Water institute presents graduate students with annual award

Each year, the leadership committee for the three centers at the Institute of Water and Environment decides the graduate students of the year for their respective centers. The award recognizes and rewards a student whose academic achievement and current material research display a high level of excellence and distinction among their peers. The students are decided upon based on their continued support of and commitment to their center and related research.

Graduate Students of the Year:

Joshua Diamond – Southeast Environmental Research Center

Josh Diamond

“In the last year, Josh’s research output has continued at a fast pace even as he spends many hundreds of hours in the field locating and exploring woodpecker nests, and analyzing a voluminous data set. Josh has been a superb student citizen and scientist of the center,” said Mike Ross, Diamond’s faculty mentor.

Diamond is an ornithologist and forest ecologist who is currently in the final year of his doctoral program with the Department of Earth and Environment. He started his FIU career in 2012 with his master’s research on the influence of small-scale tree falls on forest succession in the dry tropical forests of Crocodile Lakes National Wildlife Refuge in the Florida Keys. Eventually he began his Ph.D. and his research evolved into studying the animals that inhabit these trees, specifically woodpeckers and the cavity nest webs they engender.

Diamond is a very successful student and researcher. He has given numerous lectures about his research, has trained a large cohort of naturalists and undergraduate researchers and has even developed a conservation monitoring program for the Deering Estate. To add, he has published two papers in the last year with another two in process and has guest lectured several faculty classes.

Diamond has shown exemplary dedication to the Southeast Environmental Research Center and has demonstrated what it takes to be a great scientist and a wonderful example of the hard work and exceptional research that takes place at the center.

Alain Duran – Center for Coastal Oceans Research

Alain Duran works on coral reef dynamics with FIU’s Marine Macroalgae Research Lab. In 2011, Duran began his FIU career by undertaking a master’s in biology. He graduated with his degree in 2013 and then enrolled in a Ph.D. program focusing his research on the interaction and dynamics of macroalgae, corals, herbivory plus sediments and habitat complexity. He examined how factors such as structural complexity, sedimentation and seasonality impact how herbivorous fishes can control algal community dynamics.

“We consider Alain a well-known coral reef scientist of coral reef dynamics for the Caribbean region. He earned his reputation through hard work, as well as publishing and participating in important scientific meetings,” said Ligia Collado-Vides, Duran’s faculty mentor.

In addition to his field research, Duran also devotes time to teaching and outreach. He has been involved in several “Family Science Night” events in the Keys, in the Miami Underwater Film Festival and in the Seafood Festival at Deering State. He has also helped with the organization of the South Eastern Phycological Symposium in 2011 and later was the lead organizer of the FIU BioSymposium (2015). Duran also participated in the “Teacher Under the Sea” initiative with the Medina Aquarius Program – living in Aquarius, the world’s only under-sea laboratory, for 10 days and remotely connecting to primary schools to lecture students about marine conservation in Spanish.

His hard work has led to numerous publications and successful grant proposals. Duran is a shining example of an exceptional researcher, teacher and student. His consistent commitment to the Center for Coastal Oceans Research makes him a very deserving candidate for this year’s Graduate Student of the Year award.

Jazmin Locke – Sea Level Solutions Center

Jazmine Locke

Jazmin Locke is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in the Department of Earth and Environment under the advisement of Krish Jayachandran. Her dissertation is on the “Management of Agricultural Runoff through Productive Floating Wetlands.” Locke’s research takes a look at how floating wetlands can be a solution to the agricultural runoff we are seeing plague our natural environments.

To add, Locke has participated in an interdisciplinary Sea Level Solutions Center design studio to apply science to resilience projects, focusing her work on a North Beach neighborhood. In July of last year, Locke was one of 16 students from the Department of Landscape Architecture + Environmental and Urban Design to be presented with a 2018 Florida American Society of Landscape Architects (FL ASLA) Design Award. Her and her team of three other students were awarded an Award of Honor for their impressive work.  

The project outlined the consequences that the North Beach neighborhood would face from salt water intrusion and peat collapse. The team then identified a multi-phase approach of 1) awareness, 2) transformation, and 3) acceptance that would redefine the way the neighborhood looks and responds to the projected threats. Some of the solutions proposed to address the climate challenges for the North Beach neighborhood included floating piers, seaweed farms, pedestrian bridges and suspended rails that would connect one area to another without leaving it vulnerable to excess flooding.

“Jazmin’s contributions in leading the FL ASLA project were exemplary,” said Tiffany Troxler, director of science for the Sea Level Solutions Center.

Locke’s hard work and important research has made her a natural candidate for this year’s Graduate Student of the Year award for the Sea Level Solutions Center.

To learn more about the Institute of Water and Environment and affiliate centers, visit the website.