Visualizing Sea Level Rise

Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 8.51.17 PMStarting in Summer 2016, member Ted Gutsche will lead a team of four FIU faculty members — including Eyes member Juliet Pinto — in efforts to visualize sea level rise in South Florida via virtual reality.

The Mobile Virtual Reality Lab is a nearly $20,000 project funded by the School of Communication and Journalism. Beginning in Summer 2016, the project provides enhanced digital storytelling opportunities for students and citizens of South Florida. Read the full proposal.

Production and Storytelling

In 2016-2017, the MVR Lab, in collaboration with, is focused on creating stories for South Florida communities that focus on the effects of sea level rise. In addition to initiatives that will produce stories about Coral Gables’ immigrant communities, the lab will produce:

  • A VR/3D project that introduces users to the interactive and daily experiences of sea level rise, a story that has since been difficult to tell given the “hidden” nature of rising seas in South Florida
  • A VR/3D project that examines the architecture and infrastructure of South Florida related to rising seas to promote public, digital communication about future challenges to our built environment
  • A VR/3D project that shows users potential water height in some areas of South Florida due to rising waters and absent of massive changes to infrastructure
  • A social media and advertising campaign (also in VR/3D) to engage audiences with access to low-cost VR/3D opportunities to view and interact with the projects

Research and Scholarship

This lab will help students and citizens express their knowledge from interacting with virtualreality technologies in trade and professional publications, as well as in faculty-led, refereed articles. Questions for both practice and scholarship that students will explore include:

  • To what degree does VR/3D target messages at specific audiences while still keeping objectivity of the reporting?
  • To what degree can VR/3D enter the voice of the storyteller into the reporting as a means of engagement?
  • How can journalists and strategic communicators use VR/3D to include graphics and text as data points, perhaps including questions and user comments?
  • To what degree does the interjection of self in to VR/3D storytelling guide people to particular messages?
  • What ethical and legal challenges exist in the use of the platforms to report and deliver information?

Curating SLR Humanities & Science

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In Spring 2016, undergraduates in Ted Gutsche’s Visual Storytelling course contributed to FIU’s Digital Commons by curating research, storytelling, art, and communication related to work on sea level rise conducted by FIU faculty, students, and staff. Their project is titled, “Submerging the Sunshine: Explore Sea Level Rise in South Florida.”

Some of the media captured, digitized, and archived includes what’s been published on and work conducted in other units. Students archived material, using software from Omeka to create online narratives.

Students in this course were introduced to cultural themes of visual communication, museums, and libraries. Through practical application and collaboration, they created digital narratives, using the content that is already in – and that was added to – the collections to make the archives approachable and sharable for wider audiences.


Doc Screening: May 25



Recognized for Sea Level Rise Community Work

12928238_10153382651386345_6394638384316164902_nFIU’s Associate Professor Juliet Pinto, and an team member, received the “Forward Thinking Award” from the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce this month for her work — and the work of others she has helped lead — related to sea level rise communication and science in South Florida.


Seed Grant Helps Fund Future Initiatives

A $3,800 seed grant from the College of Architecture + the Arts, of which FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication is joining, has been awarded to an 11-person faculty team to create a proposal for large, national external funding.

The team members across five departments will use the seed grant to amplify and sustain current projects, including the interactive Sea Level Rise Toolkit.

Faculty from the participating Departments of Journalism and Broadcasting, Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Environmental + Urban Design, Theatre, and Advertising and Public Relations continue to receive international recognition for their work related to rising seas.

Through collaborative, interdisciplinary work on sea level rise in South Florida, this project develops fundable communication models, engagement projects, scholarship, and pedagogy that interconnect sea level rise and changes to quality of life.

This seed grant supports such innovative and expressive projects that engage South Florida students and communities and strengthen the team’s applications for additional external funding to communicate insights and solutions through robust research in science, art, journalism, and design.


Jacobson Talks Climate Gentrification at CLEO Liberty City Forum


Not all areas of South Florida will see increased flooding as a result of sea level rise. Some of Miami-Dade County’s poorest neighborhoods, including Liberty City, Little Haiti and Overtown, are at much higher elevation compared to the rest of the county. This fact has not escaped notice from real estate developers, who are starting to buy up buildings and land parcels in these areas. On Saturday, March 18, Dr. Susan Jacobson used the Sea Level Rise Toolbox to show a meeting of Liberty City residents how their neighborhood would fare better than more wealthier neighborhoods like Miami Beach.


Liberty City residents are forming a citizens group to make their opinions heard at city and county meetings about local development, and are taking measures to manage hurricane preparedness and response at the neighborhood level.


Making Scholarship Public: Eyes @ Center of Student Effort


Screen Shot 2016-02-29 at 10.48.08 PMStudents in professor Robert Gutsche, Jr.’s Visual Storytelling course at FIU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication are working on curating and digitizing research, journalism, art, and community storytelling about sea level rise and environmental change for the university’s digital library.

The students’ additions to the library’s collections related to sea level rise will allow researchers and citizens visualize and communicate issues related to environmental science in South Florida.

Items from include:

  • Student-produced documentaries
  • Details of the project funding and activities
  • Videos of student rallies and public efforts to educate communities about sea level rise
  • TV and print journalism related to environmental change due to sea level rise
  • Innovative storytelling about science issues

Read more about the students’ effort here.


Miami Condos At-Risk: Eyes App Applied

The E Miami Condos website has published a map based on the Sea Level Rise Toolkit application that depicts “Miami Condos Most At Risk of Sea Level Rise.”

Click the infographic below for their report.



Eyes IDs SLR Outcomes for International Research

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Three master’s students from the University of Amsterdam who spent several weeks in Florida to meet with scientists, public officials, and residents interested in issues of rising seas in South Florida have released a new report about “understanding the ramifications of sea level rise for urban Miami.”

Lars Ankum, Wessel Brocken, and Tiemen Koch spoke with FIU’s Dr. Robert Gutsche, Jr. and other scientists and educators about the potential challenges facing Miami residents as seas rise. The report is published, by permission, here.


Eyes Team, Students Present on SLR Work


Juliet Pinto presents work on sea level rise on Feb. 3.

SJMC faculty members Susan Jacobson, Juliet Pinto, Kate MacMillin, and Ted Gutsche presented the work of their students, FIU faculty, and local community members to a group of the university’s leading sea level rise researchers and communicators.  The “All Hands” meeting was hosted by FIU’s Sea Level Solutions Center.


Juliet Pinto, Kate MacMillin, and Susan Jacobson present a poster on crowdsourcing Miami flooding.

Pinto (at top) presented on the overall work of, highlighting the ways in which the project has collaborated with fellow university scientists and local experts to measure and communicate issues of South Florida’s rising seas.

A poster presented at the meeting by Jacobson, Pinto, and MacMillin (at left) discussed the specifics of how their students work to improve the Sea Level Rise Toolkit and how communication can create awareness and change related to our environments. More specifically, their work examines the practice of crowd hydrology, which has employed.

Three SJMC undergraduates, a graduate research assistant and Jamie Rogers from FIU’s Digital Collection joined Gutsche (below) to present a poster on how their Visual Storytelling class in Spring semester is collaborating with the university’s GIS Center and Library to visualize FIU’s digital collections related to sea level rise work.


From right, Ted Gutsche, Jamie Rogers, Samantha Smith, Jeffrey Pierre, and Emily Devine recruit other sea level rise researchers to join their project. Missing in photo: Daniela Hernandez

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