Gulf of Mexico
Miami Herald

Meet Florida’s chief science officer. He’s a surfer dude, academic and water expert

Florida’s new chief science officer didn’t start out as a scientist. Instead he was a surfer dude.

Thomas Frazer, named to the post created by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month, was born and raised in the quintessential surf city of San Diego. When he was 8, he bought his first board — a Lightning Bolt — and spent as much time riding the waves as he could.

That’s what led him to become an expert on water pollution.

“It seemed like I was on the water every day,” he told an interviewer in 2016. “When you are a surfer, you learn about water quality at an early age. You know that when you get an earache after surfing, that it is probably because of runoff.”

Frazer, 54, is the director of the University of Florida’s School of Natural Resources and Environment and has a Ph.D. in biological science from the University of California. He will continue to hold that $176,775-a-year position while also occupying the $148,000-a-year science officer post. Experts say it appears to be the first such state-level position in the nation.

Despite repeated requests from the Tampa Bay Times, state Department of Environmental Protection officials declined to make Frazer available for an in-depth interview.

However, in brief comments he made the day DeSantis named him to the job, Frazer discussed his priorities. At this point, they do not include tackling rising sea levels, protecting the state’s aquifer-saving wetlands, or finding new habitat for the Florida panther and other endangered species.


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