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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
June 9, 2012 

Dear Colleagues,

Columnist for this month is Barbara Bayer, assistant dean for finance and administration. Barbara's message contains important information about merit raises, outsourcing to the Compass Group and elections for Geosciences' representative to the University Staff Council.


I would also like to update you on the current vacant positions. Active searches are ongoing for the director of development and for two IT positions, including manager of IT. We let you know as more information becomes available.


Until next time, Kate Miller.


Dear Geosciences Colleagues,

Barbara Bayer 

While summer is typically seen as a time to catch up for many, for the business operations, this is one of the busiest times of the fiscal year. Many things that occur during this period: budget, year-end reporting, account cleanup, etc. Additionally, we are gearing up for the fall semester with tuition, scholarships, scheduling, and all that. I will highlight a few of the activities and provide some information on the current outsourcing initiative under way for the University's facilities, food, and custodial services.


Budget   The budget process kicked-off May 1, and will wrap up on Friday, July 27. It is anticipated that the Board of Regents will consider the budget for approval on Aug. 3 or 4.


Many have heard various versions of the merit compensation plan for FY2013. The good news is there is a merit plan and pool for FY2013. In an April 27 memo, Dr. Karan Watson, provost and executive vice president, shared information on merit plan and merit-plan pools. Below is an excerpt. 


"There will be merit funding for the upcoming fiscal year for both faculty and staff. Our budgets are complex and burdened already, and funds available are often highly constrained on how they can be used. We will have to postpone some plans and reduce the scope of some efforts, all of which are important, but we are committed to identifying the funds for a merit-based compensation program. At this time the size of the pool for merit compensation that we can manage, because every unit on campus is contributing, is equivalent in size to about 3% of the total value of salaries and wages. Only half of this will be available in recurring funds and the rest will be in one-time merit. All increases to individuals will be based on merit, and this will mean difficult conversations and hard choices. Our inability to provide a merit pool for the past two years will make these choices harder as we incorporate people's performance over this span in our considerations."


Texas A&M is to provide a 1.5 percent recurring merit pool funded by college resources for centrally funded employees or other resources for non-centrally funded employees. Additionally, university central resources will provide a 1.5% one-time merit pool. The one-time merit awards will be paid in one lump sum payment to awarded employees on Sept. 21, 2012.


However, it is important to stress that these merit pools do not mean that all employees will receive 1.5% one-time and 1.5% recurring merit increases. As Dr. Watson made clear in her message above, merit awards would be awarded based on performance over multiple years, and difficult decisions need to be made with such a limited merit pool. This means no across-the-board increases for all employees. Your department heads and directors have spent much time over the past few months gathering information on current and recent-past performance records to make merit-allocation decisions for all employees. Department heads and directors will share final merit allocation information with employees after the Board of Regents gives final budget approval at the beginning of August.


Outsourcing of Facilities, Food Services, and Custodial Services  Texas A&M recently announced that several service groups of Texas A&M University would be outsourced to the Compass Group, including these main areas: Facilities, Food Services, and Custodial Services. Many employees have expressed concern for the Texas A&M employees who will be directly impacted by this outsourcing initiative. Additionally, there has been much speculation on what has or hasn't been done for these employees as they transition to the Compass Group. Below is information received from Janelle Ramirez, Texas A&M executive director of human resources, regarding the outsourcing initiative.

"We appreciate that the College of Geosciences is interested in learning more about the outsourcing initiative. The System Office and Compass are currently negotiating the final contract, but the following facts are currently known:

  1. Compass Group has committed to retaining all employees in the affected areas as well as related supporting administrative areas, after successfully completing a background check.
  2. Compass will offer our employees a comparable benefits package including a 401(k) retirement plan.
  3. Employees will receive a lump sum payment for their unused vacation. They may defer all or part of the payment into a Tax Deferred Annuity (TDA). The TDA needs to be set up before the lump sum payment is processed.
  4. Employees will accrue sick leave and vacation leave with Compass at their current accrual rate.
  5. Longevity pay will be included in the employees' pay with Compass.
  6. If employees are eligible to retire now, or if they will be eligible in the future, they will be able to retire from TRS once the eligibility criteria is met, and receive a life-long annuity, as long as the employee leaves their TRS account intact.


Human Resources is working diligently to help our employees transition to Compass Group. Here is a brief list of actions that HR has taken.

  1. Developed a web page that includes a general statement about the outsourcing and some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). These FAQs are being updated as more information is available.
  2. Met with Division of Facilities HR Liaisons and administrators on to provide information that we knew at the time and gather their questions.
  3. Met with the Compass HR individual who will lead the on-site HR implementation.
  4. Participated in "Moving Forward" training that was hosted by the vice president for administration. Three sessions, one in Spanish, have been held.
  5. Organized a group meeting with TRS representatives.
  6. Developed and delivered personalized letters for each individual with retirement eligibility information. 


Geosciences University Staff Council Elections    I would like to take a moment to thank Debz Defreitas (GERG) for her service over the past three years as the College of Geosciences' current University Staff Council (USC) representative. She will be ending her term at the end of this fiscal year.


The college solicited nominations for candidates to fill this upcoming vacancy as the college's USC representative. The five nominated candidates are:

  • Sharon Alderete, assistant to dean, Dean's Office
  • Michele Beal, business administrator II, Dean's Office
  • Adam Davidson, supervisor of human resources, IODP
  • Amy Head, business associate II, Oceanography
  • Maureen Reap, facilities coordinator, Dean's Office


The online SurveyMonkey ballot contains information on each candidate, and the final page of this ballot allows you to select your choice for USC representative. Please take a moment to review the nominees and make your vote count. The election ends at 5 p.m., July 13, 2012.


If you experience issues with this ballot, please feel free to contact me. Your new University Staff Council representative will be announced after confirmation by the University Staff Council Election Committee.


The university has seen many transitions and changes over the past few years and these are busy times where we are all expected to work harder, smarter, and with fewer resources. This means rethinking what we are doing, how we are doing it, and determine if there is a better, more efficient way to accomplish our goals and objectives.


Please don't hesitate to contact the Dean's Business Office with any questions you may have. We can be reached at 845-4234 or by email at



Barbara A. Bayer '94

Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration


College Announcements


Ping Yang named department head in Atmospheric Sciences


Dr. Kate C. Miller, dean of the College of 

Geosciences, has appointed Dr. Ping Yang

  Dr. Ping Yang

as the new head of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences. Yang succeeds Dr. Kenneth Bowman who has led the department since 2007. Bowman, who will return to teaching and research, is also the David Bullock Harris Professor of Geosciences. 


"Ken's leadership has helped establish the Atmospheric Sciences department as one of the most respected in the country. I am confident that Dr. Yang's contributions will continue to build on the faculty's strengths in teaching, research and service," Miller said.


Yang holds the David Bullock Harris Chair in Geosciences and has a joint appointment in physics and astronomy in the College of Science. His research focuses on understanding the radiative budget of the atmosphere, including the scattering and absorption of cloud and aerosol particles. He is a Fellow of the Optical Society of America and has been recognized at Texas A&M University both for his research and teaching. Dr. Yang has also received awards and honors from the National Science Foundation, NASA and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) for his work.


In addition to nearly 200 peer-reviewed articles, he is co-author of Theory of Atmospheric Radiative Transfer, and he is writing books on light scattering by ice crystals and an introduction to satellite meteorology and atmospheric remote sensing.


Dr. Yang will assume his duties Sept. 1.


 Professional Activities


Dr. Wendy Jepson (GEOG) presented a paper at the July 3-5 Royal Geographical Society-Institute of British Geographers Annual International Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland. She addressed household water security in south Texas colonias in the session, "Collaborative responses to problems of water security: theories, practices, and implications for geographical research."


Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG), Dr. Matt Howard (OCNG) and graduate student Ruth Mullins-Perry (OCNG) attended the Gulf of Mexico Alliance's All Hands Meeting June 19-21. The meeting focused on shared ecological issues of the five Gulf States and how industries could work together effectively to enhance the economic and ecological health of the Gulf.


Dr. Lisa Campbell (OCNG) attended the "Marine Microbes" Gordon Research Seminar and Conference in Italy, June 23-29. She participated as a speaker and discussion leader. Graduate student Darcie Ryan (OCNG) presented a poster at both the seminar and the conference. Dr. Campbell is also attending the Association of the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography conference in Lake Biwa, Japan, in her capacity as secretary, July 8-13.


Dr. Anita Rapp (ATMO) gave an oral presentation, "Understanding precipitation in southeastern Pacific marine low clouds", at the 2012 CALIPSO, CloudSat, EarthCare Joint Workshop: The Role of Clouds and Aerosols in Weather and Climate in Paris, France, June 18-22.


Dr. Wilford Gardner (OCNG) was to the University of Sao Paulo to present a lecture on the use of sediment traps in the recently funded CARBOM project studying the shelf-to-ocean transport of organic matter and the impact on the ecosystem. Several days were spent interacting with scientists, students and technical personnel on the project. There was also a visit to Santos on the coast where they toured USP's newly refurbished 211-foot research vessel Alpha Crucis-the former Moana Wave of Hawaii, a sister ship of TAMU's research vessel Gyre.  


Demi Mixon  
Dr. Oliver Frauenfeld (GEOG) and undergraduate student Demi Mixon (GEOL) traveled to Salekhard, Russia, for the Tenth International Conference on Permafrost. Mixon received travel grants from the U.S. Permafrost Association and the International Arctic Research Center to present her poster, "Characteristics of Active-Layer Temperature Profiles Related to Arctic Transportation Management on the North Slope, Alaska." Dr. Frauenfeld gave a talk on "Observational Station-Based Frozen Ground Feedbacks in the Eurasian High Latitudes," which was co-authored by graduate student Liang Chen (GEOG).





Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG), Dr. Steve DiMarco (OCNG), and Dr. Matt Howard (OCNG), along with graduate students Ruth Mullins-Perry (OCNG), Alyson Lucchese (OCNG), Emma Cochran (OCNG), and Heather Zimmerle (OCNG), went on a hypoxia cruise from June 10-16. Dr. Chapman and Dr. DiMarco left July 4 for a BP-funded cruise along with Dr. Norman Guinasso (OCNG) and graduate students Zimmerle, Laura Spencer (OCNG) and Mengran Du (OCNG). They will be deploying deep current meter moorings and taking a number of hydrographic stations.



Dr. Rick Giardino (GEOL), pending an announcement from NASA, received a 5-year, $10-million grant for educational opportunities for undergraduates and training for public school teachers. Dr. Giardino's work with science education was specially mentioned in the testimony of Dr. Jeffrey R. Seeman, vice president for research, before the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Research and Science Education on June 27. Dr. Giardino also received a $48,000 grant from the Texas Water Development Board to develop sediment budget models for the lower half of the Guadalupe River.



Dr. Jose Sericano (GERG) published an article in Comprehensive Sampling and Sample PreparationViņas, L., V. Besada, J. L. Sericano, 2012. Sampling of Fish, Benthic Species, and Seabird Eggs in Pollution Assessment. In: Comprehensive Sampling and Sample Preparation, Eds. Pawliszyn, J., Bayona, J. M., Elsevier, Academic Press: Oxford, UK, 349-372.


Dr. Sericano also published an article in Antarctic Science LTD with Dr. Andrew Klein (GEOG), Dr. Terry Wade (GERG), Dr. Stephen Sweet (GERG) and Dr. Mahlon Kennicutt (OCNG): Klein, A.G., S.T. Sweet, T.L. Wade, J.L. Sericano, M.C. Kennicutt II, 2012. Spatial patterns of total petroleum hydrocarbons in the terrestrial environment at McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Antarctic Science Ltd 2012: 1-17.


Dr. Wendy Jepson (GEOG) published a scientific paper in the most recent issue of The Annals of the Association of American Geographers, one of the flagship journals for geography. Her paper is "Claiming water, claiming space: contested legal geographies of water in south Texas."  



Dr. Sarah Bednarz (GEOG)  discussed the importance of improving geography education and her work on the AP Human Geography Development Committee to help schools teach geography earlier and better.


Texas Monthly featured Dr. Nielsen-Gammonin a story on how water could affect the Texas economy moving forward. Finally, Dr. Nielsen-Gammon gave climate recommendations for retiring in Texas to US News and World Report. He recommends Brownsville and Corpus Christi for their mild winters and summer breezes.


Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis (OCNG) was interviewed by the publication International Innovation for her work investigating oceanic levels of methyl bromide. She expressed her hope that the work would show policymakers that agreements like the Montreal Protocol could make a difference. Yvon-Lewis's graduate students Lei Hu and Yina Liu were also featured in the piece.


The Eagle recognized Texas Sea Grant's celebrating 40 years of researching coastal and marine resources as well as reaching out to the community in emphasizing the importance of the marine environment.


Dr. Mahlon Kennicutt (OCNG) is featured at Hear the Answer, an educational website on the importance of scientific and environmental research. He answers questions on the reasons for studying Antarctica ,how decisions are made about Antarctica , and humans' affect on the Southern Ocean.


Dr. Ken Bowman (ATMO) will collaborate with KBTX-TV's meteorologist Bob French to organize a workshop on the Advances in Meteorology in Texas for television and radio meteorologists in Texas. The workshop, to be held November 3, will focus on areas of collaboration between broadcast meteorologists and climate researchers, advances in weather prediction and methods for communicating weather and climate information to the public.


Dr. Peter Blum (IODP) discussed the work of the JOIDES Resolution from the ship on KBTX-TV with fellow staff scientist Dr. Sandra Turner of UC-San Diego. The JOIDES Resolution is currently in the middle of a cruise that started June 2 and ends August 1. They are drilling in the Newfoundland Paleogene and Cretaceous Sediment Drifts to look at the climate record of those geologic time periods. So far they have found evidence of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a period noted for its extremely high temperatures, and the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary, the catastrophic event 65 million years ago suspected to have killed the dinosaurs. They also have found evidence of the Eocene-Oligocene Boundary, where the climate switched from very warm to very cold. The work of the JOIDES Resolution can be followed on the JOIDES Resolution blog.


Dr. Debbie Thomas (OCNG and GEOL) is on the steering committee for the Building U.S. Strategies for 2013-2023 Scientific Ocean Drilling workshop, which completed and published the final workshop report. The meeting served to prioritize the 14 scientific challenges outlined in the 2013-2023 Science Plan for the International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) and to identify new approaches for more efficient planning of scientific ocean drilling expeditions. The workshop results and pre-meeting community input confirmed the U.S. community's strong support for the 2013-2023 Science Plan, international collaboration, and collaborations across research themes. The report is available on the USSSP website.  



Dr. Shaima Nasiri (ATMO) and Dr. Don Conlee (ATMO) are leading the Student Operational ADRAD Project, a summer program for Aggies interested in atmospheric sciences. Students help operate ADRAD, analyze household weather stations, prepare daily forecasts and make cloud observations. They also use a variety of resources to collect and archive climate data, including weather balloons, NASA satellite observations and ground-level instruments. The students can be found discussing their adventures on the ATMO SOAP blog.



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

The next issue is in early August. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel.   
 Featured Articles
Merit increases 
New ATMO head
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