201801fau-sea-turtle.jpgJanuary 22, 2018 (Source: FAU) - Alarming results from a recent gender ratio study revealed that 99 percent of young green turtles from Australia’s Northern Great Barrier Reef are female and that male sea turtles are disappearing. Closer to home, researchers from Florida Atlantic University have documented a similar trend in sea turtle hatchlings in southeast Florida. Since 2002, they have studied sea turtles in Palm Beach County and discovered that 97 to 100 percent of the hatchlings have been female. In a study published in Zoology , FAU researchers are the first to show why and how moisture conditions inside the nest affect the development and sex ratios of turtle embryos. They are the first to estimate sex ratios using a male-specific, transcriptional molecular marker Sox9, a marker of testis development in sea turtles and freshwater turtles. The researchers found that the coolest and the wettest substrates produce 100 percent males compared to 42 percent males from the warmest and driest treatment. They also found that embryonic growth appears to be more sensitive to temperature at earlier stages of development and to moisture at later stages.  “During incubation, the turtle embryo grows inside the nest from a few cells to a fully formed and independent organism at hatching,” said Jeanette Wyneken, Ph.D., author of the study and a professor of biological sciences in FAU’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. “For proper development, embryos require an appropriate range of temperature, moisture, salinity, and respiratory gases.”

(Photo credit: Jay Paredes)

201801fsu-pau.jpgJanuary 19, 2018 (Source: FSU) - New research from a Florida State University scientist has revealed a surprising relationship between surging atmospheric carbon dioxide and flower blooms in a remote tropical forest. FSU researchers studying the rich tropical forests of Panama’s Barro Colorado Island found that climbing rates of carbon dioxide have set the stage for a multidecade increase in overall flower production. The findings were outlined in a paper published in the journal Global Change Biology. “It’s really remarkable,” said Assistant Professor of Geography Stephanie Pau, who led the study. “Over the past several decades, we’ve seen temperatures warming and carbon dioxide increasing, and our study found that this tropical forest has responded to that increase by producing more flowers.”

201801fiu-scientists-reflect.jpgJanuary 8, 2018 (Source: FIU/CASE News) - FIU Department of Biological Sciences professor Philip Stoddard was recently featured in an article by The Center for Public Integrity regarding the effects of climate change on the state of Florida.

Philip Stoddard and his wife are saving money to prepare for the day climate problems render their home worthless and force them out. Stoddard lives three miles inland in an area that would be largely submerged — along with much of South Florida — under what the federal government considers a worst-case but worryingly plausible scenario by the end of the century. Some Florida scientists expect even higher sea-level rise. Stoddard is focused on keeping the city livable as long as possible, which means battling a faster-arriving consequence of a warming world.

Stoddard, looking into fixes, sees a need for hard conversations with residents of his city’s lowest-lying neighborhoods. Do they want to pay for expensive upgrades or risk owning homes without working toilets? He sees a future where some communities get ahead of climate problems and others are overwhelmed. Meanwhile, he said, his utility company keeps building gas plants that emit even more of the carbon pollution fueling this slow-motion tragedy.

“It’s going to cost more money, it’s going to pollute the environment — it’s like, why are they doing it?” said Stoddard, a fierce FPL critic. The answer, in his view: “They own natural gas.”

Read the full article for more information on how Florida is affected by climate change.

201801barnett.jpgJanuary 6, 2018 (Source: UF/Bob Graham Center) - Award-winning journalist and author Cynthia Barnett is joining the University of Florida's Bob Graham Center for Public Service as Environmental Fellow in Residence. Barnett is an environmental journalist who has covered water and climate stories worldwide, from the decline in Florida's signature springs, to epic drought in California and Australia, to the rainiest place on Earth in Cherrapunji, India. She is the author of three books on water, including her latest Rain: A Natural and Cultural History, longlisted for the National Book Award, a finalist for the PEN/E.O. Wilson Award for Literary Science writing, winner of the Gold medal in the Florida Book Awards for best general nonfiction and named among the best nonfiction books of 2015 by NPR’s Science Friday, the Boston Globe, the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald and others. Barnett's appointment is shared with UF’s College of Journalism and Communications, where she is Environmental Journalist in Residence and oversees student environmental reporting projects such as award-winning Blue Ether and the recent series Energy Burden. She will continue to teach in CJC and will begin teaching courses for the Graham Center’s public leadership minor. Barnett will also help lead student environmental initiatives and team up across disciplines with UF faculty and students who are working to improve public understanding of complex environmental issues such as climate change.

UF/Bob Graham Center News Release

201801fsu-mccoy.jpgJanuary 5, 2018 (Source: FSU) - Accelerating ocean acidification could be transforming the fundamental structure of California mussel shells, according to a new report from a Florida State University-led team of scientists. For thousands of years, California mussel shells have shared a relatively uniform mineralogical makeup — long, cylindrical calcite crystals ordered in neat vertical rows with crisp, geometric regularity. But in a study published this week in the journal Global Change Biology, researchers suggest that escalating rates of ocean acidification are shaking up that shell mineralogy on its most basic structural levels. “What we’ve seen in more recent shells is that the crystals are small and disoriented,” said Assistant Professor of Biological Science Sophie McCoy, who led the study. “These are significant changes in how these animals produce their shells that can be tied to a shifting ocean chemistry.”

201801Conversation.jpgJanuary 1, 2018 (Source: The Conversation) - Arnoldo Valle-Levinson and Andrea Dutton (UF) have published an article in The Conversation describing an "x-factor" in coast flooding: natural climate patterns that create hot spots of rapid sea level rise. In a study they co-authored with colleague Jon Martin (UF), they showed that two converging natural climate processes created a “hot spot” from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Miami where sea levels rose six times faster than the global average between 2011 and 2015. They also showed that such hot spots have occurred at other points along the Eastern Seaboard over the past century. Now they see indications that one is developing in Texas and Louisiana, where it likely amplified flooding during Harvey – and could make future coastal storms more damaging.

The Conversation Article

201712fiu-flood.jpgDecember 13, 2017 (Source: FIU) - South Florida raises groundwater levels to fight salt water intrusion, the threat of flooding from within will only increase, according to FIU research. Current groundwater levels in South Florida are a major contributor to inland flood damages, especially during the wet season or extreme rain events. Traditional flood models account for drainage systems, rivers, streams and canals but do not account for the groundwater beneath our feet. FIU hydrologist Michael Sukop has released a model that focuses on South Florida’s groundwater as a cause of flooding. “Many current flood models treat the land as an impermeable surface when, in fact, South Florida’s land surface is highly permeable and the water table is very close to the surface,” said Sukop, a professor in FIU’s Department of Earth and Environment. “Our model offers a different way of understanding and addressing the flooding problem. When it rains hard enough, or when tides are high, the water table can come all the way to the surface and cause flooding.”

FIU News Release

Science of The Total Environment Journal Article

201712pau.jpgDecember 7, 2017 (Source: FSU) - Stephanie Pau (FSU) has been awarded a National Geographic grant for her research on tropical forest phenology and climate change by the organization’s Committee for Research and Exploration. Phenology, often referred to as “nature’s calendar,” is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events, such as the timing of plant bud bursts or bird migrations, and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors, such as elevation. “Changes in plant phenology have provided some of the best examples of climate change impacts on species and ecosystems,” Pau said. “However, most of this evidence comes from temperate or high-latitude ecosystems. In the tropics, the year-round growing season and the diversity of species exhibiting distinct phenological strategies complicates our understanding of plant phenology.” Pau’s project, “Tropical Forest Phenology in a Changing Climate,” seeks to identify the phenological diversity of plants in two contrasting tropical forest habitats on the island of Hawai‘i, part of a biodiversity hotspot. The proposed research will use monthly field collections of seeds and leaves that fall to the ground, known as litterfall, linked with state-of-the-art satellite observations, which provide repeat wall-to-wall coverage of the Earth’s changing surface.

FSU News Release

FCI-Climate-Book-Thumbnail.PNGDecember 4, 2017 - Much of the attention placed on climate change is at the global or national level, but in Florida, where climate has been and continues to be one of its most important assets, an in-depth look at the state-level effects of a changing and varying climate is long overdue. A new book published by the Florida Climate Institute focuses on Florida's climate, changing sea levels, the impacts of these changes, and how our societal and natural systems may adapt to anticipated changes. Florida's Climate: Changes, Variations, & Impacts provides a thorough review of the current state of research on Florida's climate, including physical climate benchmarks; climate prediction, projection, and attribution; and the impacts of climate and climate change on the people and natural resources in the state.

"As we observe climate around the world changing, questions arise about whether or not Florida's climate is changing, how rapidly these changes might occur, and how Florida might adapt to anticipated changes," said Eric Chassignet (FSU). "And that leads to questions about how Floridians might support efforts to reduce the rates of change." Chassignet, along with fellow scientists James Jones (UF), Vasubandhu Misra (FSU), and Jayantha Obeysekera (SFWMD), are the book editors. More than 90 researchers at universities across the state and beyond contributed to the 632-page volume, summarizing important topics such as sea level rise, water resources, and how climate affects various sectors, including energy, agriculture, forestry, tourism, and insurance.
 
The book is available for purchase at Amazon.com. Individual chapters may be accessed on the FCI website.
 

201711dutton.pngNovember 17, 2017 - Dr. Andrea Dutton, Assistant Professor of Geology at the University of Florida, has been named one of Rolling Stone Magazine's "25 People Shaping the Future in Tech, Science, Medicine, Activism and More." Dr. Dutton studies sea level reconstruction over glacial-interglacial timescales with an emphasis on establishing the behavior of sea level and ice sheets during interglacial periods to better inform us about future sea-level rise. "I think of myself as a detective," she says. "By understanding what happened in the past, we can get a better understanding of what might happen in the future."

Rolling Stone Article

201711fiu-king-tide.jpgNovember 9, 2017 (Source: FIU) - FIU deployed more than 100 citizen scientists to investigate whether flooding from the most recent King Tide in October was bringing saltwater or freshwater inland to urban areas. The findings could provide critical clues as to why such unusual flooding is occurring in South Florida, what areas are most at-risk and whether the frequency of these floods could be increasing. The community project was organized by the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center in the Institute of Water and Environment along with the School of Communication + Journalism as part of an annual Sea Level Solutions Day at Vizcaya Gardens Garage.

"We simply could not do this science without citizen engagement, to reach the number of sites we do all at the same time, nor do we have a better opportunity to share the latest science and engage members of our community in sea level solutions," said Tiffany Troxler, director of the FIU Sea Level Solutions Center. “With current technologies, flood modeling projections are not as precise nor accurate as “on-the-ground” measurements that our citizens work together to produce.”

FIU News Release

201711uf-anderson.jpgNovember 8, 2017 - For once in our field, breaking records was a good thing. At least that is the case for one soon to be graduate student. After eight semesters of the maximum course-load, the effort has afforded Russell Anderson the highest number of graduate certificates obtained at both the University and State University System of Florida levels. 

We interviewed Russell to get some insights into his accomplishments. He returned to pursue advanced education after leaving the professional organizing world in search of ‘bigger pictures and greater truths’. Now, he is leaving the University of Florida with a Masters in Sustainable Development Practice, a concentration in Climate Science and six graduate certificates (from four UF colleges) that include: Latin American Studies, Tropical Conservation and Development, Emergency Services - Disaster Preparedness, Agriculture Education Leadership, Natural Resource Policy Administration, and Ecological Restoration; In addition to performing extensive fieldwork across Belize and Florida coastal (terrestrial and marine) environments.

“My reasoning for sharing this personal accolade was not to brag or boast. Furthermore, I encourage those that may read this, to avoid such endeavors, if you value time, money and sanity. I wanted to share my story to encourage us all to think BIG, capitalize on your networks, and realize the (rapidly approaching) implications of today’s actions on tomorrow’s world. We all have a role in building solutions to our future challenges.“

“It has always been a knack of mine to find the webs of significance and limitations of our respective silos of experiences. Ultimately, that is what drove my desire to understand the natural world, society, and our collective realities to come.” It is only fitting that his next steps include the launch of a transnational sustainable development consortium, focused on impact planning for 2050.  ‘We are currently in the process of transferring materials into 14 languages across 22 nations and planning on launching in January 2018,” said Russell. 

“During my time at the University of Florida, it has been my privilege to learn from some of the most dynamic and informed educators in the country. The climate science concentration, under the direction of Carolyn Cox of the Florida Climate Institute, was instrumental in my success. I encourage my peers and colleagues to check out the Climate Science Concentration and some of the many graduate programs available.” 

“It is a big and complex world out there and it’s only going to get weirder… The more we know the better off we are. More importantly, we are all in this together! So, don’t forget to look beyond your silos and keep your networks strong. When it comes down to it, our communities and experiences are the best resources we have to foster a better tomorrow.”

Have questions or want to connect?  Contact Russell at Linkedin.com/in/russ-2050/

/newsletter/201710fsu-smallest-marine.jpgOctober 10, 2017 (Source: FSU) - Rising levels of carbon dioxide may have little effect on the smallest organisms that live in ocean sediment, according to a new study by a Florida State University researcher. FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory scientist Jeroen Ingels and a team of researchers found that communities of microscopic organisms called meiofauna don’t change much when faced with both rising carbon dioxide levels and higher temperatures. That’s in contrast to larger organisms, which have previously shown to be largely affected by changes in environment. Meiofauna are miniscule invertebrates that live in both marine and fresh water environments. They are the base of the food web, so researchers are eager to learn more about how climate change may affect them.

FSU News Release

Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology Article

um-coralOctober 2017 (Source: UM) - Andrew C. Baker (UM) is big on the study of the ecology and conservation of coral reefs, with particular attention to the impact of climate change on these fragile environments. Corals in Cuba, considered to be some of most pristine in the Caribbean, may help determine how these ecosystems can survive climate change.

UM News Release

/newsletter/201710ucf-nano.jpgOctober 2, 2017 (Source: UCF) - It’s possible to produce hydrogen to power fuel cells by extracting the gas from seawater, but the electricity required to do it makes the process costly. UCF researcher Yang Yang has come up with a new hybrid nanomaterial that harnesses solar energy and uses it to generate hydrogen from seawater more cheaply and efficiently than current materials. The breakthrough could someday lead to a new source of the clean-burning fuel, ease demand for fossil fuels and boost the economy of Florida, where sunshine and seawater are abundant.

UCF News Release

Energy & Environmental Science Journal Article

newsletter/201710fsu-bees.jpgSeptember 29, 2017 (Source: FSU) - New research from a team of Florida State University scientists and their collaborators is helping to explain the link between a changing global climate and a dramatic decline in bumble bee populations worldwide.

In a study published Friday, Sept. 29, in the journal Ecology Letters, researchers examining three subalpine bumble bee species in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains found that, for some bumble bees, a changing climate means there just aren’t enough good flowers to go around.

The team analyzed the bees’ responses to direct and indirect climate change effects.

“Knowing whether climate variation most affects bumble bees directly or indirectly will allow us to better predict how bumble bee populations will cope with continued climate change,” said FSU postdoctoral researcher Jane Ogilvie, the study’s lead investigator. “We found that the abundances of all three bumble bee species were mostly affected by indirect effects of climate on flower distribution through a season.”

FSU News Release

Ecology Letters Journal Article

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September 21, 2017 (Source: FIU) - A team of researchers headed by FIU College of Business professor Shahid Hamid, using the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model, estimates that Hurricane Irma caused $19.4 billion in wind-related losses to Florida residents alone. The data doesn’t cover flood losses.

Of that total, $6.3 billion will be paid by insurance companies. As a result, roughly two-thirds of the losses will be borne by homeowners. The highest wind losses are in Lee County (Fort Myers and Cape Coral), followed by Collier County (Naples, Marco Island and Immokalee).

Hamid’s team includes specialists in meteorology, storm surge, hydrology, engineering, finance and actuarial science, computer science and statistics from FIU as well as the University of Florida, Florida State University, Florida Institute of Technology, University of Miami and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

FIU News Release

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September 28, 2017 (Source: University of Sydney/Science Daily) - Investigations to predict changes in sea levels and their impacts on coastal systems are a step closer, as a result of international collaboration between the University of Sydney and researchers from Japan, Spain, and the United States.

Scientists globally are investigating just how quickly sea-level rise can occur as a result of global warming and ice sheets melting.

Recent findings suggest that episodes of very rapid sea-level rise of about 20m in less than 500 years occurred in the last deglaciation, caused by periods of catastrophic ice-sheet collapse as Earth warmed after the last ice age about 20,000 years ago.

Lead author, PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, Kelsey Sanborn, has shown this sea-level rise event was associated with "drowning" or death of coral reefs in Hawaii.

The research was a collaborative effort between the University of Sydney, the University of Tokyo, the University of Florida, the University of Granada, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of Hawaii, and the Association for Marine Exploration.

University of Sydney/Science Daily

Quarternary Science Reviews Journal Article

September 11, 2017 (Source: University of Bonn) - The East Coast of the United States is threatened by more frequent flooding in the future. This is shown by a recent study by the Universities of Bonn, South Florida, and Rhode Island. According to this, the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are most at risk. Their coastal regions are being immersed by up to three millimeters per year – among other things, due to human intervention. The work is published in the journal Scientific Reports by the Nature Publishing Group.

Cities such as Miami on the East Coast of the USA are being affected by flooding more and more frequently. The causes are often not hurricanes with devastating rainfall such as Katrina, or the recent hurricanes Harvey or Irma. On the contrary: flooding even occurs on sunny, relatively calm days. It causes damage to houses and roads and disrupts traffic, yet does not cost any people their lives. It is thus also known as ‘nuisance flooding’.

And this nuisance is set to occur much more frequently in the future. At least researchers from the Universities of Bonn, South Florida, and Rhode Island are convinced of this. The international team evaluated data from the East Coast of America, including GPS and satellite measurements. These show that large parts of the coastal region are slowly yet steadily sinking into the Atlantic Ocean.

“There are primarily two reasons for this phenomenon,” explains Makan A. Karegar from the University of South Florida, currently a guest researcher at the Institute of Geodesy and Geoinformation at the University of Bonn. “During the last ice age around 20,000 years ago, large parts of Canada were covered by an ice sheet. This tremendous mass pressed down on the continent.” Some areas of the earth’s mantle were thus pressed sideways under the ice, causing the coastal regions that were free of ice to be raised. “When the ice sheet then melted, this process was reversed,” explains Karegar. “The East Coast has thus been sinking back down for the last few thousand years.”

University of Bonn News Release

Scientific Reports Journal Article