CSTARS Study Evaluates Oil Spill Detection Tool

Scientists led by the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) of the University of Miami recently published an overview of synthetic aperture radar (SAR) as a tool to identify oil slicks on the ocean surface using satellite imagery.

SAR images were used to trace the areal extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

SAR images were used to trace the areal extent of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The researchers outlined the “capabilities and shortcomings” of SAR to identify oil slicks that enter the marine environment through seeps, leaks, illegal discharge, and other industrial, transportation, or drilling accidents. They summarized the techniques used for identifying oil with SAR, the advanced capabilities of the newer programs and instruments, and the advancing potential for SAR to be used to monitor oceans for natural and illegal spills. The team published their findings in the June 2013 issue of OceanographyOil Spills and Slicks Imaged by Synthetic Aperture Radar.

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Story reprinted courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiaitve

Faculty and Student Honors & Awards

Professor Eberli Receives Distinguished Educator Award

UM Rosenstiel School Professor of Marine Geology and Geophysics Gregor Eberli is the recipient of the 2014 American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award “for being a superb teacher and mentor to young geoscientists and an educator to the industry and for his insightful and scholarly publications.”

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Gregor Eberli

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Gregor Eberli

A native of Switzerland, Dr. Eberli received his doctorate from the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) Zürich in 1985. In 1991 he joined the faculty of the UM Rosenstiel School, where he has been a principal advisor to over 20 doctoral and masters students and 12 post-doctoral students, as well as being associated with numerous other students through his teaching and as a research advisor. He is currently director of the CSL – Center for Carbonate Research, an association between oil companies and the University of Miami, which has been a model copied by numerous other universities. The mission of the Center is to conduct fundamental research in carbonates and to disseminate the results of this integrated research not only through academic journals but also directly to geoscientists working in companies.

Together with colleagues he leads high-quality field trips and short courses to industry geologists and engineers working for various companies from around the world. He co-led an AAPG Field Seminar to Great Bahama Bank for over a decade; the seminar is still run through the University of Miami and since its inception nearly 400 industry “students” have been introduced to carbonates with a major focus on stratigraphy and heterogeneity issues in carbonate reservoirs. He has been a distinguished lecturer for AAPG in 1996/97, JOI/USSAC in 1998/99, and the European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers in 2005-2006.

The AAPG Grover E. Murray Memorial Distinguished Educator Award is given in recognition of distinguished and outstanding contributions to geological education, including the teaching and counseling of students at the university level, and contributions to the education of the public, and management of educational programs. The award is presented at the AAPG annual meeting.

2013 Delcroix Prize in Oceans and Human Health

UM Rosenstiel School Professor Emerita Lora Fleming has been awarded the 2013 Delcroix Prize for her outstanding research in the field of oceans and human health.The prize will be awarded in Oostende, Belgium in June 2014, including a presentation from the laureate on her prize-winning research.

UM Professor Emerita Lora Fleming

UM Professor Emerita Lora Fleming

Prior to retiring from UM and joining the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, Fleming held a joint appointment at the UM Rosenstiel School and the UM Medical School and was co-director of the NSF-NIEHS Oceans and Human Health Center. She has created outreach and educational materials on the human health effects of marine and freshwater natural toxins, and performed research in Ciguatera Fish Poisoning, Florida Red Tides (Brevetoxins) and cyanobacterial toxins.

The Dr. Edouard Delcroix Prize is an international scientific prize awarded to a researcher or a research team for a scientific study on the links between oceans and human health. The prize was established in honor of Dr. Edouard Delcroix (1891-1973), Belgian orthopaedic surgeon and pioneer in thalassotherapy.

Rosenstiel School Student Goldwater Scholarship Honorable Mention

Joaquin Nunez received Honorable Mention from the Goldwater Scholarship Selection Committee. Nunez transferred to the Marine Science/Biology program in the Rosenstiel School in fall 2013, after earning an Associate’s degree in biology from Miami-Dade College – where he was involved with the National Science Foundation-funded STEM FYE program, which provides academic services to under-represented students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

During his first semester at UM, Nunez joined the UM Rosenstiel School Laboratory of Marine Genomics, where he studies how genomes in the mummichog fish respond to changes in temperature. His work has implications for climate change and the global distribution of fish populations.

Associate Professor of Marine Biology Marjorie Oleksiak, who leads the marine genomics lab, wrote, “Mr. Nunez has proven to be responsible and dedicated, but also enthusiastic and curious.” She said that this “dedicated scholar” has an innate “ability to see a need or opportunity and act on it,” adding, “Often, what he does is above and beyond the call of duty.”

The Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Program was established by Congress in 1986 to honor Senator Barry M. Goldwater, who served his country for 56 years as a soldier and statesman, including 30 years of service in the U.S. Senate.  The purpose of the foundation is to provide a continuing source of highly qualified scientists, mathematicians, and engineers by awarding scholarships to college students who intend to pursue careers in these fields. For more information, visit: www.act.org/goldwater 

The MPO Best Paper Award Goes To…

UM Rosenstiel School Ph.D. student Katinka Bellomo received the Best Paper Award from the Division of Meteorology and Physical Oceanography (MPO) for her research paper recently published in the American Meteorology Society’s Journal of Climate.

“Receiving the MPO best paper award is a huge personal satisfaction,” said Katinka. “This is the first paper of my dissertation and of my life.”

Addu Atoll lagoon at sunset

The paper, titled “Observational and Model Estimates of Cloud Amount Feedback over the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” addressed the largest uncertainty in climate models – cloud feedback – by examining observations of cloud cover taken from ships and satellites from 1954 to 2005. The results of this paper represent the first observational long-term estimate of cloud feedback.

In response to greenhouse gas forcing, the Earth would naturally cool off by emitting more radiation back into space. However, feedback mechanisms, from clouds, can increase or reduce this cooling rate.

“I am satisfied that the paper shows how to handle the uncertainties in observations and provides a methodology to estimate cloud feedbacks from these observations,” said Katinka.

Congrats Katinka!

At the Heart of a Hurricane Forecast

One of the many challenges in hurricane forecasting is incorporating observational data into forecast models. Data assimilation, as scientists refer to it, is the process of combining observational data – information obtained by satellites, radars or from instruments deployed into storms by aircraft – into a numerical weather prediction model.

Incorporating real-world temperature, wind, moisture or atmospheric pressure from multiple sources is a core component of hurricane science and vital to provide improved forecasts of both the track and intensity of storms. How to incorporate new types of observational information into a model is at the very heart of hurricane forecasting.

At the American Meteorology Society’s 31st annual Hurricane and Tropical Meteorology meeting in San Diego this week, Rosenstiel School Professor Sharan Majumdar discussed new approaches to improve data assimilation.

Typhoon Sinlaku (2008), as seen from Terra Satellite on September 10 2008. Credit: NASA

Typhoon Sinlaku (2008), as seen from Terra Satellite on September 10 2008. Credit: NASA

Citing the Ph.D. research of Rosenstiel School graduate student Ting-Chi Wu, Majumdar discussed the assimilation of temperature and moisture data obtained from satellite-based advanced Infrared (IR) soundings measured by polar-orbiting satellites of Typhoon Sinlaku during the 2008 Pacific typhoon season. Wu’s studied the period of storm intensification as Sinlaku intensified into a category-2 typhoon. Her conclusion was that the assimilation of temperature and moisture show promise in improving forecasts of hurricane and typhoon intensity, though more work needs to be done to improve their use.

Majumdar also provided an overview of strategies to assimilate observations to improve numerical weather forecasts of the track and structure of storms. He showed that targeted aircraft observations in select areas and satellite observations from both within and outside a tropical cyclone are beneficial.

Bite Size Wins Prize in Ocean Video Challenge

1397354_10152193972993265_1324283571_o Bite Size: Bull shark predation of tarpon from UM Rosenstiel School Research Assistant Professor Neil Hammerschlag and Gareth Burghes of Lagomorph Films claimed third place honors in the Ocean 180 video Challenge. This video highlights a collaborative research project with Rosenstiel researchers Dr. Jerry Ault and Dr. Jiangang Luo.

Using three-minute videos, ocean scientists explored a piece of their own recently published research, highlighting its significance and purpose.

To determine who was best at engaging and explaining these new discoveries, the Ocean 180 Video Challenge looked to a group of potential future scientists: a team of nearly 31,000 middle school students from around the world. Viewing each of the finalists, students were asked to evaluate the films for their clarity and message. They were also asked to consider which videos made them excited about the scientists’ research. After 5 weeks of classroom viewing, deliberation, discussion and voting, the three winners emerged.

“The competition is both a great opportunity to communicate our science as well as evaluate how our outreach efforts resonate with young audiences,” said Hammerschlag.

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Finalists had their videos viewed by thousands of classrooms around the world, exposing diverse and new audiences to their research. Students also provided scientists with feedback on how to improve their video storytelling and technical skills and ways to make science more relatable to the public.

For some middle school students, and budding scientists, sharing science might be the best part of Ocean 180. As one student judge explained, “It’s not very good to keep information that’s valuable to the world cooped up in a little box. You need to open the box and let everybody see it so they’re more aware of the environment and what’s in it.”

Sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence (COSEE Florida) and funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, the Ocean 180 Video Challenge was designed to inspire scientists to communicate the meaning and significance of scientific research with a broader audience.

Click here to learn more about the research study – Hammerschlag N, Luo J, Irschick DJ, Ault JS (2012) A Comparison of Spatial and Movement Patterns between Sympatric Predators: Bull Sharks (Carcharhinus leucas) and Atlantic Tarpon (Megalops atlanticus). PLoS ONE 7(9): e45958. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0045958.

Tarpon

Photo credit: Joe Romeiro

A Catch of Another Kind

When Miami fisherman Tim O’Neill went fishing off Key Biscayne one morning in search of swordfish he returned with a much rarer specimen than he had in mind. When he finally reeled in the big chunk of ocean bottom he realized he had hooked a giant tooth.

“I couldn’t grab the rock fast enough,” said O’Neill, captain of the F/V Cacique.

Sharktooth_closeup

What he reeled in that day from 1800 feet below was an exceptional find – a crustal rock from the ocean floor with a large fossilized shark tooth jutting out. He contacted UM Rosenstiel School scientists to help him identify his unusual find.

According to Rosenstiel School scientists the fossilized upper front tooth encased in rock he caught is from the now extinct relative of the great white shark, Carcharodon megalodon, which is known for its “mega teeth” and estimated to be 10-15 million years old.

“The great white shark that exists today is more closely related to the prehistoric Mako shark than the megalodon,” says Rosenstiel research assistant professor Neil Hammerschlag and director of the RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program.

Rosenstiel School marine geology professor Gregor Eberli examined the rock first hand to discover that the black-colored megalodon tooth was well preserved in the limestone rock coated with a mixture of iron and manganese.

Eberli

O’Neill caught his one-of-a kind find about 10 miles off the coast of Miami in an area known as the Miami Terrace. University of Miami scientists conducting an echo-sounding survey first discovered the region in 1958. The area is of interest to scientists for its mix of geological and biological finds.

“At approximately 1800 feet depth, the Miami Terrace is a large, current-swept submarine plateau whose flank down to the floor of the Straits of Florida at 2600 feet is covered with 100 foot ridges, which provides habitat for deep-water corals, sponges, lobsters and fish,” said Eberli.

Tim O’Neill pulled the rock off the edge of the Terrace. He is planning to keep his million-year-old ocean treasure at home as a reminder that great whites once roamed the Straits of Florida.

– RSMAS Communications

– Photos: Diana Udel

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