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Creation of Environmental Sciences Department


On January 21, 2012 the Board of Trustees of the University of Puerto Rico created the Department of Environmental Science (where most of the IGERT students are) by merging the then existing Environmental Sciences Program and the Institute of Tropical Ecosystem Studies. The new Department includes 14 professors, extensive research facilities and total external funding of over $30 million.

Address Goals

The new Department provides world class facilities for long term ecologial research. It manages the following off campus research facilities: El Verde Field Station (site of the NSF-Luquillo-Long-Term Ecological Research Program since 1989;), Cape San Juan Atmospheric Station (affiliated to NOAA ESRL; part of the Global Atmosphere Watch Program, and part of the Aeronet; and a permanent research plot for forestry and urban ecology research in Toa Baja. In addition it has monitoring sites in Mona Island Reserve, The Guanica Biosphere Reserve and The Rio Piedras watershed. It is also a member of the Association of Ecosystem Research Centers and:

  • Conducts research relevant to the management of natural ecosystems and atmospheric chemistry in tropical regions.
  • Establishes and maintains long-term experimental and reference studies of ecosystems in the tropics
  • Applies knowledge gained to develop mechanisms for the restoration of degraded tropical ecosystems
  • Increases public awareness of the importance of natural ecosystems to human welfare primarily through undergraduate and graduate education and outreach activities targeting K-12 education.

A new research area of the Department includes the Center for Renewable Energy and Sustainability (CRES), funded by grants from the US Department of Defense (DoD) and the US Department of Education (USDE). The Center supports highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research in the area of algae-based biofuels and represents a major new tool for teaching students about core concepts and principles in the field of renewable energy and sustainability.

Another important area is led by the Puerto Rico Center for Environmental Neuroscience (PRCEN) which promotes integrative approaches that combine the ecology, biology and chemistry of four interconnected Puerto Rican ecosystems (marine, estuary, terrestrial, and freshwater) with state-of-the-art research into the molecular/cellular neurobiology of organisms living within those habitats to create a novel field that requires participants to move outside of their comfort zones and learn about entirely new areas of research.

The Environmental Science Graduate Program (created largely by the IGERT grant) is also in the process of converting a core part of its curriculum (six courses) to a blended learning modality, as part of the 2009-2014 UPR-RP Title V Project.