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The Environmental Forensics and Public Health program is a joint collaboration between the FIU Institute of Environment and the FIU Global Forensic and Justice Center (GFJC).

Environmental forensics requires a cross-disciplinary approach that includes understanding the sources of environmental contaminants, their transport through key ecosystems and their subsequent impact on humans and other organisms.

High concentrations of contaminants such as magnesium, calcium, zinc or manganese are now known to play a role in the onset and progression of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. The consequences of pollutants on our bodies and our environment can be critical. Toxic metals, for example, are impacting the Florida Everglades and its resources, leading to changes in marine organisms, influencing mental health and creating environmental inequities.

This program aims to improve our scientific understanding of global change and anthropogenic effects caused by multiple environmental drivers, the physical and biological responses measured in water quality, soil and sediment contamination, emerging diseases, invasive species and other global stressors that are a risk to ecosystems and community health.

Collaborative Partners

The leading organizations, Institute of Environment and GFJC, are comprised of several key components to the success of this new program:

  • The GFJC’s International Forensic Research Institute
  • The GFJC’s National Forensic Science Technology Center
  • The Institute of Environment’s CREST Center for Aquatic Chemistry and Environment
  • The Institute of Environment’s Tropical Conservation Institute

In addition to the leading organizations, partners and collaborators for this program also include:

Ongoing Research

The Environmental Forensics and Public Health program will focus on the following research projects:

  • Environmental Pollution

    Our researchers focus on identifying the origin and spread of environmental pollutants and contaminants, especially as they pertain to south Florida’s major waterways and their impact on important freshwater resources (including Biscayne Bay, the Florida Everglades and the Miami River). This project can include the development of in-depth GIS maps, including trace and contact of pollutants in specific waterways

  • Wildlife Trafficking

    Using the combined environmental and forensic expertise brought together through the program, our experts work to identify the impact of wildlife trafficking. Some specific projects our scientists will lead include:

    • Pinpointing the origin of trafficked species and prosecuting poachers/smugglers
    • Preventing the spread of animal diseases to humans
    • Preventing the introduction and spread of invasive or dangerous species
    • Enforcing anti-trafficking laws and confiscating smuggled animals
  • Public Health

    One of the biggest discoveries that the science of environmental forensics can provide for our society is contributing to the understanding of how environmental factors impact public health. This includes the link between our environment and specific public health concerns like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, metal toxicity related illnesses and more.

Training

The Environmental Forensics and Public Health program will include a training component specifically geared at teaching individuals and organizations how to properly collect environmental samples. The program will provide the following initiatives:

This program aims to deliver virtual, in-person, or hybrid forms of training. Current conservation officers can counter wildlife trafficking with training in proven forensic science evidence collection and analysis techniques suited for the out-of-the-laboratory assessments - our program will provide conservation officers with the skills they need to counter wildlife trafficking.