Wednesday, December 14, 2011

NOAA Awards FAMU $15 Million to Train a New Generation of Scientists

 Florida A&M University (FAMU) has been awarded an education and research grant totaling $15 million from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to meet the agency’s workforce needs in areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that support NOAA’s mission. This is the largest single grant awarded in the history of the University.

“One of the highest criteria used to determine the quality of a university is the level of extramural funding and quality of research taking place by faculty and the funding obtained for them to conduct research on a regular basis,” said FAMU President James H. Ammons. “This announcement proves that Florida A&M University meets that standard of excellence.”

With 30 percent of the grant designated for scholarships, FAMU has partnered with Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Delaware State University, Jackson State University, University of Texas at Brownsville, and Creighton University as well as three National Estuarine Research Reserves; Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary; the Gulf of Mexico Alliance; and, the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. The grant will provide funds to support students as they pursue NOAA-relevant education, research, and training in environmental science. This grant supports enhancing environmental literacy from K-12 to the doctorate level. 

“Our education efforts will focus on training and graduating under-represented minorities and utilize research as a vehicle to educate students, and develop skills relevant to the new economy,” said Michael Abazinge, professor and interim director of the School of the Environment who also serves as the principal investigator for this
significant award.

The award will support the NOAA Environmental Cooperative Science Center (ECSC), FAMU as the lead institution with its partners to focus on the following goals:

  • Increasing the number of well-trained and highly qualified scientists and managers, particularly from under-represented minority groups entering the NOAA workforce and other resource management entities;
  • Improving the scientific bases for coastal resource management and to develop tools and research products to characterize, evaluate, and forecast coastal and marine ecosystem responses to natural and human induced stressors; and,
  • Facilitating community engagement related to the function and relevance of coastal ecosystems and the services they provide to society.
“The magnitude of this environmentally-focused research and training award is critical to our region, nation and to the world, as we develop best practices to govern us in all areas of our existence,” said K. Ken Redda, professor and acting vice president for research.

The ECSC was established in 2001 at FAMU through a national competitive process. This five-year award was made to a team of academic institutions led by FAMU.  Through this award, ECSC will increase the number of scientists, particularly from under-represented minority groups in environmental, coastal, and oceanic sciences. Of the over 180 postsecondary student participants, ECSC has graduated 19 Ph.D. degree recipients, 41 master’s degree holders, and 56 bachelor’s degree recipients, since 2006. Graduates of ECSC, a part of FAMU’s School of the Environment, has a 100 percent placement rate.  Eight are working as employees of NOAA, while others are employed by state or other governmental employees or as researchers in university settings.

“We’re committed to developing problem-solving skills as we engage undergraduate majors and graduate students from varied disciplines, including biology, chemistry, physics, math and other STEM areas needed to address and resolve environmental issues,” said Charles H. Jagoe, distinguished professor in the School of the Environment.

Those problem-solving skills are being put to use in the laboratories in the School of the Environment.

Currently, two students, LaTrisha Allen and Kali Farris, are conducting research under the leadership of Jagoe. Allen, a second-year Ph.D. research student, and Kali Farris, a third-year master’s degree student majoring in environmental science marine toxicology, are examining and conducting different analysis of several fish species to determine their exposure to the oil released in the BP Oil Spill.

This grant will also provide educational opportunities for students and teachers in the local K-12 school districts through summer workshops, Brain Bowl competitions and others enrichment activities. K-12 student participants will learn how environmental decisions impact the social and economic structure of their communities.

The Environmental Sciences Institute, which is currently referred to as the School of the Environment, was established in 1995 and became a school in 2011. It is one of several new innovative programs at Florida A&M University. The FAMU School of the Environment is a multidisciplinary unit that offers a wide range of services to students, governmental agencies, private sector companies, communities and other organizations.

The grant awarded to the School of the Environment is budgeted over the next five years, ending on June 30, 2016. For more information on NOAA’s Environmental Cooperative Science Center at Florida A&M University visit

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