About UM Rosenstiel School

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School The University of Miami is one of the largest private research institutions in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, please visit www.rsmas.miami.edu.

Award-Winning Faculty! German Cross of Merit and more…

Professor Graber receives the German Cross of Merit

Hans GraberHans C. Graber, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean sciences and director of the Center for Southeastern Tropical Remote Sensing (CSTARS), was awarded the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit, or Bundesverdienstkreuz, by the German government, the highest civilian award given by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Consul General Juergen Borsch presented the Federal Cross of Merit to Graber at an event on March 20 in Miami.

The order was established in 1951 to provide awards “for achievements that served the rebuilding of the country in the fields of political, socio-economic and intellectual activity, and is intended to mean an award of all those whose work contributes to the peaceful rise of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Graber’s research focuses on radar remote sensing of hurricanes and typhoons, understanding air-sea interactions and the generation of ocean waves and storm surge.

Notable recipients of the Bundesverdienstkreuz include, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Sofía of Spain.


Professor Amy Clement Receives Mentor Award

Amy ClementAmy Clement, associate dean and professor of atmospheric sciences is the second recipient of the UM Rosenstiel School Outstanding Mentor Award. Clement was presented the award by the Graduate Academic Committee at a ceremony on May 20 at the School. At the award ceremony she gave a talk titled, “A discussion on mentoring and being mentored.”

The award was designed to recognize an exceptional faculty mentor and based upon the recommendation of a committee of Rosenstiel School students, post-doctorate researchers and faculty.

Clement leads a climate modeling research group at the UM Rosenstiel School, which aims to better understand various aspects of Earth’s climate, from Saharan dust and clouds to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is the largest mode of variability in the modern climate. Clement’s research focus is on fundamental aspects of the climate system, including understanding why the climate changed in the past, and predicting how it will change in the future.

World Oceans Day: Thought Leaders

UM Rosenstiel School faculty provide their insight on the oceans.

Dennis Hansell, Chair and Professor, Department of Ocean Sciences

Dennis Hansell“Think of the ocean as you would the blood coursing through our bodies.  It offers connectivity to all corners, leaving no part in isolation.  It carries life-supporting oxygen, nutrients and energy to its greatest and darkest depths.  It exchanges that oxygen and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide with the atmosphere above it, keeping both the terrestrial and marine biospheres healthy and stable.  It moves heat from where it is in excess to those much colder zones, maintaining the narrow thermal stability required for life that would otherwise be diminished.  Just as understanding the physical, chemical and biological dynamics of a healthy circulatory system within our bodies is central to medical science, ocean scientists seek to understand those dimensions of the global oceans’ metabolism.  As with the living body, it is a wondrous and beautiful system, its core functions are often hidden and thus incompletely known, and its health is conditioned by our treatment of it.”


Benjamin Kirtman, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Ben Kirtman“The health of our planet and all of its ecosystems (humans, animals, fish, plants …) critically depend on what is happening in the ocean today. Indeed, current threats to food and water security and the associate famine and drought can be directly related to ocean processes. We are concerned about the health of the planet because ocean temperatures (in the upper 75 m) consistently have risen 1.5F since 1950 and sea-ice concentrations have decreased at record rates so that it is now expected that we will have a nearly ice free Arctic summer in ten years. 95% of all ice sheets are declining and global sea level has risen over half a foot since 1950. All of these unprecedented changes indicate that the climate system and the entire health of the planet is out of balance, and this comes with changes that will significantly challenge all of our ecosystems.”


Claire Paris, Associate Professor, Department of Ocean Sciences

Claire Paris“Most marine species, whether they are reef building corals or bluefin tuna, spend the early stages of their life as tiny plankton, navigating the world oceans. To know where they are, where they need to swim, and to avoid predation, these minute larvae are adapted to detect ocean signals, such as sounds, odor, or even celestial and magnetic cues. One of the last frontiers resides in the study of the mysterious world of larvae and the small-scale physical-biological interactions. It is important to understand how the “critical” pelagic phase of so many marine species endure such a challenging odyssey. The ocean is their nursery.  If we care for our oceans to reduce the pollution that affects the cues, we will protect the small things and everything else will thrive.”

Neil Hammerschlag, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society

Neil“Over the past 50 years, we have learned more about our oceans, estuaries, rivers and lakes than ever before, while at the same time degrading, overfishing and destroying these vital systems. Every year, over 1.5 billion hooks are set in the ocean to commercially target large pelagic predators including tunas and billfish, catching and killing them faster than they can reproduce resulting in drastic worldwide declines of many species. With changes in global climate, the chemistry of our oceans is changing and corals are bleaching. Not only is the mystery and beauty of these systems and species being lost, but also their functions within the ecosystem. The web of life that sustains us is deteriorating. To aid in understanding and addressing these issues, we are conducting a variety of innovative research projects in collaboration with various University and community partners.”


Faculty Profile: Dr. Claire Paris

As an ocean scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School, Claire Paris spends days observing the movements of tiny fish larvae in a unique underwater drifting laboratory. She has developed scientific instruments to listen to, and observe these important, but often unnoticed, life forms on the reefs and in the open ocean. Another powerful component to her scientific approach is how she interacts with her research subjects underwater. Paris uses her talent as a certified freediver to minimize any human disturbance to her research subjects.

Claire Paris

Claire Paris

“The bubbles from SCUBA disturbs the pelagic environment,” said Paris, a native of South France who spent a lot of time in the ocean as a child. “Freediving makes you feel one with the environment and promotes a sense of peace and fulfillment.”

Paris, a Rosenstiel School alumna (M.S. ’87), is at the top of her game, both as a scientist and freediver. She has led numerous groundbreaking studies, including one that showed that reef fish larvae can smell the presence of coral reefs from as far as several kilometers offshore, and use this odor to find their way home. She also found that fish larvae communicate by emitting sounds.

She has developed unique scientific instruments and sophisticated computer models to predict how fish larvae, as well other planktonic organisms and pollutants are transported with the ocean currents. These tools were instrumental to help track the behavior of oil during the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and continue to be used to simulate the fate of oil, to predict oil spill impacts and to optimize the first response to future spills.

US Freediving Association Team

US Freediving Association Team

She is a member of the United States Freediving Association (USFA) and an AIDA* International-ranked freediver and was selected for Team USA for the Team World Championships in 2014 and for the Individuals World Championships in 2015. She holds a Performance Freediving International (PFI) certification. Claire’s goal is to promote AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Science) scientific freediving nation-wide with the UM Rosenstiel School as a frontrunner.

Finding her potential and having no fear to dive deeper makes her a better scientist, says Paris.

*AIDA: Association Internationale pour le Development de l’Apnee

Marine Chemistry Pioneer Frank Millero Retires

Dr. Frank MilleroAfter 49 years world-renowned Marine Chemist Frank Millero is retiring as a full professor of ocean sciences from the UM Rosenstiel School. Millero will join the ranks as a professor emeritus while still maintaining his active ocean science research laboratory on campus.

During his academic tenure Millero was instrumental in helping shape current scientific knowledge on the chemistry of seawater, a fundamental component to understand the ocean’s role in global climate change. He has published over 500 works, including one of the premier textbooks on ocean chemistry, and developed the fundamental equation of state of seawater still in use today.

Millero and his research team have traveled the world ocean’s collecting data on carbon dioxide levels at different ocean depths as part of a large, collaborate National Science Foundation-funded project. The 20-year study is helping to understand the environmental effects of the 40 percent of human-generated CO2 that enter the world’s ocean. The next cruise is scheduled for August 2015.

Beyond his scientific accolades, Millero’s devotion to teaching the next generation of scientists and generous philanthropic contributions to the UM Rosenstiel School, athletics, and arts have helped advance the University in many ways.

Millero grew up in Ohio and earned his undergraduate degree at The Ohio State University and a doctorate in chemistry at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, where he tended bar for spending money and met his wife, Judith. They have three children: Marta Millero-Quincoses, B.B.A. ’95, a South Florida accountant; Frank III, who teaches at Pratt Institute in New York; and Anthony, who works in merchandising in New York.

We are happy that Frank’s good works and good humor will still be on campus for several more years!

Faculty, Staff and Student Award Winners!

Scientists Receives 2015 Provost’s Research Awards

UMiami_alt2Three UM Rosenstiel School faculty members are recipients of the 2015 Provost’s Research Awards. Evan D’Alessandro, Danielle McDonald, and Larry Peterson were honored at a March 27 award ceremony on the UM Coral Gables campus. The award is designed to foster excellence in research and creative scholarship at the University of Miami. The Provost’s Research Awards provide both salary support and support for direct research costs. The awards are classified into three categories based on discipline: the Max Orovitz Research Awards in the Arts and Humanities, the James W. McLamore Research Awards in Business and the Social Sciences, and the Research Awards in the Natural Sciences and Engineering.

The award-winning research projects:

  • Evan D’Alessandro – Research Assistant Professor of Marine Biology & Ecology, “Re-constructing movement patterns and habitat usage of invasive lionfish using micro-chemistry and stable isotope signatures in their otoliths.”
  • Danielle McDonald – Associate Professor of Marine Biology & Ecology, “Chemical communication in toadfish for the purpose of predator avoidance.”
  • Larry Peterson – Professor of Marine Geosciences, “A High Resolution Investigation of Variability in the East Asian Monsoon from Sea of Japan Sediments.”

Amel Saied Honored With Staff Appreciation Award

Amel SaiedUM Rosenstiel School’s Amel Saied is a recipient of the 2015 Linda Sher-Collado Memorial Staff Appreciation Award. This award is bestowed upon a select group of outstanding administrative and support staff members by the UM Graduate Student Association executive board in honor of Linda Sher-Collado, a longtime reservationist at the University Center/Student Activities Center who was beloved by students and the community.

Saied, a research associate in the UM Rosenstiel School’s department of marine geosciences, was nominated by graduate students for her commitment to the school.

Accolades from her graduate student nominators:

“one of the cornerstones, a pillar of the RSMAS community”

“She has shown leadership by leading the RSMAS section of the Corporate Runs and her compassion for others by hosting monthly breakfasts for all… participating in group events ranging from soccer to beach cleanups”

“I don’t know how many times she has either stayed late or came in over the weekend to help students in the lab. She’s even given me snacks when it’s getting late and I’m still working because she knows that it will be a while before I can eat dinner. She really looks out for all the students she works with and helps them succeed with their research endeavors.”

This award showcases UM staff that continue Linda’s spirit of student support and building a better U.

Xaymara Serrano Awarded 2015 Ford Foundation Fellowship

Xaymara_SerranoUM Rosenstiel School Postdoctoral Associate Xaymara Serrano was recently awarded one of 18 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowships given in 2015 nationwide.

These postdoctoral fellowships are awarded in a national competition administered by the National Research Council (NRC) to individuals who, in the judgment of the review panels, have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.

Xaymara plans to use these funds to support another year of her postdoctoral research at NOAA’s Atlantic and Oceanographic Meteorological Laboratory to investigate coral reef responses to climate change and land-based sources of pollution.

Miami Missions

The University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS) is situated on an island just offshore of Miami, linked to the mainland by a causeway. It has exquisite views over the ocean, and its own private beach.


UM Rosenstiel Campus

Surprisingly though, this was not my motivation to visit the school, and I didn’t know how stunning the campus was until I arrived there. Professor Lisa Beal in the Department of Ocean Sciences at the Rosenstiel School was the main attraction, as she is possibly one of the most knowledgeable people on the Agulhas Current, which happens to be the focus of my Ph.D. I am a Professional Development Programme* (PDP) student with SAEON’s Egagasini Node working as part of the ASCA team.  My study is co-supervised by Prof. Beal, who led the Agulhas Current Time-series experiment (ACT, which has now been extended into the ASCA array).

Lisa Beal, Ph.D.

In this ground-breaking study, seven full-depth current meter moorings along with four current pressure inverted echo sounders were placed across the current to follow the trajectory of the descending TOPEX/Jason ground track that leaves the South African coast line at 33.4°S and stretches out to sea approximately perpendicular to the continental slope. The mooring data spans the period 2010-2013, thereby providing 34 months of velocity and transport measurements at an unprecedented resolution.

Valuable dataset

This data is extraordinarily valuable as it can provide insight into the variability of a current which is thought to play a vital role in the meridional overturning circulation, a system of surface and deep currents encompassing all ocean basins. It transports large amounts of water, heat, salt, carbon, nutrients and other substances around the globe, and connects the surface, ocean and atmosphere with the huge reservoir of the deep sea.

IMG_9281 By coupling the mooring data with the overlaid satellite altimetry measurements, Prof. Beal’s team at RSMAS were able to extend the transport data back in time using a proxy, thereby producing 20 years of transport estimates for the Agulhas current from 1993-2013. This dataset will be the foundation of my thesis and was the motivation to work at RSMAS for the very first two months of my Ph.D.

Initially I was apprehensive about spending an extended period of time in Miami as my impression was that the city was all about glitz, glam and superficiality. Never before have I been proven so wrong! The people I met and the places I visited were truly impressive, from the natural beauty of the Everglades and Florida Keys to the mind-blowing creativity of the hipster art district, Wynwood. The impressive sights were complemented by the delicious Cuban food and Latino flair.

A meeting of bright scientific minds

However, my favourite part of the trip was, surprisingly, not the sightseeing and the tasty food, but the Wednesday morning group meetings with Prof. Beal’s research team. This group of extraordinarily bright minds meets once a week to discuss a paper, present their latest research results, or simply brainstorm ideas or challenges for the road ahead.

Being given the opportunity to participate and absorb the ideas flying around the room once a week was an incredible opportunity and education. I have come to realise that being a scientist is not something you can learn by just reading academic journals or processing data, but is better achieved by exercising your curiosity and approaching all scientific statements and findings with a critical mind. “How did they get this result? What processing was undertaken? Why is this different to previous literature? How do we replicate the methodology?” From data analysis techniques, the formation of robust scientific key questions, and the art of finding a signal amidst all the noise, I received a whirlwind education on how to be a scientist.

Research topic

During my time at RSMAS I came up with a very exciting topic for my Ph.D. – how local and remote winds affect Agulhas Current Transport variability.

Figure 1 shows the mean wind speeds for the Indian Ocean from 1993 to 2015 and the position of the ACT /ASCA mooring array. As can be seen from the image, there are two patches of very high wind speeds, one centred around 15S known as the Trade winds, and another south of 50S called the Westerlies. These two maximums in wind speed, and thus wind stress, create a positive wind stress curl between them which, in turn, creates a net northward transport across the basin. This is known as the Sverdrup transport as it is the ocean current pattern produced by the wind induced (Ekman) movement of water.

This northward transport must be balanced by a flow out of the basin – a task that is largely undertaken by the Agulhas Current. The Agulhas is the western boundary flow of the South Indian subtropical gyre and dominates what may be the highest meridional heat flux in the world’s oceans. The leakage of waters from the Agulhas into the South Atlantic is a critical link in the global thermohaline circulation, feeding warm and salty waters into the upper limb of the global overturning circulation, and therefore playing a vital role in the climate system.

Mean winds zone

Figure 1: Mean wind speed (m/s) from 1993-2015 over the Indian Ocean with vectors showing direction overlaid. The position of the ACT/ASCA mooring array off the east coast of South Africa is shown in black.

Regionally, the Agulhas Current exerts a strong control on rainfall and climate over South Africa, acting as a major source of latent heat for onshore wind systems. Furthermore, the current is also of fishing (and thus economic) importance to South Africa, as upwelling and high levels of productivity are induced when it separates from the shelf during a periodic meander event.

Wind-driven dynamics have been shown to have a critical influence on the variability of western boundary currents elsewhere, but this relationship has yet to be addressed in the Agulhas Current. Decadal trends of surface wind stress have indicated an increase in both the Trade and Westerly winds over the Indian Ocean basin.

A variation in the winds across the Indian Ocean basin would result in a modification in the flow of the Agulhas. An alteration in strength of the Agulhas would have a variety of implications, ranging from local effects on the climate of the east coast of South Africa, an adjustment of upwelling affecting fisheries, and on a global scale, an alteration of the volume flux of warm salty water from the Indian to the Atlantic Ocean.

My Ph.D. will endeavour to gain insight into this and shed some light into what has been happening with winds and western boundary current responses in the Indian Ocean over the past 20 years. My two-month trip in Miami was the perfect kick start to my Ph.D. I return home to Cape Town with a topic that I am very passionate about and a strong drive to understand and learn more. Even though it was a reasonably short period of time, it was jam-packed with experiences and lessons.

* The Professional Development Programme of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation aims to accelerate the development of scientists and research professionals in key research areas.

–By Katherine Hutchinson, Ph.D. Student, SAEON Egagasini Node