Public Outreach

Public Outreach capability within the present CIMAS is discussed in detail in the CIMAS Annual Reports  including numerous specific examples associated with particular research projects.  One ongoing relationship we emphasize is our relationship with our Virginia Key neighbor the MAST Academy.

Starting in 1984 the Rosenstiel School and CIMAS have participated in a high school apprenticeship program made possible through NOAA funding. Students participate in summer internships at AOML and SEFSC. This activity is carried out through a Miami-Dade County “magnet” school, the MAST Academy (Maritime and Science Technology High School) which is located on Virginia Key, only a few hundred meters from CIMAS and the NOAA laboratories. RSMAS participates in education-related activities at MAST by providing faculty and graduate students, including CIMAS-linked personnel, to deliver lectures and to teach courses. Every summer, 12-18 students are selected to participate in summer research programs supported through CIMAS. The students assist in programs at AOML and SEFSC as well as at RSMAS. In addition to the summer program, CIMAS hires MAST students during the course of the year. As a result of these activities MAST students have co-authored papers with RSMAS and NOAA scientists; students have attended national conferences and presented the findings of their research.

The Dunlap Marine Conservation Program (DMCP) was just recently established at UM/RSMAS through a substantial private donation.  Its core mission is to advance ocean conservation and scientific literacy by combining cutting edge research and outreach activities. High school students will have the opportunity to participate in exciting hands-on field and virtual learning experiences. Additionally, field and virtual expeditions will expose students and teachers from across the globe to the importance of oceans in their daily lives. They will learn about the threats facing our waters and adjacent coasts, and explore the solutions for conservation. Educational opportunities will especially be made for those in land-locked communities as well as those in traditionally underserved populations. The DMCP is already actively engaging hundreds of students from three south Florida high schools in these research and learning activities on sharks and other estuarine fish species.

Representative examples of the Public Outreach capability of the new CIMAS are described below: 

CIMAS personnel have already been contributing to the development of the Florida Sea Grant Strategic Plan and CIMAS already houses a Florida Sea Grant Extension and Outreach position.   Moreover, there is a long standing partnership between CIMAS and Florida Sea Grant.  This relationship is facilitated by the fact that the Florida Sea Grant Director and present CIMAS Director both serve on the NOAA Southeast Regional Team (SECART) and the Florida Ocean and Coasts Council.  The relationship needs to be even more fully developed and a similar relationship developed with Sea Grant in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. A specific example of the enormous regional Outreach potential offered through Sea Grant collaboration relates to sea level rise.

Florida Sea Grant is leading a regional project in the southeast to enhance the competencies of coastal and marine Extension, Education and Outreach (EOE) professionals in regard to sea level rise. Co-leads in this project include the aforementioned NOAA Regional Collaboration Team (SECART), the NERRS Coastal Training Program, and NOAA Coastal Services Center. EOE professionals will be intereacting with IPCC members and other regional climate scientists, NOAA and other federal and state agency experts, and local planners and decision makers. EOE professionals in the southeast are being provided with an online ‘toolkit’ that they can use to provide credible information and guidance to local elected officials, planners and citizens to help them prepare for the anticipated impacts of climate change to low-lying coastal areas.  Florida Sea Grant also is facilitating a dialogue between the project participants – establishing a ‘community of practice’ whose members will maintain long-term collaboration, information sharing, and collaborative problem solving through face-to-face and online forums. This coastal climate change EOE network would be integrated with the continuing climate and climate impact research being conducted by NOAA and proposed Cooperative Institute scientists to ensure that the most up to date information is being used in the EOE process, and to facilitate real world use of the science generated by the proposed Cooperative Institute.  We note that the Directors of CIMAS and Florida Sea Grant have already collaborated in the context of their service upon Florida’s Ocean and Coasts Council in developing a special report on climate change effects for the state government (

FAU Marine Biology Lab (FAU-MBL):  The FAU-MBL is located on the campus of the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center (GLNC-Boca Raton, FL), providing daily public outreach opportunities. To facilitate this interaction, the FAU-MBL has a second-floor viewing gallery with educational displays that overlook the lab research. From the gallery, the public can interact with students and faculty working in the lab by asking questions about the research.  The FAU-MBL building is a "must-see" by the Center’s visitors.  Since the Center averages more than 100,000 visitors a year, in addition to some 15,000 K-12 students (The Center is affiliated with the Palm Beach County School Board and has a teacher on site), this is a significant outreach opportunity for FAU and NOAA-sponsored research. Visitors can view hatchling sea turtles from the public gallery and get additional information from the public signage. Many local teachers will assign a series of questions to their classes and send the students to Gumbo Limbo to find the answers in the visitor gallery. Shark research occurs both within the FAU-MBL, and in large outdoor tanks for filming. The Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has a significant role in educating the public, both local visitors as well as national and international visitors.

FAU's HBOI Ocean Discovery Center (ODC): The ODC is the public gateway to HBOI at FAU. The ODC houses interactive exhibits, small aquarium, a video theater, and other displays exploring the marine environment and depicting the research efforts of the Institute. ODC exhibit content is developed in close coordination with the Harbor Branch project managers by a team of award-winning educators and media specialists. Exhibit content is continually evolving to showcase the ongoing research and conservation efforts of Harbor Branch and to give visitors a close-up look at the emerging technologies used by the marine research community.

Scientists at UM/RSMAS have already developed a prototype ocean current website which has a description of many of the Atlantic Ocean and Southern Oceans Currents already online with corresponding maps and plots (see  This has generated enormous public interest from K-12 and undergraduate faculty across the country and the number of “hits” has been locally exceeded only by those occasioned by the seasonal interest in tropical storm threats to Florida.  We propose to incorporate this site into the CIMAS website as part of our need to update and markedly improve our out-dated website offering in accordance with our fundamental goal and mission approach.  This is essential if that website is to serve as an efficient and cost-effective way to reach out to the public within our region.  New sections will be created on the importance of ocean currents to weathers, especially hurricane intensification, global climate, fisheries, and biogeochemical fluxes. These new sections will be designed for elementary and high school education. 

Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida (MARES) is a new collaborative initiative, funded through CIMAS by the NOAA/NOS/Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research, which is designed to guide regional resource managers in protecting the fragile marine coastal environment in South Florida. The co-PIs are at UM/RSMAS and FIU.   Through MARES academic scientists, federal and state agency experts and non-governmental organizations have begun to work closely with federal and state environmental managers, private industry and the general public to develop comprehensive integrated ecosystem models and reach consensus as to feasible management goals for the South Florida coastal ecosystem from Charlotte Harbor south to the Florida Keys and Dry Tortugas and the lower East Coast up to the St. Lucie. The three-year study will also develop an annual report card (Total Marine Ecosystem Assessment Report) that allows resource managers to evaluate their management strategies to adequately protect the local ecosystem.  A unique feature of MARES is the specific consideration of societal processes through the inclusion of human dimensions science, to study what is taking place within the ecosystem and how we are impacting its sustainability.  MARES builds upon NOAA’s 15 year commitment to improve the understanding of the South Florida coastal ecosystem and associated changes resulting from Everglades Restoration activities. The outcomes from MARES will be used to focus and prioritize future research and management of South Florida coastal waters for NOAA and the other federal and state agencies.