Discipline: Biological Sciences
Subcategory: STEM Research
- Florida International University
Co-Author(s): Rita Teutonic and Piero Gardinali, FIU, Miami FL
The CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry & Environment (CAChE) at Florida International University (FIU) tackles one of the region’s most complex challenges: environmental contamination. Pollutants — such as pesticides, industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals, nutrients, oil, and metals — are having devastating effects on ecosystems and the humans, animals, and plants that depend on them. CREST CAChE’s mission is to address the sources, transport, transformation and ecosystem responses to contaminants, pollutants and other natural stressors, under changing land-use and environmental conditions. CREST CAChE is transforming cutting-edge research into technological and science-based solutions for various forms of water contamination, using a framework that includes three collaborative Research Focus Areas (RFAs). The first RFA focuses on detection and identification of contaminants, by extending our current technologies and approaches for measuring anthropogenic contaminants, pollutants and other chemical stressors. The second RFA deals with transport and fate in complex ecosystems, by using new sensing techniques to determine biogeochemical cycles, contaminant sources, storage, transport and transformations across South Florida’s natural, agricultural, and human/urban landscapes. Finally, the third RFA involves risk assessment and measuring ecosystem response(s) through data synthesis and visualization, with the goal of communicating this information to decision-makers. All of the RFAs work across 3 key ecosystems: inland freshwater, mangrove habitats, and near shore coastal marine. The education activities of CREST CAChE integrate undergraduate and graduate programs across 10 departments and 4 colleges at FIU, from Biology and Chemistry to Computer Sciences and Public Health. We have developed 2 new innovative Discovery learning courses for undergraduates to engage them with CAChE-related problem solving, as well as introduce them to potential career pathways. Engaging FIU students — 75% of whom are from historically underrepresented minorities — in socially relevant environmental research aims to foster their development as future professionals in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. The guiding principle behind CREST CAChE is to understand nature, “one molecule at a time” and to train the next generation of scientists who will carry this initiative forward!
Funder Acknowledgement(s): National Science Foundation
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,