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Science officer appointment gets support

By Staff | Apr 4, 2019

With water quality at the forefront of the issues to which Gov. Ron DeSantis has pledged remedy, actions this week continue to follow promises made along the campaign trail.

On Monday, DeSantis announced the appointment of the first-ever State of Florida Chief Science Officer, Dr. Thomas K. Frazer, at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium in West Palm Beach.

“As one of Florida’s leading environmental researchers, Dr. Frazer understands the unique water issues facing our state and the actions we must take to solve them,” said DeSantis. “Since day one, my administration has been laser focused on addressing our pressing environmental challenges and commitment to science-based solutions. With science at the center, Florida can lead the world in environmental innovation and water quality improvement.”

Local water quality experts and organizations have come out in support of DeSantis’ decision.

Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation, said the following on Monday in a statement, “Today’s announcement reflects Dr. Frazer’s impressive credentials and an equally impressive priority for science. Dr. Frazer is one of the nation’s premiere researchers, one who is well acquainted with the unique water challenges facing Florida.

“Governor DeSantis’ appointment of a Chief Science Officer is itself an historic occasion, one that signals that sound science will be at the core of Florida policy affecting the environment.”

John Cassani, The Calusa Waterkeeper, said, “Good to see someone like Dr. Frazer appointed to the Chief Science Officer position. His work with nutrient issues and Gulf Coast rivers in Florida should be helpful toward understanding the harmful algal bloom problem and developing a meaningful management response.”

Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy director for the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, said, “This was an exciting announcement that the governor made just 48 hours into his term. It’s a standard bearer for how important the governor considers science as the underpinning for policy in dealing with out states critical natural resources.

“(Gov. DeSantis) tapped somebody with decades of work in all kinds of natural resource areas from forestry to fisheries.

“It’s an exciting way to make sure we stay focused on getting the right solutions applied to the problems.”

DeSantis signed an executive order on Jan. 10, just two days after he was sworn into office, as part of a major water policy reform which included the necessity for the appointment of a Chief Science Officer to, “coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.”

Frazer said Monday he is happy to assume the role.

“I am incredibly honored by this appointment and I thank Governor DeSantis for naming me Florida’s first Chief Science Officer,” Frazer said Monday. “Our environment and waterways make Florida unique. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Department of Environmental Protection on ways we can use sound science and research to improve our state’s water quality and protect the environment.”

Frazer has served as the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment since 2012.

He was previously acting director of the UF Water Institute.

Frazer has also served as associate director of the School of Forest Resources and Conservation and the Leader of the Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program.

Currently, he serves as chair of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Frazer earned his B.S. in Marine Fisheries from Humboldt State University, his M.S. in Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences from the University of Florida and his PhD. in biological Sciences from the University of California Santa Barbara.

“We are excited to have Dr. Frazer join our team and lead the effort to ensure sound science is at the forefront of our mission to achieving more now for Florida’s environment,” said Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Noah Valenstein, who was along side DeSantis Monday. “Dr. Frazer’s impressive background and connection to our state’s leading research institutions will be the perfect addition. Through collaboration and with science as our foundation, we are on the path to meaningful improvement for Florida’s water quality.”

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