Faculty and Alumni News

The Oceanography Society Honors Professor Fine


Rana Fine

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Rana Fine was elected a 2016 Fellow of The Oceanography Society (TOS) for her outstanding contributions to the field of oceanography. She will be honored along with other 2016 Fellows during the TOS breakfast on Feb. 23, 2016 at the American Geophysical Union’s Ocean Sciences Meeting.

Fine’s scientific interests include ocean circulation processes and their role in climate using chemical tracers. Fine is a fellow of the AGU, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and American Meteorological Society.

A graduate of the UM Rosenstiel School, Fine has received the highest honor attainable at the University of Miami, induction into the School’s Iron Arrow Honor Society. Fine also received a Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity from the University of Miami.

TOS was founded in 1988 to disseminate knowledge of oceanography and its application through research and education, to promote communication among oceanographers, and to provide a constituency for consensus building across all the disciplines of the field.

Alumna Heads to Washington, DC as 2016 Knauss Fellow


Erica Towle

UM Rosenstiel School alumna Eric Towle was awarded a 2016 NOAA John A. Knauss Marine Policy Fellowship through the Florida Sea Grant Program for her outstanding achievement in marine and coastal policy research. Towle will relocate to Washington, D.C. for one year to work with the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation for the majority staff, focusing on oceans, atmosphere, fisheries, and the Coast Guard.

Towle is a double alumna of the UM Rosenstiel School earning her B.S. in marine and atmospheric science in 2010 and her Ph.D. in marine biology and ecology in 2015.  Her Ph.D. research was completed in Chris Langdon’s Corals and Climate Change Lab, focusing on identifying indicators of resilience to climate change stress in corals of the Florida Reef Tract.

The National Sea Grant College Program created the Knauss fellowship in 1979 to provide educational experiences to students that have an interest in ocean and coastal resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.

Towle hopes the fellowship will teach her more about how science is translated and used in policymaking.

Alumna Elected Chair of Beach Preservation Association

Leanne Welch

Leanne Welch

UM alumna Leanne Welch was elected chair of the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association (FSBPA) at their annual meeting in September. Her tenure as chair began Jan. 1, 2016 and runs through Dec. 31, 2016. As chair, Welch directs the board meetings and serves on the planning committees for the statewide meetings, which will be held in Jacksonville and Naples in 2016. She works closely with the president and executive director of FSBPA, as well as with other member counties and cities, to promote effective beach management throughout the state.

Welch graduated from UM in 1994 with a double major in marine science and biology and is currently an environmental manager with Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resources Management. She manages many coastal issues in Palm Beach County, including coastal construction (beach and dune nourishment, artificial reef construction, inlet management, and living shorelines), coral reef ecosystem monitoring, sea turtle nesting, manatee protection, and a variety of estuarine management and monitoring programs in Lake Worth Lagoon.

Since its inception in 1957, the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association has functioned as a league of coastal cities and counties on behalf of Florida’s beaches. FSBPA provides information to the Florida Legislature and Congress on beach preservation issues and funding.

Welch has been on the Board of Directors of FSBPA since February of 2012.

UM coral scientist studies at Centre Scientifique de Monaco

As I write this blog, I am looking out the window at the famous Port Hercule in Monaco and see all of the beautiful yachts and racing sailboats.  And the best part is – I’m in my office!  Allow me to back-track: I am a 5th year Ph.D. candidate in Dr. Chris Langdon’s lab here at RSMAS.  I study indicators of resilience to climate change stressors in Florida Reef Tract corals.  Two years ago I met Dr. Christine Ferrier-Pages at the International Coral Reef Symposium.  Christine is the director of the Coral Eco-physiology team at the Centre Scientifique de Monaco (CSM), and I have admired her work on coral feeding for years.  By maintaining contact with her after we met at the conference, and through another colleague of Chris Langdon’s at a French university, I was offered the opportunity to participate in a seven-week collaboration in Christine’s lab in Monaco.  Together, we are studying the combined effects of nutrient enrichment (eutrophication), coral feeding, and elevated temperature stress on coral growth and physiology.  The lab facilities here are unparalleled, and it is truly an honor and a privilege for me to complete the last chapter of my dissertation at this institution.

View of Port Hercule in Monaco

View of Port Hercule in Monaco

Here’s a little history about CSM: it was founded in 1960 at the request of Prince Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, to provide the Principality of Monaco with the means of carrying out oceanographic research and to support governmental and international organizations responsible for the protection and conservation of marine life.  Since the late 1990s, the CSM has been a leader in coral reef biology, specializing in biomineralization research and climate change effects on corals.  The ocean and the issues surrounding it have always been on the forefront of causes important to the royal family of Monaco.  In addition to the CSM, Monaco also boasts an extensive oceanography museum and aquarium which draws international attention.

So what has it been like to work here so far?  One thing I have found a little challenging is learning to run an experiment in another language.  While most of the researchers here speak English (their publications are normally submitted in English,) French is their native language and is most commonly spoken in the lab.  I speak conversational French pretty well, but I have to learn basic experiment terms in French; words like tubes, flow rate, and probe, to name a few, were all new to me in the French language.

For now, my post-work view is the Mediterranean Sea, but I know in a few weeks a sunset view overlooking Biscayne Bay from the Wetlab patio will be calling my name…

Until then,

Erica Towle, Ph.D. Candidate, Marine Biology and Ecology


International Coral Reef Symposium Invaluable for RSMAS Students

RSMAS students at the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium in Cairns, Australia

Any coral biologist would jump at the chance to attend a coral reef symposium or dive in the South Pacific, and this summer I got to do both on one trip. I have just returned from Cairns, Australia, host city to the 12th International Coral Reef Symposium, (ICRS,) a conference that occurs every four years. As an early-career Ph.D. student, I had been to smaller national-scale meetings, but ICRS was my first large-scale international meeting solely devoted to coral science. I can honestly say that I will remember ICRS as one of my most stimulating and exciting learning experiences to date. Before the conference began I emailed several professors from other universities whose work pertains to mine to ask them to come to my poster session. By the end of the conference, I had discussed my research with the likes of Drs. Grottoli, Sebens, Dove, Houlbreque, Holcomb, and Ferrier-Pages, to name a few, all of whom are scientists whose work has inspired mine in some way. It was an invaluable experience to talk to my science “idols” and get their advice and constructive criticism on my work. These are scientists whose papers I have been reading for years and have never been able to put a face to a name, so to talk to them in person was a dream come true. One of the other great joys for me at ICRS was watching the talks of fellow RSMAS students such as Remy Okazaki, Rachel Silverstein, Ross Cunning, Xaymara Serrano, Rivah Winter, Quinn Devlin, Dan Holstein, Marc Nadon, and Carolyn Margolin, to name a few. It made me extremely proud to see all of the amazing work being done by my peers, and to see such a strong RSMAS presence at ICRS. Coral reefs are facing a multitude of threats right now, namely bleaching, acidification, habitat degradation, overfishing, and eutrophication among many others, which can make the future of coral reefs seem pretty grim at times. However, being at a meeting with 2,500 other coral scientists who are working every day to learn more about coral reefs instills hope in me for the future of my favorite ecosystem.

After the conference, a group of four other RSMAS grad students and I were lucky enough to travel to Fiji on our way back to the States. For a group of coral biologists, diving in Fiji was absolutely surreal. Just a few steps off the beach of our accommodations on Waya Island was the best snorkeling any of us had ever done in our lives. Coral cover was easily over 100% because of the layers of plating species on top of one another. After doing several dives and countless snorkels, it was clear that the reefs of Waya Island were pristine – with little to no signs of bleaching or degradation. There was definitely lots of talk amongst our group that we should write a grant proposal to come back to study the reefs of Fiji! Since all of us do our research primarily in South Florida where Acroporid species are extremely endangered, it was overwhelming to see huge stands of Acropora on Fijian reefs. Also, the sheer biodiversity of the reef was amazing compared to our Atlantic/Caribbean reefs – we saw more fish, nudibranchs, lobsters, turtles, sharks, eels, and sea stars on one single dive in Fiji than we normally see on multiple dives in Florida. We were also lucky because the season to see Giant Manta rays in Fiji is May-October, so a couple of us got to swim with these beautiful animals, which had been a personal dream of mine for a long time. Overall, the entire trip broadened my horizons as a coral scientist because ICRS gave me the opportunity to hear about the newest research being done in the field and diving in the South Pacific opened my eyes to how a thriving coral reef ecosystem can and should look. Now my task is to use the feedback and inspiration I got at ICRS to improve my research, and to start saving up for the 13th ICRS in Hawaii in 2016!

Erica Towle
Graduate Student – Marine Biology & Fisheries
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