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Coastal biology department fuses art with science

UNF’s Coastal Biology Flagship Program was at the Jacksonville Art Walk downtown July 1 for the exhibition opening of “The River as We See It – Artifacts and Photographs.”

The exhibition included artifacts taken from the bottom of the St. Johns River, as well as artwork of the St. Johns River from Paul Ladnier, a UNF art professor.

UNF’s ability to offer research opportunities such as this to undergraduates was an excellent recruiting source for students from all over the state, said Dr. Courtney Hackney, chair of the biology department.

In the past year he has seen more undergraduates transfer from the University of Florida and Florida State University because they cannot offer the same opportunities to undergraduates as UNF, he said.

Coastal biology students were given hands on training during the project, as the program partnered with Environmental Services Inc.

Brent Handley, an archaeologist with Environmental Services Inc., said the company has projects all over the U.S.

The company’s job is to go out to a site, presumably where the city or a private group is getting ready to build on and estimate the environmental impact, Handley said.

But the company leaves the decision to build up to the government.

“We just submit the report,” he said. “It’s then up to the government officials.”

Recently, Environmental Services Inc. discovered a shell-bowl in the St. Johns River estimated to be more than 1,000 years old.

“We could use radiocarbon dating to confirm this estimate but not without damaging the shape of the bowl,” Handley said. “We are fairly confident we have the right estimate.”

In addition to a scientific presence at the Art Walk, UNF also had a faculty member from the art department displaying paintings of the St. Johns River.

Ladnier owns two sailboats and has spent 35 years painting the St. Johns River. He currently displays some of his art in a gallery in the Modis building.

Ladnier said this exhibition was another opportunity for him to get his work out in the open.

“You can’t do it for the money,” he said. “I tell that to my students every semester.”

The exhibition will be on display through July 31 and is sponsored by the biology department and Environmental Services, Inc.

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