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Florida’s 1st Chief Science Officer To Make Water Quality Issues A Priority

May 20, 2019
Originally published on May 17, 2019 3:32 pm

In a call with reporters from across the state on Friday, Florida Chief Science Officer Tom Frazer said he recognizes Florida’s ongoing struggle with harmful algal blooms and will make water quality issues his priority moving forward.

“What we’re going to hope to do, obviously, is get the blue-green algae task force up and running in an effort to solicit their input on the science that’s going to help guide the decisions that we make,” he said.

Governor Ron DeSantis named Frazer as the state’s first chief science officer earlier this year.

Creating and filling the position was one of several initiatives DeSantis laid out in an executive order he signed in January, shortly after taking office.

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As director of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences School of Natural Resources and Environment, Frazer has led faculty from 56 departments across 12 colleges to work on environmental issues like transitioning to renewable energy systems, preventing pollution, protecting biodiversity and climate change.

“Dr. Frazer will bring the breadth and depth of research and expertise from UF/IFAS to this new assignment,” said Jack Payne, UF Senior Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and head of the UF IFAS, shortly after Frazer was appointed. “As a land-grant institution, this is what we’ve been doing for more than 100 years — using our knowledge to partner with state and local governments to improve the lives of all Floridians.”

Noah Valenstein, Secretary of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, said Frazer and the state’s chief resilience officer, a position the department is currently looking to fill, will help tackle all of this administration’s environmental priorities.

“That includes emissions and making sure we’ve got the best air quality we can in the state,” he said. “That includes looking at innovative practices to clean up ailing water bodies in Florida. That includes having robust land acquisition programs and land protection programs.”

Valenstein said these two positions will ensure the DEP is looking at the latest science as it tries to address these and other environmental challenges in the Sunshine State.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.

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