lecture hall with 200 students is challenging.  To keep the students engaged, we use the TopHat system (a clicker-type system with greater flexibility in question design) in EVR1001.  We ask questions throughout class periods to gauge the students’ comprehension and intersperse 2-10 minute videos in our lectures so that the students get alternate sources of information.  We also ask the students to read a scientific manuscript and write a short paper critiquing it.  In response to students’ difficulty with this task, we also now dedicate a class period to small group discussion (4-5 students) of these papers, so that students can learn from their peers.





OCB5930: Zooplankton Ecology


OCB5930 is a much smaller class (current enrollment = 7 students) designed for graduate students.  It has officially been a required class for Biological Oceanography grad students, but prior to my arrival it had not been taught for >5 years.  I designed the course to focus on the diversity of plankton, the relationship of communities to plankton ecosystem structure and function, and the subsequent impacts on biogeochemical cycles, fisheries, and marine production.


In OCB5930 I teach a course focused on the ways in which zooplankton community structure and trophic dynamics impact the rest of the pelagic community (from phytoplankton and bacteria to fish and whales) and marine biogeochemistry.  Core topics include bioenergetics and feeding ecology, structure and function of pelagic ecosystems, top-down control, spatial and temporal patterns, and quantitative modeling.  The course involves lectures, student-led paper discussion, and hands-on introduction to computer programming.  In addition to covering important topics in plankton ecology, I also use the course as an introduction to quantitative tools that will be useful to graduate students regardless of which discipline they work in.  Specifically, I teach the class using the programming language Matlab, with Matlab examples given in class and homework done in Matlab. In my second time teaching the course, I now teach the course in an “inverted classroom” format.  Lectures are recorded at listened to outside of class.  Class-time is focused on hands-on group learning with real and simulated datasets.





OCB5050 Biological Oceanography


OCB5050 Biological Oceanography is a split course (graduates and undergraduates) that I teach in alternate years (Dr. Kranz teaches it when I do not).  The course introduces students to the field of biological oceanography covering a fairly wide perspective of topics on marine biota. We discuss pelagic organisms and processes, benthos, hydrothermal vents, climate-change effects, and fisheries. Different size classes of marine life (from virus (by definition not an organism) to marine mammals) are covered. Biological-physical and chemical (Biophysicochemical) interactions are reviewed and responses of different organisms to environmental changes will be assessed. Students present research papers in a journal-club style and write final papers about a chosen topic.




EVR1001L: Environmental Science Online Laboratory


I also developed two of the seven modules for the online laboratory EVR1001L.  EVR1001L is designed in the virtual world "Second Life" and gives students an immersive introduction to field and laboratory research in the environmental sciences.  My modules include a time-traveling exploration of Easter Island ecology and human impacts and a laboratory-based experiment introducing students to the impact of atrazine on frogs.  EVR1001L is currently taught by Prof. Bill Landing at FSU.



This portion of our website is specifically designed to showcase our research for other oceanographers.  If you would like a broader overview of our work that was designed to be more accessible to the general public, please click on the 'Outreach' link on the top right.


Contact: Mike Stukel (mstukel@fsu.edu)

Florida State University

Dept. of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science

Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies