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From the desk of Dean Kate Miller 

  Dean Kate Miller

Dear Colleagues,


May is a time of beginnings and endings. Our students begin a new phase in their life as they end their time with us. Those of us left behind tie up the loose ends and begin to plan for the next academic year. In looking back, I am proud of what we accomplished this year, and I want to thank everyone for your hard work and considerable contributions. 


The year culminated in several prestigious awards for our faculty, staff and students--both graduate and undergraduate, many of which are described in this newsletter. This spring's commencement saw 125 of our students graduating. On the other end of the equation, we have a record number of acceptances for incoming freshman, with 207 confirmed (168 last academic year). In addition, 33% of incoming freshmen are under-represented minorities, which helps the College fulfill its vision of leading the discipline in producing graduates of diverse backgrounds who rise to be leaders in private industry, government, and education.


At the department level this past year, we have a new director at GERG and are moving forward in combining its strengths and expertise with Oceanography to become a national leader in basic and applied research, education and technological development in ocean sciences. In Geography, the addition of Drs. Michael Bishop and Dan Goldberg has provided new direction and energy to our GIS program. For Geology and Geophysics, a partnership with Chevron established the Basin Modeling Center for Research Excellence, located in the Berg-Hughes Center. A $10-million dollar NASA grant for STEM education, through Principal Investigator Dr. Rick Giardino, will help bring science awareness and opportunities to thousands of students across the Southwest. 


We also have a new feature on campus. The next time you go to the MSC, go down one level to see Sea Grant's 300-gallon saltwater aquarium, Aglantis. Sponsored by the Provost's Office, the aquarium is stocked with marine life typical of the Texas Gulf Coast to promote ocean awareness and wise use of our coastal resources. A name-the-crab contest yielded E. Crab Gill, an homage to the legendary 12th Man, E. King Gill. 


For new beginnings in the departments, we look forward to welcoming six faculty hires next academic year, bringing five new assistant professors to Geology and Geophysics and one new assistant professor in Atmospheric Sciences.


At the College level, we took measure of ourselves this year, literally. The accountability project, which yielded data on the College's impact, productivity, service and student learning and outcomes, will be our baseline to build upon in the coming years.


Internationally, we have new agreements with Nanjing University in China and with the University of São Paulo and the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil. Our participation with the Soltis Center is stronger than ever with Geology and Geophysics now participating along with our established presence of students and faculty from Geography, Atmospheric Sciences and Environmental Programs.


As part of Texas A&M's Quality Enhancement Plan, the College chose the theme, Commit to Communicate. This last academic year, we hired writing assistants to help on an individual and class basis, and we held our first Geosciences Student Research Week, organized by Dr. Sarah Bednarz.


It's been a great year, thanks to all of you. Here's to a less stressful but productive summer as we gear up for the fall.



Kate Miller

Dean, College of Geosciences


College News


Eleven faculty members receive tenure and promotion


The following candidates were approved for tenure and promotion by the Texas A&M Board of Regents May meeting, effective Sept. 1, 2013. Congratulations to all.


Promoted from associate professor to professor

Dr. Christian Brannstrom (GEOG)

Dr. Steven DiMarco (OCNG)

Dr. Robert Gibson (GEPL)

Dr. Robert Hetland (OCNG)

Dr. Charles Lafon (GEOG)

Dr. Alejandro Orsi (OCNG)

Dr. Courtney Schumacher (ATMO)


Granted tenure and promoted to associate professor

Dr. Benchun Duan (GEPL)

Dr. Robert Korty (ATMO)

Dr. Matthew Schmidt (OCNG)

Dr. Michael Tice (GEPL)


Geosciences honors its graduates during May ceremony


The College of Geosciences held its annual ceremony honoring spring graduates, May 10, in the Halbouty Building. Dean Kate Miller recognized the graduates, friends and families in the morning reception, held before the Texas A&M graduation that afternoon.


One-hundred-and-twenty-five Geosciences students became former students during spring 2013 graduation. Fourteen graduates received their doctoral degrees and 13 received master's degrees.


Jacqueline Prescott (ENGS) and Megan Rathwell (ENST) were honored with the Environmental Programs' Outstanding Graduating Senior awards. Erik Nielsen received the Ed Felder Memorial Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Meteorology.


Audra Hinson (ENGS) received the first Excellence in Oceanography award. Geology and Geophysics recognized Nicholas Davis and Daniel Ugarte as Outstanding Students. Top field geologist awards went to Kyle McKenzie (Montana field camp) and Nicholas Davis (Southwest field camp). Nicholas Parrish received the Outstanding Student Award in Geography.


2013 graduation
Dean Kate Miller congratulates outstanding students Jacqueline Prescott, Erik Nielson, Nicholas Davis, and Kyle Calbat.




Students receiving the College of Geosciences Outstanding Student Award for having the highest grade point ratio were: Kyle Calbat (ENGS), Shannon Coats (ENGS), Nicholas Davis (GEOL), Erik Nielson (METR), and Jacqueline Prescott (ENGS).


GeoX begins June 7


The Geosciences Exploration Summer Program (GeoX) takes place June 7-14, 2013. The GeoX faculty selection committee, composed of Drs. Debbie Thomas, Courtney Schumacher, Chris Houser, and Katerina Petronotis reviewed 48 applicants and selected 20 competitive and diverse students for this year's program, said Dr. Sonia Garcia, recruitment and retention director and GeoX coordinator.


Six Geosciences students will serve as their counselors, mentors, and chaperones: Pablo Banda (ENGS), Florita Rodriguez (ATMO), Nicholas Kiker (ENGS), Elora Arana (ENST), Loes Van Dam (GEPL and GeoX class of 2011), and Janet Torres, graduate assistant (WMHS) as the lead counselor. Dr. Houser is the faculty lead.


 Geosciences' reps make a mark in Faculty Senate

Wendy Jepson
The Texas A&M University Faculty Senate awarded Dr. Wendy Jepson (GEOG) the Richard Stadelmann Faculty Senate Service Award, which is given to a first-term faculty senator who has displayed an uncommon devotion to the Faculty Senate. Drs. Andrew Klein (GEOG) and Jepson have been elected to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee for 2013-14 academic year.


Dr. Don Conlee and Dr. Kate Miller



Duan receives CAREER award from NSF 


Benchun Duan

Dr. Benchun Duan (GEPL) received an NSF CAREER award for his proposal "Numerical Investigation of Controls on Megathrust Earthquakes Along the Japan Trench Subduction Zone." The five-year, $600,000 grant will enable Duan to model the physical processes of earthquakes to better understand how large earthquakes along subduction zones are generated. The educational components of the grant include training students in High Performance Computer modeling, sponsoring a workshop for high school science teachers on earthquakes, and teaching a course on earthquake physics. 


The Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program is a National Science Foundation program that offers its most prestigious awards to support junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations.


Conlee receives advising award at graduation ceremony

At the College graduation reception, Dean Kate Miller presented the 2013 Robert C. Runnels Excellence in Advising Award to Dr. Don Conlee, described by one of his students as "a great professor, advisor, friend and role model."


Conlee has contributed to the quality of the undergraduate experience by

  • designing and building (with help from the department) the Weather Center on the 12th floor of O&M, made specifically for undergraduates to view and discuss what is happening in the atmosphere as well as apply the knowledge students learn from courses.
  • developing a green roof project with the College of Architecture, engaging students in this cutting edge technology, and
  • working with students to develop the summer SOAP project.


Don mentors the TAMSCAMS and Texas Aggie Storm Chasers student organizations and stays in contact with students when they are out in stormy weather to ensure their safety.


Another student wrote: "his most notable accomplishment is his advising. . . It is hard for me not to get teary-eyed when I start to talk about how Dr. Conlee has helped me grow as an individual. He is more than just a professor; he is that friend you desperately need during rough times. . . No one will compare to the insight and inspiration that 

 Dr. Conlee provides on a day-to-day basis."


The annual award recognizes a faculty or staff member in the College of Geosciences whose undergraduate advising fosters the academic and personal growth of students. It was named after Dr. Robert C. Runnels, whose 32 years of dedication to the undergraduate students in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences earned him respect from both students and colleagues.





Deepwater Canyons: Pathways to the Abyss


Dr. Brendan Roark (GEOG) was a Principal Investigator on the Deepwater Canyons: Pathways to the Abyss cruise in April and May 2013. The scientific crew were on board the NOAA research vessel, Ronald H. Brown. The cruise is the third for a four year-project to study the biology, geology and oceanography of a series of canyons off the middle Atlantic coast. Of particular interest are areas of hard substrate that could support deep-water coral ecosystems and other rare habitats, such as methane seeps. The cruise also has a marine archeology component, which is to look for historically significant shipwrecks. 


Roark used the ROV Jason II to collect water chemistry to help characterize biogeochemical cycling within the Canyons and deep-sea corals to reconstruct paleoclimates.


The cruise websites are Deepwater Canyons and NOAA Explorations. The blog--or mission log--can also be found on the NOAA site.  


Advisor's blog records Geology field trip experience


Suzanne Rosser, academic advisor for GEPL, accompanied Dr. Andreas Kronenberg and GEOL 330 students on a field to New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, May 12-24. Read about the experience on her blog, Advisor on the Rocks.




Dr. Debbie Thomas (OCNG/GEPL) gave the Shell Science keynote, "When the World Was Warm, Looking Back to the Future," at the National Association of Science Teacher's annual meeting in San Antonio on April 12.


She also gave the keynote talk at the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society induction ceremony at Texas A&M, April 14.


Thomas also was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Texas A&M

University - Central Texas Graduate Research Recognition Banquet on

May 8.


Dr. Terry L. Wade (GERG) gave an oral presentation at the Texas Bays and Estuaries Meeting at the University of Texas Marine Sciences Institute in Port Aransas. GERG co-authors were Steve Sweet, Dr. Jose Sericano, David Shi and Dr. Norman Guinasso. The presentation was "Gulf Integrated Spill Consortium (GISR): Petroleum in the Water Column in the Vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill." 


Dr. Eric Riggs (GEPL/Dean's Office) visited King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, for the 10th meeting of the Saudi Society for Geosciences,  April 15-18. He gave an invited keynote address at the conference, "Educating the Next Generation of Geoscientists: Recruitment, Retention & Student Success." More information on the SSG10 conference can be found on the website.    While in the region he also visited TAMU Qatar and Qatar University to discuss the potential growth of College programs in the area.




Drs. Rick Giardino (GEPL/GEOG) and Chris Houser (GEOG) are editing a forthcoming volume, Principles and Dynamics of the Critical Zone, of the Elsevier series on Developments in Earth Surface Process. The book, involving several faculty members from the College of Geosciences, will be the first to summarize the current state of Critical Zone research. The National Research Council (2001) defines the Critical Zone as the "heterogeneous, near surface environment in which complex interactions involving rock, soil, water, air, and living organisms regulate the natural habitat and determine the availability of life-sustaining resources."



B. Guneralp and K.C. Seto, Futures of global urban expansion: uncertainities and implications for biodiversity conservation.

Environ. Res. Lett. 8 014025 doi:10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014025 


Atmospheric Sciences

Cho, Hyoun-Myoung*, Shaima L. Nasiri, Ping Yang, Istvan Laszlo, Xuepeng "Tom" Zhao, 2013: Detection of Optically Thin Mineral Dust Aerosol Layers over the Ocean Using MODIS. J. Atmos. Oceanic Technol., 30, 896-916. doi: 



Hu*, L., S.A. Yvon-Lewis, J.H. Butler, D.B. King, J. Lobert and S.A. Montzka (2013), An Improved Oceanic Budget for Methyl Chloride, J. Geophys. Res., VOL. 118, 1-11, doi:10.1029/2012JC008196.


Liu*, Y., S. A. Yvon-Lewis, D.C.O. Thornton, L. Campbell and T.S. Bianchi (2013), Spatial Distribution of Brominated Very Short-Lived Substances in the Eastern Pacific, J. Geophys. Res., 118,  doi 10.1002/jgrc.20183.


F. Ziska, B. Quack, K. Abrahamsson, S. D. Archer, E. Atlas, T. Bell, J. H. Butler, L. J. Carpenter, C. E. Jones, N. R. P. Harris, H. Hepach, K. G. Heumann, C. Hughes, J. Kuss, K. Krüger, P. Liss, R. M. Moore, A. Orlikowska, S. Raimund, C. E. Reeves, W. Reifenhäuser, A. D. Robinson, C. Schall, T. Tanhua, S. Tegtmeier, S. Turner, L. Wang, D. Wallace, J. Williams, H. Yamamoto, S. Yvon-Lewis, and Y. Yokouchi (2013), Global sea-to-air flux climatology for bromoform, dibromomethane and methyl iodide, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 13, 5601-5648, doi:10.5194/acpd-13-5601-2013.


*Student author




Dr. Chris Houser (GEOG) assumed the position of associate editor for Earth Surface Processes and Landforms for a five-year term.


Dr. Wilf Gardner (OCNG) participated in a two-day UNOLS Council meeting in San Diego, Calif., March 5-6, to consider issues regarding the U.S. academic research vessel fleet. NSF awarded Oregon State University the contract to construct as many as three new Regional Class vessels, one of which is scheduled to operate in the Gulf of Mexico. The first vessel should be launched in 2019. 


For the second year in a row, Dr. Sonia Garcia (Recruitment) has been invited by Dr. Christine Stanley, (Vice President and Associate Provost for Diversity) to be a co-P.I. on a qualitative research study on Hispanic students who are admitted to Texas A&M but chose not to matriculate. The objective of the study is to learn how Texas A&M can enhance the matriculation of Hispanic students, and provide strategic recommendations to academic and non-academic departments in its recruitment efforts. 


Dr. Rick Giardino (GEPL/GEOG), Dr. Chris Houser (GEOG) and Bill Barkhouse, department advisory council member, have established Geoscience Students and Teachers Without Borders®. The mission of this new organization is to support the education and application of the geosciences around the world. The goal of the new organization is to facilitate multidisciplinary partnerships to strengthen education and research in the geosciences by bringing students and teachers from various countries and backgrounds together to learn and to solve geoscience problems together.


"It is through such joint projects that lasting cooperations and friendships are created," Giardino said. Many of the projects focus on the use and application of the geoscientists' toolbox to address needs of disadvantaged schools and communities to address geoscience problems that impact humans in the critical zone of Earth. 





Dr. Wendy Jepson (GEOG) received The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research Faculty Research Fellowship for 2013-2014 ($5,000) to support the project "Colonias Biopolitics: Mobilizing a 'Health Crisis' for Water Development." This work is part of her monograph on the politics of drinking water provision in south Texas colonias.



The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group has received contracts totaling $578,000 from the Texas General Land Office to supplement the Texas Automated Buoy System. The funding will allow GERG to build an additional TABS 2.25m buoy and two additional coastal monitoring buoys. The Coastal Monitoring Buoy (CMB) was designed by John Walpert under a separate project funded by the TGLO. The Coastal Monitoring Buoys are intended to replace the TABS I Buoys.


This supplemental funding also paid for 50% of the cost of a new forklift for GERG. This replaces GERG's 60-year old forklift, obtained as surplus from the Air Force decades ago. The forklift supports TABS, GERG and Oceanography programs. Dr. Norman Guinasso is the PI of the TABS program and Dr. Steve DiMarco and John Walpert are Co-PIs.


The prototype Coastal Monitoring Buoy, center, is being tested at GERG. The left buoy is one of three TABS 2.25m buoys. Behind are TABS I and II buoys.





























In with the new: 60 years later GERG gets a new forklift.





Drs. Andrew Klein and Anthony Filippi (GEOG) accompanied seven geography students to the ESRI Petroleum GIS Conference held annually in Houston. Their students took home two of the three awards given at the poster and map competition sponsored by the Association of Petroleum Surveying and Geomatics. 


Panshu Zhao won first place for his poster "Using object-oriented approach to map debris-covered glaciers in Himalaya and relevant analysis." Joni Kincaid and Iliyana Dobreva took third for their poster "Charquini Glacier Southeast Ice Thickness Measured in 2012 Using Ground Penetrating Radar to Inform Tropical Glacier Volume-Area Scaling."


Students attending were Iliyana Dobreva, Panshu Zhao, Mary Tilton, Daniel Russell, M. Damla Arslan, Hoonchong Yi, Mallorie Jewell, and Reese Dunn.


Iliyana Dobreva and Panshu Zhao received awards for their posters at the ESRI Petroleum GIS Conference.

The Melbern G. Glasscock Center for Humanities Research awarded Heather Lee Brown and Swetha Peteru the Glasscock Graduate Research Fellowship for 2013-14 ($2,000 each). Both are doctoral students of Dr. Wendy Jepson (GEOG). Heather is currently conducting fieldwork that examines the political ecology of water, technology and agriculture in Mexico while Swetha leaves for Peru to conduct fieldwork on the impact of biodiversity in agroforestry systems.

Previous HERG recipients of Glasscock Graduate Fellowships were Fiona Wilmot and Paulami Banerjee.  

Dr. Xinxin Li, a May graduate in Oceanography, received the best student poster award at the Texas Bays and Estuaries Meeting based on her Ph.D. research, "Historical Reconstruction of Hypoxia in the East China Sea and Northern Gulf of Mexico: Linking Patterns of Change." Co-authors were Dr. Thomas S. Bianchi (OCNG), Dr. Lisa E. Osterman, and Dr. Jun Zhao. Li is currently a post doc at GERG, and is shown here with Dr. Terry Wade (GERG) .




Injeong Jo '11, assistant professor of geography at Texas State University, received the Natoli Dissertation Award this year from the National Council for Geographic Education. She was a student of Dr. Sarah Bednarz (GEOG).


Laurie Johnson '86 '88 has been named one of six outstanding alumni in the College of Architecture. After receiving her bachelor's degree in geophysics, she earned a master's degree in urban planning. She is now principal of the San Francisco-based firm Laurie Johnson Consulting firm, which specializes in disaster recovery and risk management.





Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG) was featured over the last two months in national and international broadcast media, including major broadcast networks and newspapers, for the drift card project funded by BP as part of the Gulf Integrated Spill Response Consortium. Chapman and his team released yellow drift cards into the Gulf of Mexico to help track and improve prediction models of how oil travels the currents. Finders of the card are eligible to win $25 gift cards if they report the location of where they found the card.


Dr. Ethan Grossman (GEPL) offers his knowledge about paleoclimate science in relation to the late Cretaceous period in a Nation of Change article, pointing out the discrepancies in the findings about increasing levels of CO2 in climate change as a "boon to plant life" in today's increasing climate.


Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) addressed the Texas Legislature to offer practical steps the state needs to take to limit potential damage from climate change. He also discussed the current drought, which he said might become the second worst in the state's history. The article can be found on the Texas Tribune website.


Dr. Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) also weighed in on precipitation levels for the spring, which was featured in local news outlets around the state, including Community Impact, Southwest Farm Press and, announcing that they were "below normal, likely resulting in above-average temperatures this summer."


He adds that "Central Texas is more flood-prone than other parts the state; a fact that could bode well if a significant tropical storm approaches the area" Read the complete story here.


Brent McRoberts (ATMO) was quoted in Weather Whys in newspapers around the state for funnel clouds, anvil clouds and other weather phenomena events. 


Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University that answers weather and climate-related questions in local newspapers across the state and the nation. It is produced in conjunction with the Texas A&M Marketing and Communications Office and written by Keith Randall, science writer.


Dr. Don Conlee (ATMO) and a group of Atmospheric Sciences students referred to as SOUP (Student Operational Upper-Air Program) help fill the void in meteorology data for this region of Texas by launching weather balloons that help forecast weather conditions for Bryan, College Station and surrounding areas. National Weather Service offices from Houston, Fort Worth and the Storm Prediction Center often call Dr. Conlee to gather data from their launches to use in local forecasting. Their data allow forecasters to gain the understanding of the atmosphere roughly 100 miles outward from College Station. View on the KBTX Website.

The next issue will be in June. Please submit items of general interest to the College to Karen Riedel.
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