Honors College introduces a new unique course: Honoring the Ocean

Nathan LiNature and Environment

The Honors College is offering a new course: Honoring the Ocean: Sustainability and the Sea. The interdisciplinary class is the result of a collaboration between the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) and several Honors Colleges in the State of Florida. The course will be designed and taught by Honors College Teaching Professor and visual artist Gretchen Scharnagl. Students from FIU and from the other Honors Colleges take a six-week online pre-course that prepares them for a short adventure at sea on an FIO research vessel. FIO provides support and shares marine science resources between the state’s universities and private, nonprofit marine research entities. FIO operates the R/V Weatherbird II, R/V Hogarth, and the Keys Marine Laboratory in Layton, Florida.

Students will be departing from Key West or Saint Petersburg to learn more about how humans interact with the ocean. They will learn about the Gulf of Mexico, its history, oceans, and world politics, the ocean as a subject in poetry, and the sea interpreted through the visual arts.

One of the topics to be explored in this course is art. Scharnagl is thrilled to teach students the role art played in early oceanic research, the role of the original research vessel, and the contributions artists have made to advancing science. Scharnagl is also excited to discuss the role artists play in environmental activism and raising awareness for protecting marine life.    

Some students will travel on the Weatherbird II which is departing from St. Petersburg on March 17-19, and other students will travel on the Hogarth from Key West during March 24-26. The Weatherbird II is a research vessel with 780 feet of deck space and 200 feet of laboratory space. The Hogarth is another research vessel with laboratories designed for research excursions. Both of these vessels are designed for oceanic research in tropical areas. The type of activities students will interact with on the research vessels will vary with the weather. If weather permits, students will retrieve samples from the sea, collect seawater to observe plankton, survey the ocean, and watch whales. Instructors will advise students to monitor weather patterns, pollution, and colors during their voyage. Students from other Florida Honors Colleges will be onboard each research vessel.

For more information about this course, please reach out to Professor Gretchen Scharnagl at scharnag@fiu.edu.