We seek to better understand the interactions between natural and human systems and to apply this improved understanding to the solution of environmental problems.
- Land and Aquatic Systems Science
The department faculty is affiliated with or collaborates with, on-campus research centers like the Southeast Environmental Research Center (SERC) and the International Hurricane Research Center. Faculty also actively participate in several regional, national, and international science initiatives. Individual faculty under this theme are Anderson, Jayachandran, Leatherman, Melesse, Rehage, Ross, Scinto, and Zhang.
Solving environmental problems and using natural resources wisely require a clear and quantitative understanding of fundamental physical, chemical, and biological processes operating on land and in aquatic ecosystems. These processes must be understood in an integrated fashion across a range of spatial and temporal scales. Research into Everglades soil systems includes pesticide degradation and transport, factors limiting rates of biodegradation, and mycorrhizal fungi's role in phosphorus acquisition. Aquatic systems research includes biogeochemical and ecotoxicological approaches to resolve water quality problems and support risk assessments. Coastal systems are the focus of research to address the impacts of hurricanes and beach erosion along the eastern seaboard.
- Natural Resource Management
Most environmental problems as we understand them today are not inherent in the environment but are the result of interactions with human social, political, and economic processes. To design management systems that cooperate with nature rather than degrade it requires understanding the ecological system, the social system, and how they interact to produce a particular environmental outcome. The department carries out a variety of research activities that seek to understand management issues and propose new ways to approach them. Departmental researchers are active on issues ranging from the impact of divers on coral reef degradation in the Florida Keys to investigating the socioeconomic factors driving the destruction of riparian forests and the misuse of aquatic resources in the Amazon.
- Environmental Economics and Policy
Our economic system is heavily dependent on the ecosystem in many ways. A harmony between the two is essential for the sustained existence and growth of both these systems. However, environmental interests are too often compromised by economic interests that would result in unsustainable economic growth, overexploitation of natural resources, and increasing environmental pollution. Researchers in the Department study how effectively government policies work in achieving intended environmental goals in the context of international environment and trade agreements, U.S. and International conservation policies, US and international agricultural and forestry programs, as well as on local environmental programs such as the Florida Keys Marine Sanctuary and Everglades restoration. Our researchers are also interested in the relationship between science, technology and society and the application of ethical principles in the context of environmental protection.