Research & Training

Technological advances in instrumentation and analytical approaches have significantly augmented the capacity of chemists and environmental scientists to quantify ultra-trace amounts of organic and inorganic substances with enormous precision, and characterize these substances on the molecular level. In addition, advanced fingerprinting using molecular biology methodologies such as gene expression, have significantly enhanced the conditions needed to sense environmental stress on aquatic organisms with high sensitivity and specificity. The combination of both approaches now allows scientists to conduct research to address complex challenges of environmental contamination and risk assessment.

The CREST CAChE team will not only enhance existing pollutant sensing methodologies, but also apply them to field studies across land-use boundaries (Subproject 2), and interface analytical data-intensive methodologies with advanced computational modeling and visualization, designed for the development of transformative and scalable methods for data mining and management (Subproject 3). As such, the research conducted by this Subproject will facilitate collaboration with the other two Subprojects and support researchers at the proposed CREST Center to better detect and understand the sources, transport, transformation and ecosystem responses to contaminants, pollutants and other natural stressors in the aquatic systems of south Florida.

Using advanced analytical and molecular biology methodologies, researchers will be able to:

  1. Develop sensing technologies to determine known traditional or emergent pollutants at environmentally relevant concentrations
  2. Explore the relations between chemical stressors and biological responses through advanced molecular biology approaches 3. Generate products through collaboration efforts with the other Subprojects to communicate more effectively with decision and policymakers.

Research Projects

Teams of faculty, students and partners are addressing the sources, transport and transformation of environmental contaminants. Together, we are understanding ecosystem responses to help better inform policy and decision-making.


Detection & Identification

The ultimate goal of Subproject 1 is to advance the effectiveness of existing analytical approaches for the analysis of traditional pollutants, to develop novel analytical methodologies and approaches for the identification, characterization and quantification of previously unknown contaminants of concern, and to enhance and extend the applicability of molecular biology methodologies to assess environmental stressors to aquatic organisms across land-use boundaries.


  • Yong Cai (Co-Lead)
  • Piero Gardinali (Co-Lead)
  • Bill Anderson 
  • Marcus Cooke 
  • Jose Eirin-Lopez
  • Quentin Felty
  • Francisco Fernandez-Lima
  • Rene Price 
  • Len Scinto 

Fate & Transport

Research conducted in Subproject 2 will determine the hydrologic transport (flux), fate via biogeochemical processes, and environmental impact of pollutants/contaminants across three major land-use boundaries in South Florida (agricultural, urban and natural) under current and potentially changing environmental conditions.


  • Rudolf Jaffé (Co-Lead)
  • Rene Price (Co-Lead)
  • Henry Briceño
  • Jim Fourqurean
  • Evelyn Gaiser
  • John Kominoski 
  • Assefa Melesse 
  • Len Scinto 
  • Joel Trexler

Data Synthesis & Visualization

The work of Subproject 3 will support data-intensive research on aquatic chemistry and the environment, by developing transformative and scalable methods for data mining and management, advanced computational modeling, and visualization.


  • Shu-Ching Chen (Co-Lead)
  • Marcus Cooke (Co-Lead)
  • Jose Eirin-Lopez 
  • Quentin Felty
  • Mark Finlayson
  • Mike Heithaus
  • Rudolf Jaffé
  • Tao Li
  • Assefa Melesse 
  • Gary Rand 
  • Shahin Vassigh 

Key Ecosystems and Research Supplements


The Greater Everglades provides an essential ecological and economic service to all of South Florida’s inhabitants, who also depend on this system as their main source of freshwater. CREST CAChE’s work begins with the distinct advantage of immediately drawing upon a wealth of expertise in our faculty, who have long been conducting research in this complex ecosystem.

Mangrove Ecology

In this Research Supplement focusing on Mangrove Ecology, we seek to enhance the Center by expanding the expertise on our research team to add an exploration of mangrove ecosystems, which serve as the filter and connection between the freshwater and marine ecosystems.

Training and Professional Development

Our faculty are dedicated to advancing research and educational change that uses the latest evidence-based instructional practices to better prepare our students to begin their careers. 

Hands-On Learning

We are increasing opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students to conduct their own authentic research while advancing ongoing aquatic and environmental projects, using data analytics tools, methodologies, and ecological risk assessments. With our diverse student population, we have a unique opportunity to encourage and engage students who are traditionally underrepresented in science and engineering fields.

Multidisciplinary Guidance

In collaboration with the STEM Transformation Institute, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) experts across FIU will mentor and train students to be future researchers and environmental professionals.