Former students honored for work on TV series

Two University of Miami alumni were involved in the making of an episode of the television series “Changing Seas,” which recently won the 2011 Communications Award in the film/radio/TV category.
The award was presented by the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering and Institute of Medicine. It is funded by the W.M. Keck Foundation, which recognizes excellence in reporting and communication science, among other categories.
Veronique Koch, an alumna of UM’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science (RSMAS), was the episode’s associate producer.
“We beat out a lot of shows with much bigger budgets like [PBS’s] ‘NOVA,’” Koch said. “It was a big honor to win.”
Jenny Litz, another RSMAS alumna and a research fishery biologist for NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service, is interviewed in the episode.
“Changing Seas” is an ongoing program on local public television channel WPBT2 that focuses on discovering the oceans and their marine life. The episode that was recognized, “Sentinels of the Seas,” explores the health of bottlenose dolphins and how it correlates with environmental hazards that could harm humans.
“I think very few people know that a lot of dolphins and other marine animals have high body burdens of contaminants,” said Alexa Elliot, who produced the series. “There is no way for them to get rid of these contaminants. The only way is if it is a female and she gives birth.”
The dolphins’ deteriorating health as a result of contaminants in the food web is an indicator that this may be a problem facing humans as well.
“They are the canaries in the coal mind because they are showing the signs we could show if we eat the same contaminants,” Koch said.
To view this episode and learn more about the issue, visit