EPA Awards USF Grants To Study Weather, Water

Two University of South Florida faculty members were recently awarded funds from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to research the impact of extreme weather events such as droughts, storms and heat on air and water quality. The projects are among 14 selected nationally to receive nearly $9 million to conduct similar research.

The goal is to better prepare air and water quality management systems to handle extreme weather, thus protecting critical ecosystems and the public. 

Jason Rohr, associate professor at USF's Department of Integrative Biology, was awarded $374,936 to develop tools that predict the affect of extreme climate changes on water quality. The research team will take a closer look at the impacts of these shifts on water-borne diseases, such as e. coli and salmonella. ??"Our long-term goal is to predict when and where the risk of infection to people might be problematic,'' says Rohr. The results could help people make decisions about when to visit the beach or other bodies of water, as well as allow public health managers to be proactive in their response. 

A second grant in the amount of $750,000 was awarded to Frank Muller-Karger, professor of Biological Oceanography and Remote Sensing at the USF College of Marine Science. The research team, which includes the Tampa Bay Estuary Program, will study satellite images of estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico and Puerto Rico that measure things like water temperature and color. The team will look at nearly 20 years of satellite images and 100 years of meteorological records to study the frequency and synergy of extreme weather events.

The goal is to eventually create a mobile platform that will allow scientists and researchers to easily access the data in real time.

"We want to keep pushing the envelope to improve the water quality because it's so important for our economy and our health,'' says Muller-Karger.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Jason Rohr and Frank Muller-Karger, USF

Read more articles by Megan Hendricks.

Megan Hendricks is a feature writer at 83 Degrees Media in the Tampa Bay region of Florida.
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