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post-anton.jpgApril 27, 2017 - Anton Post, Ph.D. has been appointed as the executive director of FAU Harbor Branch, leading Environmental and Ocean Science research at FAU. Post will focus on a new strategic effort to develop interdisciplinary research combining expertise across many FAU centers and colleges including: FAU Harbor Branch; Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE); SeaTech: Institute for Ocean and Systems Engineering; Florida Center for Environmental Studies; Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

The world renowned oceanographer and leading phytoplankton researcher previously served as the executive director of the University of Rhode Island's Coastal Resources Center, Graduate School of Oceanography. FAU is in its fifth decade of working with marine science and technology partners on applied projects that produce positive environmental, societal and economic outcomes.

newsletter/201704field-course.jpgApril 26, 2017 - The first Florida Climate Institute Field Course was held this spring and hosted by the University of Florida. The course, titled Sea Level Rise and Coastal Ecology: Science, Policy, and Practice, was formed in order to provide opportunities for graduate students to practice collaborating across disciplines to solve complex natural resource problems. There were five interdisciplinary groups that consisted of three students from distinct programs of study: one student from the Levin College of Law, one student from the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and one student from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Each group was assigned a case study of local relevance to natural resources in the Big Bend region. Each natural resource case study was associated with problems presented by sea-level rise and climate change in the region.

To view a video about the course, please visit https://youtu.be/IPTyZIrwhUw.

For more information and to download course materials, please visit https://floridaclimateinstitute.org/projects/2017-field-course.

logo-SFRPC.jpgApril 24, 2017 - The South Florida Regional Planning Council (SFRPC) and Keren Bolter are pleased to announce the following project updates:

An Actionable Tool to Map Future Expansion of the Coastal High Hazard Area: Translating Science to Policy in Planning for Sea-Level Rise and Storm Surge in the Florida Keys with a focus on Islamorada, Village of Islands
SFRPC was awarded a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to create an interactive tool to map surge vulnerability. This study will focus on the Florida Keys’ exposure to sea-level rise, and more importantly, storm surge, using recently released Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricane (SLOSH) data modeled at various scenarios. Results will be made available on an interactive website, and there will be a series of stakeholder engagement opportunities.

Trainers and Tools: Building Coastal Flood Hazard Resiliency in Florida’s Regional Planning Council Communities Project: Capacity Building through Technical Assistance and Outreach
This project was created to educate and promote four coastal flood hazard assessment tools: NOAA’s Sea Level Rise Viewer, Coastal Flood Exposure Mapper, and CanVis Tools, as well as FDOT/UF’s Geoplan Sketch Planning Tool. The project was coordinated with regional trainings and vulnerability assessments conducted throughout Florida’s ten regional planning councils. Outcomes included enhanced communication, stakeholder engagement, intergovernmental coordination, and an overall increase in Florida’s adaptive capacity for coastal resilience. For more information, please visit the project webpage.

Improving the Planning Process to Protect Infrastructure from Emerging Coastal Flood Hazards
In producing a series of Infrastructure Protection Resources, SFRPC aimed to provide technical assistance to local governments wishing to increase resilience to coastal flooding, particularly during extreme events such as high tides and storm surge. In the first part of the project, SFRPC documented the process of in situ measurement and modeling of current and projected Fall King Tide flooding in six pilot communities: Dania Beach, Hollywood, North Miami, North Bay Village, Key Largo, and Islamorada. The second set of resources documented structure surveys given to local public works staff, city managers, and other relevant stakeholders, to understand the current state of infrastructure in 6 pilot communities, as well as key challenges and solutions. The final resource, set for completion in June 2017, focuses on one community, North Bay Village. The SFRPC and Village staff plan to prepare and transmit a comprehensive plan amendment(s) which address deficiencies in the Village’s response to Peril of Flood. This amendment will include best available data, including new storm surge data from the Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) model to designate the Coastal High Hazard Area. For more information, please visit the project webpage.

volk-michael.jpgApril 24, 2017 (Source: CLASS Fund) - The California Landscape Architectural Student Scholarship Fund (CLASS Fund) Selection Committee is pleased to announce that the 2016-17 CLASS Fund Grant Award goes to Professor Michael Volk and his research team for a project entitled, Incorporating Climate Change into Landscape Architectural Projects and Practice. 

Professor Volk from the Department of Landscape Architecture at University of Florida will lead an interdisciplinary research team to examine Landscape Architects’ roles in mitigating climate change impacts and alternative design and implementation practices in the state of Florida.  Using data from a recent survey on attitudes and perceptions of Florida landscape architects toward climate change, Professor Volk’s study will identify information gaps and possible barriers to adoption of landscape design practices that anticipate and plan for climate change, as well as potential strategies that can be used to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change on the built and natural environment.

Professor Michael Volk commented that, “landscape architects have a significant role in addressing climate change in their work and practice, and many landscape architects are already doing so. We greatly appreciate the support of the CLASS Fund and CELA in this project, and look forward to continuing our work to advance knowledge in this area.”

Other members on the research team include: Professor Gail Hansen, Department of Environmental Horticulture, University of Florida, and Belinda Nettles, PhD Candidate, Center for Landscape Conservation Planning & Levin College of Law Conservation Clinic, University of Florida. 

201704nelson-hearing.jpgApril 11, 2017 - U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the ranking member of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation convened a full committee field hearing titled “Extreme Weather and Coastal Flooding: What is Happening Now, What is the Future Risk, and What Can We Do About It?”on Monday, April 10, 2017 at 1:30 p.m. EDT in West Palm Beach, Florida.

The hearing examined the impacts of sea level rise and extreme weather events.  Since 2006, sea level rise in southeast Florida has tripled, averaging about nine millimeters a year.  The resulting impacts of coastal flooding, saltwater intrusion, storm surge, and land erosion on Florida’s coastal communities have prompted local governments to act.  Following Hurricane Sandy, Palm Beach County restored over 20 acres of beach and sand-dunes to protect shoreside communities from flooding and severe weather. Sen. Nelson led a discussion on the economic impacts of extreme weather and coastal flooding to communities, as well as future risks and efforts to address the problems.

The field hearing included 2 witnesses from the Florida Climate Institute: Dr. Ben Kirtman (UM) and Dr. Len Berry (Coastal Risk Consulting; FAU). The full witness testimonies are available at the hearing webpage link below.

Witnesses:

  • *Dr. Ben Kirtman, PhD, Director of the Cooperative Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences; and Director of the Center for Computational Science, Climate, and Environmental Hazards at the University of Miami 
  • *Dr. Leonard “Len” Berry, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Geosciences at Florida Atlantic University; and Vice President of Government Programs at Coastal Risk Consulting, LLC
  • Mr. Carl G. Hedde, CPCU,  Senior Vice President; and Head of Risk Accumulation and Munich Reinsurance Company of America
  • Dr. Jennifer Jurado, PhD, Chief Resiliency Officer; and Director of Environmental Planning and Community Resilience at Broward County

*FCI Researcher

Hearing Webpage with Testimonies

E&E News Article

201704uf-rainforest.jpgApril 10, 2017 (Source: Brett Scheffers) - Dispersal has become one of the most studied traits in ecology and conservation as scientists attempt to understand species distributions and species resilience to environmental instability. A paper led by Brett Scheffers (UF) and recently published in Global Ecology and Biogeography presents a new trait associated with resilience to environment instability—arboreality.

Here, the authors show that vertical (arboreality) and horizontal (dispersal) movement are closely linked and together they increase the resilience of vertebrates to climatic instability in the wet tropical rainforests of Australia.

The authors also present a new climate dimension to biogeography—the microclimate created by trees. Here, they monitored temperature from ground to canopy in tropical rainforests across elevation. They show that low- and high-altitude arboreal species experience similar thermal regimes, whereas low- and high-altitude ground-dwelling species experience little overlap in thermal regimes.

Following the spirit of Janzen’s hypothesis (1967-Mountain passes are higher in the tropics), the researchers found that temperature regimes in canopies are effectively less differentiated across geographical space than on the ground due to greater overlap in hot thermal regimes in the canopy. As such, arboreality (and its strong interaction with horizontal dispersal) may be a critical trait mediating the extinction proneness of species to past and future environmental instability.

Global Ecology and Biogeography Journal Article

201704chanton.pngApril 5, 2017 (Source: FSU) - Jeffrey Chanton, an acclaimed climate scientist who has also done extensive work investigating the effects of the BP oil spill, has been named the 2017-2018 Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, the highest honor given by the Florida State University faculty to one of its own.

“Jeff is a tremendous researcher and an asset to the Florida State University faculty,” said FSU President John Thrasher. “In addition to an impressive research record, Jeff is an outstanding colleague to his fellow faculty members and mentor to his students. The faculty has made an excellent choice in naming Jeff this year’s Lawton Distinguished Professor.”

Chanton is the John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography in the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, which is part of the College of Arts and Sciences. He is a 29-year veteran of the university and a fellow of the American Geophysical Union.

FSU News Release

201704species-on-the-move.jpgApril 5, 2017 - Changes in the distribution of land, marine and freshwater species as a result of climate change are affecting human wellbeing around the world, posing new health risks, economics threats and conflicts over resources. The study, by an international team, including Brett Scheffers (UF), is published in the journal Science. In response to climate change, land-based species are moving towards the poles by 17 kilometres per decade, and marine species by 72 kilometres per decade, on average.

The Science article was the result of the international Species on the Move conference co-organized by Scheffers  and held in Hobart, Tasmania, in February 2016. The conference brought together approximately 350 international scientists to discuss the global redistribution of species due to climate change.

Phys.org News Article

Guardian News Article

Science Journal Article

201704fiu-leaflitter.pngMarch 30, 2017 (Source: FIU) - The carbon dioxide coming from some of Earth’s tiniest residents may not be increasing as quickly as some believed in the face of global climate change. Streams and rivers are home to insects, bacteria and fungi that consume plant litter, including fallen leaves, and break it into smaller pieces. This type of litter is good for streams and rivers because it helps remove toxins. As leaf litter is consumed, insects and microbes get oxygen, convert nutrients into energy and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This process is what scientists call leaf litter decay.

According to a recently released study, temperature is not the only factor in how quickly insects and micro-organisms convert their food into energy and, as a byproduct, release carbon dioxide into the air. This finding contradicts a long-held belief that this process would accelerate with rising temperatures. Understanding how plant matter breaks down in different environments can help scientists predict how ecosystems will respond to climate change.

“If you have a reliable source of energy for organisms in an ecosystem, like the energy provided by consuming leaf litter, the communities of animals and plants living there will be more persistent,” said John Kominoski, an FIU biologist and co-author of the study. “Since global temperatures are rising and leaf litter decay is not as sensitive to temperature as once believed, it gives us hope ecosystems won’t be as energy-limited as we had thought.”

FIU News Release

201704troxler.pngMarch 28, 2017 - The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has appointed a committee of experts, including Tiffany Troxler of FIU, to conduct a study on Developing a Research Agenda on Carbon Dioxide Removal and Reliable Sequestration.

Reaching lower global temperature targets recently set by the international community to avoid climate risks may require removing greenhouse gas that's already accumulated.  However, many of the proposed carbon dioxide removal (CDR) technologies are not yet viable in terms of cost and scalability, and any potential risks are not fully understood.

This study will develop the detailed research and development agenda needed to assess the benefits, risks, and sustainable scale potential for CDR and sequestration approaches and increase their commercial viability. Approaches considered will include land management, accelerated weathering, bioenergy with capture, direct air capture, geologic sequestration, and blue carbon, among others.

The committee slate is provisional pending a public comment period and final approval by the National Academies.

Announcement

201703uf-competition.jpgMarch 1, 2017 (Source: UF) - The Florida Climate Institute at the University of Florida hosted a 3-Minute Thesis/2-Minute Video Competition on February 28 in which graduate students presented their climate-related research. The event included students from several disciplines who all needed to use one slide to create a compelling story about the importance of their research for a lay audience.

The winners of the 3mt/2mv contest were:

3MT:
1st  place-- Sinead Crotty, PhD student for Synergistic interaction between sea-level rise and predator depletion drives regional salt marsh loss
2nd place--Jose Rafael Guarin. PhD student for Validating the NWheat crop model with historical extreme events
3rd place--Elliott White Jr. for Quantifying the impacts of chronic, low-level salinity on bald cypress swamps along the northern Gulf of Mexico

2MV:
Eduardo Montiero Gelcer for Climate smart agriculture: a tool to monitor crop development and weather to reduce risks in the southeast USA

Watch the presentations here.

Photo (left to right): Jim Jones, Ellen Martin, Jose Guarin, Elliott White Jr., Sinead Crotty, Eduardo Gelcer  

logo-nsu.pngMarch 1, 2017 - The Florida Climate Institute is pleased to welcome Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Fort Lauderdale, FL, as our 10th member university. The NSU FCI branch will be directed by Dr. Bernard Riegl of the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography, Department of Marine and Environmental Sciences, and Dr. Thomas Wuerzer of the Huizenga College of Business and Entrepreneurship.

201702fiu-everglades.jpgFebruary 22, 2017 (Source: FIU) - Researchers are taking a step back to answer the question whether long-term studies are helping save plants, animals and the places they call home. The global answer is yes. FIU researchers are gathering data in the Florida Everglades that provide critical information needed for restoration and conservation. They’ve been doing this for more than a decade.

The Everglades is made up of different ecosystems, including swamps, hardwood hammocks, mangrove forests, pine rocklands and sawgrass marshes. Their interconnectivity makes them especially susceptible to changes in the environment.

FIU’s long-term approach to studying the Everglades allows scientists to understand how it works, and it allows them to predict how it will respond to changes in the future. For more than 16 years, scientists in FIU’s Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research (FCE LTER) Program have been studying how water, climate and people affect the Everglades. Their efforts have resulted in more than 500 peer-reviewed journal articles to date.

In a new paper, FIU researchers outline the value of international long-term research, how it has played into what is known about the Everglades and other wetlands, and how it can help solve current and future ecological problems. It is part of a four-paper special feature on international long term ecological research published in Ecosphere.

FIU News Release

newsletter/201703rsmas-hurricane.pngFebruary 15, 2017 (Source: UM/RSMAS) - Last year’s devastating category-5 hurricane—Matthew—may be one of many past examples of a tropical storm fueled by massive rings of warm water that exist in the upper reaches of the Caribbean Sea.

In a study conducted in the region two years prior to when Matthew’s trekked across the Caribbean Sea, the research team in the Upper Ocean Dynamics Laboratory at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) deployed 55 aircraft ocean instruments from the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Administration’s WP-3D aircraft. The purpose of the scientific mission was to measure ocean temperature, salinity, and currents to understand the structure of these warm-water eddies.

The science team obtained vital information about the physical characteristics within one large warm-water eddy, which likely originated from the North Brazil Current, and analyzed its potential influence on sub-surface ocean conditions during the passage of tropical cyclones.

When analyzing the data they found a barrier layer, an upper ocean feature created by the Amazon-Orinoco freshwater river outflow, that makes mixing in the upper ocean waters less efficient during wind events. This feature, and the fact that warm ocean eddies are known to assist in the intensification of hurricanes due to deep warm thermal layers, lead the researchers to theorize that the barrier layer within a warm ocean eddy may result in an even more favorable upper ocean environment for hurricane intensification.

“Our study is important because tropical cyclone intensity forecasts for several past hurricanes over the Caribbean Sea have under-predicted rapid intensification events over warm oceanic features,” said Johna Rudzin, a PhD student at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead author of the study.

UM/RSMAS News Release

201702fsu-uejio2.jpgFebruary 13, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher has drawn a link between the impact of climate change and untreated drinking water on the rate of gastrointestinal illness in children. Assistant Professor of Geography Chris Uejio has published a first-of-its-kind study, “Drinking-water treatment, climate change, and childhood gastrointestinal illness projections for northern Wisconsin (USA) communities drinking untreated groundwater,” in Hydrogeology Journal. The study explores the benefits of additional drinking water treatment compared to the risks created by climate change. “Most people may not realize this, but there are about 20 million people in the country who access drinking water that isn’t treated,” Uejio said. “These households are particularly vulnerable to rainfall events and contamination events where disease causing pathogens can get in their drinking water sources.”

FSU News Release

201702fsu-spencer.jpgFebruary 13, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher is delving into the complexities of exactly how permafrost thawing in the Earth’s most northern regions is cycling back into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide and further fueling climate change. Answer: It has a lot to do with tiny little bugs called microbes and little to do with sunlight.

Assistant Professor of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science Robert Spencer and a team of researchers traveled to Siberia from 2012 to 2015 to better understand how thawing permafrost affected the carbon cycle. They specifically investigated how the vast amounts of carbon stored in this permafrost transferred to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

In a paper published in the American Geophysical Union’s Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, Spencer along with Aron Stubbins from the University of Georgia explain that bacteria — or microbes — were the dominant consumer of this carbon. They are gobbling up the carbon from the thawing permafrost and spitting it back out as carbon dioxide. This is in contrast to sunlight, which could also break down the carbon and turn it into carbon dioxide. In their study, researchers found sunlight converted little if any permafrost thawed carbon to carbon dioxide, whereas microbes were shown to rapidly convert permafrost carbon to carbon dioxide.

FSU News Release

Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences Journal Article

201701um-coral.pngJanuary 5, 2017 (Source: UM) - New climate model projections of the world’s coral reefs reveal which reefs will be hit first by annual coral bleaching, an event that poses the gravest threat to one of the Earth’s most important ecosystems. These high-resolution projections, based on global climate models, predict when and where annual coral bleaching will occur. The projections show that reefs in Taiwan and around the Turks and Caicos archipelago will be among the world’s first to experience annual bleaching. Other reefs, like those off the coast of Bahrain, in Chile and in French Polynesia, will be hit decades later, according to research recently published in the journal Scientific Reports. "Bleaching that takes place every year will invariably cause major changes in the ecological function of coral reef ecosystems," said study leader Ruben van Hooidonk of NOAA and the University of Miami. “Further, annual bleaching will greatly reduce the capacity of coral reefs to provide goods and services, such as fisheries and coastal protection, to human communities.”

UM News Release

Scientific Reports Journal Article

201701fsu-carbon.jpgJanuary 23, 2017 (Source: FSU) - A Florida State University researcher is taking a deep dive into the carbon cycle and investigating how carbon moves from the ocean surface to greater depths and then remains there for hundreds of years. Those findings could be critical as scientists work to better understand climate change and how much carbon the Earth’s atmosphere and oceans can store. In a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), FSU Assistant Professor Michael Stukel explains how carbon is transported to deeper waters and why it is happening more rapidly in certain areas of the ocean. “Algae in the surface ocean contribute half of the Earth’s photosynthesis, but most of the carbon dioxide they take up gets released back to the atmosphere when they die,” Stukel said. “The only way for this carbon to stay out of the atmosphere for a long period of time is to get it into the deep ocean. If it’s in the deep ocean, it can stay put for hundreds to 1,000 years. As the climate gets warmer, will the ocean take up more carbon dioxide or less? That’s what we ultimately need to know. But first we have to figure out how this natural process of oceanic carbon storage works.”

FSU News Release

PNAS Journal Article

201612fsu-carbon.pngDecember 13, 2016 (Source: FSU) - Deep stores of carbon in northern peatlands may be safe from rising temperatures, according to a team of researchers from several U.S.-based institutions. And that is good news for now, the researchers said. Florida State University research scientist Rachel Wilson and University of Oregon graduate student Anya Hopple are the first authors on a new study published today in Nature Communications. The study details experiments suggesting that carbon stored in peat — a highly organic material found in marsh or damp regions — may not succumb to the Earth’s warming as easily as scientists thought. That means if these northern peatlands — found in the upper half of the northern hemisphere — remain flooded, a substantial amount of carbon will not be released into the atmosphere.

FSU News Release

Nature Communications Journal Article

Image caption: The SPRUCE research project is spread across seven acres in a natural spruce bog in northern Minnesota. Image credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory/U.S. Department of Energy