Revised Strategic Plan
Strategic Planning Committee
Doug Levey (chair)
Table of Contents
1. Overview ................................................................................................................................. 4
Challenges ............................................................................................................................................. 5
Short term goals .................................................................................................................................. 6
Long term goals ................................................................................................................................... 7
2. Departmental Culture........................................................................................................ 4
Challenges ............................................................................................................................................. 9
Action Items .......................................................................................................................................... 9
3. Faculty ................................................................................................................................... 10
Response to faculty survey........................................................................................................... 10
Description of Faculty .................................................................................................................... 12
Hiring ................................................................................................................................................... 13
Faculty Support ................................................................................................................................ 16
Action Items ....................................................................................................................................... 18
4. Undergraduate Program ................................................................................................ 18
Challenges .......................................................................................................................................... 22
Action Plan ......................................................................................................................................... 27
5. Graduate Program ............................................................................................................ 28
Vision ................................................................................................................................................... 28
Strengths ............................................................................................................................................. 29
Challenges .......................................................................................................................................... 30
6. Postdoctoral Fellows........................................................................................................ 36
Short term goals ............................................................................................................................... 36
Long term goals ................................................................................................................................ 36
7. Facilities and Infrastructure ......................................................................................... 37
Statement of vision and strengths ............................................................................................. 37
Responses to previous challenges ............................................................................................. 37
Current status and challenges..................................................................................................... 39
Action Plan ......................................................................................................................................... 46
8. Cross-unit issues................................................................................................................ 50
Partnership with The Nature Conservancy ............................................................................ 51
Challenge ............................................................................................................................................ 52
Action item ......................................................................................................................................... 52
Faculty affiliation and financial support ................................................................................. 52
Challenges .......................................................................................................................................... 54
Action items ....................................................................................................................................... 54
Challenges .......................................................................................................................................... 55
Action items ....................................................................................................................................... 55
Graduate training ............................................................................................................................ 55
Course offerings ............................................................................................................................... 57
Challenges .......................................................................................................................................... 57
Action item ......................................................................................................................................... 57
Undergraduate teaching ............................................................................................................... 57
9. Diversity .............................................................................................................................. 57
Where we stand ................................................................................................................................ 58
Why increase diversity? ................................................................................................................ 59
What is Diversity?............................................................................................................................ 60
Why haven’t we been more successful?................................................................................... 61
Appendix A. Responses to Faculty Survey (Fall 2009). Responses to open-ended
An action plan ................................................................................................................................... 62
questions are at end ................................................................................................................ 64
Appendix B. Responses to Graduate Student Survey (Fall 2009). Responses to
open-ended questions are at end ......................................................................................... 86
Appendix C. ............................................................................................................................ 116
Appendix D ............................................................................................................................. 121
The Department of Biology studies life at all levels, from molecules to biosphere, to
understand the evolution, structure, maintenance, and dynamics of biological
systems. Our teaching and research provide the integrative and conceptual
foundations of the life sciences.
Mission statement approved by the Biology faculty at their first joint retreat (October,
The life sciences are among the most rapidly advancing fields in human inquiry, with major
gains occurring from molecular genetics to ecosystem studies of global climate change. Because
our work so broadly engages the life sciences, we serve as a nexus of research and training
across campus. Our excellence as a department is central to the continued success of life sciences
at the University of Florida. Yet the enormous breadth of the field of biology challenges our
sense of identity. It is impossible for our department to cover all aspects of biology, but to
maintain excellence in the dynamic and increasingly interdisciplinary world of biological
research, we cannot limit ourselves to rigidly defined subdisciplines. Accordingly, we suggest
an identity which does not exclude faculty based on research interests, but rather a worldview
which we believe largely encompasses our faculty. Three qualities define this worldview: 1) a
reflectiveness that includes the whole organism; 2) an emphasis on interdisciplinarity as the
future of biology in particular and science in general; and 3) the teacher-scholar model, wherein
our research heavily informs our teaching and vice versa.
Recent History: We emphasize that this is the first strategic plan of the Department of Biology,
which was created in spring 2008 by merging the departments of Botany and Zoology, along
with the Biological Sciences Program. Botany and Zoology were full-fledged, independent
departments, with faculty, staff, undergraduate majors, and graduate programs, whereas BSC
was a program that coordinated introductory biology for majors and non-majors.
Since the merger, we have focused on integrating the faculty of the two departments and creating
a common culture. We have recruited a new chair, approved new bylaws, created new structures
for internal governance, and created consensus across previous departmental boundaries. The
outcome is that we have a highly functional department, ready to engage in substantive long
range planning. Here, we lay out a five-year strategic plan to guide our new department. We
view this plan as a living document - a critical first step to focus and facilitate discussion on a
wide variety of issues central to departmental function and spirit. We strongly suggest that it be
revisited in a substantive way when the department has had more time to reflect and to mature.
While the Department of Biology is appreciably smaller than the combined size of Zoology and
Botany in the early 1990’s (see Faculty section), recent hires have transformed us. We have
attracted top talent, developed innovative graduate programs, and maintained our commitment to
a skyrocketing undergraduate program.
The Chronicle of Higher Education’s Faculty Scholarly Productivity Index ranked UF #1 in
Zoology, #8 in Botany, and #3 in Biological Sciences out of 375 Ph.D. degree-granting
universities (2007 data). Our new Department of Biology inherits this excellence and embraces
a teacher-scholar model of research and mentoring. We are particularly proud that four of our
faculty have received UF’s highest faculty honor, Teacher-Scholar of the Year; four have active
NSF CAREER awards; and four are CLAS Teacher of the Year winners. Our faculty members
have also spearheaded two NSF graduate training programs (an IGERT “QSE3” and a GK-12
“SPICE”). Finally, we have by far the greatest number of NSF Graduate Research Fellows of
any department at UF (14 of 36 university-wide; the next-highest department is Anthropology
with 4). We must strive to maintain this level of success in our new department.
Remarkably, this outstanding performance coincides with financial challenges, a University-
wide boom in enrollment that increased our teaching demands, and a dramatic increase in the
percentage of those students in the new Biology major. Although we have successfully balanced
teaching and scholarship and navigated the early stages of the merger, certain areas require
immediate attention. We are particularly concerned about undergraduate enrollment, faculty
retention, and the dire state of our teaching and research facilities. To maintain our upward
trajectory, we will need to address these central issues over the next five years.
Here we distill short term and long term goals that are developed more fully elsewhere in this
Strategic Plan. Our intent is to focus attention on the most significant issues in need of
discussion and resolution. We start with a proposal for hiring new faculty because they will
largely define the eventual trajectory of our department and because decisions on how to define
future lines are needed now.
Faculty Hires: Our vision for Biology retains the unique and successful elements of Botany and
Zoology, while building a modern Department of Biology that will compete successfully with
similar departments at peer institutions. At the intellectual core of this vision is a vibrant and
diverse faculty. This is problematic because we have many fewer faculty per student than our
peer institutions and we have suffered extensive attrition in the past year, as highly valued
colleagues have been hired away at an unprecedented rate (see Faculty section). We emphasize
that approximately two hires per year are required just to address routine retirements (assuming
a faculty of 40 and an average faculty career of 20 years). If we are to compete with peer
Biology departments we must hire faculty at a rate exceeding two per year, and we must add
faculty expertise in new areas that represent the future of our discipline.
Based on rationale provided in the Faculty section, we propose three types of hires. These
positions have come from surveys, extensive discussions, and position statements from Biology
faculty over the past year. They have evolved. Our rationale for each is fully described in the
Faculty section. Here we emphasize that they are designed to maintain expertise in key areas as
some colleagues retire and to strengthen our cellular-molecular side while assuring integration
among other disciplines.
• Evolution and development: compares development of the brain and/or nervous
system in a phylogenetically informed context.
• Genetic Basis of Behavior: identifies genes that underlie behavior and studies
how those genes affect behavioral phenotype.
• Animal Behavior: studies behavior in the lab and field with an evolutionary or
• Signaling and Communication: investigates how signals are perceived and
transduced and how this leads to biochemical and physiological changes
important for growth, development and interaction with other cells and the
Origins of Life
• Synthetic biologist: explores de novo creation and optimal function of life from
• Theoretical population geneticist: theoreticians are unifiers. This person would
bridge the existing evolutionary geneticists with other new hires, particularly in
molecular biodiversity but also in the proposed neuromolecular group.
• Evolutionary biochemistry: This person has strength in biochemistry and will use
biochemical approaches in addition to other tools to investigate important
questions at chemical and molecular levels, including evolution of protein
structure, gene function, specialized metabolism, bioenergy, origin of life,
• Fungal or protist comparative genomicist: explores genome evolution and its
systematic implications in neglected groups of great importance to biodiversity,
which span mundane to extreme habitats.
• Plant systematicist: would bridge existing strengths in plant molecular
systematics with the ecology group by providing thorough grounding in plant
natural history, structure, and biodiversity.
• Plant Evolutionary Development: examines plant developmental morphology
and its genetic control in a comparative and/or evolutionary context.
Short term goals
• Increase faculty participation, effectiveness of communication, and sense of community
by instituting more frequent, outcome-oriented faculty meetings and regular times for
• Charge existing committees to lead discussions and reach resolution on the following
issues. (Although the Strategic Planning Committee has established a position on most of
these issues, we believe final resolution is best left in the hands of the most relevant
o The degree to which e-learning is incorporated in our undergraduate curriculum
o The role of lecturers in our department (Advisory Council)
o Assignment of Teaching Assistantships and its link to graduate admissions
o Integration into our graduate program of students from different centers, schools,
and institutes (e.g., School of Natural Resources and Environment, Genetics
Institute, Emerging Pathogens Institute, Program in Plant Molecular and Cellular
Biology). What is their role? (Graduate Committee)
o How to better distinguish our undergraduate majors, especially Botany and
Zoology. Should we establish a 4+1 BA/MS or BS/MS program?
Long term goals
• Hire faculty to strengthen the cellular/molecular side of the department and to bridge with
ecologists and evolutionary biologists currently in the department.
• Acquire teaching space that accommodates 21st century biology and consider hiring a
tenure-track faculty member whose research focus in science pedagogy; push for a new
• Solve critical space needs for research programs; push for a new building.
• Redesign or better integrate our graduate degree programs in Botany and Zoology.
• Increase diversity, especially among faculty.
Although our challenges are significant and many of our goals require optimism, we feel that the
Department of Biology has tremendous forward momentum. We look forward to working with
the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Provost to make Biology even more prestigious
than its predecessors.
This document is divided into nine sections: Overview, Departmental Culture, Faculty Issues,
Undergraduate Program, Graduate Program, Postdoctoral Mentoring, Facilities and
Infrastructure, Cross-unit Issues, and Diversity. Most sections include an historical perspective,
data from recent studies or surveys, and goals or action items.
2. Departmental Culture
The Department of Biology is special: we are an exceptionally collegial, highly
functional department. We are recognized both within CLAS and across the country for
our uncommonly high level of civility and harmony. This section of the strategic plan
was written explicitly to preserve and perpetuate this unique and important aspect of our
Why it matters
Engaged faculty are empowered faculty. Faculty who are engaged feel that they have
some control over their destinies, and this sense of well-being and security contributes to
productivity and creativity. Faculty who are engaged have higher morale, and are more
likely to be retained at UF, which is particularly important because productive, creative
faculty are also likely targets for recruitment by other institutions.
Informed faculty are ambassadors for the department and its policies. As individual
faculty, we mingle with faculty and administrators from all over campus in a variety of
settings. Casual encounters can have important consequences. The response to a
comment or question from the dean is important in shaping our image as an exceptionally
successful, unit. For example, in response to "How is the merger going?", the difference
between "I'm not really sure what's going on, but as long as they leave me alone, it's ok"
and "We've already voted on bylaws!" is huge. Happy, informed faculty create a strong
department, and communicating these strengths creates positive feedback. If
administrators and our colleagues see Biology as a strong department, they are more
likely to support us and listen to us when we ask for resources, suggest bold initiatives, or
back particular viewpoints or policies.
Happy faculty are powerful recruiters. When job candidates visit our program, they are
always impressed by the virtually universal response of faculty to the question of what
they like best about our program: our collegiality. This contributes to our outstanding
success at recruitment: we almost always get our first choice candidates because they
want to come here and be part of our department. The same applies to graduate
recruitment: graduate students, and to some extent postdocs on interviews, see our
collegiality and high level of interaction and want to be a part of it.
Communicative faculty strengthen our departmental leadership. No faculty member is
omniscient. Our senior leadership benefits from hearing the voices of all the faculty.
Experienced faculty have unique, lifelong perspectives; junior faculty can volunteer less
canalized but often more creative visions. To succeed, our leaders need all of us to help
How we do it
Collegiality, engagement, and mutual respect begin with our hiring practices. We are
close to unique in the limited power we give to our search committees, and our voting
practices. The outcome of our strategy is that people we hire have had to win the votes of
the majority of the department. This will by definition include people outside the
candidate's immediate field, and thus immediately excludes intellectually myopic and/or
less collegial candidates.
Importantly, we also cultivate respect and professionalism by hiring only faculty whom
we expect to succeed: assessments of quality are made prior to arrival of new faculty in
our program. Thus, respect for individual faculty members and their research is
established from the outset. In order to facilitate the success of our new faculty, we
assign them tenure mentors. Mentors contribute to professional training (assistance with
teaching, navigating committee charges and UF policies, grantsmanship), but also
contribute to the early socialization of our faculty to better facilitate their comfortable
integration into the department.
Once faculty are in place, we maintain our practice of engagement by both organized
informal and formal interactions of the department. To some extent, formal and informal
interactions can trade off with one another to suit particular circumstances, leadership
styles, and personalities.
Examples of formal interactions include small groups (the Advisory Committee and other
departmental committees) and large groups (faculty meetings, seminars, receptions,
annual retreat). These formal interactions are most productive if participation is
maximized. Maximizing participation is challenging, as we are all extremely busy
people. However, people are more likely to participate if they feel that their participation
is valued, and that they are stakeholders in the grand enterprise of the Biology
department. For example, when committees are charged with important work, and their
recommendations heeded, people are more likely to throw themselves into the work.
Examples of informal, organized interactions include Friday Faculty Lunch, Biotea, and
"Zoocial". Informal interactions do not have a formal agenda, but are rather an
opportunity for spontaneous discussion of anything of interest to participants from
research, to departmental goings-on, to weekend plans. The Friday Faculty Lunch is
usually faculty only, while Biotea and Zoocial include graduate students, postdocs, and
staff in addition to faculty (though staff rarely participate).
High faculty engagement can be a challenge. Grassroots, consensus-mediated,
participatory decision-making takes time, is messy, and can be difficult to explain to
other administrators. As departments get larger, maintaining an informed faculty
becomes more difficult, because "water cooler" conversations and hallway interactions
become ineffective. Finally, Biology is a new department, the product of two
departments with overlapping but unique histories and cultures. We are thus vulnerable
to disengagement, precisely when we need to maximize engagement to succeed.
Prioritize faculty engagement. The simplest way to facilitate participation is to schedule
formal faculty interactions first, and force the rest of the schedule (e.g., teaching) to
conform. Some courses will inevitably conflict with afternoon meeting slots, but this will
affect a relatively small number of faculty (likely less than 10), while post hoc scheduling
affects a much larger number of faculty; and furthermore, the same faculty will not be
affected every semester, due to rotation in the teaching schedule.
• Assign permanent times for faculty meetings, Advisory Council meetings,
and departmental seminars.
• Hold more frequent faculty meetings, at least until all issues precipitated by
the merger are resolved.
Promote a culture of faculty engagement.
• Encourage informal interactions such as Biotea and Friday Faculty Lunch,
both of which are currently inactive. Encourage attendance at departmental
picnics, end of semester parties, recruitment socials, etc. Charge individual
faculty (recruitment committee?) to promote and organize these events.
Thank faculty who organize these events, and those who participate.
• Train tenure mentors, particularly to communicate expectations for
engagement (faculty meeting attendance and participation; seminar
attendance; etc.) to our junior colleagues.
Response to faculty survey
In the fall of 2009, the Strategic Planning Committee polled Biology faculty (tenure track
and non-tenure track) about various aspects of our department. The responses were based
on a 5-point scale (1 = very unsatisfied, 2 = unsatisfied, 3 = okay, 4 = satisfied, and 5=
very satisfied, as well as a N/A option). We are pleased that almost all faculty completed
the survey (n = 46 responses). We start this section by summarizing some notable
findings from the survey. Complete survey results are provided in Appendix A.
• 64.3% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with logistical support
averaged over all categories (within the department, i.e., front office,
computer/IT, fiscal, stockroom/receiving, building maintenance, and
equipment/vehicles). Another 13.6% considered this support “ok.” The average
score across all categories was 4.0. Within the logistical support categories, the
highest rated areas were computer/IT (avg. = 4.75) and fiscal/grants (4.53). The
lowest areas were building maintenance and custodial support (avg. = 3.53) and
equipment and vehicle support (avg. = 3.54). However, there has been
considerable turnover in support staff since the survey.
WORKLOAD AND SUPPORT
• 53% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current teaching
workload and support, and another 23.1% rated this item as “ok”. (avg. = 3.61).
• 50% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current
administrative load, and another 36.8% rated this item as “ok” (avg. = 3.58).
• 42.1% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current space,
and another 44.7% considered it “ok” (avg. = 3.58). Some of the dissatisfaction
may derive from perceived inequities in space allocation, but it is likely more
attributable to the age of the building and quality of the space in general.
• 30.8% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with their current salary,
and another 30.8% rated this item as “ok” (avg. = 2.97). The average rank for
“annual review and merit raises” was 3.15.
• 46.9% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with our graduate
program, averaged across all categories, and another 31.3% rated it “ok” (avg. =
3.44) The highest rated category in the graduate program was “quality of your
current graduate students” (avg. = 4.11) followed by “number of your current
graduate students” (avg. = 3.78) and “graduate admissions process” (avg. =3.75).
The lowest rated categories were “space for our graduate students” (avg. = 3.03)
and “pay and benefits for our graduate students” (avg. = 2.69). These topics are
discussed further in the Graduate Program section of this document.
• 35.7% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with our curriculum,
averaged across all categories, and 37.1% ranked it as “ok” (avg. = 3.22). The
highest ranked category under curriculum was “graduate courses” (avg. = 3.47),
and the lowest rated category was “advanced undergraduate courses” (avg. =
INTELLECTUAL & TAXONOMIC DIVERSITY
• 37.3% were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with our “intellectual diversity” (i.e.,
mixture of subdisciplines) across all categories, and another 40% considered it
“ok” (avg. = 3.25). Among sub-disciplines, there was most satisfaction with
Ecology (3.85) and Evolution/Systematics (3.76). There was least satisfaction in
structure/functional morphology (avg. = 2.62) and development (avg. = 2.64),
followed by cellular/molecular/ physiology (avg. = 2.97). This dissatisfaction
largely reflects recent losses of faculty and is discussed further under faculty
• 30% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the department’s
organismal expertise, averaged across all categories; another 37.7% considered it
“ok.” Overall, fungi (avg. = 2.64) and protists (avg. = 2.65) had the lowest
satisfaction, and animals (avg. = 3.66) and plants (avg. = 3.54) had the highest
satisfaction. Written comments indicated that many faculty consider it important
to maintain, if not increase, taxonomic diversity studied within the department.
ETHNIC & GENDER DIVERSITY
• 27% of the faculty were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the department’s
gender diversity, and another 48.6% considered it “ok” (avg. = 3.05).
• 8.1% of the faculty were “satisfied” with the department’s ethnic diversity (no
one was “very satisfied”), and another 35.1% considered it “ok” (avg. = 2.38).
The survey results indicate general satisfaction among faculty with the department, with a
few important exceptions (e.g., gender and ethnic diversity of faculty; this is discussed in
detail in a separate section on Diversity). Written comments within the survey (Appendix
A) included many constructive criticisms and revealed a very broad range of viewpoints
on nearly all issues.
The following subsection provides a historical description of our faculty. We then
outline our current hiring priorities. The last subsection tackles the difficult question of
bringing in additional resources and increasing efficiency so that faculty can cope better
with increasing demands on their time.
Description of Faculty
Despite the tremendous growth of the University and especially the Biology major, the
number of Zoology and Botany faculty has declined markedly since the late 1980’s/early
1990’s (Figure 3.1). Among tenured or tenure-track faculty salaried in Biology
(including former Botany and Zoology), we lost 9 faculty (Reiskind, Evans, Wolff,
Bowes, Davis, Mulkey, Lucansky, Cohn, McNab) between 2005 and 2009, all but 2 to
retirement. In just the last year, however, we have lost almost half that number as some
of our high-profile colleagues have been recruited to other institutions (Hsieh, Bolker,
Phelps, Guillette); this is worrisome. On the positive side, between 2005 and 2009,
Biology has added 9 tenure-track faculty currently salaried in the department (McDaniel,
Choe, Burleigh, Barbazuk, Chen, Gillooly, Silliman, Palmer, Hsieh), and in 2010, we
added another 2.5 new lines (Ponciano, Lichstein, and Pulliam, who is shared with the
Emerging Pathogens Institute).
Figure 3.1. Changes in tenured or tenure-track faculty in the former Departments
of Botany and Zoology and in the Department of Biology.
Our department has a diverse array of faculty members, representing a wide range of
research areas within biology: (1) physiology, cellular and molecular biology, (2)
behavior, (3) ecology, (4) systematics/biodiversity/phylogenetics, (5), conservation
biology, (6) evolutionary genetics, (7) genomics and informatics, (8) development, and
(9) integrative biology. The distribution of our faculty (and joint faculty) across these
subdisciplines is provided in Appendix C, and the emerging research emphases within
each of these biological subdisciplines are outlined in Appendix D.
Here we outline a hiring plan for our new department that will allow us to retain what has
been unique and successful for the former departments of Botany and Zoology and to
build a modern Department of Biology that will compete successfully with those at our
peer institutions. We will need to hire two new faculty members per year just to address
attrition and to maintain current teaching requirements and research breadth. However,
to compete with our peer biology departments we must grow (see below), and we must
grow in new directions. Therefore, in some academic years we anticipate making more
than two hires.
The hallmarks of the former departments of Botany and Zoology were a strong commitment to
teaching and a focus on evolutionary and organismal biology. The departments also had a strong
tradition of integrative biology. These attributes set us apart from other life science departments
at UF and from Biology departments at some of our peer institutions. We are committed to
retaining these traditional areas of strength in our new department. However, because we are
now a Department of Biology rather than a loose affiliation of Botany and Zoology, our new
mission and vision must reflect the breadth expected of a biology department. We must
represent a more diverse range of taxa, and we need to strengthen our mechanistic side.
Likewise, to be truly integrative, we must pursue an understanding of dynamics and processes
that scale across space and time, involve interacting subsystems, and that transcend all levels of
We propose three sets of hires, categorized below as Behavior, Evolution, and Biodiversity. We
emphasize that practically all will bring cellular-molecular expertise in a fashion that
assures integration with our current faculty. Although we have grouped these hires and
firmly believe that some are particularly synergistic, the order in which we fill them needs to be
discussed and agreed upon by the entire faculty.
Behavior hires. The department has had a long-standing strength in behavior, having one of the
strongest programs in the country. In part this stems from having multiple faculty with
overlapping interests, each of whom approach behavior from different perspectives and thus
provide an integrative training program and a dynamic research group. Behavior is an inherently
interdisciplinary field, and the NSF behavior cluster emphasizes this by encouraging “integrative
projects that seek to understand how combinations of neural, hormonal, physiological, and
developmental mechanisms act synergistically as a system from which behavior emerges.” The
faculty in this area are likely to link to other research groups within the department (including
those interested in plant responses to various cues), as well as elsewhere on campus (including
Brain Institute, the Whitney Lab, UF Center for Smell and Taste, and the Department of
Psychology). To ensure a strong behavior program and to simultaneously strengthen the
mechanistic/sub-cellular part of our faculty, we propose the following four hires:
• Evolution and development: This person will examine the genetics underlying
morphological traits using approaches such as in situ hybridization and gene
expression. The ideal candidate will have experience working with morphological
traits and their analysis as part of their work in understanding the underpinnings
of phenotypic differences among individuals and/or species. This person will link
to the evolution and molecular genetic faculty within the department, but also
provide a resource for any student whose research involves morphological traits.
• Genetic Basis of Behavior: This person will use techniques such as
genomics, gene expression and regulation to identify and study genes that
underlie behavior and how those genes affect behavioral phenotype. This
person will link to the molecular and genetic faculty within the department
as well as the evolutionary and ecological faculty.
• Animal behavior: This person will link ultimate questions with proximate
mechanisms using laboratory and/or field approaches. This person will form part
of the “core” or hub behavior faculty, but will also use techniques and approaches
that allow him/her to interact with other groups within the department.
• Signaling and Communication: This person will investigate how signals
are perceived and transduced and how this leads to biochemical and
physiological changes important for growth, development and interaction
with other cells and the environment. This research could use approaches
from molecular biology, cell biology, genetics, functional genomics and
computational biology, and it could focus on either an animal or plant
Origins of Life. Evolution provides a unifying theme for much of the research in this
department, and it remains a critical part of our department’s identity and mission. These hires
fill will provide an intellectual link for many disparate areas of study, and they will enable our
department to expand into new frontiers of evolutionary research.
• Synthetic biologist: This field reflects new synergies between evolutionary
biology, molecular biology, and theory. Synthetic biology includes many diverse
approaches to explore de novo creation and optimal function of life from
component parts. Since it is often difficult or impossible to understand the
fundamental nature of biological structures through observation alone, synthetic
biology examines these questions by constructing and manipulating the
components of biological systems. Synthetic biology is explicitly subcellular and
molecular; however, it provides insight into the origin of life and the optimal
function of existing life, problems clearly rooted in evolutionary biology. Thus,
this position will bridge molecular biology with evolutionary biology and theory
and will provide an evolutionary perspective that is not well represented in our
• Theoretical population geneticist: Theoreticians are unifiers. This person will be
a key colleague of the synthetic biologist and the evolutionary biochemist. In
addition, this person will bridge the existing strengths in evolutionary geneticists
with these new hires as well as the other new hires in biodiversity. The
department has long had an imbalance between theoretical strength in ecology vs.
evolutionary biology; this hire will serve to balance our strengths, work with
the evolutionary ecologists, and add depth to the evolutionary biology group.
• Evolutionary biochemistry: This person has strength in biochemistry and will use
biochemical approaches in addition to other tools to investigate important
questions at chemical and molecular levels including evolution of protein
structure, gene function, specialized metabolism, bioenergy, origin of life,
astrobiology, etc. This person is intended to strengthen our biochemistry
expertise and to connect to areas of current strength in the department (e.g.,
phylogenetics, evolution, ecology and behavior).
Biodiversity. These hires fill critical taxonomic gaps in faculty expertise, while providing
exciting new directions of research based on cutting-edge technologies. At the same time, in
order to be comprehensive with respect to biodiversity, we must retain critical whole organism
strengths, particularly in plants, which are vulnerable due to pending retirements.
• Fungal or protist comparative genomicist: explores genome evolution and its
systematic implications in neglected groups of great importance to biodiversity,
which span moderate to extreme habitats.
• Plant systematicist: would bridge existing strengths in plant molecular
systematics with the ecology group by providing thorough grounding in plant
natural history, structure, and biodiversity.
• Plant Evolutionary Development: This person will examine plant
developmental morphology and its genetic control in a comparative and/or
evolutionary context. We are especially interested in someone conducting
such research on vascular plants. He/she will be a bridging person in our
department, interacting with both systematists/evolutionary biologists and
These hires strengthen and link existing areas of expertise in our department while enabling us to
expand into exciting new directions. These hires will present us with new opportunities,
including new possibilities for training grants and degree programs. But there are also potential
pitfalls, such as lack of adequate teaching and research space, as well as real and perceived
cultural divides between the department’s subdisciplines. Nonetheless, we are confident that our
strong sense of collegiality, which has served so well during the merger, will allow us to seize
the opportunities and avoid the pitfalls as we move forward.
Faculty have many demands on their time. Beyond the standard categories of research,
classroom teaching and service, faculty also mentor undergraduate and graduate students,
write letters of recommendation, attend, host, and give seminars, write and review grants
and manuscripts, serve on grant panels, participate in cross-departmental initiatives, serve
on College and University committees, serve in scientific societies and in editorial
positions, and participate in national teaching and research workshops. If we are to
accommodate all of these demands we must (1) work to ensure that expectations and
resources are equitably distributed among faculty and that the protocols for distributing
them are transparent; (2) make a strong, empirically supported case to the higher
administration for more support (staff, funding, faculty, graduate students), (3) find ways
to be more efficient, by doing more with less. None of these strategies alone will suffice.
All three will benefit from better historical and current data about faculty loads. The
following section discusses teaching loads, graduate students, space, and staff support.
For each category, we review the issues of fairness, efficiency, and resources, and
suggest actions we can take to improve support of faculty.
Because the faculty survey revealed the perception among faculty that teaching loads are
not evenly or fairly distributed, curriculum and teaching assignments should be
reevaluated. The curriculum committee, chaired by David Julian, is currently working on
organizing the teaching schedule for the next 5 years and making the process of assigning
teaching loads fair, equitable, and transparent. One outstanding issue is the problem of
properly giving credit for participation in the IP course, currently the foundation course
of our graduate program. This lack of credit threatens the continued existence of the
course. Currently, only the director of the IP course gets teaching credit, and there is no
credit for teaching the intensive, 27-30 hour modules.
Maximum flexibility with the teaching schedule is critical, e.g., allowing faculty to
double up on teaching in one semester to provide for a subsequent research-only
semester. This accommodates faculty with special research needs that require them to be
away from campus (e.g., field work, use of specialized equipment not available at UF,
extensive collaborations), as well as personal needs or styles of work. The department’s
chair should work with the dean’s office to increase flexibility in teaching assignments,
Serial team teaching (one instructor active at a time) and semester-long co-teaching
(multiple instructors active simultaneously), for example, are not equivalent. We note
that serial team-teaching in BSC provides those faculty involved with more flexibility,
and that this flexibility has changed some faculty perceptions of BSC as a burden to a
desirable assignment. Co-teaching in Introductory Ecology also increases flexibility.
Involvement in co- or team-taught courses encourages faculty to teach seminar courses,
which broaden students’ experience; but calculating and equalizing effort can be tricky.
If we are to maintain reasonable section sizes in lower-level courses and laboratories
while maintaining or increasing our offerings of upper-level undergraduate electives and
graduate courses – without compromising the faculty’s other missions – we need more
resources. In the current economic climate this may be unlikely, and we are already
moving backwards in some areas (e.g., the enrollment caps in our laboratory sections
have been increased, and some labs have moved from wet labs to computer-tutorial labs).
E-learning presents a particular challenge, not least because there are so many flavors of
it (synchronous and asynchronous; hybrid vs. completely online to mention but a few).
Extensive faculty discussion of e-learning is recommend to 1) explore effective use of e-
learning that might enhance our department's sterling educational mission and reputation;
2) understand effort put into e-learning and thus obviate new inequities in teaching.
Some non-major BSC sections have already been moved to web-based formats in order
to deal with limitations in classroom space, but this was not discussed by the faculty at
large and is thus unknown to some and even objectionable to others.
Lecturers have been seen by some as a means of dealing with enrollment problems and
budget constraints. Departure of faculty has recently required that lecturers be hired ad
hoc to cover teaching needs. However, the department has not set any longer term policy
about the role of lecturers. There has been historically intense resistance to a "two-tiered"
system of faculty, at least within the former Zoology department. Thus, we need to
discuss the desirability of lecturers, the appropriate role of lecturers in the Biology
department, and how we wish to treat lecturers (integration into departmental culture,
voting rights, etc.).
Graduate students are essential to the functioning of our department and of individual
labs. They require space and financial support, both of which are limited. Financial
support is often provided through stipends and tuition waivers, typically provided via
TAships from a limited pool. Likewise, travel grants to graduate students are drawn from
a limited pool. In the merger process, we need to continue to reassess our admissions
procedures (since procedures of Botany and Zoology differed) and seek methods to more
efficiently and effectively provide for our graduate students. We also need to continue to
clarify policies regarding admitting and funding graduate students from other campus
graduate programs, such as Genetics & Genomics, PMCB, and SNRE. Finally, increased
support for graduate assistants will also allow us to continue to increase the number of
students we teach, while allowing flexibility in faculty scheduling (including the teaching
rotation for IP), participation in training grants, etc. These issues are discussed more
fully in the Graduate Student section of this document.
The faculty survey also raised some concerns about equity with regards to space
allocation. Different faculty have different space needs (e.g., theoretical vs. laboratory
vs. field research), and the department’s policy has not been clearly stated. It seems that
we fall somewhere in between a strict-equality policy on space and a medical-school
model where square footage reflects current grant funding (although we are closer to the
former). Of course, building design creates many constraints. Our space policy should
be discussed and formalized.
Efficiency of space use is important since improvements (e.g., a new building) occur on a
very long time scale. Minor efficiency gains are always possible, and the space
committee should continue to search for such opportunities. Shared equipment can also
make better use of departmental space, either by the traditional method of faculty sharing
equipment within their lab (as a courtesy, at their own discretion) or true common
resources. We note the complicating factor that our space is scattered among four
buildings (Bartram, Carr, McCarty, and the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex) and
that some of our faculty (and students) are housed in the Museum. However, short of
major renovations or a new building (see Facilities section), it is hard to increase space.
• Actively explore all options to increase diversity among faculty.
• Archive data on teaching assignments, teaching loads, weighted-SCHs obtained
from faculty assignment reports and departmental records. Also keep records on
teaching evaluations. Use these data to strengthen our case for increased support
from the college, and to make sure that faculty teaching loads are fair and
• Evaluate options (e.g., post-docs, graduate or undergraduate-TAs, new lecturers)
for increased support for undergraduate courses.
• Work with Dean’s office to determine limits of flexibility in when teaching
obligations are met.
• Provide at least some credit for teaching modules of IP.
• Clarify policy on use of space, and work toward efficiency in usage of
• Through hires, maintain and increase taxonomic and programmatic diversity
4. Undergraduate Program
Our undergraduate program faces both opportunities and challenges in the years ahead, as
the number of students and the number of courses for which Biology is directly
responsible increase dramatically due to the implementation of the Biology major and the
incorporation of the Division of Biological Sciences and its “BSC” courses into the new
Department of Biology. In this section, we first describe the current status of the
undergraduate three majors administered through the department (Biology, Zoology, and
Botany), and other majors that provide students for our courses; discuss the overall
enrollment picture; and present the current advising situation. Then we discuss the
greatest challenges to the undergraduate curriculum and propose possible solutions.
Biology major ( http://biology.ufl.edu ; http://major.biology.ufl.edu/CLAS_tracks.html)
The Biology Major, a collaborative major involving both the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences (CLAS) and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), was
implemented in 2007. The three tracks in CLAS (Biology, Biology Secondary Education,
and Pre-Professional Specialization [shared with CALS]) are administered through our
department. Enrollment in the Biology major (mainly the Pre-professional track) has been
very strong; we now have more than 1350 undergraduate majors in CLAS tracks, with a
total of about 1600 including both CLAS and CALS tracks). The growth has provided
opportunities to introduce more students to the life sciences, but it has also required the
implementation of new plans to accommodate the burgeoning number of students, while
maintaining a strong curriculum needed to preserve the Botany and Zoology majors.
Students in the Pre-Professional track select whether they will complete the major in
CLAS or CALS, with that decision based on factors such as recommendations from
advisors, differences in general education requirements between the colleges, differences
in upper-division electives, word-of-mouth from other students, and the perceived
prestige of receiving a major from CLAS vs. CALS.
Most tracks require the following major coursework:
• Integrated Principles of Biology (BSC 2010, 2010L, 2011, 2011L)
• Genetics (PCB 3063 or AGR 3303) or Molecular Genetics (PCB 4522)
The Pre-Professional track currently enrolls at least 85% of all students in the Biology
major, and this domination is likely to continue. In addition to the courses listed above,
all students in this track must complete PCB 4723C (Physiology and Molecular Biology
of Animals), which is offered by our department, and either MCB 3020/3020L (Basic
Biology of Microorganisms) or PCB 3134 (Eukaryotic Cell Structure), which are offered
by the Dept. of Microbiology and Cell Science (a CALS department). Therefore, we
must continue to be prepared to teach PCB 4723C to all Pre-professional track Biology
students, and PCB 3063 to a smaller percentage of those students. We should continue to
expect considerably more than half of all Biology majors to enroll in PCB 3063. (The
third genetics option, PCB 4522 is taught in Microbiology and Cell Science, is viewed as
a more advanced, specialized course and has additional requirements. Thus, it will likely
continue to attract relatively few students.) Furthermore, advisors generally recommend
that all pre-medical and pre-veterinary students complete ZOO 3713C (Functional
Vertebrate Anatomy). Accommodating the increased enrollment in these courses is the
major current teaching-related challenge for our department in connection with the
Biology major. Furthermore, Biology majors in the Pre-professional track must complete
12 credits of electives, and although the CLAS track allows students to take a variety of
courses both in CLAS and CALS, most of the students enroll in our department courses,
such as ZOO 2303C (Vertebrate Zoology), PCB 4044C (General Ecology), PCB 4674
(Evolution), ZOO 2203C (Invertebrate Zoology), and BSC3402 (Theory and Practice in
the Biological Sciences), as well as special topics courses that are open to advanced
undergraduates. Consequently, enrollment has been increasing in most of these courses.
Clearly, the Biology major has enhanced the importance of our teaching mission. It is
also central to the department’s long-term health because Biology major courses support
the majority of our Teaching Assistant appointments. Currently, there are about 45
teaching assistantships in the BSC courses each semester (BSC 2010, 2011, 2010L,
2011L, 2007, 2008, 2009L), of which the vast majority are filled by our graduate students
(In previous years, 10-12 TAs have been hired from outside the department. This number
is now decreasing; see Graduate program). Finding a way to safely admit more graduate
students is a high priority: it would both increase the size of the graduate program and
reduce the flow of departmental resources outside of the Department and outside of
CLAS. This will require finding a source of insurance against unexpected shortfalls in
graduate support (e.g. due to lower-than-historical rates of RAships or other outside
funding), either from departmental funds or from CLAS.
Zoology major (http://www.registrar.ufl.edu/catalog/programs/majors/zoo.html )
In addition to the Biology major, undergraduate students at the University of Florida will
continue to major in Zoology, and the faculty has voted overwhelmingly to maintain this
major, along with the Botany major. In academic year 2009/10, about 160 students are
declared as Zoology majors. This number is less than half of that of 10 years ago, and it
is continuing to decline. For the Zoology major, we must be prepared to teach PCB
3063, PCB 4723C and ZOO 3713C, which are recommended and taken by most majors,
as well PCB 4044C (General Ecology), PCB 4674 (Evolution), ZOO 2203C (Invertebrate
Zoology), and ZOO 2303C (Vertebrate Zoology), which are also “recommended”.
Because the Biology major is now serving as the pathway for pre-medical and pre-
veterinary students, it has been suggested that the curriculum requirements of the
Zoology major be re-assessed in order to focus the major on zoological specializations, in
parallel with our Botany major, which focuses on botanical specializations (see also Re-
evaluation of curriculum and majors, below). Finally, we have only a single faculty
member (Maden) to cover ZOO 3713C, which is a concern.
Botany major (http://www.registrar.ufl.edu/catalog/programs/majors/botany.html )
Undergraduates at the University of Florida may also major in Botany. In academic year
2009/10, ca. 40 students (half enrolled through CALS and half through CLAS) were
declared as Botany majors, and Biology is committed to maintaining a strong teaching
program in botany. We note that this is the only botany major in the state university
system. Unlike the Zoology major, the number of Botany majors has held fairly steady
over the past five years. For the Botany major, which is more highly structured than the
Zoology major, we must also be prepared to teach the following courses: BOT 2011C
(Plant Diversity, the lead in course to the major, and the only one required of all
students), BOT 2710C (Practical Plant Taxonomy; for which BOT 5725C can be
substituted), BOT 3503/3503L (Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants), BOT 5225
(Plant Anatomy), PCB 3034 (Introduction to Ecology; for which PCB 3601, Plant
Ecology can be substituted), and PCB 3023 (Essential Cell Biology). BOT 3151C
(Local Flora) and BOT 2800C (Plants in Human Affairs) are popular electives and are
taken by many botany majors, and the lack of faculty instructors for either course is a
In addition to the Biology, Botany, and Zoology majors, there are numerous students in
the Nutritional Sciences major in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition,
most of whom are pre-medical and pre-dental students. Many of them want to take PCB
3063, PCB 4723C and ZOO 3713C, although these courses are not required for that
major. Microbiology majors also frequently enroll in PCB 3063 and PCB 4723C. A
variety of other, smaller biology-related majors on campus also require some courses
from our department (in addition to PCB 3063), notably Wildlife Ecology and
Entomology, both of which require ZOO 2303C (Vertebrate Zoology) and/or ZOO
2203C (Invertebrate Zoology); Wildlife Ecology also requires BOT 3151C (Local Flora
of North Florida) or BOT 2710 (Practical Plant Taxonomy), and various ecology courses
(PCB 3034C, 4043C, and PCB 3601C). Animal Science majors can take PCB 3063 to
fulfill their genetics requirement; Plant Science/Agronomy majors (or at least some of the
specializations) take BOT 2010C (Introductory Botany), BOT 2011C (Plant Diversity),
and BOT 3503/3503L (Physiology and Molecular Biology of Plants).
Enrollment in departmental courses
Nearly all of the 3000+ students in biology-related majors across campus are required to
take BSC 2010 and 2011 with their accompanying laboratories. Thus, during any
academic semester, a large number of undergraduates are taking biology courses. In fall
2009, for example, ca. 4,200 students enrolled in the BSC lecture and laboratory courses
(major and non-major).
Our current large enrollments are most difficult to accommodate in the introductory
biology courses (ca. 4200 students/term), our genetics course (ca. 250 students/term and
rising), and our animal physiology course (ca. 170 students/term and rising). Our
functional vertebrate anatomy course is also under enrollment pressure (ca. 120
students/term). Vertebrate zoology (ca. 120 students) is now taught in both fall and
Until recently, academic advising of Botany and Zoology majors was handled by faculty
members designated as the Undergraduate Coordinators (in the respective former
departments) while advisement of our Biology majors was covered by Dennis Wackerly
(a recently retired faculty member, hired part time for academic advisement; new
restrictions on hiring retired faculty have made this option impossible). However, the
increase in the number of biology majors and departmental reorganization in connection
with the merger, has led to the current situation in which academic advisement is handled
by two advisors in the Academic Advising Center (Naz Erenguc and Bobbi
Knickerbocker), who work closely with our undergraduate coordinator (Bernie Hauser).
In exchange for this service, Biology agreed to focus on mentoring its majors through the
Biology Colloquium (see Challenges of advising and potential solutions, below).
The challenges faced by our undergraduate program will fall into three categories: 1)
shortages of faculty and teaching assistants for particular courses (as a result, in part, of
enrollment increases connected with the Biology major); 2) shortages of classrooms and
especially laboratory space; and 3) necessary re-evaluation of our curriculum and majors
in connection with the merger of Botany and Zoology.
Shortages of faculty and teaching assistants
In the near term, the department must decide upon and implement a plan that will address
staffing needs in both introductory and upper division courses required by the Biology,
Zoology, and Botany majors. It will be increasingly difficult to meet these needs.
Courses likely to face staffing needs in the coming years, in addition to those in the BSC
series, include functional vertebrate anatomy (ZOO 3713C), vertebrate zoology (ZOO
2303C), animal development (ZOO 3603), animal physiology (PCB 4723C), plant
systematics (BOT 2710), local flora (BOT 3151C), plants in human affairs (BOT 2800C)
and animal behavior (ZOO 3513C). Depending on retirements, other courses may also
be at risk.
The department can deal with faculty-teaching shortages in a number of ways:
• Move courses taught twice a year to once-a-year schedules, with higher
enrollment caps (within constraints of room availability).
• Revise the curriculum to replace old courses with new courses that would better
meet student needs and faculty interests.
• Hire faculty on a short-term basis. This provides a short-term solution in dealing
with important courses taught by faculty members who are unexpectedly
• Hire faculty who are experts in pedagogy who serve as resources for other faculty
members and graduate students as well as contributing in teaching (see below).
• Facilitate scheduling flexibility (e.g., short, intensive mini-courses). Mitigate
logistical constraints of FLMNH faculty by encouraging them to team-teach (with
salaried Biology faculty or with other FLMNH faculty) important natural history
courses such as ZOO 2203C (Invertebrate Zoology) and ZOO 2303C (Vertebrate
Zoology). (Some of the enrollment pressure in these courses may be addressed by
a new “capstone” natural history course being planned by museum faculty, which
will be an intensive, variable-credit, field and laboratory course.)
• Continue to assign appropriate courses to advanced doctoral students, such as
BSC 2007 (Cells, Organisms, and Genetics), BSC 2008 (Evolution, Ecology and
Behavior), and BOT 3151C (Local Flora).
• Make faculty hires to maintain courses important to our degree programs. (See
One or more of these options must be used in dealing with increasing enrollments. While
many decisions will have to be made quickly by the chair and associate chair in order to
react to emerging crises, it is critical that the undergraduate committee, and the entire
department, provide input on the balance of advantages and disadvantages of the various
Shortages of classrooms and laboratory space
The increasing enrollment brought about by the Biology major and the service-demand
on our courses is making it increasingly difficult to find the space to teach these courses
because laboratory space is limited in Bartram/Carr, and we have recently lost all of our
undergraduate labs in McCarty Hall. The planning and coordination of space is largely
done on an ad hoc basis by the office staff, working in coordination with the registrar. In
the future, these logistical challenges will require considerably more advanced planning
Currently in the BSC 2010 and 2011 series, labs are scheduled for every period possible
during the week (Periods 1-E3, except Monday mornings which are required for set-up)
to meet demand. These labs cannot accommodate more students, and so it is not clear
where additional lab space might be available. To make a difficult situation even worse,
the loss of the McCarty Hall teaching labs means that the botany laboratory courses (e.g.,
various ecology courses, plant physiology and molecular biology courses, plant
systematics courses, plant diversity, plant anatomy, plants in human affairs, etc.) will be
moved into space currently occupied by BSC laboratories, which then means that our
BSC labs will be moved to Rolfs Hall. Adding evening sections of BSC labs would
necessitate the elimination of the “field ecology” experiments in all lab sections that meet
after dusk. Enrollment pressure has also resulted in major changes in the laboratories in
Animal Physiology (replacement of “wet labs” with computer-assisted tutorials); space
requirements for Vertebrate Anatomy will also substantially increase within the next five
years. The curriculum committee will need to devise creative solutions to these problems
while we await a new biology building (the only real solution to our long-term space
problems). Some possibilities include: reducing the number of labs per course section,
offering Saturday laboratory sections, modifying laboratory content to reduce the number
of “wet” labs, restructuring the curriculum in relation to its laboratory content, and
moving some courses or portions of courses to an “on-line”/distance learning system.
Each of these options requires thorough assessment.
Lack of large classroom space could be dealt with by greater use of early morning or late
evening course periods, although we realize that such schedules are damaging to the
family- and personal-time of the faculty and are also unpopular among students.
Re-evaluation of our curriculum and majors: what is the role of the
Botany and Zoology majors?
Although some curriculum changes may be in order, especially those needed to deal with
enrollment pressures, discussions at the departmental retreat (Fall 2009), in faculty
meetings, and in meetings of the Strategic Planning Committee indicate that most view
each of our departmental majors as valuable, serving the needs of different student
groups. Thus, we recommend that the Biology, Botany, and Zoology majors be retained
in our united department (and the maintenance of these undergraduate degrees was
approved by a vote of the faculty in December, 2009). We are, however, open to
restructuring the requirements of our majors to make them less overlapping, e.g., course
requirements in the current Zoology major (pre-professional track) are essentially
identical to those in the Biology major (pre-professional track). Some courses needed by
these majors are not taught as frequently as necessary, causing problems for our students.
A special concern is the maintenance of courses in botanical subjects; the Botany major
will make it easier for such courses to continue to be offered, and faculty with botanical
expertise to continue to be hired. Hopefully, these issues can be dealt with in the process
of assessing teaching responsibilities across the department, and the development of a 5-
year departmental undergraduate teaching schedule.
An alternative approach to distinguishing between Biology, Botany, and Zoology majors
is to pitch Biology as the default major for pre-professional students, and simultaneously
restructure Botany and Zoology majors as prestigious, high-profile, research-based
alternatives. This strategy may be especially appropriate as the number of Biology
majors increases and the numbers of Botany and Zoology majors either decline or stay at
a relatively low levels. We advocate creating a “4+1” option exclusively available to
Botany and Zoology majors. Students in this program would do the equivalent of a
research-based honors thesis in their fourth year and continue in the same lab for a fifth
year, after which they would be awarded a MS and BS with high or highest honors.
Such a program has the potential of turning small and consequently vulnerable
undergraduate majors into graduate degree programs, which we suspect will viewed
favorably by the administration.
Details of any 4+1 option need to be thoroughly discussed. If implemented, such a
program would essentially create two types of graduate students in the department – a
“class structure” long resisted by many of our faculty, In response to this concern, the
Strategic Planning Committee points out that undergraduate training is increasingly
focused on high quality research experiences. Our best undergraduates deserve the
opportunities a 4+1 option would provide, and a well designed 4+1 program would gain
recognition among our majors, administrators, and colleagues at peer institutions who
would benefit from the applicants they’d receive from us.
The MS provided by the 4+1 option would essentially be a different flavor of MS than
what is currently offered in our department. It would most likely function as a bridge to a
Ph.D. program elsewhere. Such bridges are especially important for minority students,
who might otherwise be reluctant to commit to a graduate program. By staying just one
more year in an already-familiar environment they can earn a graduate degree without
leaving their current community of support (e.g., peers in the SEAGEP program). A final
advantage of the 4+1 option would be that its benefits target students who are Florida
residents (because the vast majority of undergraduates in Biology are from Florida)
We emphasize that the 4+1 option would be an option, not a requirement or expectation.
Thus, students would still be free to pursue traditional Botany or Zoology majors (e.g.,
without an explicit emphasis on research experience).
Challenges of advising and potential solutions
We have an urgent advising challenge: 1200+ biology majors, in addition to numerous
Botany and Zoology majors. How do we ensure that each of these students receives
quality academic advising and career counseling? Most of these students receive preview
advising from non-biologists, and most of our majors do not take their first course from
our department (BSC2010) until their third semester at UF. Our students wait too long to
seek advising help, design inefficient or inappropriate schedules, miss out on the array of
research opportunities in the department, and fail to properly assess their career choices.
As part of the agreement with Academic Advising, our students are advised by Biology
advisors in the Academic Advising Center, but are directed to the Undergraduate
Coordinator (and faculty members within the department) for advice relating to academic
subdisciplines within Biology, the various programs facilitating research under the
direction of faculty members or graduate students, or directed teaching experience.
Another problem is that many of our undergraduates delay gaining research experience
(or get pulled into research experiences in other colleges before they are aware of the
wide range of possibilities within our department).
In an effort to improve our undergraduate advising and ensure early contact between
faculty in Biology and our undergraduate majors, and to connect these students with
appropriate faculty research mentors, a new 1-credit course is being developed, “Biology
Colloquium,” which is temporarily assigned the number BSC2930 but would eventually
have a 1000-level BSC number. This course (three sections of which have been offered
in both the Fall and Spring terms of this academic year, and three sections of which will
be offered in Summer B) is targeted to students in their first semester at UF, and covers
the nature of science (hypothesis testing, ethics, peer review, grant funding, etc.),
independent research, facilities in the department, advising and career resources, library
resources, and laboratory safety. The course's primary objective is to increase
faculty/student interactions with our incoming students, while also providing an
introduction to current biology research, an overview of the department and the Biology,
Botany, and Zoology majors, and facilitating the successful completion of the students'
undergraduate work at UF. If the course proves successful, it will be phased in as a
requirement for all of our majors, but there is currently no definite timeline for this
process. We anticipate that the course will be the primary teaching assignment of two or
three faculty each semester (with each person assigned to teach three sections of 20-25
students). Note that this course differs significantly from BSC 3402, Theory and
Practice in Biological Science, which covers the scientific method, presentation of data,
formulation of hypotheses and theories, and the ethical implications of biological
research in much greater detail than in BSC 2930; in addition BSC 3402 does not cover
practical topics related to success as an undergraduate such as undergraduate research
opportunities at UF, developing a student-academic program, and use of the library and
various biological databases, which are a major focus of the new undergraduate course.
Finally, in order to assess the academic progress of our majors, as mandated by the state,
we will develop a 1-credit “Critical Thinking in the Life Sciences” course (to be offered
on-line), in which the students will attend and critique seminars offered across campus,
read and analyze primary scientific publications, and complement assessments to
determine the success of our curricula in meeting our educational goals. This course may
be appropriate for instruction by advanced graduate TAs.
Hiring faculty with expertise in science pedagogy
Research-oriented universities such as UF have traditionally filled tenure-track positions
with faculty who excel primarily in research. Despite appointments that include teaching,
few professors at any level have received formal training in how to teach. This tends to
create a community of teachers who teach as they were taught and who are generally
unaware of alternative techniques that are highly effective in capturing students’
attention, conveying complex material, and encouraging critical thinking (Miller et al.,
2008, Science 322:1329-1330). The effectiveness of these techniques is thoroughly
documented by controlled and replicated studies.
A primary challenge to improving teaching in our department is to provide ways for
faculty and graduate students to learn about and be mentored in a wide array of “modern”
teaching techniques. Science departments in large universities are increasingly hiring
tenure-track faculty who specialize in science education and hold PhDs in fields of
science or education. These faculty are expected to conduct research on teaching
techniques and to catalyze change in how courses are taught. They lead by example,
providing cutting-edge instructional support, advice, and resources. We recommend that
Biology consider conducting a nation-wide search for such a faculty member. He or she
would have a different type of assignment than other faculty and, likewise, would be
evaluated differently. Although some administrators are uneasy with different metrics of
evaluation applied within a department, we view it as a solvable challenge that should not
be a barrier.
Another concern of some administrators is that faculty in the sciences who do not
conduct traditional lab- or field-based research are largely excluded from grant
opportunities and thus won’t financially benefit the department or college. Clearly, that’s
a misconception. NSF, for example, has several major programs specifically targeting
research in education. Currently, we have no tenure-track faculty who stand a realistic
chance at landing one of these grants. And, even if we did, that faculty member would
have to significantly cut back on the type of research they were hired to conduct, putting
them in a vulnerable position. On the positive side, almost all of our peer institutions are
under the same constraint (administrative mindset?), which means that competition for
grants in science pedagogy is much less intense than for more typical NSF grants. Stated
differently, NSF is pushing for reform in science education at Research-1 institutions; it
wants to catalyze a culture change. If Biology can put itself in a position to lead that
change rather than follow it, we will benefit more than financially and educationally – we
will have seized the opportunity to have a national impact in an area of interest to
practically all scientists in academia. The Strategic Planning Committee feels this is a
A short review of hiring science pedagogy researchers into science departments at other
universities is provided by Bush et al. (2008, Science 322:1795-1796). A specific
example from a Biology department at a peer institution is available at:
A faculty member who specializes in science pedagogy would also help set the stage for
a new model of undergraduate education – one less focused on lectures and PowerPoints
and more focused on interactive, hands-on, collaborative learning. This would certainly
attract undergraduates into our majors and likewise would help in recruitment of graduate
students, who would directly benefit from the mentoring in new techniques they’d
receive as TAs. Finally, a shift in how we teach large undergraduate courses would
catalyze parallel shifts in how classroom space is used (e.g., moveable tables and chairs
in place of stadium seating) and in how information technology is applied (e.g., more
course-related online interactions among students). Those shifts could be used to
persuade potential donors that Biology needs a new building with “modern” classrooms
and enhanced IT support.
The penultimate version of this Strategic Plan proposed a tenure-track hire in science
pedagogy; the Strategic Planning Committee felt that such a hire would significantly
transform the department’s teaching and unite faculty around new something we all
share, value, and wish to continuously improve – teaching. Continuing to hire faculty
who specialize in “real” science won’t accomplish that. Recent feedback from higher
administration has made it clear, however, that hiring a colleague who specializes in
science pedagogy is not a realistic option. Thus, we’ve largely eliminated mention of it
elsewhere in this document. We leave it here to provide background and foster future
The challenges faced by our department with respect to undergraduate education are
considerable. Yet, these challenges provide opportunities to reevaluate and improve our
teaching mission. The Strategic Planning Committee makes the following
recommendations to address the three major issues that are a consequence of increasing
enrollment and our new status as a Biology department.
• Maintain our three undergraduate majors – Biology, Botany, Zoology,
periodically reassessing their curricula.
• Hire teaching faculty and lecturers to help meet BSC teaching needs, especially in
non-majors biology courses. Maintain undergraduate teaching needs as major
criteria in faculty hiring decisions (see Faculty section). [The department has just
hired an animal physiologist (hopefully relieving some pressure from ZOO
3713C) and an organismal botanist (who will teach BOT 2011C, BOT 5225, and
perhaps also BOT 2800C, three important courses that lacked an instructor).]
• Develop a five-year teaching schedule for our undergraduate courses (most of
which are required for one or more of our majors).
• Devote a faculty meeting to a wide-ranging discussion of undergraduate issues,
especially those relating to faculty/lecturer hiring, use of on-line courses, and
Medium and long-term actions:
• Continue to discuss and plan for hiring a tenure-track faculty member in biology
pedagogy to conduct research on teaching techniques and teach/coordinate
introductory biology courses.
• Enable greater participation of FLMNH faculty in the teaching of natural
history/biodiversity courses by developing flexible teaching opportunities (e.g.,
short, intensive field courses, mini-courses, team-taught courses, etc.).
• Ease shortages of classroom space by making greater use of “on-line” courses,
especially in non-major biology courses (BSC 2007, 2008); explore “hybrid”
options for upper-level courses (e.g., one face-to-face lecture per week and one or
two online sessions). Such on-line courses will require periodic updating/
• Ensure efficient use of teaching space, In the long term, classroom and laboratory
space needs can only be solved in the long term by a new biology building (Life
• Develop a 4+1 option for the Botany and Zoology majors, stressing research
• Require the recently established Biology Colloquium for all three of our majors;
develop separate versions for Biology and for Botany/Zoology majors. Institute
an on-line Critical Thinking in the Life Sciences course, including student
5. Graduate Program
Graduate students are the lifeblood of a healthy department. They bring fresh
perspectives, enthusiasm, and high expectations. They also contribute immeasurably to
our teaching and research missions, as well as the reputation of our department. A
discontented population of students can rapidly poison the department's collegiality and
effectiveness, whereas vibrant students will uplift us all and encourage continued success
in recruitment of students and faculty.
High quality graduate students are important for other reasons. They challenge those
around them to adopt new techniques and think more broadly, become role models for
junior students (especially undergraduates), and make possible much of the research
conducted in our labs. Finally, they represent the department and our research and
teaching programs to a broad national and international audience. They do this both
before and after they complete their degrees. Therefore, attracting excellent graduate
students and training them effectively is a key mission of our department.
In Sept. 2009, a survey was sent to the current graduate students to assess the overall
satisfaction of our graduate students, and to determine areas where the department is
succeeding and identify areas that need to be improved. Results from this survey
(Appendix B) are incorporated into the information below and helped to define goals for
Our graduate students excel at successfully competing for external funding for their
graduate studies. These competitive external sources include National Science
Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships, NSF East Asia and Pacific Summer
Institutes (EAPSI) Fellowships, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) GATOR
Graduate Mentorships, and NSF IGERT and GK-12 (SPICE) Fellowships. In fact,
Biology graduate students have recently acquired approximately 30% of all NSF
Graduate Research Fellowships for the entire UF campus. In 2010 alone, Biology
graduate students were awarded 5 NSF Graduate Fellowships.
There are many cross-disciplinary interactions between faculty and graduate students.
Mentoring is one of the most important and difficult components of producing successful
graduate students. Mentoring can take the form of intellectual exchange (helping with
project development, implementation, and write-up), assistance in career development,
and emotional support through the varying stages of a student’s tenure. Many of these
issues are personal – an advisor who is very involved in project design may be perceived
as “helpful” by one student but “micromanaging” by another. Thus, the student-mentor
relationship, while critical, is also one of the most challenging.
The personality of both the student and mentor can determine the success of the
mentoring relationship – a student who is insecure may have trouble working with a
hands-off advisor, while a confident student may feel too constrained by a hands-on
advisor. Although this issue is discussed when students interview for graduate student, it
is often difficult for students to fully understand the importance of compatible working
styles. In addition, as students mature through our program, their needs often change.
This can make a mentoring style that worked at one point in a student’s career be less
effective at a different stage. As such, keeping an open dialogue between students and
mentors, and helping both students and mentors achieve successful working relationships
throughout the graduate career is important.
Our current graduate students feel they receive good mentoring – 79.5% report being
satisfied or very satisfied with the overall mentoring they receive. A small number of
students (7.3%), however, are unsatisfied or very unsatisfied (the remainder of the
students are neutral). Students reported the highest level of satisfaction with the
intellectual mentoring they receive from their advisor. However, students are less
satisfied with other mentoring from their advisor (although in all categories at least
57.1% of respondents reported being satisfied or very satisfied). This suggests that career
development, and assistance with the emotional ups and downs of graduate school are
areas where mentoring could be improved. Besides their major advisor, students are
often mentored and supported by other members of the department. This includes
graduate committee members, other faculty, graduate students and post-docs. In these
areas, students seem largely satisfied. One strategy to improve the level of mentoring
overall would be to encourage students to seek more mentoring from sources outside of
their advisor. One approach to accomplish this would be to have senior graduate students
mentor junior graduate students.
Cross disciplinary interactions are beneficial because it exposes students more broadly to
biology and new approaches and methodology and technology. These interactions are a
vital part of our graduate training. Currently the Biology Department has graduate
students affiliated with several cross-disciplinary graduate programs including the Florida
Museum of Natural History, the Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology Program (PMCB),
the Genetics and Genomics Program (G&G), and the UF Water Institute.
Graduate Admissions Criteria
Currently, the department has approximately 160 students in the Botany and Zoology
graduate programs. The department can support about 68-70 graduate students per
semester using 0.5 FTE TAs. There are nearly 40 faculty who advise graduate students
through our programs (including faculty in both Biology and the Museum). Therefore,
we can support fewer than two TAs per advisor. This limits the annual number of
graduate students admitted to our programs. The Graduate Admissions Committee has
used the following criteria to make decisions about which applicants to admit to our
• Strength of the applicant (including GPA, GRE scores, letters of recommendation,
• Fit of the applicant to the program and advisor
• Number of students already supported on TA-ships in the advisor’s lab. This is
distinct from the total number of students in the lab.
• Faculty supporting additional Botany and Zoology graduate students through RA-
ships or who have students on fellowships will be given additional consideration for
• Whether the applicant will be working with a new faculty member or with a faculty
member that currently has no graduate students.
• Whether the advisor’s previous students have completed their degrees in a timely
manner. This recognizes that some types of dissertations inherently require more
time to complete than others, and that some students have extenuating
circumstances (e.g., birth of a child).
The results from the Sept. 2009 Graduate Student Survey showed that 40.5% of the
current students are unsatisfied with the current stipend of $18,000 for a half-time
Teaching Assistantship (TA). This is a challenge because salaries for TAs are determined
outside of the department. Within CLAS, graduate stipends vary significantly between
and within departments. For example, in the Department of Physics, graduate students
are offered TAs at $20,000 for a 12-month appointment. The Department of Chemistry
offers TAs at $19,000/year. In addition Biology has close ties to cross-disciplinary
programs (PMCB, FLMNH, etc.), and each of these programs sets their own levels of
support. For example, students admitted to UF’s Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology
Program are offered a Research Assistantship of $22,000/year. Not only do we have to
compete for the best students with other universities, but we also have to compete for the
best students with other departments at UF. For example, the Department of
Microbiology and Cell Science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS),
offers TAs at $23,000/year. Biology is competing with other departments and institutions
for the best graduate students, and level of support is one of the things potential students
look at when choosing a graduate program. Thus salary affects not only the current
students, but also our ability to attract students in the future. This is likely to remain a
significant challenge, because graduate stipends are a moving target. Furthermore, NSF
Graduate Research Fellowships and SPICE Fellowships provide for an annual stipend of
$30,000. Because Biology has been so successful in obtaining these prestigious
fellowships, our current TA stipend effectively produces a two-tiered salary structure
within the department, which can adversely affect the camaraderie between the graduate
students. We need competitive levels of support if Biology is to continue to attract the
best graduate students.
Graduate Student Enrollment
Deciding how large a graduate cohort we can safely admit to the program is a long-
standing challenge. The fundamental problem is that we must be able to back our
guarantees of support to all of the students we admit, now and in the future.
Uncertainties abound, from the number of students who accept our offers, to the number
who will successfully compete for external fellowship support in the future, to the
number of RA-ships that faculty will be able to provide in the future. We have
historically planned conservatively. Although we have become somewhat less
conservative in recent years, we still routinely have more TA-ships available in BSC than
we can fill from our current graduate students. A few of the “non-departmental” students
we support on BSC TA-ships, however, are students of Biology faculty who are enrolled
through other programs. We note that our graduate program could be slightly enlarged if
we hired fewer TAs from outside the department and instead used our own TAs in the
BSC laboratories. An additional challenge is how to maintain a balance of students
across the subdisciplines within the department.
Integration of Students Admitted Through Other Graduate Programs
Currently the Department of Biology has graduate students affiliated with several cross-
disciplinary graduate programs including the Florida Museum of Natural History, the
Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology Program, the UF Genetics Institute, and the UF
Water Institute. It is a challenge to foster interactions between the students in the cross-
disciplinary programs with the students admitted to the Botany and Zoology graduate
programs. This is partly because the core curricula for these programs are different, and
therefore the students do not meet one another in class. There is also the challenge of
funding cross-disciplinary students as priority for TAs is given to students admitted into
through the Department of Biology.
Graduate Student Space (see below)
The results from the survey suggested that many of the current graduate students are
dissatisfied with current office space. Office space is important because students need a
place to study, prepare manuscripts, carry out analyses, and meet with undergraduate
students from the classes in which they are TAs. This challenge has been remedied (see
Short Term Goals, below)
Graduate Student Diversity
An important goal of our graduate recruitment is to increase applicant diversity. Our
current graduate student population is more diverse than our faculty population, but we
want to improve. This includes both recruitment of more qualified candidates of
underrepresented groups (and international candidates), and broader disciplinary interests
among all candidates. The number of candidates from underrepresented groups applying
to our program is small, as is the number that we accept. Increasing the number of
qualified applicants from underrepresented groups is likely to require active recruiting
(see Diversity section). International students also enrich our department in important
ways. We currently have a number of students from Latin America, and continued
recruitment of qualified candidates from other countries will maintain this important
component of our program.
Although Biology graduate students are generally satisfied, the critical nature of
mentoring in graduate school means the department should continually strive to improve
the quality of mentoring students receive. In particular, finding ways to identify and help
students who are very frustrated with the mentoring (or lack thereof) they receive is
critical to improving the overall satisfaction and quality of our program. A difficulty
with this is that there is no “perfect” mentor since what is ideal for one student may be
unsuitable for another. In addition, some faculty may excel in helping with intellectual
development, but may be very uncomfortable in providing emotional support.
Increased dialogue between faculty and students about the mentoring challenges stated
above will help greatly. We will explore the possibility of starting a graduate forum to
occur once a year to encourage discussion between faculty and graduate students.
Discussions can include the varying nature of mentoring relationships and expectations of
students and faculty about mentoring. This may also help students identify alternative
venues for mentoring (e.g., through post-docs or other faculty) that can be ted into to
make graduate school a better and more successful experience. The important thing is to
help students find solutions before frustration becomes overwhelming. Such discussions
can also help faculty understand in what areas students would like more mentoring,
which may help some advisors change their mentoring.
The Integrative Principles (IP) course, which began in Zoology in 2000-2001, is currently
(for the second of 2 years of a 2-year trial period) required for all incoming Biology
doctoral students. Many MS students, and occasional students from other programs, have
also enrolled. In past Zoology surveys and course evaluations, IP has gotten generally
positive reviews from current and former students. IP is an intensive course aimed at
students of widely differing backgrounds (some students have MS degrees and extensive
experience, while others may have recently completed a BS degree), and, more
significantly, widely different needs and interests (ranging from molecular biology to
ecology and evolution). As such, it is difficult to aim the course so that it challenges and
benefits all participants. Modules are time consuming to develop and implement, and
faculty do not always feel they are given sufficient credit for participating in IP. It has
been a long-term goal (dating back at least to the last Zoology strategic plan) to develop a
credit scheme that encourages participation in this key course.
With the merger of Botany and Zoology, the range of types of labs and research programs
within which students must fit has grown enormously, and so has the challenge of
accommodating students with differing needs and interests. In particular, students in
some subdisciplines have significantly greater need for time-consuming training in
specific techniques at the beginning of their PhD program. The IP course has the
potential to act as a strong stabilizing factor within the department, drawing course
instructors, incoming students, and their advisors into a shared intellectual activity. In
order to preserve the value of the course, we must find a way to make it valuable for
students across a wide range of disciplines, and the best way to do this is to involve the
broadest possible range of disciplines in the roster of course instructors/module leaders.
Short Term Goals
• Improve graduate student salaries by consolidating funding information on a new
website. Although levels of support are determined by CLAS, we need to work with
students to attain supplemental funding from external sources. In particular, we
should establish a web page on our departmental site that lists external (and internal)
funding resources and provides links to information about these sources. This
funding resources page could, for example, include links to internal sites such as UF’s
Office of Research, and links to external sites such as such as International
Scholarship Resources, Community of Science, National Institutes of Health,
National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, US Department of Agriculture,
Environmental Protection Agency, and other national and international public and
private funding agencies. We should point out in our letters of offer that the cost of
living in Gainesville is lower than in many other regions of the country; a dollar can
stretch further here than elsewhere. (Cost of Living Website:
• Increase support for research by providing information on a website. Even though
our graduate students are outstanding at obtaining external funding, we should
continue to encourage them to seek external support for their research. This will be
facilitated by a web page devoted to internal UF links and external links to graduate
support sources (see Salary, above).
• Reassess our policy determining the number of graduate students we accept each
year. In particular, weigh the advantages and disadvantages of being less
conservative in the number of BSC TA appointments we reserve for Biology graduate
• Mentoring. A graduate student Sharepoint site (wiki) should be implemented (see
Sharepoint Site for Graduate Students, below) as a place where graduate students can
post their suggestions and solutions to common problems (e.g., how to improve
interactions with an advisor).
To promote excellence in mentoring, Biology faculty should be be encouraged to attend
UF graduate student mentoring workshops hosted by science units at UF, such as the
Graduate Student Mentoring Workshop held in April 2009 by the College of
Engineering. We will also explore the possibility of hosting our own Graduate Student
Mentoring Workshop tailored to the needs of Biology graduate students in partnership
with the Southeast Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (SEAGEP).
As a useful mentoring reference, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI)
catalog, Entering Mentoring, will be made available to all Biology faculty.
To facilitate dissemination of useful career advice, we propose to offer a 1-credit class
designed as an informational workshop for advanced graduate students. This class will
provide advice on career paths (academia vs. industry) postdoctoral job opportunities,
setting up funding source searches and email notifications, etc.
Because peer mentorship is valuable, we will encourage senior graduate students to
mentor junior graduate students. This will be facilitated by increased communication
between graduate students as implemented in the Sharepoint site for Graduate Students
• Establish a Sharepoint site for graduate students. Have our IT expert, Ken
Albergotti, set up a Sharepoint site for graduate students, part of which will be
devoted to a graduate student wiki. We will encourage our graduate students to use
this wiki to share ideas and support. A wiki is an excellent way to get graduate
students to interact especially when our graduate students are located in labs and
offices spread around campus (See section on Faculty Space).
• Establish a new graduate admissions committee within the department. This goal has
been completed. The graduate committee members have been chosen, the committee
has met once, and has set dates for reviewing candidates, scheduling interviews, and
other events. We will continue to re-evaluate our admission policies as needed.
• Set aside more space for graduate student offices and TAs. This goal has been
completed. We currently have adequate space for graduate students to study, prepare
manuscripts, carry out analyses. To limit the disturbance of graduates carrying out
these activities, separate space has been set aside for TAs to meet with undergraduate
students from their classes. To encourage graduate student interaction, we are setting
up a lounge area. Adequate office space for graduate students will continue to be a
challenge as our department grows, and therefore we will regularly assess the space
needs of our graduate students.
• Decide if we are going to keep the IP course, or require a core curriculum or
require/recommend an alternative. The IP course is currently in the final year of its
trial period. We need to decide if it will continue to require the IP course for all
incoming graduate students, or if IP will be supplemented or replaced with additional
courses, or some alternative core curriculum.
Long Term Goals
• Examine our graduate student support policies to deliver equitable support to
Biology graduate students throughout their graduate careers. We need to continue to
identify and advertise external support options to our graduate students (see Short
Term Goals, above).
• Focus on attaining a new Biology building. Emphasize the need for the building by
describing current state of graduate student space
• Reassess the graduate degrees we offer. Meet to discuss the future of the original
Botany and Zoology graduate degree programs.
• Establish a database that allows us to track the career paths of our graduate students
after they obtain their degree(s). These data will be useful when applying for training
grants to demonstrate the percentage of our former students that remain in science
careers. In addition, this database will be a source of potential donors, whom we will
target with our Biology Newsletter, SymBIOsis.
• Require annual reports for graduate students. These annual reports will help keep
students focused on working toward completion of their projects and help document
graduate student progress for advisors and the students’ graduate committee
• Admit students for the master’s degree. Typically, graduate students are admitted to
the program to pursue a PhD degree. However, not all students complete the PhD
program. There are many reasons why some graduate students decide to not
complete the PhD program, some of which are related to the student’s inexperience
with the graduate experience such as balancing coursework, research, and one’s non-
professional life. We will examine whether or not is it advantageous to accept
students without an MS into an MS/PhD program, and then have them decide if they
want to continue on to the PhD or finish with an MS. It is thought that this would
help students focus on their graduate work by providing a shorter-term goal, as well
as provide graduate experience to help them decide if pursuing a PhD is for them.
• Examine the possibility to require (or allow) rotations for incoming students not
assigned to faculty. Graduate students entering our program typically already have a
graduate advisor assigned. This approach guarantees that all incoming students will
have an advisor. By having incoming students participate in laboratory rotations
allows the student and potential advisor to determine if there is a good “fit” for the
student in a particular lab. This is particularly important for international students
who often do not have the opportunity to participate in face-to-face interviews. Lab
rotations are already required for graduate programs like PMCB and G&G, from
which some of our faculty admit students.
On the More Distant Horizon
• Create a Biology Graduate Program with Botany, Zoology, and/or other tracks. The
department will re-assess whether or not it will continue to offer separate graduate
programs in Botany and Zoology, or only offer a single Biology program with
6. Postdoctoral Fellows
An often neglected component of our program is postdoctoral research fellows
(postdocs). Postdoctoral training is meant to prepare young scientists to lead their own
lab, to develop new skills in research and/or pedagogy, or even to explore industry or
NGO (non-government organization) career options. Funding agencies have recognized
that postdocs are too often utilized as highly skilled labor without receiving the training
they need to transition into fully independent scientists. In response to this shortcoming,
funding agencies are now requiring detailed mentoring plans when postdoctoral salary is
sought in grant proposal budgets. We propose that the department make meaningful
changes to the culture and training of postdocs to better fit the expectations of funding
agencies, and more fully prepare our postdocs for meaningful careers.
Short term goals
• Seek input from current postdocs on the strengths and weaknesses of whatever
mentoring they receive. Start this process by assembling an ad hoc committee
comprised mostly of postdocs to assess needs. Encourage them to conduct an
anonymous survey, similar to that completed by faculty and graduate students for
this Strategic Plan.
• Set aside space for dedicated postdoc offices. Postdocs have different office needs
than graduate students and may better flourish in quieter office space with other
• Establish a weekly “Science & Snacks” brown-bag lunch for postdocs.
• Establish an annual research symposium for postdocs to highlight their research
Long term goals
• Develop a formalized training program for postdocs. This will include
partnerships with the Division of Sponsored Research, UF’s Human Resources
and other entities that can provide training in various aspects of academic life.
Activities should include grant proposal writing workshops and teaching
• Better educate our administration about the important role that postdocs play in
UF’s mission. In particular, emphasize that to meet NSF/NIH expectations of
postdoctoral mentoring, we need to work together to integrate resources currently
available (e.g., Human Resources, the Division of Sponsored Research, and the
Entering Mentoring Guide published by HHMI).
7. Facilities and Infrastructure
Statement of vision and strengths
Despite our diverse research interests and needs, we have strength in working together,
and in working with the museum and other units to produce a unified vision of how to
build the future of Biology. A new state-of-the art building with modern infrastructure
will meet our pressing needs in facilities and infrastructure and will enhance our capacity
and capability in teaching and research. Staff support, including information technology
(IT) support, will augment faculty productivity, allowing us to meet the rising demands
generated by the increasing number of Biology majors.
Responses to previous challenges
Building and space
Most of the Biology Department is housed in Bartram-Carr Hall, which was completed in
1974. Although the total number of faculty housed in the building has changed little over
the last 40 years, both the graduate program and the number of undergraduate biology
majors have grown significantly. Consequently, our current space now greatly limits
research and teaching at all levels. Nowhere is the need for new facilities more apparent
than in our undergraduate teaching. The Biology undergraduate program has grown
considerably, due largely to the success of our new Biology major (declared by ~10% of
incoming freshman). Not only are existing facilities outdated, but they are insufficient in
scale and inflexible (e.g., we lack teaching facilities with moveable chairs and desks) in
teaching modern biology, limiting our ability teach the necessary sections and meet the
demands of our undergraduates (see the section of Undergraduate Program) at a time
when Florida requires more and better trained biologists. The University of Florida can
become a national leader in training undergraduates in science. We have some of the
brightest students and we are familiar with the techniques (see our intramural funded
programs in the Overview section, e.g., HHMI and GATOR,
http://www.biology.ufl.edu/Undergraduates/Default.aspx). All we need is the
opportunity. Inadequate space and facilities stand in our way
The 2009 survey indicated that many of the faculty and graduate students feel constrained
by the quality and quantity of our space and facilities. Among the most pressing problems
are the following. 1) Space is inadequate for current research. Currently, Biology faculty
have $2,900,905.50 (FY2009-2010) in extramural funding for research; ten years ago
(FY1999-2000), they had only $1,680,050.83 for research. (Note that these figures do
not include multi-million dollar graduate training grants -- IGERT and GK-12 SPICE --
secured by our faculty.) Our space needs for research are rapidly growing, and they
already exceed the historical capacity. 2) The cooling system in Bartram-Carr is
inadequate to handle modern heat-generating equipment, such as orbital shakers,
environmental chambers, deep-cooling freezers, or computer clusters. 3) There is no
deionized water system, no vacuum system, and no floor drains in the building. Flooding
has been a serious problem; at least five floods have caused significant damage in the last
five years. Thus, Bartram-Carr is inadequate for a modern molecular lab, hindering not
only the research in our current labs but potentially our ability to recruit top molecular
biologists. 4) The level of background radioactivity is orders of magnitude higher than
outside of the building. The radiocarbon contamination is not necessarily a health hazard,
but can completely ruin essential measurements. It has greatly limited some key areas of
our research (e.g., climate ecology and physiology). 5) Our seminar room is inadequate
for our combined Biology department. Attendance at department seminar exceeded room
capacity at more than 1/3 of the departmental seminars during the Fall semester, 2009
(data available from D. Levey). 6) We do not have access to an experimental garden on
campus for botanical research. Consequently, precious greenhouse space, which is also in
high demand, has been used for plants that can grow well in the field. This is in strong
contrast to many departments in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, which
have large experimental lands.
Our continued excellence and future growth potential in research and teaching is
threatened by our limited space and facilities, and this is one of the chief challenges
facing the Biology Department. Although limited renovation has ameliorated some
immediate problems, renovation alone is not a viable long-term solution. The age and
the structure of the building greatly limit the scope of potential renovations in
Bartram-Carr. Thus, the construction of a new, modern biology building is a top
priority for our department. The new building will meet the rising demand of the Biology
major by providing modern teaching laboratories and classrooms that are well equipped
and designed specially to facilitate new inquiry-based learning and team-based
mentorship. Furthermore, it will create innovative research space that enhances the
advancement and integration of laboratory, field, and theoretical biology and facilitates
the training of students at different levels.
Information Technology (IT)
Our current IT needs are primarily supported by IT staff from the former Zoology
Department, despite the fact that the current needs of the combined Biology Department
are much larger than the historical needs of Zoology alone. Prior to the merging, Zoology
IT staff provided service in e-mail and networking (both largely maintained by CLAS
and UF with end-user support from Zoocomp), web, file storage, and printing. Recently,
IT has made the following improvements: 1) replacement of the Bartram-Carr network
switches and an upgraded connection to the UF network, installation of wireless routers
and VOIP (UF “wallplate” plan), migration of e-mail from CLAS to UF provision;
retirement of CLAS web/file space; increased file storage; update/merging of web page;
beginnings of a database backend/departmental information storage system; 2) improved
security via automatic upgrading of Windows clients; 3) replacement of the primary
server; and (4) an improved backup strategy. A few years ago, Zoology proposed to
upgrade the IT position to a higher level and make it a permanent position. However, we
now realize that the merged department needs a full-time IT person and a part-time IT
helper (see current status section).
The former Botany and Zoology departments noted the following staff challenges: 1)
Staff salary inequities need to be addressed and a recognition program needs to be
established; 2) Areas of staff inefficiency need to be addressed; 3) An advisor for the
Biology Major is needed. The new Biology department has solved some of these
problems. For example, two advisors for the Biology Major have been hired by
Academic Advising Department. They interact with the undergraduate coordinator and
work well with students. However, some challenges remain and new problems have
emerged, many due to staff layoffs and reorganization. Before the merger, there were 12
administrative staff between Botany, Zoology, and BSC; after the merger there are seven.
This reduction has greatly increased the workload of the remaining staff. Staff shortage,
recognition and training remain major concerns of our faculty and students.
Current status and challenges
Building the future of Biology.
Our current proposal for a new life sciences building ranks 9th among University of
Florida requests for PECO (Public Education Capital Outlay). After many years near the
top of the University’s PECO priorities (number 2 or 3 for several years), it has become
clear that a ranking on the PECO list is not sufficient. We must be innovative, creative
and make a compelling case for a new building. Our persistence in this matter is
Undergraduate education is an important mission of our University. The new Chemistry
building was never on the PECO list. It was built because the Chemistry teaching labs
had been run in a 1930s building and the terrible condition caught attention of the
President and upper administration. Our long-standing exceptional instructional needs,
our clear research mission and our determination have created an exceptional opportunity
to push for new construction. Early in 2009, the Dean’s office instructed our department
to develop a novel concept and a plan for a new building. We formed a Biology Building
Task Force comprised of Craig Osenberg (chair), Sixue Chen, Steven Phelps, and David
Reed. After many meetings and talks with the Dean’s office and the University Office of
Building and Construction Planning, the committee realized that it is essential to make a
compelling case that not only solves our own problems in space and facilities, but also
solves problems of other units in our College and community. Good examples of how to
achieve this are the Genetics Institute and the Emerging Pathogens buildings. Both
buildings involve multiple units on campus and solve many common problems. In this
context, we started to investigate the possibility of a joint building with our close
colleagues in the Florida Museum of Natural History. They have been limited in space
for administration, research, education/outreach, and storage of specimen collections.
Their current building cannot meet current fire codes due to enormous quantities of
alcohol used to preserve specimens in their collections. They have proposed a new
Biodiversity Institute building, which would be largely sponsored by an already-
identified donor and is currently under consideration by the upper administration. In
addition, the Department of Psychology currently teaches the largest major on campus,
but has been limited in space and facilities for many years. More importantly, their
animal space has been condemned. The entire 5th floor (where they house animals) is
going to be shut down this spring because ventilation and climate control are not up to
code. This is a huge problem for them. Renovation does not appear to be an option (at
least not in the short term). They will apparently have to move all their animals to the
new Health Sciences building, which will be far more expensive and exceedingly less
convenient. Therefore, now is a good time to join forces with the Museum and
Psychology to address important challenges within the college and the university. We
have identified the following urgent and broad needs: a modern animal care facility for
our college, including Department of Psychology; a modern greenhouse; and modern
auditoriums and teaching laboratories for our growing Biology major, which is also a part
of the mission of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS). CALS has
serious building needs as well. Involving them is expected to improve our chances of the
new building, which will solve multiple problems on campus.
The main purpose is to establish a new state-of-the-art building to enhance our capacity
and capabilities in teaching and research in Biology. It will augment considerable
biological expertise in the Department of Biology, the Museum and the Department of
Psychology, forge collaborations with other units on campus, and provide the focus of a
campus-wide nexus for teaching, research and outreach, creating a hub for life sciences
located in the heart of the University of Florida. The projected five-floor Integrative and
Systems Biology Building will provide 280,000 new square feet of innovative teaching
and research space (including a basement) and will be located at the corner of Museum
Road and Center Drive. It will embrace state-of-the-art construction and will enhance the
diverse mission of the University of Florida, including undergraduate education, graduate
mentoring, public service, and faculty research, in at least four distinct ways. These
include: 1) Pioneering innovative research. Each research floor of the building will
include shared laboratory facilities, hubs of graduate student and faculty offices, and
common space with a white board and a lunch table. This “open” design will place
mathematical biologists and theoreticians alongside empirical biologists to maximize
interactions among scientists and facilitate the integration of data and theory, field and
lab approaches, and observation and experimentation. Labs will include facilities for
modern biological technologies (including IT and molecular tools). The basement will
house centralized animal care facilities to be used by researchers in the College of Liberal
Arts and Sciences; rooftop greenhouses will support terrestrial and aquatic studies
(although the latter may entail risks of water leakage into labs and offices, below);
conference rooms will provide space for the diverse researchers to congregate and
interact in more formal settings. 2) Facilitating frontiers in biological education.
Tomorrow’s leaders in Biology (our students) require not only talented mentors, but also
access to state-of-the-art facilities. The building will include two floors of classrooms,
teaching laboratories and undergraduate research laboratories offering students training in
the most modern biological techniques, preparing them for graduate school, professional
school, or employment in Florida’s growing biotech and environmental industries. The
facilities will embrace models of inquiry-based learning and collaborative undergraduate
research teams (mentored by graduate students and faculty). 3) Showcasing science. A
large atrium will provide an open space for public receptions, attracting students, faculty
and the public. Displays in the atrium will highlight research and educational programs
in the life sciences at UF. NSF has $150K supplements to all research grants to bring the
research supported by those grants to the general public. We will work hard to apply for
these supplements to fund displays for this atrium if necessary. 4) The building will be a
green construction. 5) Several aspects highlighted above (e.g., the atrium, green features,
displays, and rooftop greenhouse) will be used to attract donors and facilitate future
contributions to UF programs.
The building will be home to three new facets, designed to link faculty in Biology and the
Museum with scientists and scholars in other units in order to facilitate the continued
innovation of UF’s research and teaching programs.
• The Program for Instruction in Biology. To facilitate the incorporation of
cutting-edge biological research into the instruction of our undergraduate
majors and to enhance the caliber of UF’s graduate students, we propose a
new teacher-scholar program (faculty in the Department of Biology have
received five of the last 18 NSF Career awards, an unprecedented number for
a single department). The Center will emphasize problem-based learning,
undergraduate research, and working groups, taking advantage of the new
teaching and research facilities. The Center will provide rigorous Teacher-
Scholar training of graduate students and post-doctoral fellows (who will be
mentored in both innovative instruction and research), while faculty in
Biology will provide continuity and educational mentorship.
• The Institute for Biodiversity led by the Museum (a donor identified) will
explore the earth’s past and present biodiversity at all levels of organization
(from molecules to ecosystems), and the relationship of biodiversity to society
(e.g., via climate change, sustainable development). The Institute will
develop science-based educational, social, and environmental programs. This
think-tank will have members from across campus, further adding to the
• The Program for the Biological Synthesis and Application. This center will
explore complex biological systems (genomes, organs, organisms, ecosystems
and the biosphere) through integrating mathematical theory, large-scale
observation, and experimental data. A central feature of this Center will be a
post-doctoral working group from different laboratories to tackle biological
issues that require the quantitative and conceptual synthesis of basic data, new
advancements (e.g., through mathematical and computer modeling), and
application to address biological problems relevant to the State of Florida
(e.g., dynamics of coral reefs and response to nutrient enrichment, disease,
and sea-level rise associated with climate change). These postdoctoral
scholars will be co-mentored by faculty in Biology and other units throughout
campus (e.g., Emerging Pathogens, Genetics, Biodiversity, and Water
Institutes, Schools of Forest Resources and Conservation and Natural
Resources, Geography, Colleges of Medicine, Engineering, Law, and
Agriculture and Life Sciences). Thus, this Center will provide a hub for
biological integration across our diverse campus.
Although the new building will house faculty from the Museum and the Biology and
Psychology Departments, the building and associated programs are expressly designed to
assist faculty and students across the UF campus. The programs in particular will reach
across colleges, schools, and departments, facilitating collaborative educational, degree,
and research programs. The atrium and associated displays will highlight biological
research of faculty and students from all UF units. The animal care facilities will be
shared with other departments in CLAS (notably Psychology), and the teaching labs will
be central to the new Biology Major (shared by CLAS and CALS). Finally, we will
collaborate with other units to develop a central Biology dissemination center, serving as
a web-based hub to highlight the biological resources, workshops, classes, and seminars
available on campus.
Other facilities and resources.
• Seahorse Key is a 165 acre island located in Levy County that is part of the Cedar
Keys National Wildlife Refuge. Because this facility is operated totally out of the
Biology Department, we provide more detail about it than the other facilities (see
• The Whitney laboratory is a UF laboratory for marine biosciences in St.
Augustine that dates back to the 1930’s. Currently, it houses 10 research
laboratories. The main research areas include zoology, neuroscience,
biomechanics, and signal transduction. Our department has a close relationship
with the Whitney lab, and we have extended joint faculty status to six PIs in the
Whitney lab. They will mentor our graduate students and contribute to our
• Ordway-Swisher Preserve is a UF research, teaching and extension facility
established to further the study and conservation of unique ecosystems. It is
managed by UF/IFAS. Some of our faculty and graduate students have worked
there, and there are faculty in the museum that work there regularly.
• Other places where faculty and students work include Austin Carey Memorial
Forest (http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/Facilities/forest.html) and UF Natural Area
Teaching Lab (http://natl.ifas.ufl.edu/index.htm).
SeaHorse Key Marine Laboratory
The Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory (SHKML) is a unique field station located in the
Gulf of Mexico near Cedar Key. It provides access to diverse marine, insular, coastal,
and estuarine environments. The SHKML was established in 1954 at Seahorse Key, a 67
ha island which is part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge, and is operated in
partnership with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Except for areas immediately
surrounding buildings, the island is classified as wilderness and thus provides
opportunities for research in relatively isolated, natural settings. Habitats at Seahorse
Key include salt marsh, mangroves, sand beaches, and upland mixed-hardwood
hammock. This field station is an outstanding resource for students and faculty in the
The SHKML has a fourfold mission to support (i) quality research related to marine and
coastal environments, (ii) teaching of courses and training of teachers and students, (iii)
public environmental education, and (iv) preservation of marine and coastal resources.
The field station currently receives state funding through the College of Liberal Arts and
Sciences, and the Department of Biology is its administrative home. The administrative
structure includes a Director, who is a full-time member of the Biology Department, and
two staff persons who are responsible for operational oversight at the island and at Cedar
Key. Facilities at Seahorse Key include a dock and seawall, laboratory/classroom,
workshop, use of the historic Cedar Key Lighthouse for lodging, storage sheds, outdoor
pavilion with holding tanks and running sea water, a 42’ research vessel, R/V Discovery,
and a fleet of 5 smaller boats. The University also maintains a dock in Cedar Key for
docking of the boats when not in use. Support for the facilities depends on multiple
sources of monies including state funds, collection of fees charged to users, grants, and
Seahorse Key is a strategically important site for monitoring and studying the coastal
impact of climate change related to global warming, and is adjacent to economically
important aquaculture, fishing, and ecotourism industries. The SHKML promotes
research, teaching, public education, outreach, and preservation related to coastal and
marine environments. There is a very broad base of users including UF faculty and
students, universities, colleges, and public schools from within and outside Florida.
Researchers from UF and abroad include international visitors. During the last 5 years 16
UF and 6 non-UF courses utilized SHKML facilities for course instruction. There were
14 international visitors or collaborators, and 44 organizations and public schools
engaged programs at SHKML. More than 20 partnerships in training programs such as
workshops and summer institutes included Centers for Ocean Science Education
Excellence (COSEE), CPET teacher workshops, Florida Master Naturalist Program,
Science Partners in Inquiry-based Collaborative Education (SPICE), and Sea Grant. The
SHKML is a member of the Organization of Biological Field Stations (OBFS), the
National Association of Marine Laboratories (NAML), and the Southern Association of
Marine Laboratories (SAML).
Currently the direct usage of SHKML facilities averages 2,441 person-days annually. In
addition, roughly 8,000 persons learn about UF through ecotours and special events
associated with SHKML, while another 37,000 persons learn about UF by visiting the
wildlife refuge annually. The SHKML is an important “feeder” of students and public
support for the University; it contributes importantly to the economy of Florida’s Gulf
coast; and it enjoys broad support from a large base of alumni, civic and public
Computational infrastructure and data storage
IT is currently one of our Department’s strengths, due largely to the exceptional work of
Ken Albergotti, the only IT staff member in the Biology Department. In the recent faculty
and graduate surveys, almost everybody was very satisfied with our IT support.
Compared to other CLAS departments, we have less IT support than the other compute-
intensive hard science departments (e.g., Physics and Chemistry) and more than most
other CLAS departments, most of which don't have any local IT staff. The former
Zoology’s IT environment has been changed by the merging of the two departments and
will be determined by changes beyond our direct control at the College level and above,
which we must foresee and adapt to. Our major challenge is to develop a sustainable IT
infrastructure. The current status of our IT infrastructure and data storage is outlined
• CLAS and UF have moved to Exchange e-mail servers. Ken Albergotti has done
an excellent job in the transition. The UF exchange is supposed to improve our
service without changes at the user level. For example, it allows broader access to
webmail, as well as enhanced services for Outlook users. However, there have
been some problems in this initial phase (e.g., critical e-mails are occasionally
directed to junk boxes or get quarantined). The new spam-filtering system may
need to be tweaked. One big question is whether we are going to move to
increased use of Exchange calendaring (which has potentially large benefits) and
how well non-PC/non-Outlook users are going to be able to use these services.
• The University is rewiring buildings throughout campus and tightening policies
about network ports. We have wireless access within Bartram/Carr, but graduate
students and many faculty are required to connect primarily via wireless. This
may not be a problem as long as wireless works smoothly.
• We have recently upgraded all the phone systems in Bartram/Carr. We have also
updated the McEdward computer lab with laptops from IGERT (and some more
substantial, dual-screen workstations), a new projector from an external donor,
and a new smartboard (also from IGERT) is coming soon.
• We have recently invested in better storage infrastructure. This should meet our
storage demands for the next few years. Ken re-evaluated the system at the end of
September 2009. It would only really work for us as a backup service not as
primary storage so we would have to maintain our existing servers. Although
moving labs to centralized backup is sensible, so far it is not cost-effective. Based
on the cost estimate of current data patterns, using the UF centralized storage
service would cost the department around $7300 per year. Our estimated cost for
expanding our backup system and additional media is around $4200 for the next 3
years ($1400 per year).
• A departmental web project was completed in August 2009. The website is
database driven on all of the dynamic parts of our website. We programmed the
website to allow non-technical persons in the department to do updates, and this
has worked well for news and seminar updates. Other sections of the website have
not been used actively. Our currently challenge is to maintain the site.
• One IT person (Ken Albergotti) has been in charge of 385 desktop/laptop
computers, compared to 159 two years ago. Recently, an OPS Dave Reddig was
hired to help Ken. Before the merger, all BSC computers were maintained by
Staff and office reorganization
Since the formation of the Biology departments, we have lost several key staff members.
In several cases, we were not able to retain experienced staff members when they were
given other job offers on campus. Currently most of our staff are overworked, and many
of our faculty and students expressed strong concerns about our staff shortage in the
recent surveys. In November 2009, we hired Brian Taylor to replace a departed
accountant to lead the financial group in the department office. However, the job
overload problem has not been solved. In fall 2009 semester, office staff worked on
average 4.4 hours overtime each week. Teaching and supporting staff worked on average
7.5 hours overtime each week.
Although the total number of administrative staff (7) is many fewer than we had before
the two departments merged (12), the Dean’s office does not believe that we are
understaffed. It is not clear how the Dean’s office evaluated our staff situation.
Currently, we have 39 tenure track faculty, 7 research and teaching faculty, and 17
supporting staff. Of the 17 staff members, 7 are state funded administrative staff
members. The Department of Chemistry has similar numbers of faculty (42 tenure track
faculty, 9 research and teaching faculty); however, they have 50 supporting staff.
Although a majority of the Chemistry staff are paid off grant and overhead funds,
Chemistry has 20 administrative staff that are 100% state funded and 4 partially funded
by the state. It should be noted that Department of Chemistry keeps the 10% indirect cost,
which in our department gives back to the faculty. The Department of Physics has
approximately 43 tenure track faculty, 11 research and teaching faculty. However, they
have 33 supporting staff; 11 administrative staff members are paid by state funding and
the rest are also on grant and overhead support. Thus, our department has a much lower
ratio of staff to faculty number, especially the number of staff funded by the state. In
terms of teaching and research productivity, the Chemistry Department trains more
graduate students (250) and postdoctoral fellows (80) than we do (148 graduate students
and 28 postdoctoral fellows), but the Physics Department trains fewer graduate students
(135) and postdoctoral fellows (25) than we do. In addition, we teach more
undergraduate students than Chemistry or Physics, and the Biology major is growing
steadily every year. As for current funding, we have 104 grants and contracts, while
Chemistry has 140 grants and contracts and Physics has 100 grants and contracts. It
should be noted that these numbers were all pulled from the same database using the
same criteria by our grant specialist Ms. Kathy Jones. Clearly, we are very productive in
spite of having the lowest level of staff support. If we had more staff support, we could
reasonably expect even more productivity.
Since the merger, we have been challenged to organize staff duties. In order for our staff
to provide superior administrative support and service to our department, the
administrative office has undergone reorganization to enhance efficiency. Currently,
Karen Patterson is the office manager in charge of personnel and HR. She directly
supervises administrative staff, graduate and undergraduate program assistants. Brian
Taylor oversees fiscal office and supervises our new grant assistant Susan Hart. Karen
Patterson is overloaded, and her duties relating to undergraduate majors recently have
been moved to Tangelyn Michell. Tangelyn has moved some of her duties relating to
travel and reimbursement to Johnna Lechler, a part-time OPS employee. Ken Albergotti
is the IT director and supervises Dave Reddig. Pete Ryschkewitsch is our building
manager who supervises Mike Gunter and an OPS Kyle Martin. Kent Vliet is our
teaching lab director supervising all the lab managers including Jimmy Norton, Ben
Olaivar, Ann Wagner, Kevin Hulen and Jeff Hubbard. Kent Vliet reports directly to
Associate Chair David Julian. The Chair Alice Harmon meet regularly with the division
heads including Karen Patterson, Brian Taylor, Ken Albergotti, Pete Ryschkewitsch and
Kent Vliet. In this model, the chair takes extra duties to oversee all the offices to ensure
overall efficiency. In each division, cross-training is extremely important and is an on-
going process so that the staff can deliver support services in new areas and in a timely
manner. Staff also need frequently attend workshops concerning university policy and
Building and space
Short-term solution: renovation.
Although our need for new space is pressing, we recognize that a new building is a long-
term solution, and there are substantial improvements that could be made on our current
space. In particular, renovations that exceed what can be budgeted by the department, but
that fall short of major remodeling, can be funded through a mechanism known as the
“minor monies fund,” administered by the Provost through requests by the Dean’s office.
By actively pursuing such funds, we can improve the state of our existing space while
communicating with the administration that our existing space is costly to maintain.
Specific renovations that should be sought include:
• an extensive increase in the availability of emergency power.
• potable water and vacuum in laboratory spaces.
• renovation of graduate student office space.
• expansion and renovation of the seminar room.
The need for emergency power is particularly pressing. In January 2007, a leak above
the sixth floor of Bartram Hall caused extensive flooding throughout the building and a
power outage. The loss of power endangered tissue samples that represented thousands
of hours and substantial money to collect. Loss of these tissues would have had major
consequences for the research programs of numerous faculty and graduate students.
Similar outages have happened in association with other building failures and natural
disasters. The building is simply unequipped to provide emergency power to more than a
small fraction of the freezers that need it. The addition of generator power for the
common freezer rooms, as well as strategic spots throughout the building, would avert
the loss of millions of dollars worth of samples and research productivity. Another
significant need is for potable water and vacuum, standard features of even modest
laboratories. After the merger, our old and small seminar room cannot accommodate all
the seminar attendance. This has discouraged students and faculty from attending these
important events, which reflects our department image and brings the department
together. It is urgent for us to seek funds for the expansion and renovation of our seminar
room. While space for faculty labs is at a premium, the accommodation of faculty needs
has also placed increasing demands on space for housing students (see section of
Graduate Program). Many of the graduate student office areas are equipped with lab
bench counters that are ill suited for desk space. Removing these counters and adding
modular, portable desks in both smaller and larger rooms would permit us to house more
students and give each student more functional space. We will need to identify funding
for the proposed improvements. It would be worth investigating whether additional
renovations would be eligible for the minor monies funds as well.
Long-term solution: a new building.
To ensure the success of a new building for Biology, specific steps the department can
• Work with UF building planning and management office and other units on
campus to find the best use of Bartram-Carr Hall. For example, the museum could
relocate their administration office, IT and computational group, and some
research labs to Bartram-Carr. Although we prefer to move the entire department,
in case of funding limitation we will keep the option of leaving department
administration and some offices or computer labs in the building.
• Expand efforts to articulate our current and compelling needs to decision makers
at the University and State levels.
• Actively pursue private donors to motivate UF/state funding for the new building.
The cultivation of external funding sources will be the task of our funding raising
committee and will require the active participation of the faculty in donor
development efforts. Such efforts will require that faculty members are familiar
with fund raising, either through prior experience or through training. To ensure
time spent in fund-raising activities is equitable and productive, the department
will need a clear plan for such activities, as well as mechanisms for ensuring
participating faculty are supported by service credit and departmental resources.
We have a great opportunity for a new building because upper administration has
recognized our urgent space needs for teaching and research. The building task
force committee and the fund-raising committee should work together and work
hard with the administration to realize our dream of many years.
• In addition, an on-campus biology experimental garden needs to be on our
agenda, considering its importance in our ever growing teaching and research
needs in Biology.
Computational infrastructure and data storage
• We need to hire a second full-time IT person in early spring 2011. It is highly
likely that Ken will leave our department in the summer of 2011, and our current
staffing model needs to allow continuity through a transition before Ken leaves.
Training for a backup for Ken’s position will take no less than six months. We
have recently hired a part-time OPS person Dave Reddig. With a department our
size and with growing IT needs, there should be two full-time staff providing
support for the department. Both positions should be benefited to reduce turnover.
• Continue to work with faculty to move their lab databases to backup folders on
the Biology server. The data storage is essential so that data can be backed up
• The Biology web can be improved. In addition to adding more important
information such as detailed description of courses, staff duties, and updated
graduate student and Faculty handbooks etc. It should be noted that most of the
bottleneck in adding information is at the faculty level, not the IT staff level.
• Thanks to IGERT and a private donor, the McEdward lab is functional. The Dell
laptops just installed this semester are good, but we have no long-term strategy for
maintaining the equipment. We will continue to search for donors or other ways
to keep these machines up to date. Alternatively, the solution for the future is to
require students to bring laptops, and provide a "virtual environment" in which
they can run whatever software we need them to use.
• Our short- and long-term (i.e. backup) data storage facilities are the adequate for
near future, but data needs expand exponentially. IT needs to continue to evaluate
local and University-level options for data storage.
• Explore the possibility of setting up a separate server to handle other web services
such as databases and wikis. SharePoint is the only service available at UF and it
is already available within our department, but it seems to be clunky for most
uses). Although our need for the separate server is projected to grow, we need to
document our needs and evaluate options and ways of obtaining funding for the
hardware as well as an additional IT specialist.
• Provide a departmental information “silo” that will centrally and securely store
information on personnel and activities, to be used for tracking graduate student
progress, faculty assignments and annual activities, and alumni trajectories;
documenting student and faculty accomplishments; and keeping the web site
• Interact with UF Genetics Institute, Fisher cluster and other biological
computational infrastructure on campus, which may help meet our needs and
solve our computational problems at low cost.
• Staffing: we have to maintain a sustainable in-house IT infrastructure. For
example, Biology maintains a vibrant mix of OS users (i.e., a large minority of
MacOS users along with the usual couple of unsupported Unix users). CLAS
support for MacOS is getting worse and worse. This will not be a problem as long
as we maintain in-house IT expertise. After careful consideration, a sustainable
IT infrastructure should include a full-time IT expert like Ken and a full-time
Staff support and planning
• We have re-aligned responsibilities and started to enhance the efficiency of our
staff. As mentioned before, our current staff are overloaded and have taken on
extra responsibilities. Since Karen Patterson has recently been promoted to the
office manager position, it becomes apparent that a new graduate program
assistant is urgently needed.
• We need to document why particular individuals are underpaid relative to their
responsibilities. Salary inequities and a recognition program need to be looked at
for staff members. This is especially true for years such as the current one when a
cost-of-living increase was not approved.
• Reevaluate a process of on-going staff evaluation, recognition, and refinement of
roles and workload in a year’s time. Evaluate efficiency of current staff and
eliminate areas of inefficiency, as well as benchmark similar institutions to
determine best staff structure.
• Develop an exit interview to be used faculty, post-docs, graduates, and staff. This
information will be helpful to ensure keys are returned, all necessary equipment
and samples are taken care of, and to provide information necessary for tracking
after people leave.
• To justify future hires, set up a mechanism to track or estimate current staff
• Evaluate our current staff organization and develop formal strategic planning for
staff organization and development.
• Constantly assess our staff needs as we grow our teaching and research initiatives.
Hiring a state-funded staff focusing on research pedagogy would greatly enhance
our current programs and teaching mission.
• Inform the Deans’ office about our limited number of state-funded staff as
described before. We have the lowest staff number compared to other science
departments at the similar size. The obvious disparity when compared to
Chemistry and Physics Departments needs to be addressed.
• Work hard to meet our staff needs by recruiting more staff (two-three within the
next five years) with state funding or non-state funding (e.g., donations, grants
• Increase the salary of our excellent staff.
8. Cross-unit issues
The Department of Biology has reciprocal links with many other programs on campus,
particularly in the areas of undergraduate and graduate teaching and mentoring, shared
support for faculty (in rese arch space, salary, and appointment,; and research
collaboration (Table 8.1). Our most important connection is with the Florida Museum of
Natural History (FLMNH): 15 FLMNH faculty have joint faculty status in Biology.
Many of their graduate students are trained through the Botany and Zoology graduate
programs; they teach key undergraduate and graduate courses that complement our
curriculum, and they participate in extensive research collaborations with faculty who are
salaried in Biology. More recently, we have established similar contacts with the
Whitney Marine Lab; we are currently working to enhance these linkages. Second, we
interact strongly with several research institutes on campus (the Genetics Institute and the
Emerging Pathogens Institute [EPI]), which have variously provided start-up support,
salary, and research space for our faculty, and are enhanced by our research
contributions. The Genetics Institute also runs the Graduate Program in Genetics and
Genomics, which along with the School for Natural Resources and the Environment
(SNRE), the graduate program in Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology (PMCB) the QSE3
IGERT program, the SPICE GK-12 program, and the I3 program, provide support to our
students. They also provide foundational training, which our faculty complement with
advanced training and research mentorship. At the undergraduate level, we collaborate
with multiple departments in CLAS to administer UF's undergraduate Biology Major.
Several faculty are affiliated with the McKnight Brain Institute [MBI], which supports
cross-unit graduate training, and the Center for Women's Studies and Gender Research
[CWSGR], which offers graduate certificates in Women's Studies. Last but not least, and
literally too numerous to list here, are our faculty's research collaborations with
individual faculty members across the entire UF system; these collaborations form the
backbone of our mission to provide the integrative and conceptual foundations for
applications of life sciences.
A general concern that applies across the board to all cross-unit activities is that the
institution of RCM will foster a “bean-counting” mentality that encourages self-
sufficiency. As a unit, the Biology Department greatly values its cross-unit
collaborations and does not wish to see them compromised by overzealous accounting
practices. We will continue to recognize the tangible and intangible benefits to
collaboration, even if these work against our narrow-sense self-interest in the short term.
Table 8.1. Participation of faculty and graduate students from Biology in other
programs and from other programs in Biology.
Whitney UF Emerging
Molecular Brain Cell &
FLMNH Marine Genetics SNRE Pathogens
& Cellular Institute Molecular
Lab Institute Institute
11c 6d 3e 1f
joint faculty 15
6h 1i N/A 1
(Botany/Zoology, l m n o
26 4 N/A 1 1
chaired by joint
(non B/Z, or joint
p q r
with B/Z, chaired N/A N/A 1 9 2
courses taught 6
by joint faculty
courses taught 5 1
by joint faculty
a. Judd, D. Soltis
b. Barbazuk, Braun, Chen, Choe, Burleigh, Chen, Oppenheimer, Harmon, Hauser, Maden, McDaniel, Miyamoto, Wayne
c.. Bolker, Gillooly, Holt, Kitajima, Levey, Mack, Osenberg, Palmer, Putz, Schuur, Silliman
d. Barbazuk, Chen, Harmon, Hauser, Oppenheimer, D. Soltis
e. Bolker, Holt, Wayne
g. Bloch, Cellinese, D. Jones, MacFadden, Manchester, Page, Paulay, Reed, Robinson, P. Soltis, Steadman, Thompson,
Williams (not counting emeritus)
h. Ache (tenure-track), Battelle, Bucher, Liao (tenure-track), Linser, Moroz
k. Maden (next 5? years)
l. Allen (Reed), Blanco-Coto (Williams), Endara (Williams), Evans (Paulay), Garcia (Soltis), Godden (Soltis), F. Herrera
(Manchester), Jankowski (Robinson), Londono (Robinson), Malay (Paulay), Martinez (Robinson), McKeon (Paulay),
Mejia-Vasquez (Dilcher), Michonneau (Paulay), Molgo (Williams), Neubig (Williams), Nunez (MacFadden), Oswald
(Robinson), Pimiento (MacFadden), Rivadeneira (Reed),Segovia (P. Soltis), Slapcinsky (Paulay), Soto-Centeno
(Reed), Starmer (Paulay), Ungvari (Robinson), Vergara (P. Soltis)
m. Boger (Cohn), Fernandez (Cohn), Gredler (Cohn), A. Herrera (Cohn)
n. Ruktanonchai (Smith)
o. Tyson (Maden)
p. Bouchard (Wayne) ?
q. Alvarez Clare (Kitajima), Bhotika (Holt), Boggs (Guillette), Brando (Putz), Caughlin (Levey), Medjibe (Putz), Rivadeneira
(Reed), Schreeg (Mack), Shenkin (Putz)
r. He (Chen), Morriss (Harmon),
s. Ichthyology (Page), Invert Zoo (Paulay), Mammalogy (Reed), Paleobotany (Manchester), Plant Geography (Cellinese),
Practical Plant Taxonomy (P. Soltis, co-instructor)
t. Phylogenetics (Reed), Soltis, Evolutionary Biogeography (Cellinese), Principles of Systematic Biology (P. Soltis,
Cellinese with D. Soltis, Judd), Molecular Systematics (P. Soltis with D. Soltis), Taxonomy of Vascular Plants (P. Soltis
with D. Soltis, Judd)
u. Epidemic modeling (Smith)
Partnership with The Nature Conservancy
Scientists on the staff of The Nature Conservancy have been affiliated with the
Department since 1991, when Doria Gordon became a courtesy faculty member in
Botany. In 1994, the Botany Department further formalized this agreement by inviting
Dr. Gordon and colleagues in Gainesville to occupy space in Bartram Hall. Currently,
the Conservancy has four staff members: Doria Gordon (Ph.D. in plant ecology), Florida
Chapter’s Director of Conservation Science; Doug Shaw (Ph.D. in Hydrology), Director
of Conservation Science and Strategies; Stephanie Wear (Marine Biologist); and Jeff
Hardesty (Wildlife Biologist / Planner). Payment for direct costs (phones, mail, OPS,
etc.) and arrangement for the space are achieved through an annual contract signed by the
Department Chair and CLAS Dean every spring.
The integration of The Nature Conservancy into the Biology Department is beneficial for
both faculty and students. Conservation science is central to the Conservancy’s approach
to applied conservation results; developing and understanding the relevant data depend
on effective partnerships with the research community. Biology graduate students and
faculty, including Jack Putz, Brian Silliman, Craig Osenberg, and Jack Ewel have been
directly involved with Conservancy projects. The department benefits from having
applied conservationists available to help develop collaborative projects and identify sites
for research owned by the Conservancy.
In addition, the Conservancy staff has provided lectures in Biology classes, overseen
independent study credits for graduate students, organized graduate seminars, served on
graduate student committees, obtained grants, some of which have funded undergraduate
and graduate students, and participated in Departmental research and seminars. The
Conservancy is often a collaborator on large Departmental grants (e.g., the spatial
IGERT, Michelle Mack’s SERDP, and the NEON project). Research has been conducted
on Conservancy preserves across Florida. Further, The Nature Conservancy is the largest
private, non-profit employer of natural science and natural resource graduates in the U.S.,
with extensive international opportunities as well. These connections are very helpful in
future placement of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom receive career
mentoring from the Conservancy staff while they are at UF.
• The Nature Conservancy is a valuable partner of unrecognized potential by many
of faculty in Biology (especially those from former Zoology).
• Discuss how to better integrate Conservancy staff in Biology for increased
collaborative efforts to benefit faculty and students.
Faculty affiliation and financial support
Nearly all Biology faculty have some sort of cross-unit affiliation, and the number and
strength of those affiliations are increasing (e.g. several ongoing hires have different
degrees of affiliation with EPI, and we have recently granted graduate status to several
Whitney Lab faculty). Many recent university-wide initiatives have focused on cross-
disciplinary research groups, rather than traditional departments, as targets for university
investment and support; this trend, too, is likely to continue.
The departmental by-laws define several overlapping categories of faculty:
• Salaried faculty “are those who are paid through the Department of Biology on
the faculty pay plan... [including] the ranks of lecturer, senior lecturer, assistant
professor, associate professor, professor, distinguished professor, eminent scholar,
assistant or associate scientist, assistant in, associate in and senior associate in.”
• Tenured and tenure-track faculty “are those who are salaried through the
Department of Biology and hold the rank of assistant professor or above.”
• Joint faculty “are those who have been granted "joint" status by the faculty (see
Policy 1). These are faculty salaried in other units at UF, such as the Florida
Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) or the Whitney Marine Laboratory
(WML), who regularly teach courses and/or who are directing graduate students
(i.e. chair supervisory committees) in the Department of Biology. Also included
in this category are faculty tenured within the department but not salaried through
the department.” [Other UF units, including CLAS, have other definitions of
“joint faculty”, sometimes involving shared salary support: see
Faculty in these different categories often have different responsibilities within the
department. In particular, joint faculty (whether they hold tenure within the department
or not) often have larger research (or curatorial) commitments, and correspondingly
smaller teaching commitments, than salaried, tenure-track faculty. Non-TT salaried
faculty may have either larger teaching commitments (e.g. lecturers, some “associates
in”) or larger research commitments (e.g. scientists).
Faculty ties to specific units outside the department
Florida Museum of Natural History (FLMNH) The former departments of Botany and
Zoology historically maintained a very close connection with FLMNH, and this strong
relationship will continue. Museum curators provide valuable service to the department
by teaching at both undergraduate and graduate levels, serving on departmental
committees (in particular graduate and search committees) and by graduate advising
(specific issues discussed below). Many FLMNH faculty have Joint Faculty status.
Whitney Marine Lab (WML) As mentioned above, our ties to WML are more recent
but rapidly strengthening. WML shares two tenure-track faculty and four joint faculty
with the department (all salaried through WML). Both units are hoping to increase
participation of WML joint faculty in undergraduate and graduate training, although
logistics (i.e., physical distance) remain a significant challenge.
UF Genetics Institute (UFGI) Ties to the UFGI are more recent, and arguably stronger
(18 Biology faculty have appointments or space in UFGI), but less challenging because
most of our faculty with involvements in UFGI are salaried through Biology, and hence
have a more traditional balance between research and teaching (but see Space section
Emerging Pathogens Institute (EPI) While there are only four salaried Biology faculty
with EPI affiliations, the single Biology tenure-track faculty salaried through EPI is also
an Associate Director of EPI. We are in the process of hiring an additional
salaried/tenure-track faculty who will be affiliated with EPI, as well as an additional joint
faculty member who will be salaried through EPI.
McKnight Brain Institute (MBI) We have one tenure-track faculty member partly
salaried through the MBI; most of our WML joint faculty are also affiliated with the
Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology (PMCB) We have six tenure-track faculty
member affiliated with the PMCB program.
• Departmental affiliation of new Institute hires As faculty lines become
available through the various Institutes, the opportunity to hire faculty "for free"
arises. The drawbacks are that the department may be unenthusiastic about a
proposed institute hire, or that a potential shared faculty line may come with
strings attached. The political costs of rejecting a faculty affiliate from an
Institute are serious, but the potential costs of collecting departmental faculty that
the "core" members of the faculty deem inappropriate are equally serious. For
example, there is some concern that even loosely affiliated faculty (e.g. joint
faculty who do little teaching) will be “counted against” the department in some
contexts (RCM, for example). The long-term health of the department requires
that we maintain our institutional integrity, both when it comes to saying yes and
saying no, while keeping foremost in our collective mind what will be necessary
to become a truly great group of biologists.
Being proactive about these strategic directions is the best way to profit from, and avoid
negative consequences of, the trend toward cross-institutional hires.
• Devote at least one faculty meeting to a general discussion of this issue. Even if
such a meeting does not lead to a specific motion, it will help us achieve
consensus more quickly in the future, and give the Chair guidance in how to
respond tactically to sudden opportunities.
• Actively look for opportunities to make cross-institutional hires that fit in with our
general strategic needs (see Faculty section). Two disadvantages of this
approach are (1) it may carry big costs in faculty time and energy that may not
pay off in any particular attempt; and (2) as with any such cross-institutional hire,
some compromises with the department's core goals are likely.
• Get departmental input early on potential cross-institutional hires (even if the
details are still vague). Setting up a search committee and discussing the
possibilities in a faculty meeting will help the department to be engaged in any
decision-making processes about the potential hire.
Faculty The department strongly values its cohesion; having faculty in the closest
possible physical proximity is extremely important in this regard. As buildings are
constructed for new institutes, the opportunity for present faculty to vacate Bartram-Carr
(B-C) for better lab space elsewhere and for new hires to take space in a building other
than B-C is attractive. More and more faculty are being housed outside B-C, especially
faculty space in the Cancer and Genetics Research Complex (CGRC, which is UFGI
space), and soon EPI space (although Dickinson Hall is technically “outside B-C”, it is
close enough to allow relatively easy access). As faculty spread out physically,
maintaining departmental cohesiveness becomes more of a challenge. This is another
intangible cost that we must balance with the tangible benefits of more and better
laboratory and office space. Clearly, a new building (see Facilities section) would
mitigate these problems, but it will not be available for several years, even if it is
Relevant units: EPI, UFGI
We need to either improve or expand departmental space (i.e., acquire a new
building) or improve the efficiency (and cohesion) of our existing space.
• Commit to providing shared space for all tenure-track faculty, wherever salaried
• Work to ease travel among outlying units (e.g., disseminate information about on-
campus transportation options via links on the departmental web site)
• Work for more social interaction: e.g. establish a coffee/social space if possible;
continue to promote BioTea and related activities, including inter-lab meetings
(especially between lab groups located in B-C and those elsewhere). Re-name our
Friday afternoon get-together (currently “Zoocial”).
• Social engineering: Establish firm expectation of participation in faculty meetings
and departmental seminars. Maintain permanent, fixed faculty meeting and
seminar time slots, and schedule faculty and graduate student commitments to
avoid these time slots as much as possible.
Many Biology faculty have students (i.e., chair or co-chair graduate committees) of
students in other graduate programs (e.g., SNRE, UFGI, PMCB), each of which has its
own set of rules and expectations. Conversely, joint faculty (non-tenure-track faculty)
can also chair or co-chair graduate committees in the Botany and Zoology programs. It
is obviously important that departmental faculty affiliates be competitive for Institute
graduate students, but it is also important that all students be treated equitably (not
necessarily "equally"). It will be important to create well-defined categories of graduate
students analogous to the categories of faculty defined in the departmental by-laws, so
that the rights and responsibilities of any particular student are clearly stated.
The most obvious source of potential friction concerns allocation of departmental
teaching assistantships (TAs) to students admitted through an Institute. Departments in
other Colleges (e.g., Medicine, IFAS) do not have the same access to TAs, and
traditionally support students on research assistantships (RAs). If the sentiment of the
department is that maintaining and expanding our presence in various cross-departmental
Institutes is valuable, we must develop a coherent policy that governs the rights and
responsibilities of graduate students who are admitted via different routes. There has
been some discussion, particularly of the timing of admissions for different classes of
students, but this issue has not been completely settled. The main issue is the trade-off
between flexibility for faculty and students, on the one hand, and a sense of consistency
and fairness in the graduate program, on the other.
While funding is the resource most strongly limiting graduate admissions, office space
for graduate students is already crowded and will become more so as the graduate
program expands. Many Biology graduate students are already housed in Dickinson Hall
(with their advisors' labs); because (as mentioned above) Dickinson Hall is in close
proximity to Bartram-Carr, this is a workable solution, but the introduction of RCM may
make this approach more complicated.
Responsibilities: IP, course work, qualifying exams.
The Integrative Principles course was traditionally required for all PhD students in the
Zoology Department, and is now (for at least the trial period of 2 years) required for PhD
students in the Biology program (i.e., in the Botany and Zoology graduate programs). It
is encouraged but not required for MS students in both programs, and for students who
chaired by Biology faculty members but not participating in the Botany or Zoology
graduate programs. Other graduate student issues include an equitable system of
qualifying examinations and course work. While instituting more formal policies can be
counterproductive, it would be useful to devote more time to discussions (both among
faculty and between faculty and grad students) of what these expectations are, what they
should be, and how they vary among graduate student categories.
As the intellectual scope of the department (and the biological sciences in general)
widens, there will be increasing demand for formal training in areas outside the
traditional purview of biology (e.g., math, statistics, computer science, education).
Increased formal communication at some level between the department and other
departments concerning the appropriate coursework for a particular student's needs would
be extremely helpful. This issue is probably best considered by the graduate committee.
As discussed in the introduction, we should not allow RCM considerations to get in the
way of sending our students to other units for valuable educational experiences.
• Reconcile the different timing and responsibilities of students in other programs
(e.g., UFGI students do not pick an advisor until after their first year, and timing
may not synch well with our graduate admissions schedule). The RCM model
poses additional challenges with respect to the cross-disciplinary education of our
students, as well as space issues.
• Establish a clear, consistent set of graduate student categories, analogous to the
categories of faculty defined in the departmental by-laws, and define their rights
As described in the Undergraduate section of this document, the department currently
depends on cross-unit ties for undergraduate teaching. In some areas, such as relying on
FLMNH faculty to teach some “ology” courses (e.g. ichthyology, mammalogy), this
seems an entirely sensible approach (see Graduate: Course offerings section above). On
the other hand, we have also come to depend on FLMNH faculty to help teach core
courses in our majors (e.g. Vertebrate Zoology, Plant Taxonomy). Because
undergraduate teaching is not a core mission of the FLMNH, and because FLMNH-
salaried faculty have no formal teaching commitment, relying on FLMNH faculty to
teach required courses may be dangerous. A reasonable compromise is to make sure that
required courses in our majors are at least partly handled by Biology tenure-track
faculty. As discussed elsewhere (see Undergraduate section), this leaves open the
question of how the undergraduate curriculum should be organized, and in particular
which courses should continue to be required in our majors.
Challenges and Action Items: see Undergraduate section.
While the department has consistently recognized the importance of gender and ethnic
diversity among its students and faculty, we have made little progress in increasing
diversity. The problem is not simple, and the solution will not be achieved without
honest discussion and sustained effort.
Where we stand
Among Biology faculty, including those with appointments in the Florida Museum of
Natural History, there are 45 males and 11 females. Among assistant professors, the ratio
of males to females is especially skewed: 11 males to 1 female. In contrast, there are
more female (79) than male (67) Biology graduate students, which is consistent with
national trends in the field.
In terms of ethnic diversity, the faculty includes five Asian Americans, one African
American, and no Hispanic Americans or Native Americans. Again, there is greater
ethnic diversity among the graduate students.
In the Biology survey, when asked: “How do you feel about the gender and ethnic
diversity of the department?” faculty answered:
Unsatisfied OK Satisfied Very satisfied
0% (0) 24% (9) 49% (18) 24% (9) 3% (1)
14% (5) 43% (16) 35% (13) 8% (3) 0% (0)
When asked the same question, graduate students answered:
Unsatisfied OK Satisfied Very satisfied
0.0% (0) 9% (6) 41% (28) 29% (20) 22% (15)
0.0% (0) 20% (14) 38% (26) 29% (20) 13% (9)
We emphasize the remarkable percentage of faculty (43%) unsatisfied with the ethnic
diversity of faculty in Biology. In the entire survey, there were only three other issues for
which the majority of faculty was “unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied”. Of these, ethnic
diversity scored the largest percent of overall dissatisfaction. The graduate students are
more satisfied with the diversity in our department, perhaps reflecting the greater
diversity among graduate students.
Why increase diversity?
One reason to increase diversity is civic. All public institutions should reflect their
constituency. Because Florida boasts one of the most ethnically diverse populations in
the U.S., the students and faculty of its universities should be especially diverse. In
Biology, we have most control of the graduate students we recruit and the faculty we
hire. They are the faces of both research and teaching at UF, and key to the university’s
mission of serving the public. Students (both undergraduate and graduate) should be able
to identify with those faces – to find mentors and role models to guide their professional
From the civic perspective, increasing diversity is essentially a process of providing
opportunities to members of groups currently under-represented in the state’s
universities. The process must strive to overcome biases (unconscious or conscious)
against such underrepresented minorities. The short term goal is to provide equality of
opportunity among applicants to our department. This will likely entail explicit
consideration of a person’s status as a member of an under-represented group in Biology,
a process that already occurs to varying extents. The long term goal is to assure equality
of opportunity by vastly increasing the number and strength of applicants from currently
under-represented groups. This will ultimately lead to greater connection with the
student body. Success in meeting the short-term goal will provide the foundation for
meeting the long-term goal.
Another reason to increase diversity is programmatic: it fosters a vibrant intellectual
community. There’s no substitute for the wide array of perspectives and interests
inherent in a diverse group, stemming from differences in background and experience.
To the extent that we recruit faculty and students like ourselves, we will stagnate.
However, because a community can be vibrant in different ways, we need to decide upon
the type of diversity we seek. We might decide to focus our efforts on under-represented
ethnic groups (e.g., Hispanic Americans and African Americans), socioeconomic groups
(e.g., first generation college students), or gender and orientation (women, LGBTQ
Further, a pragmatic reason to increase diversity is because funding agencies increasingly
require it. NSF and NIH are creating tremendous pressure to demonstrate a commitment
to diversity at all levels of research and education.
In summary, we recognize three major reasons to increase diversity in Biology:
1. To be representative of the population we serve and provide our student body,
both minority and mainstream, with appropriately diverse role models in the
2. To increase the number of biologists from under-represented groups by actively
recruiting and training these individuals
3. To enhance the breadth of ideas and perspectives in the department
Given that our department recognizes the importance of diversity, we must carefully
consider the role of diversity in our hiring practices. One concern about incorporating
diversity into our hiring decisions is that we should focus exclusively on academic
excellence. As a starting point, we assert that Biology remains committed to academic
excellence. It goes without saying that hiring or admitting a sub-standard applicant on the
basis of their ethnicity and culture (or for any other reason) benefits no-one. Recognizing
that the top end of our applicant pool for faculty and graduate student positions is
generally excellent, that distinguishing among these candidates on pure “academic
excellence” grounds is extremely difficult, and that we already use a variety of criteria to
judge candidates (e.g., publication and funding records, teaching ability, collegiality, and
how their interests fit in with the department), adding criteria based on diversity is
reasonable. Members of the department will continue to weigh criteria differently in
every case – as long as the department’s need to increase diversity is agreed upon as one
criterion, differences in how criteria are weighed are healthy to the department.
Hiring faculty is an inexact science, reflecting the difficulty of projecting long-term
(often >30 years) job performance on the basis of relatively short-term achievements and
a two-day interview. Yet, we seldom question the application and interview process. In
contrast, predicting a candidate’s ability to contribute to diversity is relatively
straightforward. Most of the past searches have had very strong applicant pools, and this
is evident in the numerous examples of people we have not hired who have gone on to
successful careers at other top universities. If we bypass a very strong applicant from an
underrepresented group because they are not the best candidate in terms of purely
academic credentials, we have essentially sacrificed a sure improvement in the overall
makeup of the department for a routine opportunity to meet the more unpredictably
attainable goal of improving long-term intellectual excellence.
Different individuals in Biology will want to increase diversity for different reasons.
Before we can make much headway, we need to articulate these differences in opinion
and perhaps agree to disagree about them.
What is Diversity?
To paraphrase Yogi Berra: If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up
somewhere else. We want to be traveling towards greater diversity, but where is the path
exactly, and will it truly lead us to a common goal?
By its very nature, “diversity” is difficult to define. Different interpretations of the term
generate disagreements that can ultimately undermine best intentions. This makes it a
sensitive but important subject for discussion and consensus building. Indeed, it’s likely
that we haven’t been more successful at increasing diversity because until recently we’ve
not come together as a community to openly discuss the topic and decide upon what,
exactly, our goal should be. Which reason or reasons listed in the previous section are
most important to us?
For the purpose of this strategic plan, we offer the following opinions for discussion:
• Having zero female assistant professors in our department represents an obvious
lack of diversity.
• Because the most populous minority groups in Florida are African Americans and
Hispanic Americans, we should focus our efforts on those two groups.
• Another desired characteristic is that the candidate be an effective mentor and role
model for students.
• In so far as a candidate is willing and able to serve as a role model, the
candidate’s nationality is relatively unimportant. What’s important is that the
candidate must be able to identify culturally with an under-represented group of
Floridians. Note, however, that a non-U.S. citizen would not likely satisfy the
roll of having a diverse faculty from the perspective of a federal granting agency.
How much should we care about that?
From this point forward, we focus discussion on increasing racial/ethnic diversity among
Biology faculty. We do so because it remains a largely unmet challenge, because we’ve
been generally more successful with recruitment of graduate students from under-
represented groups than faculty; and because we have learned some lessons about faculty
recruitment. Many of the insights described below about recruitment and retention of
minority faculty apply to women faculty, and to recruitment and retention of graduate
Why haven’t we been more successful?
The easiest and most palatable answer to this question is solely statistical. By definition,
minority candidates are rare. Highly qualified minority candidates are especially rare. In
an applicant pool of 100, for example, perhaps two will be African American or Hispanic
Of course, we strive to identify minority candidates and shepherd them onto our short
lists. It’s unusual but not rare for us to interview a minority candidate. When it comes
time to vote on whom to hire, however, we nearly always choose outstanding non-
One potential solution to increase diversity is through targeted hires. However,
candidates hired through a targeted search may feel uncertain about their true value to the
institution. Do their future colleagues value them more because they are from an under-
represented group or because of their professional accomplishments? To what extent is
the enthusiasm for their candidacy forced -- the result of a small number of faculty
pushing their personal agenda on the entire department? These questions must be
convincingly addressed for a successful hire.
Another challenge is that protocols for targeted searches apparently do not exist at UF.
(If they do, they are not transparent to the faculty.) In 2006-2007, the Zoology
department spent approximately six months in meetings and correspondence with the
dean and Associate Provost to be given permission to conduct a targeted search. If the
department pursues another targeted search, they should aim at starting the process in the
spring and completing it in the fall, well before most graduate students have completed
their degrees and applied to a large number of competing institutions.
An action plan
First and foremost, we are very unlikely to succeed by doing what we’ve been doing.
Good intentions can’t provide results, and if we wait for a viable candidate to come our
way in the context of a normal search, we risk waiting forever. To land a top-tier
candidate, we must search proactively and recruit enthusiastically. We must speak with a
unified voice, articulating a shared vision about the candidate’s role in the department,
college, and university. This will require a lot of preparation. We suggest the following
• Set a standard for academic excellence prior to viewing any applications. This
procedure is important for two reasons. First, it obviates concerns about whether
or not "the bar has been lowered" when a list of candidates for interview is
presented to the faculty. Second, it will keep us from focusing exclusively on the
sparsely populated tail of the distribution (i.e., on applicants with the most
publications and grants), which is unlikely to include members of
underrepresented groups because of purely statistical considerations.
• Elect and charge a committee (or, if more palatable, a “working group”) to
coordinate all activities associated with identifying and recruiting Hispanic
American and African American faculty.
• Continue to dedicate several faculty meetings to the discussion of minority
recruitment and retention. The goal should be to reach consensus on the
importance of increasing the department’s diversity and to agree on how to move
forward if the department decides this is a priority. To maintain momentum or
rekindle awareness, these community forums should continue on a regular basis in
subsequent years. This is particularly important in the context of our new faculty
composition. We have already had one such meeting, with positive results.
• Decide as a department how we will recruit and retain faculty and graduate
students from under-represented groups in science (e.g., targeted searches versus
• Seek legal counsel on how to avoid pitfalls of state and federal hiring regulations.
This advice should come from the Office of General Counsel
• Coordinate all recruitment activities for a new faculty member with the CLAS
office and perhaps the Provost’s office.
• Coordinate all recruitment activities for graduate students with the Office of
Graduate Minority Programs
(http://gradschool.rgp.ufl.edu/diversity/introduction.html; Laurence Alexander,
Associate Dean) and SEGEP (http://www.seagep.ufl.edu/; Anne Donnelly,
Director). Both programs can provide advice, financial support, and peer support
for students from under-represented groups.
• At the undergraduate and graduate level, establish a mechanism by which faculty
and graduate students can alert one another about potential opportunities to recruit
under-represented students into their labs.
• At the faculty level, encourage all faculty and graduate students to make personal
contact with potential candidates from under-represented groups who they
encounter at society meetings and through common acquaintances.
• Encourage faculty to visit Historically Black Colleges and Universities to present
seminars and recruit students. Likewise, encourage attendance at the annual
meeting of SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Latin
Americans in Science) and similar organizations. The department should
consider providing travel funds for such endeavors.
• Consider recruiting graduate students from UF undergraduates and faculty from
UF graduate students and postdocs. The department has generally discouraged
such practices. However, the small number of minority candidates and the
otherwise difficult task of identifying them might prompt a re-evaluation of our
policy on recruitment from within the university. An additional benefit of internal
recruitment is we have more opportunity to evaluate our students and postdocs
than those at other institutions. Furthermore, we may have an edge in recruitment
and retention of these candidates because they presumably feel at home in
• Work with SEAGEP to identify and recruit minority PhD students at partner
Appendix A. Responses to Faculty Survey (Fall
2009). Responses to open-ended questions are at end
Open-ended Comments from Faculty Survey
Some comments were edited to remove critical references to particular people or offices
2. What could we do as a department to improve faculty workload and
• Distribute administrative, committee and teaching loads equitably
• Flexibility is key (e.g., double-teaching one semester and not teaching the next). Training of graduate
and undergraduate students needs more formal recognition in calculations of workload. Salary structure
needs to be addressed (as always). Zoology faculty agreed that all would be supportive of raises
provided to individuals, no matter the reason. This went a long way towards reducing hard feelings
about inequalities in the salary structure. Biology should discuss this.
• We should plan ahead in our hiring so that workloads in some areas do not continue to increase as people
retire. Teaching loads should be determined in part based on research productivity. Those not as heavily
involved in research and graduate training should do more teaching.
• I believe that the department is doing its best to support me and my work. A new building would be
• hire more support staff
• Space for research labs should be separately calculated from office space, and needs to be distributed
according to need, rather than the idea that everyone should get the same amount of space. As an
assistant prof, I have felt very well-protected from extra administrative duties in the department, but still
feel like an integral contributor to the department.
determine how we are going to handle a growing bio major population with the teaching of BSC - too
many faculty resources to BSC and not enough to upper division and grad studies
• Bold and innovative curriculum revision to streamline teaching assignments. Open discussion on space
allocation that allows flexibility as needs come and go. System to recognize those who contribute to
graduate education on voluntary basis, as committee members and classes (in addition to undergraduate
• I'd suggest the formation of fewer committees. There are many reasonably functioning departments that
cruise along with many fewer committees. We tend to create committees to oversee committees, and then
take those committees' recommendations into a faculty meeting, where the recommendations are yet
again belabored before voting. The parliamentary procedure seems onerous and unnecessary. I greatly
value our department for its collegiality and democratic structure, while at the same time questioning
whether we might foster the same attitudes and qualities with a bit less time investment.
• Employ more faculty
• In our joint department, administrative positions are significantly more time consuming, in part because
of the change in scale (the sheer number of people involved). I think some restructuring to distribute
such jobs will maintain function while more evenly distributing service in our faculty.
• The chair (with input from the appropriate departmental committees) should assess teaching load across
the department, checking for faculty who are teaching less than is typical in the department, and those
that are doing more than their fair share of teaching. We should work hard to make sure that the teaching
load is fairly distributed. Part of the problem may relate to the distribution of faculty research
specializations. If we have courses that are frequently taught and drawing in large numbers of students,
we need to be sure that we have adequate numbers of faculty qualified to teach these courses.
• I did not answer question 3 because I am very satisfied with the annual review process and the manner in
which our department distributes merit raises, but I am very unsatisfied with the amount of merit raise
• 1 class per semester is a very reasonable load.
• equalize teaching loads among faculty; continue pushing to eliminate salary compression (obviously this
is not entirely or even largely under the department's control!).
• The workload is uneven; some faculty teach large classes every semester others hardly teach at all. Some
have huge service loads, others very little. On the whole everyone pitches in when asked. The problem
with the support is that there is nothing coming from the university.
• I am living in fear of the day that XX (administrative staff member) leaves. If she leaves and is not
replaced by a comparably competent person, my administrative load would increase massively. Some
staff need to be more responsive to emails.
• Distribute teaching loads more equitably.
• 1) Staff is a key issue. I respect and like our staff, but they are overworked, underpaid and have
somewhat limited skill sets for the tasks they need to accomplish. The staff are expected to function at
much higher level than is warranted (given pay and background). 2) In general, UF is increasing the
amount of paperwork for all of use. That severely cuts into my time. 3) The upper administration
seems to like to micromanage, which also creates huge inefficiencies in how we function. 4) Greater
teaching support (TAs) would go a long way to increasing the "joy" of teaching.
• Nothing short of seeking a better collection of higher administrators (and legislators) who understand
what a research university is all about. The Department itself has been supportive of goals that better the
intellectual development of its faculty.
• Not much, I think; that would have to come from the upper administration. A more competitive teaching
load would be 3/4 (i.e., one semester off out of 4) but that's probably not realistic.
4. What could we do as a department to improve logistical support?
• For the building maintenance response, I am separating custodial support (very poor) from building
maintenance (Biology staff are doing a very good job under the circumstances). There could be better
supervision and coordination of our staff.
• I'm unhappy about the new policy on 100 copies per course. Having the ability to do in-house copying
of exams (within reason) is important. Purchasing and reimbursements are sometimes rocky
• We have aging vehicles that need to be replaced. Large, shared equipment items such as growth
chambers that are commonly available at other big universities are not available in our department
(unless you are at UFGI). Workloads of staff could be more evenly distributed.
• In general, the office staff is excellent; they have been very helpful. Make XX (staff person) a full
professor or give him an endowed chair position if at all possible.
• Many of our hard-working staff need to be recognized for their contributions to the department and the
absolutely critical need the department has for their services. A couple of staff in particular deserve
raises, which are long overdue.
• Some of our folks are 'world class' and others are certainly not.
• Policy on equipment sharing in Bartram-Carr, especially incubators, growth chambers, etc. What really
is bad is that this building does not even have a standard of DI water lines to all labs.
• The office has undergone so much change over the past year or so; some components are very strong,
others not so strong. I am hopeful that the new staffing arrangement, plus some more experience, will
improve the situation.
• Short of hiring more personnel, I'd suggest efficiency training for staff. In a previous life, I worked in a
department with a lower faculty/fiscal & grant support ratio, where about twice as much was done. The
department lacked the specter of PeopleSoft, so perhaps that might explain some of the disparity. But
there, the faculty wrote grants, and the department administered them.
• It seems very good
• Our IT support, though of excellent quality, is insufficient. We need additional programming support to
build infrastructure-- electronic record keeping and web-based forms to reduce the workload of our
• The departmental vehicles are getting quite old, and in some cases are not reliable. This is having an
impact on field-oriented courses, and vehicle limitations have caused us to have to restrict course
fieldtrips to localities near Gainesville. This could negatively impact some of our courses.
• It would be good if we could afford a vehicle for short trips around town/campus. Fiscal staff are
generally good. Pcards are going smoothly.
• Hire more staff. Our staff are over-worked and, in a few instances, under-trained.
• Beyond hiring more people it’s difficult to say. In general, for class support I only get email responses
about 30% of the time and many of the receipts I turn in for reimbursement are lost. However, given the
huge work load everyone must have, it’s hard to complain. Although at other institutions where I have
worked the ratio of staff to faculty was the same, and these problems were not apparent. I think maybe
some of the tasks our staff covered where covered by CLAS staff, so maybe we outsource more!
• Not sure with so few staff. I think they are doing a great job.
• Well, given the current budget, it might be petty to complain about dirty bathrooms, but cleanliness does
have an effect on the quality of our workspace. I am often really grossed out by how dirty the bathrooms
are on my floor.
• 1) we need more staff and/or better trained staff in key positions. Problem-solving is a skill that is
needed, but not always obvious. Hiring staff who can anticipate problems and problem-solve requires
competitive salaries and the ability to retain qualified staff with salary increases. UF impedes such a
system. 2) IT is excellent. 3) Grants are generally handled well, but everyone is overworked and I
simply avoid asking much of our staff out of concern that they'll collapse.
• Seek more support positions from the Dean, and make this a priority. Adding faculty without adequate
infrastructure is a slippery slope.
• Dedicated hour+ introduction to ordering with new faculty, working with their startup list, going through
what must be purchased through preferred vendors, getting contact info for appropriate campus reps.,
• Let's say a media kitchen, temperature-controlled rooms with shaking incubators, etc. Again, probably
not realistic, but on the road to realistic as a Biology Dept, never would happen as Bo/Zo.
8. What could we do as a department to improve the graduate program?
• We need to provide better (more competitive) support and more office space; there are often too many
students crammed in a room. Diversity is actually quite good, especially recently. We can always
improve, of course.
• More fellowships and higher stipends. We are getting very good students, but we do lose the best of the
applicants to better stipends and RAs elsewhere. As our courses continue to grow and our faculty
continues to increase in size, we need access to more TAs Space is a real issue for our students. We are
lucky that the museum provides a great deal of space for students. But more space and better space is
• We need to make increasing graduate student support a high priority for our department. I think it's
difficult to attract top level grad school applicants with our levels of support. Also, we need to make it
easier for Biology faculty to get students from other grad programs on campus (specifically, the genetics
program- it's difficult to guarantee support).
• The graduate students should have space specially designed and designated for them so that they are not
moving offices repeatedly during their tenure here. It would also be very helpful to find a way to start a
small fund they can dip in to for research support. Something like a guaranteed $1000 for the duration of
their studies here ($2-3K would be even better) would significantly their research experience here, and
also help us recruit even higher-quality graduate students.
• Some vision and coordination in graduate course offering. Greater integration of courses across the
former departmental line.
• We have outstanding graduate students! We could, of course, do better. Office space, while improving,
is often limited. Our salaries, while much improved, are still low, and we continue to lose some of our
best applicants to programs with higher salaries and more perks. We need to continue to search for ways
to help our international students with tuition waivers or in-state tuition rates. We have a diverse student
body, but we can perhaps do more to attract top students from under-represented groups.
• Work on recruiting students in underrepresented areas of study. Solve the problem of admitting enough
students for faculty who have $ to support them - admission in spring, being able to opt-out of integrative
principles would help get students doing research earlier.
• I'd suggest de-emphasizing the "integrative" perspective, and offering more focused training within sub-
disciplines. I'm not convinced that being able to converse with scientists doing very different research is
helping our students more than a lack of focused training is hurting them. The integrative thrust seems to
be a "given" in our department, while at the same time being championed (at least vocally) by relatively
few. Are we all, as a newly formed department, on board with this emphasis? And if not, how might we
re-construct our graduate educational program to greater benefit?
• Very difficult issue - those of us in 'minority' subjects within a fundamentally evo/ecology department
don't get to see any potential graduate students as they have come for the mainstream fame of the
• This deserves more faculty attention- the management and development of our program are both
• As with many things, more money would be nice. Our stipends are not competitive, and thus we often
lose out on some students that would otherwise come to U.F. Graduate student space is also barely
adequate. We need to monitor student numbers carefully, in order to minimize the need to pull in
students outside of our department in BSC teaching.
• TA pay is pathetic.
• Work harder to recruit students from under-represented groups.
• Increased pay for teaching would be a huge improvement, but we are trying that all the time. In general, I
think it’s a great program and the students learn much and gain much from the intense first year that they
• I am worried about the quality of our graduate program. I see no reason to rush students through the
program as we are now doing. Students need time to develop independence and research expertise. And
they need time to develop a really good project. They take very few courses, almost none in our
department. We need to have consistent standards on qualifying exams; the quality of the exams has
been deteriorating in recent years (the students are examined mostly on a very narrow range of topics)
and what constitutes a failure? I don't feel that we really expect very much of them in these exams.
Some students are marvelous but others lack the skills, maturity, and motivation to succeed as
• More transparency in the allocation of graduate teaching assistantships to labs/applicants.
• Increase salaries (we've all heard that before). Strive for increased diversity.
• It's hard to evaluate our "graduate program". We are still defining what the Biology program is. I was
generally happy with Zoology's program. Quality could certainly be improved, although I'm not sure
how. We need to increase financial support, especially for the recruitment weekend and graduate travel
to meetings. Space is generally cruddy - for faculty and students. We need a new building.
• Eliminate admissions biases and promote rather than constrain diversity of approaches and disciplines, in
addition to the other measures of "diversity."
• Increase the number and quality of faculty in my sub-discipline. We are doing our best, and the fault is
mostly my own. If I was a superstar I'd attract more and better graduate applicants. * Note that
"quality of grad current students" is the mean, the variance is substantial.
10. What could we do as a department to improve our curriculum?
• Time to take a fresh look at the curriculum with the merged department. Eliminate the botany and
• The introductory courses (BSC) seem stuck. Given that they are taught by teams of professors that change
semester to semester and year to year, it's hard to envision how to shake them up. I'd love to see someone
with a fresh perspective be charged with totally revamping BSC. Courses for small numbers of upper-
class and/or graduate students are being threatened by administrators who care more about student contact
hours than about learning. We are gradually losing those courses, which is a big concern.
• I think the intro bio courses need to be revamped completely so that the labs match the lectures and that
those are taken at the same time. With our new hires we should be able to offer more
bioinformatic/computational courses to train cutting edge students
• In short, we need to update the undergrad curriculum and offer more grad classes.
• I strongly feel that moving our funds towards hiring more adjunct faculty or non tenure-track faculty to
teach introductory courses would be highly beneficial to the undergraduate curriculum. The undergraduate
student body is so enormous that it is unmanageable, given the resources (financially and personnel-wise)
we have available. The advantages of having more instructor-faculty in the department would include
freeing up tenure-track (TT) faculty for higher-level, more specialized courses that can give
undergraduates more depth in areas they are particularly interested in. This would also free us up for
offering a greater breadth of graduate course selections. Instructor/teaching faculty come at a much lower
cost than tenure-track faculty, so we could theoretically hire a couple people whose job it is to teach
several courses a semester, with the typical cost of hiring one TT faculty.
• We do not provide our students with a broad spectrum of courses at the upper division and intro grad level
• We really need to revise curriculum to remove redundancy and increase efficiency for both undergraduate
and graduate students. It is ridiculous to have "ghost" courses without instructors, and service courses
chronically taught by graduate student lecturers. We need a larger lecture room and better lab space to
help improve teaching efficiency and quality.
• I think we do a good job of teaching what we teach. However, I think our curriculum reflects traditional
disciplines rather than the biology that we all actually do. We have a great opportunity to consider what
the elements of modern biology are and how we would like to prepare our students. I could envision a
number of new courses being offered, and different combinations of courses as requirements and
electives. I think we do a better job of offering a current graduate curriculum, but there are still some
holes that could be filled there as well.
• Every undergrad major should get to enjoy small upper division courses.
• Hire a lot more faculty.
• I feel strongly we need additional depth in our program.
• I've been told by many undergraduate students that our courses are among the best that they have taken at
U.F. -- so I don't want to be overly negative. But, obviously, with large numbers of biology majors, and
large numbers of undergraduates in many of our undergraduate courses (e.g., BSC 2010, 2011, animal
physiology, genetics, various ecology courses, plant diversity, systematics, vertebrate biology) we need to
be careful to maintain quality. I am worried about courses moving to distance-learning technology, and
about reductions in the amount of laboratory experience student will get. The problems are that both
lecture and laboratory space is limited, and also we are limited in faculty instructors (since our new hires,
for which I'm thankful, have not kept up with retirements and departures). The curriculum committee
needs to be certain that the scheduling of courses is as efficient as possible. We need to be using all
available rooms, times, etc., to the maximum benefit. We need to be effective in demonstrating the need
for additional faculty lines, and make sure that we are meeting enrollment demand. We have graduate
students teaching some of our lecture courses, and this situation needs to be investigated -- for some
courses it is appropriate (and gives our advanced students valuable experience), but in other cases it may
be more appropriate to modify the curriculum so that the courses involved can be taught by faculty. We
need to thoroughly review our entire curriculum -- especially since we are now a united department. We
may have redundancies, as exhibited by the recent combining of the former botany and zoology intro.
ecology courses into a single, team-taught course. Team-teaching (among zoological and botanical
faculty) could also be effective in some other courses, such as evolution or genetics.
• Compared to other Universities where I have taught, the diversity of classes available is impressive.
• Free up faculty to teach more specialized/advanced undergraduate courses and make sure these
opportunities are distributed evenly. Advanced graduate courses are also nice of course. And, formalize
credit for modules in IP-- that would encourage participation!
• Well for starters we could have a curriculum instead of a collection of courses that we teach now and then.
We could also have courses that built on previous courses and we could have capstone courses for
advanced students. We teach Physiology, Genetics and Anatomy regularly and consistently (that's the
intermediate level) but our majors do not take enough biology to really have the kind of expertise they
need to be professional biologists (or to have the background they need to be good medics). Find out what
our majors take and I think you'll be surprised.
• I am waiting to see how the IP course pans out this semester; I think that it has the potential to be the
center of our graduate program, but only if enough faculty members participate and the historical leaders
of the course are willing to incorporate new ideas and directions.
• More well-taught courses with 30-40 students. More teaching support, help for teachers, more than those
silly "peer reviews".
• In general, I feel that our curriculum is a hodge podge, that it lacks good facilities, and that we don't have
sufficient time to really become innovative. I could use some training to help me become more
innovative. I really liked the idea of a Teacher-Scholar Program. I wish we could push this concept and
get support for it. It would benefit our faculty and graduate students, but mostly our undergrads. But, of
course, it takes money and leadership.
• Modify the IP course. As example, writing mock grant proposals could be replaced with writing real
grant proposals. Also, eliminate any tendency to favor a particular disciplinary "culture" over another.
• Much greater emphasis on molecular and cell biology in the early/mid undergrad curriculum. As it stands,
the students have to go outside the dept. for molecular biology, cell biology, molecular genetics, etc.
12. What else could we do to improve the mix of subdisciplines? What
subdisciplines should we add, if any?
• We should strive to find people who can bridge Zoology and Botany -- e.g., global change biologists,
plant-animal interaction people. With Marty departed, development is suddenly a weak spot.
Evolution/Systematics is relatively strong, thanks to museum faculty. However, evolutionary theory is
• We are largely an ecology department with some systematics/evolution. We have shown recent growth
in genetics and cellular/molecular. The growth in genetics should continue. I'm concerned about the
future of plant systematics. We have lost or will lose people in this area to retirement.
• This department has largely become an E and E department - major problems in distribution of
subdisciplines if this is to be a Biology department or anything other than an E&E department
• We are low in population ecology and population genetics.
• The current mix is somewhat an historical accident, with the merging of the two departments, each of
which had its own perspective on hiring and intellectual diversity. As a result of different emphases,
certain fields are not well integrated into the new department. This is particularly true for plant
biochemistry and cell and molecular biology, which does not have an ecological or evolutionary
component to it and therefore doesn't fit as well with the rest of the department. The core of the
department is ecology and evolutionary biology, and some of the other areas are not well represented.
It will be important to determine to what extent they should be represented in the dept. In addition,
systematics is under-represented in the department itself, with over-reliance on the Museum for
teaching in this area.
• The number of faculty in the department is too low- right now; we have too few faculty in physiology,
development, anatomy/morphology, behavior, and relatively a lot in ecology. The total number of
faculty in evolution/systematics and genetics is good. A better balance between disciplines is needed
and MORE faculty.
• New hires should address (hopefully) some deficits. We really need a strong quantitative/theoretical
person, and it would be great to see more along the lines of ecosystem biologists (or folks working
specifically with global change issues).
• Strengthen the subdisciplines e.g. there is no-one on the faculty available to teach the developmental
• The above question makes no sense to me-- I do not know how to answer it and I don't know how to
answer this one in light of it.
• I do not think that we should add any totally new subdisciplines -- we have a broad department, and
need to work hard just to maintain our current levels of expertise; but it would be possible to slightly
expand our breadth in some of our subdisciplines. It is clear that the department's major areas of
strength are ecology, evolutionary studies/systematics, and cell biology/physiology/molecular studies.
Currently, due to recent departures, we have urgent needs in functional morphology, development, and
organismal systematics, so these need to be addressed ASAP. Recent retirements on the plant side have
left the department without a phycologist or a bryologist. Also, our attempt this summer to acquire
someone working on the biology on any of the tremendous diversity of protists (alveolates,
stramenopiles, parabasalids, diplomonads, red algae, amoebozoans, radiolarians, slime molds, to
mention just a few) was not successful, so we need to keep this position in mind. Should we also hire a
mycologist? Since we are now a biology department -- we need to think about organisms other than
plants and animals!
• We have ecology covered, let's get some breadth! Systematics is OK, at least on the plant side, but there
is little else in evolutionary biology and population genetics. Cellular/Molecular/Physiology seems
underrepresented. Evolutionary theory is absent. Computational biology is underrepresented.
• If Steve Phelps leaves, we will really need to target the field of Behavior for faculty hires. We need to
replace Tonia -- I hope with another biomechanics person. We need to replace Marty with someone to
• These disciplines seem encompassing. I suggest hiring a morphologist and a behaviorist.
• Behavior has a nice range of people including both proximate mechanisms, phylogeny and evolution.
We definitely need more physiology and a broader range of physiologists. They are so overworked with
lower level courses that there are no advanced courses for undergrads in this area. Psychology has lost
one of its few neural basis of behavior people, so this would be a great place to hire. I'd also like to see
someone in sensory ecology, a very exciting new field. We have only one person in development, I
think. Ecology has the opposite problem. Evolution/systematics is fine (I find this a somewhat odd
combination since these are very separate issues) when you include those in the museum except that we
need an evolutionary theory/modeling person - that has been on our list for years! Genetics finally
seems to have a reasonable number of people and they are even teaching higher level courses for
undergrads. Morphology needs minimally two and we are about to lose one of them. This is an area that
definitely needs to expand. Functional morphology/biomechanics is a great area with lots of
opportunity for collaboration elsewhere on campus.
• Abandoning taxa/natural history is a real worry...going for the money, not the integrity of the field.
• I don't understand Question 11. It asks about diversity, but then asks us to evaluate specific taxa. I
don't see how you can ask me how I feel about diversity and then say rank individual units. And what
does "unsatisfied" mean? Does it mean -- we have too many of them or does it mean there are too few
or does it mean the quality is low? Behavior -- small, but very good (assuming Steve stays). CMP --
seems a bit isolated from the core of the department. I think the merger affected this group a bit more
than others. Development -- very small. It's horrible that we lost Marty. Could be enhanced with
good strategic hires that link to rest of department (e.g., pheno plasticity) Ecology -- very good
individually, but not as cohesive as it should be. Lacks modern quantitative skills with Bolker leaving
(should be solved with new hire). Evo/System -- very good group with excellent individuals. I'm
pretty happy with how we currently stand. Genetics -- probably the deepest unit in the department. I
do not feel a need to hire here. Structure/Functional morphology -- almost non-existent.
• We will have long-term need for more expertise in physiology and functional morphology.
• control of gene expression / chromatin Evolutionary theorist
• "Genetics" is a meaningless sub-discipline anymore and should be removed from this list. Physiology
should be separated from cellular/molecular, which might be meaningfully separated from each other.
Could make a good case that biochemistry should be added to the list (perhaps included with molecular
biology), unless we want to completely cede that discipline to the Chemistry Dept. But there is at least
one practicing biochemist in the dept.
14. What else could we do to improve the diversity of organismal expertise?
• It's not our department's job to have expertise in viruses, bacteria, archaea and protista.
• It's pretty obvious that we are weak in the arena of microbes. Because we simply can't cover all of
biology, however, it might not make sense to try to fill that hole.
• We have no coverage of some of these groups. To some degree that may be okay--perhaps we can't do
everything. But we should be covering plants better and perhaps covering fungi in the future.
• If we are a biology department, and not just a combined zoology and botany department, then we need to
increase our organismal diversity to cover areas that are not traditionally included in botany or zoology.
We should make hiring fungal and "protist" expertise a priority for the department.
• We need someone who can address tree of life beyond plants and animal boundary. Interaction of
microbes with animals and plants will be really good, too.
• With the small number of faculty we have, I think it is crazy to try to cover every class of organism. I
think it would be better to cover our current areas well (bolster our underrepresented areas) rather than
spread ourselves thinner.
• as above-- I'm not sure how to fill in question 13. But I can say that I would like to maintain a wide
diversity of organisms of study in our program. I am also concerned that there are insufficient resources
in the dept/college to upgrade animal spaces to meet IACUC standards. This a limitation on vertebrate
animal work for faculty and students.
• I am "very unsatisfied" in regards to Fungi and Protists because we do not have faculty focusing on these
taxa. As I mentioned under #12 we need to hire in these areas. Also, our coverage of green plants is
pitiful (and thus I've indicated this as "unsatisfied") -- from the physiological, ecological, or systematic
standpoint, nearly all of our "plant faculty" work with angiosperms. The recent hiring of McDaniel is a
good sign -- but we need to do more. We need someone working with an algal group, and someone
working with either ferns, lycophytes, and another working with mosses or liverworts. Some of these
hires could be coordinated with the FLMNH. With expertise from the FLMNH organismal diversity on
the animal side is better covered, but we are weak in the invertebrate lineages, and as mentioned above
have entirely ignored the fantastic diversity of protists (both photosynthetic and non-photosynthetic). I
indicated "OK" for viruses and bacteria/archaeans even though we do not cover these groups because I
think that we would run into political trouble with other units at U.F. if we were to hire in these areas.
In summary, our coverage of angiosperms and vertebrate groups is fine -- but as a biology department we
need to do better than this.
• Hire microbial people.
• I don't think that we have to worry too much about the diversity of organisms.
• It would be neat if we could expand our focus to include someone who works on plant/microbe or
animal/microbe interactions and their interface with biogeochemical cycles.
• Hire folks other than geneticists and bioinformaticists.
• Disease ecology and evolution are critical to biology and should be a focus of new hires in Biology.
• We need to recognize its importance and not badmouth anyone who has a passion for a particular group of
organisms. Contrary to opinions of some (possibly a vocal minority), I think it is important to maintain
some breadth of taxonomic diversity. While we all acknowledge the primacy of good science and the
importance of conceptual approaches (including theory), having taxonomic expertise among the faculty is
indeed crucial to doing good science. Moreover, it aids our goals in attracting students, ensuring teaching
expertise, and training the many graduates who go on to conduct work related to conservation and
management of resources, or teaching obligations, for which appreciation of taxonomic breadth is
important. In short, having breadth and diversity of organisms on which we focus opens many doors for
both faculty and students.
• Metagenomics, microbial diversity Mycologist, focused on symbiosis
• Job one: hire a yeast biologist. I'd say "yeast geneticist" except I painted myself into a corner with the
16. How should we work to increase gender and ethnic diversity in the
• Aggressive recruiting, departmental commitment to hiring minorities.
• There is no shortcut. We need to make a very determined effort to increase both gender and ethnic
diversity. It'll entail some risk taking.
• We have to continue to try to bring in the best people, period.
• The one thing that our last 2 faculty hires had in common is that, in the discussion of the candidates we
interviewed, we quickly eliminated the women from consideration and had long discussions about
choosing among the men.
• Given the realities (lack of funds and even ethnic diversity we can draw from) department is ok - our
major whole is we have little or no Hispanic representation and we live in a state that has a growing
• I think - it is realistic. The Department is not particularly skewed relative to what fields of non-medical
biology at large look like.
• We face a very real problem in how to recognize diversity as a component of excellence, while
balancing the need to hire the highest possible caliber of scientists. These characteristics often (and
happily) coincide, but as we've seen, recruiting and retaining faculty to achieve greater balance of
ethnic diversity is challenging. As for gender diversity, we could just make it a strong priority to hire
more women, perhaps making sure that our interview candidates are at least 50% female. This requires
that we actively get out there and recruit potential candidates by contacting colleagues across the
country (and elsewhere) to make sure that our applicant pool is sufficiently diverse in the first place.
• You can only work with those candidates who apply for positions and then chose the best candidate
whatever their gender or ethnic diversity.
• The methods Zoo had typically used do help -- i.e., beating the bushes for minority applicants. I am
concerned our interview process is a bit unfriendly to cultural minorities-- since it is very focused on
personal ties and easy interactions. I don't see a simple solution to that problem. We may need some
• We could do better. Obviously, we are doing better in the case of gender diversity than in ethnic
• I think we try with our hires, but retaining minorities and women is huge as well. Loosing Tonia and
Rob when they were ready to stay is just a huge hit in this category that did not need to happen; they
were undercut by the Dean. This is especially ironic given that the Dean now wants for us to really
focus on improving diversity - when a huge step in this direction would have been the Dean's retaining
Rob and Tonia but not taking away promised lab space. Just very frustrating.
• Well I count 10 women of about 40 faculty soon to 9 of 38 (not counting the museum), certainly
different from our undergrads, certainly different from our graduate students, somewhat better than it
was 20 years ago but not impressive. Far more serious is the ethnic diversity. I'm not quite sure why
there is only one person of African American ancestry, and this has not changed in decades. This is
certainly different from the demographics of the state of Florida and from our undergrad population.
There is no one of Latin American or Mexican origin which is really bizarre given the makeup of the
state of Florida, our undergrads and grads. That is probably the most glaring problem in this realm. The
museum faculty has this issue much worse since they are all white and strongly male biased.
• I think that we have been doing a good job increasing ethnic diversity in the graduate group. The loss
of Tonia, however, makes me question the administration's interest in maintaining ethnic diversity in
• We just have to work harder, and then mentor more effectively when we do get a hire.
• I do not know.
• We could target specific underrepresented categories for strategic recruitment efforts.
• Sponsor a targeted competitive postdoc position for underrepresented groups
• Not much we can do over and above what we've already done, I think. Best thing would be to increase
the overall quality of the Dept. and the University to make us a more competitive target.
• Faculty recruitment seems to be sliding backwards, to the pre-1980s mode, in which there was a
distinct male bias in hiring. Greater efforts need to be made to recruit both more women and ethnic
minorities onto the faculty. Diversity enrichment needs to count for something in assessing candidates.
17. Anything else? What else could we do to improve the department?
• More than anything, we need time to come together around a shared vision. The more we feel forced
now, the more compromised we'll feel about ourselves later. I wish we'd find the backbone to say "no"
more often to the dean/provost.
• Increased efficiency-- streamline meetings.
• Investing in creating a common tea/lounge area for faculty (or even faculty and graduate students) would
significantly increase departmental unity, interactions (especially between the former Bot and Zoo
faculty), and general morale.
• More efforts to foster collaboration among different sub-disciplines involving graduate students.
• The sharp rise in departures (and potential departures) is cause for grave concern. Historically we have
done well in the area of faculty retention, but the past year has been a disaster. The graduate students are
expressing concern about the future of the department, and morale is low among staff, students and
faculty. Now is the time for leadership and vision.
• I'm glad this survey was put together. This is a really great start. I'd like to see some serious and balanced
follow up to the ideas that come forth. Our faculty meetings are too-often dominated by a few highly
vocal individuals. This survey gives us an opportunity to see where we all are, in terms of a diversity of
issues. Many things that are lacking in our department are a direct result of the crippling fiscal cuts we've
endured (as most others have here and elsewhere), and thus will be difficult to improve over the short-
• Make more funds available for entertaining seminar speakers, visitors, potential faculty etc.
• Space is very limited, and often inconveniently situated -- since we are in several buildings. A new
biology building would help, and we should continue working toward this.
• Encourage more face-to-face interactions among faculty: faculty meetings, social events.
• Have a biodays meeting for the department each year????
• (1) We need more space for our faculty, graduate students and for our research enterprise. This is going
to get worse before it gets better. (2) We need to build a larger donor base for the department and its
programs. This needs some serious attention. (3) We need to do a better job of including our post-docs
in what we do and in providing them with opportunities. (4) We need to have better animal space and
space to conduct experiments for grad students. (5) In your lists you included animal diversity and
field/levels of organization diversity but not habitat diversity. We need people working in Florida, on
such problems as fire ecology, estuarine ecology, marine ecology (we have only one really) and
limnology - this part of FL has absolutely unique freshwater habitats yet no one seems to be working
here now. And we have a long history of tropical ecology but surprisingly few seem to be working in
that arena today.
• Strengthen weak points and make strong points stronger
• Push harder for a new building. Push harder for a more helpful and user-friendly IACUC. Push harder
for a more competent and faculty-friendly higher administration. Push harder for elimination of wasteful
• Bring in a couple of big names in the areas in which we lack such people.
18. What do you value most about the department?
• Collegiality, commitment to open discussions.
• The supportive atmosphere for our colleagues (faculty and graduate students). We care about each other
and are willing to work together for the good of the group.
• A very good, harmonious department.
• A nice group of people. Not too many big egos.
• The collegiality of this department is definitely one that distinguishes it the most.
• reasonably open to discussion and honest discussion
• Democratic open conversation, willingness among faculty and graduate students to contribute to the
group, instead of rivalry.
• Surveys like this, and how they're taken seriously. My very excellent colleagues, and their opinions no
matter how much I disagree with them.
• The mix of different disciplines, the friendliness, the democracy, the openness to welcome new people of
• I GREATLY value my colleagues, the caliber of their scholarship, their participatory spirit. I am VERY
concerned that our faculty losses and the current climate here in the Dept, College and University will
• I value the collegial atmosphere -- the process of merging Botany and Zoology has gone more smoothly
than I had expected. I also value the effort that we are making to be a really top quality research and
• Our collegial spirit.
• Openness, friendships, democracy, respect for diversity, support.
• Our culture of democracy, transparency, and collegiality.
• collegiality and a shared purpose and vision of what is important. I hope this shared vision can be rebuilt.
Highly productive, research-oriented faculty. Faculty who respect and are interested in the work that
others do. Strong collaborative efforts with other units.
• The people--collegues, staff, graduate students.
• I have always valued the "team-spirit" attitude shared by most of my colleagues. In the past two years I
have not seem the same degree of "let's work together" as I saw previously. I'm hopeful that will come
with time as the chaos from the past two years slows.
• Faculty body
• A congenial collection of colleagues.
• The strength and tradition in organismal biology.
• The friendly and supportive nature of our interactions; I like coming to work.
• outstanding undergraduates
19. What is your biggest concern about the department?
• Loss of above (see previous question).
• That we get pulled too quickly in too many different directions before we're able to agree on the type of
department we want and be proactive in building that department.
• 1. faculty retention 2. loss of strengths in plant biology 3. lack of a clear vision of what we want to be
• lack of support from upper administration.
• With the merger, there seems to have been a loss of general direction for the department: where do we
envision ourselves in 5-10 years? How would we like to distinguish ourselves from the other Biology
departments at other universities? Do we want to develop a particular area of specialty? I believe that
one of the big challenges is less with the department, and more with the deans, in regards to getting them
on board with the departmental directions. The current deans still have yet to express a clear, well-
thought-out vision for the college and university; this needs to change.
• intellectual direction
• Loss of talented faculty members. Appreciation of those who look for leaving instead of those of us who
are committed to succeed and contribute without moving.
• Leadership is a major concern.
• The physical resources are out of date and inadequate for much of modern biology. A new building is
needed, along with a commitment to support faculty, both at start-up and throughout their careers, with
the resources needed to continue to excel. A second concern is the ease with which faculty seem to be
entertaining job offers from other institutions. Perhaps this reflects a lack of confidence that the
administration will support our programs, but it is certainly hard to plan for the future when it is unclear
who will be here and who will not.
• That we're under a Dean who makes decisions that sometimes disregard our input. A very, very
dangerous thing. I recognize that's not a departmental issue. I fear -- perhaps irrationally -- that many of
the reasons I came here (our specific faculty composition, etc.) are going down the tubes as we lose
people. Marty's out, Tonia's out, Ben's out, Steve may be out, Lou has a great offer, etc. My sense is that
for many of these folks, our new university-level administrative regime has played a role in their leaving.
I'm sure that role varies in magnitude, but it's hard these days to look at UF and not be very concerned.
I'd really love it if the folks that *are* leaving would be willing (if applicable) to join in writing an open
letter to our President and Dean(s). I'm saddened to hear discussions by colleagues about the way the
current regime is influencing their long-term plans vis a vis UF.
• Lack of support from the Dean in retaining people who are either leaving the Department or transferring
to other Departments.
• Our morale is really low and it's hard to feel like our efforts make any difference. It's discouraging.
Some of the factors contributing to low morale include 1) overwhelming teaching and service demands,
2) reduced support for our dept and resulting heavier workloads for our faculty and staff, 3) loss of top
• A major concern is the lack of adequate academic funding -- which leads to all sorts of problems. But,
we can't do much about that. There are still some potential pitfalls in connection with the merger
process, and these are potentially of concern. Thus, we need to move forward in developing a unified
vision as to our role on campus, our view of the department, developing an appropriate plan for faculty
hires, a revised curriculum, etc. The work of the Strategic Planning & Curriculum committees will be
especially important in this regard.
• Losing our collegial spirit, especially with departures of faculty.
• Retaining faculty, covering teaching needs,
• I'm concerned about leadership
• maintaining quality -- quality curriculum, quality in our courses, quality faculty, quality in our graduate
program and a quality program for our undergrads. I am a bit worried about what RCM (responsibility
centered management) is going to do to our workload and everything else we do in this department. The
planning committee should consider RCM very carefully. It is coming and it rewards faculty/departments
according to SCHs. How can we maintain quality under this kind of pressure from the central
administration? What will it do, for example, to our commitment to providing research experience for
our majors? And to our ideas about having capstone courses. There is also going to be heavy pressure to
put our courses on line. How can we maintain our commitment to hands-on, process-oriented education,
with this kind of pressure from the Provost? This is going to be a huge challenge for us; we are going to
have to know what we are about and fight hard to maintain the kind of program that we currently have
(and hopefuly improve).
• The loss of staff members.
• That we will become a department of great individual labs and a mediocre program.
• Value of faculty research
• The historical emerging divide between ecologists and molecular biologists. Lack of space and no solid
promise or plan for a new building. Eventually, no place to park?
• faculty retention
• My distance from it.
• Unwillingness of most of our full professors to step up to be chair. I don’t think this reflects their
commitment to the department as much as it does their lack of faith in the upper administration. Perhaps
it’s not surprising, given the precipitous and unilateral way in which the departments were merged. Still,
it’s fundamentally troubling.
Appendix B. Responses to Graduate Student
Survey (Fall 2009). Responses to open-ended
questions are at end
Open-ended Comments from Graduate Student
Some comments were edited to remove critical references to particular people or offices
5. What else could we do to improve graduate workload and support?
• Teaching positions like lecturer (e.g., Local Flora, Plants in Human Affairs), where one is solely in charge
of a course, should be paid more. Pay should reflect level of effort required. A lecturer's assistant (whose
workload is quite a bit less) should not be earning the same pay as his/her boss. I know we have budget
constraints, but fairness should be considered as well.
• The funding available at UF for research and travel is too limited. Moreover, the application process often
requires a lot of work and doesn't contribute enough funding to make it seem worthwhile.
• raise salary for TAs as the tuition fees have been raised
• BSC labs should not require so much preparation to lecture.
• I think teaching 0.5 time should not be obligatory.
• waive graduate student fees... like many top 10 institutions have already done. It is ridiculous to increase
course fees $100.00 per academic year. I am now paying the university ~$1200.00 per year (7% of my
annual income, $16,900). It is becoming very difficult to make ends meet.
• Perhaps redistribute undergraduate students from biology labs that are exceptionally full to those that are
almost empty to insure even amount of workload by all teaching assistants in the same class.
• Perhaps a (regular) workshop on grant writing led by those students that have managed to garner outside
funds? It is unrealistic to expect faculty/department/university to cover all research expenses (especially if
the student's research interests differ from their advisor's to any significant degree) and, as biologists, we
must learn this skill. An active workshop will make students take more responsibility WHILE giving them
the skills they need. IP does a great initial job of this in the second semester (with the mock DIGG), but
students need more guidance, in general. They also have to understand that it takes many submissions to
get funding and you can't complain until you try (a lot).
• TAships for desirable classes could be awarded more fairly.
• Teaching introductory biology is time consuming in itself. It would be better for the teaching assistant, if
the class material was better organized. I think the lab manual needs to be reviewed so it makes teaching
and class organization less daunting.
• In terms of workload, I think that it is important to have some type of evaluation of what different students
are TA’ing. I know most students are teaching BSC2010 and 2011 labs, and for those labs there is already
very good material and guidelines to work with. I also think it is great that students don't have to write
long lab reports in those classes. But, coming back to my point, some of us are teaching classes with no
guidelines but a very strict and high level requirement (as it should be), and we end up spending at least
30 hours/week working to get the material ready for the class, which makes no sense. I really think each
class that we (graduate students) teach should be revised, and I really think that past evaluations of the
classes we teach should be considered when offering the same classes in other semesters, and having us
teaching them. In terms of support, I feel the department does what it can with the budget it has. I'm sure
faculty and students would like to be able to count with more resources from the department to do
research, but with a limited budget like our department's, there's not really much that can be done.
• About TA Workload: BSC should review topics to be covered by labs. My impression is that undergrads
finish the semester with a superficial knowledge of lots of things but few things are understood well. This
is not reflected by the experiments we perform in labs, which procedures requires more than 3 hours to
perform and sometimes the results are not the expected ones. Sum these up and ends with frustration of
both TAs and students. Grading is split in numerous pre-lab assignments and weekly homework.
Sometimes 10 questions are worth 3.5 or 5 points only. Multiply this times 10 and TAs have hundreds of
questions to grade for only 35 or 50 points. Keep in mind that a typical section of BSC2010 or 2011 has
• Increase fellowship annual stipend to 25k.
• More travel funds and small departmental grants.
• It would be great if there was a space in the building for graduate students to hang out, have coffee and
just sit and talk to each other in general.
• It seems like funding for travel to conferences is continually reduced, making it difficult to plan to attend
conferences that aren't nearby.
• It will be useful to see results of graduate students’ hourly inputs into teaching each week (e.g., the
allocation surveys that Colette has managed) and determine whether course teaching loads are fair. I
marked "unsatisfied" speaking from my experience, and those of other grad students, teaching BSC labs in
a 1/3 time position (2 lab sections), which easily requires 20 hours a week. Now that lab reports have
been removed, the load will certainly be lightened on TA's, and the undergrads are ecstatic about it, but
this solution shortchanges undergraduate biology education, in my opinion. I don't think this situation has
been adequately resolved yet.
• If the department could provide some funding for students who have to teach the whole time, so that they
could take a semester or two off this would really help people move along. Even one summer of funding
would make a big difference.
• Space quickly seems to becoming an issue. I think the plan is to put 17 graduate students in an office. I
am in an office of six. I don't find that I can get serious work done there, so I do it at home. Productivity
hinges on having the right resources, and to me quiet, uncrowded offices should be included in that.
• Aim to make graduate student salaries and work loads more equal. The wide range of salaries (ie
compare IGERT (insanely high), new students and senior students (grandfathered in a salaries that are
nearly impossible to live on) causes a lot of resentment. - Also, I know a lot of students who have taught
every semester, and some have been stuck in BSC for years. This doesn't seem fair and also creates
• Many times there are problems with appointments and funding that do not come to the student's attention
until after the start of the semester - sometimes quite a ways into the semester. Graduate students live on a
shoestring budget and therefore the lapse in a single paycheck can cause a financial crisis. Additionally,
changing the pay status (such as 0.5 to 0.35 FTE) partway through the semester, when the graduate
student has carefully budgeted for one pay status, can cause a financial strain.
• I will never understand the rationale behind giving away Presidental/Alumi scholarships to first year
students who have no idea what to do with their time. If you want to get the most bang for your buck
(which clearly isn't the motivation for giving out these awards though maybe it should be) these awards
should be given out in year 2, 3, 4, or even 5. By the time a student is in his/her 4th or 5th year they know
what they're doing and time is their most precious commodity. That's when the college/department should
be handing out the gift of time.
• Clearly much of this could be solved by money, of which we have none. I think these are an issue at the
University and State level, and the department has very little control. I'm sure our faculty would love it if
we were paid $25K / year for teaching one section of a course. I'm sure faculty would pay our fees each
semester if they could.
• Increase grad student salary.
• More small grants for research & travel...put this high on the agenda.
• It would be wonderful to have a Graduate Student lounge for power naps and casual discussion when it's
too hot or raining outside.
• If possible, create small research grants accessible only to the graduate students of the department.
• Maybe don't make students teach who really don't want to, and give all the students that do the
opportunity regardless of funding source. Seems silly that students that want to teach formally might not
• More travel grants for conferences and workshops. Bigger grants, so we don't have to dig into our small
salaries to attend conferences that we have to go to anyways, it seems unfair.
• I need a source of research support that does not come from my adviser, and will allow me to spend more
time on research rather than teaching. I'm desperate!
• Salaries should not be fixed. Year to year, I receive the same amount (from a fellowship stipend) even as
fees and cost of living increase. For example, tuition fees are now over $100 higher than they were when I
started. I have to spend one entire paycheck to cover tuition fees. Also, for incoming students on the same
fellowship, I am making $8500 a year less. The work flexibility of the fellowship has been great, but my
anxiety over money has made my experience here more stressful. It would be great if the department
could offer more in terms of research funding. I don't receive any support from my advisor (which I don't
fault my advisor for, but some opportunities through the department would have been nice, especially in
the first 1-2 years of research when overall anxiety is high...it would be a good departmental practice to
try to assist new students I think). Overall on the plus side, I've gotten better at writing grants. I am
troubled by the fact that the University offers research money and stipends, but often the applicants have
to come at the recommendation of the department. There has been grumbling (and I think this probably IS
a real issue) that departmental funding priorities that are passed on to the college/university are made on
bases other than merit (e.g. departmental service, notoriety, seniority (6-7th year students versus 5th
year...which seem equivalent if you are both trying to finish). My office space is horrible. My officemate
and I hit our heads together when we are both at our desks. I was in a better office before (with a real desk
and better space) and I was a lot happier - this space was given to a new faculty member. I used to think
there could be more "real" graduate classes offered in our department - although as I’ve taken seminars
and classes and advanced, I've decided classes are often too general to be applicable to dissertation work
or research interests anyway...so i'm not sure what I think about it all.
• For student's whose advisers don't have money to put them on an RAship it gets really old teaching the
same 1-2 classes every semester. Plus those students are not getting the same amount of valuable research
experience that will land them a job at a university. They are pretty much getting way more teaching
experience than most jobs require. Over the last few years, it seemed to me that we have hired people
who have less teaching experience than many of our graduate student, but more research experience and
pubs (when comparing finish the same point in their career. e.g., just finished PhD).
• sometimes the workload can be resolved by having more TA's involved but this sometimes does not
depend on the Department.
• I am perpetually struck that the department/university is perfectly willing to put up "travel funds" to send
us to meetings, but won't fund the same travel when it is essential to our research.
• Give raises each year according to what incoming graduate students get.
• Graduate student space seems to be withering away more and more every year, and new hires are
frequently taking over what had previously been graduate student offices. The most conducive type of
graduate student office houses ~3 individuals. 8 - 10 grad students thrown together in a big room is much
harder to get work done, as potential distractions increase exponentially.
6. What else could we do to improve mentoring?
• The best thing about our department is how approachable the faculty are with students. It is really a great
place to work and I'm grateful for that every day.
• Although my adviser has the funds, he won't get equipment fixed or support a research assistantship.
Also, he/she is too controlling.
• In terms of senior student/ postdoc interactions, I feel we need to develop our group (both lab and
departmental) identity to a greater extent. The competition among graduate students within our program is
a barrier to academic development / continuation.
• I am very satisfied!
• I think we have excellent professors and very good students in the department, and I have to say I'm
extremely happy to be in the Biology department. My only complaint is that the department doesn't
evaluate the professors as advisers, and that can be problematic. I know the relationship between students
and advisers is complex, and when it fails it is not necessarily one side's fault. But I do feel like there are
professors who could do a much better job guiding students, and there's simply no place or space to say or
discuss that. If a student has a problem with an adviser, what usually happens is that the student will either
quit graduate school or change program. This of course causes all sorts of changes and questioning in the
student's life, however the professor just continues teaching and being an adviser, and in many cases,
having problems with other students. I really think advisers need to be evaluated, as they can have
significantly negative effects on the professional lives of those students on which the department is
investing money in.
• Incorporate FLMNH more in departmental decision making regarding mentoring.
• More opportunities to interact. We really need to get into the european habit of having coffee breaks
together and actually have space for that. Faculty hidden in an inner office are not nearly as easily
approached as those that you have a cup of tea/coffee with over a break. That way you get to know your
colleagues, and knowing your colleagues is likely to increase your appreciation for them, and therefore for
your own work environment. You also find out about your neighbor's work, and realize you share interests
and can join forces. You more easily exchange ideas, and in such a setting brainstorming is more likely to
be spontaneous and functional. Taking a 15 minute break may turn into an hour of brainstorming, but it
gets you further. Hiding in our offices and try working 10 hours straight is a naive attempt to productivity.
Productivity can be achieved at higher efficiency if you manage to keep to concentration up and stay
focused. A regular break and interaction with colleagues will facilitate this process. There is plenty of
expertise around that we don't get to tap into unless we make appointments and come in with agendas.
This philosophy is not one that I believe in....
• I have only been here a brief time but it seems to me that post docs tend not to be well integrated into the
program. Regardless if their duration here is short, they are a valuable resource to undergrads and I'd like
to see them as a more visible and accessible part of the department
• Encourage more faculty to be involved in departmental seminar and IP.
• I think everyone hits road blocks with their advisor at one point or another. I definitely feel too controlled
and pressured, while I know others long for more advisor involvement. It's a tough balance, but I think it's
more up to the individual student and advisor to work out, but I think the department might be able to tell
us what's reasonable to expect in a mentoring situation (perhaps in the grad orientation seminar...where I
think it is somewhat touched on).
• Regular communication with advisors is key. Many advisors find themselves so busy with outside
activities that they have very little, if any, time for graduate students. This lapse in communication, leads
to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Also, supporting the graduate student in a positive way, such as
giving praise, can be just as important as giving criticism - and many advisors forget the importance of
• Is there really an answer to this question? Does the department have the desire/ability to make changes in
the mentoring relationships within the community? What role could the strategic planning committee
possibly have in changing the behavior of a faculty member? Clearly, I'm disheartened by this topic. I
don't understand why scientific/intellectual excellence seems enough to excuse the heinous behavior of
some of our faculty members.
• I am not sure how would you do this, sorry I wish I could have a constructive criticism.
• I think I'm in a darn good situation compared to most students. I would like it if my advisor spent more
time with me on my project. However, I am grateful because I don't go months without seeing my
advisor, he/she has never stolen my ideas, he/she has never treated me like a lab tech, he/she has never
belittled me, he/she has never given me false praise, he/she has never failed to critique my work when
asked, he/she does not pester me about my hourly whereabouts, his/her success does not depend on me
and so he/she allows me to fail as part of the learning process (instead of placing blame for failing), etc.
I'm sure all faculty knows what makes an advisor, but it seems that a handful have little understanding of
what makes a mentor - and what that difference is.
• I love my advisor.
• Might be nice to formally distribute mentorship materials to advisors, have an advisor/advisee "contract"
that gets reviewed each year with understood obligations of each to the other - anything to get
unsatisfactory advisors to acknowledge obligations to students
• It seems like the only option (untold truth but strongly felt) is to go into a post-doc and then become a
faculty member. There is no consideration for other options and the needs to develop other skills (GIS,
computing, languages, etc...) that would make me competitive in NGO or government agencies.
Everything is focused on an academic career in the US. Also, I had never been in the US system before
and completely lost my first year with misunderstandings of the system (taking classes, which ones, how
many, what for, trying to come up with my own research project while already working on a side project
(which I thought was my original dissertation projects but wasn't), etc... it was highly disheartening and I
barely came back for my second year. I am not the only one and I know of stories of international students
dropping out because of problems in communication and lack of guidance from supervisors on this
• The mentoring by committee members should be more equally divided. My mentor does not take into
consideration my professional and personal goals, and cannot tolerate any questions regarding the validity
of the research that he/she wants me to do.
• One thing that would have REALLY helped me is some understanding of the structure/dynamics of a
committee meeting. I anticipated these meetings at first to be similar to meetings with my advisor - long,
circuitous, brain-storming, casual conversation, etc. This doesn't go over well in a committee meeting and
I think if I had a better strategy some of those earlier meetings would have been less awful. I came away
feeling little progress had been made, I felt patronized, and frustrated. I think maybe as part of the
graduate orientation seminar or something this topic could be covered: how are committee meetings
different from advisor interactions (e.g. committee members are less knowledge of the system/project, do
not remember the last meeting easily, don't know you as well as a person and how you work, in many
ways more skeptical and less knowledgeable about the field, have to "sell" your ideas more and more
directly...). A panel would also be nice for this (with both faculty and grad students) to gain perspective -
the social dynamics among faculty in committees are non-trivial and variable. I also think committees
advise you differently depending on your age/experience - these things could be anticipated by new grad
students so they have a more positive experience. I'm not trying to imply that there aren't positive things to
be gained, but as you can see people remember the negative when they are looking for ways to fix things...
In other ways (non-committee meeting venues) my committee has been incredibly helpful - it is really just
the dynamic of these group meetings that is tricky. I am pretty satisfied in most areas that I think are
important for succeeding in grad school. I think logistical stuff is hard to advise about - it tends to be that
you have to make judgment calls, and often your knowledge of the system and experiment are better than
your advisor's (although this could be because I have a very hands-off advisor).
• As might be expected, the mentoring abilities (and quality) of advisers, committee members, other faculty
and advanced students is very hit or miss; either an individual is awesome or they are not, and it can take a
while to find the people who are good mentors for you and your learning style.
• Even when we can talk about the issues we might have with our advisers with the graduate coordinator,
sometimes the problems still persist. I wish there were guidelines in terms of how long you should wait to
get feedback from your adviser, how to make schedules more official so they don't surprise you and ask
more from you or vice versa.
• I get the impression that faculty get some benefit from being on committees. I'm not sure we always get
benefits from having them. I have two faculty members (beyond my advisor) that I rely upon greatly
for professional/academic advice. One is on my committee, one is not.
7. What else could we do to improve the quality of the graduate program?
• 7 hours of classroom time each week for IP was unjustified. It cuts into time that should be spent doing
• Please provide more botany seminars. I would love it if the department created lab courses in applied
phylogenetic and biogeographic methods. We have great theoretical and methodological courses, but
we could use more practice with the methods. I think a lot of students would be interested in taking
• Outlaw Powerpoint in the classroom.
• We need more graduate courses. I feel that a number of seminar style courses are offered each
semester, but few to none lecture/lab based courses geared towards graduate students.
• I think pre-requisites of some advanced graduate courses are taken too lightly. For example, [in
instances] first-year graduate students do not have the background necessary to take the last of a series
of courses focusing on a specific biological area. More specifically, in the Systematics program,
students that have never taken the most basic course (principles of systematics) are able to register for
the most advanced courses (methods of phylogenetic inference). This forces the instructor of the most
advanced courses to provide much background on topics already discussed in previous classes. I feel
this precludes advanced students to learn more about cutting edge methods used in their field of study.
• Announce annual training grant application deadlines earlier.
• More diversity would be a plus; Asian and African American students seem very underrepresented in
• Courses are one of the areas that could use the most work. Although the goals of the IP course fit well
with the department, the current implementation doesn't really achieve the stated goals. The modular
design of the present course feels more like 4-5 "mini-courses", each of which looks at a different
problem from a different perspective (e.g., physiological, modeling, behavior, etc.), rather than focusing
on how approaching the *same* problem from different perspectives (i.e., an *integrative* approach)
can lead to insights that are otherwise not possible. One possible way to improve the course would be to
pick a theme or system each term, then explore that through the various lenses. In this way, the course
would truly focus on *integrating* different aspects in a cohesive study. While I love the flexibility of
the graduate curriculum, it feels like several graduate-level courses are missing. The seminar-type
courses tend to cover a broad range of topics, but there aren't any more structured courses for topics
such as evolution, anatomy, etc. I realize that a key element of graduate school is learning how to
expand one's knowledge via the primary literature, speakers, conferences, seminars, etc., but a few
more advanced courses would be helpful. As it stands, one of the key ways that we have to fill in our
knowledge (after, say our committee identifies areas of weakness during quals...) is to TA a course.
While this is helpful, it's not really the same as having a formal graduate course that approaches the
topic from a more sophisticated standpoint than an undergraduate course.
• I would love to see the seminar series improved. A number of the talks this semester have already been
bombs and I'd like to see a better filter of who we invite to speak- it’s a time invest that we should all
want, rather than feel obligated, to make
• Encourage more faculty and graduate students to attend the departmental seminar. Lately there have
not been many people in attendance. In particular when students are giving their exit seminars. This
comes across as if the department does not really support us.
• Every student I've talked to who has entered the program got very little information about the
university, the department and what needed to happen to get them started. This leads to delays in
registration and holds on ISIS accounts, which then leads to expensive late fees. Sending the incoming
students a checklist of things they need to do and a timeline of when they should do these things, would
really help incoming students feel supported by the department.
• Keep IP! The complainers almost always end up appreciating what the course provided them, but only
after a few years from completing the course.
• Both Botany and Zoology used to pride themselves on an organismal focus, which is being lost. We
need faculty who love and know their study organisms, and who impart their excitement and wisdom
about natural history to their students (graduate and undergraduate). How many courses have outdoor
labs? I can think of only two.
• Give teaching credit for IP and require both faculty and students to be involved! That course does so
much to shape our community and it could do so much more if everyone were involved!
• There are not enough actual graduate courses...too many of the course offerings are only seminars.
• Graduate weekend and IP are critical to the success of this community. I know there has been pressure
to drop both, but doing so would be a monumental error. Most of us love this department, and most of
us would like more community rather than less. We would like more opportunities to have informal
exchanges with faculty. Many of are worried that the formal assumption and feeling was that we were
all peers - sometimes the divide between us feels like it's growing. I mean, ya'll never have parties
anymore! Come to zoocial! We voted to invite faculty to grad forum, and I hope that some of you will
• dept. seminar series is extremely weak...in fact the weakest part of our program. prioritize this (find the
$) to fund better speakers to interact with faculty & grad students.
• more journal clubs on more topics. There hasn't been a journal club on conservation genetics for years.
All the conservation journal clubs are ecology based only, it is not integrative enough for non-
ecologists to attend. Once again, it seems that people are trying to super-specialize rather than taking
broader perspectives on current conservation or biological problems. The diversity of the department is
not being exploited fully.
• Professors lower the quality of teaching when they depend entirely on powerpoint. It distances them
from the learning process and makes it more difficult for the students to take notes or to know what is
important, or organize the information for themselves.
• Admissions - is there still an entirely different application for UF? other schools had a gen. app. I found
this to be annoying and strange - also the deadline was different than most other places i applied. UF
stood out as being a little...disorganized. IP - could use more organization, but is basically good. I
like the diversity here, and the students are more engaged than in other places.
• Some semesters the departmental seminar series can be very repetitive, having several talks in a row (if
not the whole semester) which are from the same field. I think IP in the long run could be more
integrative. Instead of just talking about a different of fields (e.g., a unit on ecology and then a unit on
physiology), it could actually get into how physiology informs ecology.
• Admissions: I think the involvement of the grad students in admissions is what keeps me fired up on
this program. It really creates the feel of an "intentional community"- you choose us, we choose you...
when folks bypass the gradstudents (or don't show up for gradweekend) I feel short changed. IP: I
feel much the same about IP- It should be absolutely mandatory for everyone. No passes. And that
goes for faculty as well. When faculty dismiss or talk down IP, it makes us all look bad. More faculty
involvement would be a welcome change. It is how the grad students learn which faculty actually are
interested in the department and graduate education. Course Diversity: is poor and getting worse.
How many times have courses printed in the catalog been offered? It seems like all the people who can
actually identify organisms are now in the museum, and offer classes only out of kindness. We live
surrounded by water, yet we don't offer a marine biology class, one of the largest draws to any biology
program..., ("doesn't fit into the course program" was the explanation I got). It seems we are going
more and more towards a biomedical department and loosing the focus on organismal biology,
evolution, and ecology. Seems like we've jumped tracks. Diversity: What diversity? Did you folks
ever come up with the diversity statement promised years ago? UF doesn't actually support diversity, it
supports targeted minority groups and excludes others. Gay folks (or first generation students, or, or)
aren't eligible for "diversity" funding. Without a statement saying otherwise, the unspoken feeling is
that the department breaks along the same lines. How many offices have "Safe Space" stickers in our
department? (I know the exact number... do you?) To even define diversity on this form as "(ethnic,
gender, etc.)" is really quite insulting. Feels like lip service to the topic. Say what you mean. Don't
let this seem negative. Our program (and I mean OUR, meaning I claim some ownership) has a lot
going for it. But the merger has taken two easily distracted departments and made an amoebic
monstrosity. No visible sense of leadership or direction, just tugging in many directions and waffling
around. My advice is decide as a department where you want to go, and if you want to give up on
organismal biology as a whole, then redirect IP to the new, reclaimed, focus. That also means getting
the entire faculty to commit to IP, and departmental community functions. The zoology half of bio
used to be world renowned for organismal biology, and tropical biology. Those have been lost in
recent years. I'd love to see the new department reclaim greatness.
• Departmental seminars "hit or miss", it seems like the speakers don't know to speak to a general
• Better organization of seminar courses (posting readings in enough advance), leading discussion in a
format that supports learning theory/background information not just covering paper topic, etc.
8. What else could we do to improve logistical support?
• Suggestion: Is there a way to set up our courses in the UF system so we can enroll without the help of a
graduate secretary. I think it is silly that we have to do this. There should be a way for us to enroll for
• Contracts should be ready to sign, earlier in the term. The stockroom people need more help.
• Pest Control! I have had to throw away printers because cockroaches live in them. They only clean the
offices and labs once per semester and the interior look of our building is not worthy of a first world
• I just think Bartram and Carr could be more organized and also cleaner. I don't understand why the
hallways are always full of stuff and so dirty.
• make vehicle use policy guidelines known throughout department. What library resources?
• The library has a meager collection of books on ecology and evolution. To solve part of this problem, the
department (students + professors) should send to the UF library a unified list with appropriate titles each
• It seems like all the staff are incredibly overburdened. At schools I've been at in the past, they used
student assistants to help with the workload. Some tasks, of course, can't be handled by student
assistants, but having student help can ease the workload of the staff, which helps the department run
more smoothly, and helps reduce the stress faced by the staff. In general, I've found all the staff to be
*willing* to help, but they sometimes simply don't have *time* to help adequately.
• I'd wish the library had broader online access- I still use my account from my old university because its
coverage is so much better. And, I wish that we had some common lounge space in the building that I
could eat lunch in instead of in my tiny office
• I'm not sure what you meant by library resources. We always seem to wish the libraries carried more
online, but I don't think that is the department's responsibility. Regarding maintenance--I think we have
the most stinky building on campus.
• As a graduate student I do not have a password for the copy/fax machine. I have been told that if it’s not
related to a class (and thus has a class code), that I cannot use the copy/fax machine. I feel that if I'm
faxing information to tech transfer, I should be able to use a departmental fax machine - it would make
my life a LOT easier, than running every form all over campus each time something needs to be sent. I
also think graduate students should have a limited number of copies they can make on the departmental
copier (maybe 50 copies per semester), so that they can share documents with other graduate students
without having to run over to the library to make copies.
• Allow graduate students to use the library during the summer!
• Our cohort missed out on any formal presentation of the expectations and information about
departmental and degree policies.
• More information about departamental policies
• Building is old but smells & has cockroach infestation. Let's clean this up. Enforce policy to have old
grad students to take belongings with them.
• I wish there were more grants for travel to the field, to conferences and some grant to attending one
workshop during our graduate student career at least. Also, the library does not hold some key journals
like Heredity for example. An electronic copy would be a good thing. I also wish there was at least one
truck we could take to collect within Florida. We could book it for a maximum of 3-4 days at a time. No
vehicle is good enough for that at the moment.
• I don't think the vans are very safe. The one I drove has too much play to the steering wheel.
• Libraries at this University leave something to be desired...I don't think this is the fault of the department
• Eliminate roaches from the building.
• It would be nice if the stock room guys took staggered lunches so they weren't always closed for an hour
right in the middle of the day. Also they need help down there with all the layoffs, it would be great to
hire someone to help them!
9. What else could we do to improve the mix of disciplines in the
• I think that physiology, development, and morphology are underrepresented.
• It would be great to have more people working in tropical ecology in the department.
• Hire a plant morphology/anatomy professor
• During my time here, several professors have retired, and the new hires have had different specializations
than the people who retired. While I understand that the department will evolve with science, I think it is
also important not to lose diversity.
• No structure/functionalmorphology of plants professor.
• There is a lack of behavior faculty and therefore courses/speakers/collaborators that would benefit my
• We need to regain our strength in tropical biology.
• Do all of our ecologists have to be community ecologists? I think we lack in evolutionary ecology,
physiological ecology. Also in life-history evolution. I'm worried that we will move too far towards a
cell / molecular level, and not have enough organismal biologists.
• The department may include more Paleontology disciplines.
• I wish there was more conservation genetics research/interest rather than researchers stating that on their
title as something that looks good but that they are actually not doing actively. It is misleading.
• As a former member of Zoology,I find it strange and disheartening that Botany folks effectively
champion hires in Botany but that Zoology does not do likewise. Why can’t Biology push hard for
hiring a herpetologist, mammalogist, or ornithologist (I don’t think we have any of those types!) in the
same way that Botany has pushed for hiring people with expertise in specific taxa?
• There are not enough graduate level Botany courses.
• I don't think there are enough invertebrates represented across most disciplines - and when there are,
these are model organisms. I feel a lack when I have to ask invert-specific questions, regardless of the
• More people focused on Systematics, structure and Functional Morphology should be in the program
• Among the former botany faculty there are still several people with an understanding of plant diversity.
I don't think this can be said of former zoology. There are very few (zero?) folks in the department who
would want to, or be allowed to, call themselves a zoologist. This is a MAJOR loss of a vital
underpinning to the well-being of the department and biological science in general. Realize and fix it
now, or it'll only bite you harder down the road. The museum won't always be there for you to fall back
• Hire more ecologists.
10. What else could we do to improve gender and ethnic diversity?
• More female professors would be nice!
• Improve gender ratio in all levels of permanent academic positions.
• Women are still criticized for work-life balance issues, such as having to leave meetings early to pick up
children. Also, there are shockingly few minorities represented in the faculty of the department (i.e.
almost no African Americans)
• Of the new hires I can think of, only 2 of the 9 were women, and one of those is leaving. The diversity of
new hires does not reflect the diversity of graduate students.
• grad students = good mix faculty = needs work. Do special hires.
• Ethnic diversity is fine, only if the professors are easily understood, especially when discussing their
discipline. Also, professors must accommodate themselves to American culture and the expectations of
• I'm not sure what you mean by gender (i.e., break down of male/female - wouldn't this be sex? or
something else). If its male/female, I think it is fine.
• I'm not answering that question. It implies that the only forms of diversity that are important and
worthy of recognition are gender and ethnicity.
11.What do you wish you had been told about the program before you
started? What would you tell prospective or new students?
• In my opinion, our department does it very well. When I was enrolled, I knew what I needed to know
and do, just following the instructions given to me. For new students, find out your real interests before
you get started doing research.
• I would tell new students that if they have to depend on a teaching assistantship, finding time for research
will be very difficult, maybe impossible.
• It is hard to answer this because things have changed so much in the past few years
• That there was going to be a merger and to get to know the Botany folks! It's great to have access to all
of these great minds... I just wish we would have taken advantage of their proximity sooner. Our program
• safe bike routes
• Student fees
• I wished Botany and Zoology had been one department when I started, as I would have loved to have
taken IP. I tell prospective students that the now Biology department is great. I also wish I had known
my adviser in advance, and I tell prospective students it is crucial to find a good adviser. Finally, I wish I
had known how hard it is to do a good PhD project, and I also tell prospective students that they should
only do a PhD if they have an idea they really want to work with.
• I would tell them that it is an excellent place to develop as a researcher in natural sciences, because
faculty and students handle high level discussions on these topics, are accessible to talk with and people
are generally very nice and kind.
• Class enrollment caps would be raised without our knowledge. I found out last spring on the first day of
class, when more than expected were enrolled.
• The University has restricted funding to support research, so students depend on their advisors--or on the
students’ own funding. Hence, since the beginning of the program, students should be aware of the
funding opportunities that are available out there.
• In general I am very happy with this program and the opportunities to collaborate and communicate with
people from other disciplines.
• Embrace IP. It’s hard to fully appreciate until years later.
• As a new student, I wish I had known logistical information a bit sooner- i.e. what paper work we all
needed to submit prior to getting to campus. Other than that, I think it’s been a great experience so far
• TA support with teaching techniques varies widely between courses.
• I wish I was told what I needed to do to get registered for classes, and what classes I should register for.
Instead I felt that the department had no idea I was coming (which was not true). I strongly believe a
checklist and timeline of events to accomplish prior to showing up at UF would be helpful, as well as a
contact list of who to call for various problems.
• Two things: 1. The greatest challenges you will experience in grad school will be challenges to your
senses of self and self-worth. You will cry, you will wonder if you're good enough, and you will question
your longevity in science. The skill you must perfect first, is that of presenting yourself with confidence
to your community and, especially, your committee. 2. Don't be stubborn. It is not worth the agony and
the neglect to forge out on your own. Do the project your advisor wants you to do. (That one kills me, but
• I wish I could have had better information about my advisor. I knew it was going to be difficult but it has
been a thousand times more difficult.
• From a graduate student perspective, the merging of the botany and zoology departments is positive
overall, and what I would tell a new student now is very different from what I would have told a new
student a year or two ago.
• There is little to no support for students to take field courses. There are small grants and some
fellowships that are available from the University, if you know where to look and who to ask.
• This is more administrative than program related, but Prospective students need to know immediately
after entering about the residency classification/re-classification system. That could save much headache
in the future. The minor university bureaucracy stuff is really time consuming and cumbersome.
• more information about the relation about time-work with 0.5 or 0.33 appointments. Information about
Funding Opportunies outside the department but inside Unviersity
• In- house funding opportunities (travel and research grants) are becoming non-existent. Seminar series is
weak & presumably not a top priority...this reflects negatively on the dept.
• Nothing in particular. There were no surprises.
• How much time it takes to teach and how people in the department feel that a graduate student who
teaches should finish in the same amount of time that it takes a fellow.
• project formation and execution is highly unstructured, and therefore stressful (true for all grad programs,
but still stressful) Ask for help from as many faculty as possible Be careful choosing your advisor
• being told about the functioning of the American system. In Europe, we don't take classes, we don't have
so much pressure to get grants, no qualifying exams, etc... it's not a bad thing, it was just never explained
to me and I had to discover it through trial and error and making bad experiences.
• What you see is what you get...which is great as far as the department is concerned. Unfortunately this is
also true on the university level (bad libraries and a lot of football).
• You will likely be teaching every semester you are here, unless you can get an yourself a fellowship
• I wish I was told about the negative side of my adviser. Everybody tells you about the good things but
once you’re in, the negative side comes out and it could have huge repercussions in your performance
and in the advancement of your research (not to mention your self esteem). What I would tell prospective
students is "know your adviser very well.” Talk to former students because for obvious reasons they
tend to tell the truth about your advisers.
• That I would be 8 hours of actually class time teaching.
• I would say "it's got great potential, just make sure it heads in the right direction"
• I would tell prospective students to be aggressive in finding their own funding for research and
conferences. Not much to go around at UF.
• There are severe pay inequalities throughout. You may be stuck teaching BSC despite supposed
seniority rules, etc.
• I would tell new students, rather than to load up on courses for all their credits initially, to take some
research credits right off the bat so they can allocate some time to starting their research.
• Mentoring styles of the faculty in the department (some students do not openly share this information
during interview weekend, perhaps due to their desire to promote a good image of the department, this
leaves the prospective student with an inaccurate depiction of the environment in the lab group and
department). Suggested readings or useful reference books to have on hand (e.g., Primer of Ecological
12. What else could we do to improve the graduate program?
• Update the research progress on the websit.e Raise TA salaries
• Emails!!!!!!!! Could we make it the responsibility of a SINGLE person to forward "important" emails to
the rest of the department? When I get the same email forwarded 20 times from different department
members, it has the opposite of intended effects! How can we be expected to be productive members of
the department if we have to spend absurd amounts of time filtering through all these emails?
• Apart from the obvious - academic excellence - maybe better funding opportunities, better PR, nicer
• More (regularly scheduled) workshops - in particular, covering funding strategies, statistics, and
manuscript writing. These are the currency of our field. Let's put our heads together and make sure
everyone who graduates has these skills.
• Not much
• I think the biology graduate program is great because it provides endless opportunities to our
professional development, and is completely open to what the student wants to do for his/her career. The
only thing I would add, as I said before, is the evaluation of the advisers.
• Teach more genomics and systematics course. Continue plant systematics course after retirement of
Walter Judd by hiring a suitable replacement.
• More small and travel grants. A course number for graduate students that want to run their own
seminars. Maybe we could get credit for putting one together. A biology department day where we all
present posters or give talks to each other. An invited speaker or two could come as well. This could
happen once a year in Reitz Union or another venue. Soil and Water science does this and it is fun, great
for departmental unity, and interesting to see what everyone else does.
• Again, a common space for graduate students in the building would be really cool.
• Not sure yet
• I think the quals experience here is so ambiguous and because it is so undefined, it is more scary. I
would like to see clear expectations for the process.
• Further assist graduate students with being good educators, not just with being good researchers.
• See previous comments.
• I am having a hard time integrating with the zoology students but I believe that the new / incoming
students don't have that program. Keep teaching IP.
• At the department level, merging leads to more opportunities to get small research grants for Botany
students because Botany did not have an equivalent to the Riewald-Olowo grants, but there is now more
competition for former Zoology students. At the college level, merging leads to fewer opportunities for
travel grants and dissertation fellowships. For the new students, more or less competition should not be
as much of an issue because they don't know another way, but I think the department needs to consider
that, at least at this point, a smaller percentage of students will be receiving support from the college and
• Improve relationships among grad students and professors especially form Botany and Zoology.
• I think it's excellent.
• I would setup a "graduate mentor" system where first-year students are paired with a senior graduate
student (i.e. candidate student) to help them during their first semester with logistics, stress, advisor
relations, tips, IP, etc.
• try and get more funding for professional development to give everyone a chance to attend one
conference a year within the US and one workshop during the time they are here. I mean a grant that
would cover the complete cost. I think giving everyone 1 semester free of teaching to write up their
dissertation is important, just as I feel that the alumni fellowship give some students a very high salary
for not teaching for 3 years while some of us experience the same pressure to finish in 4 years but still
have to work 20 hours a week to earn crappy money (and still have to pay to go to conferences).
• Allow students to change advisors when they feel they cannot work with the one they started with. This
should be done without penalty to the student, and other professors should not have to be hesitant about
accepting someone who wanted to change. Students should be allowed to be in charge of their own
• See other sections
• Give IP an overhaul in terms of content and structure.
• Find a really great functional vertebrate morphologist who wants to stay here.
• Mandatory involvement for grad students/faculty. If faculty want grad students then they should have
to participate in IP.
• Mix up teaching requirements. Give pay raises.
• Bring back the travel grants. It really made a difference that the department encouraged us to go to
conferences to the extent that we'd get the one-per-year grant to go. It was one of the things I would
always tell prospective grad students about in describing the respect and value the dept. placed on the
grads (along with our participation in faculty searches, etc).
• Follow-up with students in a more organized manner (regular meetings with grad coordinator, for
13. What do you value most about the department?
• our department's research progress
• There is a great and friendly working environment. Professors are very accessible. Both the department
and university are very diverse (at least among graduate students). I love that there are people working
everywhere in the world and lots of opportunities for collaboration.
• The importance the dept. has traditionally placed on graduate students. The diversity of fields and cross-
fertilization among the faculty.
• The people. And the incredible training. You give us exposure to all of the tools we need to be successful
(however, some students need more structure... thus my earlier comments).
• open communication
• Accessibility of professors.
• Its excellent, exccellent professionals, its endless possibilities of interests and its open program where
you can just choose what you want to be. I also love the fact that you have everything you need to do
whatever you want. The problem is the lack of time, but you can be whoever you decide to be and learn
whatever you want to learn and that is just great. I also love the fact that we have direct access to all
professors and other students and post-docs, as I think discussion between there three is fundamental for
the development of good scientific ideas.
• Good environment to work, intellectually and personally.
• The large number of plant systematists.
• I value my fellow graduate students most. I feel like I have learned the most from them and get a lot of
support from them. This is not to say there is insufficient support from faculty, but to say that it is
wonderful that the graduate students are so eager to help one another out. For example, senior grad
students were invaluable to me as I tried to learn how the department works, learn new lab equipment,
and tell me which classes were best to take. I truly feel we our own best resource.
• The existing interaction among grad students improves the quality of the department.
• I value the opportunity to interact with a wide range of faculty without a lot of territory issues; going
outside my discipline is very comfortable and my advisor would have no problem if I went to some other
faculty member for a second opinion.
• I value its size and diversity of disciplines. I also appreciate that there is, generally, high mutual respect
of other faculty members' research areas. While there is probably always room for improvement there,
I've seen much worse inter-discipline interactions in other biology departments (e.g., eco-what?), so in
that way, being a part of the biology department here has been refreshing. I also value being able to see
the hiring process first-hand--that has been extremely useful as a graduate student preparing for faculty
applications and interviews.
• The morale of the group- people are really positive about being here and constructive
• As long as I have been here it has felt like one big family where everyone seems for the most part to be
supportive and working together as a team. I am not sure it is still feeling that way, we have had a
number of faculty move on.
• Friendly people
• The high level of research and a dedication to teaching are important strengths of this department!
• I value the fact that I am friends with faculty members. Not because they're on my committee, not
because they let me use their lab, but because we have common interests (in beer drinking and science
talking). I value the sense of community in our department (which seems to have faded slightly in recent
months) which, I think, is rooted in the fact that students (often, but not always) are treated as equals
among the faculty. I value the vision upon which our mission statement is/was based - a vision of
integration among disciplines and movement away from specialization to the point of exclusion.
• The good professors, that is what keeps me going
• I value how open the lines of communication are generally among students and faculty members as well.
• I appreciate that the faculty do seem to value the input of the graduate students.
• The academic level, infrastructure
• friendly, open, vales grad student opinion
• Sense of community and collaborative inclinations of the graduate students and faculty.
• The atmosphere of support. Faculty are great about meeting with grad students even if the person is not
on their committee. Likewise, the graduate students are collaborative and help each other.
• The idea that "every door is open"
• The collaborative nature of the faculty, and their willingness to work with students outside their labs on
projects and with techniques
• The diversity in the research. The quality of the classes. The availability of the faculty to help any
student, even if they are not in their field. The last point is very very appreciable.
• People are engaged - enthusiastic (you would be surprised how students/faculty in other departments
behave), interested, helpful. There is a big mix of disciplines and people - which you can either use to
your advantage if you want, or not if you want to be more focused. There is a focus on integration - this
has been great for me because I feel like I like to dabble in many sub-disciplines and I don't like feeling
pigeon-holed. Everyone here makes me feel very comfortable.
• overall everyone is very friendly and open to discuss anything related to science
• What I value the most is that you can go to most of the faculty and get advice from them. The support
graduate students get from Faculty, the familiarity with which they treat us and the fact they actually
listen to us is something I'd never seen before.
• Diversity and quality of science
• The sense of "Intentional Community". Mutual Selection really gives a sense of partnership.
• Strength of faculty and student research.
• 1. Diversity of disciplines and students. 2. Ample research/lab space provided. 3. Very friendly and
helpful office and IT staff.
• The congeniality and spirit of collaboration - how constantly people are sharing equipment etc among
labs, as well as intellectual collaboration. Also the fact that grad students are asked for our opinion and
vote for new faculty hires. Further, the fact that the dept guaranteed funding is huge as a grad student -
that at the minimum we know we can depend on a TA-ship is wonderful.
• Faculty and students strive to create a good community in the department.
14. What is your biggest concern about the department?
• I sometimes wonder if the botany program will suffer due to the merger of Botany and Zoology.
• Financial support for students
• The merge is troubling as is the high rate of turnover of faculty.
• Ego (without pointing fingers). It can be barrier to progress.
• My biggest concern is that everyone seems to be enchanted with the new scientific techniques
(molecular, isotopes, etc), and more and more we are forgetting what good science really is. I feel there
are many biologists now that see the method as the science, and are just focused on a particular new
technique but don't even know what their research question or hypothesis is. My biggest fear is that the
department will forget about really important science, yet not so "hot" science, such as simple life
• In all other biology departments formed in a merger between botany and zoology, the number of people
in general has shrunk. In particular the number of botany positions has shrunk in most cases to less than a
handful of tenure track positions. The shut-out of botanical topics has already begun with the merger of
seminars. No botanical speakers have given a seminar this year. UF used to be one of the few places left
on the map where botany researchers could come and speak. Now it is no longer, unless the seminars are
reinstated as separate. Why not do this?
• My biggest concern is the loss of distinguished faculty (Losing Dr. Cohn and Dr. Bolker is a blow to our
department). Also, our systematics people rock and I hope we continue to support that branch of
• I worry about our ability to retain faculty members, since so many of our best seem tempted with offers
from elsewhere. I also hope we can remain a cohesive department even with the merger between botany
• The future of the department. We have lost so many faculty members who helped to maintain the level
of collegiality in the department. I would hate for that feeling to be gone in the future. I am also
concerned that the department in the future will not value graduate student involvement in departmental
decisions because of a change in climate of the faculty. This has been such a learning experience for me
that I would hate to see this opportunity be lost for future graduate students.
• Growing too large and we seem to keep accepting more grad students than we graduate and divide the
same or smaller resources each year among more students.
• The diversity of disciplines - sometimes it seems too divergent for a single department.
• I'm not sure what my biggest concern is, but I'd like to make another point... Someone recently asked me
how zoology got to be so special (why we have this remarkable sense of community...). I wasn't sure, but
an interesting point was made. Because our department does not have the money to support the
individual needs of each lab, we share a lot of equipment/resources (including bull-pen office space).
This forces people from different labs to interact and, I think, promotes this interaction that transcends
disciplines. In this way, I suppose our community was forged by necessity in some respects but it's
maintained by amazing people. When those people leave, so does the community, even if we still have 6
labs sharing the same qPCR machine.
• Egos of some professors.... Financial
• It seems that students are more positive about the merger than faculty. Recently several faculty have
decided to leave or have switched their appointment to another college. As a student, this suggests that
all is not as good as it seems.
• The department has gotten bigger in the last year because of the merger. This means more competition
for very limited travel funding (among other things) for grads, and it feels like there is even less
interaction with students of other subdisciplines.
• The sense that we are losing valuable faculty members of our department.
• loss of community with size increase. I've heard it a dozen times "I have no idea who the new students
are, because I have no idea who's from zoology (or botany) and who is new" etc. Why people can't just
ask is beyond me, but I think there is a new "interpersonal uncomfortableness" (I just coined that phrase!)
with our larger size. Also, why the hell are all our faculty leaving??? I'm really, really worried about
• financial issues
• movement away from organismal approach is worrisome & trendy. We are consequently losing that
which best defines us. It will hurt us in 5 yrs if trend remains the same.
• Maintaining a good balance between the sub-disciplines so that one group doesn't end up dictating the
direction of the department.
• It seems to be falling apart. We are losing people left and right and I'm nervous about the applicants we
will be getting in the future
• The sudden departure of (what seems like) quite a few faculty, the generally low retention rate of PhD
students past their first or second years, departmental funding and allocation.
• Lack of money to be competitive with other big universities. Lack of guidance for new students,
especially from abroad. Lack of coordination for graduate students. I feel the botany students don't really
count anymore now that the department is merged and there are so few of us + there is a
museum/Bartram/ICBR partition in the students. I don't know anyone from ICBR...
• I suspect that Botany as a subdiscipline will not exist in a few years.
• It is part of UF (joking, sort of). I feel like most concerns I have cannot be generalized to the
departmental level. I would be sad to see the focus on integrative biology lost.
• The track record of how many (%) grad students who graduate end up getting a job in the type/level (r1,
Liberal arts, etc) of university they really want to be in.
• That we don't often hear what our faculty is doing (except for the week of graduate orientation and when
tenure reviews are approaching). We get some news in emails about publications but it would be great if
from time to time Faculty could tell us what new things they are doing in the seminar
• Starting in the Spring we will be without a true functional morphologist!!
• We are losing way too many faculty … and our best ones, at that.
• Direction. Where are you headed? The loss of interest/focus in organismal biology is striking. The loss
of ability when it comes to zoological systematics at even the most basic level is not striking (its
happening everywhere), but it is sad that there is no effort going on in this department to fix it.
• That we may be on a sinking financial ship, compared to other universities.
• Future hiring.
• Right now it's space. The "historical" grad student space is disappearing, and the new space that's
replacing it is vastly inferior in quality.
• Mentoring of graduate students is quite variable in quality from lab to lab.
Faculty members in Biology (including faculty budgeted in other units but with joint
appointments, mainly FLMNH curators and Whitney researchers – these indicated by an
asterisk) with an indication of their research areas (PCM: Physiology, cellular &
molecular biology; Beh: Behavior; Eco: Ecology; Sys:
Systematics/Biodiversity/phylogenetics; CB: Conservation Biology; EGen: Evolutionary
genetics; Gen I: Genomics and Informatics; Dev: Development; Int B: Integrative
Biology/history; Bot: study organisms predominantly plants; Zoo: study organisms
predominantly animals; Ter: study organisms terrestrial; Mar: study organisms marine;
Fre: study organisms in freshwater).
Name (research area) PCM Beh Eco Sys CB EGen Gen I Dev Int B Bot Zoo Ter Mar Fre
Ache, B. X X X
Baer, C. X X X
Barbazuk, B. X X X
Barfield, M. (non-tenure X X
*Battelle, B.-A. (Whitney) X X
[Biochemistry of vision]
Bjorndal, K. X X X X X
ecology of sea turtles]
*Bloch, J. (FLMNH) X X X X X
Bolten, A. (non-tenure X X X X
[Ecology and conservation
of sea turtles]
Braun, E. X X X X X
Brockman, J. X X X X
*Bucher, D. (Whitney) X X
[Neural network dynamics
and motor pattern
Burleigh, G. X X X
*Cellinese, N. (FLMNH) X X X
evolution of angiosperms;
Chen, S. X X X X
Choe, K. X X X
[Animal physiology &
*Cohn, M. (Mol. Genetics X X X X X X
Gillooly, J. X X X X X
community and ecosystem
Gitzendanner, M. (non- X X X X X
[Plant pop. genetics]
Harmon, A. X X X X X
[Plant molecular biology;
Hauser, B. X X X X X
Holt, R. X X X X
Judd, W. X X X
evolution of angiosperms;
phylogenetics; floristics of
the Antilles and
Julian, D. X X X X
Kimball, R. X X X X X
Kitajima, K. X X X X
[Tropical ecology; seed
and seedling ecology;
Levey, D. X X X X X
[Frugivory; seed dispersal;
*Liao, J. (Whitney) X X X X X
neurobiology of fish
Lichstein, J. X X
biodiversity; carbon cycle
& climate change]
Lillywhite, H. X X X X X X X
[Physiology and ecology
*Linser, P. (Whitney) X X X
molecular biology of
disease vector arthropods]
*MacFadden, B. X X X X X
Mc Daniel, S. X X X X
Mack, M. X X X
Maden, M. X X X X
*Manchester, S. X X X
and evol. of angiosperms;
Miyamoto, M. X X X X X
*Moroz, L. (Whitney) X X X X X
[Genomic basis of
memory & neuronal
Oppenheimer, D. X X X X
[Plant cell biology] X
Osenberg, C. X X X X X
and aquatic ecology]
*Page, L. (FLMNH) X X X X
Palmer, T. X X X X X
*Paulay, G. (FLMNH) X X X X
Ponciano, J. M. X X X
[Statistics of ecology;
Putz, F. X X X X
[Ecology, especially forest
ecology and management]
*Reed, D. (FLMNH) X X X
*Robinson, S. (FLMNH) X X X X
Schuur, E. X X X
carbon cycling and
Silliman, B. X X X X X
Smith, D. X X
[Ecology of infectious
of infectious diseases]
Smocovitis, B. X X X X X X
systematics, and history]
Soltis, D. X X X X X X X
[Plant systematics, esp.
molecular evolution of the
*Soltis, P. (FLMNH) X X X X X X X
[Molecular systematics of
plants, esp. angiosperms;
molecular evolution of the
St. Mary, C. X X X X X X
*Steadman, D. (FLMNH) X X X X X X
[Avian ecology and
Vliet, K. (non-tenure X X X X X X X X
Wayne, M. X X X X X
*Williams, N. (FLMNH) X X X X
Wubah, D. X
In addition we have several lecturers. R. Darner is an expert in pedagogy, teaches a
course to our graduate students on this subject, and also consults with faculty.
Where do we see the field of Biology going in the next 10-20 years? Which areas are going
to grow in centrality? Among these areas, which are getting most crowded? Where is the
field more open? In what areas will the demand for PhDs most outstrip supply?
Biology is becoming more integrative, and our integrative and evolutionary emphasis, as a
department, is what makes us unique at U.F (and also sets us apart from many other biology
departments). Many changes in biology are being driven by technological advances, presenting
us with massive amounts of data – thus the analysis of complex data patterns is becoming ever
more important (e.g., systems biology, importance of theoretical and computational research,
informatics). This integrative/interdisciplinary and evolutionary emphasis also impacts our
educational mission (e.g., IGERT). The field of biology is extremely diverse, and this diversity is
reflected in the array of subdisciplines represented in our department. Each of these are briefly
summarized below in order to provide more concrete examples of the points made in the
summary statement provided above.
A. Evolution/Systematics/Phylogenetics: There is much excitement about the development
of genetic/genomic tools to connect genotypes to phenotypes. Ultimately this will allow
evolutionary biologists to address fundamental evolutionary questions, such as the
genetic basis of natural variation and the genetic mechanisms underlying diversification,
in a wide variety of organisms, and potentially reveal broad patterns of evolution. The
great majority of the diversity of life has not been described; thus, organismal systematics
will be an important part of the future of biology.
B. Ecology: The growth areas in ecology will relate to the innovative use of new
technologies. Ecology will be impacted by applications of data-intensive, large-scale
questions, and finding ways to integrate small-scale mechanistic with large-scale
observational data, especially in connection with global environmental/climate change.
The field will increasingly deal with problems arising at the interface of pure and applied
ecology, conservation, biological invasions, and disease. The technological areas are
likely to be crowded, while folks bridging the theory-empirical gap will be rare.
C. Genetics: The field will continue to grow in importance, particularly as additional
disciplines begin to use genetic tools and/or explore genetic underpinnings. Although
computational and informatics approaches in genetics are powerful tools for generating
hypotheses, bench-work is essential to test these hypotheses as well as to explore
fundamental questions about the mechanism of inheritance.
D. Cell Biology/Molecular Biology/Physiology: It is our view that this subdiscipline will
move toward a systems-level understanding of all cellular components, as well as a
continued integration of knowledge through different organizational levels—from cells
through tissues, whole organisms, communities, and ecosystems. There will be continued
development of new technologies that will enable molecular biology to play a larger role
in solving environmental research problems.
E. Behavior: Behavior is inherently multidisciplinary, integrating morphology, physiology,
and ecology. One of the biggest and most exciting challenges is to connect behavior to
genomics. Behavior also offers a unique opportunity to explore the role of epigenetic
factors in shaping phenotype, which will be a topic of rapid growth. Another growth area
will be integrating behavior with structure and function of the nervous system.
F. Structure/Function: Structure/function investigations rely on detailed empirical
knowledge of organismal anatomy/morphology and focus not only on the interactions of
an organism and its environment, but also on how such interactions affect the evolution
of organismal structure. The field is becoming increasingly integrated – not only with
other subdisciplines of biology, but also with physics, engineering, and computer science.
The field is headed toward an understanding of how structures are actuated and
controlled, and this foundational knowledge is then placed in an evolutionary perspective.