Students from Florida Southern Start 2023 Off Right Presenting at The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology Research Conference

Jan 19, 2023

by FSC Staff

More than 2,100 scientists from around the world gathered in Austin, Texas from January 3 – 7, 2023, to participate in The Society for Integrative & Comparative Biology (SICB) Research Conference.

Among them were five current marine biology students from Florida Southern College who shared their research findings completed under the guidance of Assistant Professor of Marine Biology, Dr. Jason Macrander.

As the SICB Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee chair, Dr. Macrander hosted the new student orientation, which was filled with jokes and icebreaker examples in hopes of putting first-time presenters at ease. As an organization SICB is incredibly welcoming to new and young scientists, which is why Dr. Macrander continues to bring students to the conference.

"Going to SICB and presenting in the poster session was an amazing opportunity to meet and interact with others in my field, both at and above my schooling level, as well as make connections for my future," Abiageal Ketchersid '23 said. "It also gave me the opportunity to gain experience presenting in front of larger groups."

Not only were FSC students able to share their exciting research results, but they used the research conference to make connections with other students, postdocs, and faculty through various social and networking activities.

"My favorite thing about attending SICB was being able to learn about a bunch of new research in a variety of fields," marine biology major Zaphillia Yost '24 said. "I attended a lot of talks related to fields I am already familiar with but some of my favorite talks were ones about topics that I am interested in but don't know a lot about."


Reef Safe Sunscreens

Marine biology and environmental studies major Abby Tarleton '23 competed for the Best Student Talk under the Division of Invertebrate Zoology, going up against other undergraduate and graduate students from across the country. Although it was Abby's second time attending SICB, it was her first oral presentation in front of an audience.

Abby Tarleton presenting "Is Reef Safe Sunscreen Really Safe?"
Abby Tarleton presenting "Is Reef Safe Sunscreen Really Safe?"

"This year, at SICB, I was able to give my first talk outside of the classroom," Tarleton said. "I was asked so many insightful questions that I can apply to my work going forward. It was so exciting getting to share my project and learn from other researchers about theirs as well."

Tarleton's research talk entitled "Is Reef Safe Sunscreen Really Safe" shared her honors thesis results where she found high mortality among sea anemones when exposed to sunscreens labeled as "Reef Safe" and served as a reminder to proceed with caution when unregulated products are given these types of labels. Her research presentation was well-received at SICB. She was interviewed by a reporter from Science News, as well as being asked for experimental design advice. Tarleton's research was made possible by the Mote Marine Laboratory "Protect Our Reefs" grant program.


Sea Anemone Venom

Ketchersid and fellow marine biology major Sophi Brice '25 presented results from their previous summers research project entitled "What happens when you take the sting out of venom?" Their results demonstrated the ecological consequences following a genome rearrangement that resulted in the almost complete loss of a key venom component in the starlet sea anemone (Nematostella vectensis). Their research was made possible by the faculty-student collaborative research grant program provided by Florida Southern College.

Abiageal Ketchersid and Sophi Brice present their research results.
Abiageal Ketchersid and Sophi Brice present their research results.

"Attending the SICB conference this year was an invaluable experience that allowed me not only to learn about current research being done in the biology field, but also to present my own research poster and greatly strengthen my presentation skills in doing so," Brice said. "I also got to network with scientists at completely different career stages in their life, allowing me to explore career paths and job opportunities I may have never known about otherwise."

Within the realm of sea anemone venom, Dr. Macrander also presented ongoing research on behalf of 2022 FSC graduates Alyah Bennett, Katie Statile, Kerry Broderick, and Lanier Whitton. Their research focused on sea anemone venom and changes in venom repertoire among clownfish hosting sea anemones.


Science Communication

The SICB Student/Postdoctoral Affairs Committee hosted a roundtable workshop on science communications strategies. As part of the workshop, marine biology major Rowan Marshall '23 volunteered advice on blog writing, general social media, and posting on TikTok. During the poster session, Marshall also presented science communications research on the impacts of SICB's associated journal blog posts. Her findings demonstrated that blog posts focusing on social topics had the highest viewership, supporting the concept that scientists care about social issues.

Rowan Marshall presents her research results.
Rowan Marshall presents her research results.

"Going to the SICB conference was a really great experience that provided opportunities for networking and professional growth," Marshall said. "I was able to present my honors thesis research on science communication during a poster session, which was really fun. There isn't much prior research on science communication, so people were very excited to see what I had found in my results. I had a lot of engagement with my research and many people asked questions about my next steps and gave me ideas for how to move forward with the research. I also got to participate in a science communication workshop as a social media expert. This was really fun because I got to meet a wide variety of people and teach them about how they can use social media to find science communicators and to create their own scientific content. I really enjoyed getting to share my knowledge while also learning from the other scientists in the room."


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