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USF Unites Scientists and Political Leaders to Address Tampa Bay’s Resiliency to Climate Change

Keynote speaker, Dr. Ben Kirtman of University of Miami, discusses Florida climate assessment models.

Severe weather has caused nearly $1 billion in damages to Tampa Bay over the last five years. The staggering reality is part of an ongoing discussion on how leaders in the region can better work together to combat the effects of climate change.

The USF STEM Collaborative hosted a special workshop titled: Science, Strategies and Solutions: Addressing Climate Change in Tampa Bay. Keynote speaker State Representative Ben Diamond of District 68 discussed how the Florida Legislature just recently started recognizing the issue as imminent. Panelists had varying backgrounds and covered topics such as extreme events, transportation, the environment, and public health and social justice.

“The aim of the workshop was to improve collaborations between scientists and experts, our elected officials, and the people in the government offices that need to merge science and policy to implement the best solutions,” said Gary Mitchum, PhD, associate dean and professor of physical oceanography in the USF College of Marine Science.

Dr. Rebecca Zarger, associate professor and Graduate Director in the USF's Department of Anthropology, presents potential threats climate change poses to public health in Tampa Bay.

Dr. Rebecca Zarger, associate professor and Graduate Director in the USF's Department of Anthropology, presents potential threats climate change poses to public health in Tampa Bay.

One of the panels focused on how researchers can predict areas where sea level rise is of concern and policy makers can take that information to implement regulations and take action, such as building taller and sturdier bridges that can withstand rising waters.

“The idea for this event stemmed from a need to build climate change resiliency and ignite action in the Tampa Bay area,” said Assistant Vice Provost Peter Stiling, PhD, professor of ecology in the USF College of Arts and Sciences. “In order for this to happen, we needed to bring together a host of people from multiple disciplines.”

The workshop spurned a lot of discussion about future generations. In the crowd, included honor students from Middleton High School in Tampa studying marine science with a curriculum structured around climate change.

Panelist Jayantha Obeysekera, PhD, director of the Sea Level Solutions Center at Florida International University told them, “This is your future, the future of your children. This is where the jobs and businesses are going to be. You need to plan and design for a future setting.”

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