University of South Florida


Gov. Ron DeSantis appoints USF geoscientist as state’s chief science officer

Mark Rains, professor and director of the USF School of Geosciences, has been appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis to be the state’s chief science officer. The chief science officer leads the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, a division of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and is responsible for ensuring information about priority environmental issues is clearly communicated to the public, as well as organizing agency resources and scientific expertise, data and research.

Mark Rains

Mark Rains, professor and director of the USF School of Geosciences

Rains is a leading expert on hydrological sciences and has played a vital role in informing water-related law, policy and decision making. Through his Ecohydrology Research Group, Rains has conducted various studies pertaining to wetlands, headwater streams, rivers and estuaries and has published in multiple journals regarding Florida’s water quality, a key cause of harmful algal blooms. In early 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court utilized his expertise in the case County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, that closed a massive loophole in the Clean Water Act, which affirmed for the first time that pollutants that flow through groundwater and then emerge into surface waters are in fact covered by the act.

“I am honored that Governor DeSantis and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein have entrusted me with this important responsibility,” Rains said. “Florida is already a leader in the application of science in crafting sound environmental policy, and I look forward to working alongside our many stakeholders as we continue to build on this foundation.”

“Science must be at the heart of environmental policy for it to be effective and successful,” DeSantis said. “I am proud to announce that Dr. Rains will be the state’s next chief science officer to lead us in this charge. Under his leadership, I am excited to see the task force build on the success of its efforts and their additional recommendations to protect Florida’s water quality through science-based, transparent initiatives. I know that with this continued focus, Florida will remain a national leader in innovation and water quality protection.”

The Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency spearheaded the development of the Protecting Florida Together website, an online resource that allows the public to access the state’s first-ever comprehensive water quality dashboard encompassing multi-agency water quality data and initiatives. The platform provides users access to water quality data and nutrient information, including active projects and the status of water quality in Florida communities. Additionally, the office completed development of an education center and a preference center that allowsFloridians to sign up for blue-green algae and red tide email notifications.

“The University of South Florida congratulates Dr. Rains for his appointment to this key position in the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,” said USF President Steven Currall. “With Dr. Thomas Frazer, now dean of USF’s College of Marine Science, serving as the state’s first chief science officer and the appointment of Dr. Rains, USF is proud to represent the scientific expertise and leadership needed to support our state’s environmental management and stewardship goals.”

Thomas Frazer

Thomas K. Frazer, professor and dean of the USF College of Marine Science

Rains replaces Frazer, who was recently appointed to the Florida Environmental Regulation Commission, which sets standards and rules pertaining to water quality, air pollution and waste management in the state. Frazer was recruited from his position as chief science officer and has been tasked with strengthening the College of Marine Science's national and global profile and helping to advance USF in its effort to become a top 25 national university eligible for membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU). He is working to envision and develop an interdisciplinary center of academic and research excellence in oceanographic and environmental sciences.

Frazer joined USF in June 2020, bringing with him more than 20 years of experience at the University of Florida, including leadership positions in the university’s Water Institute, the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences. He also served an eight-year term as director of the School of Natural Resources and Environment. Throughout his career, Frazer has produced nearly 200 publications and has garnered extensive federal and state grant funding to support his research, which includes work on the ecology of coral reefs, water quality and restoration of degraded ecosystems. 

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