The UF/IFAS Soil and Water Sciences Department is now the UF/IFAS Department of Soil, Water, and Ecosystem Sciences (SWES).
Why did we add “ecosystems” to the name? We feel it better reflects the breadth of research, teaching, and extension activities across our department and programs. Faculty members and students in the SWES are engaged in a wide array of research and educational activities including agroecosystem and ecosystem services management, landscape and watershed ecology and management, coastal ecosystem ecology and restoration, biogeochemistry, management of urban ecosystems, and the restoration and preservation of natural ecosystems. Most of the research, teaching, and extension activities in the department focus on ecosystem scales. Including “ecosystem” in the departmental name also integrates soil and water, which are the foundations of ecosystems.
We believe the new name will enhance student recruitment, particularly at the undergraduate level, as “soil and water sciences” does not resonate with many of today’s students. Alternatively, “ecosystem” and related terms like “ecosystem services” are more appealing and more closely linked to the many career options and higher education opportunities available for students graduating from SWES programs. Most faculty members and students in the department do not currently identify as soil scientists or water scientists per se; most have broader views of their research, teaching, and extension activities, and the name change will convey this. For those who do identify as soil or water scientists, keeping both “soil” and “water” reflects their programs and expertise. Faculty members discussed the potential name change during a faculty meeting and a subsequent vote showed 91% supported the move.
Our current students have shown enthusiastic support for the proposed name change. Beginning in the fall of 2019, Dr. Matt Whiles, professor and chair of SWES, asked graduate students during exit interviews about the proposed name change. Their responses were overwhelmingly positive. Similarly, shortly after he arrived, Dr. Whiles had two lunches with groups of undergraduate students, and they also were positive and enthusiastic about the addition of “ecosystems” to the name. We hope you also agree that our new name is an appropriate fit!