Fulbright faculty

Professor Sharon Smith to teach, research zooplankton in Muscat, Oman



Dr. Sharon Smith, during her research in the Arctic.
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VIRGINIA KEY, FL -- Dr. Sharon Smith, has received a Fulbright Scholar Award and will spend nine months in Oman teaching and studying zooplankton changes during the monsoon season, especially as they relate to global warming models that forecast important changes to the marine food web there. A professor in marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, Smith is also known for her climate change research involving zooplankton and consequent food web changes in the warming Arctic.

Working from the Department of Marine Science and Fisheries at Sultan Qaboos University in Muscat, Oman, Smith will teach in the undergraduate program and mentor graduate students in their plankton research, even training a plankton technician in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.

"This opportunity allows me to advance my Arabian Sea research program and share the knowledge I've gained over the past 28 years with the young scientists being trained in the Sultanate," Smith said. "I hope to convince at least several to direct their attention to the remarkable plankton of the Omani waters."

Smith is set to study the surface plankton community of the Arabian Sea during onset of the Southwest (SW) Monsoon. Numeric models, paleoclimate records and correlations to present-day monsoon variables all point to a consistent paradigm that forecasts global warming's impact on the Arabian Sea region.

Warming will reduce snow and ice cover on the Tibetan Plateau, the starting point of the monsoon system of this region and south Asia. Less ice and snow leads to increased winds during the SW Monsoon, causing more vigorous upwelling, increased deposition on the seabed, and changes in the kinds of surface plankton that marine life feed on, including the food that commercially viable yellowfin tuna, billfish, and large squid like best. Masirah Island, off the south coast of Oman, is perfectly positioned to be an ocean (and atmosphere) time-series observation station for the region, from which Oman can monitor the timing and intensity of upwelling, the productivity of the deep-ocean ecosystem, and dust input from the Euphrates Valley.

Smith has proposed to conduct from Masirah Island thrice-weekly collections of surface temperature, phytoplankton and zooplankton during onset of the SW Monsoon, starting what could be a sustained, expanded observing effort that would have great value to Oman and to oceanographers worldwide. There are few long-term observing stations, but data gathered from such stations have proven fundamental to scientists' understanding of climate change.

A biological oceanographer, Smith has spent her career investigating some of the smallest components of food webs. She is the co-director of the National Science Foundation/National Institute of Environmental Health Science Oceans and Human Health Center that is based at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science as well as a professor in marine biology and fisheries there. She earned her B.A. from Colorado College, her M.Sc. from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and her Ph.D. from Duke University.

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Begun in 1946, Fulbright scholars are selected by the Institute for International Education, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, and the program aims to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries, through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.

Rosenstiel School is part of the University of Miami and, since its founding in the 1940s, has grown into one of the world's premier marine and atmospheric research institutions.


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