During CREST-CAChE I, Research Focus Area 1 (RFA1) developed novel environmental chemistry tools, including Trapped Ion Mobility Spectrometry (TIMS-MS), that led to characterization of unknown chemical contaminants. In Phase II, we will continue to build unique analytic tools, while adding a focus on identifying and quantifyingnew emerging contaminants. In CREST-CAChE I, RFA2 discovered that many responses to environmental stressors actually occur at the level of individual organisms. Therefore, in Phase II's RFA2, we will investigate multi-levelorganismal impactsand the mechanisms underlying responses (epigenetic, cellular, physiological, behavioral) to the contaminants identified in RFA1. In Phase II RFA3, we will quantify responses at the population, community andecosystems levels in coastal, aquatic environments.
While each Research Focus Area focuses on a specific part of the process, they all work collaboratively within our center to understand and improve global water quality. Since water quality is a central theme connecting our research, we have designed and developed three monitoring buoys to collect data in both freshwater and saltwater environments of South Florida.
The Greater Everglades provides a vital ecological and economic service to all of South Florida’s inhabitants, who also depend on this massive wetland system as their main source of freshwater. Our work begins with a distinct advantage in this field: drawing upon a wealth of expertise in our faculty, who have long been doing research in this complex ecosystem.
In this Research Supplement focusing on Mangrove Ecology, we seek to enhance and expand our expertise to include an exploration of mangrove ecosystems, which serve as the filter and connection between the freshwater and marine ecosystems. Among the many questions we strive to answer: will mangrove forests along the coast be able to keep up with the accelerating pace of rising sea levels?
This Research Supplement further enhances our collaboration with the University of Puerto Rico and expands our research into estuaries and coral reefs, by examining the role of contaminants and pollutants on these vulnerable ecosystems. Using metagenomic methods, our team is working to identify early indicators of ecosystem impacts caused by anthropogenic stressors.
With this latest Research Supplement, our team will focus on urban waterways as unique ecosystems with special threats and needs. Specifically, we will collect data in the Miami River and the canals of Coral Gables, and work with local museums and schools to create public outreach exhibits. All data will be displayed interactively using 3D and virtual/augmented reality technologies, in order to better engage our local communities with issues related to water quality.
Research Focus Areas
Novel Environmental Stressor Detection: Using advanced analytical technology and methodologies to detect low levels of emerging and novel chemical stressors.
Multi-Level Organismal Impacts: Addressing the effects of stressors across biological scales, including epigenetic, cellular, physiological, and behavioral.
Integrated Ecosystem Assessment: Characterizing impacts at the population, community, and ecosystem levels, to develop models and interventions that enhance ecosystem services.
Education and Innovation: Developing discipline-based educational methods and innovative tools using robotics, big-data analytics, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.