FIU 2018 hurricane experts

FIU experts are available to discuss various issues surrounding hurricanes and their aftermath. The list of experts will be continuously updated.

For help contacting any of our hurricane experts, please call the Office of Media Relations:

  • Maydel Santana, assistant vice president: 305-348 -1555,
  • Madeline Baro, associate director: 305-348-2234,
  • Dianne Fernandez, broadcast media specialist: 305-608 4870,
  • JoAnn Adkins, director of marketing & PR, College of Arts, Sciences & Education: 305-348-0398,
  • Ileana Varela, associate director of marketing and PR for the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine: 305-348-4926,
  • Cynthia Corzo, assistant director of media relations & communications for the College of Business: 305-348-1664,
  • Millie Acebal, director of marketing & communications for the College of Engineering & Computing: 305-348-7762,

Meteorology and Hurricane Intensification
Haiyan Jiang
Associate Professor of Meteorology
Department of Earth & Environment, FIU
Haiyan Jiang is a meteorologist with expertise in hurricane intensity change and precipitation. Her research interests include studying physical processes related to hurricane rapid intensification using long-term satellite data. She has been funded by the NOAA Joint Hurricane Testbed (JHT) program since 2011 on the development and implementation of an algorithm for the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC) for tropical cyclone rapid intensification prediction. Her research on developing and analyzing a satellite-based tropical cyclone database has also been funded by NASA. For more information on her research, click here.
Office: 305-348-2984

Social and Political Impact
Richard S. Olson,
Professor, Politics and International Relations
Director, Extreme Events Institute
Director, International Hurricane Research Center
Richard Olson researches the political fallout from natural disasters and has been involved in more than 20 field responses and post-disaster investigations. He has served on the Climate Change and Social Stress panel of the National Academy of Science and has written extensively about urban vulnerability to disasters and the political ramifications of how governments respond. Olson is also featured in the independent documentary titled “Built to Last? Saving our Homes in the Age of Disasters.” The documentary communicates what ordinary people around the world can do to make their homes safe and hazard-resilient. To learn more about the documentary, please click here. Olson speaks Spanish.

Eduardo Gamarra
Political Science Professor
Political Science Professor Eduardo Gamarra has done research on the regional dynamics of Latin America and the Caribbean, including Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He is well versed on political, social and infrastructure issues in Haiti. He is the author of more than half a dozen books and more than forty academic articles on Latin America. Professor Gamarra speaks Spanish.
Cell: 786-253-4898

Hugh Gladwin
Associate Professor, Department of Global and Sociocultural Studies
Gladwin has closely followed how people prepare for and are affected by hurricanes. He has collaborated with FIU and other researchers on more than 15 National Science Foundation (NSF), State of Florida, and FEMA funded projects studying hurricane preparation/evacuation behavior and disaster resilience. He also works on the human impact of the hurricane/climate change linkage. Gladwin’s most recent NSF-funded research focuses on communication of hurricane forecast meteorology and expected storm effects. He was a member of a NOAA working group on social science research needs for the hurricane forecast and warning system, work that has resulted in new research initiatives from NSF. His hurricane-related publications cover forecast communication, evacuation decision-making, and the effects of hurricanes Andrew, Katrina, and Sandy.
Cell: 305-608-9961

Maria Ilcheva
Senior Research Associate, FIU Metropolitan Center
Maria Ilcheva is investigating how prepared Floridians are to face hurricanes and how they use information toward their preparations. Ilcheva is examining the measures residents, businesses and public officials are taking to mitigate the effect of hurricanes and what barriers exist to implement optimal preparedness. Ilcheva’s hurricane research focuses on the real and perceptual changes in homeowners insurance. Ilcheva specializes in the administration of surveys, polls and interviews, data analysis and reporting.
Cell: 305-779-7872

Pallab Mozumder
Associate Professor, Department of Earth & Environment and Department of Economics
Pallab Mozumder coordinates the Social Science Research Lab at the International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC). He is an environmental economist with expertise in socio-economic aspects of natural hazards. His research on hurricane risk mitigation and evacuation behavior has been funded by federal and state agencies such as the National Science Foundation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Florida Department of Community Affairs and Florida Sea Grant.
Office: 305-348-7146

Hugh E. Willoughby
Distinguished Research Professor, Department of Earth & Environment
Hugh Willoughby researches tropical cyclone formation and intensification and has flown more than 400 missions into the eye of storms as a meteorologist for the federal government.  Willoughby was a Research Meteorologist at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory, where he worked since 1975 and served as director from 1995 until 2002. Willoughby also served on the Florida Commission on Hurricane Loss Projection Methodology and has extensive knowledge  about hurricane impacts and insurance. For a video on Willoughby, please click here.
Office: 305-348-0243

Stephen P. Leatherman
Professor, Department of Earth & Environment
Stephen Leatherman’s major research focuses on storm impacts on coastal areas, including beach erosion and storm surges. He has given expert testimony to U.S. Congressional committees more than a dozen times on issues such as coastal storm impacts and federal disaster response. He was the review coordinator for the National Academy of Sciences & Engineering for the federal study of the breaching of the New Orleans levees and flooding by Hurricane Katrina.
Office: 305-348-2365
Cell: 305-238-5888

Erik Salna
Associate Director, Extreme Events Institute (EEI) & International Hurricane Research Center (IHRC)
Erik Salna works with the Wall of Wind research team and coordinates education and outreach activities. He has experience as a broadcast meteorologist and within both non-profit and for-profit environments in meteorology, mitigation, preparedness, education, media and EOC activations.  Before EEI & IHRC, he worked at America’s Emergency Network, which focused on live video streaming technology. He also served as project coordinator for the non-profit Hurricane Warning at the Disaster Survival House, located in Deerfield Beach.  He also recently served as hazard mitigation manager for the City of Deerfield Beach, was on the city’s crisis activation team and participated in all activations of the emergency operations center.
Office: 305-348-1146

Shu-Ching Chen
Professor, School of Computing and Information Sciences
Shu-Ching Chen’s team is developing simulations of storm-surge flooding along key South Florida coastal areas. As the head of FIU’s Distributed Multimedia Information Systems Laboratory, Chen uses topographical data from LIDAR, wind speed and direction, tides and other factors to create 3D visualizations of a surge. The goal is for these visualizations to assist the general public and emergency management officials in hurricane preparation and recovery efforts.
Office: 305-348-3480

Aris Papadopoulos
Distinguished Expert in Resilience, FIU Extreme Events Institute
Aris has more than 35 years experience in the construction and energy industries and is founder of the Resilience Action Fund, a non-profit advancing greater awareness, transparency and education for resilience in the built environment. He is author of Resilience–The Ultimate Sustainability: Lessons from Failing to Develop a Stronger and Safer Built Environment, which inspired the one-hour documentary, Built to Last? Saving Our Homes in the Age of Disasters, now showing on PBS. Aris serves on the board of the UN Alliance for Disaster Resilient Societies (ARISE.)
Office: 305-348-1607

Storm Damage Mitigation
Arindam Gan Chowdhury
Co-Director, Laboratory for Wind Engineering Research and Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Extreme Events Institute
Arindam Chowdhury is a wind engineer working on technology to test the effect of hurricane-force winds and rain on buildings and construction materials at FIU’s Wall of Wind, a facility where full-scale houses can be tested in conditions that most closely resemble those of a hurricane.
Office: 305-348-0518

Ioannis Zisis
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering,  and Co-Director, Laboratory for Wind Engineering Research, Extreme Events Institute
Ioannis Zisis has been studying wind effects on the built environment for more than 10 years. His research focus is structural and environmental wind engineering. He has been using advanced experimental methods, including wind tunnel and full-scale monitoring techniques, to examine how residential and other structures react to extreme wind events. The outcomes of his research efforts are aiming at the development and improvement of national and international wind standards and building codes of practice. He can discuss wind-induced loads and damage on buildings, and the use of experimental wind engineering to study extreme wind effects.
Office: 305-348-4869

Environmental and Ecological Storm Impacts

Jayantha Obeysekera
Director of FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center
The center is a research, education and outreach hub designed to develop and implement solutions for the impacts caused by one of Florida’s greatest threats — sea level rise. Obeysekera previously served as chief modeler at the South Florida Water Management District, where he had a leading role in modeling of the Everglades and Kissimmee River and Everglades restoration projects . He was co-author of the sea level rise projections report published by NOAA for the National Climate Assessment. He also co-authored a report on regional sea level projections for Department of Defense facilities across the globe. Obeysekera can talk about hurricanes as they relate to sea level rise, climate change, flooding and water management. He has extensive media experience, including print and broadcast.
Office: 305-348-4493

James Fourqurean
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
James Fourqurean studies the impacts of hurricanes on the shallow water marine ecosystems of South Florida and the Caribbean. He is the director of FIU’s Marine Education and Research Initiative for the Florida Keys, the principal investigator of FIU’s Aquarius Reef Base undersea research laboratory, a professor of biology and a member of FIU’s Southeast Environmental Research Center.
Office: 305-348-4084

Suzanne Koptur
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Suzanne Koptur studies damage and recovery from hurricanes in different kinds of upland forests; with special attention to plant community structure, and the effects on the insects associated with plants. Koptur teaches courses in Ecology and does research in South Florida and the Caribbean in the area of plant/animal interactions.
Office: 305-348-3103

Michael Ross
Professor, FIU Department of Earth and Environment and Southeast Environmental Research Center
Michael Ross has worked extensively on the ecological effects of Hurricane Andrew in mangrove forests and coastal hammocks, and is currently working on impacts from Hurricane Irma in the lower Florida Keys. He works with the FIU International Hurricane Research Center to explore the use of remote sensing techniques in gaining a larger-scale perspective of hurricane effects on coastal wetlands, including mangrove forests.

Joel Trexler
Professor, Department of Biological Sciences and Director of Marine Sciences Program
Joel Trexler has researched the impacts of hurricanes on the wetland ecosystems of South Florida and the effects of those storms on populations of aquatic animals in the Everglades. For a video on Trexler, please click here.
Office: 305-348-1966

Shimon Wdowinski, Ph.D.
Research professor, Department of Earth and Environment
Wdowinski’s research focuses on the impact hurricanes and other extreme events including earthquakes and sinkholes can have on society, not just infrastructure. He is currently spearheading research supported by NASA examining whether powerful hurricanes, typhoons and cyclones can trigger earthquakes. Wdowinski is affiliated with FIU’s Institute of Water and Environment and the Southeast Environmental Research Center. He is currently looking at data from the hurricanes that hit Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico in 2017 to map and assess flooding. Wdowinski can discuss flooding, climate change, sea level rise and wetland surface flow.
Office: 305-348-6826

Insurance and Finance
Shahid Hamid
Professor, chair and professor, Department of Finance, College of Business
Shahid Hamid works primarily on the financial and insurance consequences of hurricanes. He heads the development and operation of the Florida Public Hurricane Loss Model that forecasts the insurance losses caused by hurricanes. As the director of the FIU International Hurricane Research Center’s Laboratory for Insurance, Financial and Economic Research, Hamid leads a multi-disciplinary team of more than 15 professors and experts, and a dozen graduate students, who work on the model.
Office: 305-348-2727

Eli Beracha
Director of FIU’s Tibor and Sheila Hollo School of Real Estate
Faculty Director of the Master of Science in International Real Estate (MSIRE) Program
Beracha conducts empirical research in the areas of real estate and finance. Among the courses he teaches are: Real Estate Invest, Real Estate Market Analysis, and Real Estate Markets, Institutions and Practices. He has years of practical experience in the area of real estate investments and has served as a consultant for real estate development projects.  He’s also managing editor of the Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education and is an elected member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society.
Cell: 785-841-4470

William Hardin
Associate Dean, Chapman Graduate School of Business
Director, Jerome Bain Real Estate Institute
Hardin is an a recognized expert on commercial real estate markets, financial markets and securitized real estate. A member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society, he has authored or co-authored some 40 papers on varied topics in commercial real estate investment, including REIT governance and financial structure. Dr. Hardin is co-editor of Journal of Real Estate Practice and Education and is an elected member of the board of directors of the American Real Estate Society.
Cell: 954-298-8675

Juan Pablo Sarmiento
FIU Extreme Events Institute
Juan Pablo Sarmiento’s professional and research experience spans 33 years and includes working in Colombia for the Civil Defense, Central Military Hospital, Ministry of Health, Colombian Red Cross, and Pontificia Universidad Javeriana. Additionally, he worked as a consultant for the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); he was member of United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) teams, and, for ten years worked as the technical manager of the regional risk management program that the International Resources Group (IRG) implemented in Latin American and the Caribbean for the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA).
Office: 305-348-0346

Aileen M. Marty 
Professor, Department of Humanities, Health, and Society
Director, FIU Health Travel Medicine Program and Vaccine Clinic
Aileen M. Marty, M.D., is a member of the FIU-FAST (Florida Advanced Surgical Transport) team which is trained to treat and evacuate critical care patients in a disaster. During her 25-years in the U.S. Navy, she specialized in tropical medicine, infectious disease pathology, disaster medicine, mass casualty, and in the science, medical response and policy involving weapons of mass destructions. Dr. Marty has led international teams on outbreak responses in Africa. She  is a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, technical advisor for the World Health Organization’s new Health Emergencies Programme, and member of the WHO’s Health Security Interface- Scientific and Technical Advisory Group. Aileen Marty is available to do interviews in both English and Spanish.
Office: 305-348-0377