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High school girls participate in hurricane research at Florida Gulf Coast University

High school girls participate in hurricane research at Florida Gulf Coast University

by Dr. Joanne Muller, Associate Professor, Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University

This summer 10 young women (9-11th graders) experienced authentic research at The Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) STEM Summer Camp for High School Girls. The camp focused on a crucial research topic – Southwest Florida Environmental Change. More specifically the girls studied the impacts of hurricanes and sea level rise on Estero Bay and learned crucial steps that may be taken in the future to protect and sustain Southwest Florida environments.

The camp was unique as it provided a variety of experiences for the girls. During the first few days the girls learned relevant scientific content and undertook field work at the FGCU Vester Marine Field Station. The girls were taken out on boats to unique ecosystems to collect data and samples. They then spent the following days at FGCU analyzing their samples on state-of-the-art laboratory instruments and interpreting their data. They also attended daily seminars with leading FGCU female scientists that covered a variety of STEM research areas (e.g. cancer research, forensic research, and heavy metal pollution research).

We also took some time away from the laboratory to do fun activities on campus like cypress dome wet walks, tree coring, kayaking, paddling boarding and swimming. On the final day the girls presented their results and interpretations in poster format at a mini conference that was attended by FGCU faculty, undergraduate and graduate students. Through-out the camp girls were mentored by Drs. Joanne Muller (Associate Professor in Marine and Ecological Science) and Molly Nation (Assistant Professor in Marine and Ecological Science), in addition to female graduate and undergraduate students.

In surveys completed pre- and post-camp all of the girls reported becoming more interested in pursuing science in college or university. Nearly all girls agreed that the program helped them to become more independent and skilled researchers. All girls found the research to be interesting, and felt as though they were helping to complete valuable research. The girls also reported that their laboratory skills were improved as a result of the program including their ability to make observations, collect and analyze data, and orally communicate the results of their research through the poster presentation session.

The girls will be back on campus in December of 2018 to present their research at the STEM Undergraduate Research and Internship Symposium. The goal of this program was to inspire young women to love science and research, and perhaps pursue a STEM degrees in college. Empowering young women to become active learners, and drivers of their future careers is goal shared between FGCU and the Southwest Florida Community Foundation (SWFLCF). We are forever grateful to the SWFLCF and their donors for sharing in this goal and providing this camp with the support.


This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2018 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.


About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit



Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!