Florida Tech Professor Kelli Hunsucker Receives Marine Science Educator of the Year Award
has been an assistant professor at Florida Tech since 2018
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FL – When Kelli Hunsucker, an assistant professor of ocean engineering and marine science, was working on her doctorate, she saw a job advertisement for an adjunct professor at what was then Brevard Community College.
She applied for and got the job, and this introductory oceanography course is where her passion for teaching was born.
It has now blossomed into success in its own right.
Hunsucker received the John Beakley “Marine Science Educator of the Year” award from the Florida Marine Science Educators Association.
Awarded to an educator who has demonstrated dedication to the promotion and development of marine science in Florida, the award began in 1986 before being renamed in 1999 to honor Beakley, a professor of marine science resources in the Palm Beach County and one of the founders of the FMSEA.
Hunsucker said it was an honor to receive the award, which was made even more special because a former student nominated her.
“It just makes you feel really good. You don’t do what you do on a daily basis to receive recognition and rewards, but you want to make a difference, and you hope what you do touches people and has some impact,” she said. mentioned.
“I was very moved when I found out that I was nominated and had received the award, that my colleagues in the state thought enough of what I had done to recognize me and give me this incredible achievement.”
Hunsucker has been an assistant professor at Florida Tech since 2018 and has impacted the university through her teaching and three main areas of research: biofouling, ecological engineering, and outreach.
She has been involved in research on biofouling of ship hulls, as well as the use of ultraviolet-c light on these hulls to control fouling. She has also researched ways to improve the water quality of the Indian River Lagoon.
The flexibility to develop programs that could come from outside the university is one of the things Hunsucker enjoys being a professor.
This has led to the opportunity to do various educational activities in and out of the classroom, such as working with the Space Coast community through the Living Docks program.
Since 2016, Hunsucker, alongside associate professor of ocean engineering Robert Weaver and the Indian River Lagoon research team at Florida Tech, has partnered with the local community through the Living Docks program.
The program invites residents to wrap the pilings of the quays with oyster carpets. The mats facilitate the growth of oysters, barnacles and sponges, all of which are filter feeders that help remove excess nitrogen from the waters by incorporating it into their shells and tissues as they grow.
“One of the things that I absolutely love about being a teacher is that you have a lot of autonomy and the ability to do a lot of different things,” Hunsucker said.
“Yes, you work at the university and you teach undergraduate students, but also graduate students, and there are so many opportunities for outreach. So, you are not only working with students at this college level, but you also have the opportunity to reach high school students, college students, and members of the community.
The fieldwork Hunsucker has done with his students has also given them real-world experience that prepares them for a career. She mentioned a recent graduate student who worked in one of IRL’s programs.
Thanks to the oyster restoration work the student had done at Florida Tech, she now works in Stuart, Florida, with work that mirrors some of the research she did at Florida Tech.
“So that experience that they get while they’re at Florida Tech really helps them open up a career, and it’s not just her,” Hunsucker said.
“Other students I’ve worked with more on the biofouling side and navy-related projects have also gotten great jobs, whether in government for the navy or at universities.”
Hunsucker hopes to continue making an impact in college and beyond. She received a grant for two ocean-themed children’s books to promote literacy among kindergarten students.
She also recently applied for a grant that would help start a program to engage students across the university in hands-on science and engineering-related projects in the lagoon and offshore.
She is also developing two new courses, estuarine ecology and ocean biology for engineers.
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