Coral Metabolism and Climate Change

A team of Rosenstiel School researchers and alumni published a new study on the intra-and inter-specific variation of metabolic factors of corals in Florida. Their study is important to better understand if some coral will be more resilient than others to climate change.

“Knowing which coral species will be ‘winners’ on reefs of the future will help people be aware of what reefs might look like in the coming decades,” said UM Rosenstiel School alumna Erica Towle.

Mustard hill coral. Credit: Johnmartindavies/wikicommons

Mustard hill coral. Credit: Johnmartindavies/wikicommons

For the experiment, Towle and her team from the UM Corals and Climate Change Lab collected three common species of corals from the Florida Reef Tract, which extends from the Florida Keys to Stuart in Martin County, during two seasonal points (winter and summer).

The species mustard hill coral (Porites astreoides) great star coral (Montastraea cavernosa) and mountainous star coral (Orbicella faveolata) were analyzed for growth rate, lipid content, algal symbiont density, and chlorophyll content. The surface area of the corals were also measured using a 3-D scanner supplied by UM Alumnus Derek Manzello at the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories.

Great star coral. Credit NOAA

Great star coral. Credit NOAA

The team’s field data agreed with population-level trends that great star coral and mustard hill coral are doing well in the Florida Keys, and may be “winners” on reefs of the future. They point out that future work needed to understand factors driving resilience of “winner” species.

“It’s important for us to start to understand which corals will be dominant on reefs of the future so we can get a better sense of which species to focus stronger conservation efforts on,” said Towle.

regionalstudiesMSThe study, “In-situ measurement of metabolic status in three coral species from the Florida Reef Tract,” was published online in the journal Regional Studies in Marine Science. The work was supported by the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program. The study’s authors include: Erica K. Towle; UM Rosenstiel School Professor Chris Landgon; and Renée Carlton and Derek P. Manzello of the NOAA Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratories.

Professor Discusses Future of Extreme Weather Research


Professor Sharan Majumdar

Professor Sharan Majumdar

Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Sharan Majumdar recently penned an article on the future of research aimed at improving predictions of and responses to high-impact weather events. Published in the March issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the flagship journal of the American Meteorology Society, Majumdar and colleagues discuss the post-THORPEX (The Observing System Research and Predictability Experiment) scientific research planning efforts.

Radar image of Tropical Cyclone Isaac

Radar image of Tropical Cyclone Isaac

THORPEX, a 10-year research and development program organized under the World Meteorological Organization (WMO)/World Weather Research Programme (WWRP), was designed to accelerate improvements in the accuracy and use of 1-day to 2-week numerical weather predictions and concluded in 2014.

“We are planning out the next decade(s) of national and international research with big ideas and broad goals,” said Sharan Majumdar, who was put in charge of steering the initiative. “One important element is to define our national goals, such as improving responses to flash floods, or multi-hazard problems in big cities like New York.”

According to the authors, the “proposed new U.S. high-impact weather research initiative promises significant benefits for the nation in terms of research advances that will directly benefit the entire weather enterprise in reducing loss of life and property.” Read more


UM professor co-authors influential climate change paper

Professor Brian Soden

Professor Brian Soden

Professor Brian Soden’s 2006 paper is “one of most influential climate change papers of all time.

The Carbon Brief recently asked climate experts what they think are the most influential papers. In joint second place was a paper by Isaac Held (NOAA) and UM Rosenstiel School’s Professor of Atmospheric Sciences Brian Soden published in the Journal of Climate in 2006.

The paper, “Robust Responses of the Hydrological Cycle to Global Warming,” identified how rainfall from one place to another would be affected by climate change. Prof Sherwood, who nominated this paper, tells Carbon Brief why it represented an important step forward. He says:

“[This paper] advanced what is known as the “wet-get-wetter, dry-get-drier” paradigm for precipitation in global warming. This mantra has been widely misunderstood and misapplied, but was the first and perhaps still the only systematic conclusion about regional precipitation and global warming based on robust physical understanding of the atmosphere.”

The Carbon Brief reports on the latest developments and media coverage of climate science and energy policy, with a particular focus on the UK. They produce news coverage, analysis and factchecks. Read more

Award-Winning Faculty! German Cross of Merit and more…

Professor Graber receives the German Cross of Merit

Hans GraberHans C. Graber, UM Rosenstiel School professor of ocean sciences and director of the Center for Southeastern Tropical Remote Sensing (CSTARS), was awarded the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit, or Bundesverdienstkreuz, by the German government, the highest civilian award given by the Federal Republic of Germany. The Consul General Juergen Borsch presented the Federal Cross of Merit to Graber at an event on March 20 in Miami.

The order was established in 1951 to provide awards “for achievements that served the rebuilding of the country in the fields of political, socio-economic and intellectual activity, and is intended to mean an award of all those whose work contributes to the peaceful rise of the Federal Republic of Germany.”

Graber’s research focuses on radar remote sensing of hurricanes and typhoons, understanding air-sea interactions and the generation of ocean waves and storm surge.

Notable recipients of the Bundesverdienstkreuz include, Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Mikhail Gorbachev and Queen Sofía of Spain.


Professor Amy Clement Receives Mentor Award

Amy ClementAmy Clement, associate dean and professor of atmospheric sciences is the second recipient of the UM Rosenstiel School Outstanding Mentor Award. Clement was presented the award by the Graduate Academic Committee at a ceremony on May 20 at the School. At the award ceremony she gave a talk titled, “A discussion on mentoring and being mentored.”

The award was designed to recognize an exceptional faculty mentor and based upon the recommendation of a committee of Rosenstiel School students, post-doctorate researchers and faculty.

Clement leads a climate modeling research group at the UM Rosenstiel School, which aims to better understand various aspects of Earth’s climate, from Saharan dust and clouds to El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which is the largest mode of variability in the modern climate. Clement’s research focus is on fundamental aspects of the climate system, including understanding why the climate changed in the past, and predicting how it will change in the future.

World Oceans Day: Thought Leaders

UM Rosenstiel School faculty provide their insight on the oceans.

Dennis Hansell, Chair and Professor, Department of Ocean Sciences

Dennis Hansell“Think of the ocean as you would the blood coursing through our bodies.  It offers connectivity to all corners, leaving no part in isolation.  It carries life-supporting oxygen, nutrients and energy to its greatest and darkest depths.  It exchanges that oxygen and greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide with the atmosphere above it, keeping both the terrestrial and marine biospheres healthy and stable.  It moves heat from where it is in excess to those much colder zones, maintaining the narrow thermal stability required for life that would otherwise be diminished.  Just as understanding the physical, chemical and biological dynamics of a healthy circulatory system within our bodies is central to medical science, ocean scientists seek to understand those dimensions of the global oceans’ metabolism.  As with the living body, it is a wondrous and beautiful system, its core functions are often hidden and thus incompletely known, and its health is conditioned by our treatment of it.”


Benjamin Kirtman, Professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Ben Kirtman“The health of our planet and all of its ecosystems (humans, animals, fish, plants …) critically depend on what is happening in the ocean today. Indeed, current threats to food and water security and the associate famine and drought can be directly related to ocean processes. We are concerned about the health of the planet because ocean temperatures (in the upper 75 m) consistently have risen 1.5F since 1950 and sea-ice concentrations have decreased at record rates so that it is now expected that we will have a nearly ice free Arctic summer in ten years. 95% of all ice sheets are declining and global sea level has risen over half a foot since 1950. All of these unprecedented changes indicate that the climate system and the entire health of the planet is out of balance, and this comes with changes that will significantly challenge all of our ecosystems.”


Claire Paris, Associate Professor, Department of Ocean Sciences

Claire Paris“Most marine species, whether they are reef building corals or bluefin tuna, spend the early stages of their life as tiny plankton, navigating the world oceans. To know where they are, where they need to swim, and to avoid predation, these minute larvae are adapted to detect ocean signals, such as sounds, odor, or even celestial and magnetic cues. One of the last frontiers resides in the study of the mysterious world of larvae and the small-scale physical-biological interactions. It is important to understand how the “critical” pelagic phase of so many marine species endure such a challenging odyssey. The ocean is their nursery.  If we care for our oceans to reduce the pollution that affects the cues, we will protect the small things and everything else will thrive.”

Neil Hammerschlag, Research Assistant Professor, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society

Neil“Over the past 50 years, we have learned more about our oceans, estuaries, rivers and lakes than ever before, while at the same time degrading, overfishing and destroying these vital systems. Every year, over 1.5 billion hooks are set in the ocean to commercially target large pelagic predators including tunas and billfish, catching and killing them faster than they can reproduce resulting in drastic worldwide declines of many species. With changes in global climate, the chemistry of our oceans is changing and corals are bleaching. Not only is the mystery and beauty of these systems and species being lost, but also their functions within the ecosystem. The web of life that sustains us is deteriorating. To aid in understanding and addressing these issues, we are conducting a variety of innovative research projects in collaboration with various University and community partners.”


Faculty Profile: Dr. Claire Paris

As an ocean scientist at the UM Rosenstiel School, Claire Paris spends days observing the movements of tiny fish larvae in a unique underwater drifting laboratory. She has developed scientific instruments to listen to, and observe these important, but often unnoticed, life forms on the reefs and in the open ocean. Another powerful component to her scientific approach is how she interacts with her research subjects underwater. Paris uses her talent as a certified freediver to minimize any human disturbance to her research subjects.

Claire Paris

Claire Paris

“The bubbles from SCUBA disturbs the pelagic environment,” said Paris, a native of South France who spent a lot of time in the ocean as a child. “Freediving makes you feel one with the environment and promotes a sense of peace and fulfillment.”

Paris, a Rosenstiel School alumna (M.S. ’87), is at the top of her game, both as a scientist and freediver. She has led numerous groundbreaking studies, including one that showed that reef fish larvae can smell the presence of coral reefs from as far as several kilometers offshore, and use this odor to find their way home. She also found that fish larvae communicate by emitting sounds.

She has developed unique scientific instruments and sophisticated computer models to predict how fish larvae, as well other planktonic organisms and pollutants are transported with the ocean currents. These tools were instrumental to help track the behavior of oil during the Deepwater Horizon blowout, and continue to be used to simulate the fate of oil, to predict oil spill impacts and to optimize the first response to future spills.

US Freediving Association Team

US Freediving Association Team

She is a member of the United States Freediving Association (USFA) and an AIDA* International-ranked freediver and was selected for Team USA for the Team World Championships in 2014 and for the Individuals World Championships in 2015. She holds a Performance Freediving International (PFI) certification. Claire’s goal is to promote AAUS (American Academy of Underwater Science) scientific freediving nation-wide with the UM Rosenstiel School as a frontrunner.

Finding her potential and having no fear to dive deeper makes her a better scientist, says Paris.

*AIDA: Association Internationale pour le Development de l’Apnee