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!

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.


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.


Photo credit: Joe Romeiro

A Bull of a Challenge

RSMAS Researcher Assistant Professor Neil Hammerschlag is one of 10 finalists in the Ocean180 video challenge. His research video, ”Bite Size: Bull Shark Predation of Tarpon,” delves into a recent study on the movements of bull sharks and tarpon in South Florida waters. Through satellite tracking, the study reveals some unique behaviors by the large predatory fish in order to avoid becoming bull shark prey.

Sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Science 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.

Over 40,000 middle-school student judges from around the world are now reviewing the top 10 video abstracts. The winners will be announced in late February 2014.

2014 Sea Secrets Begins Jan 15!

The 2014 Sea Secrets lectures kick off next Wednesday, Jan. 15 with a talk on the enigmatic tiger shark by R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program Director Neil Hammerschlag.

The event will take place in the Rosenstiel School auditorium, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Virginia Key, beginning with a reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by a lecture at 6:00 p.m. All events are free and open to the public. Parking is available at the Miami Seaquarium.

Photo by: Eric Cheng

Photo by: Eric Cheng










The lectures are free and open to the public and designed to provide insight and information about the oceans that cover two-thirds of our planet to a non-scientific audience. For more information on the 2014 Sea Secrets lecture series, click here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Neil Hammerschlag, Ph.D.
Director of R.J. Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, and Research Assistant Professor at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

Sharks are one of the most feared and mysterious animals on Earth. However, due to destructive fishing practices, many shark populations globally have drastically declined in recent decades. The tiger shark is the largest predatory shark in tropical seas, renowned for its massive size, beautiful body markings, indiscriminate appetite and occasional bites on humans. By tracking and swimming with tiger sharks, ecologist and shark researcher, Dr. Hammerschlag, has discovered previously unknown migration patterns and behaviors of this super predator. Join Dr. Hammerschlag as he shares his new findings, stories and photos of the enigmatic tiger shark.

Studying Abroad at RSMAS: A Student Perspective

Since studying as an international student in Adelaide at Flinders University in 2009 I have been interested in studying and working with marine mammals and more specifically within cetaceans. After graduating in July 2011, I moved to Vancouver to volunteer at the Vancouver Aquarium teaching intertidal marine biology and also working at their off-site marine mammal rescue center.  While there, I had the opportunity to work with the rehabilitation of stranded harbor seals and I also was extremely lucky to be able to help extensively with the rehabilitation of a very small juvenile harbor porpoise.


I then spent three months as an intern at Cetacea Lab on a remote island in Northern British Columbia to gain research experience on humpback, fin and killer whales.  It was while at Cetacea Lab I developed an interest in the Northern Resident Orca and since that point I have been interested in research on killer whales.

When I first made the decision to return to university for graduate school I spent a considerable amount of time seeking out universities across the world that would allow me to undertake either a specific marine mammals program or a marine biology program with faculty currently working in cetacean research. When I decided to apply to Fulbright I had already spent some time researching schools that had reputable marine biology programs all over the United States.  Having wanted to specialize in cetaceans for some time, I knew that only RSMAS provided a masters program specifically on marine mammals.  After researching further into the MPS program and finding out that it was a condensed program that could be completed in one year with an internship, I knew that it was the program that I wanted to attend.

Aaron Kirkpatrick

What does it mean to be a Fulbright scholar?  Well in terms of official requirements to apply I had to meet certain criteria set out by the Fulbright commission.   These included:

  • demonstrable ambassadorial skills with evidence of cultural sensitivity and a genuine desire to learn more about the United States and share with American citizens aspects of British culture,
  • experience and interest in a range of extracurricular and community activities,
  • leadership potential, and a desire to further the Fulbright Program and give back to your home country upon returning.

Further to this the commission looks for students who show academic excellence and students who have no prior experience living in the United States.

What does it mean to be a Fulbright scholar personally?  To me it is a great honor to be selected as a postgraduate scholar as the UK-US program is one of the most competitive exchange programs in the world.  To know that 43 previous Fulbright scholars have gone on in their careers to be awarded a Nobel Prize is a great inspiration to me.

I ultimately chose to attend RSMAS as a Fulbright scholar because I felt the marine mammal science program would give me the best opportunity to gain the knowledge and practical experience required to pursue a career in cetacean research.  The option to take an internship instead of writing a research thesis appealed to me as I have already undertaken different levels of research and felt that I would benefit more from a practical work placement.  Also, being on an exclusively marine science campus was also a big draw for me.

Aaron Kirkpatrick, MPS student, marine mammal track

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, 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

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.