Dean's Update - May 2020

Dean's Update - May 2020

By Diana Udel

Dean's Update - May 2020

By Diana Udel

I hope that you and your loved ones are well and staying safe. Since my last update in March, I’m pleased to briefly highlight how our school has come together to support our students, each other, and the community since the coronavirus pandemic upended our world. Despite the turbulence experienced around the globe, we are doing our best to continue our mission of research, education, and service.

We continue to deliver our classes via distance teaching almost flawlessly. The performance of our faculty, teaching assistants, and the technical team supporting distance education has been exemplary. Our administrative staff is providing seamless continuity from home while our facilities team continues to take care of the campus and support active research projects.

Four weeks ago, Adrianne Wilson, a Ph.D. student in our marine biology and ecology program, initiated the effort to collect personal protective equipment from the labs of our faculty and essential research personnel to donate to UHealth and other area hospitals. The response was immediate. Two large deliveries of PPE were made and greatly appreciated by the recipients.

Our graduate students, who are studying various sectors of the Earth sciences, were undeterred by the pandemic and, as part of their initiatives under the Marine Science Graduate Student Organization, reformatted live activities into webinars to provide a resource for the community during Earth Week. The activities complemented those at the main campus and further highlighted the resilience of our UM community. The talks can be viewed here.

We hosted our first virtual open house webinar for prospective students and their parents on April 20. Over 160 participants took a virtual tour of our coral labs, hurricane simulator and scientific dive training facility, and were introduced to students engaged in active research in various programs.

Faculty in our Department of Marine Geosciences published an important study in Nature, documenting how excessive rainfall may have triggered the 2018 massive eruption of Kīlauea volcano. Postdoctoral researcher and lead author James Farquharson and professor of geophysics Falk Amelung suggest that local rainfall patterns may contribute significantly to the timing and frequency of the eruption at Kīlauea and perhaps at other volcanoes. The study was featured on the cover of the prestigious journal, which was published on April 22, Earth Day. 

On Saturday April 25, CNN broadcast its long awaited documentary hosted by chief climate correspondent Bill Weir, The Road To Change: America’s Climate Crisis. Rosenstiel School professors Ben Kirtman and Sam Purkis are featured as the scientific experts on the future challenges Miami must address. According to the Columbia Journalism Review, the documentary is “one of the best pieces of climate journalism ever run by a mainstream US news organization.” 

Join me in congratulating Katharine Mach, associate professor in the Department of Marine Ecosystems and Society for receiving the Piers Sellers Prize for her solution-focused climate research, from the Priestly International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds. Piers Sellers was a renowned climate scientist, astronaut and deputy director of the Sciences and Exploration Directorate, and acting director of the Earth Sciences Division at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.

In closing, I’d like to share with you a short video which captures the true essence of how scholarships can make a big difference in a student’s dream of earning a degree in marine science. We would be most grateful if you can help us keep making student dreams come true. If you would like more information, contact Jennifer Dillon at

Please keep in touch and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Roni Avissar 

Dean, University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science