This week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the appointment of Dr. Mark Rains as the state of Florida’s next Chief Science Officer (CSO).
Joining the governor and Dr. Rains for the announcement were Florida Department of Environmental Protection Sec. Noah Valenstein, Florida Department of Transportation Sec. Kevin Thibault, South Florida Water Management District Governing Board Chairman Chauncey Goss and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Rodney Barreto.
Immediately upon taking office in 2019, DeSantis announced major water policy reforms for the state by signing Executive Order 19-12 (Achieving More Now for Florida’s Environment). Among many other initiatives, the executive order called for the appointment of a CSO to coordinate and prioritize scientific data, research, monitoring and analysis needs to ensure alignment with current and emerging environmental concerns most pressing to Floridians.
“Science must be at the heart of environmental policy for it to be effective and successful,” said DeSantis. “I am proud to announce that Dr. Rains will be the state’s next Chief Science Officer to lead us in this charge. Under his leadership, I am excited to see the task force build on the success of its efforts and their additional recommendations to protect Florida’s water quality through science-based, transparent initiatives. I know that with this continued focus, Florida will remain a national leader in innovation and water quality protection.”
“We are honored to welcome Dr. Rains to our team,” said Valenstein. “His vast experience in research related to hydrology, wetlands, geology and facilitation of applied science will be a valuable addition to our water quality efforts. I thank the governor for his leadership and vision that continues to prioritize science as our foundation, which ensures we are on the path to meaningful improvement for Florida’s water quality.”
The CSO leads the Office of Environmental Accountability and Transparency, which was also established at the direction of Executive Order 19-12. The office is charged with ensuring key water quality objectives are clearly communicated to the public, as well as organizing agency resources and scientific expertise, data and research to focus on and solve complex challenges. This office spearheaded the development of the Protecting Florida Together website, an online resource that allows the public to access the state’s first-ever comprehensive water quality dashboard encompassing multi-agency water quality data and initiatives. The platform provides users access to water quality data and nutrient information, including active projects and the status of water quality in Florida communities. Additionally, OEAT completed development of an education center and a preference center that allows Floridians to sign up for blue-green algae and red tide email notifications.
“I am honored that Governor DeSantis and Secretary Valenstein have entrusted me with this important responsibility,” said Rains. “Florida is already a leader in the application of science in crafting sound environmental policy, and I look forward to working alongside our many stakeholders as we continue to build on this foundation.”
Dr. Rains currently serves as a professor, and chair and director of the School of Geosciences at the University of South Florida. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Ecology, Behavior and Evolution from the University of California at San Diego, his master’s degree in Forest Resources from the University of Washington and his Ph.D. in Hydrologic Sciences from the University of California at Davis. Dr. Rains is also a certified professional wetland scientist.