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Dear SoMAS Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends:

On behalf of us in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), welcome to what promises to be an interesting and exciting fall semester.  I hope that all had a productive, enjoyable and memorable summer.

SoMAS of course is saddened and concerned about all who are experiencing the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey.  From the very nature of our work, we can relate to but not totally comprehend the consequences of such a catastrophic storm.  Our thoughts and best wishes are extended to all those impacted and hope that their lives can return to some sense of normalcy in the very near future.

We are pleased to have a number of new students joining the SoMAS family this fall including some 12 Ph.D., 8 MS, and 11 MA graduate students.  This incoming graduate student class includes a Graduate Council Fellow and two Maze-Landeau Fellows—significant honors.

There are 161 undergraduates divided among Atmospheric Sciences, Marine Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Sustainability Studies who will become an integral part of SoMAS as well.  This is a great class.  Many faculty and staff worked hard to assure that we are bringing in a bright and energetic new cohort of students, and David Black and Kamazima Lwiza deserve much of the credit as Graduate and Undergraduate Directors, respectively.  They were ably assisted by Ginny Clancy, Christina Fink and Christina Ozelis from our Educational Programs Office.

Graduation is one of the most joyous times at SoMAS.  It was wonderful to see the excitement and optimism in our graduates this past May.  And, after all these years, I still get a spring in my step when I hear Pomp and Circumstance.  We conferred 106 undergraduate degrees, 12 MS degrees, 9 MA degrees, and seven Ph.D. degrees.  With this graduating class, Gina Gartin retired.  Gina filled many roles during her long and distinguished tenure at SoMAS, most recently as the Staff Assistant to the Director of ITPA.  However, Gina will be remembered by many as the face of the student recruitment weekends, the new student barbeques, and most importantly, graduation.  We wish her well as she undertakes new and exciting adventures.

Our August graduating class was also impressive.  This group of students included a Ph.D. student, 16 MS students and 26 undergraduates.  Well done!

SUSTAINABILITY STUDIES in SoMAS

During the past year, we commenced the integration of the Sustainability Studies Program into the SoMAS family.  Merging our programs offers many stimulating opportunities.  Paraphrasing Anand Mahindra, the Harvard educated entrepreneur:  “embracing sustainability principles stimulates innovation.”  And in a number of fields, inspired by the notion of sustainability, innovation is now leading to improvement of the environment, the global economy, and the public good.  As part of this integration, we developed a long term plan for the Sustainability Program that includes focusing on environmental issues, branding, some consolidation of majors, and the adding STEM courses where appropriate.  An undergraduate scholarship for undertaking a successful, innovative sustainability project was created as part of the Liblit Memorial Scholarship Fund.

OUR 50th ANNIVERSARY

SoMAS (originally known as the Marine Sciences Research Center, MSRC) is continuing to celebrate its golden anniversary.  Can you believe it—fifty years of Making Scientific Research Count!  2017 is a year of several anniversaries:  25 years ago, the Institute of Terrestrialand Planetary Atmospheres joined us; 30 years ago, the Waste Reduction andManagement Institute was formed, and ten years ago the Sustainability Studies Program started out at Southampton.

Our celebratory event will occur during Wolfstock, the Stony Brook University Homecoming Celebration.  Join us on the weekend of October 13th as we explore “The Risk of Saying Nothing,” an environmental media conference where we will highlight our talent in communicating science.  Before Stony Brook University was known for the Southampton Writers Conference, MSRC held environmental writers’ workshops featuring notable authors from around the country.  Today, we communicate in many different ways besides traditional books and papers.  These new tools are necessary because “saying nothing” concerning the state of our environment and its sustainability is unacceptable and irresponsible.  We need to speak out boldly, creatively, and effectively.

Join us to celebrate and sharpen our communication skills.  How do we ferret out fake news?  And see the many excellent examples of messaging through art and photography.  Jerry Schubel, our former long-serving Director of MSRC, returns to give our Friday seminar.  Other featured participants include Minghua Zhang, former Dean and now editor of a prestigious atmospheric research journal, Malcolm Bowman reminiscing about the history and accomplishments of SoMAS, Howie Schnieder, Dean of the School of Journalism, speaking about fake news, Christine O’Connell interacting with the audience about communicating science, Heidi Hutner, talking about environmental communication, and David Taylor demonstrating how environmental messaging can be accomplished through poetry.

Saturday morning, join us for breakfast with a tour of the R/V SEAWOLF (nothing communicates more effectively than being hands on).  After noon, the Wolfstock Faculty Lecture at the Wang Center will be delivered by SoMAS endowed professor Carl Safina.

If you want to improve your environmental communication skills, this is a weekend you must attend.  It should be fun as well.

KUDOS

SoMAS is extremely proud of two of our junior faculty who were honored as National Science Foundation Career Awardees. It is rare for a school to have two recipients in a year.  Hyemi Kim and Lesley Thorne were recipients of this prestigious honor.

I am delighted to announce that Chris Gobler will become the inaugural holder of an endowed chair in Coastal Ecology and Conservation.  This endowed professorship, the third at SoMAS, is funded by four long-term and dedicated donors committed to Chris’s research.  Way to go, Chris.

Congratulations to Sharon Pochron of Sustainability Studies for having her ecotoxicology classes (EHI 350 and EHI 351) selected as a new SENCER model for teaching STEM to undergraduates.  SENCER is the signature initiative of the National Center for Science & Civic Engagement and is a “national project focused on empowering faculty and improving STEM teaching and learning by making connections to civic issues.”

Three SoMAS Ph.D. students have been honored with STRIDE (Science Training and Research to Inform Decisions) Fellowships for up to two years.  These prestigious awards went to Kylie Langlois, Lisa Herbert, and Tara Dolan.

We are pleased to welcome two new employees:  Diane Vigliotta, Staff Assistant to the Director of ITPA and Kaitlin Willig, Instructional Support Specialist working on several of our MOU projects with DEC.

BUDGET OUTLOOK

We are optimistic about the Federal budget prospects for marine programs compared to earlier this year.  While the budget hasn’t been approved, both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate have marked up budgets for NSF and NOAA (including Sea Grant) that far exceed the draconian cuts proposed by the White House.  It could be that we will end up with a continuing resolution if no budget is passed that would have the affected agencies operating at FY 2017 levels.  While the U.S. EPA’s budget seems less certain, the National Estuary Program enjoys a great deal of support from Congress including the Long Island Sound Study.

Further, SUNY’s incoming Chancellor Dr. Kristina Johnson has indicated that environmental sustainability is among her priorities.  This is indeed good news for SoMAS.   SoMAS has just signed a number of Memorandums of Understanding with the New York State Department of Conservation for nearly $ 23 million in new awards involving more than a dozen faculty.  Some of these projects extend for up to a decade (possibly more) and involve considerable use of the R/V SEAWOLF.  New research projects include:

  • Ocean acidification
  • Investigation of the impact of ocean outfalls on the south shore of Long Island
  • Marine Animal Disease Lab
  • Nearshore ocean trawl survey
  • Ocean ecosystem monitoring
  • Atlantic Ocean surf clam survey
  • Bio-optical model for SAV

The Center for Clean Water Technology, managed jointly by SoMAS and the College of Engineering, received an appropriation of $ 3 million in the state budget.

My first year as interim dean has been extremely interesting and rewarding.  I want to thank the faculty, staff, and students for their good will and support.  All have helped to make the job very pleasant.  The search for a new dean this past winter was not successful.  However, a new search committee has been formed and the process has begun anew.

With all that is going on, it looks like the fall semester will be stimulating and lively.  I look forward to seeing and talking with you all.

Larry

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