The Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science is one of the world’s premier education and research institutions.

MPS Alum Publishes Book About His Journey to Israel

Hug MeBorn in Cooper City, Florida, I have had a passion for science, nature, and the environment since I was a child. I grew up watching the Discovery Channel and Animal Planet, and give credit to shows like “Wild Discovery,“ “Blue Planet,” and “Walking with Dinosaurs” for instilling in me an intense appreciation for nature. As I grew older, I began to study biology and soon became hooked.

As I studied marine affairs at UM from 2008 to 2012, I incorporated my love of science with my intense desire to help others. I was active in many student groups, including the student newspaper and a philanthropic organization, Random Acts of Kindness. I also honed my desire to express myself through artwork and writing, and have used science as a subject for many of my articles and paintings. My experience in nonprofit work landed me a position on the constituency board for the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities at UM.

After graduating with my Bachelors of Arts, I started a blog called “The Written Blit” that showcases my artwork, my experiences, and my writings. I compiled my experiences and blog posts into my first book, “From the Blogosphere: Philosophy from My College Years.” A blend of introspective poems and philosophical essays, the book was my first epiphany. It is a coming-of-age piece that follows me as I try to make sense of myself and the world around me.

From May to December 2012, I worked for RSMAS’s Graduate Studies Office, which was my first true experience at RSMAS. I scanned, sorted, and copied files from the comfort of my own desk. As I did, I quickly bonded with my colleagues and supervisors. I fondly remember those days with the GSO team who profoundly enriched my life with their extraordinary work ethic, their interesting stories, and hilarious witticisms.

In August 2012, I lead RSMAS’ Fall orientation. This was a valuable experience that allowed me to connect with incoming graduate students. Because I was a new graduate student myself, I was able to establish a niche in the RSMAS community. Because I had spent my undergraduate period at the U, I was also able to give the incoming students advice about life in Miami.

Fall semester was a blur because I heavily invested myself in University activities. While I attended MPS events and worked for GSO, I actively participated in the Jewish community (such as Hillel and the Judaic Studies Center). At the same time, I pushed my writing to new levels through “The Written Blit.”

Birthright Cover 2

In December 2012, I traveled to Israel for the first time. When I returned in January 2013, I wrote and self-published my second book. “Birthright 2012: A Voyage into the Heart and Soul of Israel” follows my physical and spiritual journey in the Land of Milk and Honey. It is my second epiphany, the culmination of my search for identity. “Birthright 2012” combines personal anecdotes with science, history, and poetry, yet reads like a journal.

As I begin my second semester at RSMAS, I continuously strive to help others find themselves in our increasingly complicated world. I firmly believe that individuals have the power to change their circumstances for the better. I will use my experiences and my MPS degree to make that belief a concrete reality.

By: Andrew Biltman, MPS in Marine Conservation Alumnus

Waterlust’s ‘Wetlab’ Video Highlights UM’s Masters of Professional Science (MPS) Program


Been wondering what our Masters of Professional Science (MPS) students are up to? The University of Miami’s student-run Waterlust Project decided to show you!  The team created a GoPro film that highlights a few of the amazing research and internship opportunities available.

The new ‘Wetlab’ video was GoPro’s ‘Video of the Week’ last week! 

Launched in 2012, The Waterlust Project has reached more than half a million people with its 11 short films on a variety of ocean-related topics that focus on what water means to us. Their films offer a juxtaposition of academic achievement and artistic creativity that embodies the University as a whole.

Over at Waterlust we decided to produce a short film that captured some of the unique perspectives that graduate students get to experience here at RSMAS. We especially wanted to highlight the Master of Professional Science program in hopes of inspiring up-and-coming students to study the ocean. We searched around campus for things to film and were met with enthusiasm and smiles wherever we went. We lurked on lab groups, loaned cameras to field teams, brought cameras into classrooms, and went into the field ourselves. Passion, dedication, and a desire to find answers was everywhere we turned. We want to thank everybody who helped to make this film. Thank you for making RSMAS the coolest place to go to school.

– Patrick + The Waterlust Project Crew


Student Assists with Rescue of Stranded Pilot Whales

On September 1, 2012, the Marine Mammal Conservancy (MMC) provided me with a rare and unforgettable opportunity to assist with the rescue of stranded short-finned pilot whales.  Earlier that day, a pod of 22 pilot whales beached themselves at Avalon State Park in Ft. Pierce, Florida.  MMC rushed to the scene to assist with the mass stranding after receiving a call from Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI).

I arrived on the beach later that afternoon and was directed to help transport the whales using a unique dolphin and whale stretcher.  We moved the first of five juvenile pilot whales off the beach to a rescue truck destined for the nearby critical care facility at HBOI.

Pilot Whale Initial Acclimation + Exam sm

Following in my truck, I arrived at the facility to witness veterinarians and experienced staff members wading with the whales in a shallow pool at the center of the facility.  At this stage, the animals had already been weighed, tagged, and provided antibiotics to fight infection.  While absorbing the experience from the side of the pool, the director of the Marine Mammal Research and Conservation Program (MMRC) Steve McCulloch called me into the water.  I was shocked at the offer and couldn’t refuse.  He gave me a brief crash course in animal rehabilitation and subsequently placed one of the orphaned whales in my care once he was confident in my abilities.  I slowly introduced the wild whale (technically adolphin considering its taxonomic classification in the Family Delphinidae) to its new enclosure, while making occasional eye contact and lightly gripping its pectoral fin, hoping to provide a sense of reassurance and commonality.

I spent hours assisting the orphaned whales in the pool, never losing sight of the momentous opportunity I was provided to play an active role in some of the most humble interactions between marine mammals and human beings.  As day turned to night, everyone was called out of the water.  It was time to see if the animals were stable enough to swim by themselves.  To the relief of all, they managed to stay afloat, bringing their blowholes above the surface of the water to breathe periodically.  Although extremely weak from their ordeal, they maintained a loose group and set a slow pace around the perimeter of the pool.

Elated by this small victory, I picked up a clipboard and spent the first night collecting critical data on respiration rates for the veterinarians and rehabilitation experts.  The information was crucial to the rehabilitation effort, because it served as a baseline for evaluating the overall health of the animals in our care and also acted as an early warning sign should the animals’ condition start to deteriorate.

I spent the next two days assisting HBOI in various tasks, all focused on saving the lives of the whales in our care.  These tasks included transporting supplies, sanitizing equipment, maintaining facilities, learning how to prepare diets, and training incoming volunteers to identify the animals and collect data.  I also had the privilege to assist in tube feeding the whales.  “Tubing” involved making special whale “milkshakes” and pouring the mixture down a tube into their stomachs.  This procedure was necessary to ensure the hydration and proper nutrition of the whales, since they had likely never been asked to consume dead fish, much less accept hand feeding.  Take it from my experience, there’s nothing natural about sticking your hand into a wild animal’s mouth, past rows of sharp teeth, but the process was critical to their survival.

Although there was no shortage of learning experiences during my stay at HBOI, learning to put my feelings on hold was perhaps the most helpful.  A stranding is no time to allow emotions to get the best of your judgment and professionalism.  Keeping this in mind, I was able to effectively absorb and retain information, complete all tasks with equal motivation, and take a measured approach to an emergency.

It was a sincere privilege to work with the remarkably selfless group of animal experts and volunteers of MMC, HBOI, and other rescue groups in what became an inspiring and life-changing event.  Together, we saved the lives of the pilot whales in our care, and thereby created an everlasting bond between animals and the human beings that reached out to help them in a selfless act of dedication.

 By: Ethan Kleinschmidt, MPS Graduate Student

Masters of Professional Science: Marine Mammal Science
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2013 Sea Secrets Lecture Series – Mark Your Calendar for the Season!

Screen shot 2013-01-10 at 3.06.34 PMThe Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and the Ocean Research and Education Foundation have teamed up once again to host distinguished scientists and explorers as part of the 2013 Sea Secrets lecture series.  The events are free and open to the public. Programs take place in the Rosenstiel School Auditorium, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway on Virginia Key, Fla. beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the lecture at 6:00 p.m.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Eugene A. Shinn, Professor, University of South Florida College of Marine Science & UM Alumnus

The mysterious rock megaliths off the island of Bimini in The Bahamas have interested geologists and New Age thinkers for more than 50 years. Some believe the stones are remnants of the lost city of Atlantis, while geologist have alternative ideas. Geologist Gene Shinn has been involved in the heated controversy over these megaliths since the 1970s when he headed up the US Geological Survey field station on Fisher Island. Gene majored in biology on a music scholarship at the University of Miami, while at the same time becoming a national spearfishing champion, underwater-explosives expert and photographer. His dynamic presentation will illustrate why New Agers feel so strongly about the megaliths origin. The adventure is also described in his upcoming memoir, Bootstrap Geologist.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Brian Malow, Earth’s Premier Science Humorist (self-proclaimed)

Plunge into marine science with comedian Brian Malow.  From coral reefs to the Marianas Trench, plankton to whales, photosynthesis to climate change, he will discover the lighter side and bring it to the surface. Malow has been featured in Nature, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, and in programs such as The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson and NPR’s Science Friday with Ira Flatow. He has also performed to rave reviews for NASA, JPL, NIST, NSF, AAAS – and many other acronyms.  He creates science videos for Time Magazine’s website and is a contributor to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s radio show.  Currently working in science communications at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, Malow is widely acclaimed for his workshops and presentations which help train scientists to become better speakers.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013
Charles Fisher, Professor of Biology, Pennsylvania State University

Considered by many to be the planet’s final frontier for exploration, the deep sea is home to a wealth of mineral, oil and gas deposits that mankind’s ever- increasing population will need in the future. Biologist Chuck Fisher has been studying the communities that live around natural oil and gas seeps in the deep Gulf of Mexico, and those that live on deep sea hydrothermal vents since their discovery about 30 years ago. This pioneer in the field is an expert on the amazing evolutionary adaptations of giant tubeworms and other strange animals to the extreme, often toxic environments of undersea volcanoes and oil seeps. With the first deep sea mining of hydrothermal vents scheduled for 2013, and drilling in the Gulf moving into deeper and deeper water, much of Fisher’s research is now addressing the ecology of these poorly known communities and their resiliency to human impacts.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Tierney Thys, National Geographic Explorer

We need to tap all of our creative talents to help conserve our vital ocean resources. With this in mind, National Geographic Explorer, Tierney Thys, works closely with photographers, dancers, filmmakers, gamers and other artists to help infuse quality science and conservation messaging into their work. In addition to conducting her own research on the giant ocean sunfish Mola mola, this scientist and ocean conservationist is: the writer/ producer for Stories from the Sea–an award-winning TEDed web series; the lead science advisor for the renowned dance troupe, Capacitor’s, Okeanos Project and; Daily Explorer in AnimalJam.com, an online world for 6-9 year olds with 6 million registered players. She served as Director of Research for the acclaimed Strange Days on Planet Earth PBS documentary series on global environmental change. In this media rich presentation, this TED braintrust member will present examples of what has and hasn’t worked, and discuss the value of reaching both the heart and mind to move conservation issues forward.

Winners of the University of Miami’s 2013 Underwater Photography Contest will be announced after the lecture and winning images will be on display at the Rosenstiel School library.
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Amy Clement, Professor of Meteorology & Physical Oceanography at UM

Gases, cloud droplets and dust exist all around us. This often-invisible ‘stuff’ in the atmosphere plays a major role in driving changes to our climate. The greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, for example, has a well-known warming effect on the climate and will continue to raise the planet’s temperature for the foreseeable future. Cloud and dust particles reflect and absorb radiation, which can alter the rate of climate change, but there are large uncertainties in how dust and clouds will change in the future. The implications are global, but they can have major consequences for life here in South Florida by affecting how fast the sea level rises. Award-winning climate scientist Dr. Amy Clement will discuss the current state-of-the-art science that is focused on studying these gases and particles, how we detect them and most importantly, how we can evaluate their impacts.

NOTE: This year the series will offer attendees the opportunity to become a Sea Secrets VIP when they reserve a seat for the entire season. $500 for two seats or $300 for one seat will guarantee premium seating, plus a personalized plaque on an auditorium seat and a VIP dinner. Donations go toward the renovation of the Auditorium and are tax-deductible. For more information, please contact Susan Gerrish at sgerrish@rsmas.miami.edu.

Sea Secrets is sponsored by The Shepard Broad Foundation, The Charles N. and Eleanor Knight Leigh Foundation and Southern Wine & Spirits, and organized by UM Professor Emeritus Robert N. Ginsburg.

Top This! New Facilty Reaches Milestone

IMG_0168On Wednesday, January 9 more than 200 construction crew members attended a ceremony to celebrate the ‘Topping Off’ of the Marine Technology and Life Sciences Seawater Complex on the campus of UM’s Rosenstiel School.  The ceremony is a builder’s tradition that marks when the last beam is placed at the top of a building.  Speakers at the event included Mr. Dagoberto Diaz and Mr. Rex Kirby of Suffolk Construction; Dr. Michael Schmale of the University of Miami; and Chief Architect Peter Sollogub of Cambridge Seven Associates.

IMG_0001Dean Avissar and co-PI’s Mike Schmale and Brian Haus were among those who signed the beam which was hoisted into place after lunch. The beam was deposited next to an evergreen tree placed upon the structure to bring growth and good luck.  Workers were also treated to a raffle with gifts from Gerdau – Tampa Reinforcing Steel, Lotspeich Company, Inc., Meisner Electric, Inc., Maxim Crane, Sun Belt Rental, J & J Caulking and the UM.

The new complex is located amid the thriving science community on Virginia Key, Fla. Funded in part through a $15 million U.S. Department of Commerce American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant awarded by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), the project will be completed in late 2013.

The Surge-Structure-Atmosphere Interaction (SUSTAIN) research laboratory occupying one of the two buildings will be the only facility in the world with a wind-wave-storm surge simulator capable of generating Category 5 hurricane force winds in a 3D environment. The 28,000 gallons of filtered seawater pumped into the building will allow scientists to directly observe and quantify critical storm factors such as sea spray and momentum transfers across the ocean’s surface in extreme wind conditions. A sophisticated wave generator will enable simulation of realistic storm surge impacts.

The Marine Life Sciences Center, occupying the other building, will provide a dedicated space for maintaining and studying living marine animals including fish, corals and sea hares. Coral reef research will focus on helping to assess and measure the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on critical reef-building processes.  Scientists will also conduct fisheries and biological oceanography research to generate models of the biological and physical processes that affect the distribution of marine organisms.  They will also study the impacts of environmental toxicants including heavy metals, pharmaceuticals and toxins on fishes and invertebrates, and use marine genomics to better understand how gene expression changes in marine populations chronically exposed to pollution.

Congratulations to everyone who has been working so hard to make this building a reality! Check out the photo gallery below for a few photos from the event.  

RSMAS Professor Lisa Beal Visits Cape Town School

IMG_9044RSMAS Professor Lisa Beal was in Cape Town, South Africa in Oct. 2012 for the AGU Chapman Conference on the Greater Agulhas System. The conference was the first of its kind on the African continent and the first conference wholly dedicated to the Agulhas System, which has recently been suggested to play an important role in global climate change (Beal et al., Nature, 2011).
While in Cape Town, she and NOAA scientist Dr. Meghan Cronin visited a science class at the Sophumelela Secondary School to talk about oceans role in the climate system and the Agulhas current that helps shape the regional climate in South Africa.

The Agulhas Current flows as a fast and narrow stream along the east coast of South Africa and is the western boundary current of the south Indian Ocean subtropical gyre. The Greater Agulhas System comprises the sources and influences of the Agulhas current, including its leakage of Indian Ocean waters into the Atlantic south of Africa.
The Chapman Conference was highly multi-disciplinary, including research into the fisheries and ecosystems, coupled ocean-atmosphere processes, water masses and dynamics, and past and future states – through paleoceanography and modeling – of the Greater Agulhas System.
Dr. Beal was one of four lead conveners of the conference, along with Will de Ruijter from University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, Arne Biastoch from GEOMAR Kiel in Germany, and Rainer Zahn from University of Barcelona in Spain.
Click here to read more about Dr. Beal’s research on the Agulhas current.
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