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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
Feb. 20, 2012 

Dear Colleagues:


This edition of Biweekly Briefing begins with a message from Eric Riggs, assistant dean for diversity and graduate student development. Since arriving in September, Eric has been assessing our diversity profile for both faculty and staff, consulting with department heads and faculty members on graduate-student issues and interacting with campus administration, including the university diversity office. Eric also continues to be active at the national level in his writing and research.



Kate Miller


Dear Geosciences Colleagues,



First, let me thank all of you again who participated in the online ClimateQUAL survey administered by ARL this fall. The participation rate, while only about 20 percent, was sufficient to generate enough responses for meaningful analysis. As the first academic college anywhere in the nation to use this instrument, ARL has been working especially closely with me to make sure the results are structured to be as useful as possible and to make sure that the anonymity we promised is respected fully. I am told that they are in the process of rolling the raw data up into categories that ensure this, and we should see the first results sometime around Spring Break. As soon as I receive their analysis, I will report back to you and solicit involvement in a task force to interpret the data and formulate the best path forward.


All colleges in the University were also asked to report to the Associate Provost for Diversity in December with an analysis of their demographics, trends and ongoing efforts. As we expand the College website to include diversity activities this semester, we will post the complete report. In the meantime, I would like to share some highlights to give you a sense of where we are today.

  • Undergraduate degrees granted to women of all ethnicities in the College increased sharply from 2009-10 (51 graduating/ 37 percent) to 2010-11 (77 graduating/ 41 percent), which indicates both in number and percentage a steady increase over the last five years and now puts us above the national average of 40 percent female graduates at this academic level.
  • The number of women graduating at the M.S. level shows an encouraging reversal of short term declines over the last two years. Only 11 females graduated in 2009-10 (32 percent of M.S. degrees granted that year), but this rebounded to 24 graduates in 2010-11 (55.8 percent), a number not seen since 2006-07, when 26 graduated.
  • Ten Hispanic undergraduate students graduated in 2009-10 (7.2 percent of all degrees at this level); this increased to 27 graduates in 2010-11 (14.4 percent). The college also has 106 currently enrolled Hispanic students, the highest number in the last six years of recordkeeping. Our College is also identified in a report by the American Institute of Physics as one of the top institutions nationally in granting geoscience bachelor's degrees to Hispanic students. At the M.S. level, two Hispanic students graduated in 2010-11 and 11 total since 2006-07.

We should all be proud of these accomplishments, but we have significantly more work to do to maintain these upward trends and to work toward becoming a national and regional leader in a state that is significantly more diverse than our student population. We also have to strive to steadily diversify our faculty and staff, which remain well out of alignment with the demographics of the students we serve both in terms of ethnicity and especially by gender.


Future workforce

Diversity is a key part of our institutional capacity as an academic unit of this University. Diversity is not just an altruistic goal nor is it merely the right thing to do. Texas is increasingly diverse and is one of four minority-majority states in the nation, with 45.3 percent of the population identified as white, 37.6 percent Hispanic, 11.5 percent African-American in 2010. It is our University mission to serve the people of Texas, and we need to build and maintain the welcoming environment and institutional capacity to do so. The whole nation will be minority-majority in a few decades, which gives us a unique opportunity to lead and to build model programs and approaches in the geosciences. Our graduates work in an increasingly diverse domestic and international setting whether in industry or academia, and we must provide them the skills and experiences here so that they are prepared as well as they can be. Also, all human, intellectual and natural systems function better and are more resilient if they are more diverse. More perspectives lead to more creative and representative solutions - critical for disciplines with the social reach and impact of the geosciences. We must also understand that diversity of all kinds is important, and ethnicity is only one dimension of who we are. We therefore need to consider gender and all other visible and invisible dimensions of diversity as we move forward.


It requires a conscious effort to build and maintain this institutional and to create synergy between all segments of the College. We are very well-positioned to become a national leader in diversity in the geosciences provided we work together to identify opportunities and barriers. I look forward to your continuing help and insight in the coming months and years.




Eric Riggs

Assistant Dean

Diversity and Graduate Student Development



 Texas A&M Announcements
For more information about university events, visit TAMUTimes.


 College Announcements

Four new chairs and professorships named 

Dean Kate Miller has announced that four faculty members have been named to endowed chairs and professorships:

  • Dr. Thomas Bianchi (OCNG): James R. Whatley Chair in Geosciences
  • Dr. Kenneth P. Bowman (ATMO): David Bullock Harris Professor in Geosciences
  • Dr. Yue-Feng Sun (G&G): Mollie B. and Richard A. Williford Professorship in Petroleum Geology
  • Dr. Franco Marcantonio (G&G): Robert R. Berg Professor in Geology

An advisory committee on endowed chairs and professorships, chaired by Dr. Jorge A. Vanegas, Dean of Architecture, made the recommendations based on the results of the nomination packages and the awardees scholarly accomplishments. 


"We are pleased to fill these chairs," Dr. Miller said, "with such worthy and qualified faculty members. Please join me in congratulating these individuals."


More information about the donors for these chairs can be found on the Geosciences website. A reception for the new and current chair holders and professorships will be held in May. More details will follow. 


Dr. Kenneth Bowman, Dr. Yue-Feng Sun, Dr. Franco Marcantonio and Dr. Thomas Bianchi 


Nielsen-Gammon named Weather Hero
 Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon  with Robert Orkin

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) was recently selected as a 2011 Weather Hero by the Weather Research Center.


Nielsen-Gammon, a Regents Professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences and the State Climatologist, was selected as one of the four 2011 Weather Hereos for his work in keeping the community aware of the issues and impacts with the 2011 drought in Texas. The awards were given out at the center's Groundhog Day Gala Feb. 2 at the Hotel ZaZa in Houston. The award was presented by Robert Orkin, the chair of the board of directors for the Weather Research Center.


New coordinator named for
Water Degree Program

Dr. Rosario Sanchez Flores
(WMHS) was recently named the coordinator for the Water Degree program at Texas A&M University.  

"I am excited about the challenge, but most of all, 
I am grateful for the opportunity to work with the best water faculty, colleagues and students of the water arena," Flores said. "The program understands the interdisciplinary condition of water issues, as well as the diversity of water perspectives and solutions that are required from students and faculty who come to this program from all over the world."

She has worked in different capacities at Texas A&M since 2006 and earned her Ph.D. in Water Management and Hydrologic Science in 2009.

The Water Degree Program is an interdisciplinary degree offered at the master's and doctoral levels. The faculty includes members from 12 academic departments.

Notes from the University Staff Counci

 The Texas A&M University Staff Council meets each third Tuesday of the month. All staff are welcome and encouraged to attend monthly meetings. For details on upcoming meetings, please see the staff council site. Representative for the College is Debz DeFrietas



Chancellor John Sharp will share his vision for the future of TAMU staff members at the USC Spring Open Forum 3-5 p.m., March 21, room 1105, Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, located behind the Bell Tower and across from Simpson Drill Field. All staff are encouraged to attend.



The University Staff Council meeting on Feb. 21 will feature a demonstration on a newly introduced car-share program, Hertz on Demand. This service is accessible to faculty, staff and students 24-hour, 7 days a week at reserved spots at Northside, Southside, University Apartments and Central Campus Garage. Each car comes with GPS, Bluetooth connection, 24-hour roadside assistance, and gas and insurance. Departments can also establish an account so employees may reserve the Hertz on Demand cars and bill the rental rate to a designated account. The Alternative Transportation Services Manager will demonstrate a new electric car from the Hertz on Demand fleet. More information about the car share is online. 


JOIDES Resolution exhibit at local museum

"Getting to the Core," on exhibit at the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History, takes visitors out to sea through images and information from the ship JOIDES Resolution. 


The exhibit also features work of Rockport artist Dinah Bowman, who was on Expedition 327: Juan de Fuca Hydrogeology as part of IODP's outreach program, sailing as an artist on board. A number of her original watercolors and hand-colored block prints are also on display.


The exhibit runs through April 28. The Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.  



 Professional Activities

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis
(OCNG), Dr. John Kessler (OCNG) and graduate student Lei Hu (OCNG) recently published an article in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Hu, L., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, J. D. Kessler and I.R. MacDonald (2012): Methane fluxes to the atmosphere from deep hydrocarbon seeps in the northern Gulf of Mexico, J. Geophys. Res., 117, C01009, doi:10.1029/2011JC007208. 



The College's academic advisors were involved in the 21st Annual Texas A&M University Advisors and Counselors (UAC) Symposium, Feb. 16, at the Hilton Hotel and Conference Center in College Station. Christine Arnold (ATMO) is co-chairing the event and Emily Dykes (ENVP) is the program chair. Emily, Mike Rivas (G&G), Gail Rowe (GEOG) and Roxanna Russell (Dean's Office) presented "Etiquette 101: Teaching Students Etiquette They Will Use Now and After College." Along with advisors from other colleges, Christine presented "Graduate Student Advisors: We Have Those?" and "Advising Across Generations."


AGU 2011, Part II
More sessions and partipants in the 2011 AGU Symposium are the following. 




Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis (OCNG): A revised look at the oceanic sink for atmospheric CCl4, Butler, J.H., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, J.M. Lobert, D.B. King, S.A. Montzka, J.W. Elkins, B.D. Hall and V. Koropalov (2011), E.O.S. Trans. Fall Suppl., A51A-0273.

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis (OCNG) and graduate student Lei Hu (OCNG): Improved understanding of the atmospheric methyl bromide and methyl chloride budgets, Hu, L. and S.A. Yvon-Lewis (2011), E.O.S. Trans. Fall Suppl., A41B-0068.

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis, Dr. Thomas Bianchi and Dr. Lisa Campbell and graduate students Yina Liu, Lei Hu and Rick Smith (OCNG): Polyhalogenated Very Short Live Substances in the Atlantic Ocean, and their Linkages with Ocean Primary Production, Liu, Y., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, L. Hu, T.S. Bianchi, L. Campbell and R.W. Smith (2011), E.O.S. Trans. Fall Suppl., A51A-0199.

Dr. Burak Guneralp (GEOG) and Dr. Karen Seto: Probabilistic Forecast of Global Urban Expansion for 2030.  



GERG staff member 

receives President's award 

A staff member at the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group is one of 20 Texas A&M employees to be honored with the 2011 President's Meritorious Award. Dr. Bowen Loftin will present the awards at a ceremony at 9:30 a.m., Feb. 21, in Rudder Theatre.  

Debz DeFreitas is the Quality Manager for GERG and is currently leading its efforts to obtain accreditation from the National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Commission. DeFreitas was nominated by Dr. Terry Wade, the interim director of GERG.

"Debz was not merely a participant in her job duties at GERG or her service activities, but is a leader of many of these activities. Debz has provided Texas A&M with over 30 years of dedicated service 'above and beyond the call of duty,' " Wade wrote in his nomination letter.

DeFreitas also received the College of Geosciences Distinguished Achievement Award in 2006. The list of the 20 staff members and one team selected for this recognition is online. 

Conlee comes to Fish Camp  
Organizers of Fish Camp have named a camp in honor o
fDon Conlee Dr. Don Conlee (ATMO) based on nominations submitted by current students. Fish Camp is a four-day orientation for incoming freshman that takes place in Palestine.

Fish Camp is divided into seven sessions over the summer, with six camps in each session. Each camp is named after an individual who has contributed to Texas A&M in a positive way. Namesakes attend their camp and have the opportunity to interact with 24 counselors and up to 150 freshmen. Conlee received his Ph.D. from Texas A&M in 1994. He teaches several undergraduate meteorology classes, including the introductory course for non-majors and is co-adviser for the Texas Aggie Storm Chasers and for TAMSCAMS, the student chapter
of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association.


Dessler named chair-elect of association
Dr. Andrew Dessler
(ATMO) was recently elected the chair-elect of the section of Atmospheric and Hydrospheric Sciences in the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His term begins Feb. 21 and will continue through Feb. 18, 2013. He will attend the annual meeting in Boston, Mass., next February.  

Kessler receives Sloan Foundation award
Dr. John Kessler (OCNG) has received a Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. The fellowships are given to early-career scientists and scholars whose achievements and potential identify them as rising stars, the next generation of scientific leaders. Kessler was one of 126 outstanding U.S. and Canadian researchers who received a fellowship this year.

Dr. Mahlon Kennicutt (OCNG)
was quoted extensively in a Feb. 8 article in National Geographic regarding Russian scientists drilling into an ice-sealed lake for the first time in human history. Read the article on the website National Geographic. In addition, he was quoted in other print and broadcast sources around the United States and Canada, including the Associated Press, the Atlanta Journal and the Boston Globe.   

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


Feb. 21

3:55 p.m., O&M 112, Aerosol and cloud microphysics in CAMS: evaluation and aerosol-cloud-precipitation interactions, Xiaohong Liu, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory


Feb. 24

3 p.m., O&M 1209, Atmospheric profiling synthetic observation system, Darren Lu, Chinee Academy of Sciences


Feb. 24 

11:30 a.m., Halbouty, Global calcareous nannoplankton response to Paleocene and Eocene warming intervals, Leah Schneider, Pennsylvania State University


Feb. 27

3:55 p.m., O&M 112, Delglacial subsurface temperature change in the tropical North Atlantic inked to Atlantic meridional, Dr. Matthew Schmidt, Texas A&M


The next issue is March 2. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel no later than Wednesday, Feb. 29.   
 Featured Article
Message by Eric Riggs
Professors named to Chairs/Professorships
GERG employee receives president's award


 and Programs