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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
Sept. 17, 2012 

Dean Miller


Dear Colleagues,


Our College Advisory Council met Sept. 7. This is a group we have been building up with friends and former students who can help us on a variety of fronts, from fundraising, to job markets for our students, to advice on programs. For this meeting the agenda focused on needs for the graduate program, communications about our college, and plans for the next capital campaign. A number of ideas emerged that the new development officer can move along. We have a couple strong candidates for development officer, and I expect to have a new person in place within a month. I am also looking to broaden the council membership, and I welcome your input on possible candidates.  


On Aug. 23, I attended the 60th Annual MSC Fall Leadership Conference. The goal of this conference is to train our undergraduate student leaders in best practices for leading student organizations and also for their future employment. I was pleased to see for of our students at the conference: Wilmer Menijvar (GEOG), David Lewis (GEPL), Dillon Amaya (ATMO) and Kyle Blount (ENVP). They have already been talking with me about the possibly of setting up a student college advisory council, which I welcome. Encourage your student leaders to get in touch with them.  


Three weeks into the semester are you wondering what is shaping our students' perspectives? I always find that the annual Beloit College Mind Set List to be a helpful reminder for all of us.


Concrete progress continues with our efforts to build research and education initiatives with Brazil. A joint seminar on water, led by Ron Kaiser, is under way this fall, and in the works is a proposed partnership between CAPES, the Brazilian government's scientific research foundation, and Texas A&M. The colleges of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Engineering, Geosciences, and Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences have all indicated an interest in joining.  


This year marks the 50th anniversary of our Galveston campus. Here in College Station this landmark will be marked with an event on Sept. 21. We continue to sustain close research and education ties with the Marine Science faculty in Galveston. 


Program reviews are coming up. Water Management and Hydrological Sciences program review, led by Ron Kaiser, will be in November. Environmental Programs in the Geosciences' review is in spring, led by Don Collins. These reviews are good opportunities to help us think about what we are doing with interdisciplinary programs and to compare us to what is going on nationally


Thanks to everyone who donated to the State Employee Charitable Campaign by Sept. 14. Those who did are eligible for a drawing for tickets for the Arkansas game.


Have a great week.


Kate Miller



University Announcements


The University Council of Deans is looking to improve the Unversity's child-care facilities. Please complete this very brief survey, to assist the University deans in their improvement efforts. The survey should be completed by Friday, September 21. All responses will be kept confidential. 

If the link in the text does not work, please cut and paste the following address into your browser:


College Announcement


David Cairns

David Cairns and Don Conlee
receive AFS teaching awards


Dr. David M. Cairns (GEOG) has received the Association of Former Students College-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching for his outstanding abilities as a professor, a mentor and a researcher.


Dr. Cairns has been a member of the Texas A&M community for 14 years and has served in his current position as professor for the Department of Geography for two years. Prior to this position, he worked as both an assistant professor and an associate professor for the Department of Geography. Dr. Cairns has received Henry C. Cowles award from the Biogeography Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers as well as the Student Led Award for Teaching Excellence from the Texas A&M System, and the Dean's Distinguished Achievement Award both from the College.


Dr. Cairns received his B.A. from the University of California, Berkeley, his M.A. from the University of Florida, and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. Throughout his career, he has written a number of peer-reviewed articles that have appeared in Journal of Ecology, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, and Environmental Research Letters


In Dr. Cairns' letters of nomination, his former and current students wrote of his ability to challenge and truly be an inspiration for knowledge. 


"Dr. Cairns believes in the importance of what he teaches, and consequently assigns challenging work that encourages students to grapple with ideas until they has mastered them," said geography professor and departmental undergraduate program director, Dr. Charles Lafon. "Dr. Cairns does not view students as passive recipients of knowledge. Rather, to be successful in his classes or as his graduate students, students must learn to create and apply knowledge."


Don Conlee
Don Conlee

Dr. Don T. Conlee (ATMO) received the AFS College-Level Distinguished Achievement Award in Teaching for his large contributions to Texas A&M University students and faculty through his instruction and mentorship. He is an instructional associate professor in Atmospheric Sciences.


Dr. Conlee teaches courses in weather forecasting, weather observation and analysis, tropical meteorology and several others.


Dr. Kenneth Bowman, professor and former head of the department , said Dr. Conlee doesn't think twice about taking on a load of classes that are essential to this department and often some of the more challenging for both student and professor. 


"Conlee excels at preparing students for the real world of weather forecasting and research," Dr. Bowman said. "He has high expectations for his students that they strive to fulfill, in part because of how thoroughly engaged and committed he is in their learning outcomes."


Dr. Conlee is also heavily involved in high-impact learning with undergraduates, including Summer SOAP and the Multidisciplinary Green Roof undergraduate research projects. He also involves students in atmospheric observations with real-world impact, including on-demand weather balloon launches in hazardous weather situations when requested by the National Weather Service. 


Dr. Conlee is also involved with student life outside of the classroom. He spearheaded the creation of the Weather Center and he advises the student chapter of the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association.


Last year, he was also chosen as a namesake for the 2011-12 Fish Camp, an honor given to Aggie faculty and staff who have had a positive influence on students as well as on campus life. Fish Camp gave Dr. Conlee the opportunity to mentor 150 freshman and 24 counselors. 


Dr. Conlee received his B.A. in atmospheric sciences from the University of Louisiana, Monroe, his M.A. in meteorology and physical oceanography at the Naval Postgraduate School, and his Ph.D. in meteorology from Texas A&M University.


GeoX Update
Students from the 2011 GeoX (Geosciences Exploration Summer Program) are back on campus, some in Geosciences introductory classes. Of the 20 students participating in the 2011 summer program, 11 students are now majoring in Geosciences. The GeoX program was again directed this summer by Dr. Sonia Garcia (Dean's Office) and Dr. Chris Houser with the help of: Drs. Christian Brannstrom (GEOG), Don Collins (ATMO), Don Conlee (ATMO), Craig Epifanio (ATMO), Mark Everett (GEPL), Rick Giardino (GEPL), Charles Lafon (GEOG), Kate Miller (GEPL), John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO), Katerina Petronotis (OIDP), Erik Prout (GEOG), Courtney Schumacher (ATMO), Debbie Thomas (OCNG), and Dan Thornton (OCNG). About half of the 2012 students will be back on campus for a GeoX Reunion Nov. 17 during the University of Sam Houston football game. "We hope to see them on campus in the fall of 2013," Dr. Garcia said.

GeoX has  been introducing high-achieving, diverse, and first-generation high school students to the Geosciences for the last two years. The program highlights the interdisciplinary and research aspects of the College of Geosciences as well as careers for graduates. 


Researcher IDs in profile system

In conjunction with the accountability assessment project being administered through the Provost's Office, Researcher IDs can be placed into individual profiles through Geosciences' profile system. The profile system has also been enhanced to include Google Scholar. If you have any issues placing the link on your profile, please contact

Service awards

Texas A&M has recognized three Geosciences faculty and staff members for their years of service to Texas A&M: Dr. Ken Bowman (ATMO), 20 years; Michele Beal (Dean's Office), 30 years; and Dr. Norman Guinasso (GERG and OCNG), 40 years.


Texas A&M Energy Institute Conference

The annual Texas A&M Energy Institute Conference is Oct. 3 and 4 at the College Hilton. The Energy Institute is joining forces with Growing Texas to highlight many of the cutting-edge research programs at Texas A&M University that explore the challenges and opportunities of conventional and emerging energy technologies that rely on the use of water. During a reception students will exhibit posters and answer questions about their current energy projects. For more information, visit the Growing Texas website.  


Geosciences recruitment mixer

The College of Geosciences academic advisors thanks all students and faculty who attended the Geosciences Mixer on Thursday, Sept. 13, in the MSC. The mixer was an opportunity for Geosciences faculty and students to meet with recruiters on campus for the Science Career Fair. There was a great turnout, including 20 companies, 8 faculty, and 97 students.

Student News

Mengran Du (OCNG) is lead author on an article published in Environmental Science and Technology. Co-author is former oceanography professor Dr. John Kessler, now at the University of Rochester: Mengran Du and John D. Kessler, "Assessment of the Spatial and Temporal Variability of Bulk Hydrocarbon Respiration Following the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill," Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es301363k.


Anna Santos, Geography Ph.D. student, won a Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement (DDRI) award for her dissertation: "Opportunities and Constraints to Livelihood Production in the Cassaruba Marine Extractive Reserve in Northeast Brazil."
This award was granted on behalf of the National Science Foundation to improve doctoral studies and provide funding for dissertation research not typically funded through the student's university. Santos was chosen out of 110 submissions for her interests in human-environment interactions, environmental governance and its effects on human livelihoods, conservation of natural resources and community conservation efforts specifically in Brazil and Latin America. Her research is being supervised by Dr. Christian Brannstrom (GEOG). 

Professional Activities




Drs. Christian Brannstrom and Chris Houser (GEOG) and their graduate students Sarah Trimble, Anna Santos and Heather Lee, recently completed a survey at Galveston Island and Port Aransas to determine what beach users understood about rip current and whether they could identify a rip current before entering the water. Funding for this project came from Texas Sea Grant.


Costa Rica

The second year of the Costa Rica REU ended in August at the Soltis Center for Research and Education. Dr. Chris Houser (GEOG) reports: "This year we had 12 students working with faculty from the College of Geosciences (Drs. Sarah Brooks and Anita Rapp, (ATMO), and Drs. Oliver Frauenfeld, Steven Quiring, and Brendan Roark (GEOG), as well as faculty members from the colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences. The REU program has helped establish the Soltis Center as an ecohydrology research station complete with a stream-flow weir, weather station and a 137 ft. canopy tower, thanks to Dr. Gunnar W. Schade (ATMO). The REU program is funded by the National Science Foundation and is directed by Houser. 



Dr. Lisa Campbell (OCNG and BIOL) announces that the automated analysis for the Imaging Flow cytobot data is functioning. You can see images in "real time" at this Flow Cytometry Facility dashboard.  
Campbell is director of the Department of Oceanography's Flow Cytometry Facility.  



Dr. Alex Orsi (OCNG) lectured at the University of Washington's 2012 Summer Institute Sept. 16-18. Orsi participated as part of the Program on Climate Change with this year's theme of "Atmospheric-Ocean-Ice Shelf Interactions." 

Dr. William W. Sager (OCNG) attended the IODP Site Characterization Panel meeting Aug. 7-9 in Barcelona, Spain. 



Dr. Alex Orsi (OCNG) has been published in the Journal of Physical Oceanography: Downes, S., R. Key, A. Orsi, K. Speer, and J. Swift, 2012: Tracing Southwest Pacific Bottom Water using potential vorticity and Helium-3. J. Phys. Oceanogr., doi: 10.1175/JPO-D-12-019.1.

Dr. Burak Guneralp (GEOG) is co-author on an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Karen C. Seto (Yale), Burak Guneralp, and Lucy R. Hutrya (Boston U.), "Global forecasts of urban expansion to 2030 and direct impacts on biodiversity and carbon pools," published online before print, September 17, 2012, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1211658109.

Dr. William W. Sager (OCNG) recently had articles in two AGU publications: Korenaga, J. and W. W. Sager, "Seismic tomography of Shatsky Rise by adaptive importance sampling," Journal of Geophysical Research, B087102, doi: 10.1029/2012JB009248. 


Sano, T., K. Shimizu, A. Ishikawa, R. Senda, Q. Chang, J.-I. Kimura, M. Widdowson, and W. W. Sager, "Variety and origin of magmas on Shatsky Rise, northwestern Pacific Ocean," Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, 12, doi: 10.1029/2012GC004235.  

Dr. Sager
Dr. Sager and his students on the R/V Marcus G. Langseth in Yokohama harbor. From left: Kai Gao (GEPL), Jinchang Zhang (OCNG), Danl Lewis (OCNG), Chris Paul (OCNG) and Sager. 


Calendar items are also posted on the College of Geosciences' 

Facebook page.



Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University will deliver a talk, Oct. 4 (see below). The presentation, "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines," will tell the story behind the now-famous hockey stick graph and its meaning in a larger discussion about the science-and politics-of climate change. The Texas Center for Climate Studies is sponsoring the seminar.


More information is forthcoming in the next Biweekly Briefing.


Friday, Sept. 21

"Climate Change and the Carbon Cycle of Northern Ecosystems," Jason Vogel (Department of Exosystem Science and Management,
Texas A&M University), 3:55p.m., 115 O&M


Monday, Sept. 24 

"Bacterial Remnants as Major Components of the marine Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles," Karl Kaiser (Texas A&M Galveston), 4 p.m., 112 O&M


Tuesday, Sept. 25 

"Climate Dissipation Structure: An Application of Non-equilibrium Thermodynamics," Jiangnan Li (University of Victoria), 3:55 p.m., 112 O&M


Friday, Sept. 28

"The End of the Beginning-Anglo-American Geopolitical Rapprochement in the late 1800s: Samoa, Hawai'i, and Canada," Peter Hugil (Texas A&M University), 3:55 p.m., 112 O&M


Monday, Oct. 1

"The High-Latitude Oceans: An Ongoing Challenge for Climate Models,"

 Achim Stössel (Texas A&M University), 4 p.m., 112 O&M


Thursday, Oct. 4

 "The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines," Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University, 7:30 p.m., rm. 1105, Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building 

The next issue is Oct. 1. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel by Thursday, Oct. 27.
The next issue is Oct. 1. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel by Thursday, Oct. 27.
Featured Articles
Cairns and Conlee receive AFS awards

Survey for on-campus child care

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and Programs