Florida International University Sea Level Rise (SLR) Experts

April 22, 2014

Florida International University Sea Level Rise (SLR) Experts

Senator Nelson held a hearing “Leading the Way: Adapting to South Florida’s Changing Coastline” on April 22, 2014 addressing impacts the of climate change and the effects it will have on tourism, insurance agencies, and the environment of South Florida.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers predicts sea levels in South Florida will rise from three to seven inches by the year 2030 and from nine to 24 inches by the year 2060. Such changes would mean daunting challenges for South Florida communities to stay habitable.

As one of South Florida’s anchor research institutions, FIU’s scientists and engineers focus on addressing sea level rise, one of the largest threats facing the region.

In the fall of 2013, FIU introduced the Extreme Events Institute (EEI), which uses an interdisciplinary approach to the multi-hazard study of extreme events and the responses to those events. EEI projects range from social and behavioral sciences to physical sciences as well as computer science, public health, management and engineering.

The International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC) houses state-of-the-art facilities that aim to reduce hurricane damage and loss of life through more effective mitigation techniques. The Center also has extensive computation and data collection resources that are used to model storm surges, predict inland flooding, and analyze potential damage to the built environment.

FIU’s world renowned School of Environment Arts and Society (SEAS) unites socially and environmentally-oriented faculty in an effort to better understand and address the challenges that arise from the interaction between human and environmental systems. Faculty in SEAS are invested in understanding how factors from both systems affect the environment, because long-term sustainability can only be achieved if human societies understand their impact in and responsibility toward these natural systems.

Relevant research groups at SEAS enhance its ability to facilitate new interdisciplinary research and interactions with decision makers regarding SLR. These groups are:

  • Florida Coastal Everglades Long Term Ecological Research
  • Institute for Public Opinion Research
  • NOAA Marine and Estuarine Goal Setting for South Florida
  • NSF-funded Ultra-Ex project
  • WaterSCAPES

FIU has many environmental scientists who can address the science of SLR.


  • Dr. Peter Harlem has some very precise maps re: various SLR scenarios as they affect the Eastern shore.
  • Dr. Keqi Zhang has been doing excellent predictive work with NOAA related to real-time storm surge modeling
  • Dr. Robert Corell, Nobel Prize winner (shared); a Member of the Modeling Team for Climate Interactive’s Initiatives, Council Member of the Global Energy Assessment (GEA) and Lead Author of GEA’s Chapter 3 on Environment and Energy. Dr. Corell is Founder and Chair of the Global Climate Action Initiative established in 2008 to assist international negotiators (U.S., China, Indonesia, etc.) in the UNFCCC and beyond processes.

Saltwater intrusion, erosion and infrastructure impacts:

  • Dr. Evelyn Gaiser - water flow and wetland habitats; interpreting drivers of environmental change through exploring responses in algal communities at a variety of temporal and spatial scales.
  • Dr. Michael Sukop - computational fluid dynamics in cavernous, fractured, and porous media.
  • Dr. Rene Marie Price – ecohydrologist specializing in chemical tracing
  • Dr. Atorod Azizinamini, civil and environmental engineering with a particular focus on saltwater impacts to bridge infrastructure and safety

Additionally, experts in political science, economics and tourism:

  • Dr. Rich Olson is focused on disaster research, arguing for understanding and analysis of disasters and catastrophes from a political standpoint.
  • Dr. Ken Johnson, a market specialist makes the case that in the case of erosion, housing values don't begin to slide until catastrophe is imminent.
  • Dr. Nancy Scanlon is the vice-chair of the Engineering and Environment Committee of the American Hotel and Lodging Association and regularly speaks internationally on climate change impacts and sustainability issues.