News and Events

A hub for all things environmental

The Abess Center space hosts environmentally related events year round, including lectures by visiting scholars, NGO representatives, politicians, and environmental activists; film screenings; conferences; and workshops.

For information about the space, or to reserve, please call Andee Holzman, 305.284.8259.

Summer 2019

Abess Center's Environment, Culture, and Media head Dr. Meryl Shriver-Rice led a storytelling course in Switzerland this summer:

Spring 2019

Drabik 3MT


Matthew Abess gave a talk at the Abess Center on Jan. 30 on "The Art of Reform and Persuasion."

Abess flyer


Anthropologist Dr. Rebecca Zarger to give a talk at the Abess Center on Feb. 6.

Zarger talk

Fall 2018

Dr. Meryl Shriver-Rice, Abess Center's Director of Environmental Media and Director of the Environment, Culture, and Media master's program, featured in Graduate School News

 Meryl article

 ECS Ph.D. students Shireen Rahimi and Alize Carrere featured in UM News

Shireen Alize

 Gardening for greater awareness

ECS gardening story

Dr. Kenny Broad served as Master of Ceremonies for the National Geographic On Campus panels on Friday, Nov. 9 (top photo). Other photos from the event follow.

More information on the On Campus events can be found here

Kenny Nat Geo

Christine Julius 

Shireen Julius


Meryl Hunter


nat geo student ambassadors

EU Climate Diplomacy Day

September 27, 2018

Storer Auditorium

EU Climate diplomacy day flyer

April 2018

Alexa Weik von Mossner to give a talk titled "Who Cares? Emotion and Reception in Climate Change Cinema," at Cosford Cinema on April 16.

Visual anthropologist Amanda Concha-Holmes to give environmental media talk on April 12

Dr.Meryl Shriver-Rice to participate in a roundtable discussion titled The Contemporary Coast at ArtCenter South Florida on April 7. 

RSVP and learn more!


March 2018

Annie Brett to give a public talk on The Litigation of Exploration as part of her dissertation defense on March 30

Shirley Roburn from McGill University to give talk on environmental media at the Abess Center on March 29.

Christine Pardo was part of a podcast "The Call From the Garden." 

December 2017

The Abess Center welcomes 2017-2018 Visiting Lecturer Dr. Hunter Vaughan, who is teaching ECS 609 Contemporary Representations of the Environment (Fall 2017), and ECS 375 Ecocinema (Spring 2018). 

Dr. Vaughan is an Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at Oakland University and a 2017 Rachel Carson Center fellow. He did his PhD at the University of Oxford, and is the author of Where Film Meets Philosophy (Columbia University Press, 2013) and numerous articles and book chapters on ecocriticism, film theory and philosophy, and identity in media. His upcoming book, Hollywood’s Dirtiest Secret: the Hidden Costs of Our Film Culture(Columbia University Press, 2018), constructs an environmental counter-narrative to mainstream American film history, exploring the material impact of cultural practices and the larger social worldview cultivated through Hollywood’s representation and use of the natural world. This study extends to the ways in which new media technologies and communication forms are reconfiguring our social activities, while also creating a new global network of cultural imperialism that includes precious metal mining in Africa, smart manufacturing in Asia, and digital dumping of e-waste across the planet. He co-founded and co-chairs the Society for Cinema and Media Studies' Media and the Environment scholarly interest group, is a co-founding editor of a new journal on environmental media, communication, and justice, and was recently invited to give a keynote talk at a Visualizing Climate Change Workshop at Georgia Tech University.

November 2017

First-year ECS Ph.D. student Christine Pardo was awarded an Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS) pilot grant to conduct research at the Las Cruces Biological Station in Costa Rica.

October 2017

Catherine Macdonald will present her dissertation work on Monday, October 30th in Ungar 230-C/D:


July 2017

‌Summer 2017 Ph.D. graduate Stacy Aguilera named a 2018 NOAA/Sea Grant Knauss Marine Policy Fellow.

The Sea Grant Knauss Fellowship provides a unique educational and professional experience to graduate students who have an interest in ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources and in the national policy decisions affecting those resources.

The Fellowship, named after one of Sea Grant's founders, former NOAA Administrator, John A. Knauss, matches highly qualified graduate students with "hosts" in the legislative and executive branch of government located in the Washington, D.C. area, for a one year paid fellowship.

Andrew Carter and Galen Treuer, both fifth-year Ph.D. students, presented their dissertation work and passed their defenses on July 7th!


May 2017

First-year Abess Ph.D. student Christine Pardo was awarded the 2017 Ecological Society of America's (ESA) Graduate Student Policy Award (GSPA). 

This award provides graduate students with the opportunity to travel to Washington, D.C., for policy experience and training. Only six recipients across the U.S. were selected for this year’s award. GSPA recipients gain the chance to interact with their members of Congress and discuss the importance of federal funding for the biological and ecological sciences. 

 “By training ESA members to effectively communicate science to lawmakers, we can bridge the gap between science and policy and help fill the critical need for science-informed policy decisions. This valuable, hands-on experience provides these young ecologists with essential science communication skills that will enable them to successfully engage in the policy realm,” said Katherine McCarter, executive director of ESA. 



March 2017

Second-year ECS Ph.D. student Shireen Rahimi has been accepted to the highly competitive 2017 International Wildlife Film Festival Filmmaker lab

( IWFF LABS is an immersive, cross-disciplinary science filmmaking workshop that brings scientists and media creators together to learn effective tools to communicate science, nature, and conservation with broad audiences. Shireen's Ph.D. project examines the possible effects of economic change and tourism on Cuba's reefs. ‌

First-year ECS Ph.D. student Christine Pardo has been accepted to the 2017 Organization for Tropical Studies Field Course: Tropical Ecology: an Ecological approach. 

This OTS “fundamentals course” is an intensive, field-based experience in tropical biology for graduate students. With guidance from expert scientists, students will gain experience in critical thinking, research design, data analysis, analytical tools, science communication, ecological modeling, and collaborative research—all in the beautiful tropical setting of Costa Rica. Christine's Ph.D. project combines both an ethnobotanical study and ecological investigation of woody invasive trees in South Florida.(


April 2017

June 2016

The Abess Center welcomes new Director of Environmental Media, Meryl Shriver-Rice!


Dr. Meryl Shriver-Rice is the Director of Environmental Media at the Leonard and Jayne Abess Center for Ecosystem Science and Policy. As both a media scholar and paleoethnobotanist, her interdisciplinary background includes dual degrees in Anthropology and Biology, a Master’s degree in Archaeology from the University of Nottingham, England, and a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Miami (film, visual culture, and interactive media track). Her diverse science background also includes experience in tropical botany, Antarctic paleontology, and work on the Human Genome Project. Dr. Shriver-Rice has taught courses on visual anthropology, cultural theory, science communication, the psychology of group behaviour, gender and pop culture, media ethics, film studies, and bioarchaeology. Her prior media research has looked at ethical issues through an anthropological lens to examine and contextualize how knowledge and culture are created, transmitted, and maintained through visual culture. She is the author of Inclusion in New Danish Cinema: Sexuality and Transnational Belonging (Intellect Press, 2015), co-editor of The Intimate and Traumatic Work of Susanne Bier (forthcoming with Mimi Nielsen & Missy Molly, Edinburgh University Press, 2017), and co-author of Screen Life & Identity: An Introduction to Media Studies (forthcoming with Hunter Vaughan, Cognella Press, 2017). Her current media studies research focuses on digital culture and the role of visual artifacts in shaping societal values and perceptions of the environment. In combining media and science research, her aim is to advance societal engagement with environmental studies through new visual forms of scientific communication. Her current book project, Branded Science, examines the relationship between corporate sponsorship and science innovation and visibility in new media and popular science.

 Dr. Shriver-Rice has experience as a rescue archaeologist excavating at sites where urban development threatens archaeological remains. She is the co-founder and director of Atlantic Archaeology Vanguard, the first all-women-run rescue archaeology coalition in South Florida. She has done rescue work in downtown Miami at the 2,000-year-old Tequesta Village/Fort Dallas/Royal Palm Hotel site at the mouth of the Miami River, as well as in California, Missouri, and Illinois. She has also excavated overseas with international teams in the Czech Republic, Scotland, England, Italy, and Turkey; including the UNESCO World heritage site Çatalhöyük and the National Geographic site Sant’Omobono. The launch of her current research project The First Millennium BCE Project: Food and Environment in Pre-Roman Central Italy was recently supported by a fellowship at the American Academy in Rome (2016). This study investigates the archaeobotanical and zooarchaeological evidence for paleoecology, prehistoric agriculture, food, feasting, and trade in exotic consumables amongst the pre-Roman city-states of modern day Tuscany. The two aims of this project include: making information about organic material readily accessible through an open source database and highlighting ancient land use strategies in order to place them within our modern dialogue and knowledge of sustainability. Overall, this project explores how ancient peoples’ daily lives were shaped by a complex intertwining with the natural world, from the practical daylong threshing of grains and processing of grapes for wine, to the cosmic divination of lightning storms and sheep’s entrails—a narrative that prefaces the paradoxes of our own contemporary relationship to the environment.

Upcoming Ph.D. defense ~ Caitlin Augustin ~ 8/26 at 9 a.m. ~ Open to the public


T‌‌hree upcoming ECS Ph.D. defenses ~ All open to the public

ECS Ph.D. student David Shiffman is lead author on an article published in Conservation Biology on shark conservation policy

David Shiffman Article in Conservation Biology