Category Archives: University of Miami

March Madness 2023


Every March sports fans all over America and beyond go “mad” for the college basketball tournament that culminates by crowning the best men and women’s team as champion. The tournaments, collectively referred to as “March Madness,” are always filled with surprises, upsets and stories of triumph that go well beyond the games themselves. This year was no different and included an extraordinary, record setting run by both the men and women’s teams here at my beloved University of Miami where I am a graduate student and before that earned my undergrad degree.

Our men’s team culminated a historic season by making the Final Four for the first time in school history before being defeated by the eventual National Champion, the University of Connecticut. The ladies’ team – led by my long-time friend, middle and high school summer camp coach, and incredible inspiration, Coach Katie Meier – made history by reaching the Elite Eight for the first time in school history before being defeated by the eventual ladies’ National Champion, Louisiana State University. Congrats to everyone at the U and especially to the team, coaches, administrators, and fans that cheered the Canes on to these lofty heights for the first time in our history (It’s Great to be a Miami Hurricane as we say around these parts).

And speaking of March Madness, can you imagine just how difficult it must be to manage school while playing Division I college sports and the rest of one’s life as is the case for each member of these teams? The long hours every day, hard work, dedication, and countless sacrifices certainly led to fantastic (record setting even) success and resonate with me because those have long been foundational traits that I’ve tried to embrace in my own work. And while at 5’2” tall and after two knee operations (from playing basketball no less), my days of playing competitive hoops are over. But, I’d like to share a bit about my own March Madness this year as I worked to balance school and all else during what’s been an awfully busy month for The Sink or Swim Project and my own environmental endeavors. In addition to my studies (I am currently finishing my second year of law school and the first year of my Ph.D. studies), the madness in recent weeks has included:


Thanks to the folks at BLUE Missions ( for having me give a presentation to their Building Young Leaders student group. The students participate in a three-month impact leadership training to learn how to create positive changes in their communities and I was honored to share a bit about my work, as well as my concerns related to our climate crisis and how young people all over the globe must solve this problem during our lifetimes. In addition to my lecture I also participated in a photoshoot that BLUE Missions plans to use for their Young Leaders campaign that is being promoted in local schools so that students can see what members of our communities are doing to fight environmental issues. And later in the month I was honored to also record a discussion with BLUE Missions for their upcoming Climate Cure Podcast so please stay tuned for news about its release!

Thanks again to Danny, Leslie, Nicole, Tayler, Ashley, and the entire BLUE Missions team, as well as their dedicated group of young student leaders.

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For the second year in a row the esteemed Aspen Institute held its climate crisis symposium (Aspen Ideas: Climate 2023) right here in Miami-Dade County. I was pleased to attend plenaries and panel discussions addressing mitigation and adaptation efforts, sea level rise and flooding solutions, renewable energy technologies, food and agricultural impacts, and more. I was especially excited to attend the “Come Hell or High-Water” panel moderated by one of my professors from the University of Miami, Dr. Katharine Mach, discussing managed retreat and climate gentrification.

The symposium was packed with climate and sustainability leaders from all over the world including Colette Pichon Battle, Nadege Green, Susan Crawford, and Jake Bittle to name just a few from the day I was able to attend. The day ended with a fantastic plenary that included Ali Zaidi, White House climate czar; Dan Gelber, Mayor of the City of Miami Beach; Pat Gruber, CEO of Gevo, a company creating low-carbon jet fuel and gasoline; Amy Knowles, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Miami Beach; Michael Green, Founder and Principal of Michael Green Architecture, a leader in sustainable wood construction and innovation; and, yes, THE Bill Nye “the science guy” (Bill, Bill, Bill, Bill!).

Allow me to also share that in order to attend this year’s event I had to not only plan ahead for my schoolwork but leave the symposium site on Miami Beach that day to attend my “Environmental Planning and the Environmental Impact Statement” class on the University of Miami’s Key Biscayne Campus (The Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science) before darting back to the symposium for its afternoon and evening events. To say I was exhausted (the symposium started at 9:00 AM and took an hour’s drive in traffic to get to) by the end of the day is an understatement but it was time well spent even if it made for a tiring few days.


As I was leaving the Aspen conference near 10:00 PM that night and checked my email for one last time that day, I was pleasantly surprised to find an invitation from the White House to greet Vice President Harris the very next day here in Miami where she was scheduled to be Aspen Ideas conference’s closing Keynote speaker. Talk about March Madness!

Needless to say, I immediately accepted the invitation. I was and remain honored by the invitation and to be able to spend a short time with Vice President Harris and her staff. I am deeply grateful to her and the President for their climate-related work, including the Inflation Reduction Act, while also understanding that much work to be done (shutting down the Willow Project would be a good next step!). Thanks to Miami-Dade County Mayor Levine Cava and her team for suggesting me as one of the people to meet the Vice President and to the Vice President’s team for making me feel so welcome.

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My time with the Vice President took place at Miami International Airport where her plane, known as Air Force II, landed right in front of where I waited to meet her. No sooner than that event was over I boarded an evening flight to Sarasota, Florida where I spent the next two days conducting shark research with Mote Marine Laboratory and Dr. Demian Chapman, a world-renowned shark scientist, at the invitation of Leisha John and Greg Hamra, and the folks at Earthwatch (

During my time at Mote, I was able to assist with experiments testing the sensitivity of different shark species’ ampullae of lorenzini (electroreceptive pores on the front of sharks’ snouts that detect electric fields) to magnetism, as well as spend time out on the water on the boat shark tagging. As you can see in the pic above, we caught a beautiful eight-foot bull shark and collected data from her that will contribute to genetic, population, and tracking research projects. As I’ve mentioned many times in various blogs, I love sharks, and so getting to conduct research with Dr. Chapman at the laboratory founded by Eugenie Clark, founder of Mote and a pioneer for women in shark science and STEM fields in general, was a dream come true.

Thanks again to Leisha and Greg for the invite and to the Board of Directors for your hospitality, as well as wonderful work over the years.


And finally allow me to share that nearer the end of the month I proudly participated in a World Water Day panel discussion hosted by BLUE Missions at Bay 13 Brewery with Daniel Rodriguez, President of BLUE Missions; Keely Weyker, Director of Engagement and Outreach for The Everglades Foundation; Erin Cover, Education and Outreach Manager for Miami Waterkeeper; and Matt Anderson, Assistant Director of Mobility and Sustainability for The City of Coral Gables Office of Sustainability. We talked about a range of topics including water quality issues, salt water encroachment, the threat that the Everglades National Park faces, and more.

Over the past two years of my law and Ph.D. related studies there were occasions when juggling all my work, between school and The Sink or Swim Project, were, candidly, challenging. I know that a lot of my followers, whether students or working professionals, grapple with these same challenges between your day-to-day responsibilities in school and/or work and wanting to help protect our precious environment or play a meaningful role in whatever cause(s) inspires you.

I get it.

Choices and what are often hard personal sacrifices are certainly required, but at the end of the day (and by the end of our lives), is there anything more important than being able to help make things better? I hope that sharing a bit about my own “March Madness” proves in some small way that it’s certainly possible to balance all of your priorities, even the occasional surprise, and that the next time you’re invited to a rally, government meeting, or some other event where your view and voice can make a positive difference you will consider that, if I can manage all of these types of things, then you can too.

COP27: Egypt, Here I Come!

I will never forget that Sunday afternoon nearly six years ago when I was applying to college and my parents tried to talk me into applying to a school other than the University of Miami. It’s not that they don’t love UM, after all they like my grandfather before them are proud graduates, but they did their best to suggest I consider another school whose name will not be mentioned as my first, early decision choice. As I listened to their last ditch pitch I looked up from my computer and said with all of the respect for their perspectives I could muster “sorry, it’s too late,” as I simultaneously pressed SEND and thus applied Early Decision. That decision, and the acceptance and brilliant education that followed has confirmed time and time again that the University of Miami, was the perfect choice for me. As we say around here, it’s great to be a Miami Hurricane and with today’s post I once again can share news that supports that sentiment more than I will be able to ever fully explain or write.

I’ve not been able to post as much as I’d like this semester because I am in the midst of my second year of law school and have just stared the first year of my Ph.D. work in the dual degree grad program I am ever so honored to be in here at UM’s Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. And, speaking of honored, I am pleased to share that I’ve been selected by the University of Miami School of Law to attend the United Nations Conference of the Parties 27 (COP27) and that this coming Friday will be off to Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt.


I’ve closely followed the annual COP meetings as well as the United Nations’ important climate-related work for nearly a decade now but this will be the first time I’ve actually attended the Conference in person. As you can imagine I am super excited to return to Africa, to explore Egypt, and to participate in person.


A few years ago I was honored to address the United Nations General Assembly in New York, but being able to see the world’s climate leaders negotiate an international treaty designed to address the most important topic of my generation’s lifetime (our climate crisis) in person is an incredible honor. Let me thank my professors Dr. Jessica Owley and Dr. Daniel Suman for selecting me, as well as President Frenk, Provost Durek, and the entire University of Miami family for making our climate crisis a priority for our university, community, and the world beyond.

“This is a unique experience for our students to gain a front-row seat to international treaty-making. The COP brings together policymakers, academics, and activists from around the world — working together to find solutions to the climate crisis that threatens us all.”

Dr. Jessica Owley, Esq.
Faculty Director
UM School of Law Environmental Law Program

The focuses at COP27 will include economic and environmental loss and damage from climate change in developing countries including the Global South and increasing carbon financing from the Global North to address these losses. Our current global energy crisis, largely caused by Russia’s invasion of and war with the Ukraine and the continued degradation of our environment, certainly including here in South Florida and the United States, will be important topics.

New challenges that Member States will discuss in COP27 are the impacts of the war in Ukraine and the increasing European dependence on fossil fuels (coal), the industrial and consumer rebound after the pandemic; new evidence of significant climate change impacts (accelerated melting of Antarctic glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet, Pakistan monsoon flooding, intensification of hurricanes); and difficulties in the implementation of US promises to reduce carbon emissions (U.S. Supreme Court decision in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency making it difficult to take direct action to mitigate climate change) and subsequent impact on other nations’ efforts”

Dr. Daniel Suman, Esq.
UM Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science
Department of Environmental Science and Policy
(He also teaches my coastal law class this semester!)

And, COP27 could not come soon enough with a new United Nations Report out just this week, (Emissions Gap Report 2022 ( that shows truly pathetic “progress” by the world’s nations since last year’s national pledges at COP26 that took place in Glasgow, Scotland. You might recall that the Paris Agreement, signed at the COP21 in 2015 held in France, announced a global goal of limiting global warming to below 2°C, and an aspirational “stretch” goal of +1.5°C, as compared to pre-industrial carbon levels.

The UN’s new report sadly finds that policies currently in place around the world predict at least a 2.8°C temperature rise by the end of the century (a result that, if it comes to pass, would be nearly twice the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C and truly catastrophic to environments, species, and communities around the world). The report also makes clear that only through an urgent system-wide energy transformation can we limit greenhouse gas emissions and, once again, makes clear how dire the problems are including noting that:

  • Based on current approaches around the world there is only a 10% change that we will reach the 1.5 degree goal that the Paris Agreement sent. As the report concludes, there is currently no credible path based on current efforts around the world to reach the 1.5 degree goal.
  • To avoid a climate catastrophe we must reduce the worlds greenhouse gas output by 45% by 2030. To accomplish this we must, essentially, drop everything else and make protecting our climate (and our future) our number one priority and that starts by dramatically accelerating our transformation away from fossil fuels and to sustainability.
  • A global transformation to a low carbon economy will require an estimated $ 4 to 6 Trillion annual investment.

And with so far to go in such a short time frame, much less with an immense mind boggling cost, you might ask yourself “how in the world can the world do this?” With this in mind, let me end this post with the words of Inger Andersen, Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, who within the recent report makes this call to action to the nations of the world:

I know some people think this can’t be done over the next eight years. But we can’t just throw up our hands and say we failed before we have even really tried. We must try, because every fraction of a degree matters: to vulnerable communities, to those that are yet to be connected to the electricity grid, to species and ecosystems, and to every one of us. Even if we don’t get everything in place by 2030, we will be setting up the foundation for a carbon-neutral future: one that will allow us to bring down temperature overshoots and deliver other benefits, like green jobs, universal energy access and clean air.

So, I urge every nation, every government to pore over the solutions offered in this report and build them into their climate commitments. I urge the private sector to start reworking their practices accordingly. I urge every investor, public and private, to put their capital towards a net-zero world. This is how we can jam open the sing window for climate action and start to change our world for the better, for everyone.

Inger Andersen
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme
Nairobi, Kenya

So, I’m off to Egypt to see what I can do to have an impact, to find solutions to the most important challenge of my lifetime, our climate crisis, and to learn. As always, I will do everything in my own power to make a difference but it’s important to keep in mind that transforming the world’s energy systems will require each of us to play an important role. I’d implore you to think about what you can do today to make that transformation take place in your community right now.

Summer Time 2022

I’ve just finished my first year of graduate school, in this case my first year of law school in a dual degree program at the Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy here at the University of Miami where, in the years to come, I hope to earn both my law degree as well as a Ph.D. The last year has been incredibly interesting, fascinating really, but everything you’ve heard about the first year of law school being rigorous is, well, true. Reading hundreds and hundreds of pages of cases and related work every day has led to countless late nights and more than a few occasions where I found myself having fallen asleep on my books, but I’d not trade it for anything in the world. I’ve learned a great deal, made some incredible new friends, and been inspired by my professors.

I’ve also been honored to be selected to join the Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic; organized a wonderfully received symposium on campus related to the Juliana v. United States climate lawsuit and Florida Rule setting goals for 100% renewable energy by 2050 that was led by my friend and Senior Litigation Attorney Andrea Rogers from Our Children’s Trust, who visited from Eugene Oregon; and to top things off no sooner than the school year ended, I learned that I’ve been chosen to attend the Conference of the Parties (COP) 27 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt this coming November. Thanks so very much to Dr. Jessica Owley and Professor Abigail Fleming for your friendship, inspiration, and dedication to the law, our environment, and, well, me. I am grateful.

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With the arrival of a much needed summer break I have spent the last month away from the law library, books, and computer as much as possible while traveling to some of North America’s truly beautiful places. The start of the summer saw me travel to upstate New York to visit my brother at Cornell University and while there check out the gorgeous nature that surrounds Ithaca, including some of the tallest waterfalls I’ve ever seen. When I typically think of New York I think of New York City, a place where I’ve met some incredible people and done important work over the years, but I am here to say that upstate New York is stunningly beautiful.

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After a quick stop in NYC my next stop was a visit to Shenandoah National Park in Virginia where I drove the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive, hiked on the Appalachian Trail, stayed at the nearly 100-year-old Skyland Lodge, and explored the mysterious Stony Man trail amidst some of the most fabulous rock formations, while being followed for several minutes by the largest deer I’ve ever met. Shenandoah is simply breathtaking, a treasure for sure and my visit there allowed me to check off having visited my 11th of America’s 63 National Parks (one of my life goals is to visit all 63).

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And speaking of National Parks, my next trip was to Congaree National Park in South Carolina, a stop that allowed me to check off number 12 on that loft list of 63 National Parks. Talk about a great way to start my summer! Congaree was once owned by a Chicago logging company and as you kayak through the park’s South Cedar Creek River, as I did early one morning, or hike the Boardwalk trail, as I did one afternoon, you can understand why that would have been the case. The Cyprus, Tupelo, and Loblolly Pine Trees that the park is well known for tower one to nearly two hundred of feet above the forest floor.

The park is a fascinating place for many reasons including the fact that it floods by as much as 12 feet several times during the year and thus much of the habitat is a dense, near swamp like, environment filled with mystery. 1989’s Hurricane Hugo, then the largest natural disaster to hit North America, did an estimated $4 billion in damage in the region and while it thankfully missed most of Charleston to the South, much of the dead remains of its damage can be found in Congaree as once majestic gigantic trees killed by that storm lay decaying amongst their cemetery of the forest floor. Seeing those trees ominously silent in their final resting place three decades after that storm led me to think about the increasing number of devastating hurricanes you and I will face from our global climate change crisis that is warming earth and makes me wonder what special place will next suffer the fate so many in Congaree did in 1989.​


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A few days after my time in South Carolina I enjoyed my first visit to the Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Pisgah is comprised of over 500,000 acres and is the home to America’s first School of Forestry, a site I visited while there that includes a wonderful exhibit hall with a large section related to our climate crisis. While there I also enjoyed hiking on a part of the Appalachian Trail, a horseback ride through the mountains, a picnic along the South Mills River next to a rushing waterfall, and exploring the highest elevations of the Blue Ridge Parkway where the views of the surrounding mountains were nothing less than stunning. If you love the pink blooms of wild mountain laurel and endless mountain views in every direction, then the ridges along the top of the Pisgah are for you.


As I write this I am back home on my beloved No Name Key here in the Florida Keys. Like much of North America, the summer temperatures here are high (as are the high tides) but the water over the past week has been glass calm while the Royal Poinciana trees in our yard are in full bloom in a blaze of orange that fills their canopies. Now that I have returned to South Florida I am back to work on a range of important topics including research with my friends at Field School (, progressing my research for my Ph.D., working on the implementation of the energy rules that will allow Florida’s power system to transition to sustainable energy by 2050 and, of course, The Sink or Swim Project’s many initiatives. My studies in recent months, along with the Florida Petition of Rulemaking, kept my schedule full but with the school year behind me I am excited about a summer of work that’s filled with promise and progress including my hope to be able to post more often than was possible during the school year.

I’ve shared some of my early summer adventures with you in hopes that you, too, will get out and enjoy our incredible natural environment. Here’s to hoping you can spend a lazy day floating down a cool river, take a hike off into the woods on an adventurous trail, snorkel amongst a sea of fish friends, enjoy an evening filled with the “fireworks” that only fireflies can provide, or something equally amazing. Our natural environment is endlessly filled with wonder that soothes the soul and is most certainly worth enjoying and protecting forever more, so here’s to you having a fantastic summer and getting outdoors.

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