University of South Florida

USF College of Marine Science


Farewell from the Bridge

Dean Jackie Dixon bids farewell to USF Marine Science

Dean Jackie Dixon bids farewell to USF Marine Science

My last day as Dean is June 30, 2020.  I am looking forward to returning to the faculty, reinvigorating my research, and developing new courses.  My research focuses on the origin and evolution of water and carbon in the earth and other planets, and I am excited to meld information from volcanoes in the ocean with new stories being told by data collected from asteroids and comets. 

I wanted to share a few thoughts as I embark on this next chapter.

With all of the uncertainty in our world, it’s a great time for the CMS! I am proud of how the College has grown in its research capabilities and national visibility. CMS is a research powerhouse. Our strength continues to be the fact that we are big enough to make a global impact, but small enough to allow effective interdisciplinary collaboration. Every faculty member here is setting the research agenda in their respective disciplines – and I am grateful to Associate Dean Gary Mitchum for his untiring efforts to bolster our research enterprise. Here are just a few highlights:

We are wrapping up the global research consortium we led called C-IMAGE, involving 17 institutions in 5 countries focused on evaluating the long-term impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. C-IMAGE has brought in over $36 million, published 139 papers and two major books, unearthed technological and academic discoveries, and identified priorities that will be critical to future oil spill response. Other major national and international programs in which our faculty actively participate include research on changing ecosystems with the Marine Biodiversity Observation Networks (MBON), the history of Antarctic ice melting with the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP),  changing sea levels with the WMO/IOC Global Level Of the Sea Surface program, and changing ocean chemistry with the NSF program GEOTRACES.

I am proud of what we have accomplished together. As Dean I oversaw our effort to increase female representation from 12% to 25% of the faculty base. With assistance from Associate Deans Gary Mitchum and David Naar, we helped ensure faculty were getting the national recognition they deserve. Our awards increased dramatically with the award of two AGU Fellows (Byrne, Chambers), six AAAS Fellows (Byrne, Breitbart, Daly, Dixon, Muller-Karger, and Murawski), as well a myriad of other professional society awards.  We completed two major renovations that greatly enhanced our research capabilities and have succeeded in getting a major remodel and expansion of MSL included on the USF Capitol Investment Program list.

The Graduate Program is strong. Under the leadership of David Naar, with the assistance and innovative efforts by Sami Francis and Ana Arellano, we have improved the curriculum, delivered professional development workshops, improved mentoring with the creation of a new GEM (Graduate Exemplary Mentoring) based on the best practices from the USF Sloan UCEM (University Center for Exemplary Mentoring), involved more undergraduates in teaching and research, and launched a new NSF-funded REU (Research Experiences for Undergraduates). 

In addition, we’ve made great strides in improving the visibility of our science in a more strategic manner than ever before (under the leadership of Kristen Kusek), and of course these efforts only succeed if our research stories are compelling. 

But 2020 has brought challenges none of us could have imagined.  We are challenged to continue research and education delivery while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. We face a culture riven by the eruption of civil unrest related to the death of George Floyd by police. While we are horrified at the hypocrisy of some of our government leaders, we can be proud of USF’s success in eliminating the graduation rate gap as a function of race and economic background. There is always more work to do, especially with respect to faculty and staff diversity, but CMS can move forward in this effort with confidence backed by a strong track record of providing opportunities for underrepresented minority students. I’m proud that we recently implemented a code of conduct that values diversity and inclusion that will serve us well as we move forward.

But these immediate challenges should not result in our taking our eyes off the ball of climate change.  Florida is ground zero for climate change and related natural hazards such as sea-level rise and hurricanes that threaten its future.  CMS is well prepared to meet these challenges.  The research of every faculty member at CMS bears on understanding climate change in some way and the time is ripe for pooling our expertise across the university to address the physical and human aspects of our impact on our planet.

Over the last two years, I have developed a preliminary plan to establish a cross-departmental Center for Coastal Resiliency (CORE) at USF, one that joins >50 experts from departments and colleges across three different campuses representing the disciplines of hazard assessment (e.g., coastal flooding, water quality), mitigation and adaptation (e.g., port sustainability, resilient infrastructure), and public policies and programs (e.g., modeling socio-technical change from sea level rise).  I look forward to seeing how this initiative can play a role in the next phase of evolution for the CMS.

I am thrilled to pass the baton to someone as competent and experienced as Dean Tom Frazer.  He will lead the CMS at a time of both great uncertainty and, I believe, tremendous opportunity. His political savvy is just what the College needs to take advantage of new funding opportunities related to consolidation such as a new Center of Excellence in Oceanography and Environmental Science in St. Petersburg. And he is lucky to be able to do so backed by a strong community of faculty, administration, staff members, and students.

It has been my great privilege to serve as the Dean of the College of Marine Science for the past nine and a half years. I wish you all continued success and smooth sailing in the years ahead.


Jacqueline Dixon
Dean, College of Marine Science

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Mission Statement

Our blue planet faces a suite of challenges and opportunities for understanding and innovation. Our mission is to advance understanding of the interconnectivity of ocean systems and human-ocean interactions using a cross-disciplinary approach, to empower the next workforce of the blue economy with a world-class education experience, and to share our passion for a healthy environment and science-informed decision-making with community audiences near and far.