FIU, Deering Estate formalize partnership

Florida International University and Deering Estate are joining forces to create new research and education opportunities.

FIU and Deering Estate, along with the Deering Estate Foundation, entered into a formal agreement this month to increase university involvement at the 444-acre preserve along the edge of Biscayne Bay. Deering offers FIU students and faculty access to diverse marine, freshwater and terrestrial habitats, archeological sites, geologic record, cultural collections, and active natural and cultural resource management. The estate also includes the Deering Flow Way/Cutler Slough Rehydration Project, a site-specific reconciliation ecology effort that is funded by Florida RESTORE and part of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

Deering Estate

Deering Estate along Biscayne Bay

FIU will work with the Deering Estate to identify core thematic areas of research and to develop strategies for enhancing K-12, undergraduate and graduate opportunities for field research and formal/informal experiential learning. Potential opportunities include increased access by faculty and students for research, internships, new programs for K-12 students, establishment of competitive graduate fellowship programs, and new grant opportunities.

“The partnership will make the most of the incredible cultural and ecological resource gems at Deering, the public landscape-scale restoration demonstration project, and expansive K-12 environmental education programs at the Deering Estate by engaging faculty and student researchers in key disciplines at the forefront of FIU’s research portfolio including conservation, restoration ecology, and coastal resource management,” said Evelyn Gaiser, executive director of FIU’s School of Environment, Arts and Society in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education.

MOU Signing

Officials from FIU and Deering Estate recently signed an MOU for collaboration. Seated from left: Jack Kardys, director of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces; Meredith Newman, FIU vice provost; and Bill Anderson, associate dean of the College of Arts, Sciences & Education. Standing from left, David Marley, president of the Deering Estate Foundation; Mary Pettit executive director of the Deering Foundation;, Jennifer Tisthammer, director of Deering Estate; and Evelyn Gaiser executive director of the School of Environment, Arts and Society.

With this partnership, the potential exists to create a new certificate program at FIU, design new field experiences and develop educational exchange programs nationally and internationally. The ultimate goal will be to increase knowledge and develop solutions for environmental and social issues currently facing communities. Initiatives will focus on conservation biology, restoration ecology, coastal wetland ecology, geology, science education and sociocultural studies.

“Greater awareness leads to more informed environmental leadership and decision making,” said Deering Estate Director Jennifer Tisthammer. “Our communities continue to change, and have changed profoundly since the Deering Estate first became a park 30 years ago, influenced by localized social and economic trends and themes as well as known or unanticipated threats to important natural or cultural resources located here. Having collaborative partners like SEAS and the Deering Estate Foundation help us envision and ensure an approach to complex adaptive management is of fundamental importance.”

The partnership expands on the world-class research, teaching and outreach programs that comprise FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education. The college’s School of Environment, Arts and Society is home to some of the world’s leading environmental scientists who focus on coastal marine ecosystems, Everglades ecology and restoration, and tropical biology, as well as nationally recognized writers and scholars.

“With bated breath we wait to see the Deering Estate teeming with students and faculty conducting cutting edge research, learning about our fragile South Florida environments, and engaging with the public to build a more environmentally conscious society,” Gaiser said. “This partnership hits all of the targets of the SEAS mission by promoting world-class research and education, strong community networks, and innovative public engagement.”

The Deering Estate and Deering Estate Foundation have together established a world-class cultural and ecological field station—part of an international Organization of Biological Field Stations—that contains one of the most diverse natural habitat, archeological, and historical collections combined in a single site. Deering is a State of Florida park and operated by Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation.