Florida's First Chief Science Officer to Tackle Climate Change

“Florida can lead the world in environmental innovation and water quality improvement.”


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Florida is filled with sandy beaches that range from Pensacola in the Gulf of Mexico to bustling Miami Beach and through quaint seaside towns all the way down to the string of tropical islands that make up the Florida Keys. Surrounded by water on  three sides, and located in Hurricane Alley, global warming is a major concern for the state.

That's why Florida Governor Ron DeSantis recently appointed Dr. Thomas K. Frazer as the State of Florida’s first Chief Science Officer. This is a major part of the governor's dramatic new state environmental policy. Of course, the major focus will be on water.

In January DeSantis announced new water policy reforms for the state that included an executive order that called for the appointment of a chief science office that  will coordinate and prioritize scientific data and research to align with the current and future environmental issues that are the most pressing according to a state press release.

As one of Florida’s leading environmental researchers, Dr. Frazer understands the unique water issues facing our state and the actions we must take to solve them,” said DeSantis.

Frazer's background as the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and former acting director of the UF Water Institute certainly has the background to tackle the environmental concerns as they occur. These include the risks from ever stronger hurricanes – like the October 2018 Hurricane Michael that was the first Category 5 storm in Florida since 1992 –, rising seawater, and naturally occurring algae blooms that are inundating the states waterways.

“Our water-dominated environment is inextricably linked to the health and happiness of all Floridians and the state’s economic well-being,” Frazer told the Sun Sentinel. He stressed that he understood that water efforts would be his first priority.

“I’ve worked in springs, coastal rivers, estuary and marine environments, offshore, coral reef work down in the Florida Keys,” he said. “[I] hope to bring that experience to bear on the many issues we’re facing,” Frazer told The Guardian.

One of the major roles Frazer will play in his new position is to provide Florida lawmakers and other policy shapers with accurate, up-to-date scientific facts about the environment.

“There is a lot of information out there and it’s distributed widely throughout the state,” he said. “It’s important to harness that information, simplify it, provide it to individuals responsible for making policy and carrying out management actions, so in that regard science is intended to really inform those policy decisions.”

DeSantis has been focused on addressing Florida's environmental concerns and science-based solutions from day one of his term. He said in the press release, 'With science at the center, Florida can lead the world in environmental innovation and water quality improvement.”

Florida is taking a leading role in environmentalism and the work that the state is undertaking can play a major role in helping other coastal areas in the US and around the world cope and hopefully overcome the same situations.

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