First-Year student research associateships

Jump-start your first year with real research

Every year, we invite 20–25 bright new students to work side by side with our professors on their research. At any given time, we may have active projects in psychology, communication, ancient studies, literature, religious studies, management, theatre, international business, biology and marine science. It’s a great way to get some research experience and see if what you think you’re interested in is really the major for you.

Students receive a one-year stipend of up to $1,000. Applications must be submitted by February 1.

Associateships for the 2021-22 academic year

Decreasing Injuries to Brown Pelicans at Fishing Piers

Field: Environmental Studies
Faculty: Dr. Beth Forys

Apply Now: Environmental Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

Brown Pelicans are amazing at catching fish, but they will also eat discards from people fishing at piers. Each time a pelican visits a fishing pier it risks being entangled in fishing line. Join a research team that is trying to better understand what attracts pelicans and other wading birds to fishing piers and how to decrease their chance of being injured. Students will conduct surveys for pelicans and other wading birds on campus and will also record the behavior of people fishing.

Dr. Forys is a professor in Eckerd’s Environmental Studies and Biology disciplines. She is a conservation biologist interested in spatial ecology and endangered species. She teaches Environmental Biology, Conservation Biology, GIS, Research Methods and Field Ornithology.

Experimenting with Photo-identification Software

Field: Computer Science
Faculty: Dr. Kelly Debure

Apply Now: Computer Science First-Year Research

About the Project

Field biologists use photo-identification of individual animals to estimate population size and make observations on behaviors and association patterns. Though quite effective, the manual process is time consuming, particularly when large collections of images are involved. The Digital Analysis and Recognition of Whale Images on a Network (DARWIN) system is an application program, developed by undergraduate students at Eckerd, to automate the photo-identification process. It is currently in use by research groups around the world. Research assistants will test the software with collections of dorsal fin images or bear head profiles to assess performance improvements due to changes in the software. Opportunities to research and implement new methods for comparison are also possible.

Kelly R. Debure, Professor of Computer Science, received her Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of South Carolina.  She worked at NASA Langley Research Center from 1985 to 1992, first as a flight software programmer on the ATOPS project, then as a consultant in the Data Visualization and Animation Laboratory.  Her research interests include image processing, computer vision, and graphics and she manages a software project which automates the recognition of individual bottle nose dolphins.

Investigating Urban Fishing in Tampa Bay

Field: Environmental Studies
Faculty: Dr. Noëlle Boucquey

Apply Now: Environmental Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

Work with Dr. Noëlle Boucquey to investigate shore fishing practices in the Tampa Bay Area. This project is investigating both the history and current practices of fishing in Tampa Bay, particularly amongst food-insecure individuals. Research tasks will include both archival work online and in-person fieldwork. The archival component includes searching historic newspaper databases going back approximately 100 years, reading and thematically classifying these stories, and saving reports to the project database. The fieldwork component will consist of participant observation of fishing practices around Tampa Bay. Particularly if social distancing is still necessary, this will consist primarily of fishing (we have poles at Eckerd) in various locations and making careful observations about those locations and the fishing practices of others. You will be instructed in ethnographic research methods including participant observation prior to engaging in these activities. If social distancing guidelines are relaxed, fieldwork may also include interviewing or surveying fishers.

Noëlle Boucquey, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, received her B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Barbara and her Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from Duke University. Her work is inspired by equal concern for human and environmental well-being, and her research examines human-environment relationships particularly in coastal and marine contexts.

It Calls Me: Oceans in Performance Media Book Project

Field: Theatre
Faculty: Dr. Antonia Krueger

Apply Now: Theatre First-Year Research

About the Project

Blue Criticism is a developing field that integrates science, humanities, and the fine arts. It Calls Me: Oceans in Performance Media is a book length project that falls into a broader series of works looking at specific landscapes (in this case the ocean) as complex sites of performance. The book examines several key modern and contemporary performance works, including theatre, film, performance art, and role playing video games, that have both been impacted by and in turn significantly impacted contemporary cultural understandings of the ocean. Students will locate photographs, hunt down literary and performance references, assist with securing copyright permissions, compile bibliographic entries, as well as read and view (and play) performance media. A strong interest in ecology and conservation, as well as the arts, is encouraged.

Antonia S. Krueger has a Ph.D. in Theatre from The Ohio State University, where she was the first person in theatre ever to receive a Presidential Fellowship. She also has an M.A. in Communication (Theatre) from Indiana State University, and an M.A. in English as a Second Language (focus in Psychology) from the University of Minnesota. She has worked in theatre and film as a dramaturg, playwright, theatre critic, voice and text coach, actor, director, costumer, and arts administrator.

Marine Science First-Year Research

Field: Marine Science
Faculty: TBD

Apply Now: Marine Science First-Year Research

About the Project

The entire course will be an active learning opportunity where students will be working closely with a faculty member on research projects. Students will be engaged in research throughout the course of their freshman year collecting data, analyzing and interpreting their results and eventually presenting their findings. Thus, this course will focus primarily on students doing science compared to more traditional courses that teach about science. Once a week all students in program will meet as a group with the faculty for discussions and updates on research projects. These meetings will give the entire research group a chance to exchange and develop ideas.

Previous Marine Science projects have included:

  • Application of laboratory culturing techniques to study the microbial ecology of ooids and microbial mats (field collecting and lab work)
  • Barb regeneration following predatory attack in the Atlantic stingray Dasyatis sabina (field collecting and a laboratory experiment)
  • Behavioral ecology of a sex-role reversed species: brood size variation in the Gulf pipefish Syngnathus scovelli (project involved field collecting and laboratory work)
  • Field studies and use of a catalog of dorsal fin markings to investigate social patterns in the bottlenose dolphin (field surveys and lab work with dolphin fin catalog)
  • Genetic markers for studies of family relationships among wild marine mammals (work in genetics lab)
  • Hermit crab shell selection behavior: do crabs prefer shells that have been thickened by snails exposed to predators? (field surveys and laboratory experiments)
  • Lactate excretion in marine crustaceans during activity and exposure to low environmental oxygen (work in physiology lab)
  • Mitochondrial DNA study of population structure in Gulf and Atlantic populations of the Gulf pipefish, Syngnathus scovelli (field collecting and work in genetics lab)
  • Physiological consequence of malaria infection in the brown anole Anolis sagrei (field collecting and work in physiology lab)
  • Trace metal concentrations in Gulf of Mexico sediments following the Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill
  • Microplastics in Tampa Bay: spatial and temporal variability (field collecting and lab work)

Predicting Disease Dynamics Using Mathematical Modeling

Field: Mathematics
Faculty: Dr. Lindsey Fox

Apply Now: Mathematics First-Year Research

About the Project

How do infectious diseases spread from person to person and what can scientists do to minimize it? Despite the advanced state of modern medicine, outbreaks of new infectious diseases (such as COVID-19) and resurgence of declining diseases (such as measles) occur and must be investigated. Mathematical modeling is a useful tool for studying outbreaks of diseases and has played a role in reducing the impact of Ebola, HIV, HPV, influenza, and many more diseases. It allows us to address questions and test hypotheses that may be unfeasible or unethical to study in reality. Student researchers will work with Prof. Lindsey Fox to understand the natural history of a disease of students’ interest. They will then construct and simulate a model that describes the dynamics of the disease, compare their model output to data, and use their model to investigate the impact of various control measures on an outbreak. Students will learn to use the computing software MATLAB to simulate their model.

Dr. Lindsey Fox received her Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Tennessee. Her interests lie in mathematical modeling and control, disease modeling, dynamical systems, optimal control theory, translational medicine, mathematical biology, math education.

Preserving College History: Digital Collections in the Undergraduate Library

Field: Library Science
Faculty: Nancy Schuler

Apply Now: Library Science First-Year Research

About the Project

The College archives and special collections house the history of our institution, and tell the story of the people, ideas, events, and external influences that have helped shape the growth of Eckerd College since its inception in 1958. Archives and special collections preserve, organize and make primary resources available to educate and inform current and future members of the college community. As collections move online to be more accessible, their reach and impact goes beyond the confines of the campus, and include not only materials to document the history of the College, but evidence of the intellectual and artistic efforts produced by our faculty and students. Materials of interest include recently digitized undergraduate theses, proceedings from student research and humanities symposiums, as well as the College’s collection of visual art from our founding faculty members. These collections show us the College’s history as well as possible directions for its future, and are essential to preserve the legacy of the institution.

The Preserving College History project will provide a first-year student associate with an opportunity to work with archival materials as they are digitized and archived for preservation and access. Students will learn the basics of digitizing primary source materials in a variety of formats, gain skills in metadata development and digital asset management, and help curate materials for digital exhibits under the guidance of faculty and staff in the Eckerd College Library and Visual Arts department. Students will also gain practical experience in using a variety of web tools and platforms to showcase collections. The hands-on project will provide students with an appreciation for archives and special collections, and offer practical experience using a variety of tools for image editing, digital asset management, and web publishing. The ideal student would be comfortable with learning new technologies, have excellent attention to detail, and an interest in archival materials and art history.

Nancy Schuler received her MLIS from the University of Washington. She serves as the Creative Arts librarian.

Primate Behavior

Field: Animal Studies
Faculty: Dr. Tim Bransford

Apply Now: Animal Studies First-Year Research

About the Project

Primates are one of the most diverse kinds of mammal on the planet and continually captivate the interest of humans….perhaps because we ourselves are primates! From bush babies to gorillas, each species interacts with the world around them in different, unique ways. The purpose of this project is to better understand how and why primates behave certain ways in their environments, whether that be in the wild or in captivity. Students will work with Dr. Bransford on both new and continuing research projects asking questions about species such as orangutans and lemurs.

Dr. Tim Bransford is a primatologist that works with both wild and captive primates, and uses a variety of direct and remote observation methods to answer questions about primate foraging and ranging behavior, ecology, conservation biology, and the human-animal interface. He has worked with a variety of species, including Bornean orangutans, mantled howler monkeys, several lemur species, and multiple species of monkey endemic to West Africa.

Reactions with Carbon Dioxide

Field: Chemistry
Faculty: Dr. Greg Felton

Apply Now: Chemistry First-Year Research

About the Project

We will synthesize novel compounds and then test them for their ability to react with carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a very stable (inert) gas that builds up in the atmosphere, successful reactions with carbon dioxide could lead to the ability to remove excess carbon dioxide form the air. This project involves the synthesis and characterization of novel organometallic compounds. Lab procedures involve inert atmosphere reactions, chromatographic purification, and characterization (including FTIR and NMR). The novel compounds will then be tested for their ability to activate carbon dioxide, using electrochemistry and gas chromatography. Carbon dioxide, once activated, can be utilized as a precursor for solar fuel generation.

Dr. Greg Felton is a professor in the chemistry discipline, teaching general chemistry, analytical chemistry and instrumental analysis. His research focuses upon electrochemistry, organometallic synthesis and small molecule activation.

Students receive a one-year stipend of up to $1,000.
Applications must be submitted by February 1.

Meet a first-year research associate

First-year students on a boat, handling a ray

Studying marine life in Boca Ciega Bay

Marine science students studying core samples

Studying sediment layers extracted from the Gulf of Mexico

Male student in tie-dye shirt looking through binoculars