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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
August 6, 2012 

This week, Dr. Jack Baldauf, executive associate dean and associate dean for research, relates exciting initiatives that will help move our College forward. 


Best regards,

Kate Miller



Dear Colleagues:


IODP Renewal

The existing IODP contract has been extended by the National Science Foundation for one year through 2014Request for proposals for the next phase of scientific ocean drilling will be circulated

Baldauf, Jack
  Jack Baldau

this month with proposals submitted by January 2013. IODP remains a critical priority for both the College and the University. Preliminary discussions continue to prepare for this proposal response.


Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG)
An implementation model for the better integration of GERG into the mission of the Department of Oceanography and the College was presented to the Texas A&M Vice President for Research. The primary objective is maintain outstanding technical and analytical capacity in the ocean and environmental sciences. Specific elements of the plan include (1) integrating the science infrastructure with research opportunities among GERG and College and university elements, (2) establishing a strong technical group to support sea-going activities, ocean observing, and other research initiatives, (3) growing the curriculum for geosciences students by emphasizing high impact learning laboratory experiences, and (4) attaining a strong infrastructure with increased emphasis in business management and marketing.


The proposed plan is structured to be affordable and to ensure the long term sustainability of GERG and Oceanography. The two strategic elements of this plan are investments in personnel and in infrastructure. Total funding of $5.4M phased over nine years has been identified through contributions from GERG, the Department of Oceanography, the College, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. 


Search committees have been established for the following positions.

  • Professor/Director: Chair - Jack Baldauf
  • Oceanography Professor: Chair - Tom Bianchi
  • Research Scientist: Chair - Jose Sericano
  • Business Administrator: Chair - Barbara Bayer
  • Ocean Observing Team Lead: Chair - Piers Chapman
  • Ocean Observing Technician: Chair - John Walpert
  • Technical Team Lead: Chair - Steve DiMarco
  • Glider Technician: Chair - John Walpert 

The majority of these committees have forwarded the final position descriptions to the appropriate Texas A&M authority for hiring approval. We anticipate authorization in middle to late August. At such time the positions will be posted and the application process will begin.


Brazil Collaboration
The College of Geosciences completed a conference and workshop in Porto de Galinhas, Brazil, March 26-29, 2012, in cooperation with the University of São Paulo and the Federal University of Pernambuco. Eighty-three researchers, faculty and students from eight institutions presented 91 presentations (33 oral and 58 posters) during the 1.5 day conference. Conference discussions focused on ocean modeling, climate variability, biogeochemical cycling, reef communities and reef conservation, fisheries, sedimentary processes, coastal geomorphology, pollution, resource exploration, technology, biodiversity, and hydrology.


From the first brain-storming session, 14 white papers addressed into four themes.


Coastal and shelf processes.A consequence of climate change is likely to be accelerated sea-level rise and coastal erosion, resulting in a higher risk of flooding from storm surges. Both the Gulf of Mexico region and the coast of Brazil face increasing sea-level, which is further exacerbated by subsidence. Given the continuing trend for populations to move toward the coasts in both the U.S. and Brazil, this theme in part will concentrate on the likely societal aspects of continuing sea level rise on coastal areas and its effects on existing infrastructure and estuarine processes and continental shelf dynamics such as, erosion, sediment movement, and hydrodynamics among others. Specific white papers include:

  • Beach and near-shore evolution with focus on swash zone processes to assess scientific questions related to beach and nearshore evolution
  • Coupling of estuarine-back-reef lagoon-reef sediment dynamics and fluxes and system resiliency
  • Dynamics of river dominated inlet systems
  • Estuaries in the anthropocene.
  • Undergraduate research exchange.
  • Subsurface studies of basins on continental shelves.

Ecosystems. While processes such as eutrophication, other pollution incidents, sea-level rise, and coastal erosion all affect human society in various ways, they also affect the ecology of the coastal zone. Apart from the increasing frequency of hypoxia and anoxia in coastal waters,  an increased occurrence of harmful algal blooms of various sorts also occurs. The BP Macondo spill showed also that we can adversely affect deep ocean biota, and researcher fear that open-ocean fish, such as tuna stocks, can be decimated by offshore oil spills. The concept papers have direct societal relevance and in part provide the base line for future modeling and monitoring, including:

  • Functional connectivity of marine ecosystems
  • Deep sea ecosystems in southeast Brazil
  • Ecosystem services across a gradient of infrastructure development and conservation regimes in Pernambuco and Galveston Bay

Climate and Ocean. This theme covers a range of potential research elements centered on understanding climate and ocean variability. Both the Gulf Coast region and Brazil have been affected by the ENSO cycle. Such extremes of climate are expected to recur with increasing frequency as anthropogenic climate change continues. These will likely result in imposing strains on the societies in both areas through changes in water resources and land-surface area. At the same time, continued warming of the ocean surface layer and the continued production of greenhouse gases may well cause changes in both the meridional overturning circulation (MOC) and the pH of the ocean's surface layer, with important additional consequences for climate and ecosystems, such as fisheries. All three institutions provide complementary expertise for such research initiatives and collaborations, including these topics.

  • The response of the South Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (SAMOC) to climate variability
  • Bipolar climatic forcing of AMOC's lower limb
  • Shelf-deep ocean exchange: dynamics, biology and climate
  • Observations and modeling of biogeochemical fluxes on the Brazil margin

Academics. In terms of student opportunities, the consortium will begin with research internships and "sandwich" student programs. As collaboration grows, student exchange activities will move towards a CAPES/FIPSE program (a joint grant by CAPES and the U.S. Department of Education) and a formal reciprocal exchange program. The ultimate goal is to develop a joint or dual degree program. To promote researchers' mobility, we plan to visit each other's laboratories to develop joint research and proposals. Grants from Brazilian funding agencies are available for U.S. researchers to go to Brazil for short stays as well as post-doctorate opportunities to support a Brazilian researcher to the U.S. Other types of collaborations that we expect to develop include the following: a research and education agreement similar to the Texas A&M-CONACYT agreement, which might be done between Texas A&M and the state funding agencies of Pernambuco and São Paulo States, joint study abroad, where students from TAMU, USP and UFPE would take classes together, and other high-impact education opportunities for undergraduates.


Geosciences without borders The March meetings provide the initial building blocks for successful long-term collaboration. Post-meeting efforts include individual proposals being crafted for submission, engagement of the commercial sector to explore possible collaborations, and development of strategies to engage foundations as possible funding sources. In addition, a Texas A&M-Brazil Water Seminar Series will occur this fall. Topics include global climate change, drought and agriculture, environmental flows, water quality, wetland restoration, urban storm water management, watershed management, and modeling and water allocation.


University Announcements

The Geologic Atlas of the United States is now available through the

Texas A&M Digital Repository. Published by the U. S. Geological Survey between 1894 and 1945, the 227-folio publication includes descriptions of surveyed locations, along with photos and maps. Due to age, printing history and heavy use, the maps were digitized for preservation by the Texas A&M University Libraries' Maps and GIS Library and the Digital Initiatives department.

College Announcements


NASA's Curiosity rover and its parachute as Curiosity descended to the surface on Aug. 5 PDT (Aug. 6 EDT). Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. of Arizona 

Mars Curiosity

Congratulations to Dr. Mark Lemmon (ATMO). The rover, Curiosity, landed on Mars early Monday morning Earth time, thanks to Mark and his team. He is at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory with graduate student Keri Bean. He reports that "we plan for field work on Mars to begin early Monday morning with the landing of our robotic field geoscientist, Curiosity. The mission is planned as a two-year exploration. We will conduct the first three months of operations with the science team co-located in Pasadena, Calif. The remainder of mission operations will be led by JPL but will be spread across TAMU and the home institutions of all the co-investigators."


Follow Keri Bean's Twitter account as the mission unfolds: @kerionmars.


Geosciences Quality Enhancement Plan

The College of Geosciences has selected as its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) Aggies Commit to Communicate (C2C). As part of this initiative, three students have been selected to become Geosciences Writing Consultants. Nicolette Lee (ENGS '15), Matthew Wood, (METR '15), and Julia Cisneros (GEOL '15) will receive intensive training with Dr. Valerie Balester, Director of the Writing Center and Professor of English, to become certified writing consultants. These students will support W-courses in the College and offer peer tutoring to all geosciences students. The goal is to improve students' writing and communication skills, key components of both life-long and integrated learning, the themes of the University QEP.


Facilities update

The repaving of Parking Area 15 has been completed for now.  Transportation Services has advised that this week-long job was just a stop-gap. They will tear up the lot altogether and lay reinforced concrete in two-years' time. PA 55 is on the deferred maintenance list, too, but at this time, its repair is not scheduled.


The new bike racks between Halbouty and Reed-McDonald are now in use. This project, which the dean's office cost-shared with both Transportation and Landscape Services, has quadrupled the number of spaces for bicycle parking at Halbouty. Landscaping has yet to be completed, but when finished, the bike pad will be a useful, attractive and shady spot to tie up a bicycle. And cyclists can approach it from Ross Street or Parking Area 7 without unduly endangering pedestrians.


The renovation of the green between O&M and Langford is on schedule.  The outer sidewalk should be reopened in mid-August, although the "lawn" will remain fenced until the north (Langford) side of the project is completed. At Maureen Reap's request, the contractor has promised to use water trucks to wet the dirt before the backhoes create more dust storms.


Major work on the renovation of O&M lab suites 518 and 521 is completed. Dan Thornton will be moving his research operations back into that space shortly. 


Some may have noticed the radar dish poised at odd angles recently.  Now that its pedestal has been reinforced to last another 40 years, the dish is undergoing some maintenance to ready it for fall weather.


After replacing some problematic heating water lines earlier this year, the cosmetic upgrade to Halbouty 127 will be completed in time for fall classes.


Faculty development leave

Dr. Shaima Nasiri (ATMO), Dr. Mark Lemmon (ATMO) and Dr. Achim Stoessel (ATMO) were granted Faculty Development Leave for fall 2012. Dr. Kathleen O'Reilly (GEOG) and Dr. Mitchell Lyle (OCNG) were granted Faculty Development Leave for Academic Year 2012-13. 


Staff representative elected

Michele Beal (Business Office) was elected to a three-year term beginning in September as the Geosciences representative to the University Staff Council. Congratulations, Michele. 



Texas Sea Grant has released its second issue this year of its acclaimed magazine Texas Shores. This issue discusses the latest news for Texas Sea Grant, including an update on this year's Knauss Fellows, a discussion of the spread of non-indigenous life into the Gulf of Mexico, and Sea Grant's new quarters on the campus of Texas A&M. Also featured are an in-depth article on the effects of the 2011 drought on coastal estuaries and a commemoration of the life of Roberta Ripke, a community organizer and director of philanthropy who helped Texas Sea Grant tremendously before his death this January at the age of 66.


Gulf of Mexico oil spill

Abstract submission and registration are now open for the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. Abstracts are due September 1. More information can be found at


Former Dean Robert Duce to be honored 

at national meteorological conference

A symposium to honor Dr. Robert Duce (ATMO) is Jan. 8, 2013, in Austin, as part of the American Meteorological Society's Annual Meeting. The theme for the symposium,"Air-Sea Exchange: Impacts on the Atmosphere and Ocean," honors Dr. Duce's distinguished contributions to research related to chemical cycles of pollutant and natural substances in the global atmosphere. 


Professional Activities



Graduate student Pablo Granados-Dieseldorff (GEOG) was awarded the Texas A&M University Dissertation Fellowship for 2012-13. Granados-Dieseldoff studies the mutton snapper fishery of Southern Belize, a coral-reef fishery highly important for the food and economic security of many rural, poor coastal communicaties across the Caribbean. He will use the fellowship to complete his dissertation and enhance the broader impacts of his research in geography and applied biodiversity science. In the photo, Pablo, left, is conducting the annual survey for mutton snapper landings in the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve. Co-workers with him are from the Southern Environmental Association and local fishers.



Grants for May and June 2012 are listed on the Georesearch website


Drs. Ping Chang and Tom Bianchi (OCNG) have been awarded funding through the Texas A&M-NSFC program (National Natural Science Foundation of China). Their projects: "Understanding the dynamics behind the recent rapid warming off the coast of the U.S. and China's eastern seaboard" (Chang), and "Mobile mud biogeochemistry and carbon preservation in the Changjiang River delta-front estuary" (Bianchi).


Dr. Sonia Garcia, director of recruitment, has been chosen by Dr. Christine Stanley, vice president and associate provost for diversity, along with 15 university faculty and staff, as a co-PI in the diversity office's study, "Non-Matriculating Black Students at Texas A&M University." As part of the study, each co-PI completed IRB Human Research Training to be certified. The study will survey Black students who were admitted to Texas A&M University but chose not to attend. The total Black student population at Texas A&M University is about 1217 or 3.3% compared to 4.2% at UT Austin. The results of this study will help direct future University-wide recruitment and enrollment of African-American students. The study will take place during the latter part of the summer and early fall.



Dr. Robert Bednarz (GEOG) was named to the advisory board of IX Power, a company focusing on commercializing power and clean water technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The advisory board will help IX Power in assessing technology options, developing new technologies and utilizing breakthrough innovations.


Dr. Sarah Bednarz (GEOG) participated in a plenary session at the Esri International User Conference in Newport Beach, California on educational policy and the role GIS could play in a shifting educational system. She also presented a paper at the Esri International User Conference in Newport Beach, California. She discussed the work of the Geographical Sciences Education Research Committee, of which she is a member, and its work on the Roadmap to Geographic Literacy project. Her presentation outlined the development of the committee's research agenda, a model to build capacity in geography/GIS education and suggested key components that research in geography/GIS education should encompass to deepen understanding of geospatial literacy.


Dr. Robert A. Duce (ATMO), attended and assumed the chair of the National Research Council's Ocean Studies Board meeting, held at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, July 24-26. 


Dr. Sonia Garcia, director of recruitment, attended the one-week National Academic Advising Association summer institute in Austin, Texas. More than 240 administrators, enrollment managers, recruiters, faculty, staff, and academic advisors attended. She met with pre-selected, like-minded teams to work on specific college and institutional action plans and topical issues in higher education such as retention, assessment, learning outcomes, peer, group, and faculty advising.


Congratulations to Texas Sea Grant's Assistant Director and Fiscal Officer Terry Poehl, who was recently accepted into the Ph.D. program in the Texas A&M Department of Agricultural Leadership and Development. He was also named a recipient of a Texas A&M University Staff Scholarship for 2012-13, funded by the Association of Former Students through the University Staff Council.


Dr. Mary Jo Richardson (OCNG) presented a poster, "Faculty-Staff Interaction:  Identifying Issues and Finding Solutions," at the NSF Joint Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., June 12-15. She also participated in the Ocean Carbon and Biogeochemistry Workshop in Woods Hole, Mass., July 16-19. 



Texas Sea Grant's Dr. Pamela Plotkin co-authored a chapter in the new book Sea Turtles of the Eastern Pacific Ocean: Plotkin, P.T., A. Abreu-Grobois, and Briseño-Dueñas, 2012. Interpreting Signs of Olive Ridley Recovery in the Eastern Pacific, pp. 302-335. In: J. A. Seminoff and B.P. Wallace (eds.). Sea Turtles of the Eastern Pacific Ocean: Advances in Research and Conservation. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.


Dr. Jose Sericano (GERG) co-authored a paper published in the Journal of Fish Biology: Valdehita, A., Fernandez-Cruz, M.L., Torrent, F., Sericano, J.L., Navas, J.M. (2012). Differences in the induction of cyp1A and related genes in cultured rainbow trout Oncorhynchus mukiss. Additional considerations for the use of EROD activity as a biomarker. Journal of Fish Biology, 81:270-287.




Ron Kaiser (WMHS) was quoted in a New York Times article on Texas' installation of new smart water meters across the state. 


Dr. John Kessler's (OCNG) work on methane hydrate deposits in the Beaufort Sea appeared in the July 15 issue of Petroleum News. Dr. Kessler's group investigated the current status of methane hydrate deposits to see if thawing of the permafrost in the Beaufort Sea was causing dissociation and the release of methane into the sea and atmosphere.


Dr. Mahlon Kennicutt (OCNG) was featured in the Earth and Environment section of Futurity research news. He discusses the importance of Antarctica for predicting climate change and the potential threat to the long-standing Antarctic Treaty.


AGI's Earth Magazine features Ocean Leadership's School of Rock, conducted on board JOIDES Resolution when it was in port in Victoria, British Columbia. School of Rock educates teachers about IODP, ocean drilling and earth science in hands-on experience. 


Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) was referenced in the Washington Post's Wonk Blog for his critique of NOAA's press release regarding the national drought. 



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


Friday, Aug. 10

9 a.m., College of Geosciences summer graduation, Reed Arena


Sunday, Aug. 26

2:30 p.m., Freshman Convocation, Reed Arena

3:30 p.m., College of Geosciences Welcome Reception, Class of 2016, O&M Lobby

The next issue is Aug 20. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel by Thursday, Aug. 16.
Featured Articles
Research update
Faculty leave
New staff representative
Mars landing

and Programs