Deneb Karentz

Using Science to Support Policy

Deneb Karentz, USF Professor of Biology and Environmental Science, is researching the ecological implications of climate change in Antarctica. With support from the National Science Foundation and the US Antarctic Program, Karentz's team is working to identify how phytoplankton at the base of the marine food web are responding to climate changes that are occurring in the Antarctic environment. "Due to photosynthesis, phytoplankton produce most of the oxygen that we breathe, so they're quite important for us," explained Karentz. Her research provides USF students the unique opportunity to gain experience conducting fieldwork in an extreme environment. Students also gain a global perspective on climate change and its impacts on the marine ecosystem. Currently on campus, undergraduates are analyzing samples brought back from the Antarctic and processing environmental data that are continually being collected by remote sensing.

Karentz wishes people knew more about climate change. "It is often misunderstood by the public.  I think it's important for people to realize that humans are actually changing the environment and doing it faster than evolutionary processes can allow organisms to adapt," she shared. In addition to teaching and her research, Karentz is also a science advisor for the State Department.  Every year she travels to the Antarctic Treaty Meetings where the Committee for Environmental Protection decides international management policies for the area. Karentz explained her role as advisor, "I provide science support to the policy makers."  Karentz has even had a lake named after her in Antarctica, in honor of her contributions to understanding the world’s southernmost continent.