Gatorbytes Behind-the-Story: When the Seas Rise

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In April 2015, the University of Florida and the University Press of Florida launched Gatorbytes, a digital book series following the innovative research taking place at UF. Intended to pique the interests of the intellectually curious and to share the stories behind the discoveries being made at UF, the books are written by professional journalists. 

“They know how to take complex material, break it down into manageable chunks and tell a story,” says Meredith Babb, director of the University Press of Florida.

We’re taking a closer look at each of the works in the Gatorbytes series to spotlight the journalists working to share these amazing projects and to offer even more behind-the-scenes information about the groundbreaking research.

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In When the Seas Rise: Global Changes and Local ImpactsHeather Dewar, former environmental writer for the Miami Herald and the Gainesville Sun, and current freelance writer, gives readers an inside look into the multidisciplinary research behind our understanding of climate change.
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In an age where climate change is recognized as an urgent problem by the vast majority of scientists, the University of Florida leads the charge in predicting, preparing for, and mitigating the danger that the world faces. In this Gatorbyte, researchers from all areas of science, from geology to biology to water management, come together at the University of Florida to plan for the future.
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Two of the scientists Dewar spoke to were University of Florida geologists Peter Adams and John Jaeger. These geologists have been working with NASA for several years to see what can be done to protect the Kennedy Space Center’s launch pads from the ever-encroaching ocean. In the video below, Adams and Jaeger describe their solution for shoring up NASA’s launchpads.
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Dewar interviews another researcher who provides some hope for fighting back against erosion: Jack Putz. Putz, a biologist who specializes in tropical forests, has said that plants may be one of the keys to slowing erosion by holding sand and dirt in place against the tide. The rising sea level could endanger the vast majority of these salt-intolerant plants.
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Putz is also determined to protect tropical forests from another threat: the logging industry. Jack Putz advocates for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) and reduced-impact logging as solutions to the loss of Earth’s forests. “The solutions to [this] problem are accessible and fairly well known, and they mostly involve forest management,” Putz says in the interview below.
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Wendy Graham and the University of Florida Water Institute have, Dewar notes, realized and acted upon climate change as a multidisciplinary concern. Water management is even more far-reaching than many people realize, touching all areas of science and reaching into law, city planning, and everyday life. The Water Institute is greatly concerned with the effects humans have on the environment. It’s a huge balancing act, and any liberties that humans take with natural resources are going to have trade-offs. “There’s no free lunch. If humans are gonna move around on this earth, we’re gonna have an impact on our water and the ecosystems it supports,” Graham says. Graham is determined to figure out what that impact is going to be, and if it’s worth it.

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Dewar doesn’t only interview people concerned with the big ideas. Jaret Daniels and researchers at the University of Florida’s McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity are working ardently to preserve some of Florida’s smallest and most endangered residents: butterflies.
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Jaret Daniels looks at climate change with a realistic eye. It’s impossible not to, with rising sea levels threatening the Schaus’ swallowtail and so many other species in the Florida Keys. But Daniels, like many researchers at UF, is still hopeful.
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“I suppose you could throw your hands up, looking at the models for sea level rise, and say it’s a worthless cause,” Daniels says to Dewar. “But we don’t know, ultimately, what’s going to happen. And so we need to do our best to give them the ability to adapt to the changes that are coming. If this butterfly is lost to Florida, it’s gone forever. We’re never getting it back. And that’s a travesty, I think. So as a biologist I have a responsibility to make sure it doesn’t go extinct on my watch.”
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Learn how to measure and reduce your own carbon footprint in the video below!
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To find out more about the effects of climate change and how UF researchers are combating them, check out Heather Dewar’s When the Seas Rise.
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This and other Gatorbytes can be found on our website.

 

 

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Categories: Conservation, Environmental studies, Florida Nature & Environment, Gatorbytes, Nature, Science and Technology, Sustainability

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