University of South Florida


Sign says, "hurricane season" in front of lightning storm

USF experts ready to contribute to hurricane- and storm-related coverage

Experts around the world are predicting the 2024 hurricane season will be very active and the University of South Florida offers a variety of experts to discuss related topics and new trends. Their expertise includes storm surge, flooding, effects of sea-level rise, extreme heat, resiliency of bridges and other transportation structures, effects on power grids, and implications for older adults and those with health-related concerns.

Listed below are some of the experts, along with their focus areas. Members of the media interested in an interview are asked to contact Kevin Watler at After June 13, media can reach out to Althea Johnson at

Hurricanes, Wind, Weather Events 

Jennifer Collins (College of Arts and Sciences) is a professor in the School of Geosciences who is interested in the interaction between large-scale climatic patterns such as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Madden-Julian Oscillation and seasonal patterns of tropical cyclone activity in multiple oceanic basins. She studies environmental factors influencing the interannual and intraseasonal variation of hurricane activity in the eastern north Pacific and Atlantic oceans. She also examines human behavior relating to hurricane evacuation.

Storm Surge and Coastal Subsidence

Robert Weisberg (College of Marine Science) is a Distinguished University Professor Emeritus who has published extensively on the potential for flooding and damage caused by hurricane-associated storm surge and waves. He founded the Ocean Circulation Lab, which successfully modeled and predicted the sea-level impacts from the landfalls of landfalls of Hurricanes Irma, Ian and Idalia. Weisberg can discuss storm surge and the broader impacts of hurricanes on coastal ecosystems and communities, including the impacts of past storms such as Hurricane Katrina.

Gary Mitchum (College of Marine Science), associate dean, is a global sea-level rise expert who has served on the Tampa Bay Climate Science Advisory Panel that helps to establish local sea-level rise projections. He can comment on the broader connections between climate change and hurricanes, as well as the impacts of sea-level rise, storm surge and hurricanes in Tampa Bay.

Timothy Dixon (College of Arts and Sciences) is a professor in the School of Geosciences who uses satellite geodesy (GPS, InSAR) to study coastal subsidence as well as earthquake and volcano deformation, aquifer depletion and melting of ice sheets and glaciers. He can talk about the effects of hurricanes as they relate to coastal flooding and long-term changes in the coastline.

Don Chambers (College of Marine Science) is a professor who uses satellite observations to understand climate change and ocean dynamics. He was a lead author on the latest climate assessment by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and has been a member of several NASA satellite science teams. Chambers can discuss the links between hurricanes, climate change and long-term ocean warming.

Mark Luther (College of Marine Science) is an associate professor who uses real-time ocean observations with numerical models of ocean currents to address various challenges ranging from maritime safety and security to water quality and ocean responses to climate change. Luther can comment on port security, storm surge and the broader relationship between hurricanes, climate change and the ocean. 


Tom Frazer (College of Marine Science/Florida Flood Hub) is dean of the USF College of Marine Science and executive director of the Florida Flood Hub for Applied Research and Innovation based at USF. He can discuss flood planning, flood resilience and how the Flood Hub helps communities prepare for flood events and other natural hazards. 

“Florida has thousands of miles of rivers, streams and canals that crisscross inland communities. These systems can quickly be overwhelmed by extreme rainfall events. We have a large part of the state which is not on the coast and will continue to be subject to flood threats moving forward.”

Chris Meindl (College of Arts and Sciences) is an associate professor of geography who specializes in human-environment interactions in Florida. His research touches on people’s perceptions of environmental issues, especially natural hazards and water resources, including Florida’s springs.

Donny Smoak (College of Arts and Sciences) is a biogeochemist who studies soil carbon accumulation and accretion rates in coastal wetlands, which are indicators of long-term ecosystem stability. His research examines the fate of these ecosystems in the context of climate change, rising sea level and extreme events such as hurricanes.

Barnali Dixon (College of Arts and Sciences) is a GIS professor and executive director for the Initiative on Coastal Adaptation and Resilience. Her research focuses on the development and application of tools and systems for modeling and managing land-water interfaces in the context of extreme weather events and climate change. She is part of a research team developing a web-based application that gathers crowdsourced data in coastal communities to identify flooding risks and inform emergency managers and policy.

Extreme Heat

Thomas Culhane (Patel College of Global Sustainability) is an associate professor of instruction, and a subject matter expert in climate mitigation and adaptation. He can discuss how we can mitigate and even harness the effects of extreme heat and the extreme power of storms by seeing them and using them as sources of energy. His team at the Rosebud Continuum Eco-Science Demonstration Center uses community-scale biodigesters, windmills and greenhouses to exploit hotter temperatures and stronger winds to offset fossil fuel use. 

“We can turn liabilities into assets until the implementation of all our best ‘drawdown’ technologies and ideas can bring the atmospheric greenhouse gas load down to safe levels.”

Hurricanes and Bridges, Transportation Infrastructure and Power Grids

Zachary Haber (College of Engineering) is an assistant professor of structural engineering. Before joining USF, he spent eight years as a researcher with the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. His research focus includes ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC), seismic design and bridge preservation.

“There are new technologies like ultra-high-performance concrete that can help make bridges and other transportation infrastructure more resilient to the effects of hurricanes and other natural hazards. In a nutshell, UHPC is five times stronger than conventional concrete.”

Lingling Fan (College of Engineering) is a professor of electrical engineering who can talk about how electric companies prepare power grids for oncoming storms, the steps they take to restore electrical service after a loss of power and what that means to consumers.

“Our lab uses computer simulations to examine the performance of power grids. This helps electric companies across the nation evaluate the vulnerability of a power grid during extreme events such as hurricanes.”

Hurricanes and Health

Gwendolyn Clayton (Morsani College of Medicine) is an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine and a primary care physician who can discuss preparing for hurricanes from a health perspective, whether staying in place or evacuating.

“It’s important for people to plan how they will fill prescriptions and ensure that they have enough other medications on hand. There are important considerations that, for example, dialysis patients should know about. And parents need to plan for things like how much water is needed for infants taking baby formula, children and adults each day, as well as what should be included in a first-aid kit to last a few days to a few weeks.”

Judith Becker Bryant (College of Arts and Sciences) is a psychology professor who can comment on how to prepare children for traumatic events such as hurricanes and the impact that such events have on children. She’s a national expert on developmental psychology with a specific emphasis on language and social development in young children. 

Kristin Kosyluk (College of Behavioral and Community Sciences) is an assistant professor in the Department of Mental Health Law & Policy. She can comment on the stress and anxiety that storms and hurricanes can cause and the impact of natural disasters on people living with mental illnesses.

Hurricanes and Older Adults

Lindsay Peterson (College of Behavioral and Community Sciences) is an assistant professor of aging studies whose research focuses on the impact of hurricanes and other disasters on older adults in nursing homes, assisted living communities, and in the community overall, including disaster preparation and response for those with dementia. In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association and 211 Tampa Bay Cares, Peterson has developed a disaster preparedness guide and a series of videos to help older adults prepare for disasters, particularly family caregivers of people with dementia. She is also developing an app to assist older adults in critical disaster preparedness decision-making, such as whether to evacuate or shelter in place.

Kathy Black (College of Behavioral and Community Sciences) is a professor of aging studies whose work focuses on healthy aging in a community.

“Older adults are particularly vulnerable to natural disasters. The majority of us experience multiple chronic conditions with age, which can impact our endurance to weather a storm, and a variety of circumstances can account for why older adults are particularly vulnerable.”

Community Preparedness and Recovery

Robin Ersing (College of Arts and Sciences) is a public affairs professor who studies community-based disaster preparedness to promote resilience in post-storm recovery. Ersing has been involved in international research in Ghana and Indonesia to study the experience of women exposed to natural hazards.

Elizabeth Dunn (College of Public Health) is an instructor who specializes in community resilience, including disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery for vulnerable populations. Her experience includes community education and outreach, developing exercises to assess response capabilities and identify strategies for improved planning and mass care (sheltering, feeding, health) planning and operations. She can discuss preparations for the upcoming hurricane season, disaster mitigation and planning strategies for households and businesses, training programs for individuals in hurricane-prone areas, sheltering and hurricane evacuation decisions.

Amber Mehmood (College of Public Health) is an associate professor who leads the global disaster management, humanitarian relief and homeland security concentration in the USF College of Public Health. She specializes in community-based disaster preparedness, hospital-based mass casualty preparedness and response, humanitarian relief, community education and outreach, especially directed at disadvantaged and culturally diverse vulnerable populations.

Economics/Tourism and Hospitality

Michael Snipes (College of Arts and Sciences) is an instructor of economics who studies the economic impact of tourism. Other areas of study include family dynamics and the link between macro-economic fluctuations and suicide.

Social Media and Storms

Kelli Burns (College of Arts and Sciences) is an associate professor and director of undergraduate programs for the Zimmerman School of Advertising & Mass Communications. Burns is an expert on social media and can discuss the growing role of Facebook, X, and other forms of social media in natural disasters. She has studied extensively how social media is integrated into our lives and changes patterns of communication.  

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