Monday, March 30, 2009

Univ. Of Florida Geology Dept. Faces Deep Cuts

I'm from Seminole country, rivals of the Florida Gators but this goes beyond football rivalry. Depressing news coming out of the Univ. of Florida. Their geology department is facing deep cuts. The plan is to fire all staff except ten tenure faculty.

That is just a devastation loss to an excellent graduate research and teaching program. From the perspective of my field, Univ. of Florida carbonate geology research group has done some pretty impressive work on Cenozoic carbonate geology of Florida. Pharyngula has an inimitable post on how cuts to graduate departments affect teaching, research and the quality of education. Joseph Meert who is faculty at Univ. of Florida geology department adds his thoughts.

And the Florida Citizen For Science site details just how wrong this decision is given the central role geology departments play in Florida society and economy.

In an era of ‘green technology’, environmental awareness, the need for natural resource management, global climate change and the need to preserve access to freshwater, the thought of decimating a Geology Department borders on insanity. This is especially true of a flagship university that sits about 150 feet above sea level in a state where the top three revenue generators are, in order, tourism, agriculture and mining.

When faced with required budget cuts at a land grant university, is the best solution really to cut one department best poised to address problems directly related to the states three biggest income sources?

I found out recently though that these cuts are not just affecting Universities. The state Dept. of Environmental Protection is also facing severe budget cuts. A friend who is a senior administrator with the Florida Geological Survey tells me that she has had to prepare "survival reports" essentially justifying the existence of the various program areas within the survey.

This one brings it closer to home. I have worked with the Florida Geology Survey for several years and I know friends who could be affected by these looming cuts. One area that has been facing cuts even before the current crises is the coastal geology program.

???? ....Ain't that just a daft idea?

Close to Tallahassee where the survey is located, the Gulf of Mexico coastline with its barrier islands, beaches, coastal wetlands and estuaries is a major player in the state tourism industry. This geological complex is coming under increasing threat from coastal development, hurricanes and in the medium and long term possibly from sea-level rise.

The State of Florida should be strengthening its coastal geology program not thinking of cutting it. It just defies common sense that a knowledge base so crucial to the health and economy of Florida coastal communities is being frozen.

Read this acknowledgment dated October 2008 about the importance of earth sciences and the role it plays in Florida society from the Governor of Florida Charlie Crist. Shouldn't such a strong public acceptance of the importance of geology from the highest political office in the state be followed by a commitment to ensure continuity of funding for university and state geology programs? I see it as a massive violation of public trust for the governor to have signed this document and then to go ahead and butcher geology funding left right and center on the premise that cuts in geology will do the least damage to the University as a whole. That premise is short sighted and faulty but unfortunately it may be a decade or so before the repercussions of this decision are fully realized by Florida society.

Tip: Nanopolitan

1 comment:

  1. I just heard that, in addition to the Survey and UF cuts, the entire geology department at Florida State University will be phased out of existence over the next three years. The insanity continues...