GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida has launched the Thompson Institute for Earth Systems (TIES), an outreach-focused center that aims to advance public understanding of the most pressing environmental challenges in Florida and beyond.
TIES will communicate the university’s research discoveries about Earth systems – air, water, land and life – to empower the people of Florida to make more informed decisions about how to preserve and protect its natural resources.
“Every one of these spheres is impacting our state in potentially dramatic ways,” said Bruce MacFadden, director of the institute, a UF distinguished professor and vertebrate paleontology curator at the Florida Museum of Natural History. “Almost every time I read the news, I see something that relates to TIES – red tide, sea level rise, pollution, flooding. Making the university’s research on these issues accessible to all Floridians is fundamentally important to the future of our state.”
MacFadden said he and his team will collect and share research from more than 50 UF departments, colleges, centers and institutes. He sees this as a natural alignment with the university’s status as a land-grant institution, particularly its education and outreach mission. As TIES grows, it will also help communicate other Earth systems research conducted throughout the state, he said.
“Because of our research prowess and position as the state’s flagship university, UF is uniquely poised to become a national leader in communication and advancing public understanding of Earth systems science for Floridians and beyond,” MacFadden said. “That’s our vision for TIES.”
TIES will target public audiences such as lifelong learners, schoolchildren and teachers, and UF undergraduate non-science majors.
With a decade’s experience working with hundreds of K-12 teachers, MacFadden sees educating Florida’s next generation as an essential step in preparing the state for the ever-increasing challenges presented by a changing Earth.
“Why should someone living in Miami care that the Arctic ice cap is melting?” he said. “The reason is that, from thousands of miles away, the melting ice cap is driving sunny-day flooding on our coasts. Only by understanding the interactions between Earth systems will we be poised to respond to these threats. I believe the way to make a strategic impact that would positively impact our state is better education of the next generation, our future decision-makers.”
A $10 million gift to UF by Fort Myers couple Jon and Beverly Thompson provided the cornerstone funding for the institute.
“The research carried out at the University of Florida is critical to our understanding of Earth’s systems,” the Thompsons said earlier this year. “We believe it is essential that our university step forward to continue research on problems such as biodiversity and environmental conservation.”
UF’s Office of Research and the Florida Museum provided additional funding for TIES.
As a first step to involve collaborators from across the UF campus, three UF researchers have been named TIES faculty fellows: Pasha Antonenko from the College of Education, Andrea Dutton from the department of geological sciences and Andrea Lucky from the department of entomology and nematology. They are part of a core team that will help shape and advance the institute, MacFadden said.
This fall, TIES will award grants for outreach projects led by UF students or postdoctoral researchers that share discoveries about Earth systems with the institute’s mission and target audiences.
The Florida Museum will hire an assistant curator in museum education, who will be based in TIES, and the institute is recruiting staff for other positions as well, MacFadden said.
“I’m very interested in helping scientists impact society,” he said. “I’ve lived in Florida for over 40 years and would like to do what I can to benefit our state. Florida’s future is ultimately our own future. It’s worth protecting.”
Source: Bruce MacFadden, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-1937
Writer: Natalie van Hoose, email@example.com, 352-273-1922
Media contact: Paul Ramey, firstname.lastname@example.org, 352-273-2054
The Florida Museum of Natural History, which celebrated its 100th year in 2017 as the state museum of natural history, inspires people to value the biological richness and cultural heritage of our diverse world and make a positive difference in its future. The public museum is located at 3215 Hull Road just east of Southwest 34th Street in the University of Florida Cultural Plaza in Gainesville. For more information visit https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu or call 352-846-2000. The Florida Museum’s primary collections and research facility, Dickinson Hall, houses most of the museum’s more than 40 million objects and specimens, one of the nation’s largest natural history collections. For more Florida Museum research and collections news, visithttps://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/science/ or follow us on social media, @FloridaMuseum.
The University of Florida’s mission is to prepare our students to lead and influence the next generation and beyond for economic, cultural and societal benefit. Recognized as among the top 10 public universities by U.S. News & World Report, UF is one of the nation’s largest public universities, and is the only member of the Association of American Universities in Florida. Teaching, research and scholarship, and service span all of the UF’s academic disciplines and represent its commitment to be a premier university that the state, nation and world look to for leadership. www.ufl.edu.