SAINT AUGUSTINE – Flagler College recently ranked fourth in ‘25 Best Beach Colleges’ list from College Consensus. The list recognized colleges for effectively using their unique coastal locations as an educational engagement tool. Drawing from college review sources such as U.S. News reports and Center for World University Rankings, as well as from student reviews, College Consensus said that for this particular list they focused on showcasing schools who were “known for their quality of learning and quality of life” and used their “extraordinary coastal location…to make an impact on students that will have a transformative effect on their lives.”
As the core of the college’s campus is in an historic hotel with limited space to expand, faculty across disciplines have been known to think outside the four-wall norm of a typical college laboratory.
Associate Professor of Natural Sciences Barbara Blonder said, “The Coastal Environmental Science major was literally built on the opportunities provided by the coastal environment surrounding the college.” She continued by saying that because of the location and ability to participate in various marine-based research activities, “students develop a love for the sea and its animals and become citizen scientists.”
Eco Tours owner and operator Zach McKenna says his company’s mission is conservation through education and, through a partnership with the college, students spend a lot of time on his vessels performing research. Projects they are currently working on include: fisheries research, bottlenose dolphin photo identification, DNA barcoding, stable isotope analysis, water quality testing and lion fish counts. McKenna is an alumnus of the college and cites his courses in business and the sciences as the resources he needed to make his career goals a reality. “To start my company, I drew on the inspiration and feeling of ownership I developed while in college taking these types of hands-on courses. Now, my company uses income generated from tours to inject back into local dolphin research, animal rescue and conservation initiatives. This partnership is an awesome example of combining resources for the greater good.”