April 25, 2016 - With a $5,000,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, Florida International University will establish the Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment (CREST). The 5-year project will be led by Todd A. Crowl. Additional researchers are Rudolf Jaffe, Rene M. Price, Shu-Ching Chen, Laird H. Kramer. 

Human-derived environmental contaminants consist of antibiotics and pharmaceuticals, mercury, black carbon, and fossil fuels. These stressors are recognized as having significant effects on ecosystems and biota as well as on human wellbeing. It is critical to understand the biogeochemical processes that govern the fate of these compounds and their impacts on the ecosystem. Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment research will address the sources, transport, transformation and ecosystem responses to contaminants, pollutants and other natural stressors, under changing land-use and environmental conditions.

The Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment will generate significant new knowledge regarding contaminants and pollutants in aquatic environments, as well as produce innovative methodologies for detecting and assessing contaminant quantities and impacts, including the use of molecular detection techniques. The proposed research will advance current efforts on the biological effects, transport, transformation and distribution of contaminants in the environment into new collaborative research areas that investigate the sources and transport of contaminants and pollutants in aquatic systems.

The Center articulates three research subprojects organized around environmental chemistry, biogeochemistry, ecology and data synthesis and modeling as they pertain to regional water resources. The first subproject will advance the effectiveness of approaches for the analysis of traditional pollutants, develop methodologies for the characterization and quantification of previously unknown contaminants and extend the applicability of molecular biology methodologies to assess environmental stressors to aquatic organisms across land-use boundaries. The second subproject uses new sensing techniques to determine biogeochemical cycles including contaminant sources, storage, transport and transformations. The third research subproject develops data analytic methods to enable synthesis across large, complex data sets to allow holistic effects assessment for understanding South Florida's aquatic ecosystem.

The Center for Aquatic Chemistry and the Environment will establish innovative opportunities for students to experience authentic and socially relevant environmental research and foster their development as future STEM professionals.

NSF Award Page

UM Climate Change ReportApril 20, 2016 - The University of Miami's University Communications has released a Climate Change Special Report showcasing the work of the University's scientists, researchers, faculty, staff, students and alumni in the areas of climate change and sustainability.

For nearly six months, a team of writers, editors, videographers, photographers, and web developers and designers worked on this report, which encompasses more than 40 articles, photo galleries, videos, and interactive polls and social engagement.

This report looks at the areas of ocean and atmospheric research, renewable energy options, sustainable design and infrastructure, the spread of vector-borne diseases and health concerns, and population migration impacted by the changing environment, among other topics of interest.

Dozens of sources were interviewed for this report, which quotes or mentions more than 70 faculty, students, alumni and staff, and touches all the University's 11 schools and colleges.

View the Report

Message from UM President Julio Frenk

NAS reportApril 6, 2016 - A new University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study found that Miami Beach flood events have significantly increased over the last decade due to an acceleration of sea-level rise in South Florida. The researchers suggest that regional sea-level projections should be used in place of global projections to better prepare for future flood hazards in the region.

To quantify the flood hazard in Miami Beach, the UM Rosenstiel School researchers analyzed tide and rain-gauge records, media reports, insurance claims, and photos of flooding events on Miami Beach and in Miami since 2006. The insurance claims and media reports helped the researchers pinpoint the date and type of flood events.

“Our results show that the effect of sea-level rise is real and affecting the daily life of people living in low-lying coastal communities, such as Miami Beach,” said Shimon Wdowinski, UM Rosenstiel School research professor of marine geosciences, and lead author of the study.

The results showed that the flooding frequency in Miami Beach has significantly increased after 2006 mainly due to increasing number of high-tide flooding events. The increased flooding frequency coincides with acceleration in the rate of sea level rise in South Florida. The average rate of sea-level rise increased by 6 millimeters per year over the last decade - from 3 millimeters per year before 2006 to 9 millimeters per year after 2006. 

The study’s additional co-authors are Ronald Bray and Ben P. Kirtman from the UM Rosenstiel School; and Zhaohua Wu from Florida State University.

UM RSMAS Press Release

Ocean & Coastal Management Journal Article

Miami Herald Article

Miami New Times Article

Photo Credit: Shimon Wdowinski, Ph.D.

coralApril 4, 2016 - A new study from researchers at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) found that multiple stressors might be too much for corals. The findings have important implications for the resilience of coral reefs to climate change.

To test the coral’s response to multiple environmental stressors at once, UM Rosenstiel School researchers placed Caribbean branching coral Porites porites in waters with high levels of carbon dioxide (900 parts per million) for two months to mimic high ocean acidification conditions. Following the preconditioning, half of the corals were then subjected to increased water temperatures for two months. Following the five-month period, the researchers analyzed the growth, feeding rates, and photochemical efficiency of their algal symbionts in both groups to understand how they responded to multiple environmental stressors.  Many previous studies have assessed the effects of multiple stressors, but this study is novel because it is the first to precondition corals to high CO2 before exposing them to a thermal bleaching event.

Corals preconditioned to high CO2 levels before the increased temperatures showed 44 percent lower growth rates compared to the group that only experienced a single stress of increased carbon dioxide. The researchers suggest that preconditioning to elevated CO2 worsens coral response to thermal stress, which could potentially exacerbate the effects of climate change stressors on coral reefs.

“This study is similar to what corals will likely experience in nature in the coming decades,” said Erica Towle, a UM alumna and lead author of the study. “The findings improve our understanding of how reefs will respond to climate change in the future.”

UM RSMAS Press Release

Marine Ecology Progress Series Journal Article

Photo Credit: James St. John

NAS reportMarch 29, 2016 - The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine has released a new report titled Next Generation Earth System Prediction: Strategies for Subseasonal to Seasonal Forecasts. The report was prepared by the Committee on Developing a U.S. Research Agenda to Advance Subseasonal to Seasonal Forecasting, which includes FCI co-director Dr. Eric Chassignet (FSU).

Report Description:

As the nation’s economic activities, security concerns, and stewardship of natural resources become increasingly complex and globally interrelated, they become ever more sensitive to adverse impacts from weather, climate, and other natural phenomena. For several decades, forecasts with lead times of a few days for weather and other environmental phenomena have yielded valuable information to improve decision-making across all sectors of society. Developing the capability to forecast environmental conditions and disruptive events several weeks and months in advance could dramatically increase the value and benefit of environmental predictions, saving lives, protecting property, increasing economic vitality, protecting the environment, and informing policy choices.

Over the past decade, the ability to forecast weather and climate conditions on subseasonal to seasonal (S2S) timescales, i.e., two to fifty-two weeks in advance, has improved substantially. Although significant progress has been made, much work remains to make S2S predictions skillful enough, as well as optimally tailored and communicated, to enable widespread use. Next Generation Earth System Predictions presents a ten-year U.S. research agenda that increases the nation’s S2S research and modeling capability, advances S2S forecasting, and aids in decision making at medium and extended lead times.

FIU NIH AwardMarch 23, 2016 - The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has chosen FIU’s History Department in the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs (Green School) as the only Florida recipient of a Humanities in the Public Square grant. The grant funds a series of public events, programs, and conversations showing how the humanities can help us come to terms with the threats to Miami from climate change.

“We need more than science and policy right now,” said project director April Merleaux, environmental history professor at FIU. “With this NEH grant, FIU will be able to share another view of some of today’s most pressing issues. We look forward to engaging our community in these important conversations as we imagine our future in South Florida.”

Led by Merleaux and Rebecca Friedman, faculty fellow at FIU’s Office of the Provost and director of FIU’s Polish Lecture Series, FIU will team up with HistoryMiami Museum, the Wolfsonian-FIU, The Kampong, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Catalyst Miami, and the FIU Green Library Digital Collections Center. The project will feature faculty experts from the Green School, the College of Architecture + the Arts and the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

A total of seven events will feature literary and religious studies experts, historians, philosophers, geographers and other scholars sharing their perspectives on risk, fear, hope and resilience, among other themes related to sea level rise and climate change.

coralMarch 2, 2016 - Global climate change may actually be setting the stage for greater species diversity in the Pacific Northwest. And that could be both positive and negative, depending on the species.

As the climate changes, scientists have been closely monitoring what happens as more carbon dioxide enters our waterways. In recognition of that issue, Florida State University Assistant Professor of Biological Science Sophie McCoy delved into old experiments that explained species diversity and how different species were competitive with one another. Noticing physical changes in the algae’s skeletal structures, she wanted to see if ongoing ocean acidification — the increase in carbon dioxide in the water — affected species interaction. The answer was yes. “Ocean acidification is promoting competition and no one is dominating,” McCoy said. The research is published today in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

FSU Press Release

Proceedings of the Royal Society B Journal Article

201603ahead of the tideFebruary 29, 2016 - The FCI is proud to be a partner in a new 10-part video series highlighting the effects of sea level rise and climate change through the stories and voices of local Floridians. Each short video (5 to 7 minutes) showcases various aspects concerning sea level rise and includes interviews with scientists (including FCI affiliates), engineers, politicians, conservation directors, educators, authors, activists.
201602mosquitoFebruary 29, 2016 - An NSF-funded project on the effects of climate, land use, and socioeconomic conditions on vector-borne disease transmission, such as the Zika virus, was featured in an NSF press release recentlyStudying interacting factors allows researchers to understand the "risk landscape" for mosquito-transmitted diseases, according to Sadie Ryan, an ecologist and medical geographer at the University of Florida who is collaborating on the research. Taking a local approach then broadening it, the scientists believe, will allow them to find out when and where interventions -- such as in vector control, healthcare infrastructure, environmental modification, education, and climate change early warning systems -- may be most effective. 
201602 YTFebruary 29, 2016 - As a result of a Florida Sea Grant annual meeting in Gainesville, partners in science, policy, and municipalities work together to achieve policy success.

In 2011, the Florida legislature amended the Growth Management Act and authorized communities to adopt coastal flooding/sea level rise “adaptation action areas” through their comprehensive plans.  At the subsequent Sea Grant meeting, Whitney Gray proposed adapting this planning tool to a natural resources context.  A UF team working on policy options took Whitney’s “thinking outside the box” idea to the small Gulf Coast community of Yankeetown, which embraced it.  Yankeetown is somewhat unusual in that its municipal boundaries extend well into the Gulf of Mexico.  The tam of UF scientists and law professors assisted the Town with a grant proposal that had creating a Natural Resources Adaptation Action Area (NRAAA) as a goal, and the development of a community-adopted “science plan” and “business plan” as steps toward that goal.  The team then partnered with the Watershed Ecology Lab in the College of Engineering (Dr. David Kaplan) and Yankeetown received a planning grant from the Department of Economic Opportunity.  They completed the science and business plans, both of which focused on adaptation, and both of which were adopted by resolution.  The science plan included a community wide “bioblitz” to inventory the flora and fauna of the Town-owned Withlacoochee Gulf Preserve (ably assisted by Leroy Creswell).  The Business Plan was designed to promote the Town and Preserve as a destination for “science-based education” focused on estuarine adaptation to sea level rise.  They also drafted a model comprehensive plan amendment directed toward natural resources adaptation and worked with the Town attorney to tailor it to the Town’s circumstances as a “Natural Resources Adaptation Action Area.”  The Town is a “hometown democracy town” which means that all of its comp plan amendments must be placed on the ballot for a referendum, a procedural mechanism subsequently prohibited by the Florida legislature.  The Town voted on the comp plan amendment on February 23, 2016 and it passed overwhelmingly.  A copy of the comp plan amendment may be downloaded below, along with a poster which describes the project.  One reason for pursuing this planning tool comes from the opportunities it may provide to develop an Area-wide approach to restoration to promote adaptation, a concept UF leads are promoting at the upcoming 2016 National Conference on Ecosystem Restoration, and one which may make communities like Yankeetown that embrace this approach more attractive in terms of the funds coming to Florida through the BP spill settlement. 

Submitted by Thomas T. Ankersen, Professor, UF Levin College of Law

Image Credit: Ebyabe; Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yankeetown_west01.jpg
201602slr matanzasFebruary 22, 2016 - The final project report for "Planning for Sea Level Rise in the Matanzas Basin: Opportunities for Adaptation" is now available online. The project was led by Dr. Kathryn Frank (UF) in collaboration with the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

The project investigated the Matanzas area’s vulnerability to sea level rise and identified potential adaptation strategies. The project was holistic in its geographic scope, including the Matanzas estuary, watershed, and adjacent communities, and its goals of fostering regional sustainability and resilience. The project integrated analyses of the major trends of sea level rise and population growth, and their effects on conservation priorities and development patterns, using the best available data and scientifically defensible computer models. The project was collaboratively guided by a stakeholder-based steering committee and a series of public workshops oriented towards Matanzas area interest sectors, residents, and youth. And, the project suggested spatially explicit adaptation strategies having the greatest relevance in the context of current local plans and governance capacities. The strategies spanned and interrelated the spatial planning fields of land conservation, smart growth and low impact development, and coastal hazard mitigation. The project’s main findings relate to the importance of the Matanzas Basin, its vulnerabilities, potential adaptation strategies, and current governance adaptive capacity.
201602um-ocean-co2February 3, 2016 - A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study shows that the North Atlantic absorbed 50 percent more human-made carbon dioxide over the last decade, compared to the previous decade. The findings show the impact that the burning of fossil fuels have had on the world's oceans in just 10 years. To determine the total uptake and storage of carbon dioxide in the North Atlantic over the last several decades, researchers analyzed data collected from the same locations, but 10 years apart, to identify changes caused by man-made CO2. The data were collected during two National Science Foundation-funded international ship-based studies, CLIVAR (Climate Variability CO2 Repeat Hydrography) and GO-SHIP (Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program).

“This study shows the large impact all of us are having on the environment and that our use of fossil fuels isn’t only causing the climate to change, but also affects the oceans by decreasing the pH,” said Ryan Woosley, a researcher in the UM Rosenstiel School, Department of Ocean Sciences.
201601pastureJanuary 29, 2016 - Soils in grazing lands are influencing greenhouse gas concentrations via the release of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide produced by microbes. A new study funded by USDA-AFRI will investigate how grazing land management and environmental factors (temperature and precipitation) affects the microbial community, and how microbial activity and greenhouse gas production are shaped by these factors. Field measurements and laboratory experiments will be tied to molecular analysis that assess microbial community structure (who is there?) and function (what are they doing?). The goal of the work is to have a modeling tool that can predict the release of carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide from soils under a climate that is expected to be warmer and experience more extreme dry/wet periods across the Southeastern US.

Project Title: “Climate Sensitivity Of Microbial Processes And Their Implication For Carbon Sequestration And Greenhouse Gas Fluxes In Subtropical Pastures” 

Award Total: $710,000

Team: Stefan Gerber (PI), Patrick Inglett (Co-PI), Kanika Inglett (Co-PI), and Maria Silveira (Co-PI) (all from Soil and Water Science Department, University of Florida); and Ryan Penton (Co-PI; Arizona State University).
201601monroeJanuary 27, 2016 - On January 26, 2016, Florida Sea Grant Coastal Planning Specialist Thomas Ruppert was part of a team that presented a workshop on climate change and sea level rise to the Monroe County Board of County Commissioners in the Florida Keys. The workshop was led by Rhonda Haag, Sustainability Manager of Monroe County, and Erin Deady, a consultant hired by Monroe County to help them plan climate change mitigation and sea level rise adaptation. The all-day workshop summarized two years of work by Ms. Deady and her team, which also included Dr. Jason Evans of Stetson University; Alicia Betancourt, UF IFAS Extension Agent; Chris Berg, The Nature Conservancy; and Thomas Ruppert, Florida Sea Grant. Mr. Ruppert presented on one of the key focus areas of the workshop: adapting to sea level rise and how Monroe County can work to balance the costs of maintaining roads being impacted by sea level rise and the rights of property owners to access their property via impacted roads. Mr. Ruppert explained to the Board of County Commissioners a model ordinance developed by Mr. Ruppert along with John Fergus of Satellite Beach and Stetson Law student/Florida Sea Grant legal intern Alex Stewart. Mr. Ruppert and Monroe County Attorney Bob Shillinger fielded numerous questions from the Commission about the model ordinance. Adoption of the model ordinance formed one of many recommendations received by the Board as part of the recommendations in a 5-year implementation plan presented by Ms. Deady.

For further information, contact Thomas Ruppert, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or Erin Deady, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
201601greenlandJanuary 22, 2016 - Scientists from the University of South Florida, along with colleagues in Canada and the Netherlands, have determined that the influx of fresh water from the Greenland ice sheet is "freshening" the North Atlantic Ocean and could disrupt the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), an important component of global ocean circulation that could have a global effect. Researchers say it could impact the future climate in places such as portions of Europe and North America.

Their study on the influence of freshwater influx on Labrador Sea convection and Atlantic circulation is published in a new issue of the journal Nature Communications.

"We derived a new estimate of recent freshwater flux from Greenland using updated GRACE satellite data," said USF professor Tim Dixon. "The data suggest that the influx of freshwater from Greenland is accelerating, and has changed the Labrador Sea in ways that could lead to a weakening of the AMOC."
201601famu climate actionJanuary 6, 2016 - Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) President Elmira Mangum, Ph.D., recently sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama pledging to solidify FAMU as a leading university in climate action. In her letter, Mangum applauded President Obama for the progress made to promote clean energy and climate action before the United Nations Climate Negotiations that took place in Paris in November. To ensure FAMU’s active participation in climate change discourse, FAMU Sustainability Institute (FAMU-SI) Faculty Director Odemari Mbuya travelled to Paris to attend the United Nations Framework Climate Change Convention Conference of the Parties 21st convening (COP21), where he gave a presentation.

As part of the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Climate Change Initiative, political science professor John Warford, Ph.D., accompanied FAMU environmental and political science students who traveled to Paris to participate in COP21. In addition to encouraging University participation in climate action on a global scale, Mangum is also dedicated to making all FAMU campuses more environmentally conscious. Her efforts include signing the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in January 2014; FAMU’s participation in the Better Buildings Challenge, committing to ensure all buildings on campus are 20 percent more energy efficient within 10 years; and the establishment of the FAMU Sustainability Institute (FAMU-SI), which is tasked with coordinating the implementation of broad social, environmental, and economic sustainability programs.

Mangum is among 600 college and university presidents and chancellors who have committed their institutions to take bold and catalytic climate actions. “Although we are optimistic that world leaders will reach an agreement to secure a transition to a low-carbon future, we recognize the urgent need to act now to avoid irreversible costs to our global community’s economic prosperity and public health,” Mangum said in the letter. As part of Mangum’s climate leadership commitment, she pledged that FAMU will develop a Climate Action Plan by May 2016, make carbon neutrality and climate resilience a part of the curriculum, expand research in climate science, and establish community partnerships to implement strategies for reducing carbon dependency on campus and in the surrounding community.

Source: FAMU News Release

Photo L-R: Odemari Mbuya, Ph.D. and Simone English, doctoral student
201512fit coralDecember 22, 2015 - New research from Florida Institute of Technology scientists Chris Cacciapaglia and Rob van Woesik shows that corals may survive better in warm oceans where the water is clouded by floating particles. Coral reefs, the most diverse marine ecosystems on the planet, are under increasing stress and are dying in many parts of the world as the oceans continue to warm. When high levels of sunlight combine with unnaturally warm temperatures, the corals don’t have much of a chance. Cacciapaglia and van Woesik’s study, appearing in the December issue of Global Change Biology, shows that moderate levels of turbidity – cloudy water – could lower stress by shading the corals from extremely high light.

FIT Press Release

Global Change Biology Journal Article
201601fiu courseJanuary 5, 2016 - No other place in the nation has higher risk to assets than Miami, Florida, and Florida Ranks very high among states that are least prepared for climate change impacts. The gravest climate change impact and threat to Miami is from sea level rise. Rising sea levels are creating challenges for both natural and human communities, and will impact the lowest elevation communities first. Understanding the causes, effects, and responses to sea level rise requires an interdisciplinary approach to short- and long-term strategies for mitigating the causes and effects of sea level rise. A holistic, system-oriented approach is posed that provides design and analysis toward decision-support for how we can adapt and even mitigate sea level rise now and into the future.

The Sea Level Solutions Center is convening its inaugural Interdisciplinary Studio. This studio will provide the basis for an interdisciplinary framework for developing and conducting design and analyses for the natural-built environment under future sea level rise. Faculty from Colleges of Architecture and the Arts, Engineering and Computer Sciences, Arts and Sciences, Law, and Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work are among instructors who will provide lectures, training and analytical tools. The studio is scheduled to include a scoping charrette that engages stakeholders from the outset to guide the vision of the studio products. The course will culminate in delivery of several products that enable decision-support for an “optimized solution”, with information, data and analyses for each solution. Graduate students from any discipline are invited to register. Contact Dr. Tiffany Troxler (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with any questions about the course.

201512uf lakesDecember 17, 2015 - Climate change is rapidly warming lakes around the world, threatening freshwater supplies and ecosystems, according to a new study spanning six continents. More than 60 scientists took part in the research, published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters and announced today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. The study authors include Karl Havens, director of the Florida Sea Grant program and a professor with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The study showed that lakes are warming an average of 0.6 degrees Fahrenheit each decade. That’s greater than the warming rate of either the oceans or the atmosphere, and it could have profound effects, scientists say.

UF Press Release

Geophysical Research Letters Journal Article