College of Geosciences logo

From the desk of Dean Kate Miller
October 30, 2012 

Kate in HalboutyDear Colleagues,

It seems like the semester began just yesterday,yet we are already at the mid-point and getting ready for the Thanksgiving break, finals and the winter holidays! Adding to the usual frantic tempo of a normal semester are half a dozen College- and University-level projects, initiatives and proposals that, once realized, will help elevate us as a preeminent institution in the geosciences.

Some of the highlights of recent successes are in this newsletter: Rick Giardino is the PI for a $10-million, 5-year grant with NASA. Under the leadership of Brad Clement, we are working with a university-wide team to prepare our new bid for the operations and management of JOIDES Resolution with a proposal due to NSF in mid-January. Other teams are working on expanding our activities in Brazil, GIS, and High Performance Computing. If you subscribe to EOS, perhaps you saw our full-page advertisement in the Sept. 25 issue announcing the 12 faculty and research positions we are seeking to fill. The descriptions are also posted online. I have been getting a lot of positive commentary about the ad from colleagues around the country and what it means for the forward momentum of the College.

I am pleased to report that the Tenure and Promotion process is moving along smoothly this year, and I want to thank the departments and their committees for meeting the various deadlines and for providing thorough input to the process. This is one of the most important contributions we can make to the profession as faculty members, and I appreciate everyone's diligence in making sure the packages are complete and that your colleagues' body of work is accurately represented.

A dynamic organization has to absorb the inevitable personnel changes. I regret to say that Sharon Alderete, who has served as assistant to the dean since January 2011, joined the National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease Defense (FAZD). She will be working with Dr. Tammy Beckham as a program coordinator for the center. Sharon's last day was Oct. 26. While we will certainly miss her, I am excited about this new opportunity for her. Assuming Sharon's position will be Janet Kling. Ms. Kling brings extensive experience at administrative assistant to us from the TAMU System offices and most recently Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College Medicine. She will start November 26. In the meanwhile, Rachel Rodriguez will be covering many of Sharon's duties.

Two other staff members are also leaving. Christine Arnold, Academic Advisor II for Atmospheric Science and Oceanography is leaving Oct. 31 for the Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education and Communications. She will continue her duties as an Academic Advisor II but will also be teaching an introductory leadership theory course. Christine has been with us since August 2008.

Michelle Newton, Business Coordinator I in Geography, is also leaving at the end of the month. She will be working in the Department of Aerospace Engineering as Business Coordinator II-Payroll. Michelle came to Geosciences in July 2008.

I wish both Christine and Michelle the best of luck in their new positions. They will be missed.

Happily, our new Director of Development, Jack Falks, joined us on Oct. 15. He will be meeting with department heads, administrators, and faculty in the coming weeks to learn about the College and identify targets for future fundraising. Jack brings to the College and the Foundation a unique set of skills in higher education, having worked both at Texas A&M and in the private sector. I look forward to working with him in taking a fresh look at our development efforts and in bringing the College's fundraising programs to their full potential.

Some important dates are coming up, so be sure to mark your calendars. A broadcast meteorology workshop on campus Nov. 3 will bring weather forecasters from around the state to campus. Our annual holiday and awards program is Nov. 30 at the Hilton. And on January 8, colleagues and friends from across the country will recognize Distinguished Professor and former dean Robert Duce at the AMS symposium being held in his honor in Austin.

While we have already accomplished much this semester, many more challenges and opportunities await us. Everyday, I become more appreciative of how you, our faculty, staff, and students take time from you own busy schedule and priorities to help support broader priorities that will help move this College forward.

Thank you and have a good week.

Kate C. Miller

College Announcements


Jack Falk
Jack Falks

Geosciences welcomes 

new Development Director


Jack Falks '85 joined the College of Geosciences as the new director of development Oct. 15. His development experience includes student financial aid, scholarship initiation and administration, business-plan development and operations in higher education, and proposal development for individuals, corporations and charitable foundations. 


Falks began his career in the Admissions Office at Texas A&M, and was later with the Scholarship and Financial Aid Office where he identified and cultivated potential donors for scholarship opportunities and managed scholarship administration. He has also been vice president at Wells Fargo Education Financial Services and has held offices at other private-sector higher-ed and financial institutions where he was involved in donor relations, business development, proposal preparation and presentation, and account management.


"I am very pleased to represent a college that has such a breadth of research and academic programs," Falks said. "The College of Geosciences provides opportunities for involvement from a broad group of industries, foundations, and former students. I look forward to working with each area on its development needs," he said.


Falks received his bachelor and master's degrees from Texas A&M in agricultural economics and in educational human resource development, respectively. 


"Jack's extensive experience in both the private sector, at Texas A&M University and in higher education in general brings a broad-based perspective to this position," said Dr. Kate Miller, dean. "I look forward to working with Jack in developing fundraising opportunities for all of Geosciences' departments, programs and centers." 


Student research week debuts


Dr. Sarah Bednarz (GEOG/CLGE) is organizing the first Student Research Week, Nov. 12 and 13,  as part of its Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Aggies Commit to Communicate. "A college-level research showcase will help students build visual and oral communication skills," she said. Both undergraduate and graduate students are encouraged to participate. 

Students, individually or in teams, will prepare and explain their research and findings through a poster and oral discussion. All themes and aspects of research are welcomed.

"This is not a competition," said Dr. Bednarz, "although faculty and
student volunteers will offer constructive suggestions to help students
prepare even better posters for the university-level Student Research
Week, March 25-29, 2013.

Guidelines for this project are the same as the University-level
Student Research Week requirements. To sign up for a presentation
time slot or to get more information please visit

Dr. Giardino
J. Rick Giardino

NASA grant awarded 

to Rick Giardino


Dr. J. Rick Giardino (GEPL) will lead a collaborative effort that includes educators from the colleges of Geosciences and Science at Texas A&M and the College of Education's NASA Education Projects Office at Oklahoma State University. Dr. Giardino is Principal Investigator for the $10-million, five-year grant to manage educational outreach programs for NASA's Johnson Space Center. The initiative aligns existing programs with the agency's goal of engaging the next generation of scientists and explorers through space-related STEM topics.  



O&M storm  

Broadcast meteorology workshop comes to campus 


Dr. Ken Bowman, ATMO, and Bob French of KBTX-TV have organized Advances in Meteorology in Texas. The workshop, held in the Eller O&M Building, will host on-air meteorologists from television and radio stations across Texas.


"The workshop focuses on broadcast meteorology and its relationship to meteorological education and operational forecasting in Texas," Bowman said. Participants will discuss areas of collaboration between broadcast meteorologists and climate researchers, advances in weather prediction, and methods for communicating weather and climate information to the public.


Speakers will include broadcasters, Texas A&M researchers and staff from National Weather Service forecast offices. Bill Read is the keynote speaker at the end of the workshop. Read recently retired as director of the National Hurricane Center. He spent 15 years helping to modernize the National Weather Service's Houston-Galveston Forecasting Office before heading the National Hurricane Center for the last four years.


For more information, contact Kristy McRoberts, 979.845.7671, or visit the website for detailed program information.


Sea Grant creates new logo 

with Texas A&M brand

Sea Grant logo


Jim Hiney (TXSG), communications coordinator, reports that Texas Sea Grant and Texas A&M University have developed a new co-branding logo. Hiney asks that faculty and staff keep existing promotional and business items like business cards, T-shirts and pins. He plans to phase in the new logo on these items when they need to be reordered. In addition to the new logo, Hiney requested that the homepage URL,, be included if design space allows for it. Texas A&M recognition is built into the new logo. The new logo covers only the Texas Sea Grant and Texas A&M brands and does not replace the use of the AgriLife logo.

"The new brand will be implemented immediately where possible, such as on our website and media releases," Hiney said. "We also request use of our slogan, 'Science at Work for Texans,' where space and design allow. If it comes to a choice between the URL and the slogan, however, please use the URL."  


  Robert A. Duce

Meteorological Society 

to honor Robert Duce


A symposium and banquet honoring Dr. Robert A. Duce (ATMO/OCNG) former dean and Distinguished Professor Emeritus in the departments of Atmospheric Science and Oceanography, is Jan. 8 as part of the 2013 American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting in Austin. The theme of the Robert A. Duce Symposium is "Air-Sea Exchange: Impacts on the Atmosphere and Ocean," honoring his significant contributions in research related to chemical cycles of pollutant and natural substances in the global atmosphere. Tickets are $45 a person and can be purchased along with registration for the AMS meeting online


Keynote speakers at the banquet are: 

Dr. Margaret Leinen, Florida Atlantic University and AGU president-elect, Dr. Kate Miller, Dean, and Dr. Gerald R. North, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography. To buy the banquet ticket alone, e-mail

Professional Activities


  Piero Gardinali and Terry Wade


Dr. Terry Wade (GERG) served as an invited technical expert in the American Petroleum Institute (API) Subsea Dispersant Program Fate and Effects Workshop, Oct. 3-5, 2012, in Houston. Subsea dispersant injection was employed during the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Subsequently, the API initiated the Subsea Dispersant Injection Program to study a number of topics including the effects of dispersed oil and dispersants on deepwater marine environments. The workshop brought together U.S. and international experts to discuss the best protocols and specimens to use in experiments to evaluate the biodegradation, bioaccumulation, and toxicity of dispersants and dispersed oil at depths of over 1,000 meters.


A former student of Dr. Wade, Dr. Piero Gardinali, was also invited to participate in the workshop. Dr. Wade served as co-chair of Piero's dissertation committee when he received his Ph.D. in Oceanography in 1996. While at Texas A&M, Gardinali studied the assessment of halogenated aromatic compounds contamination in the Galveston Bay ecosystem. He is now an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Florida International University.




Eleven scientists from Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States who participated in the IODP Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST) Expedition were at IODP Oct. 22-26 to conduct the final editing of the expedition's initial science reports. Dr. Frederick M. Chester (G&G) was a co-chief scientist of IODP Expedition 343, which drilled into the fault zone responsible for the March 2011 Mw 9.0 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Expedition 343/343T (April 1-May 24 and July 5-19) was the first rapid-response IODP expedition to drill into a region following a major earthquake. The primary goal of the expedition was to deploy temperature sensors in the borehole to measure the residual heat produced by the earthquake over the next one to three years.

Drs. Piers Chapman (OCNG), Ping Chang (ATMO/OCNG), Alex Orsi (OCNG), Antonietta Quigg (Texas A&M Galveston), Sarah Brooks (ATMO) and Lee Panetta (ATMO) visited Ocean University in China to recruit students for Texas A&M. Chapman, Brooks, Panetta and Orsi gave talks on their departments and research while they were in Qingdao. Drs. Brooks and Panetta were also in Beijing while Orsi traveled to Hobart for a meeting about the Southern Ocean Observing System. 




Drs. Ethan Grossman (GEPL) and Steven DiMarco (OCNG) and former student Josiah Strauss (ENVP) have articles in the Bulletin of Marine Science and in Continental Shelf Research


Strauss*, J., Grossman, E.L., DiMarco, S.F., 2012. Stable isotopes in mollusk shells as indicators of benthic respiration and freshwater penetration on the Texas-Louisiana Shelf. Bull. Marine Sci., v. 88, p. 817-842.


Strauss*, J., Grossman, E.L., DiMarco, S.F., 2012. Stable isotope characterization of hypoxia-susceptible waters on the Louisiana shelf: Tracing freshwater discharge and benthic respiration. Continental Shelf Research, v. 47, p. 7-15.

*graduate student




Academic advisors speak at international conference

Emily Dykes (ENVP), Gail Rowe (GEOG), and Roxanna Russell (CLGE) gave a presentation, "Etiquette 101: Teaching Students Etiquette They Will Use Now and After College," at the 2012 annual international conference on advising held in Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 4-7. Approximately 47% of proposals submitted were accepted to presentThe National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) promotes and supports quality academic advising in institutions of higher education to enhance the educational development of students. For more information about the conference or the organization, visit the NACADA website. The topic was apparently a timely one based on the more than 250-member audience in a 200-person capacity room. The academic advisors have also used the information and resources in the presentation to enhance students' etiquette skills in the classroom, with faculty and during advising appointments, by email, and for elevator use. An Etiquette 101 brochure is available to hand out to students and visitors.


Dr. Wilf Gardner attended a three-day meeting for NSF S-STEM PIs in Arlington, Va., Oct. 14-16 to share best practices and discuss future directions in teaching STEM subjects. Two universal points were the need to focus on evidence-based learning and to move away from student class evaluations for teaching assessment.




Mario Gomez-Hernandez, a graduate student of Dr. Renyi Zhang (ATMO) in the Department of Chemistry, was chosen from more than 1,000 students as a top honoree for the 2012 Society for the Advancement of Chicanos, Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) for his research in the physical science division, "Thermal Desorption Ion Drift Chemical Ionization Mass Spectrometry for the Analysis of Secondary Organic Aerosols." The national conference took place in Seattle this month. The SACNAS branch at Texas A&M is focused on supporting underrepresented minority students from various science, engineering and technology backgrounds. Hernandez's recognition will make up three national honors in the four years A&M has had an organization on campus.  


Keri Bean (ATMO), graduate student, contributed the Tip o' the Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator as well as the title, "Pew! Pew! Take *that* Mars!" to Discover Magazine's "Bad Astronomy." View the full story here.


Calendar items are also posted on the College of Geosciences' 

Facebook page.


Also see the Geosciences Seminar site for all fall 2012 seminars.


Tuesday, Oct. 30

"Old Aerosols Never Die, They Just Get Oxidized," Neil Donahue, Carnegie Mellon University, 4 p.m., 112 O&M


Friday, Nov. 2

"Unraveling the Mystique of Terroir," Greg Jones, Southern Oregon University, 4 p.m., O&M 112


Saturday, Nov. 3

Advances in Meteorology in Texas

10 a.m.-5 p.m., O&M 112


Monday, Nov. 5

"Fossil Carbon Inputs and Aggregation: How Ocean Acidification or Oil Spills Impact Aggregate Formati," Uta Passow, University of California, Santa Barbara, 4 p.m., O&M 112.


Tuesday, Nov. 6

"Rime Mushrooms of Patagonia," C. David Whiteman, University of Utah,   4 p.m., O&M 112.


Thursday, Nov. 8

"Local Cultural Models of Conservation and Organization Legitimacy: A Comparison Across Scales, Jane Packard," Texas A&M University

4 p.m., MSC 2404


Friday, Nov. 9

"Road Map for Geography Education Research," Sarah Bednarz, Department of Geography, 4 p.m., 112 O&M


Monday, Nov. 12

"What Can Genetic Diversity Tell Us about Algal Bloom Dynamics?"

Deana L. Erdner, University of Texas at Austin, 4 p.m., 112 O&M


Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 12 and 13

Student Research Week


Additional information

Executive Committee minutes

University Staff Council

Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel.
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