In the Community

Our goal is to inspire the next generation and immerse the greater South Florida community in the solutions-based work at FIU to conserve and promote sustainable use of the world's terrestrial ecosystems and protect all Life of Land.

Supporting Life on Land through Education

Florida International University offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in Earth and Environment and Biological Sciences, as well as many complementary degrees and certificates in environmental chemistry, biodiversity and conservation management, sustainability, agroecology, global sustainable tourism, forensic science, international relations, law, engineering and more. Among our courses, we offer 270 specifically focused on Life on Land.

Through community events including public lectures, professional workshops and trainings, K-12 enrichment, interactive exhibits and more, we welcome anyone and everyone to be part of our solutions-centered efforts for Life on Land.

Promoting Conservation in Communities 

At Florida International University we collaborate with our local communities through partnerships and educational programs while also providing resources to promote sustainable Life on Land. 

  • Florida Coastal Everglades Outreach Team

    Researchers in FIU’s Institute of Environment are leading the science behind one of the largest ecosystem restoration projects on the planet — the Florida Everglades, an iconic and imperiled ecosystem. As part of our extensive efforts on behalf of the Everglades, our scientists lead an Outreach Team that provides free community opportunities to expand environmental literacy and participate in current science initiatives. This team also collaborates with the local arts community to engage new audiences in conversations about protecting the Everglades. And they also offer research experiences for local school teachers and high school students.

  • College of Arts, Sciences & Education Outreach Team

    FIU’s College of Arts, Sciences & Education connects lifelong learners with real university research through initiatives led by its Education Outreach Team. We provide a range of experiences, from at-home activities to community events, summer camps and much more. We maintain collaborative partnerships with corporations and community organizations and offer volunteer service opportunities all in support of our environment. Our goal is to inspire the next generation of explorers who will be making discoveries and finding solutions to create a more sustainable future.

  • Miami-Dade Environmental Education

    FIU has received a grant from Miami-Dade County for Environmental Education to support an accelerated education initiative and promote stewardship among local residents and businesses. Our team in the Institute of Environment works directly with communities, linking top scientists, educators, students and municipal leaders to identify and implement solutions-oriented opportunities. We have included stipends for neighborhood ambassadors to extend our reach into the residential and business community even further and have engaged FIU’s Global Learning for Global Citizenship program to maximize new outlets for reaching students. Our trainings approach incorporates science and technology into experiential fun activities to the skills needed to adapt and persevere through the challenges of climate change in our region.

    Our activities focus on:

    • general environment
    • urban forestry 
    • water pollution 
    • water conservation and drinking water quality 
    • solid waste management
  • Environmental Education in Haiti

    In partnership with the Jardin Botanique des Cayes, the National Botanic Garden of the Dominican Republic and Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the team is working to provide research and education programs for plant conservation in Hispaniola, particularly focused on endemic Haitian species. In addition, the project focuses on capacity building opportunities for botanists and environmental biologists in Haiti.

  • Environmental History and Historic Resource Management

    Forests across the globe are in a perpetual cycle of exploitation and recovery, characterized by a mosaic of diminished biodiversity and altered ecosystem function. These forest tracts, often termed “secondary,” now comprise the majority of the world’s forests. Despite their degraded state, they still harbor great potential for the restoration of rare and economically important species, as well as ecosystem services such as carbon storage. Together with our partners at Big Cypress National Preserve, we have been conducting a pilot study on forest recovery in logged cypress strands, using GIS analyses, aerial photographs, and archival documents to understand the cypress swamps in their pre-disturbance condition. 

    At the same time, we are collaborating with CASE Education Outreach and Coral Gables Museum to provide a framework that can be used to educate the public about environmental history and historic resource management practices in South Florida.

  • International Research Experience for Students Program

    Open to university students from anywhere in the United States, FIU’s International Research Experience for Students program is a one-year training program on wildlife ecology and conservation for endangered parrots, whales and dolphins. It includes two semesters of coursework and a six-week paid field internship in the Small Island Developing State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

    The program provides students with high-quality research, conservation and professional development opportunities in wildlife conservation and ecology. Students work directly with some of FIU’s top conservation scientists and local partners in the Caribbean island to expand their cultural knowledge, research skills and conservation experience.

  • Grove ReLeaf

    Urban trees bring nature into our neighborhoods, and they provide a myriad of ecological benefits including cooling temperatures; improving air quality by absorbing pollutants; attracting wildlife; providing food; and mitigating the impacts of climate change. In addition, trees are linked to increased property values and improved mental wellness by helping to reduce stress.

    Grove ReLeaf aims at understanding the canopy composition of Miami, particularly the neighborhood of Coconut Grove, where FIU’s International Center for Tropical Botany is located. The program works to valuate tree canopy cover by determining the eco-benefits associated with trees. Using a web-based application, our team measures and identifies trees in public areas. In addition, we work with community groups interested in gaining plant identification and inventory skills to contribute to our data. We have added more than 2,000 trees to our inventory while training volunteers and advancing botany education. 

    The importance of trees cannot be understated, and with city populations continually increasing, urban tree management should remain an important focus of policy. With 20% tree canopy, Miami falls under the 30-40% canopy cover target for urban areas. In 2017, the widespread loss of trees after Hurricane Irma demonstrated the urgent need for a mandate for proper management of trees across Miami-Dade County. Partnered with the Miami Dade Heritage Trust in the Miami Canopy Coalition, we expect our data to be useful in city and county policy and conservation initiatives.

  • FIU Nature Preserve

    FIU’s Nature Preserve is an 11-acre environmental education facility, representing the Florida Everglades. It is used to share ecological knowledge gained by university researchers with FIU students and the community.

    Three distinct ecosystems provide habitat for the 13 endangered plants, 15 threatened plants, and the other 238 plants and animals that call this place home. There is also an organic fruit and vegetable garden that attracts people and pollinators alike.

    Great historic geologic formations still exist here today and are on display for all to see. Their fascinating designs bring visitors back to an ancient Miami and offer a variety of opportunities for them to become citizen scientists at FIU.

  • Trees of FIU

    Urban forests are incredibly economically valuable, with generally positive impacts to human health, soil stability, stormwater reduction, storm surge reduction, wind mitigation, carbon sequestration, cooling costs, property value, wildlife habitat, and education. 

    Since FIU was founded, trees have been planted across our campuses including a forest of native tree species at the FIU Nature Preserve contributing to more than 10,000 trees on one campus alone. As a part of a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services funded project, researchers are doing an inventory of the trees on the FIU campuses to understand the species diversity and their value to humans and the environment.

  • The FIU Palmetum

    With most palm species being native to the tropics and Miami being arguably the most tropical city in the contiguous United States, it makes sense that Miami would be home to many types of palms. But what may be surprising to some is that one of the world’s most diverse palm collections resides at Florida International University,  Miami’s only public research university

    The FIU Palmetum came to be after Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in 1992 and destroyed many of FIU’s trees. The university’s grounds superintendent decided a public university could turn this destruction into an educational opportunity and initiated the palm arboretum as a means to restore FIU’s urban forest. Intended for community education, it’s also become a favorite research spot for FIU students.

    Today, the FIU Palmetum contains hundreds of individual palms, representing more than 70 species from 40 genera. With representation from every major palm hotspot in the world and spanning six continents, this collection showcases the Arecaceae to the FIU community, and is one of the most diverse palm collections on a university campus in the world. Informative signs staked throughout the palmetum, species identification tags on individual trees and strategic seating offer an educational experience for students, faculty, staff and visitors, with thousands of people passing through this unique resource every week.

  • Alleviate Plant Blindness

    Plant blindness is the widespread lack of awareness of plants in one’s environment by the general public. At an undergraduate level this has consequences regarding how our highly skilled future workforce will value plant conservation, services and research. 

    Starting in 2016, an FIU research team has developed educational initiatives at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to identify and alleviate plant blindness among freshman undergraduate students. Preliminary results have led to a project funded by NSF to discuss future educational actions on this issue. This new project involves the participation of other universities and botanic gardens in the United States. Learn more about our results in The Tropical Garden, the magazine of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.

  • Nile Talk Forums

    An outgrowth of the 2020 International Conference on the Nile and Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Nile Talk Forums bring together experts in Nile and other transboundary river issues of the world to discuss experiences in diffusing tensions, sharing the common good, building trust and developing collaboration and cooperation.

    The Nile Talk Forums are open to interested academics and the public. Each forum includes one expert speaker touching on a specific relevant topic and a moderated, open-floor question and answer session at the end.

  • Coastal Angler Science Team

    FIU researchers have created a stakeholder science program called CAST — Coastal Angler Science Team — to engage anglers into fisheries research. Through this initiative, we are tapping into angler knowledge and their records of catches to examine how their fishing relates to freshwater management and better understand the potential effects of Everglades restoration on recreational angling. For instance, we have worked with anglers to understand how their 20+ years of common snook and Florida largemouth bass catches are affected by freshwater flows to the coast. Second, CAST has been working with anglers to assist in a mark-recapture study of largemouth bass in order to estimate their survival across years of varied drying severity. Anglers were equipped with pit tag readers, datasheets and maps and asked to scan their catch. In 2014, we organized a 6-month mark-recapture tournament, and anglers were responsible for 30 percent of the recaptures that fed our survival model.

Supporting Agriculture and Tourism

At Florida International University we collaborate with local farmers, community organizations and the tourism industry through partnerships and educational programs while also providing resources to promote sustainable Life on Land.

  • Agroecology Program

    Our projects and programs in agricultural sciences involve making connections in relevant industries and communicating evidence-based best practices. Our Supply Chains Study is engaging farmers and other professionals to trace Florida tomatoes and strawberries from the field to the store and analyze future challenges. Other initiatives of our Agroecology Program support students from underrepresented and minority communities, and offer workshops and certificates for professionals. By bringing people together, we are strengthening the food supply we all depend on.

  • Farmers Outreach Program

    The Veterans, Youth and Special Need Agriculturists Assistance Program at Florida International University empowers small and underrepresented farmers in urban sustainable agriculture, as well as beginning farmers who are interested in starting their own business. This program is predominantly geared towards assisting veterans, small farmers, minorities, and the socially disadvantaged by offering hands-on farming experience through apprenticeships, agricultural-related workshops, and technical one-on-one advice on USDA loans/grant programs. We have collaborated with several farms, nurseries, and organizations throughout South Florida to provide this engaging and practical learning experience.

  • Food Forests

    In recent years, urban food forests have become popular as food security projects, but these small urban “stepping stones” can also substantially increase other important ecosystem services including carbon storage, watershed protection, and cooling from increased canopy cover. Food forests are recognized as important components of urban forests, especially since they contribute to one of the primary urban forest management goals of increased species diversity. This enhancement of canopy diversity is especially evident in places like South Florida, where a rich history of Caribbean and Latin American immigration and a subtropical climate have enhanced the cultivation of tropical plant taxa.

    In partnership with The Education Fund, Florida International University received funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and USDA to measure environmental services in these outdoor eco-labs, enhancing elementary school students’ interest in the natural sciences. To help support this effort, the FIU team is collecting data on the plant and insect communities in several food forests in Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

    Results from the food forest projects contribute directly to ongoing teacher workshops and our understanding of pesticide-free food production systems in this subtropical climate.

  • Organic Garden

    At our organic garden, students gain experiential learning about food production and its relationship to the ecosystem through gardening and plotted experiments.

    Nestled adjacent to the FIU Nature preserve, this hands-on teaching facility provides excellent opportunities to understand the various interactions between growing food and ecosystem needs. It contains 9 distinct areas for research and education: shade house, class plots, community plots, herb garden, fruit grove, meditation gardening, composting, biofuels and aquaponics.

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Program

    Florida International University offers an innovative degree that recognizes the importance of sustainable operations in the tourism industry, its impacts on the planet, and the increasing demand for a more sustainable approach to managing hospitality and tourism businesses. Offered through the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, it is an interdisciplinary collaboration with the Department of Earth and Environment in the College of Arts, Science & Education and features a blended curriculum composed of the most-relevant existing courses from each department as well as a host of new courses specifically designed for the degree.

    Students pursuing this degree acquire the knowledge and tools needed to become industry leaders in the management of sustainable tourism standards that will help protect the world’s natural and cultural resources and maintain them intact for future generations. Students will learn to apply these skills and lead through advocacy, conservation and community partnerships. Topics covered include socioeconomic, environmental and cultural impacts with respect to responsible business practices and local governance. In a nutshell, the overarching thrust of the program is to teach students how tourism can adapt to and mitigate climate change and become a key sector in the transition to low-carbon economies.