UM faculty recognized for academic achievements

UM Rosenstiel School faculty receive prestigious awards, appointed to head aquaculture certification committee
UM faculty recognized for academic achievements
Left to right: Cassandra Gaston, associate professor, Department of Atmospheric Sciences; Daniel Benetti, professor, Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society and director of the UM Aquaculture Program; Vassiliki Kourafalou, professor, Department of Ocean Sciences.


MIAMI—Several University of Miami Rosesnstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science faculty have recently received prestigious awards and appointments.

Cassandra Gaston—University of Miami Assistant Professor Cassandra Gaston has received a prestigious CAREER award from the National Science Foundation (NSF). Gaston is an assistant professor of atmospheric sciences at the UM Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program awards five-year grants to faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in their respective fields in both research and education. Gaston received $783,642, some of which is geared toward undergraduate education. The award is considered one of the most prestigious that an untenured professor can receive.

Gaston’s work on the project will explore the chemical reactions and aerosol sources of key nutrients that deposit out of the atmosphere and into the ocean and into forests. Atmospheric deposition plays a key role in both the health of ecosystems and Earth’s climate via the sequestration of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. She will look at the impact of acid reactions on dust and particles found in smoke as key sources of these nutrients using field-based approaches in Miami and Barbados. The Barbados Atmospheric Chemistry Observatory (BACO) will be a key component of this work. As part of the educational component of the award, Gaston will facilitate science writing workshops for undergraduates and her lab will provide hands-on opportunities for students to perform both chemical analysis as well as field measurements. 

Daniel BenettiUM Rosenstiel School Professor Daniel Benetti was appointed by the Global Aquaculture Alliance to chair the Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) International Hatchery Committee Certification Standards for Fish, Crustacean and Mollusk Hatcheries and Nurseries. Benetti is a professor in the Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society and director of the UM Aquaculture Program.

The work of the committee focuses on developing sustainable aquaculture through responsible practices, particularly in the areas of food safety, environmental and social concerns, animal welfare and traceability. The international committee is formed by 12 members from academics, research and regulatory groups, NGOs and the industry. As Chair, Benetti will select committee members and oversee the revision process of the certification standards.

The UM Experimental Hatchery, of which Benetti heads, is currently working to advance sustainable aquaculture practices with six ecologically and commercially important marine fish species. The UM Aquaculture Program is the only academic and research hatchery BAP certified in the world.

A division of the Global Aquaculture Alliance, Best Aquaculture Practices is an international certification program based on achievable, science-based and continuously improved performance standards for the entire aquaculture supply chain — farms, hatcheries, processing plants and feed mills — that assure healthful foods produced through environmentally and socially responsible means. 

Vassiliki Kourafalou—UM Rosenstiel School Professor, Vassiliki Kourafalou, Department of
Ocean Sciences was awarded $349,874 in grant funding from the The Gulf Research Program (GRP) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The project, titled “A Lagrangian Methodology to Quantify and Predict the Impact of Caribbean Eddies on Loop Current System Dynamics” will be conducted by Kourafalou and her Co-Principal Investigators Xavier Beron-Vera, Josefina Olascoaga and Matthieu Le Henaff from the UM Rosenstiel School.

Their project will quantify improvements in prediction skill when flows entering from the Caribbean Sea  are accurately incorporated into Gulf of Mexico forecasting models. Observations and high-resolution model simulations will provide a more detailed, objective description about the size, magnitude, and pathway of warm, circular currents (known as anticyclonic eddies) passing through the Yucatan Channel; and their relation to the anticyclonic eddies evolving inside the Gulf of Mexico.

"This project is filling an important gap in the understanding of the circulation in the Gulf of Mexico by using novel methodologies to study the impact of Caribbean flows that enter through the Yucatan Strait and influence connectivity between the greater Caribbean and the Atlantic Ocean through the Gulf, with implications on navigation and fisheries but also marine pollution,” said Kourafalou.

The grant program supports projects focused on new theories, technologies, and methodologies to improve understanding and prediction of the Loop Current System (LCS) of the Gulf of Mexico.