Florida Atlantic University Establishes School Devoted to Environmental Sustainability
December 14, 2023

​​By now it is widely acknowledged that weather events and changes to the environment, including storms and flooding, climbing temperatures, sea level rise and erosion, habitat destruction, and polluted waters,​ are becoming more frequent and severe. Communities in coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to these and other pressing environmental issues.

In response to these mounting challenges, ACE member Florida Atlantic University this semester opened its School of Environmental, Coastal, and Ocean Sustainability (ECOS). The school aims to mitigate the risks people face due to the changing environment as well as the threats the environment faces due to human behavior. With six campuses along Florida’s southeastern coast, Florida Atlantic is in an optimal position to study how the environment and populated areas interact.

ECOS gathers the programs in Florida Atlantic’s Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute into a single hub of environmental research and study. As a result, students and faculty in these programs can more effectively coordinate, collaborate, and publicize their work and gain access to new research funding. The school encompasses faculty and undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral students in disciplines including biology, geosciences, urban planning, and marine science.

“With the formation of ECOS and its compelling mission, it is clear that a truly transdisciplinary approach is essential for tackling the scale and complexity of the environmental challenges we face as a society,” said Valery Forbes, dean of the Schmidt College of Science, at ECOS’s launch event.

The university plans to facilitate a more sustainable future through a combination of interdisciplinary research, community engagement and outreach, and training students to guide scientific, entrepreneurial, and policy responses to environmental problems once they graduate.

The school also serves as a forum for Florida Atlantic to form and deepen external partnerships to help solve critical issues. ECOS’s leaders expect to work closely with the private sector, government, and nonprofits on grant activities, internship placements for students, and aligning the school’s curriculum with industry needs.

Colin Polsky, ECOS’s founding director and a professor of geosciences, said at the launch event that ECOS empowers Florida Atlantic to elevate its influence on environmental issues from the regional to the national level.

“For several decades, government and business funding for environmental research has been requiring explicitly interdisciplinary approaches. Now with the formal launch of ECOS, Florida Atlantic is poised to compete for the best funding opportunities, faculty, and students nationwide.”

Leaders of the school hope to make discoveries and implement solutions that will help communities around the world become more resilient to environmental challenges. Their first priority, though, is to inspire students to join this mission.

“Our job,” Polsky told CBS 12 News, “is to educate the younger generation so they can go out and do things better than we have done.”