Tag Archive | "rosenstiel school of marine and atmospheric science"


Study Finds Natural Oil Dispersion Mechanism for Deep-Ocean Blowout


Taken from BP footage, this picture of oil and gas spewing into the Gulf of Mexico from the Macondo blowout was captured at 4,840 feet on June 3, 2010, seven weeks after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

MIAMI, Fla. (April 1, 2015)—In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the University of Western Australia observed how oil droplets are formed and measured their size under high pressure. Simulating how atomized oil spewing from the Macondo well during the Deepwater Horizon accident reached the ocean’s surface, they suggest that the physical properties of deep water create a natural dispersion mechanism for oil droplets similar to the application of chemical dispersants at the source of an oil spill.

“These results support our initial modeling work that the use of toxic dispersants at depth should not be a systematic oil spill response,” said UM’s Claire Paris, associate professor of ocean sciences. “It could very well be unnecessary in some cases.”

The research team from the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem, or C-IMAGE, conducted eight experiments to simulate different pressures of oil from a blowout at depth. The oil was placed in a high-pressure chamber, called a sapphire autoclave, and monitored using a high-speed, high-resolution camera to evaluate how droplets form at varying turbulent conditions.

“This is the first time that we’ve been able to visually monitor how droplets break up and coalesce at up to 120 times atmospheric pressure,” said Zachary Aman, associate professor of mechanical and chemical engineering at the University of Western Australia. “When paired with the high pressures and flow rates of Macondo, the results suggest a natural mechanism by which oil is dispersed into small droplets.”

The results of the laboratory experiment were applied in a field-scale simulation under the same physical conditions that existed during the Macondo well blowout. In the computer simulation, the team tracked the oil released at a constant rate of 1,000 oil droplets every two hours at a depth of 300 meters above the Macondo well, corresponding to the depth of the observed deep plume, from April 20 to July 15, 2010, when the Macondo well was capped; droplets were tracked for an additional 24 days after the cap was in place.

Based on the experimental data and modelling, the researchers suggest that the use of chemical dispersants may have reduced the mean oil droplet diameter from about 80 to 45 micrometers, which would have reduced the amount of oil reaching the surface only by up to 3 percent. The model simulations showed that if the blowout occurred in shallow water conditions, or at a smaller rate of hydrocarbon release, dispersant may have had a more significant impact on the oil flowing from the well.

Already available online, the research paper, titled “High-pressure visual experimental studies of oil-in-water dispersion droplet size,” will be published in the May 4 edition of the journal Chemical Engineering Science. In addition to Paris and Aman, the coauthors include David Lindo-Atichati of the UM Rosenstiel School, and Eric F. May and Michael L. Johns of the University of Western Australia.

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Rosenstiel School Hailed as A Hero for Marine Conservation

UM News

Roni Avissar, dean of the Rosenstiel School, accepts the 2015 Florida House Conservation Award from Bart Hudson, CEO and president of Florida House on Capitol Hill.

Roni Avissar, right, dean of the Rosenstiel School, accepts the 2015 Florida House Conservation Award from Bart Hudson, CEO and president of Florida House on Capitol Hill.

MIAMI, Fla. (March 18, 2015) – From coral reef restoration efforts to a sustainable aquaculture program to research that sheds new light on the important role that apex predators play in our ocean ecosystems, the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science has been recognized for its conservation initiatives with the 2015 Florida House Conservation Award.

Presented to Rosenstiel School Dean Roni Avissar during a ceremony held at Northern Trust in Miami on Wednesday, the award honors extraordinary commitment and work in protecting the environment. It was established by the Florida House on Capitol Hill, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education and information center that is the only state embassy in the nation’s capital.

During Wednesday’s award ceremony, made possible by Northern Trust, the Rosenstiel School was cited for its marine conservation efforts in three areas: a coral restoration project that propagates threatened staghorn coral in underwater nurseries to create a sustainable source of healthy colonies for use in restoration activities; an Aquaculture Program that plays a key role in aquaculture development, consultation and participation, technology transfer of marine fish hatcheries, and grow-out for commercial operations; and its RJ Dunlap Marine Conservation Program, which conducts field and laboratory studies in Florida, the Bahamas, and elsewhere to better understand the role of marine predators and the potential cascading effects of their declines on fish communities.


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Plankton Trackers Discover New Info to Reveal Past Climate


Plankton Trackers Discover New Info to Reveal Past Climate


Taken from sediment cores, these pelagic foraminifera contain the history of water temperature in which they lived.

MIAMI, FLA.(March 18, 2015)—A new study from an international team of scientists uncovered new information about the tiny, globetrotting organisms commonly used to reconstruct past climate conditions. The findings can aid in improving our understanding of past global climate conditions.

Using the Connectivity Modeling System, a state-of-the-art biophysical computer model developed by Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science scientist Claire Paris, the researchers showed that some of the tiny ocean organisms, known as foraminifera, drifted significantly before falling to the seafloor and being fossilized. Others may not have drifted much at all, according to the currents in the region where they were found and the lifespan of the species.

“The model used in the study traced the temperature history of the planktonic forams drifting in the ocean as they grew their tiny shell,” said Paris, associate professor of ocean sciences. “It enabled the team to look at the origin of the shells that eventually sank to the seafloor.”

The team discovered that some foraminifera are transported very long distances, up to thousands of kilometers, by currents. Their fossilized remains found in seafloor core samples reflect ocean temperatures that are significantly different from where they were found. The researchers discovered that the effect of the drift could be up to 3° Celsius.

“The idea has always been that the critters record the temperature right above where they are found on the ocean floor,” says Erik van Sebille, lead author of the study and a climate scientist at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and Imperial College London. “However, these critters are so small that they are at the mercy of the currents. They could easily have drifted for thousands of kilometers during their life span.”

Studying climate conditions in the past is essential to understanding the global climate system and to predicting future climate conditions. Foraminifera live close to the ocean’s surface, where they “record” the water temperature, and, as they die, they settle to the ocean’s floor. Scientists extract sediment cores to analyze the shell, which is similar to tree rings but on time scales of millions of years.

The study, titled “Ocean currents generate large footprints in marine palaeoclimate proxies,” was published in the March 4 issue of the journal Nature Communications. In addition to Paris and van Sebille, the paper’s coauthors include Chris Turney from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science and Imperial College London; Paolo Scussolini and Frank Peeters from VU University Amsterdam; Jonathan V. Durgadoo and Arne Biastoch from GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Germany; Wilbert Weijer from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico; and Rainer Zahn from Institucio´ Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats (ICREA) in Spain.

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Scientists Rediscover New Species of Comb Jelly and Name It for RSMAS Founder

Special to UM News


About 2 mm long, this free-floating Coeloplana waltoni was collected off the coast of Dania Beach in 2013.

MIAMI, Fla. (March 2, 2015)—Scientists have recently rediscovered a new species of ctenophores, or comb jellies, living symbiotically with octocorals in the waters off South Florida and named the tiny, translucent jellyfish-like animals after the founder of the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, F.G. Walton Smith.

The new species of creeping ctenophore was initially found among the octocoral—sea rods and sea fans—in Biscayne Bay in the 1960s by the late Frederick Bayer, a Smithsonian Institution scientist and former Rosenstiel School professor. But only recently did Rosenstiel Professor Peter Glynn re-analyze and classify the comb jelly to give it a name: Coeloplana waltoni.

Working off of Bayer’s initial findings, Glynn and colleagues collected new clippings from various octocoral species off the coast of Broward County’s Dania Beach to have living specimens for additional study. Under careful examination, Glynn’s team determined that both the living and preserved (50+ years) species of comb jellies found among the octocoral were identical, and new to science.

The minute yet abundant animals measure about five millimeters in length when fully extended or “creeping” and 1.5 to 2 millimeters when free floating. Coeloplana waltoni was named in honor of Smith because he was the first scientist to recognize the occurrence of bottom-dwelling ctenophores in American waters.

The study, titled “Coeloplana waltoni, a new species of minute benthic ctenophore (Ctenophora: Platyctenida) from south Florida,” was published in the September issue of the journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. In addition to Glynn, the authors of the study include D. Abigail Renegar, of the National Coral Reef Institute at Nova Southeastern University, and Bayer, of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.


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Information Session on RSMAS’s Master of Professional Science Degree on February 25

Dreaming of an ocean-, weather-, or climate-related career? Find out if a Master of Professional Science degree from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science is right for you at an information session about the Master of Professional Science (MPS) program at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, February 25, at the Ungar Building, room 230, on the Coral Gables campus. You can earn a degree in marine, atmospheric, and climate science in as little as 12 months, and  partial merit-based scholarships are available, with a job placement rate of  85 percent. For more information on the MPS program visit http://mps.rsmas.miami.edu, call 305-421-4340, or email mps@rsmas.miami.edu.


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