Richard Conn

CREO Staff Writer

Richard Conn works as a staff writer for the Center for Research and Economic Opportunity at the University of West Florida.He has 18 years of experience working for newspapers in Florida, Massachusetts and Tennessee.He has won several awards, including from the Tennessee Press Association and the Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He most recently worked at the Daytona Beach News-Journal and was previously a staff writer for The Tennessean.

A native of Nashville, Tennessee, Conn is a lover of classic rock and blues music and a fan of New York Yankees baseball.

Jason Mahon /

Alex Hill was visiting Key West when he noticed droves of beachgoers drinking fresh coconut water straight from the source.

“The thing that really got my attention the most was how happy everybody was when they got them,” Hill said of Florida’s green coconuts. “You could just see their faces light up like a kid in a candy store.”

Hill, a junior at the University of West Florida, eventually decided to bring the Florida coconuts to the Panhandle, opening up a mobile kiosk in Harbor Walk Village in Destin and selling more than 1,000 coconuts in the just the first month.

Michael Spooneybarger/ Division of Research and Strategic Innovation

Derek Brauneis had little automotive experience before he helped design and build the first off-road race car that will represent the University of West Florida at an international competition held in Pittsburg, Kansas, May 17-20.

“As far as working on cars, I haven’t done anything other than change my oil, inflate my tires,” said Brauneis, who just graduated from UWF with a degree in mechanical engineering.

Michael Spooneybarger/ Division of Research and Strategic Innovation

 With 2018 midterms looming, Escambia County Supervisor of Elections David Stafford said his office has invested considerable time and resources to make sure they are prepared to thwart possible cyberattacks. 

Those efforts include working with the University of West Florida Center for Cybersecurity.

Michael Spooneybarger/ Division of Research and Strategic Innovation

Lexie Grammer described a Belgian saison like the one she brewed as “refreshing, bubbly and effervescent.”

A panel of judges apparently agreed on Wednesday, deeming the ale made by the biomedical sciences major at the University of West Florida, as the best in a tasting competition of craft beers created by students in The Art and Science of Brewing honors seminar course, which is offered by UWF’s Kugelman Honors Program.

Michael Spooneybarger/CREO

The public will be able to take a glimpse into ancient Roman culture during a two-day event held April 3-4 the University of West Florida.

The event, titled Daily Life in Ancient Rome, will feature a number of interdisciplinary research presentations, authentic food offerings and demonstrations - including a Roman catapult.  

Dr. Marie-Therese Champagne, an associate professor of history at the university, started the event several years ago in an effort to make history come alive for her students.

Michael Spooneybarger/ DRSI

University of West Florida biology and environmental science students are getting the opportunity to work on board a new research vessel that docked in Pensacola for the first time this week.

The R/V W.T Hogarth is a 79-foot-long, 26-foot-wide ship that was christened in May 2017. The ship is operated by the Florida Institute of Oceanography and replaces the more-than-40-year-old R/V Bellows. The new ship will be in the Port of Pensacola until Sunday.

Michael Spooneybarger/ DRSI

The loud clacking of keystrokes and the ding of a carriage return are sounds mostly unfamiliar to anyone under the age of 30.

However, UWF students and the Pensacola community are getting a chance to either learn about or get reacquainted with the typewriter through a program called “The Typewriter Project: Subconscious of the City.

Beginning this spring, the University of West Florida College of Business will offer a new course that will delve into the potential to market the highly invasive lionfish to consumers. The hope is that enhancing the lionfish market as food could help curb its threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The course, Gulf Coast Business Issues: Lionfish Markets, will be taught by Dr. Bill Huth, a distinguished University professor, and Dr. Felicia Morgan, an associate professor in the College of Business. Students can register for the course beginning Nov. 13.

Pete Bucktrout, British Antarctic Survey

A University of West Florida professor will travel with a team of international scientists to Antarctica to study how marine animals that live near the seafloor are being affected by climate change.

Dr. Alexis Janosik, an assistant professor in the Department of Biology, will leave Nov. 16 to sail with the British Antarctic Survey. She will spend almost a month on the research ship RRS James Clark Ross. Janosik will be the only researcher from the U.S. to take part in the research cruise.

University of West Florida alum Marzia Ransom has created a unique, large scale painting that is her interpretation of a Greek epic poem. The painting is on display in The Art Gallery at UWF.

Since the beginning of July, Ransom, a University of West Florida alum, has been painting a 32-foot long, 4-foot tall frieze in The Art Gallery at the UWF. The frieze is her interpretation of Homer’ Greek epic poem, the Odyssey through the female perspective.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

In an ever-evolving digital age, members of the U.S. Congress are increasingly using technology to communicate with their constituents.

But are they also using virtual communication as a way to avoid face-to-face interaction with the public?

Dr. Jocelyn Evans, associate dean in the College of Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities at the University of West Florida and Jessica Hayden, a UWF graduate, address those issues in their book “Congressional Communication in the Digital Age.”

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Lionfish have long been a prodigious threat to native species in the Gulf of Mexico, taking a big bite out of the region’s vital ecosystem as well as its economy.

However, the invasive species are not just doing harm in the warm waters of the Gulf. They have also moved into the mouths of local river systems, a researcher at the University of West Florida has discovered.

“Those are big nursery grounds for juvenile (native species of fish), a lot that are economically and ecologically important here,” said Amy Brower, a graduate student in the Department of Biology.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Ron Finley started a food revolution when he planted vegetables on a curbside dirt strip outside his home in South Central Los Angeles.

His initiative was not only geared to stop the inequality he saw, in which some enclaves had easy access to fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, while others lived in what he terms “food prisons” - having to drive miles upon miles to get the same produce. It was also to help build communities.  The design of his gardens are just as important as the food he plants in them.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

The 16th annual Women’s Studies Conference at the University of West Florida featured multi-disciplinary presentations of academic papers, posters and artwork from students, along with an address from the first female graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy to fly into space.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

University of West Florida students and community volunteers on Saturday saved native plants from a site in Gulf Breeze that is slated for development.

Those plants, which ranged from beach rosemary to small blueberry trees, were moved from the now barren property behind the Gulf Breeze Zoo to the University’s greenhouse. They will be stored there until they are ready to be replanted and preserved at UWF’s Community Garden.

The 16th annual University of West Florida Women’s Studies Conference is slated for March 24 at the UWF Commons Conference Center.

This year’s conference will feature a number of student presenters as well as keynote speaker, Capt. Wendy B. Lawrence, a retired astronaut and naval aviator. Lawrence was one of the first two female helicopter pilots to make a long deployment to the Indian Ocean as part of a carrier battle group, according to her biography from the U.S. Naval Academy. In addition, Lawrence, who retired from NASA in 2006, is a veteran of four space flights.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

Among the projects funded by BP because of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is the deployment of artificial reefs along Florida’s Panhandle as part of an effort to restore crucial habitats for fish and other marine animals.

University of West Florida researchers are part of a team conducting a study to see how effective some of those reefs are in creating a productive ecosystem that will attract fish and help revitalize the commercial fisheries affected by the spill.

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

The pesticide DDT has been found in sediment samples from the Escambia River and its adjacent wetlands, a post-doctoral research associate at the University of West Florida has discovered.

Dr. Geoffrey Marchal, who was hired in April to begin the research, is now testing those sediment samples to see how readily available the pollutant is to the many diverse species that inhabit the bay.

“That’s the big concern,” Marchal said. “If the DDT in the sediment is bioavailable and can go through the food chain, then we have an issue.”

Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO


 University of West Florida students were among those leading teams of citizen scientists that surveyed plants and animals at the first Gulf Islands BioBlitz and Biodiversity Festival.


While BioBlitz events have been held at parks in the National Park Service system for years, Saturday marked the first such festival at Gulf Islands National Seashore. 


Michael Spooneybarger/ CREO

More than 180 exhibits representing the gamut of research were on display Thursday at the University of West Florida Student Scholars Symposium.

The annual event held at the UWF Field House highlights the creative and scholarly work of graduate students, undergraduate students and faculty at the University.