Improving the understanding of science to support decision-making is a top priority for climate change specialist Pamela Fletcher.
Fletcher is an assistant scientist with the Florida Sea Grant College Program at the UF Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences’ Research and Education Center in Fort Lauderdale. She works to develop extension and educational programs to build platforms to share information with researchers, decision-makers and the public to promote the understanding of marine ecosystems and sea-level resilience.
“To me it’s about having people understand the ecosystem and to recognize that humans are a part of that ecosystem for informed decision-making,” Fletcher said. Fletcher serves in a multi-institution position as a regional liaison for the office of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Sea Grant College Program and NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami.
Fletcher’s passion to improve the understanding of ecosystems has stretched beyond South Florida to the international community, focusing specifically in the Caribbean region.
In Nicaragua, she developed conservation and educational activities to create reforestation and sea turtle conservation programs and to build capacity among the people of the Isla Juan Venado community. Fletcher began coordinating the marine life conservation project in 2012 by leading a Florida Alternative Break Program (FAB) for UF students. The student volunteers plant mangroves, maintain sea turtle hatcheries and participate in educational programs during the FAB marine life conservation trip.
Through her leadership, UF student volunteers participate in educational programs during these FAB marine life conservation trips. The volunteers work with the indigenous community to assist in mangrove restoration by planting of more than 33,500 mangroves in the Isla Juan Venado Nature Reserve. They also maintain sea turtle conservation efforts by maintaining a sea turtle hatchery and increased education and awareness of sea turtle biology and habitat in Nicaragua.
Fletcher also works with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, an organization that coordinates the Caribbean region’s response to climate change and administers a U.S. Agency for International Development-funded climate change project, called the Climate Change Adaptation Program (CCAP). She helps collect climate information and collaborates with stakeholders about how to use atmospheric data from the Caribbean islands.
Fletcher’s work with CCAP focuses on her interest in coral reefs and contributing to the development of NOAA’s Coral Reef Early Warning Systems (CREWS). To build more resilient communities in the Caribbean, Fletcher conducts regional needs assessments and works with stakeholders to characterize and evaluate marine and terrestrial ecosystems and provide results in a usable format for decision-making.
“As the technical advisory project team for the USAID-CCAP, the Florida Sea Grant College Program, NOAA, and our regional partners need to think about food security and ecosystems in a changing environment. We need to work closely with end users to identify and determine the type of information needed and the most efficient way to collect and deliver the information to support decision-making,” said Fletcher.
Capitalizing on her research and extension expertise, Fletcher participated in the United Nations Environment Programme’s workshop on Marine Spatial Planning and Decision Support Systems and Marine Protected Areas in the Wider Caribbean, which was held in Mexico in November 2017. She presented on the CREWS system expansion in the Caribbean, and she participated in workshops and a focus group session with Caribbean partners. The UNEP workshop presented an opportunity to meet and share ideas, success stories, lessons learned, and the platform to collaborate to identify alternatives and solutions to regional issues. In April 2017, Fletcher was invited to participate in the UF-led Feed the Future Haiti Appui à la Recherche et au Dèveloppement Agricole (AREA) project, a USAID-funded project. Fletcher spoke with members of the Caribbean Council of Higher Education in Agriculture about her research and extension activities in water quality, climate, and coastal restoration as they relate to adaptation strategies and using NOAA data and information. As a result, Fletcher has maintained contact with partner countries and is exploring opportunities to develop extension materials and research related to the CREWS project.
One of Fletcher’s passions is mentoring students and engaging with fellow educators. She is exploring opportunities to increase science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education with students in Fort Lauderdale. She hopes to launch a pilot program called “Adopt-A-Reef” to improve students' STEM skills. Students would analyze data collected from reefs studies along the coast of Florida in STEM related classes. This would promote science-based discussion about climate change and coral reef systems that are so important to Florida and the world.
In South Florida, Fletcher is working with a sea-level resilience faculty team to integrate biophysical, governance and human dimensions science into research, Extension and teaching at the UF/IFAS campuses in Fort Lauderdale and Homestead. Fletcher’s Extension activities focus on improving the understanding of the impacts of changes in sea levels and increasing public awareness of the challenges South Florida communities are facing in the years ahead. The multi-disciplinary group is working to develop solutions to address three challenges: sea level impacts, access to higher education and public awareness.
Representing UF/IFAS in her unique roles with the Florida Sea Grant College Program gives Fletcher the ability to have lasting local, state and global impact. Through her work in Florida and internationally, Fletcher provides students and professionals with opportunities to learn, discover and engage with coastal communities in an effort to promote scientifically informed, decision making.
Pamela Fletcher earned a doctorate in soil and water science from the University of Florida in 2014. She is a liaison to NOAA's Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami. Learn more about her and her research.
The Florida Sea Grant is a university-based program supporting research, education and extension to conserve coastal resources and enhance economic opportunities for Floridians. A part of UF/IFAS Extension, it partners with the Florida Board of Education and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Learn more on its website.