e-Veritas Archive | July, 2016

Join the Conversation about the Roadmap to Our New Century: Problem-based Interdisciplinary Collaboration

CollaborationThe Problem-based Interdisciplinary Collaboration initiative proposes new structural supports, leadership, systems, and financial support to maximize opportunities for all members of the University of Miami to work in collaborative teams on major global challenges in areas such as the environment, health, and technology. Share your thoughts about this or any of the other seven Roadmap proposals and weigh in on the questions below via the Roadmap Initiative website, through the hashtag #UMRoadmap, or email.

  • The proposals suggest several thematic areas for this effort. Are there other areas that could leverage UM’s strengths?
  • What are the best ways for UM to support interdisciplinary collaboration across disciplines? What should the University avoid doing that might hamper collaboration?

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Study Pinpoints Onset of Modern Monsoons

Study has important implications to understanding future climate changes and sea-level rise

Special to UM News

Anna Ling, a Ph.D. candidate in marine geosciences, catalogs core samples aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution. Photo by Gregor EberlI

UM’s Anna Ling, a Ph.D. candidate in marine geosciences, catalogs core samples aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution. Photo by Gregor EberlI

MIAMI, Fla. (July 26, 2016)—A new study by an international team of scientists reveals the exact timing of the onset of the modern monsoon pattern in the Maldives 12.9 million years ago, and its connection to past climate changes and coral reefs in the region. The analysis of sediment cores provides direct physical evidence of the environmental conditions that sparked the monsoon conditions that exist today around the low-lying island nation and the Indian subcontinent.

In November 2015, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science geoscientist Gregor Eberli, along with co-chief scientist Christian Betzler of Germany, and an international team of 31 scientists from 15 countries, embarked on an eight-week expedition to the Maldives aboard the research vessel JOIDES Resolution. The scientific team on International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 359, which included UM geochemist Peter Swart and sedimentologist Anna Ling, extracted 3,097 meters of sediment cores that contain the history of the monsoon that is the most intense annually recurring climatic element on Earth. The monsoon system supplies moisture to the Indian subcontinent, which is important for the human population and vegetation in the region, as well as the marine ecosystem in the surrounding seas.

The Maldives are a string of island atolls built on coral reefs in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The waters around the low-lying archipelago have steadily risen and fallen for millions of years in sync with the changing climate. A new climatic phase heightened by human influence has these waters rising again, endangering the existence of the popular island paradise.

“They are at the center of the storm for sea-level rise,” said Rosenstiel School Professor Gregor Eberli, a senior author on the study published in Scientific Reports.

The low-lying island nation offers the scientists a unique opportunity to reconstruct climate conditions during previous periods of varying sea levels to help scientists better understand how future climate change will the effect the 1,000 kilometer-long archipelago and low-lying coastal areas around the world.

Today, the monsoon winds bring moisture to the Indian subcontinent but also drive the ocean currents across the Maldives. These currents carry sediment to the Maldives that is deposited along their shores and between the atolls. These sediments hold historic records of climate change and monsoon activity during the last 15 million years. At the same time, these same sediments also bury ancient reef buildups that flourished before the monsoon started. These reefs hold the key to the sea-level changes that took place before the onset of the monsoon.

Most scientists agree that the South Asian Monsoon is linked to the initial uplift, or birth, of the Himalayas, but the timing and other environmental drivers at play are still in question. During Expedition 359, Eberli’s team drilled seven holes along the Maldives Archipelago to collect sediments that hold records of past sea level and environmental changes during the Neogene, a geological time period that began 23 million years ago. The information can help pinpoint the timing and environmental conditions that supported the development of the modern day ocean currents and monsoon conditions.

“We have unraveled the physical evidence of the monsoon and now know the exact timing of when the modern monsoon pattern began, and have shown what consequences the onset of the monsoon had on the coral reefs of the Maldives,” said Beztler, the co-chief scientist for Expedition 359, from the CEN at University of Hamburg in Germany. “The scientific results of this expedition will give answers to many fundamental questions of the monsoon and the climate in general.”

In the Maldives, the monsoon and sea level have an intimate history. During what geoscientists called the Miocene Climate Optimum, roughly 15 million years ago when temperatures and CO2 levels were higher than today, the reefs around the Maldives atolls were flourishing. When the climate began to cool and sea levels dropped, the atolls become exposed, only to be flooded again during the subsequent rise. However, with the onset of the monsoon, the new ocean circulations patterns began to emerge that were not favorable to the islands’ coral reefs.

The team found evidence for a period of global cooling that preceded the onset of the monsoon. During this cooling period the atmospheric circulation began producing seasonal wind changes that were ripe for the development of a winter and summer monsoon. These winds also started to generate ocean currents, which in combination with the expansion of an oxygen minimum zone caused several of the atolls to be submerged.

This global cooling led to an expansion of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that caused global sea level to fall, exposing many of the Maldives’ reefs. The currents also caused local upwelling that was again detrimental to the corals. At three of the eight drill sites, these drowned reefs were found covered by current deposits.

“These atolls basically drowned, which opened seaways across the Maldives that increased the monsoon activity,” said Eberli. “This partial drowning of the atolls is very interesting as it shows that the combination of rising sea level and ocean current can be detrimental to coral growth.”

Upwelling of nutrient-rich waters and the strengthening of the currents sweeping over the reef flats were detrimental to the islands’ coral reef foundation.

Eberli suggests that the abrupt development of the modern-day monsoon conditions were not only due to the uplift of the Himalayas, which is a prerequisite, but ultimately the result of the cooling after the Miocene Climate Optimum, which initiated the formation of the bipolar ocean circulation that is still in existence today.

The study, titled “The abrupt onset of the modern South Asian Monsoon winds,” was published in the July 20 issue of the journal Scientific Reports.

 

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Marine Geoscientist Named 2016 AGU Fellow

Peter K. Swart recognized for his pioneering research in marine geochemistry

Special to UM News

Peter Swart

Peter Swart

MIAMI, Fla. (July 26, 2016)—Peter K. Swart, professor and chair of the Department of Marine Geosciences at the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, has been elected a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the nation’s leading professional society for scientists in the earth and space sciences. The award will be presented during the 2016 AGU Fall Meeting in San Francisco.

A pioneer in marine geochemistry who has been at UM since 1983, Swart, the Lewis G. Weeks Professor of Marine Geology and director of UM’s Stable Isotope Laboratory, is best known for his work on isotopes in geochemistry, carbonate diagenesis (physical and chemical changes occurring during the conversion of sediment to sedimentary rock), paleoclimatology, and hydrology.

“I am pleased that Peter is being recognized by AGU for his pioneering geochemistry research,” said Roni Avissar, dean of the Rosenstiel School. “This is a well-deserved and long-overdue recognition of Peter’s achievements.”

Swart pioneered the use of geochemistry in other areas such as extra-terrestrial materials, hydrology, and carbonates. His 1982 paper in Science was the first to reveal the presence of highly enriched C-13 phases in meteorites, offering clues to the origin of the solar system.

“To be elected a Union Fellow is a tribute to those AGU members who have made exceptional contributions to earth and space sciences as valued by their peers and vetted by section and focus group committees,” according to the AGU.

Throughout his career Swart has been supported through a variety of sources, including the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of the Interior, as well as several global corporations. He is one of the principal investigators in the Comparative Sedimentology Laboratory (CSL), a consortium of petroleum companies, and the former editor of the highly regarded journal Sedimentology. In 2011, his work with Rosenstiel School Professors Kenny Broad and Amy Clement on the dating and isotopic analysis of stalagmites to reconstruct past climate changes was featured as part of a cover story in National Geographic.

Swart is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Geological Society of America. He is also a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Coral Reef Society, the Geological Society of America, the Geochemical Society, and the International Association of Sedimentologists.

Swart has an impressive record of scholarly accomplishments, with more than 190 published papers, book chapters, editorials, and special publications that have garnered over 5,000 citations. He also teaches regularly and has served as a Ph.D. and Master’s dissertation committee chair for more than 30 students.

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Professor Selected for Esteemed Residency

The Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center connects scholars from diverse backgrounds to collaborate and seek solutions for today’s global issues. 

Louis Herns Marcelin

Louis Herns Marcelin

CORAL GABLES, Fla.  (July 27, 2016)—On picturesque Lake Como in Italy sits a villa where great minds connect and collaborate to address the complex issues facing the world today, and joining this prestigious group of thinkers is Louis Herns Marcelin, associate professor of anthropology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

Chosen from a competitive pool of over 3,000 applicants from all over the world, Marcelin is one of only 27 scholars invited to spend four weeks in Northern Italy to participate in the Bellagio Residency Program, a focused, goal-oriented, collaborative program where fellow residents from distinct backgrounds, disciplines, and geographies come together to implement solutions to political, health, environmental, and economic challenges.

“Once I learned that I had received the award I was stunned and, of course, honored to be among the few selected from all over the world,” said Marcelin. “Each time I speak with a Rockefeller Foundation Residency staff I learn more about the importance of this award and the opportunities it offers.”

According to The Rockefeller Foundation, “convening prominent experts, influencers, and other key stakeholders to advance knowledge and form new partnerships, financial commitments, and initiatives that support these [Foundation] goals enables the Bellagio Center to advance the mission of the Foundation as a complement to its grant making efforts.”

Marcelin was invited to work on his book project titled “Violence, Social Order, Human Insecurity and Peacebuilding in Contemporary Haiti.” He says the project builds on a series of studies regarding violence, social injustice, and insecurity in post-dictatorship and post-disaster Haiti. The project spans 20 years of research using sociological surveys, in-depth ethnographic interviews, social mapping, participant observation, document analysis, and other analytics. Some aspects of the study have been published in flagship anthropology and humanities journals.

“The residency is designed to give you the time and space to reflect on and exchange ideas with many fascinating people,” said Marcelin. “However, the ultimate goal is to inspire us to write. My personal goal is to revisit many of the philosophical ideas and methodological approaches that illuminate my years of research on violence, while also taking advantage of the expertise and perspectives of other prominent thinkers in order to generate an analysis that is relevant to our challenging time.”

A native of Haiti, Marcelin, along with UM colleagues and faculty from other universities, established the Interuniversity Institute for Research and Development (INURED), an organization for collaborative research and action on issues affecting Haiti and the Caribbean.

From 1993 to 2007, Marcelin built the ideas and concepts that formed INURED; it has been active on the ground in Haiti for close to a decade, initiating many programs before the catastrophic earthquake of 2010. As a premiere research institution in Haiti, INURED serves as a venue for UM students to go beyond the books and conduct research as well as participate in collaborative fieldwork with international scholars, including Haitian faculty and Haitian students.

“More so today than ever, we need tested but innovative approaches to address the challenges that undermine human security and the hope for social justice, particularly in places like Haiti, which is the centerpiece of my investigations on violence,” said Marcelin. “The residency will help me carve time to significantly advance in this project.”

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UM Strikes Gold, Recognized for Wellness for Sixth Year In a Row

Fit Friendly Gold

Jessica Hershberger, senior Heart Walk director, presents Nerissa Morris, vice president of human resources, with the American Heart Association’s Fit-Friendly Gold Award.

For the sixth year in a row, the University of Miami has been named a Fit-Friendly Worksite by the American Heart Association. “We recognize employers who go above and beyond when it comes to their employees’ health,” said Jessica Hershberger, senior Heart Walk director with the Miami Heart Walk. “We want to reward organizations for their progressive leadership and concern for their staff.”

The Fit-Friendly Gold Award honors the University for its continued progress in promoting workplace wellness programs and facilities. “Receiving this award gives us something to strive for each year,” said Nerissa Morris, vice president of human resources. “It challenges us to continue to raise the bar on our wellness programs.”

The University’s wellness programs include an annual Week of Well-Being; wellness centers on the Coral Gables and Miller School of Medicine campuses; a wellness incentives program in which employees can earn up to $300 cash; Walking ’Canes, Be Smoke Free, and Weight Watchers at Work programs; and free preventive care benefits for faculty and staff who are on a UM health care plan.

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