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.

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 with her honors class.


Researcher Discusses New Project on Effects of Oil Spills – (Video)

Villy Kourafalou, UM research professor of ocean sciences, discusses her three-year study, titled “Influence of River Induced Fronts on Hydrocarbon Transport” in a newly released video. Kourafalou was awarded over $2 million from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board to conduct the study on the effects of oil on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health. The project began in Jan. 2016, and the project partner institutions include: University of South Florida, Water Mapping LLC, and the Norwegian Meteorological Institute.

Professor Emeritus Receives Surprise Honor

Joe and lab plaque_IMG_1561UM Rosenstiel School Professor Emeritus Joseph Prospero received a unique recognition at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Izana Observatory, a world-renowned atmospheric research station located in Tenerife, Canary Islands.

“For the celebration they asked me to present a short lecture on the history of our aerosol studies at Izana,” said Prospero. “At the end of the lecture – and to my great surprise – they presented to me a large aluminum plaque that was intended to be affixed to a building.”

The Izana Observatory building is now named the “Joseph M. Prospero Aerosol Research Laboratory.”

Known as the “grandfather of dust,” Prospero’s lifelong work has been to measure the effects of airborne dust. Since 1965, he and his colleagues have been measuring dust particles in Barbados, West Indies, thus creating the longest dust measurement data set in science.

Sergio and Joe with my lab at far left_MG_1543

“I have had a long association with the observatory, starting in 1974 when I started aerosol sampling at the site,” said Prospero. “Over the years we have continued to cooperate and we have held some major field campaigns there.”

About 100 people representing the major atmospheric and meteorological centers attended Prospero’s lecture.


Award-Winning Research Paper

P1070894A paper authored by Cassandra Gaston, UM Rosenstiel School assistant professor of atmospheric sciences, on emissions of sulfur compounds from the ocean to the atmosphere has been selected as the top environmental science paper of 2015 from the journal Environmental Science and Technology (ES&T).

“The unique sea spray particles described in this work were detected along the California coast, across the Pacific Ocean, and in the southern Indian Ocean suggesting that these particles represent a globally significant biogenic contribution to the atmosphere,” said Gaston about the paper. “This study reveals the complexity of air-sea interactions, which are important drivers of global climate.”

To highlight notable publications, each year ES&T‘s editors identify a pool of outstanding papers. The editorial advisory board works with the editor-in-chief to select best papers in four categories on the basis of quality, novelty, and impact.

“It is difficult but rewarding to select the best papers, and we appreciate the efforts of the chair of the selection committee, Dr. Jason White, and the board members who made the tough choices,” said ES&T’s Editor-in-Chief David Sedlak in an editorial. “We are also grateful to the thousands of authors and reviewers who made it possible for us to publish so many excellent papers during the past year.”

Gaston’s paper, titled “Direct Night-Time Ejection of Particle-Phase Reduced Biogenic Sulfur Compounds from the Ocean to the Atmosphere,” can be read here.

In 2015, ES&T received almost 6000 manuscripts and published 1643 articles. To see more of the award-winning papers, click here.