Tools for Success

The STEM field has become increasingly popular and important in the past few years. Encouraging grade school students to participate in STEM activities have been shown to make an impact in their chances of high school graduation and being accepted into college. In fact, one program has seen first-hand what a difference STEM immersion can do for a student.

One program that has made an incredible impact on high school students since its inception in 1999, has been the Frost Science Upward Bound Math and Science program (UBMS), funded by the U.S. Department of Education. UBMS understands the importance of science in the classroom, but has also realized that under-resourced students often miss out on a science focused curriculum in school as well as lacking science role models in their lives. To defeat this problem, the UBMS program enlists students from Title 1 schools within the M-DCPS district and enrolls them in a four year, after school, weekend and summer program geared towards STEM curiosity. The program inspires these under-resourced students the opportunity to see a world of post-secondary study, motivating them to complete high school and become the first generation in their family to be accepted into college.

The UBMS program provides these students with access to mentors, interactions with scientists and technology as well as a six-week summer program called IMPACT (Integrated Marine Program and College Training). In partnership with the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, these students are able to immerse themselves with marine science curriculum through activities with the university such as shark tagging expeditions, outdoor field experiences and field trips to state parks and marine sanctuaries and conduct research projects mentored by graduate students and M-DCPS teachers.

IMPACT Program student cuts a piece of a Nurse shark’s dorsal fin for analysis back at the lab.


The IMPACT curriculum always includes the theory, practice and tools associated with different subjects ranging from oceanography, marine biology, geology, and ecology, meteorology and resource management. At the end of their six-week summer program, the students are given the opportunity to present their projects and are recognized by museum staff, scientists, families and peers for their dedicated accomplishments.

This summer, I was given the opportunity to present and give a lecture to these students during their six-week IMPACT program at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. As a current Rosenstiel School graduate student, I am fulfilling my internship requirement under the direction of Research Professor Vassiliki Kourafalou in the Department of Ocean Sciences, who is currently doing research with funding from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)  which is a “10-year independent research program created 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” (Gulf of Mexico Research Intiative 2013). In easier words, to understand the effects of oil on the environment and how to be better prepared in case another oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon explosion were to happen again. During my internship, I spent most of my time researching and understanding the work related to the GoMRI project, created lectures and presentations for high school classrooms and attended outreach events. I felt really lucky to be given the opportunity to present to these IMPACT students, because coming from a previous career as a high school biology teacher, I understand the importance of communicating science to young people, while making them interested in it at the same time. To be invited by the outreach coordinators at IMPACT and asked to be a small part of an amazing program like UBMS, was extremely gratifying. Knowing I made a positive impact on these students is a feeling that every teacher, volunteer, outreach coordinator, mom, dad, whoever it may be, wants to feel and experience.

Amanda De Cun provides an overview of oil-spill science to IMPACT Program students

With over 1,000 students participating in their program since 1999, 98% have graduated high school and 95% have been accepted into a post-secondary institution of study, with the majority pursuing STEM fields (UBMS 2017). The UBMS program has made it extremely clear that when you provide students with the necessary tools to succeed, they will, in fact succeed.




Works Cited

  1. Gulf of Mexico Research Intiative .
  2. UBMS.


Submitted by:

Amanda I. De Cun, MPS Candidate Marine Ecosystems and Society Intern, Department of Ocean Sciences

 This story was previously published by:

Miami Today Newspaper; August 17, 2017, pg.6

Florida Citizens for Science, website and social media accounts; July 2017

Rosenstiel School Ocean Modeling Website; July 2017

Rosenstiel School MPS Facebook; July 2017





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.

CARTHE Experiment to Study Oil Spills Underway

Researchers from the UM Rosenstiel School are in Florida’s Panhandle this week and next to study how oil and other pollutants migrate in the Gulf of Mexico. Information collected by scientists from the CARTHE experiments will be used to model the transport of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, in the event of a future spill.

For the three-week experiment, begun last week and called SCOPE – Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment – scientists are deploying GPS-equipped drifters and other advanced instruments to track ocean currents off Ft. Walton Beach and better understand how oil may move onshore in the event of a future spill.

“In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill it became clear that understanding the ocean currents in the surf zone is vital to improve our understanding and prediction of oil spills,” said UM professor Tamay Özgökmen, director of the Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment (CARTHE). “There are catastrophic socio-economic impacts when oil spills reach our beaches.”

UM’s Ad Reniers and his colleague Jamie MacMahan, from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., are deploying a variety of instruments, including 200 GPS-equipped drifters, unmanned aerial vehicles, and pressure and dye sensors at and below the surface at varying depths, to measure the movement of coastal ocean currents and determine how they carry oil, fish larvae, or toxins close to shore.


“This study will collect important data necessary to understand the ocean currents in the near-shore marine environment,” said Reniers, associate professor of applied marine physics at the Rosenstiel School and lead SCOPE investigator. “The information collected will be used to develop computer models of the coastal zone to improve our scientific understanding of this region in the event of a future oil spill, as well as to better understand how larvae or water pollutants travel close to shore.”

The research was made possible by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon accident and the potential associated impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health.

SCOPE is the second large experiment conducted by CARTHE, bringing together a wide range of scientific experts and experiments to study oil spills.

The SCOPE Experiment is a project of the UM-based CARTHE. The CARTHE program includes 26 principal investigators from 12 research institutions in eight states. Together these scientists are engaged in novel research through the development of a suite of integrated models and state-of-the-art computations that bridge the scale gap between existing models and natural processes.

For more information about CARTHE, please visit or on Facebook at

Drift Away with Bob!

Meet Bob the Drifter, a specially designed tool used by CARTHE scientists to track where ocean currents take spilled pollutants, people, and larval lobster at sea. In this new Waterlust video, Bob is equipped with a GPS unit as he drifts along Gulf of Mexico ocean currents for CARTHE scientists to track where he goes and how fast he is moving.

Bob is one of the many important devises that collect data for CARTHE, the Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbon in the Environment.  CARTHE studies ocean currents in the Gulf of Mexico to help predict where oil or other toxins may go in the event of a future spill.  This same data can be used to predict the location of people lost at sea and how far larval animals may travel before they settle.

The CARTHE team is based at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science and is funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).  It is comprised of over forty scientific researchers, postdocs, students and administrative staff from fourteen universities and research institutions.

The key to solving tomorrow’s spill-related problems lies in the research CARTHE is conducting today.  To learn more about CARTHE research, visit

— RSMAS Communications Team

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Tropical Storm Debby: Expect More Rain

Tropical Storm Debby formed on June 23rd, making it the earliest date in the Atlantic for the 4th named storm, breaking the previous record set by Dennis on July 5th during the infamous 2005 season. It was slow to get organized and was an area of interest since about June 18 in the western Caribbean Sea, before drifting across the Yucatan Pensinsula, and finally reaching tropical storm status in the central Gulf of Mexico. Since then, its motion has been slow and unpredictable owing to weak steering currents, and is now located just 80 miles from the northwest Florida coast.

Tropical Storm Debby remains disorganized with very little deep convection near the center, but as history has taught us, even a weak tropical storm is capable of being destructive.

By far, the biggest issue associated with Debby is the rainfall, as expected. Parts of the Florida panhandle have received nearly 25″ of rain in the past few days (much of that came in the past day), but the bulk of Florida has been hit with 6″ or more. To add to that, an additional 3-6″ is expected over northeastern Florida in the coming few days.

As of 8am EDT today, Tropical Storm Debby has peak sustained winds of 40kts and a 991mb central pressure. It’s centered about 85 miles west of Cedar Key, FL and drifting east at 3kts. It is expected to come ashore on Wednesday morning between Apalachicola and Tampa as a tropical storm.

Tropical Storm Debby’s pre-storm path is indicated in dashes, while the forecast path is dotted.

Again, the biggest threat will be additional heavy rain, and the exact timing and location of landfall makes little difference. As far as storm surge goes, some areas in western Florida could see up to 6′ above normal tidal levels, particularly in Waccasassa Bay, Withlacoochee Bay, Crystal Bay, and Homosassa Bay. You can find additional details and maps of storm surge products at the National Hurricane Center website.

Have questions about Tropical Storm Debby or other Hurricane related topics? Leave them in the comments section below.

Brian McNoldy
Senior Research Associate
& Author of Tropical Atlantic Update
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How Will Climate Change Affect Hurricanes?

Before Tropical Storm Fay (2008)

One area of hot debate is how climate change will affect hurricanes. Some people have the image that things will only get worse with hurricanes becoming stronger, more frequent and making landfall on the US coast more often. However, current scientific research is working to obtain a better estimate on what exactly the impact of climate change will be on hurricanes. The latest scientific consensus has emerged to show that there is a projected decrease in hurricane frequency for the Atlantic and that the strongest (Category 4 and 5) hurricanes will have increased wind speeds by 5-10 mph and will occur slightly more frequently (Knutson et al. 2010). Thus, for a given season there will be fewer storms, but the ones that do form have potential to be ever so slightly stronger.

During Tropical Storm Fay (2008)

While all this information is important, what about where they will go? Will climate change have a large impact on where hurricanes make landfall? To answer this question, I am looking at changes in tracks from differences in the atmospheric circulation and genesis location (where a storm forms) in a future climate. As with the other hurricane-related impacts, results suggest minor changes in tracks to occur for the Atlantic. There is a projected decrease of ~2-3 storms per decade over the Western Caribbean and Southern Gulf of Mexico and a slight increase in tracks that stay over the open ocean. So, what does that mean for the US East and Gulf coasts? It tells us that for June through November, the coasts will still be vulnerable to the threat from hurricanes.

-Angela Colbert
Graduate Student
Meteorology and Physical Oceanography
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