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Unique Wetlands and Waters PhD Program Poised to Have its First Graduate

The program is the brainchild of Mark Rains, Professor and Director of the USF School of Geosciences, and Bill Mitsch, now Eminent Scholar and Director of the FGCU Everglades Wetland Research Park after spending more than 25 years previously at The Ohio State University. The goal of the program is to facilitate cooperation to further the development of basic scientific and applied research in wetlands and waters, gaining a more fundamental understanding of wetland and nearshore coastal environments, especially in south Florida. The program is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding that facilitates the cooperative exchange of resources between the partner institutions, including faculty members and graduate students.

"The program is really intended to leverage the unique resources at USF and FGCU, better enabling us to make the best use of public resources to benefit the people of State of Florida and around the world," says Dr. Rains. "And that effort is beginning to show tangible results."

That first tangible result is Bingbing Jiang, who successfully defended her dissertation earlier this month and will graduate with her PhD in Geography and Environmental Science and Policy from the USF School of Geosciences over the upcoming Summer. Working alongside co-advisors Drs. Mitsch and Rains, the soon-to-be Dr. Jiang studied the role wetlaculture can play in reducing nutrient loading to natural waters, thereby also reducing the likelihood and severity of harmful algal blooms (HABs). Wetlaculture is a novel practice first proposed by Dr. Mitsch, and comprises a landscape consisting of rotating wetlands and agriculture, with nutrients retained through natural wetland processes when the land is used as wetlands reducing the need for costly and environmentally damaging fertilizer applications when the land is flipped and used for agriculture.

Ms. Jiang defended her dissertation in an online setting, with dozens of attendees from throughout the US and around the world, including such far-flung locations as Eastern Europe and China, where attendees had to be awake in the middle of the night. She is now making final revisions and will submit her dissertation and graduate over the upcoming summer. She will soon be followed by Lauren Griffiths, also studying wetlaculture alongside Drs. Mitsch and Rains and scheduled to defend her dissertation and graduate with a PhD in Geology from the USF School of Geosciences over the upcoming summer. The program is scheduled to continue, with current PhD student Andrew Wilson continuing in the program and incoming PhD student Taylor Hancock scheduled to start in the program in Fall.

"We're really just getting started," says Dr. Mitsch.

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