Oceanography on the Chopping Block: The Conclusion

In April, I reported that

Word from Tallahassee is that oceanography may be out at FSU!

Florida State administrators this afternoon released a draft of proposed wide-sweeping cutbacks at the university, based on current reductions in state revenue. If enacted, they would dramatically alter the university as we know it. Twenty-one degree programs at FSU would be eliminated including… oceanography….

What? This is not Billy Boy Foothills College with an oceanography program with 5 students. This is bloody f’in Florida State University Oceanography Program!…I could go through the list [of professors] but let me finish by saying that you would be hard pressed to find a month without a publication from this group in the most prominent journals.

So where does this leave us? Honestly, it is too depressing to consider.

The latest word in an email from an inside source

Florida State has [officially] eliminated Oceanography and Geology as departments.  Untenured faculty are to be let go as well as two senior faculty members.  There will be a 1 or 2 year phase out for these people.  The remaining faculty will be put into an Earth and Atmospheric Science unit.

What?  I can’t even begin to express the shortsideness of such a decision to eliminate an oceanography program in light of the programs prominence.  It is even more alarming in light of changes occurring in the world’s oceans, the need to understand the roots of our impacts, and the consequences of these for both the oceans and our daily lives (yes it will impact your daily life).  Removing such programs greats a gap in training.  I am also concerned about the excellent untenured faculty members being cut in a market that is unlikely to provide new oppurtunities for positions in the forseeable future.

But the modern university has often become a money making machine not a center for education.  From my inside source, “Economically…oceanographers just don’t create many jobs, get valuable patents, or invent Gatoraide.”

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

10 Replies to “Oceanography on the Chopping Block: The Conclusion”

  1. Its unfortunate that Oceanography programs are diminishing. Seems like only 5 years ago I was told that PhD’s in Oceanography could “write their own ticket”. I guess its fair to mention that there are new hires in the FSU Biological Oceanography Department, but this will not compensate for the loss of jobs, of course.

  2. I was hoping all along that the FSU news was some bad dream, or a PR persons idea of a joke. I’m speechless.

  3. “I guess its fair to mention that there are new hires in the FSU Biological Oceanography Department, but this will not compensate for the loss of jobs, of course.”

    I don’t think there is a Bio O department at FSU. All the biological oceanographers where with the Oceanography department. My understanding is that the new hires, as untenured faculty, will lose their positions.

  4. That really sucks. A lot. It seems like whenever funds get cut science and education are the first to go…

  5. Peter – that looks like just a subdivision of the department of oceanography. I imagine if the department goes, all the various pieces go as well

  6. I agree, Jim. I was initially surprised that a new program could be axed (thought programs planned/budgeted 5-10 years ahead), but have since come to learn this was a decision of the Florida legislature, coming to terms with state shortfalls. Makes me fear for state based operations California.

  7. I just saw this post here at DSN, so sorry I’m months and months late, but felt this needed to be put out there to those unaware:

    To answer Peter’s question, all of the new hires in FSU oceanography, save one professor who was able to transfer tenure from his previous institution, have been laid off and will be employed only until the end of this academic year, to the best of my knowledge. 2 tenured professors within the dept. have also been laid off.

    I’m a grad student within the department.

    1. Thanks for the update. I would love to know if the laid off professors and hires have secured positions elsewhere.

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