Program Descriptions

The Abess Center's two Master’s programs in Environment, Culture, & Media and Exploration Science enables students to tap into synergistic research networks across a range of schools and colleges at the University of Miami, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, the Miller School of Medicine, the School of Law, School of Education, School of Communication, School of Architecture, and the College of Engineering. These graduate programs draw upon existing interdisciplinary collaborations that have been created by the Abess Center.

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MPS/MA in Environment, Media & Culture

The Master of Professional Science and Master of Arts degrees in Environment, Culture, and Media (ECM) integrate the study of the environment with emerging screen technologies, digital culture, cultural theory, and ethics. For new scientists, the defining creative and intellectual challenge of the 21st century exists in the use and design of digital content aimed at engaging an increasingly participatory media culture. Comparable in its cultural complexity and historical significance to the invention of the book, interactive digital content has become the dominant means of contemporary communication. In today’s leading 21st century career fields, theoretical proficiency with digital and visual culture has become a necessary skill. The proliferation of screen technologies has opened new opportunities and challenges for communicating environmental information. Governmental, non-profit and private sector organizations that deal with a range of scientific issues are scrambling to develop an effective digital presence. Responding to this demand, the ECM program has been designed to address the practical and theoretical aspects of this new environmental culture, preparing students for an expanded and innovative sector of employment opportunities.

This innovative program is the first and only graduate degree of its kind intersecting environmental studies, emerging screen technology, and cultural studies. Surveying public perspectives of the environment across cultures, the ECM program will investigate how societies have perceived natural phenomena in differing ways, and the implications this has had on popular thought and the comprehension of scientific issues. Students in the program will benefit from the Abess Center’s affiliated faculty across UM’s schools, in disciplines such as biology, geology, marine conservation, computer science, archaeology, ecology, and communication.

Students will examine the ways in which various forms of visual media such as Internet blogging, ethnographic film, television, social media, documentary video, user generated content [YouTube], reality TV and so forth affect the reception of scientific media messages in popular culture, international politics, education, and law. The goal of the program is to advance and innovate societal engagement through understanding visual forms of scientific communication, research strategies, public outreach, and education concerning ecosystem science and issues of sustainability.

Practical aspects will vary based on personal goals, but may include: negotiating problems in representation of cultures and environments through media, digital media curation, understanding the political economy shaping the production and distribution of environmental media worldwide, designing innovative forms of science communication, research into the social practice of screen use across cultures (from western iPhone addiction to viral videos in South Korea), and analyzing the practical consequences of the media’s representation of specific scientific issues.

This unique program is aimed at a diverse range of students, offering scientific insights to those with social science or humanities backgrounds, and anthropological perspectives to those with science backgrounds. This graduate program will provide students with a foundation in the science that underlies environmental issues, and the ability to integrate media theory with practical use. Students will evaluate the histories and limitations of both analog and digital visual culture as tools of research and communication. By investigating various media forms, students will explore emerging theoretical debates around digital culture and the role of visual artifacts in shaping societal values and perceptions of the environment. Students will be exposed to ethical issues through an anthropological lens that examines and contextualizes how knowledge and culture are created, transmitted, and maintained through visual culture.

Employment opportunities in this field require an advanced degree, and most require participatory field experience in the form of an internship. Students in the MPS track will be required to complete an internship and submit an internship report, whereas students in the MA track will have a research thesis requirement. Both degree tracks are suitable for practicing professionals with Bachelor’s degrees who want to upgrade applicable skill sets and advance within their field. The program is designed to prepare graduates of both the MPS and MA for a range of careers, including for example: environmental media consultant (Google), digital content curator (U.S. National Parks), climate and energy campaigner (Greenpeace), and director of green initiatives campaigns (Toyota). Graduates of the MA program will be prepared to go on to doctoral studies and other research related employment.

One of the central challenges we face as a society is an array of complex, large scale environmental problems. The ECM program will train students with diverse backgrounds in the use and conceptual design of visual and digital content for engaging an increasingly participatory media culture to address these challenges.

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MPS in Exploration Science

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Exploration Science is the applied practice and study of field research using a variety of methods, technologies, and approaches to drive question-based scientific endeavors.  This field fosters scientific inquiry and the application of expedition skills within a context that acknowledges the cultural and ethical implications of exploration.

As scientific endeavors become more specialized, many projects require hundreds of hours of hands-on research. Exploration Science combines scientific research theory and field skills with an outreach and educational platform that allows the general public, young and old, to join University of Miami research scientists for experiential and virtual expeditions in ecological, oceanographic, aviation and diving research.

Utilizing new technologies to engage and educate the public, Exploration Science students will be involved in citizen science project design, exploration technology applications, and field-based skills training, while receiving essential background information on the history, ethics and risks related to exploration.  Students will be able to tailor their degree to best fit their interests and goals and will be prepared to lead and conduct professional exploration initiatives and expeditions in a variety of environments.

This degree program is being offered at RSMAS through the Master of Professional Science program in partnership with UM's Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy.  The Abess Center fosters innovative, interdisciplinary initiatives that bridge the gap between science and environmental policy.