STEM Workshop

Featured Speakers


photo comingBen Kirtman

Benjamin Kirtman received his M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Maryland-College Park. In 2007, Dr. Kirtman joined the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, and serves as the Program Director for Climate and Environmental Hazards at the Center for Computational Science. Dr. Kirtman is the 2017-18 recipient of the UM Provost’s Award for Scholarly Activity and was awarded the Department of Atmospheric Sciences undergraduate teaching award in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In 2018, Dr. Kirtman was elected as a Fellow in the American Meteorological Society. Dr. Kirtman was also awarded the Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Science Robert D. Cess Distinguished Lecture in Recognition of Outstanding Contributions to Atmospheric Sciences in 2018. Professor Kirtman is the author and/or co-author of over 130 peer reviewed papers focused on understanding and predicting climate variability on time scales from days to decades.



Ben Diamond photoState Representative Ben Diamond

Ben Diamond represents District 68 in the Florida House of Representatives. He was elected in 2016 and reelected in 2018. Representative Diamond has dedicated his career to serving our community and our state. He earned his Bachelor’s Degree from Yale University and his law degree at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he served as Editor-In-Chief of the Florida Law Review. Representative Diamond currently practices law in downtown St. Petersburg, where he has been an active civic leader. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Pinellas County Urban League, and the Board of Directors of his synagogue, Temple Beth-El. In the Florida House, Representative Diamond was elected to serve as Leader designate for the Democratic Caucus. He serves on the House Appropriations Committee, the Civil Justice Subcommittee, and Insurance and Banking Subcommittee. He is also Democratic Ranking Member on the Judiciary Committee. Representative Diamond lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Christina, their son, Frankie, and twins Vera and Adele



Extreme Events Panel

Gary Mitchum photo

Gary Mitchum

Gary Mitchum is presently a Professor of Physical Oceanography and the Associate Dean in the College of Marine Science at the University of South Florida. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Oceanography at the Florida State University in 1984 and spent 11 years in the Department of Oceanography at the University of Hawaii as a member of the research faculty and the Director of the University of Hawaii Sea Level Center. He has published on a wide variety of topics in ocean physics, but his research interests primarily emphasize short-term climate variability, ranging from season-to-season changes to year-to-year changes to long-term sea level rise. Over the past decade he has spent a substantial amount of time advising local, regional and state decision makers and practitioners on sea level change issues.

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Lisa Foster

Lisa Foster is a Certified Floodplain Manager with a Bachelor of Science from the University of Tampa and a Master of Science in Water Resources Engineering Science from the University of South Florida. She is the Floodplain Administrator for Pinellas County and serves on several committees for the Florida Floodplain Managers Association and Association of State Floodplain Managers, and is the immediate past President of the Florida Local Environmental Resource Agencies. Ms. Foster manages Pinellas County’s Comprehensive Floodplain Management Program and NFIP Community Rating System Program, CRS, participation. She was awarded the national CRS Award for Excellence by the FEMA Federal Insurance & Mitigation Administration last year for her extensive work with the real estate industry and partnerships with communities across Florida.

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Bob Minning

Robert Minning is the former Mayor of Treasure Island (9 years) and Commissioner (2 years). He has also served as President of the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, the Agency on Bay Management, and the Barrier Island Government Council (BIG-C). Currently he is Co-chair of the Suncoast Sea Level Collaborative of the Institute for Strategic Policy at St. Petersburg College, Chair of the Treasure Island Sustainability Committee and Chair of the Treasure Island/Madeira Beach Chamber of Commerce – EPIC (Environmental Preservations Initiative for our Communities) Committee. Professionally, Mr. Minning is a Licensed Professional Geologist (Indiana and Wisconsin) specializing in hydrogeology and geophysics and has been providing consulting services for almost 50 years to private and public clients throughout the western hemisphere. His interest in our environment goes back to his role as Chair of the first Earth Day Celebration in 1968 while a graduate student at the University of Toledo.

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Jayantha Obeysekera (‘Obey’)

Jayantha Obeysekera is Director of the Sea Level Solutions Center at Florida International University. He served as a member of the federal advisory committee which directed the development of the National Climate Assessment in 2014. He was also a co-author of the sea level rise projections report published by NOAA for the National Climate Assessment. He served as a member of the Coastal Assessment Regional Scenario Working Group associated with the Department of Defense in the United States. Dr. Obeysekera holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering from University of Sri Lanka, a M.Eng. from University of Roorkee, India, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Colorado State University with specialization in water resources. He has published over 55 research articles in numerous peer-reviewed journals and is a recipient of the 2015 Norman Medal of the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Transportation Panel

Sean Sullivan photo

Sean Sullivan

Sean Sullivan is the Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Regional Council which serves six counties and 21 cities throughout west Florida. Mr. Sullivan spent over 30 years working in the planning, land use, environmental, zoning, and public transportation fields. Prior to joining the Council, Mr. Sullivan worked in the Region One Office of the United States Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration in Cambridge, Massachusetts where he managed capital projects, environmental compliance, and operational finances for transit agencies throughout New England. Mr. Sullivan earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts, Lowell and a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University in Boston.   

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Beth Alden

Beth Alden leads an award-winning team of planners with a vision of safe, inclusive mobility choices that promote respect and trust. She has spearheaded initiatives that empower residents to reshape their communities together, including the first multijurisdictional Vision Zero Action Plan in the country, and the first tri-county growth scenarios collaboration in this region, It’s Time Tampa Bay. As the architect of Hillsborough’s Imagine 2040 Transportation Plan, she combined performance metrics and creative public engagement to help local leaders refocus on essentials, laying the groundwork for a successful sales tax referendum in 2018.  

Appointed in 2017 to the National Academy of Sciences’ NCHRP 08-36 Panel for transportation planning research, she also chairs the Florida MPO Advisory Council’s Noteworthy Practices Committee, has served as a best-practice presenter in several Federal Highway Administration Peer Exchange programs and guidebook panels, and wrote portions of the American Institute of Certified Planners’ first exam to certify transportation planning specialists.

Ms. Alden has worked in the public and private sectors as a professional planner since 1994 and holds a Master's in Planning from the University of Minnesota and a Bachelor's in Environmental Design & Architecture from North Carolina State University.

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Alexander Kolpakov

Alexander Kolpakov is a senior research associate at the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) at the University of South Florida. He has over 15 years of experience in transportation research. At CUTR, he manages a wide variety of transportation-related research projects including evaluating alternative propulsion technologies and fuels, performing economic impact analysis of transportation investment, assessing aviation capital investment and airport security needs, analyzing user rates and fees at public use airports, as well as performing transportation policy analysis. In addition to his work at CUTR, Mr. Kolpakov serves as coordinator for the Tampa Bay Clean Cities Coalition (TBCCC), which is part of the Department of Energy-sponsored Clean Cities initiative. He has been actively involved in the coalition since it was formed in 2012, serving originally as co-coordinator. Mr. Kolpakov holds a Master of Arts in Economics from the University of South Florida and a Bachelor of Science in Management from Chuvash State University.

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Randy Deshazo

Randy Deshazo is the Director of Research for the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC), heading the Economic Analysis Program. Using his extensive experience in econometric, fiscal and policy simulation modeling, Mr. Deshazo develops and delivers a variety of projects and studies across many different areas of public policy interest. Recent large-scale projects include the Economic and Fiscal Impacts of Highway Modernization in Tampa, Economic Impacts of Sea Level Rise, impacts of a bike/pedestrian trail as well as an economic base study and hurricane impact studies.

Mr. Deshazo has also led planning projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through coordinated land-use, housing policy and transportation investments; and electric vehicle recharging station strategic planning in Monterey, California, where he was principal planner for the Monterey Bay Area Metropolitan Planning Organization. He has also served as principal investigator for various freight planning studies in California and freight policy development in Chicago.

Mr. Deshazo earned a Master of Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, a Master of Arts in Political Science from University of New Orleans, and a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin. 

The Built Environment Panel

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Taryn Sabia

Taryn Sabia is Director of the Florida Center for Community Design and Research (FCCDR) at the University of South Florida’s School of Architecture and Community Design. As a Research Associate Professor, she teaches graduate courses on urban design policy, climate change and sustainability, urban form, urban transportation systems, and citizen involvement in urbanism. Her research is committed to the merging of design and civics, with focus on climate change adaptation, transit modes and public space. With extensive experience building partnerships between community members, organizations, and government leaders, Ms. Sabia has served as a Principle Investigator on more than 25 projects, advised 39 mayors, and has overseen $1.7 million in sponsored research as Director of FCCDR.

Taryn Sabia’s fifteen-year career in architecture and urban design is anchored by a passion to involve citizens in actively shaping the built environment. Her diverse background in architecture, urban design, education, and community engagement has provided a deep understanding of the importance of context-based design, mobility, and culture of place, and how these elements inform resiliency within an urban framework.

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Chris Ahern

Chris Ahern is an experienced Program and Project Manager on a variety of waterfront projects including marinas, commercial wharves, and multi-family developments. Mr. Ahern leads multi-discipline Project Teams to evaluate potential environmental impacts, performs feasibility studies, identifies sustainable solutions to design challenges, executes permitting strategies, procures the necessary Contractors, and ultimately delivers successful development projects. All of his project experience is related to surface water quality, waterfront property, or sites within 100 yards of a shoreline (i.e., beach, bulkhead or riverbank) and he regularly identifies solutions for development in the Coastal High Hazzard environment. He recently led the $21M redevelopment of Maximo Marina in St. Petersburg, FL (3701 37th Street South).

Mr. Ahern’s other significant waterfront development projects include IGY Development Manager of Marina/Waterfront assets for Nakheel and the Master Developer for reclaimed islands projects in Dubai, U.A.E. (i.e., Palm Jumeirah, Palm Jebel Ali and World Islands).

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Brian Cook

Brian Cook is an assistant research professor in the Florida Center for Community Design and Research at the University of South Florida. He is also a registered landscape architect with 15 years of experience. As an educator, Mr. Cook has focused on landscape and urban design while teaching at the University of Colorado Boulder, University of Georgia, and now at the University of South Florida. His work and research are focused on the site-specific nature of landscape as well as issues of coastal resiliency and infrastructure. His recent project, the Community Vulnerability Study, has received a Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council ‘Future of the Region Award’ and a Hillsborough County Planning Award. His work also addresses concepts of Building with Nature, with an ecosystems approach to planning and design.

As a practitioner, Mr. Cook has accomplished projects at all scales of design, including parks, streets, gardens, community plans, and development. He has worked on campuses around the country including the University of Florida, Florida State University, University of Central Florida, University of California San Diego, and others. He has also worked with many other institutional partners in healthcare and with municipalities for the design of urban space.

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Commissioner Mariella Smith

Commissioner Mariella Smith was elected to represent Countywide District 5 in 2018. She has been a community advocate for decades, working on community plans, transportation plans, growth management, and environmental protection throughout the county. As part of her duties as County Commissioner, Smith serves on the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council (TBRPC) and is a member of the Steering Committee for the Tampa Bay Regional Resilience Coalition. The Resilience Coalition currently includes 28 local governments who are collaborating on climate change and resilience planning and policy initiatives. Commissioner Smith also serves on the following Boards and Councils: Agency on Bay Management, Arts Council of Hillsborough County, Committee of Six, Council of Governments, Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), Metropolitan Planning Organization, and Tampa Bay Water Board of Directors. 

Commissioner Smith earned the Citizen Planning Advocacy Award from the American Planning Association Suncoast Section for advocating for smart growth management and organizing public participation in community planning. She also earned the Hillsborough County Planning Commission Chairman’s Award, along with other citizen advocates for her work in that area. In addition, she has earned several awards from the Sierra Club’s state and local groups for her work as an environmental advocate, including the Tampa Bay Group's highest award, the Black Bear Award.

Public Health and Social Justice Panel

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Anthony Masys

Anthony Masys is an Associate Professor and Director of Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Assistance, and Homeland Security in the College of Public Health at the University of South Florida. A former senior air force officer, Dr. Masys has a B.Sc. in Physics and M.Sc. in Underwater Acoustics and Oceanography from the Royal Military College of Canada and a Ph.D. from the University of Leicester. He is Editor-in-Chief of Springer Series: 'Advanced Sciences and Technologi​es for Security Applications.’ He has published extensively in the domains of physics and the social sciences. His research interests focus on disaster forensics, safety and security, risk, crisis and disaster management, resilience, safety culture, scenario planning, human security, counter-terrorism and CVE, complex socio-technical system analysis, modeling and simulation, systems thinking, and action research.

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Marissa Levine

Marissa Levine is a Professor of Public Health and Family Medicine at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida where she focuses on population health improvement and teaches leadership. She recently completed 16 years of state government service having served as the Virginia State Health Commissioner from 2014-2018. Dr. Levine previously held deputy commissioner level leadership positions and directed local health departments in two districts within Virginia beginning in 2002. Dr. Levine is a board-certified family physician with 16 years of medical practice experience who also received a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. She received her MD from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, NY and completed family practice residency training at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. As Commissioner, Dr. Levine led significant public health emergency preparedness and response activities as the state ESF-8 lead.

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Marie Bougeois

Marie Bougeois has worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of South Florida College of Public Health since 2010. She holds a B.S. in clinical chemistry (USF) and Masters and Doctorate degrees in Toxicology and Risk Assessment (USF COPH). She teaches undergraduate courses related to environmental, occupational, and public health. Her research interests include passive transfer of contaminants to breast milk, pesticide induced hypoxia, pharmacological modulation of drug induced toxicity, epigenetic changes from sublethal exposures, effects of ICA-1 on cancer xenografts, and gender-based differences in biomarker expression in substance abusers. Current partnerships, internal and external, include Long Range Effects of Sea Level Rise and Climate Change in Hillsborough County, Occupational Risk Analysis and Management, Agricultural Health and Safety, and Substance Abuse Research and Community Outreach Collaborative.

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Rebecca Zarger

Rebecca Zarger is an Associate Professor and Graduate Director in the Department of Anthropology at the University of South Florida. Her research focuses on human-environment relationships, children and youth, water resources, and climate change. With colleagues and students at USF and UF/IFAS Extension, Dr. Zarger has been researching how climate change risk and vulnerability are experienced in the Tampa Bay region. The team hosted workshops to further local dialogue about climate change that focuses on people and the places they care most about. Funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation, Inter-American Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation has supported her work in Central America and the Tampa Bay area. Dr. Zarger has collaborated with many community organizations and educators in Belize and Florida. She is Co-Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Ecological Anthropology and was recently a guest on the NPR show 1A with Joshua Johnson to discuss climate change stories in Florida.