A professorship of tropical ecology has been established in the College of Arts, Sciences & Education at Florida International University thanks to a gift from FIU Emeritus Professor Walter Goldberg and his wife, Rosalie.
The Walter and Rosalie Goldberg Professorship in Tropical Ecology is designed to expand FIU’s already-growing expertise in conservation, sustainability, resilience, impacts of invasive species and other human disruptions to tropical ecosystems. The search for a top scholar in tropical ecosystems will launch later this year.
Natives of Massachusetts, Walter joined FIU’s faculty in 1973 and Rosalie spent her career in Miami working for BellSouth and later AT&T. For the next 39 years, Walter taught many courses in general biology, oceanography and zoology, and focused his research on the biology of corals. He retired in 2012 but returned one year later to teach a scientific writing course for honors students, a course he still teaches today.
A professorship in marine sciences might have seemed an obvious choice for the couple who has been married for 47 years, but the Goldbergs wanted to do more.
“We have all kinds of problems with every ecosystem you can think of, so we wanted it to be all-encompassing,” Walter said. “This is not a position I’m creating in my own image. The person hired for this professorship is going to be a world-class expert in resilience and sustainability of tropical ecosystems regardless of the type of ecosystem. Terrestrial, marine or aquatic.”
In less than 50 years, more than 60 percent of the world’s population is expected to live in tropical regions, deriving nearly all of their food, medicines and shelter from tropical species. FIU Tropics, which includes the Tropical Conservation Institute, is an initiative within the College of Arts, Sciences & Education to advance research that provides meaningful solutions needed for a sustainable future in these regions. Currently, more than 50 faculty members focus their research on the tropics.
“Throughout his career, Dr. Goldberg has been central to the development of FIU, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Marine Sciences Program,” said Mike Heithaus, dean of the FIU College of Arts, Sciences & Education, and a colleague of Walter. “It’s very special that he is continuing to help FIU grow and providing a legacy that will be meaningful to students and the department and will help protect tropical ecosystems for generations to come.”
Walter was only 27 when he joined the FIU faculty in 1973 — one year after the university first opened its doors — and says he basically grew up in the Department of Biological Sciences.
“To have this opportunity to make a difference, to do something like this, I wouldn’t have believed it back then. But I’m glad we are able to do it,” Walter said. “The development of the Department of Biological Sciences at FIU has always been and will always be very important to Rosalie and me.”