Message from the Dean
May 23, 2018
It has been an honor to serve as the interim dean of SoMAS for the past few years. SoMAS is truly a remarkable institution with a great history and a bright future.
While facing formidable University-wide budgetary challenges, we are nonetheless in a very strong position moving forward. Our research portfolio is robust and relevant to ongoing marine, atmospheric, and sustainability issues. We must remain committed to our fundamental mission of being the marine and atmospheric sciences program for the SUNY system, the state, and the region. Our diverse research efforts in climate change, severe weather, coastal resilience, marine pollution, clean water, and marine animal diseases are but a few examples of where we are making significant environmental impacts and for which we should be proud.
However, research is only the beginning. We must turn our scientific findings into beneficial societal outcomes through policy and implementation of ideas. To that end, we have helped ban DDT and initiated one of the most formidable environmental NGOs in the world. Our faculty helped identify the ozone hole, eventually contributing to its significant amelioration. We contributed to ending ocean dumping worldwide and have created beneficial products from waste materials. Large sewage outfalls are being relocated and hypoxia is being reduced in Long Island Sound. Our staff have invented equipment used worldwide by oceanic institutions to ensure clean data collection from bubble-sensitive instruments. We have developed techniques to synthesize information from a large ensemble of forecast models to improve predictions of extreme weather, and have enhanced seasonal and sub-seasonal weather forecasts. Our research on forage fish has influenced global standards for their management and policy changes in the U. S.
Our educational programs are producing excellent students who in many cases are finding relevant, fascinating jobs in their fields. The Sustainability Studies program has added diversity to our undergraduate environmental, marine and atmospheric science education and as a result we are thinking a little differently today.
And, SoMAS has an outstanding faculty and staff, truly devoted to promoting the work and values of our institution. We have every reason to be extremely optimistic about our future and our ability to meet the environmental challenges of our times.
Have a wonderful, enjoyable summer.
Dec 6, 2017
Dear Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends:
As 2017 comes to a close, we can reflect on a year during which federal environmental programs have experienced philosophical changes from protection, management and recovery to a laissez-faire model and considerable disregard for environmental stewardship. Rejection of the Paris Climate Accords by the U. S. is a major setback—unfortunate for us and a totally irresponsible example for the world. Many cases of wrong-headed thinking could be enumerated but from my own experiences, that of oil drilling in the Arctic certainly rises to the surface, figuratively and literally. Despite technological improvements to reduce accidents, drilling in the ocean for oil and gas will never be foolproof and our history of being prepared and responding effectively to spills, particularly in harsh climates, is marginal. Perhaps market forces will keep the drilling in check until rationality returns.
Physical and ecological consequences of climate change and sea level rise are certainly measurable and noticeable. Just recall the impacts of the last hurricane season. Is the summer of 2017 what we can anticipate for coming years? And a changing climate is what is making the oil drilling in the Arctic more palatable to the oil industry. In the early 1960s, when I participated in producing the first detailed bathymetric survey of the Chukchi Sea for the U.S. Navy, my shipmates and I were ecstatic when one summer the pack ice retreated to 74 degrees North. Today, that is a common occurrence. More broadly related is the abandonment of the Clean Power Plan. Will it be an imperative to drink totally wasteful bottled water because the federal government has abrogated its responsibilities under the Safe Drinking Water Act? All of this is indeed alarming.
Despite major environmental setbacks, however, there are some bright spots. The U. S. Congress is supportive, even if the administration isn’t, of the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuary Program (including Long Island Sound) as well as the National Sea Grant Program. It is also encouraging that several states, including New York, are stepping up to address environmental problems as the federal government falters. New York is committed to uphold the Paris Climate Accords. It is also pursuing programs to protect and improve drinking water as well as coastal waters. It is creating its own Ocean Action Plan and investigating the extent of and solutions for ocean acidification. SoMAS is actively engaged in all these pursuits.
Certainly, with all the changes occurring in the political arena and consequential alterations in the environment and its related processes, SoMAS research and educational programs are crucial as we adapt to a changing political reality.
Dr. Heidi Hutner will be stepping down as Director of the Sustainability Studies Program in January and embarking on a well-deserved sabbatical. We thank Heidi for her service and leadership, particularly during the time of transition from the Provost’s Office to SoMAS. Dr. Kate Aubrecht has been appointed as the next director. I wish her the very best and look forward to working with her in the future. Sustainability faculty are now actively contributing to the Marine Conservation and Policy Program—a foray into graduate education. Sustainability faculty have also aggressively redesigned their majors to include a minimum of 18 STEM credits in each major and the number of majors has been reduced from five to three in order to provide more substance to each. The program revisions have been submitted to SUNY Central for approval.
The Flax Pond Laboratory is now part of the State’s effort to cleanse and reinvigorate coastal waters by introducing shellfish reared at a number of Long Island’s existing hatchery facilities. A portion of the lab is being redesigned and an addition built to accommodate a nursery/hatchery facility to raise some 2.5 million 6-8 mm clams per year. The pond will also serve as a reference location by which the success of the five state-designated, embayment sanctuary sites can be evaluated. The design team has commenced its work and is touring relevant hatchery facilities.
The lab is also being outfitted for ocean acidification research. The U. S. EPA and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation are going to install an air quality monitoring station—particularly for ozone measurements. Drs. John Mak and Daniel Knopf deserve credit for helping to establish the site. The data will bolster their atmospheric chemistry research and educational programs.
Congratulations to Dr. Ali Farhadzadeh on the dedication of the Coastal and Hydraulic Engineering Laboratory located in the Heavy Engineering Building. Ali holds a joint appointment with Civil Engineering and SoMAS. This wave tank facility will be a major resource as SBU continues to be engaged in understanding coastal processes.
Emily Markowitz (M.S., 2017) has been selected for the prestigious 2018 Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship. She will be posted to the National Marine Fisheries Service, a part of NOAA. Way to go Emily!
Our 50th Anniversary celebration in October, “The Risk of Saying Nothing” was a great success. The speakers were energetic, informative, and very interesting. Most events were standing room only. We were pleased to see so many alumni. Jerry Schubel, former dean, gave an inspiring talk to a packed house at the Wang Center. It was great to see Jerry and his wife Margaret back at SoMAS. Our Mark Lang and Matthew Colson of SBU Alumni Relations wonderfully orchestrated the whole weekend.
We look forward to December graduation at which we will have 7 Ph.D.s hooded, 9 M.S. and 3 M.A. degrees conferred. Thirty undergraduate degrees will be awarded in Marine Sciences, Environmental Studies, and Sustainability.
On February 3, 2018, SoMAS will be hosting its 17th Bay Scallop Bowl. Please volunteer for this great traditional event. The winning high school in our New York State Regional competition will go to the nationals in Boulder, CO. The theme this coming year is “Our Ocean Shaping Weather.”
We all have much to be grateful for as 2017 ends but clearly SoMAS has a responsibility to be aggressively engaged in the troubling national and international debate concerning the global environment and its sustainability through research, education, and policy engagement. Understanding the fundamentals of oceanic and atmospheric processes and their interactions has never been more important. We must be bold and imaginative in our research and messaging.
Here is to a wonderful, rewarding, and successful New Year!
Sep 5, 2017
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.
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.
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.
Jan 27, 2017
Dear SoMAS Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends:
2017 is the year to celebrate! It is hard to believe, but SoMAS and its predecessor organization the Marine Science Research Center (MSRC) are celebrating our golden anniversary. There isn’t one moment that defines our creation—instead it’s a number of events including when the New York State Legislature signed the bill designating MSRC, when we hired our first faculty member, when we became an independent entity within the university (originally we were in Earth and Space Sciences). Consequently, we will celebrate throughout 2017 with a series of activities that commemorate our 50th showcasing our marine, atmospheric, and sustainability programs.
Along with our evolution, we want to recognize some of our most outstanding scientific accomplishments and service to the state, celebrate our many outstanding alumni, faculty, staff, and students, and promote environmental awareness and sustainability. We will culminate the year some time around Alumni Weekend in October with an environmental media program with the theme Make Scientific Research Count (MSRC). Given the current misgivings about the future of the planet’s environment, this acronym concerning scientific communication could never be more important.
As we start the Spring semester, be on the lookout for and participate in upcoming events that emphasize our 50th. We will begin 2017 with Mary Allred of Baruch College speaking about nitrogen removal ecosystem services in Jamaica Bay at our Friday, Ocean and Atmosphere Colloquium. On February 18, join us for our 16th annual Bay Scallop Bowl when we will once again have 16 high school marine science teams from all over the State of New York competing to be the best in order to move on to the national competition. On May 5th our Okubo Distinguished Scholar will be Greg Marshall, (M.S., 1988), inventor of the Crittercam. Also in May we will have our annual Vax to Flax run. For those of you who will be traveling to the ASLO Aquatic Sciences meeting in Honolulu, Mary Scranton and Gordon Taylor are organizing a reunion.
We are also starting to compile the stories and photos from alumni, faculty, staff, and students on outstanding or amusing remembrances of being part of SoMAS. Please share yours by sending to email@example.com. We hope to share these memories, where appropriate, on our web site and through our Facebook and Instagram social media channels.
Stay tuned and help make this a year to remember.
Dec 12, 2016
Dear SoMAS Students, Staff, Faculty, Alumni, and Friends:
No matter the origin of the phrase and with no negative context, we do “live in interesting times,” and it is certainly applicable to SoMAS during 2016.
Stony Brook University’s Sustainability Studies Program joined SoMAS as a welcomed and integral partner. This Fall was the first full semester working together and we have made a concerted effort to integrate our undergraduate programs. We are also beginning to explore creating a Master’s program in Sustainability Studies.
Nolwenn Dheilly, Lesley Thorne, Laura Wehrmann, and Michael French were the first recipients of the Minghua Zhang Early Career Innovation Awards. Congratulations to them and many thanks to our generous sponsors for recognizing excellence and creating this fund.
SoMAS graduated about 14 Ph.D.s and 12 MS students in Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. One hundred percent of the 2015/2016 MA students in the Marine Conservation and Policy Program completed their degrees in August. At the undergraduate level, the Sustainability Studies Program graduated 45 majors while Environmental Studies graduated 24. Some 42 students completed majors in our various Marine and Atmospheric Sciences programs.
We welcomed five new members to the SoMAS team in 2016. Donna Selch joined us as a lecturer and Christina Ozelis as an advisor in the Sustainability Program. Charise Kelly is now our grants coordinator and Hilary Wolfskill is an administrator for the Clean Water Center. Ginny Clancy, formerly dedicated to Sustainability Studies, is now the SoMAS Educational Programs Coordinator.
Distinguished Professor Cindy Lee and Professor Mary Scranton retired as did Professor Jim Hoffman. Cindy and Mary were part of the backbone of SoMAS for many years. Jim was one of the founding members of the Sustainability Studies Program. Mary still comes in nearly every day as she assumes the role of a Toll Professor. Carol Dovi, our much appreciated Graduate Program Coordinator, also retired. While we are sorry to see them go, we wish them much happiness as they embark on new endeavors.
The presidential election has roiled the rather placid waters of academia as we assess what it means to the world of environmental research and education. While there hasn’t been much disclosed concerning the incoming administration’s agenda for research and development, we can anticipate that Federal support and funding for the environment may decrease or be redirected. That means the mission of SoMAS is ever more relevant: we and our sister marine and atmospheric sciences institutions must assume greater responsibility for undertaking critical environmental research and bring the results of that work to the public. When people believe, politicians will follow.
We are not entering totally uncharted waters. The 1980s brought regulatory reform with a concerted effort to de-emphasize and overturn environmental regulations with concomitant reductions for environmental research. The U.S. EPA was decimated, as was the Department of the Interior. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration refocused its programs. Sea Grant was fortunate to survive. But, by the late 1980s, the public attitude toward the environment changed, as did the environmental politics. The shift was driven by numerous environment crises including the identification of the ozone hole, coastal hypoxia as a global problem, the EXXON VALDEZ oil spill (lack of response preparedness), the Islip Garbage Barge, ocean dumping and marine debris. The latter three were regional problems that played out on the world stage. As a result, there was a resurgence in Federal investment. While we certainly don’t desire any environmental crises, be assured, significant environmental issues will arise during the coming years and the importance of understanding them and their impact on society will once again be a high priority. SoMAS with its outstanding faculty and staff are clearly up to the challenges ahead.
We must create our own opportunities as we move forward: recast our traditional research with different thrusts — perhaps to support infrastructure, the economy, public health and national security and to individually and institutionally leverage new relationships with business/industry, foundations, and environmental groups.
The ocean sector contributes roughly two percent to GDP. While this percentage has remained relatively stagnant for many years, there is potential for growth, particularly if energy development in any form takes off. Ocean planning will become essential even if the new administration fails to embrace the concept. Strategic development will be required as competition for ocean resources and space in our Exclusive Economic Zone grows and becomes increasingly contentious. SoMAS, in partnership with New York State, can be an influential and significant force in this process.
Never before has environmental education been so important. We need to inspire the next generation concerning the complexities of the ocean-atmosphere system and how we live in harmony with it. “In the end we will conserve only what we love, we will love only what we understand, and will understand only what we are taught,” Baba Dioum, a Senegalese conservationist and forestry engineer, observed in 1968. This is the time to reenergize and broaden our graduate and undergraduate programs.
We must be vigilant, creative, and ready to embrace new opportunities.
It has been a pleasure to work with the students, staff, and faculty at SoMAS while serving as interim dean. Here is wishing all a great holiday season and a wonderful New Year.
Aug 2, 2007
Welcome to SoMAS!
I am honored and privileged to have been asked to serve as the SoMAS Interim Dean as the School searches for Dean Minghua Zhang‘s replacement. Among Minghua’s accomplishments, SoMAS experienced unprecedented faculty growth and funding from donors, including the establishment of two endowed chairs. We were the primary research entity helping New York State in assessing the meteorological conditions leading to Superstorm Sandy, as well as understanding its environmental consequences. Minghua also oversaw the incorporation of the Sustainability Program as a part of SoMAS, significantly increasing our undergraduate enrollment.
SoMAS is well positioned as a school within Stony Brook University and the SUNY system. However, we cannot afford to tread water even in the very near future. We face challenges funding some of our programs as well as maintaining and improving facilities such as laboratories and research vessels. We need to continue to expand undergraduate enrollment and to integrate the Sustainability Program and its faculty and staff so that the totality of SoMAS benefits. These are some issues I will be addressing.
I certainly look forward to working with all of you and will also be looking to you for advice and guidance.
Interim Dean, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
Interim Director, Marine Sciences Research Center