Mike Heithaus has been appointed the dean of FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences.
Heithaus, who has served as interim dean since July 2014, replaces Kenneth G. Furton, who was named provost and executive vice president of FIU last year. As the seventh dean of Arts & Sciences, Heithaus will focus on initiatives to improve student success, engage faculty and expand research opportunities.
The College of Arts & Sciences enrolls more than 23,000 students and awards more than 4,000 degrees annually. It features three schools, many of the university’s premier academic centers and institutes, and a variety of interdisciplinary programs.
“Because of its diversity and reach, the College of Arts & Sciences requires a dynamic leader who is committed to creating opportunities for our students,” Furton said. “After an extensive nationwide search, it became apparent that Dr. Heithaus has the passion and the skills best suited to lead FIU’s College of Arts & Sciences.”
Heithaus is the founding executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society (SEAS) and also served as associate dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. With SEAS, he oversaw approximately $20 million in annual research expenditures and helped to raise more than $12 million in philanthropic gifts since 2011. He was also instrumental in FIU securing ownership of the Aquarius Reef Base in the Florida Keys, the world’s only undersea research laboratory.
Well-known internationally through his research on the ecological role of large sharks, both in Australian and Florida waters, he has been with FIU since 2003. Heithaus served as the director of FIU’s Marine Sciences Program from 2008-2009. Prior to joining FIU, he was a staff scientist at the Mote Marine Laboratory’s Center for Shark Research, where he worked with National Geographic’s Remote Imaging Department conducting studies using their “crittercam.”
Heithaus has been involved in the production of more than a dozen natural history documentaries. He currently conducts research using cutting-edge technology, including cameras worn by animals, to unravel the lives of hard-to-study marine creatures from whales and dolphins to sharks, seals and turtles. Extending his reach to inspire future generations of researchers, conservationists and enthusiasts, he has produced a series of educational videos and authored textbooks for K-12 classrooms.
As an ecologist, Heithaus specializes in the influence of predator-prey interactions on community dynamics in marine systems. His lab’s work in Shark Bay Australia is the most detailed study of the ecological role of sharks in the world and has been used as the underpinning for affecting positive policy changes in shark conservation initiated by several prominent Non-Governmental Organizations. He has attracted more than $4 million in grants for his research lab. He also serves as a member of the science advisory committee for Pew Environment’s International Shark Campaign.
Heithaus earned his Ph.D. from Simon Fraser University in Canada and his Bachelor of Arts in Biological Sciences from Oberlin College in Ohio.