Featured Alumni Karen Steidinger, Department of Marine Science MA, 1971—The 2nd graduate of the Department of Marine Science When I first moved to Florida from Connecticut in 1963, I was fortunate to get a job as a biological technician with the Florida Board of Conservation’s (FBC) Marine Laboratory on Bayboro Peninsula in downtown St. Petersburg. My duties were to identify phytoplankton for red tide studies and to identify and size shrimp larvae. Previous to that I had been a chemistry technician for three years. My education was limited to a two-year junior college degree in liberal arts. Obviously, I had a lot to learn. My first thought when I looked through a dissecting microscope was - how am I going to identify all of those tiny, darting, white blobs.
Karen A. Steidinger, Ph.D. The University of South Florida’s St. Petersburg campus did not exist at that time and the buildings were occupied by the FBC, some Eckerd college professors, a cook’s school, and later a police training academy. The peninsula was a United States Maritime Service Training Station from 1939 to 1950. It was a wonderful place to be at the time, wistful scenery and breezes, cheap hot lunches (50 cents!) provided by the cook’s school, water and boats everywhere. The Army Reserve even had their boats tied up along the seawall for weekend exercises. The peninsula itself had aging wooden buildings from the training station that were originally barracks or classrooms. Also there were other structures, one was designated as an air raid shelter. Two others were concrete pools that later served for holding dolphins to be tested for visual recognition of patterns and color densities by a USF professor. Several Eckerd biology professors occupied what is now Building F, a reinforced concrete building on the Campus. One studied widow and recluse spiders. And although I dislike spiders, I found his work fascinating because he collected his live, venomous specimens from underneath the green park benches that were all over St. Petersburg! It made me think twice before I sat down outside – anywhere. Later, after Eckerd moved out and the DNR took over Buildings F and C, USF moved in to the two barracks buildings and converted them to classrooms in the mid-late 1960s. Later, USF Marine Science converted the large concrete building known as Building MSL to classrooms and laboratories. Professors from USF Tampa Campus also taught here on the St. Petersburg Campus. For example Invertebrate Zoology lectures and labs were held in Building F and focused on available specimens from local marine waters. This was a nice arrangement in the early days because Tampa faculty with marine expertise could be tapped to teach at Bayboro. The Director of the FBC Marine Laboratory when I was hired was Robert M. Ingle who started as a Navy tropical disease specialist in parasitology (malaria!) and later took up marine biology with a particular passion for oysters. As a matter of fact, he was the first marine biologist hired by the State of Florida. He and Bonnie Eldred (one of the Marine Lab’s shrimp/red tide/fish biologists) were my first mentors. Later mentors were USF professors and my professional colleagues. USF played a prominent role in my career. As a USF student, I received a B.A. in Zoology in 1969 (Tampa campus), a M. A. in Marine Science in 1971 (St. Petersburg campus) and a Ph.D. in Biology in 1979 (Tampa). I did this working full time while going to school part time. I was able to do all three degrees by working at the State marine laboratory and making up my time nights and weekends for the time I attended classes and labs and because of the support of my mother Dorothy. One marine chemistry professor was very kind and let two of us work in a laboratory in the MSL building at night so we did not have to make up time for work. Other professors were also understanding about a student trying to get a degree and working full-time. As you can tell, working on or near Bayboro or even in
A Publication of The University of South Florida College of Marine Science