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newsletter/201708fiu-fourqurean.jpgAugust 15, 2017 (Source: FIU) - FIU marine ecologist James Fourqurean has been elected president of the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. Fourqurean will lead the organization, which is comprised of people who study and manage estuaries, with a plan to educate public officials about coastal science and resilience in a changing climate.

“Distrust of scientists seems to be at an all-time high when scientific understanding is really important to help us face the coming challenges of a changing environment,” said Fourqurean, director of FIU’s Marine Education and Research Initiative. “I hope to ease the dialog between elected officials and scientists so we can share ideas to ensure a better future.”

FIU News Release

August 11, 2017 (Source: FL DEP) - The Florida Department of Environmental Protection, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and Nova Southeastern University (NSU), has modified the Port of Miami Anchorage Area in Miami Beach. Changes in design and configuration will protect more than 600 acres of coral reef from future impacts by keeping boats from protected reef areas. The anchorage area, where boats can safely maneuver and park, will now be divided into two separate areas, including an inner western anchorage for smaller vessels and an outer eastern anchorage for larger vessels totaling 1.5 square nautical miles.

"This outstanding conservation management achievement is a testament to how local stakeholders can effectively work together to protect Florida's ecologically and economically important coral reefs," said Joanna Walczak, Southeast regional administrator for DEP's Florida Coastal Office.

The new anchorages are the result of extensive collaboration between numerous stakeholder groups, agencies, universities and private citizens at federal, state and local levels. Studies conducted by DEP and NSU showed that anchorage modification was necessary to reduce reef damage to the ecologically and economically important northern portion of the Florida Reef Tract. This study led to the formation of a working group coordinated by USCG, DEP and NSU, where a group of varied stakeholders including federal and state agencies, port pilots, Port Miami administration, university scientists and other shipping interests worked together to design the new configuration.

FL DEP News Release

newsletter/201708uf-slr.jpgAugust 9, 2015 (Source: UF) - Sea level rise hot spots -- bursts of accelerated sea rise that last three to five years -- happen along the U.S. East Coast thanks to a one-two punch from naturally occurring climate variations, a new University of Florida study shows.

After UF scientists identified a hot spot reaching from Cape Hatteras to Miami, they probed the causes by analyzing tidal and climate data for the U.S. eastern seaboard. The new study, published online today in Geophysical Research Letters, shows that seas rose in the southeastern U.S. between 2011 and 2015 by more than six times the global average sea level rise that is already happening due to human-induced global warming.

The study's findings suggest that future sea level rise resulting from global warming will also have these hot spot periods superimposed on top of steadily rising seas, said study co-author Andrea Dutton, assistant professor in UF's department of geological sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

"The important point here is that smooth projections of sea level rise do not capture this variability, so adverse effects of sea level rise may occur before they are predicted to happen," Dutton said. "The entire U.S. Atlantic coastline is vulnerable to these hot spots that may amplify the severity of coastal flooding."

UF News Release

Geophysical Research Letters Article

New York Times Article

newsletter/201708fsu-owens.jpgAugust 9, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A 94-million-year-old climate change event that severely imperiled marine organisms may provide some unnerving insights into long-term trends in our modern oceans, according to a Florida State University researcher.

In a study published today in the journal Science Advances, Assistant Professor of Geology Jeremy Owens traces a 50,000-year period of ocean deoxygenation preceding an ancient climate event that dramatically disturbed global ocean chemistry and led to the extinction of many marine organisms. He also draws parallels to similar rates of oxygen depletion observed in our contemporary oceans.

“We found that before this major shift in the climate, there was a stretch of oxygen depletion of about 50,000 years,” Owens said. “The rate of deoxygenation during that time is somewhat equivalent to the rate at which many scientists suggest we’re losing oxygen from our oceans today.”

FSU News Release

Science Advances Article

newsletter/201708fiu-seagrass.jpgAugust 7, 2017 (Source: FIU) - Scientists are zeroing in on the seagrass meadows that could help slow down climate change. Seagrass meadows are great absorbers of carbon dioxide from the air. But the algae, animals, corals and plants that live among them release large amounts of carbon dioxide, according to newly released research. The scientists are now identifying seagrass locations with fewer emitters to target for conservation. Scientists at Florida International University examined seagrass meadows in Florida Bay, some of the largest on Earth, where waters are warm and plant and animal abundance is high. They compared these ecosystems to those in southeastern Brazil where meadows are smaller, waters are cooler, and plant and animal abundance is lower. They found that although Florida Bay’s seagrasses act as carbon sinks, the organisms living among them offset the benefits of seagrass carbon storage by releasing carbon dioxide.

“In seagrass meadows, these two processes happen simultaneously and have opposite effects on carbon sequestration,” said Jason Howard, researcher in FIU’s Marine Education Research Initiative and lead author of the study. “If we want to mitigate the most carbon dioxide emissions, we need to understand these competing processes and choose conservation sites accordingly.”

FIU News Release

Limnology and Oceanography Article

newsletter/201708fsu-weathering.jpgAugust 1, 2017 (Source: FSU) - There could be some good news on the horizon as scientists try to understand the effects and processes related to climate change. A team of Florida State University scientists has discovered that chemical weathering, a process in which carbon dioxide breaks down rocks and then gets trapped in sediment, can happen at a much faster rate than scientists previously assumed and could potentially counteract some of the current and future climate change caused by humans. The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Scientists have generally thought that this process takes hundreds of thousands to millions of years to occur, helping to alleviate warming trends at an exceptionally slow rate. Rather than potentially millions of years, FSU researchers now suggest it can take several tens of thousands of years. It’s not a quick fix though. “Increased chemical weathering is one of Earth’s natural responses to carbon dioxide increases,” said Theodore Them, the lead researcher on the paper and a postdoctoral researcher at Florida State and the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory. “The good news is that this process can help balance the effects of fossil fuel combustion, deforestation and agricultural practices. The bad news is that it will not begin to counteract the excessive amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide that humans are emitting for at least several thousand years.”

FSU News Release

Scientific Reports Article

newsletter/201707fit-coral.jpgJuly 31, 2017 (Source: FIT) - Occurrences of three common diseases affecting Caribbean corals spike during El Niño years, an alarming association given how climate change may boost the intensity of El Niños. The findings from Florida Institute of Technology research associate Carly Randall and biology professor Rob van Woesik, published earlier this month in the journal Scientific Reports, are based on an analysis of 18 years of coral-disease data, at nearly 2,100 sites collected by the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment Program. Those data were compared with 18 years of coinciding climate data to see if the disease cycles matched the climate cycles. “We found that three coral diseases – white-band disease, yellow-band disease and dark-spot syndrome – peak every 2-4 years, and that they share common periodicities with El Niño cycles,” Randall said. “Our results indicate that coral diseases cycle predictably and that they often correspond with El Niño.”

FIT News Release

Scientific Reports Article

201707um-coral-gardening.jpgJuly 25, 2017 (Source: UM/RSMAS) - A new study found that Caribbean staghorn corals (Acropora cervicornis) are benefiting from “coral gardening,” the process of restoring coral populations by planting laboratory-raised coral fragments on reefs. The research, led by scientists at the University of Miami, Nova Southeastern University, and additional partners, has important implications for the long-term survival of coral reefs worldwide, which have been in worldwide decline from multiple stressors such as climate change and ocean pollution.

“Our study showed that current restoration methods are very effective,” said UM Rosenstiel school coral biologist Stephanie Schopmeyer, the lead author of the study. “Healthy coral reefs are essential to our everyday life and successful coral restoration has been proven as a recovery tool for lost coastal resources.”

UM/RSMAS News Release

Coral Reefs Article

newsletter/201707fsu-heat.jpgJuly 19, 2017 (Source: FSU) - For more than a decade, people have used social media to express themselves and inform and engage users across the globe. Now, a new study by Florida State University researchers examines the impact rising temperatures have on Twitter activity, and how government officials use the social media tool to warn the general public of heatwave conditions. 

FSU doctoral student Jihoon Jung and Assistant Professor of Geography Chris Uejio co-authored the paper published this month in the International Journal of Biometeorology. They found in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York City that as temperatures rose, the number of temperature-related tweets increased.

“If more agencies start to include social media and tap into what people are actually experiencing in real time, they can improve their extreme heat early warning systems,” Uejio said. “We are also hoping that these government groups will start to include more health information in their social media messaging.”

FSU News Release

International Journal of Biometeorology Article

201707fsu-coral.pngJuly 14, 2017 (Source: FSU) - Scientists have long believed that the waters of the Central and Northeast Pacific Ocean were inhospitable to deep-sea scleractinian coral, but a Florida State University professor’s discovery of an odd chain of reefs suggests there are mysteries about the development and durability of coral colonies yet to be uncovered. Associate Professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science Amy Baco-Taylor, in collaboration with a team from Texas A&M University, observed these reefs during an autonomous underwater vehicle survey through the seamounts of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

In an article published today in the journal Scientific Reports, Baco-Taylor and her team document these reefs and discuss possible explanations for their appearance in areas considered impossibly hostile to reef-forming scleractinia, whose communities are formed by small, stony polyps that settle on the seabed and grow bony skeletons to protect their soft bodies. If there are additional reefs sprinkled across the Northwestern Hawaiian seamounts, Baco-Taylor wants to find them. Further study of these reefs could reveal important secrets about how these organisms might endure in the age of climbing carbon dioxide levels and ocean acidification. “If more of these reefs are there, that would run counter to what ocean acidification and carbonate chemistry dictates,” Baco-Taylor said. “It leaves us with some big questions: Is there something that we’re not understanding? How is this possible?”

FSU News Release

Scientific Reports Article

201707ucf-wahl.pngJuly 7, 2017 (Source: UCF) - Improving projections for how much ocean levels may change in the future and what that means for coastal communities has vexed researchers studying sea level rise for years, but a new international study that incorporates extreme events may have just given researchers and coastal planners what they need.

The study, published today in Nature Communications uses newly available data and advanced models to improve global predictions when it comes to extreme sea levels. The results suggest that extreme sea levels will likely occur more frequently than previously predicted, particularly in the west coast regions of the U.S. and in large parts of Europe and Australia.

“Storm surges globally lead to considerable loss of life and billions of dollars of damages each year, and yet we still have a limited understanding of the likelihood and associated uncertainties of these extreme events both today and in the future,” said Thomas Wahl, an assistant engineering professor in the University of Central Florida who led the study.

UCF News Release

Nature Communications Article

201706fau-water.pngJune 20, 2017 (Source: FAU) - Rain or shine has new meaning thanks to an innovative, inexpensive and simple tactic developed by researchers at Florida Atlantic University that will really change how people think about watering their lawns. The tactic? A straightforward road sign.

Outdoor water restrictions are a common water conservation strategy in the United States, Canada, Australia and other countries to address water use as it relates to maintaining lawns and greenspace. In fact, 29 states in the U.S. have outdoor water restrictions that only allow lawn watering on certain days or times. Conserving water is critical because 50 to 90 percent of household water is used for this purpose. Furthermore, to provide each South Florida lawn with the necessary one-inch of water per week, it takes more than 62 gallons of water for every 10-foot-by-10-foot area.

However, this one-pronged approach of water restrictions that involves pre-set and arbitrary lawn-watering schedules does not always result in actual water savings so Tara Root, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Geosciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science, and Felicia D. Survis, who recently earned her Ph.D. at FAU, decided to do some research.

For two years, which included two annual wet and dry seasons, they conducted a unique study in Wellington, a suburban village in South Florida, to demonstrate how you can save a lot of water by simply providing people with more information than just directives, schedules or guidelines about which days of the week they can water their lawns. Wellington provided the perfect venue for this study since the village is located in a region that has distinct wet and dry seasons and that is subject to permanent year-round mandatory water restrictions. Additionally, Wellington was interested in the research and helped to implement the pilot program.  Results of their study are published in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Management. 

FAU News Release

Journal of Environmental Management Article

201706usf-hurricanes.jpgJune 1, 2017 (Source: USF) - The 2016 hurricane season was the longest hurricane season since 1951, making it the second-longest hurricane season on record. That’s the conclusion drawn in a paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters. Lead author Jennifer Collins, PhD, associate professor in the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida, writes: “Overall 2016 was notable for a series of extremes, some rarely and a few never before observed in the Atlantic basin, a potential harbinger of seasons to come in the face of ongoing global climate change.” The study examines 15 tropical storms, seven hurricanes and three intense hurricanes. The season was slightly above average when considering Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE), which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) uses to measure cyclonic activity.

USF News Release

Geophysical Research Letters Journal Article

201705fiu-water-efficiency.jpgMay 31, 2017 (Source: FIU) - Florida leads the south in water efficiency, according to a study examining water use across the United States. While states in the north have become more water efficient, their southern counterparts have not. Florida is the exception with water use in homes, business and public spaces declining over the past 30 years in the Sunshine State. Broward and Palm Beach were the most efficient counties, while Hardee and DeSoto were the least efficient. These findings are consistent with the national findings that show increased water efficiency in urban areas while rural areas have become less efficient. "Florida is the third most populous state in the country and it is largely urban, which accounts for its higher water efficiency compared to other southern states," said FIU biologist John Kominoski, a co-author of the study.

FIU News Release

Earth's Future Journal Article

201705fsu-tornado.jpgMay 24, 2017 (Source: FSU) - New research out of Florida State University shows that the strength of a tornado has a significantly larger effect than population on the number of casualties. “It’s somewhat surprising because we’re led to believe it’s just a problem with exposure — the more people in the way the more casualties,” said James Elsner, chair of the FSU Department of Geography and Earl & Sofia Shaw Professor. That’s not the case, according to this latest study. Using a regression model, researchers found that on average a doubling of the population under the path of a tornado leads to a 21 percent increase in the casualty rate, while a doubling of the energy dispersed by the tornado leads to a 33 percent increase in the casualty rate.

FSU News Release

Geophysical Research Letters Journal Article

201705uf-birds.jpgMay 15, 2017 (Source: UF) - Climate change is altering the delicate seasonal clock that North American migratory songbirds rely on to successfully mate and raise healthy offspring, setting in motion a domino effect that could threaten the survival of many familiar backyard bird species, new research shows. A growing shift in the onset of spring has left nine of 48 species of songbirds studied unable to reach their northern breeding grounds at the calendar marks critical for producing the next generation of fledglings, according to a paper published today in Scientific Reports.

“It’s like ‘Silent Spring,’ but with a more elusive culprit,” said Stephen Mayor, a postdoctoral researcher with the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and first author of the study. “We’re seeing spring-like conditions well before birds arrive. The growing mismatch means fewer birds are likely to survive, reproduce and return the following year. These are birds people are used to seeing and hearing in their backyards. They’re part of the American landscape, part of our psyche. To imagine a future where they’re much less common would be a real loss.”

UF News Release

Scientific Reports Journal Article

201705uf-Eradication-credit-dany-krom-300x194.jpgMay 10, 2017 (Source: UF) - New research co-authored by USF's Jeremy Cohen, Leah Johnson, and Jason Rohr and UF's Sadie Ryan and Cat Lippi sheds light on the climate suitability for Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitos and transmission rates of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue fever.

The study, published in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases compares new data driven models of Zika, chikungunya, and dengue fever transmission to real world measurements of human infections caused by bites from Aedes aegypti and Ae. Albopictus mosquitoes. These models confirm that temperature is the single most important factor for predicting the rate and geographic spread of epidemics of these mosquito-borne diseases. Temperature influences transmissibility in many ways – affecting the lifespan of an individual mosquito, and determining biting frequency and the reproductive rate of the virus within the mosquito.

The collaborative research team includes experts in epidemiology, public health, ecology, mathematical modeling, and geography, and was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation’s Ecology and Evolution of Infectious Disease program (NSF-DEB 1518681).

UF News Release

PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases Journal Article

Image: Aedes control – image courtesy Mr. Dany Krom

201705rsmas-hurricane.jpgMay 15, 2017 (Source: UM RSMAS) - Researchers believe they have found a new way to monitor the intensity and location of hurricanes from hundreds of miles away by detecting atmospheric waves radiating from the centers of these powerful storms.

In a new study, scientists from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) presented direct observations of the waves, obtained by NOAA aircraft flying in hurricanes and by a research buoy located in the Pacific Ocean. The waves, known as atmospheric gravity waves, are produced by strong thunderstorms near the eye and radiate outward in expanding spirals.

“These very subtle waves can sometimes be seen in satellite images,” said David Nolan, professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, and lead author of the study. “We were able to measure them in aircraft data and surface instruments.”

UM RSMAS News Release

Miami Herald Article

Geophysical Research Letters Journal Article

newsletter/201705fsu-acidification.jpgMay 3, 2017 (Source: FSU) - Climate change may be putting cyanobacteria that are crucial to the functioning of the ocean at risk as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increases and the acidity of ocean water changes. In a paper published in Science, a team of researchers from Florida State University, Xiamen University in China and Princeton University argue that the acidification of seawater caused by rising carbon dioxide levels makes it difficult for a type of cyanobacteria to perform a process called nitrogen fixation. Few people know much about a type of cyanobacteria called Trichodesmium, but this miniscule collection of cells is critical to the health of hundreds of species in the Earth’s oceans. Through nitrogen fixation, Trichodesmium converts nitrogen gas into ammonia and other molecules that organisms are dependent on for survival. Trichodesmium is thought to be responsible for about 50 percent of marine nitrogen fixation, so a decline in its ability could have a major ripple effect on marine ecosystems. “This is one of the major sources of nitrogen for other organisms in the open ocean,” said Sven Kranz, assistant professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science at Florida State University and a co-author of this study. “If Trichodesmium responds negatively to the environmental changes forced upon the ocean by fossil fuel burning, it could have a large effect on our food web.”

FSU News Release

Science Journal Article