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A New Biology Major
“The 21st century has been dubbed the ‘Century of Biology,’ based on the continuing breakthroughs in the biological sciences,” said Elaine Turner, associate dean of the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. “Until this major was created, UF was the only university in the State University System without a distinct bachelor’s degree in biology.”
While the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences had previously established an interdisciplinary major that allowed students to take zoology and botany classes to construct their own “integrative biology” major, there has not been an official biology major offered at UF until now. It is expected to quickly become one of the most popular undergraduate majors on campus, surpassing the largest major, psychology, which currently has nearly 1,500 majors.
“All integrative biology students have transferred to biology and hundreds of new freshmen have declared biology as their major,” said Zoology Professor Michael Miyamoto. “It is fair to project that as the biology major becomes more visible on campus, it will quickly become one of the largest and will, in turn, strengthen the life sciences.”
“At the age of four, I realized that one cannot hide from severe weather events,” Matyas said. “Consequently, I vowed to learn everything I could about hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters because I wanted to be prepared when severe weather struck.”
While her research interests include all types of severe weather and natural hazards, Matyas’ current work focuses on hurricanes. Specifically, she is investigating the use of geographical methods such as GIS to study tropical cyclone rainfall patterns. Her long-term goal is to develop a model to forecast these rainfall patterns as storms make landfall.
“After tropical cyclones move inland and wind speeds have decreased, media attention diminishes,” she said. “Many people don’t realize they are still in danger, and that now the danger comes from flash flooding that can occur hundreds of miles inland and several days after landfall.”
During the summer of 2006, Matyas was invited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Research Division to give a seminar on her work at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. She gained the organization’s attention after presenting a paper titled “Relating Tropical Cyclone Rainfall Patterns to Storm Size” at the American Meteorological Society’s Conference on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology in April of that year.
This fall, Matyas and colleagues received a grant from the National Science Foundation to travel to Mexico and examine the physical and socio-economic effects caused by Hurricane Dean. Dean is the third most intense hurricane to make landfall in the Atlantic basin. The team surveyed vegetation damage to determine the strength of the winds as the storm traveled inland.
In addition to her active research career, Matyas teaches Weather and Forecasting, Climatology, Extreme Weather, and Chasing Storms.
Undergraduates Establish Native American Studies Minor
The American Indian and Indigenous Studies minor offers students the opportunity to learn more about the history and culture of Native Americans. But by creating the minor, Recvlohe—a political science major—also hopes American Indian students will be encouraged to embrace their heritage.
As a child, Recvlohe said his father, a Creek, pushed him away from his Native American heritage, advising him to identify more with his mother’s English-Canadian ancestry. But Recvlohe followed a different route. “I don’t feel like that is how you should live, by neglecting who you are as a person, neglecting where you came from,” he said.
Recvlohe recently spent nine weeks in Oklahoma with Creek Native Americans to study the traditions and language in an effort to reconnect with his background. “Part of being American Indian is being around your community,” he said. In addition to his work establishing the minor, Recvlohe is the head of an indigenous student group, 500 Nations, which aims to raise indigenous consciousness at UF.
Lacey Logsdon, a political science and history major, co-led the effort to create the new minor. After hearing Recvlohe speak on the topic during a public debate in June 2006, the Student Government Senator of Creek heritage decided it was time to take action.
“In late April of 2007, the American Indian and Indigenous Studies minor got final approval from the University Curriculum Committee and officially became a part of our university’s academic programs,” Logsdon said. “It was a long road but with a rewarding result.”
The American Indian and Indigenous Studies minor became available for students to pursue at the end of summer 2007. Housed in the Department of Anthropology, the minor is a compilation of courses already offered at the university and is expected to serve as a focal point for indigenous students, providing them with a sense of identity and community on campus, while also educating the general student body about American Indian history and culture.
The 15-credit minor requires students to take AMH 3660 and AMH 3661—Native American History to 1815 and Native American History Since 1806—as well as nine hours of electives, which include courses such as Aztec Civilization, Peoples of the Arctic, and American Indian Art. For a full course list and description of the minor, visit www.registrar.ufl.edu/catalog/programs/minors/amindian.html.
The new minor joins several other undergraduate courses of study in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dedicated to exploring the perspectives of groups often marginalized in American society, including African American Studies, Asian Studies, Jewish Studies, and Women’s Studies and Gender Research.
“I hope the program will foster a new respect for Native American culture in UF students,” Logsdon said. Her partner on the project, Recvlohe, agrees. “This is a great starting point for the university, particularly students, to appreciate a greater diversity of all racial groups on campus.”
Published by Simon & Schuster, 2007