New! Study Abroad course to be offered Summer A, 2018

UF in South Africa: Plants of Southern Africa

  • Three weeks, May 14–June 2, 2018
  • 6 credits and two courses (3 credits each, taught simultaneously)
    • BOT 4935: Special Topics, Research Methods in Plant Biology
    • BOT 4956: Overseas Studies, African Plant Evolution
  • Course cost: $3,437, all-inclusive: tuition, room/board, ground transportation, most supplies. Air fare is not included and must be purchased independently by each student.
  • We will visit the National Botanical gardens of South Africa in Pretoria, and field sites in Kruger National Park and St. Lucia, South Africa, and the Mbuluzi and Malolotja Nature Reserves in Swaziland.
  • Accommodations will be at biological stations and backpackers’ lodges.
  • For more information: view the course poster as a PDF, or check out the slideshow below for more information and photos of the locations we will visit.
  • Apply at: https://www.ufic.ufl.edu/sas/
Map of southern Africa and the sites we will visit in South Africa and Swaziland.


Click the image to view the slideshow


Undergraduate courses

BSC 2011 – Integrated Principles of Biology, II
3 credits, odd springs
Part of UF’s two-semester introductory biology sequence. The primary goal of this course is to establish a coherent foundation of knowledge in biology and to prepare students for comprehension in advanced biology courses and science in general. Fundamental concepts discussed include the evolution, diversity, and function of photosynthetic life; the evolution, structure, function, and physiology of animals; and the ecology of organisms, populations, communities, biomes, and the globe. An additional course goal is to develop critical thinking skills for development of reasoned thought and for evaluation of life experiences. Dr. Sessa teaches the 5-week Plants module of this class (the other BSC 2011 modules are Animals, and Ecology).

BOT 2710 – Practical Plant Taxonomy
3 credits, even falls
Introduction to plant taxonomy including principles of systematic botany, nomenclature, and classification, and emphasizing identification of major plant families. Students will work with ferns, lycophytes, gymnosperms, and flowering plants, and will learn to recognize the major groups of plants anywhere in the world. Course blog: http://practicalplanttaxonomy.blogspot.com

BOT 4935 – Special Topics: Medical & Forensic Plant Biology
3 credits, odd falls
This course covers all aspects of how plants are used in medicine, both in western medicine and in traditional settings worldwide. We investigate the ways other animals use plants medicinally, and the various classes of plant compounds and how they have been incorporated into medical practices by humans. We debate topics including medical marijuana and bioprospecting, and students do presentations on traditional medicine in a human culture of their choice. The forensics unit of the class focuses on working hands-on with plant samples that are used by forensic botanists to solve cases, and finishes with a crime scene and mystery that students have to solve. Prerequisite: minimum grade of B in BSC 2011.

Graduate courses

BOT 6935/ZOO6927 Phylogenetic Systematics Seminar Series
1 credit, every fall
This seminar engages faculty and students across the diversity of systematics/evolutionary biology at UF. The topic may vary from semester to semester, but the general format is weekly discussion of a current paper of high interest/impact (e.g., Nature, Science, PNAS), papers on previously chosen topics (e.g., phylogeography; large phylogenetic trees; phylogenetics and climate change; systematics and conservation), or short research presentations by students.

BOT 6935/ZOO6927 Phylogenomics
3 credits, even springs
The goal of this course is to acquaint graduate students with the theory and methods used in modern phylogenebc analyses, particularly those that involve “big” data sets, either in terms of numbers of taxa or markers. We also cover advanced phylogenetic topics such as divergence time analyses, historical biogeographical analyses, supermatrix and super tree approaches, transcriptome assembly, concordance analysis, and comparative methods in phylogenetics.

BOT 5725 – Taxonomy of Vascular Plants
4 credits, irregular springs
Introduction to systematic principles and techniques used in classification; field and herbarium methods. Survey of vascular plants, their classification, morphology, and evolutionary relationships. Co-taught with Drs. Pam Soltis, Doug Soltis, and Nico Cellinese.

BOT 6726 – Principles of Systematic Biology
4 credits, odd springs
Theory of biological classification and taxonomic practice. Laboratory experience in taxonomic procedures and techniques, including computer methods. Co-taught with Drs. Pam Soltis, Doug Soltis, and Nico Cellinese.