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Liberal Studies

for the 21st Century

E-Series Faculty Profile: Jeff Chanton

Jeff Chanton, Robert O. Lawton Distinguished Professor, Department of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences

E-Series Course:

  • IDS2240 Sustainable Food and Water


1. Please tell us about yourself.
I started at FSU in August of 1988, some 30 years ago. I like it here-- the University, the Tallahassee community, and the natural aspect of the north Florida coast with its forests, black-water rivers, sinkholes, springs, marshes and beaches. I was born in New Orleans, grew up in Biloxi, Mississippi, went to undergraduate college at New College in Sarasota, lived for a couple of years and then went to graduate school at UNC-Chapel Hill. I worked at the coast there, in Morehead City and Beaufort.

2. Tell us about your research interests and why you are passionate about this topic.
I am an environmental scientist; I study the earth, the biosphere, the atmosphere, the lithosphere, and the hydrosphere. I am fascinated by how the earth works, its cycles, its changes, why things look like they do and what it means for humans and other living things.

3. What do you want the public to know about your research? Why is your topic important?
As poeticized by Carl Sagan, the 7 to 8 billion people that exist in the universe live on a “mote of dust suspended on a sunbeam, a tiny blue dot of a world in deep space.” We have to understand our interaction and effect on the forces that regulate the habitability of our planet and stop altering them detrimentally. I can’t think of a more important area of study, or a more important mission for a young person to have than to focus on the sustainability of the human population with respect to the earth’s other creatures, plants and animals, and of course, ourselves. We need to take care of this place. While I am sure that the Almighty has a plan for us, it appears to me that the Almighty gives us a lot of latitude to make many mistakes, and we should try to avoid them at all scales, particularly in regard to trashing our one home. Mars is not that attractive, really.

4. Who has influenced you the most in life?
Everybody. The people around me. My teachers, students, family, wife, children, friends and next door neighbors.

5. What is your favorite part of your job?
In research, I like figuring things out, recognizing patterns and devising ways to discern them. In teaching, I like working with students. It’s a privilege to be able to work with ideas and knowledge.

6. What IFS course do you teach and what is it about?
My IDS2240 class is called “Sustainable Food and Water.” It is pertinent to question #3 above. We have 7-8 billion people to feed on earth on a sustainable way. This effort uses most (70%) of our fresh water supply. Managing one’s diet is an effective way to further sustainability of the human population and to lessen our effect on the biosphere and other living creatures.


7. How do you like to spend your free time?
Gardening, kayaking, boating, on the shore, in the woods, at the springs and playing tennis.

8. What did we naively not ask you that we should’ve, and your answer to it?
Your questions were excellent.

Liberal Studies for the 21st Century is located in room A3502 on the third floor of University Center C in the stadium

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