Outstanding Researcher: Colin Polsky, Ph.D.

Tuesday, Jun 06, 2023

Improving Florida’s Sustainability Through Research, Education, and Community Engagement Colin Polsky

About 25 years ago, Colin Polsky, Ph.D., professor of Geosciences in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science and director of  FAU’s Center for Environmental Studies (CES), chose to become an environmental advocate — not so much in the “traditional” sense such as protesting in a march or occupying a tree — but because he found the topic of climate change endlessly interesting and profoundly important.

“Early on, I realized the critical need for society to learn more about how climate change was already affecting our communities so we could learn from it and take appropriate actions,” explained Polsky. “But I didn’t have in mind specific actions because there was so much to learn first. I became a researcher to contribute to the knowledge needed to inform reasonable decision-making.”

The uniquely educated climate social scientist, now in his ninth year at FAU, aims to improve Florida’s sustainability through research, teaching, and community engagement. Polsky has been studying the question of what climate change impacts look like in Southeast Florida, and how people in the four main sectors of society — private, public, non-profits/civil society and academia — can respond both individually and collectively to reduce the negative impacts.

In 2019, Polsky spearheaded a new effort that partnered CES with the Business and Economics Polling Initiative (BEPI) at FAU’s College of Business, to conduct a quarterly  Florida Climate Resilience Survey  that gauged Floridians’ views on their preparedness and resilience to climate hazards. CES released its latest survey results in May, which revealed an increasing number of Floridians agree that human actions are causing climate change, including a record number of Florida Republicans. Additionally, the survey showed bipartisan support for climate infrastructure improvements.

“We believe that with clear-eyed perspectives, people will have a greater chance of producing meaningful policy and other progress on the environmental challenges facing us, rather than continued stalemate and gridlock,” stated Polsky. “The time for blaming and shaming in climate discussions is over. The bipartisan path is the only way forward. Today this path is more accessible for climate than ever before.”

A new endeavor the Center is excited to begin is the expansion of the award-winning climate change website,  The Invading Sea. The site, originally founded in 2018 as a collaboration among the editorial boards of major South Florida news outlets, now has a new home within the CES, and is overseen by Polsky. The site will continue to be a nonpartisan source for news and opinion pieces about climate change and other environmental issues in Florida at FAU, while expanding its focus to include more educational content.

“Southeast Florida is a world leader in responding to the challenges presented by climate change. A big reason is broad awareness of the issue,” said Polsky. “The Invading Sea has helped create that awareness. FAU is proud to carry on the tradition of providing a platform for climate content that is even-handed and easy to understand.”

To learn more about CES, visit  ces.fau.edu.

To support CES, visit  fauf.fau.edu/ces-giving.

Tags: science

Additional Information
The Charles E. Schmidt College of Science offers unparalleled experiential learning opportunities to prepare the next generation of scientists and problem solvers.
Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Florida Atlantic University
777 Glades Rd, SE-43
Boca Raton, FL 33431
Fax: (561) 297-3292