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.

Awards and Accolades

Outstanding Mentor Award
Danielle McDonaldUM Rosenstiel School Professor Danielle McDonald is the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Mentor Award. In its third inauguration, this award is meant to recognize outstanding mentors who go above and beyond in fostering the professional and personal development of RSMAS graduate students. This award is based on student nominations.

McDonald was described as an “engaging researcher and educator who demonstrates a vested interest in her students’ success and personal well-being.”

An associate professor of marine biology and ecology, McDonald directs the UM Toadfish Lab.  She combines whole animal physiology, molecular biology, pharmacology and toxicology research to study the interactions between serotonin (5-HT), its receptors and transporters and the stress hormone, cortisol, as toadfish have a unique physiological process, pulsatile urea excretion, that involves all these components. Her work has toxicological as well as human health relevance as it gives some insight on the impact of chronic antidepressant administration, which has many negative side effects in humans.

 

Graduate Student Receives NASA Fellowship

Ryan KramerUM Rosenstiel School graduate student Ryan Kramer was awarded the NASA Earth and Space Science (NESSF) Fellowship for research in the area of Earth Science. Kramer was one of 73 Earth Science fellows to receive the award, which provides a maximum award of $30,000 for one year, with two more potential years of funding.

Kramer, a PhD student in the UM Rosenstiel School Atmospheric Sciences Program, was awarded for his proposal “Understanding Radiative Feedbacks and Radiative Forcings of the Hydrological Cycle.”

The purpose of the NESSF is to ensure continued training of a highly qualified workforce in disciplines required to achieve NASA’s scientific goals. Awards resulting from the competitive selection are made in the form of training grants to the respective universities and educational institutions, with the faculty advisor serving as the principal investigator.

“I’m extremely honored to receive this Fellowship,” said Kramer. “It will provide me significant freedom to continue my research on the earth’s hydrological cycle as effectively as possible, and will help me build a valuable connection to NASA and their incredible resources.  There is such great work being done at RSMAS, and I am proud to represent the School in some small way.”

Awards for Excellence 

Congratulations to the winners of the 2016 UM Graduate Student Association and TA Excellence Awards:

UM Graduate Student Association Awardees

* Sean Kennelly was awarded the Linda Sher-Collado Memorial Staff Appreciation Award.
* Anna Ling was awarded the GSA Academic Excellence, Leadership, and Service Award.

TA Excellence Awardees

* Zack Daugherty for MSC 328: Introduction to Aquaculture
* Sharmila Giri for MSC 232: Introduction to Marine Biology Laboratory
* Jake Jerome for MSC 460: Spatial Applications for Marine Science

Researchers Assess Damage to Seagrass Habitat Following 4th of July Festivities

Researchers from the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, in collaboration with the Key Biscayne Community Foundation and the Key Biscayne Citizen Science program, conducted an assessment of seagrass communities on the Mashta flats off Key Biscayne prior and immediately following the 4th of July weekend.

Results showed significant amounts of new damage and marine debris following the weekend’s festivities, which is a popular area for weekend and holiday boaters. Initial surveys were conducted at 10 random locations (80 m2 each) on June 30, 2016. During these surveys, seagrass cover was calculated and all trash found within the plots was collected, identified, and counted. The same plots were re-surveyed on July 6, 2016.

An American flag found by researchers on seagrass habitat during the assessment.

An American flag found by researchers on seagrass habitat during the assessment.

The initial surveys revealed that each plot contained four pieces of trash on average. Trash items included aluminum cans, plastic cups, glass bottles, and other miscellaneous items. Extrapolating the amount of trash collected onto the whole area of the Mashta flats (82 acres, area < 3 m of depth) results in an estimated 17,000 trash items accumulated onto the bottom habitats prior to the holiday weekend. Following the holiday weekend there were an additional 2 trash items per plot on average. Extrapolating again onto the whole area of the flats, close to 10,000 new trash items accumulated on the seagrass habitat over the holiday weekend.

While trash on the bottom is a serious problem for marine life, physical injuries to the seagrass beds is also a major source of concern. Evidence of recent boat damage (anchor and propeller scars) was observed within 6 of the 10 plot surveys. Estimates of recovery time for scars vary, but can range from as little as 0.9 years to 7.6 years (Sargent et al. 1995, Andorfer and Dawes 2002).

Seagrass beds provide myriad ecological and economic services. They are important nurseries and habitat to commercial and recreational fish as well as invertebrate species like lobster, crabs, snappers, grunts, tarpon, and bonefish. They buffer storm impacts and filter sediments and nutrients, contributing to water clarity. Additionally, they are important carbon sinks that help buffer the impacts of ocean acidification.

“Enjoying the beautiful and diverse marine habitats surrounding the city of Miami is a unique privilege,” said Diego Lirman, associate professor who led the assessment conducted by the University of Miami’s Benthic Ecology Lab. “However, we need to be aware that these habitats are very fragile and that their persistence is dependent on our responsible use.”

Research in the University of Miami’s Benthic Ecology Lab, led by UM Rosenstiel School Associate Professor Diego Lirman, concentrates on the coastal habitats of South Florida, including coral reefs, hardbottom, and submerged aquatic vegetation (seagrass) communities. Research activities combine extensive field activities and surveys and ecological modeling to understand the dynamics of benthic habitats and document influences of human and natural disturbances on these important resources.

By: Diego Lirman, Associate Professor, Department of Marine Biology and Ecology – UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science 

Drawn to the Sea

When Patrick Rynne contacted me on December 11th of last year, he explained that one of Waterlust’s initiatives was to showcase ocean scientists’ fundamental research interest and juxtapose the topic with their personal passions. He said “Obviously your name jumped up immediately. We’d love to produce a piece on you that contrasts your love of freediving with your research”. I was stoked about the idea of a snapshot documentary. I thought it could be a very artistic and powerful way to communicate science to the general public. Drawn to the Sea, the Waterlust 4-minute long video was launched 6 months later, coincidently during the International Coral Reef Symposium (ICRS) which takes place only every four years, and I could not be happier with the outcome. It’s making was a very educational and amazing journey that I’d love to share.

The short video is composed of three major parts: the narration, the footage, and the soundtrack.

Screen Shot 2016-07-14 at 3.10.11 PM

The Narration

Being familiar with my research on fish larvae, Patrick had a story board already in mind, but he asked me of I would prefer to do the narration myself. As far as I remember, water has been my sanctuary and since I am very passionate about my work and about freediving, I found it easy and fun to write the narration below. The hardest part was to make the story short enough to be told in 3-4 minutes. It took however coaching from Patrick to speak into a microphone and many repetitions alone in my office late at night, with complete silence to get it right!

I have always been drawn to the sea. As a kid, I imagined the magic of the aquatic realm and found comfort underwater, mesmerized by the sounds of waves on the shoals and of my heart beat slowing down.

I am a biological oceanographer and a free diver. The ocean is where I push my mind and my body. I study the earliest days of a fishs life, what we call its larval stage. All fish, even those that grow to become very large, begin their lives very small. They may be tiny, but weve learned they are far from defenseless. They are strong and self sufficient having evolved to survive the pelagic life. Like the mantra ek ong kar, they and the ocean are one.

Despite this, they must still find their way through the oceans currents to a safe home like a coral reef where they can live and grow. At first we thought some would find a suitable habitat by chance, while others would be lost in the vast ocean. But today we are discovering a different story. Fish larvae are skilled swimmers and work together by using the light from the sun, and the smells and sounds in the ocean to find their way home. Even when young, they are connected to the sea in ways we dont entirely understand. When I observe them, I cannot help but think they know something about this blue world that I don’t.

Unlike a fish, I cannot extract oxygen from the water. But with long, deep inhales, I have learned to fill my lungs with air and slow the beat of my heart. Underwater, I find peace listening to my pulse slowing down and the sound of water over my body. I sink as pressure increases and I feel the water running faster over my face. I imagine that I am just like the tiny fish I study.

I explore the ocean with others like me, learning how to hold my breath and extend each visit below, just a little bit longer. But no matter how hard I train.my body will eventually force me to leave and return home to the air. Sometimes.in my dreams, I imagine I could hold my breath forever. I feel free. I wonder if I could, would I ever come back?

The Soundtrack

The music actually came after the narration. Despite personal preference for cello or violin, I had to agree that the piano soundtrack chosen by the Waterlust team was perfectly in tune with the narration. They have a lot of experience putting together amazing videos with beautiful soundtracks so it did not take long for them to find the perfect fit.

The Footage

Most of the footage was the result of a weekend session done with the Waterlust team in the Florida Springs. We had a great time freediving with them and their creative angles. Before that, I started organizing all my footage together and Patrick reviewed it and figured out what more was needed. The video needed field and lab footage of larval fish. I had some unique video of groups of damselfish larvae navigating taken by my husband Ricardo (RSMAS Alumni) and I on the Great Barrier Reef a few years ago. This study was recently published in PLoS ONE in December 2015. However, the field of larval fish behavior is relatively undocumented. So Patrick came to my lab and took some radical video of mahi-mahi larvae (generously donated by my UM Rosenstiel School colleagues, Daniel Bennetti and Martin Grosell) with a macro lens shooting at 240 frames per second!

The video also needed freediving clips from travel or from competitions. My first competition was at Deja Blue in October 2013 and my latest trip was at the Dean’s Blue Hole this April 2016, where I regularly service an acoustic pressure instrument that records sounds in a marine sinkhole. However, we still needed some footage of the meditation practice that is part of my freediving training, and of course of the fun part of the freediving with “others like me”. We asked Waterlust Ambassador, Ashley Baird, to join us on that endeavor. Ashley is from central Florida and also a competitive free diver and a great friend, so she was perfect for the role and she kindly accepted!

The best part of making the video was hanging out with the amazing Waterlust team,at Ginnie Springs around a fire camp and freediving under the moonlight. It was my first time visiting the Florida springs. I could not believe that after so many years in Miami, I had missed such natural beauty in Central Florida. The freshwater is so clear that you can see the refraction of the hammocks on the Snell’s window from the bottom of the sink holes.

I hope you enjoy the video and that it will inspire more documentaries of our scientific research at RSMAS and of our passion for the ocean.

 

Claire Paris, Professor – Department of Ocean Sciences, UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Claire Paris-Limouzy leads the RSMAS Physical-Biological Interactions Lab and is a champion free-diver.

 

 

Oil Spill Science

DWH_OILTwo large-scale oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico over the past four decades—the 1979 Ixtoc I spill off the coast of Carmen, Mexico that released 3.5 million barrels of crude oil, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout off Louisiana that released 3.19 million barrels into the Gulf—have resulted in scientists coming together to gather data needed to understand the fate of oil, its disturbance to the ecosystem, and impacts on humans. One of the largest drivers of research efforts surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident is the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).

GoMRI-funded research has identified gaps in our understanding, which is leading to new research and insights that will inform society’s response to future oil spills through improved mitigation efforts, refined detection of oil and gas in the environment, more robust spill simulation models, and novel technologies.

As we celebrate oceans this week as part of #WorldOceansDay,  we reflect on the progress GOMRI has made in advancing oil spill research, and subsequently our ability to deal with the ever-present threat of oil spills. Due to the groundbreaking research GOMRI has sponsored, we will be better prepared to understand and respond to any future petroleum releases into marine systems.

Through GoMRI research funding, scientists at the University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science have helped to significantly enhance our  knowledge of Gulf ecosystems and the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf.

Oil spills are a persistent threat to the Gulf of Mexico and GoMRI scientists have rapidly responded to these spills. Within a few days of the July 2013 explosion on the Hercules gas platform off the coast of Louisiana, a diverse team of GoMRI scientists from five research consortia, including the University of Miami-based Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment (CARTHE), quickly mobilized to visit the rig site.

CARTHE's partenevia plane over the R/V Walton Smith in the Gulf of Mexico Photo credit: CARTHE/Tamay Ozgokmen

CARTHE’s partenevia plane over the R/V Walton Smith in the Gulf of Mexico
Photo credit: CARTHE/Tamay Ozgokmen

University of Miami Rosenstiel School-based RECOVER consortium, which focuses on the affects of oil exposure on fish, will satellite tag captive mahi-mahi to examine spawning behaviors; look at how oil exposure can alter vision and smell in mahi-mahi and red drum; observe the heart cells of oil-exposed mahi-mahi, evaluate the impacts of oil on genetic profiles of embryos of mahi-mahi and red drum to better predict adverse effects on the heart and whether there can be recovery; use Gulf toadfish to examine how ingesting oil-contaminated seawater affects the ability of marine fish to maintain hydration and electrolyte balance while living in a salty environment.

Professor Claire Paris

Professor Claire Paris

Professor of ocean sciences Claire Paris have been working on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill since the beginning, in April 2010, when she received a National Science Foundation grant to build the oil dispersion model.

Paris is currently a member and lead of the near- and far-field modeling task of the GoMRI-funded Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), a research consortium of 19 U.S. and international partners focused on effects of oil spills on marine environments based at the University of South Florida.

Three recently funded GoMRI studies from scientists at the UM Rosenstiel School include:

  • UM professor of ocean sciences Lynn “Nick” Shay was awarded GoMRI funding for a three-year study, titled “Three-Dimensional Gulf Circulation and Biogeochemical Processes Unveiled by State of the Art Profiling Float Technology and Data Assimilative Ocean Models.”
  • UM research professor of ocean sciences Villy Kourafalou was awarded funding for a three-year study, titled “Influence of River Induced Fronts on Hydrocarbon Transport.”
  • UM professor of ocean sciences William Drennan was awarded funding for a three-year study, titled “Investigation of Oil Spill Transport in Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment Using Simulation and Laboratory Studies.”

About GoMRI

All research discussed in this article was made possible by grants from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The GoMRI is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

This article was adapted from a news release by Leslie Smith of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership 

American Meteorological Society Bestows Award to Professor of Atmospheric Sciences

P1010419A team of researchers at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, led by Dr. David Nolan, has been awarded the prestigious Banner Miller award by the American Meteorological Society. The award is given every two years at the AMS Meeting on Hurricanes and Tropical Meteorology, most recently held this past April in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Banner Miller award recognizes an outstanding contribution to the science of hurricane and tropical weather forecasting that is published in a journal with international circulation during the previous 4 years.

The award is for the research article “Development and validation of a hurricane nature run using the Joint OSSE nature run and the WRF model,” which appeared in the Journal of Advances in Modeling Earth Systems in 2013. The article describes the development of an extremely realistic computer simulation of an Atlantic hurricane, and the validation of its realism by comparisons to observations in real hurricanes. This computer simulation – the “nature run” – is now being used by over a dozen different research groups in various Observing System Simulation Experiments. OSSEs are a way to determine the effectiveness of new instruments, such as new satellites or unmanned aircraft (drones), in improving hurricane forecasts, before they are actually deployed, potentially saving millions of dollars.

Dr. Nolan’s co-authors were RSMAS graduate students Kieran Bhatia and Lisa Bucci and Dr. Robert Atlas, director of NOAA’s Atmospheric and Oceanic Marine Laboratory, also in Miami. Their work was supported by the NOAA Office of Weather and Air Quality and its Hurricane Forecast Improvement program.

“Part of the success of this project is that we made the nature run freely available for anyone to download,” said Dr. Nolan. “In addition to OSSEs, it has been used by several groups for basic research on hurricanes.” Dr. Nolan is currently serving as the Chair of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. His research is on the dynamics of hurricanes and the improvement of hurricane forecasts. Kieran Bhatia is now a post-doctoral fellow at NOAA’s Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, New Jersey.

 

Faculty News

Lisa Beal, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean science, was appointed honorary research associate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

She was appointed in recognition of her career-long focus on the oceans around South Africa and her ongoing collaborations with South African colleagues to develop capacity for sustained measurements in the Agulhas Current as part of the Global Ocean Observing System.

Beal recently taught in the oceanography honors program at the university.

Beal

Beal with her honors class.