UF RESEARCHERS CONTRIBUTE THEIR
EXPERTISE TO THE NATIONAL BATTLE
THE WAKE OF THE SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS ON THE WORLD TRADE CENTER
AND PENTAGON, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TURNED TO THE THOUSANDS
OF EXPERTS IN THE UNIVERSITY RESEARCH COMMUNITY FOR TECHNICAL
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IS RESPONDING ON
NUMEROUS FRONTS, OFFERING ITS EXPERTISE IN SUCH AREAS AS ENGINEERING,
BIOTERROR AND MONEY LAUNDERING. THIS SPECIAL REPORT LOOKS AT
SOME OF THE WAYS IN WHICH UF IS RESPONDING TO THE NATIONAL CRISIS.
When UF civil and coastal engineering Professor David Bloomquist saw
the World Trade Center towers collapse on September 11, he realized
the area around ground zero would closely resemble the site of a major
the World Trade Center towers collapsed, some seismographs actually
picked it up as if it were an earthquake," says Bloomquist.
earthquake damage is one of several applications of the laser mapping
technology University of Florida researchers have been refining for
the last six years.
"The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon not only created
a human tragedy but they caused massive infra-structural devastation
as well," Bloomquist noted in an emergency grant proposal to the
National Science Foundation. "Besides the hundreds of thousands
of tons of debris, several surrounding buildings near ground zero were
not thought to be structurally salvable, and there was concern that
several were slowly deteriorating."
Using the $45,000 NSF grant, UF researchers teamed up with colleagues
from several federal agencies and Optech Inc., the Canada-based laser
manufacturer. Just 12 days after the attack, the team was digitally
mapping southern Manhattan from the ground and from the air.
On Sept. 23, 3,800 feet above lower Manhattan, in airspace still closed
to commercial traffic, a Cessna Citation jet on loan from the National
Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration bounced 33,000 laser pulses
a second off buildings and remnants of buildings from the Hudson River
to the East River, gathering hundreds of millions of pieces of data
to be used in assessing their structural integrity.
Down in the concrete canyons around the 16-acre World Trade Center site,
technicians from Optech used the company's state-of-the-art ILRIS-3D
Lidar Imaging System to gather similar data from the tower site and
Within hours of the initial data collection, UF research coordinator
Michael Sartori was crunching the numbers in his hotel room, a job he
says takes an average of 39 hours for every hour of collection time
and that he expects to continue for several months.
an altitude of 3,800 feet, researchers were able to map a 10-square-mile
area of lower Manhattan, including the World Trade Center site,
with an accuracy of less than two feet.
even a small sample of data points using traditional surveying techniques
to assess the overall condition of a damaged building is extremely time-consuming,
Instead, the UF/Optech team is employing both airborne laser swath mapping,
or ALSM, and ground-based scanning laser technology to collect and analyze
hundreds of millions of laser range measurements of the World Trade
Center and Pentagon sites. The measurements are accurate to within 3
While the result looks like a grainy photograph, it is actually a "cloud"
of laser data points, each with its own unique X, Y and Z coordinates.
"Once captured and processed, this data can be used to monitor
movement of walls, both interior and exterior," Bloomquist says.
The combined air- and ground-based observations are being used to create
three-dimensional models of the disaster sites far more detailed and
accurate than has ever before been available to recovery workers and
planners, Bloomquist says.
UF was the first academic institution in the United States to buy and
operate an ALSM unit. Ramesh Shrestha, director of UF's recently established
GeoSensing Engineering and Coastal Mapping Research Center for Natural
Disasters and Geo-Surficial Processes, has procured more than 28 research
projects using the technology, funded by federal, state and local agencies.
These include landslide detection and monitoring, sinkhole assessment,
coastal effects from hurricane damage and cratering from artillery bombardment.
scanning laser technology produced this image of the area of the
Pentagon where the hijacked plane struck.
engineers have surveyed the adjacent buildings for structural integrity,
the potential for additional damage exists, Bloomquist says.
"By comparing pre data with post data, the laser allows you to
compute the change in position of a building within an inch of movement,"
he says. "This large a shock to the foundation could damage some
of the pilings that buildings are set on. We can look at a wall and
determine if it's still vertical, and, if not, how many degrees it is
off of vertical."
That's why the researchers intend to go back to New York in the near
future to conduct a follow-up survey.
Bloomquist says one of the engineering lessons of the World Trade Center
collapse is the value of pre-damage laser models. The ability to recognize
damage is much greater when pre- and post-event data can be compared,
"The destruction in New York City, while unimaginable, occurred
over only 16 acres of area," Bloomquist says. "If, probably
when, a major earthquake strikes a metropolitan area like Los Angeles
or San Francisco, this level of damage most likely would affect several
square miles of area. Hence, future research using this technology to
log detailed data of pre-earthquake structures would be very helpful
for rescuers and engineers in damage assessment."
While laser mapping the World Trade Center and Pentagon sites may offer
more comprehensive assessment of the damage done there, the greatest
benefit of the exercise lies in showcasing the potential of this new
technology, Bloomquist says.
"There's a lot of interest in getting this technology out in front
of people," says Sartori.
"If we get the technology out there," Bloomquist adds, "people
will develop applications for it."
Like modeling the impact of different levels of hurricanes on evacuation
"Typically, the topographical maps used in developing hurricane
evacuation routes have five-foot contours," Sartori says of a project
UF is discussing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "With
our higher-resolution maps of coastal regions, we can more accurately
determine what level of storm surge will wash out which evacuation routes,
and that's important data for emergency planners to have."
The group also has a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation
to employ ALSM to provide early detection of sinkholes along the state's
major highways. At the centimeter-level resolution that the system provides,
emerging sinkholes appear like craters on the moon. And filtering techniques
the team has developed make it possible to spot these craters even if
they are covered by vegetation. Basically, we tell the computer to disregard
any data above ground level, so we can see potential hotspots even if
they occur in heavy overgrowth.
"As a geotechnical engineer, this ability to combine accurate surficial
geometry with subsurface exploration greatly enhances our predictive
capabilities in assessing sinkhole damage," Bloomquist says.
Associate Professor, Department of Civil and Coastal Engineering
Walsh-Haney has seen plenty of death while pursuing a doctorate
in forensic anthropology at the University of Florida. As the senior
graduate student at UFs Maples Center for Forensic Medicine,
Walsh-Haney has overseen hundreds of death cases in the centers
In 1996, she accompanied the late William R. Maples, a renowned
to the site of the ValuJet plane crash in the Florida Everglades
to help identify the victims.But nothing could have prepared her
for the scale of human devastation wrought by the collapse of the
World Trade Center on September 11.
doctoral student Heather Walsh-Haney and Associate Professor Michael
Warren with a colleague from the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response
Team at the Fresh Kills Landfill in Staten Island, N.Y., where they
spent two weeks helping to search for remains from the World Trade
forensic anthropologists are trained to identify human remains and differentiate
between trauma that happened during life, at the time of death, or long
after death, they are often deployed following a mass fatality as part
of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) program of
the U. S. Public Health Service.
Walsh-Haney was attending a meeting with Anthony Falsetti, co-director
of the Maples Center, when news of the World Trade Center attacks reached
As we watched the collapse of the towers, it quickly became apparent
that DMORT teams would likely be deployed and that Drs. Falsetti and
(Michael) Warren and I might be called to New York City.
At 6:30 that night, Walsh-Haneys DMORT team leader contacted her
and asked if she would be able to come to New York City for a minimum
I agreed to go and immediately started thinking about what responsibilities
(family, school and work) could be put on hold, Walsh-Haney says.
My husband rushed out to pick up a canteen, knife and other equipment
required by DMORT while I stayed home to pack additional field gear
I thought might be useful, including a laptop computer, field manual,
calipers, camera, film, dental probes and hand lens.
At 6 a.m. on September 12, Falsetti, Warren and Walsh-Haney headed north
on Interstate 95, driving straight through to Stewart Air Force Base
about 60 miles north of New York City.
For the next few days, the forensics experts waited while city officials,
including firefighters and police officers, tried to deal with a disaster
that had also taken hundreds of their colleagues.
I spent my time getting ready for meetings, walking downtown and
taking in the makeshift shrines and missing persons flyers, Walsh-Haney
Initially, Walsh-Haney was assigned administrative duties at the DMORT
command center, and while she recognized the importance of this work,
she admits she was anxious to employ her skills in a scientific capacity.
That opportunity came the next day, when Walsh-Haney and Warren were
deployed to help separate human remains at the Staten Island Fresh Kills
Landfill, where most of the debris from ground zero was taken by barge.
Green army tents, a few trailers and dozens of bulldozers, cranes
and huge trucks were on top of the landfill, while military helicopters
circled and secured the airspace above, she recalls.
The most vivid memory Walsh-Haney has of the landfill is of a huge American
flag waving over the green army tents.
Walsh-Haney says the flag, which survived the assault on the towers
to later fly at the 2002 Superbowl and Winter Olympics, inspired the
workers sifting through the enormous amounts of rubble gathered from
ground gero and brought to the landfill for processing.
I learned that I could handle that travesty emotionally; I could
handle the pressure, Walsh-Haney says. And I was proud to
help the nation.
Personnel from many state and federal agencies searched the rubble using
rakes and shovels, bringing all organic material to the forensics experts.
A decision was made to rely almost completely on DNA to determine
the identity of the dead, says Warren. Our primary role
was to examine all of the organic material and determine whether or
not the tissue was human or non-human. Non-human remains would simply
prolong the identification process and unnecessarily add to the tremendous
expense of DNA testing.
Meanwhile, Falsetti, one of the nations premier forensic anthropologists,
was assigned to ground zero.
My first impression was like many others. I simply couldnt
believe it, he says. When we arrived the fire was still
burning fiercely and smoke was billowing out of lower Manhattan.
Falsetti was part of a seven-member team that included a forensic pathologist,
three body trackers and two evidence technicians.
My mission was to examine all remains and make a tentative identification
as to whether they represented a member of the NYPD, FDNY or Port Authority,
Working 12-hour shifts daily for two weeks on top of the landfill, Walsh-Haney
says the greatest challenge was making sure that fatigue did not
add to the emotional challenge I was already under. The scale of the
disaster was emotionally taxing, but those emotions have to be put in
check while working. Otherwise I would have been unable to use my skills
Doctoral Candidate, Department of Anthropology
Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology
indoor air cleaning system originally developed to zap dust mites
and mold spores also destroys airborne anthrax and other pathogenic
microbes, says the University of Florida engineering professor who
pioneered the technology.
system has been successfully tested against a close cousin of the
anthrax bacteria and could be installed relatively inexpensively
and quickly in office and home heating and air conditioning systems,
says Yogi Goswami, a UF professor of mechanical engineering and
director of UFs Solar Energy and Energy Conversion Laboratory.
There are other technologies for air cleaning, but for air
disinfection, there is no more effective system, Goswami says.
The photocatalytic air cleaning system relies on the interaction
between light and titanium dioxide, a simple and widely available
chemical. When light is absorbed into the titanium dioxide, it acts
as a catalyst to
produce an oxidizing agent.
D. Yogi Goswami
called a hydroxyl radical, is like a bullet for the bacteria,
Goswami says, destroying dust mites, mold spores and pathogens by disrupting
or disintegrating their DNA.
came up with the system in the mid-1990s as a cure for so-called sick
building syndrome, when poor ventilation and a build-up of mold
or mildew cause illnesses for people who work inside. Initial research
proved that the system kills the mold spore, aspergillus niger, considered
to be one of natures hardiest spores, he said.
More recent research has shown that the system also destroys bacillus
subtilis, a spore that causes food spoilage and is a cousin of the anthrax
spore, bacillus anthracis.
In the laboratory, we normally test with nonpathogenic bacteria
that are closely related to pathogenic bacteria, so theres no
risk to people, Goswami says. As we expected, our tests
showed the system was effective against bacillus subtilis.
The technology is an improvement over traditional filter-based systems
in part because there is no opportunity for bacteria to collect and
multiply on the filters that clear it from the air, he says.
Filters can actually increase the danger because they concentrate
the bacteria, he says. The system is also an improvement over
systems that use ultraviolet light, which do not consistently kill all
the bacteria, he adds.
Goswami says the technology could be installed in central ventilation
systems to decontaminate buildings or homes, or used in specific locations
where contamination is feared. Given the incidents of anthrax contamination
within the U.S. Postal Service, one application would be to install
it in mail sorting or collection areas, he says.
This is affordable for people. A central system for a single-family
house would probably be in the range of $1,000 to $1,500, he estimates.
As part of UFs technology-transfer mission, the technology was
patented and licensed to a Gainesville-based company, Universal Air
Technologies. The company, which got its start at UFs biotech
incubator, the Biotechnology Development Institute in Alachua, Fla.,
sells a variety of portable and central air purification systems based
on the technology.
Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering
to September 11, Marjorie Hoy was primarily concerned with the
accidental introduction of destructive organisms into United States
agriculture. But with the dramatic upsurge in terrorist activity,
the focus immediately shifted to the threat of intentional attacks
on domestic agriculture.
Hoy, a professor of entomology in UFs Institute of Food
and Agricultural Sciences who serves on a National Academy of
Sciences Committee on Biological Threats to Agricultural Plants
and Animals, maintains that U.S. borders are vulnerable to the
entomology Professor Marjorie Hoy examines a citrus tree attacked
by an invasive insect called the Asian citrus psylla.
of bacteria, viruses and insects that could be used to attack
day, destructive organisms are brought into the country at airports,
seaports and land borders. Those same pathways could be used for intentional
attacks, said Hoy, whose research involves the biological control
of invasive insects in Florida citrus.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), some of the
countrys high-risk pathways are Miami, Los Angeles and New York,
where the majority of the nations visitors and commercial shipments
enter the country.
Hoy says Florida is particularly vulnerable because of the large number
of visitors to the state. Florida had more than 11 million international
air passenger arrivals in 1999, almost one-fifth of the U.S. total,
according to the USDA. Moreover, one-third of imported produce and plants
enter the United States through Miami.
U.S. airports such as Miamis are guarded by the USDAs Animal
and Plant Health Inspection Service, the agency responsible for protecting
the nations crops and livestock from invasive organisms.
The agency intercepted 1.8 million illegal plants and animals in 1999,
of which more than 52,000 were threats to U.S. agriculture or the environment.
While that may sound like a lot of seizures, statistics show the agency
inspects only 2 percent of inbound shipments and travelers. Hoy says
such weaknesses in the system increase the probability that agricultural
bioterror threats could enter the country undetected.
We need a more efficient inspection system, Hoy says. Officers
who inspect cargo and passengers are overwhelmed.
The increasing volume of cargo and passengers is making a tough problem
much more difficult. In addition to traditional shipments and passengers,
Hoy says, international mail is another high-risk pathway for bioterrorism.
In Miami, for
instance, 10 million international mail packages arrived in 2000.
Of those, 14,500 packages less than 0.2 percent
were inspected. In the inspected packages, agents found 1,017
actionable threats to U.S. agriculture, according to the USDA.
from Mediterranean fruit flies, which caused an outbreak in Florida
in 1997 that cost the state $32 million to eradicate, to citrus
which has cost $170 million to fight since 1994.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Beagle Brigade is a group of nonaggressive
detector dogs and their human partners who search travelers' luggage
for prohibited fruits, plants and meat that could harbor harmful
plant and animal pests and diseases. These detector dogs work with
inspectors and x-ray technology to prevent the entry of prohibited
A Cornell University report estimates that invasive insects, animals,
plants and microbes all termed pests by scientists
cost the United States $123 billion a year.
Other biological threats to agriculture that concern officials are
foot-and-mouth disease, hog cholera, tick-borne heartwater disease
from the Caribbean, fruit flies and many other disease-bearing insects
biological threats to agriculture that concern officials are foot-and-mouth
disease, hog cholera, tick-borne heartwater disease from the Caribbean,
fruit flies and many other disease-bearing insects and parasites.
Hoys job is to anticipate and defend against insect threats to
She says that by developing solutions for current problems with smuggling
or accidental introductions of pests, the nation is preparing for intentional
From a scientific standpoint, these problems are two sides of
the same coin, she says. Whether its intentional or
accidental, most scientific responses would be similar.
Hoy and other researchers use several methods of controlling insects.
One method involves breeding sterile insects that mate with the target
insect, thereby reducing its chances of reproducing. Another increases
the population of natural predators to destroy the target insect. A
third method introduces a parasitoid from the target insects home
country. A parasitoid is an insect that lays its eggs inside the target
insect, thereby destroying the host.
For researchers such as Hoy, the challenge is having a control plan
in place before invasive pests arrive, regardless of how they arrive.
Our borders will never be 100 percent secure, Hoy says.
But we can and must do better.
Eminent Scholar, Department of Entomology and Nematology
(352) 392-1901 x153
by Paul Kimpel
Baldwin has spent much of his career studying how organized crime uses
the international financial system to launder and distribute money,
and he says terrorists are just organized criminals with a twist.
Organized crime and organized terrorists have common characteristics
and similar goals, says Baldwin. The U.S. and other victim
states can learn from those commonalities and goals, and can react accordingly.
The United States began reacting immediately to the September 11 attacks.
In concert with the military response, Congress passed and on October
26 President Bush signed the USA Patriot Act. Baldwin says that although
many of the information-gathering provisions of the Patriot Act had
been on the FBIs wish list for years, elected officials
hesitated to implement them because civil libertarians and other groups
opposed the provisions.
It is extremely regrettable that it took September 11 to create
the heightened level of political awareness needed to recognize the
dangerous nature of the relationship between money laundering, terrorism
and technology, Baldwin says. Now we have organized transnational
political will with an attitude, and that will continue as long as terrorists
are operating at their current level.
says the United States has taken the same approach toward the enforcement
of international financial law that it has taken in its military war
on terrorism: either youre with us or youre against us.
U.S. authorities have told foreign banks that either they freeze
the assets of suspicious clients or they wont do business in the
United States again, he says.
Complicating matters, however, is that fact that much of the illicit
money rests in our own vaults and those of some of our closest allies,
particularly the members of the G-7, which includes the United States,
Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Japan and Russia.
Al Qaeda moves its money through a network of underregulated banks,
and then when the source of the money is sufficiently disguised, moves
it into safer, more stable financial institutions, Baldwin says.
After the terrorists route their money through these underregulated
systems, often in accounts registered to shell companies or legitimate
businesses, or in banks with little or no oversight, the money appears
to be clean.
While terrorists have taken advantage of the growth in electronic commerce
and the Internet to facilitate their plans, Baldwin believes technology
is helping law enforcement pursue the terrorists more than most people
You and I will be the last ones to know about new surveillance
technology, he says. I believe we already have technologies
that will allow law enforcement to determine if virtually any bank,
worldwide, has fluctuations in its money flow that would raise suspicions.
Baldwin has lectured about complicated international financial law from
an academic standpoint for years, but since September 11 he says conference
participants like those at a Conference on Money Laundering,
Cybercrime and International Financial Crimes that he helped organize
in Miami in January and at another one hosted by UF in early March
want experts like him to cut to the chase, especially about the Patriot
We are taking a much more practical approach to explaining how
the USA Patriot Act affects the banking and law enforcement communities,
Baldwin says. They want and need to understand the content and
application of the law. In the past, if a bank didnt adhere to
the know your customer principle or didnt file a suspicious
activities report, nothing much would happen. Now, there is a real sense
of urgency. Banks and companion institutions, along with myriad federal
agencies, are on the front lines as far as sharing information, as well
as detecting and seizing illicit funds or, for that matter, lawful funds
destined for illicit enterprises.
Baldwin says the rapidity with which the lengthy Patriot Act moved through
Congress left a lot of loose ends that will have to be sorted out in
the courts. Many of these involve balancing or preventing infringement
of individual freedoms.
Although the Patriot Act incorporates many appropriate anti-terrorism
provisions, such as strengthening wire-tap capabilities, identification
procedures when dealing with suspected terrorists and information sharing,
Baldwin says, other provisions of the act are overly broad and
are candidates for constitutional debate and judicial review.
N. Baldwin Jr.
Professor, College of Law
web site: http://www.law.ufl.edu/cifcs/