College of Geosciences logo
From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
Dec. 22, 2011 

Dear Colleagues, 

Like many of us, I spent the week of December 5 in San Francisco at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. I was impressed to see the number and high quality of presentations by faculty and students across the college. These kinds of efforts are important to growing our research reputation at the national level. I enjoyed dinner one night with one of our West Coast donors who is interested in supporting student participation in study abroad programs across the College. The annual IODP Town Hall was a special highlight. I am pleased to report that the tone at that meeting was very positive. Representatives from Japan and the European Union both came forward to express strong support for the proposed post-2013 structural framework for the drilling program. Further, David Conover, NSF Director for Ocean Sciences, expressed his thanks for the partners' support, especially because the new framework will enable him to design a financially viable business model for renewal of the drilling program to put before the National Science Board in mid-summer 2012. Prospects have never looked better for renewal of the drilling program and for Texas A&M to continue its role in providing the science services for the program!


Last week, Roberta Cohen, a consultant with expertise in corporate and private foundation philanthropy, visited with the leaders in the College of Geosciences, the College of Architecture, and the Development Foundation. Her visit represents an important first step toward diversifying the sources from which we seek development funds to support the College. The expected outcomes of her work include identification of new revenue streams for the College, especially in areas related to the environment, sustainability, and climate as well as development of a culture of working with corporate and private foundations within the Colleges and the Development Foundation. Her visit was initiated by our College and funded jointly with the College of Architecture. The project will continue into the New Year.


I have been pleased to see the high level of faculty interest this fall in proposing new academic programs to be funded through Activity 1 and Activity 2 of the University Budget reallocation. Activity 1 provides funding to help students prepare for the workplace through high-impact programs and enhanced advising. Activity 2 encourages faculty members to develop interdisciplinary experiences for students across two or more colleges.


Within our College we are in the process of allocating funds to seven high-impact learning projects (one or two in each department) as a result of the internal call for proposals. In addition I have recently signed off on five interdisciplinary proposals for activity 2 that involve faculty in our College. It's great to see so much innovation and energy going into new curriculum and teaching approaches. 


Have a wonderful holiday season and a productive new year.

Kate Miller
Dean, College of Geosciences 
 Texas A&M Announcements
For more information about university events visit TamuTimes.


 College Announcements



The College of Geosciences now has a new weekly feature on Facebook called A Day in the Life. These stories, intended to reach current and prospective students, focus on different people and programs in the College to give a behind the scenes look.


If you have announcements of interest for current or prospective, or if you would like to be profiled in a weekly story, email



In order to improve and accelerate communication with graduate students in the College of Geosciences, we have created a new listserv. The listserv will be a way to highlight important information, such as news and directives from the College and the Office of Graduate Studies.


Here are a couple of messages from the listserv: 

  • As the semester comes to an end, be aware of safety. There have been a number of burglaries in B/CS; secure valuables in safe locations.
  • Student Research Week is March 19-23, 2012. Last year 29 students from Geosciences participated. We would like to see that number grow. Consider participating by visiting the website Registration will open in January. As you finish papers/posters/research now, consider how to turn this work into a tangible product for scholarly discussion. This adds to your CV. 
  • Dr. Jack Baldauf, executive associate dean for Geosciences and associate dean for research, will be following up with information about research compliance soon. 


Over the Christmas break, seating will be replaced in Halbouty 101. This project, generously cost-shared by University Facilities Services, will result in a slight reduction in capacity (from 180 seats to 172) and a huge increase in comfort.


The Geology and Geophysics Department will replace the seating and carpeting in Halbouty 104 at the same time. The first row will leave space for four wheelchairs, as required by law, which will also accommodate student tablet-chairs when there is no handicapped user.


Also over Christmas, the College will replace the tile flooring on the interior ramp at the handicapped entrance to Old Halbouty. Currently, rugs are taped to the tile to make the ramp less treacherous. The new flooring will be skid-resistant and will require no waxing. It will be a contrasting color to further signal the change in footing to handicapped individuals.


Recently completed, the College has replaced the loading dock/hall doors at New Halbouty. The old set could not be repaired anymore. Previously, the thresholds at both sets of marshalling doors were upgraded. The loading dock is now good to go for another 27 years.


In O&M, work will continue through the holidays on the Reinvestment renovation of room 512. The upgrade of the autoclave room (505), which is part of the 512 project, will be completed before the Christmas holiday.  



The Aggie Doppler Radar (ADRAD) on the roof of O&M went back into service on Nov. 21 with new paint and a repaired transmitter. The renovation effort was initiated by Drs. Courtney Schumacher and Kenneth Bowman (ATMO) and was funded by the Department of Atmospheric Sciences.


Several maintenance tasks, including the painting of the radar dish and pedestal, were completed Oct. 6. This is the first time the system has been repainted in its 38-year history.


The transmitter's magnetron, which had been in service since 1992, failed the week before painting was to start, which allowed for replacement while painting was under way.  The timing of the failure allowed the magnetron to be replaced while the painting was underway.  Unfortunately, the rebuilt magnetron had to be returned for repair, keeping ADRAD from being ready at the beginning of the semester.


Thanks to emergency assistance from Dean Kate Miller and the College for the repair cost, and the work of radar engineer Jerry Guynes, who consulted on the painting and magnetron replacement, ADRAD is up and running in time for students in the radar meteorology class to gain experience operating the system.

 Professional Activities

Jose Sericano (GERG) was a coauthor in Marine Pollution Bulletin:  

Yogui, G.T., M.C.O Santos, C.P. Bertozzi, J.L. Sericano, R.C. Montone, 2011. "PBDEs in the blubber of marine mammals from coastal areas of São Paulo, Brazil, southwestern Atlantic." Marine Pollution Bulletin 62: 2666-2670.   


Dr. Terry Wade, Dr. Jose Sericano, Dr. Norman Guinasso, and Steve Sweet (GERG) were coauthors in Geophysical Monograph Series:

Wade, T.L., S.T. Sweet, J.L. Sericano, N.L. Guinasso Jr., A.-R. Diercks, R.C. Highsmith, V.L. Asper, D. Joung, A.M. Shiller, S.E. Lohrenz, S.B. Joye, 2011. "Analyses of water samples from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Documentation of the subsurface plume." In Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record-Breaking Enterprise, edited by Y. Liu et al., Washington, D.C. Geophysical Monograph Series, 195:77-82.


Drs. Terry Wade, Dr. Jose Sericano, Dr. Norman Guinasso, and Steve Sweet, and John Walpert were coauthors in Geophysical Monograph Series: Wade, T.L., S.T. Sweet, J.N. Walpert, J.L. Sericano, J.J. Singer, N.L. Guinasso Jr., 2011. "Evaluation of possible inputs of oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill to the Loop Current and associated eddies in the Gulf of Mexico." In Monitoring and Modeling the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Record-Breaking Enterprise, edited by Y. Liu et al., Washington, D.C. Geophysical Monograph Series, 195: 83-90.





Dr. Kathleen O'Reilly (GEOG) gave a lecture titled "Geography in the Turd World: gender, space and sanitation in rural north India," at this year's Texas A&M University Pathways System Symposium, Nov. 11. The symposium is an annual event featuring student research with oral and poster presentations, lectures, open houses, tours, and an awards ceremony. For more information about the symposium, visit the event page on the Office of Graduate Studies website.



Dr. Doug Biggs (OCNG) gave two presentations in Taiwan in December. "Interdisciplinary research on the physical and biological oceanographic habitat of marine mammals in the Gulf of Mexico and in the Galapagos." Dec. 12, College of Marine Sciences, National Sun Yat-Sen University, Kao-shiung, Taiwan.  


"The Sperm Whale Seismic Study in the Gulf of Mexico," Dec. 15, Graduate Institute of Marine Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology, National Dong Hwa University, Checheng, Taiwan.




Dr. Kathleen O'Reilly (GEOG) won a $353,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a two-year study of families in rural India who have adopted sanitation and hygiene practices. As part of this study, O'Reilly will spend four months in Himachal Pradesh and West Bengal. This is the first time a researcher from the College of Geosciences has received a grant from the Gates Foundation.


In a departure from tradition, the College of Geosciences celebrated faculty and staff receiving distinguished achievement awards from the college and the Association of Former Students as well as faculty who had been granted tenure and promotion in 2011. Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon was also honored during the dinner, held at the Hilton Hotel, for being named Regents Professor and the Texas A&M Image Maker of the Year, awarded by the university's Marketing and Communication division. More information can be found here


The research of Dr. John Kessler (OCNG), was named 39th in Discover magazine's top 100 stories of 2011. 

Texas A&M researchers Steve Sweet (GERG), researcher for the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG); Joni Kincaid, geography graduate student; and Dr. Andrew Klein (GEOG) took part in this year's expedition to McMurdo Station, the site of the largest human presence in Antarctica. Scientists from the College of Geosciences (Dr. Mahlon C. Kennicutt II (OCGN), Principal Investigator, and co-investigators Dr. Terry Wade, interim director of GERG, and Klein) oversee the long-term monitoring program for McMurdo Station. The project, which has been going on for 10 years, is to determine the human footprint associated with the station's use. Once scientists determine the impact, they can make management decisions regarding the use of research stations in this unique ecosystem.
Dr. Don Conlee (ATMO) was quoted in a story in The Eagle about the first hard freeze of the season in the Brazos Valley.



Dr. Andrew Dessler (ATMO) was quoted on the Houston Chronicle blog SciGuy about findings in a new paper in Science. The paper, published last Friday, states that Earth's climate may not be as sensitive to rising carbon dioxide levels as worst-case scenarios have predicted. Dessler says these findings are in line with what most climate scientists already think.


Penn State geosciences professor and Texas A&M geology Ph.D. graduate Dr. Terry Engelder '73, has been named one of Foreign Policy Magazine's Top 100 Global Thinkers for 2011.

Engelder is joined by his colleagues Gary Lash and George P. Mitchell in this honor for their work on natural gas in the Marcellus shale formation. For more, see Engelder's profile page.



The KAMU radio show The Invisible Jungle recently featured Dr. Mike Tice (G&G) and his research on microbial mats. This Texas A&M student produced program focuses on how science and technology affect our daily lives. To listen to archived podcasts of The Invisible Jungle, visit their page on the KAMU website.


Calendar items are also posted on the College of Geosciences Facebook page. 

The next issue is Jan. 20. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel no later than Wednesday, Jan. 18.   
 Featured Article
Dr. Kathleen O'Reilly interviewing a member of a rural Indian family

Texas A&M geographer Kathleen O'Reilly has received a grant to study successful sanitation practices in rural India. The grant is a first for the College of Geosciences from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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