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FAU Launches New School Dedicated to Environmental Sustainability

FAU has launched its new School of Environmental, Coastal, and Ocean Sustainability (ECOS), creating a comprehensive environmental hub at the university.

Woman walking through the Everglades.

Florida Atlantic University’s six campuses are situated in a region at the nexus of rapid urbanization and accelerated environmental risk. Recognizing the critical intensification of issues like rising temperature, coastal erosion and habitat destruction in South Florida and beyond, FAU has launched its new School of Environmental, Coastal, and Ocean Sustainability (ECOS).


Florida Atlantic University’s six campuses are situated in a region at the nexus of rapid urbanization and accelerated environmental risk. Rising temperatures, coastal erosion, more frequent and intense storms and floods, habitat destruction, environmental contamination, and harmful algal blooms are concerns of everyday life that require quick understanding and solutions.

Recognizing the critical intensification of these issues in South Florida and beyond, FAU has launched its new School of Environmental, Coastal, and Ocean Sustainability (ECOS). A partnership between the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and FAU Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute, the school is comprised of a broad array of existing disciplines and units to amplify FAU’s research, teaching and community engagement, while creating a comprehensive environmental hub at the university.

“Our expert faculty and scientists in the Schmidt College of Science and FAU Harbor Branch are forging a path that leads to a resilient future, both with research and through training the next generation of scientists, problem solvers and policymakers,” said Valery E. Forbes, Ph.D., dean of the Schmidt College of Science. “We are in a prime location to study the environment and its intersection with urban areas – with the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian River Lagoon, the Everglades and numerous freshwater ecosystems converging in the largest metropolitan area in the state.”

The Schmidt College of Science is the second largest college at FAU in terms of enrollment, and its research and teaching span four of FAU’s campuses. The college is home to esteemed scientists covering a diversity of academic disciplines – from biological sciences and chemistry to physics and urban planning – that are essential for solving complex environmental problems.

With more than 50 years of groundbreaking marine discoveries, FAU Harbor Branch, the university’s northernmost campus in Fort Pierce, is a renowned leader in education, outreach and applied research in coastal and ocean environments. Through ECOS, the scientific discovery underway at FAU Harbor Branch is linked more directly to the academic mission of the university.

“Training and education are paramount to our mission at FAU Harbor Branch,” said James M. Sullivan, Ph.D., executive director of FAU Harbor Branch. “Through ECOS, we have a stronger infrastructure for students and early career scientists to learn from our renowned research faculty.”

ECOS serves as an umbrella for graduate degrees in environmental science, marine science and oceanography. The school also serves as a connector for numerous pre-existing educational programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and as a platform for engaging external partners from the private sector, government and non-governmental organizations. 

Colin Polsky, Ph.D., a professor of geosciences and the director of FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies, will serve as the founding director of ECOS. His work explores how people in Florida create, perceive and respond to climate challenges, such as sea-level rise in urban settings.

“FAU has long been a strong contributor to advancing environmental knowledge in South Florida,” said Polsky. “Now that we have a ‘school of the environment’ to amplify our interdisciplinary work, we can compete at the highest levels for the top faculty and students.”

Polsky will be a panelist at the Marine Research Hub’s event, “Building Our Research & Innovation Ecosystem with Our University Partners,” during the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 1 p.m. at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., in Fort Lauderdale.

For more information about ECOS, visit fau.edu/ecos.

-FAU-