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Anna Hathaway recently graduated with a Master’s degree from the Department of Integrative Biology. While in the Department, and asked why she chose biology for her field of study, she told us, “I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t interested in biology and nature. Growing up, I always wanted to know how things, be it plants, animals, cloud formations etc., worked and why they worked the way that they do. Living in a rural town in Utah, I was always closer to nature than the city. Just being outside was a major part of every day, especially in the summer.” She went on to say, “My parents are a big reason I’m interested in biology. Instead of becoming annoyed at my constant awe and questioning nature about science, they fostered it. We’d play the ‘how things work game’ where I would ask basic biology, morphology, and evolutionary questions (although I didn’t know that at the time) about the plants and animals we would discover while hiking. Often they knew the answer, but sometimes they didn’t, and during our hike we’d talk about what the answer to my question might be and then when we got home we’d research the topic in the encyclopedia and later the internet. The importance of the environment and the necessity to treat it well was also something that was heavily stressed in our home.”
Anna received her bachelor’s degree at the University of Utah, and worked a few field research technician jobs around the country (which, she said, “cemented her desire to work in research biology”). One of the jobs, her favorite, brought her to central Florida, where she worked on a bombing range as a Florida Scrub Jay technician. She was fascinated with the charismatic bird and the biodiversity of its habitat. This helped draw her toward an interest in the University of South Florida as a school where she could pursue her further education. Anna chose USF in order to be able to study and work with her current Faculty advisors, Dr. Henry Mushinsky and Dr. Earl McCoy.
In her studies here, she looked at the suitability of using cattle ranches as transfer sites for displaced gopher tortoises. The tortoises have been losing natural habitat as land is continually developed in the state for housing and infrastructure. Her studies involved monitoring the availability of habitat, vegetation, and the reproductive output of gopher tortoises on a cattle ranch in Pasco County.
Life was not all studying for Anna, though. In her free time, she enjoyed biking and walking in the many nature areas around Tampa, taking in the rich natural environment. She also loved to snorkel when she could. She said that she took advantage of the cultural diversity of the Tampa area, enjoying things to do, day and night. To relax, she said that she especially enjoyed gardening, growing orchids and other flowering plants.
After graduating from USF, Anna secured a position as a Biological consultant at AllStar Ecology Natural Resource Specialists, LLC. in Fairmont, Virginia.
“As far as I can remember I’ve always been interested in Biology,” said Mike Middlebrooks, who received his Ph.D degree in the Integrative Biology Department in May, 2012. “I had a lot of influences." "My dad’s enthusiasm for scuba diving certainly had a big effect on my interest in nature when I was younger, and I had a lot of great teachers and professors in my educational career.” As he was growing up, Mike had the opportunity to attend the St. John's County Marine Science Program every year, which, he said, was a great opportunity for him. “My middle school science teacher, Glenn Cole (also one of the instructors at the Marine Science Program I mentioned) was a particularly big influence and did a great job at instilling in me a deep fascination with Biology. He was one of those teachers who was able to get students to learn, even if they were actively trying not to.”
Mike also attributes his interest in Biology to his avid love of scuba diving, which has been a perfect connection to his studies here at the University of South Florida. “I would say that scuba diving played a major role in my persuing Biology. Through scuba diving I have been able to visit a lot of amazing places in the Caribbean (the Grenadines, Dominca, St. Martin, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands) and Florida to see some fascinating ecosystems at work, especially the coral reefs. I’ve also been a scuba instructor for about 10 years now. Although, I was always interested in Biology, I actually started my college career majoring in Journalism at the University of Central Florida. I realized that although I liked journalism, it was not for me. I became a scuba instructor and transferred to Florida State University to get a bachelor’s degree in Biology with a focus on marine ecology.” The pivitol factor that brought Mike to USF was hurricane Wilma. “After I finished my bachelor’s degree in 2005, I was working as a technician at a lab in the Florida Keys, but, after hurricane Wilma came through, my chances of continuing that job were smashed along with the laboratory. Because I wanted to eventually continue my education, I decided that would be the perfect time to look into grad schools. I chose USF because I was looking for somewhere in Florida where I could work on interesting questions in marine ecology, and Dr. Bell’s lab was the perfect fit. USF is also not too far away from the Keys, so I was able to conduct my field research down there.”
Here at USF, Mike was studying the photosynthetic sea slug, Elysia clarki, and how its photosynthetic ability affects the behavior of the slug in its environment. His faculty advisor was Dr. Susan Bell, but he also worked closely with Dr. Sidney (Skip) Pierce.
As far as life in Tampa, Mike was glad to be here in an area with a lot to offer. “I really enjoy living in Tampa. After living in the middle of no-where in the Florida Keys, it was great to be back in a city where I could go see some live music, other than Jimmy Buffett cover bands. I really enjoy going out to see all kinds of live music and I have found that Tampa has a lot of great venues to do that. I also enjoy playing music; I play the steel drums and sing in a local calypso/ska band. Tampa is also great because of its proximity to fun outdoor adventures. I live right on the Hillsborough River where I enjoy kayaking. Tampa is also not too far away from a number of great dive sites, so I am still able to get some diving in (although I don’t really have time to teach scuba diving very much anymore). USF also has a fairly active scuba club, which is nice. I also occasionally enjoy some sailing and water skiing as well.”
Following graduation in the summer of 2012, Mike has been very busy. He currently has a Post-doctoral appointment in the Department of Integrative Biology, where he continues his studies on sea slugs, and he has an Adjunct Instructor position at the New College branch of USF in Sarasota, Florida.