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December 2013

AGU 2013
Over 75 Aggie geoscientists attended the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting Dec. 9-13, in San Francisco, Calif. See the highlights from this conference on the official TAMUAGU blog or on Facebook.
In This Issue
Dear Colleagues,

Dean Kate Miller
I am writing as many of you are winding down the fall semester or have just returned from the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union. For the first time, in a very long time, the College sponsored a booth at the meeting. With an annual attendance of 22,000 geoscientists, a booth at the AGU meeting is very important to assuring the visibility of all our programs in the Geosciences to our peers. While some may think of it primarily as a means of recruiting graduate students, it is also very helpful to showcase our research programs, and to attract potential faculty members and postdocs, to say nothing of it just being a great rallying point for all current and former Aggies attending the meeting. Many thanks to the more than 20 students and faculty members who volunteered to staff the booth over five days to promote our programs. 


UNOLS meeting

Another great opportunity for raising the visibility of our research capabilities came last month, when Dr. Wilford Gardner hosted the annual meeting of the U.S. Research Vessel Technicians (RVTEC) here in College Station. This group gathers yearly under the auspices of UNOLS (University-National Oceanography Laboratory Space). The role of UNOLS is to advise federal funding agencies (NSF, ONR, NOAA, Coast Guard, etc.), ensure efficient scheduling of the U.S. academic fleet, and provide guidance on fleet renewal and on oceanographic laboratory and field facilities and operations. Eighty-five participants from U.S. oceanographic institutions and funding agencies gathered to share best practices for servicing shipboard science and to learn from federal program managers the latest developments regarding new ships and upgrading of research vessels and facilities. Dr. Gardner arranged for the participants to have tours of IODP, GERG, OTRC, and the Coastal Engineering Lab. As a result, participants were extremely positive and impressed by the depth and breadth of our capabilities in ocean science and technology, especially given that we are a 2.5+ hour drive from the ocean.


Electron microscope

In the spirit of holiday giving, we learned earlier this month that President Loftin has allocated $2M to the Vice President for Research to purchase a new electron microprobe. The new instrument is part of a much larger investment in research infrastructure across campus that President Loftin has recently authorized.  This news is especially welcome as our microprobe is now 23 years old and in dire need of replacement. It is a workhorse instrument for the Geology and Geophysics as well as for science, and materials science and engineering researchers. The EMP is essential to ongoing research requiring high precision, micro-scale elemental analyses of solid materials. Congratulations to Dr. Will Lamb and his colleagues in Geology and Geophysics for their persistence over multiple years in demonstrating that an EMP is central to the success of key research programs at Texas A&M. The new EMP will be housed in a shared instrument facility, the Materials Characterization Facility, which reports to the VPR's Office.     


Our College of Geosciences Advisory Board met Nov. 16. Information items and discussion centered on how we are re-envisioning ocean sciences and technology, identifying development priorities and hearing presentations from students (Dillon Amaya, ATMO, Julia Cisneros, GEPL, and Rachel Lopez, ENVP), on their study abroad experiences. We also thanked outgoing advisory council chair, Les Shepard '81 (OCNG) for his long service on behalf of the council and welcomed Jill Urban-Karr '86 (GEOG) as the new chair. We are looking at growing the council and invite recommendations from faculty and former students for candidates who can advocate for the College of Geosciences. 


Core curriculum

Changes in the core curriculum have presented us with good and bad news. Beginning in fall 2014, students are required to complete nine hours of science (the good news), but a lab science is not required (the bad news). The challenge will be to maintain student credit hours (SCHs), especially important now that funding to the College is partially determined by the number of students we teach. These challenges and the "bad news" have provided us with incentives to actively market our core curriculum courses across campus, particularly in the Colleges of Business, Liberal Arts, and Education and Human Development. The opportunity to promote Geosciences and our classes to meet core requirements in three categories, Life and Physical Sciences, Language, Philosophy, and Culture, and Social and Behavioral Sciences, has been taken up by the academic advisors, notably Gail Rowe, Geography, and Roxanna Russell, senior academic advisor, assisted by Drs. Chris Houser and Sarah Bednarz. To support the campaign, we have developed a range of promotional materials, including a poster, bookmarks for students, and advisor handbooks. This team has attended meetings with academic advisors in colleges to affirm the value of our core curriculum courses to their majors. Every year, our faculty introduces thousands of majors from across a range of disciplines to the geosciences. The message that is resonating is the importance of the geosciences to many of society's significant problems: global climate change, air and water quality and security, and adequate energy and food supplies, with the goal of preparing these students for life-long participation in public issues related to science, technology, and society. This kind of outreach and academic salesmanship is essential to the health of the College; we will continue to do this kind of work.   


Happy holidays to all.


Kate C. Miller


College News
Food drive

In a food drive contest between Architecture and Geosciences' faculty, staff and students to see who could contribute the most food by weight, our college won by nearly 300 pounds. Geosciences contributed 853 pounds of food to the Brazos Valley Food Bank, with a total of more than 1300 pounds of food donated. The Architecture student government will treat Geosciences' students to a pizza party in February.

 Students load food to take to the Brazos Valley Food Bank. 

 Professional Activities


Julie Massey (TXSG), coastal and marine resource agent for Galveston County will receive a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Superior Service Awards Program. These awards are the highest honor conferred by AgriLife Extension to faculty and staff who have excelled in their job performance. She will be formally recognized during AgriLife's Centennial Conference, Jan. 8.

Chris LaChance (TXSG), Watersmart program director for the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, received a Certificate of Recognition in the Houston-Galveston Area Council's Parks and Natural Areas Awards Competition for her rain garden project in League City's Heritage Park. 

Texas Sea Grant co-sponsored the 66th Annual Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute Meeting in Corpus Christi, Nov. 4-8. The institute awarded commercial fisher, Eddie Toomer with the Gladding Memorial Award for sustainable fisheries, in recognition for his lifetime commitment to sustainable fisheries management, specifically his contributions to the design of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) for shrimp trawlers. 

"TEDs maximize shrimp harvest while allowing endangered sea turtles to escape. Shrimpers use of TEDs has spared hundreds of thousands of endangered sea turtles around the world," said Dr. Pamela Plotkin, director of Texas Sea Grant and author of Biology and Conservation of Ridley Sea Turtles. KBTX-TV also ran an item about the award.

In its November meeting, the TAMUS Board of Regents designated Dr. Mahlon C. Kennicutt, II, and Dr. George Jackson (both OCNG) each as a Professor Emeritus. Kennicutt is a chemical oceanographer and past president of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research. Jackson was E.D. Brockett Professor in Geosciences.  




The Proceedings of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program, Expedition 344, Costa Rica Seismogenesis Project, Program A Stage 2 (CRISP-A2), was published online Dec. 11, (doi:10.2204/iodp.proc.344.2013). 


Dr. Adam Klaus (IODP) was author on a paper published on the results from IODP Expedition 345, Hess Deep: "Primitive layered gabbros from fast-spreading lower oceanic crust, Nature (2013). doi:10.1038/nature12778  


Dr. Burak Güneralp: Duer-Balkind M, KR Jacobs, B Güneralp and X Basurto (2013) "Resilience, Social-Ecological Rules, and Environmental Variability in a Two-Species Artisanal Fishery." Ecology and Society 18 (4):50. doi: 10.5751/es-05751-180450


Dr. Wendy Jepson
Dr. Wendy Jepson: Jepson, W. (2014) "Measuring a 'no-win' waterscape: Experience-based scales and classification approaches to measure household water security in colonias on the US-Mexico Border," Geoforum (51): 107-120.

Dr. Frederick Chester (GEPL) was first or contributing author to three articles in the Dec. 6 issue of Science:  


F. M. Chester, C. Rowe, K. Ujiie, J. Kirkpatrick, C. Regalla, F. Remitti, J. C. Moore, V. Toy, M. Wolfson-Schwehr, S. Bose, J. Kameda, J. J. Mori, E. E. Brodsky, N. Eguchi, S. Toczko. "Structure and Composition of the Plate-Boundary Slip Zone for the 2011 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake." Science, 2013; 342 (6163): 1208. doi: 10.1126/science.1243719
K. Ujiie, H. Tanaka, T. Saito, A. Tsutsumi, J. J. Mori, J. Kameda, E. E. Brodsky, F. M. Chester, N. Eguchi, S. Toczko. Low Coseismic Shear Stress on the Tohoku-Oki Megathrust Determined from Laboratory Experiments. Science, 2013; 342 (6163): 1211. doi: 10.1126/science.1243485

P. M. Fulton, E. E. Brodsky, Y. Kano, J. Mori, F. Chester, T. Ishikawa, R. N. Harris, W. Lin, N. Eguchi, S. Toczko. "Low Coseismic Friction on the Tohoku-Oki Fault Determined from Temperature Measurements." Science, 2013; 342 (6163): 1214 doi: 10.1126/science.1243641


Jennifer Hertzberg and Dr. Matthew W. Schmidt: Hertzberg, J. E. and M. W. Schmidt (2013). Refining Globigerinoides ruber Mg/Ca paleothermometry in the Atlantic Ocean. Earth & Planetary Science Letters, 383, 123-133, doi: 10.1016/j.epsl.2013.09.044



Dr. John Jacob (TXSG), coastal community development and environmental quality specialist, published a journal article and a book chapter. "Experts, Extension, and Democracy: A Prospectus for a New Urban Grant" appeared in the Journal of Extension, Volume 51 (5). He also produced "Riparian Soils and Wetlands," Chapter 5 of Texas Riparian Areas, published by the Meadows Center for Water and Environment.

Tao*, K., Robbins, J.A., Grossman, E.L., and O'Dea, A., 2013. Quantifying upwelling and freshening in nearshore tropical environments using stable isotopes in modern Tropical American mollusks. Bull. Marine Science, v. 89(4), p. 815-835.




Rhonda Patterson (TXSG) conducted two ocean awareness presentations, including live marine animals in Bryan at Westminster Presbyterian Church for a homeschool co-op and at St. Joseph's Catholic School for a 7th grade science class.


Mary Carol Edwards (TXSG) Stormwater Wetland Program coordinator for the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, coordinated efforts that led to the November 10 launch of the first public demonstration of floating wetland islands in Texas. The wetland islands, in the campus stormwater detention basin of Clear Creek ISD's Education Village in League City, demonstrate a new Best Management Practice for improving the water quality of storm water runoff before it reaches the bayou and bay. A total of 275 volunteers contributed to the project, including 72 who assisted in the launch. The majority of the volunteers were students from six area schools, and volunteer activities included collecting plants, prepping and potting them, making anchors, planting the islands and shores, and positioning the three islands in the storm water pond. 


Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG), research coordinator and climate change specialist, engaged teachers and students with hands-on/minds-on activities in "Fluid Dynamics" during the Texas A&M Regional Collaborative Workshop, Nov. 16. Thirty participants received continuing professional development certificates at the conclusion of the daylong workshop.


Rhonda Patterson (TXSG) conducted two ocean awareness presentations featuring live marine animals in Bryan at Westminster Presbyterian Church for a homeschool co-op and at St. Joseph's Catholic School for a 7th grade science class.


Rhonda Cummins (TXSG), coastal and marine resource agent for Calhoun County, led a coastal and marine science and ecology field trip to Port Aransas and Aransas Pass for Port Lavaca sixth graders.


Dr. Piers Chapman, (OCNG) along with Drs. Tony Knap (GERG) and Steve DiMarco (OCNG/GERG) met with representatives from IBM about SmartGulf, Nov. 14, where Chapman gave a talk about the GISR project. Chapman also hosted a visit from the administrative unit of GoMRI with Sponsored Research Services, Nov. 19-20. 



The Board of Directors of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has approved a grant of $99,103.32 to Dr. Pam Plotkin (TXSG) to support the "Reducing Incidental Capture of Loggerhead Sea Turtles" project. 


Dr. Ryan Ewing (GEPL) was awarded a three-year NASA grant from the Cassini Data Analysis Program for the proposal, "Characterizing Titan's Dunes and Dune-Topography Interactions: Implications for Climate Change in Titan's Equatorial Region." Ewing is PI and co-investigator, is Dr. Alex Hayes, in the astronomy department at Cornell University. The grant is for $343,000. 



Dr. Pam Plotkin (TXSG) was one of three members asked by the Earth's Science Women's Network, "What did your education or career give you that you find useful in your job?" Her answer can be found in the fall 2013 ESWN Newsletter on page 8Research Coordinator and Climate Change Specialist Dr. Mona Behl was also featured.


Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) was quoted extensively on National Public Radio stations across the country for his comments on the Typhoon Haiyan.   



Dr. Frederick Chester was quoted in news and broadcast media around the world, including National Geographic for his paper on the drilling results from the expedition that drilled into the Tohoku-Oki Earthquake fault. 


Dr. Mark Everett being interviewed by BBC World News in the Rec Yard on Alcatraz.

The BBC World News interviewed Dr. Mark Everett (GEPL) and his team on Alcatraz island for a radio feature in conjunction with the AGU Fall Meeting. The team is researching the structure and artifacts of the island during the Civil War era that were buried underneath the prison. Eliana Mijangos and Elora Arana (Communications student workers) filmed and edited the interview on Alcatraz. 


Although representing different universities, the team members are truly a band of Aggies. In addition to Everett are Dr. Tanya Wattenburg Komas '05, Chico State University; Dr. Dana Pertermann '11, Western Wyoming College; and Timothy De Smet, (Ph.D. candidate in Anthropology).    





Dr. Pablo Granados-Dieseldorff (GEOG), who received his Ph.D. at the December commencement, has been named Marine Program Director, Latin America, for Rare. He is in charge of leading the "Fish Forever Global Initiative," a project launched by Rare, the Environmental Defense Fund and UC Santa Barbara.


Dr. Kelly Lemmons (GEOG) won the Texas A&M University finals in the Three Minute Thesis competition. He now advances as the Texas A&M representative to the regional competition in February in San Antonio where he will vie with graduate students in the Southern States Division.

Dr. Karen Butler-Purry, associate provost for the office of graduate and professional studies, with Kelly Lemmons, winner of the 2013 TAMU 3 Minute Thesis competition.

The competition requires a graduate student to orally communicate the purpose, findings and significance of their dissertation or thesis in just three minutes. Success in the competition requires careful preparation and flawless delivery. The three criteria used by the panel of judges, composed of distinguished professors, are clarity of explanation, engagement with the audience, and excitation in the audience of a desire to know more about the topic (description contributed by Dr. Jonathan Smith, GEOG). 




Eric Riggs Dr. Eric Riggs, assistant dean for diversity and graduate student recruitment and development, was named president-elect of the American Geosciences Institute at the Geological Sciences of America annual meeting in Denver, Colo. Riggs was described as having "a career dedicated to geoscience education, both in research and through a multi-year leadership role at the National Association of Geoscience Teachers."


AGI is a nonprofit federation of geoscientific and professional associations that represents more than 250,000 geologists, geophysicists, and other earth scientists. 


Dr. Kate Miller (Dean) has been elected to the IRIS board of directors. IRIS (Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology) was founded in 1984 with support from the National Science Foundation. IRIS, a consortium of over 100 U.S. universities, including Texas A&M University, is dedicated to the operation of science facilities for the acquisition, management, and distribution of seismological data. IRIS programs contribute to scholarly research, education, earthquake hazard mitigation, and verification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. 




Dr. Terry Wade (GERG) presented "Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Chemistry Perspective" at the First Symposium on Deep Sea Oil Spills in Qingdao, Shandong Province, China, Oct. 28-30. Co-authors were Stephen Sweet, Dr. José Sericano, Dawei Shi, Dr. Anthony Knap, Norman Guinasso, Jr. (all GERG), and Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG). 


Dr. Robert Duce, Distinguished Professor Emeritus and former dean (OCNG/ATMO), represented the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board at SCOR (the International Council for Science's Scientific Committee for Oceanic Research), Nov. 25-28, in Wellington, New Zealand. He also chaired a meeting of the Ocean Studies Board at Oregon State University, Newport, Nov. 13-15.


The National Academies Advisory Group for the Gulf Research Program held its Texas state visit in Austin, Nov. 21-22, as the last of a five-state visit. Texas universities, funding agencies and NGOs were represented. The Advisory Group visited each Gulf state to inform about their new 30-year program of research to advance the health, environment and oil system safety in the Gulf and other outer continental shelf regions. The program is funded by BP and Transocean as part of the Deepwater Horizon legal settlements. Representing the College of Geosciences were the following: Research Perspectives Panel: Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG), Dr. Matt Howard (OCNG), and Dr. Pam Plotkin (TXSG), presenting their programs, GISR, GCOOS and Texas Sea Grant, respectively. 


Dr. Plotkin provided an overview of Texas Sea Grant's activities and its experience in stakeholder engagement, discussed how the new NAS program will enhance Texas Sea Grant's efforts at the state and regional level, and described lessons the program has learned that can help NAS as it begins to engage the region. 


For the Academic Research Administrators Panel Dr. Tony Knap (GERG) and Dr. Gilbert Rowe (TAMUG) represented Texas A&M. Dr. Knap spoke on behalf of the Office of the Vice President for Research. All presented what they had identified as the most important issues in the Gulf. According to Knap, most agreed that what was most highly needed was a mechanism to sustain observations in the coastal zone. Knap observed that long, time-series observations, a commitment to ocean literacy and an understanding of the shedding of eddies from the Gulf loop current were critically needed to sustain the Gulf region. 


"I pointed out that for the most part there have been few legacies from other oil spills anywhere, and the only way that we will be more prepared for the next spill is to develop a long-term sustained monitoring program," Knap said. 


The IODP Expedition 341 (Southern Alaska Margin) editorial and sampling post-cruise meetings took place at IODP and the Gulf Coast Repository, Nov. 11-22. Twenty-nine shipboard and shore-based scientists from eight countries participated in the meetings. The scientists took over 22,000 samples from the five sites drilled this past summer to study the climatic and tectonic history of the Gulf of Alaska. 


As noted in the Dean's message, Dr. Wilford Gardner (OCNG) organized the recent UNOLs meeting at Texas A&M. At the opening session, he gave a keynote science talk. At a reception at GERG, hosted by the Dean's Office and organized by Janet Kling (Dean's Office), Dr. Tony Knap outlined plans for the future of GERG. Laura Caldwell (OCNG) provided invaluable logistical help. Thanks to the many others who made the workshop a success. The feedback from the participants was extremely positive, Gardner said.


County Coastal and Marine Resource Agents Terrie Looney and Rhonda Cummins and Outreach Specialist Rhonda Patterson (TXSG) staffed the Texas Sea Grant booth at the Conference for the Advancement of Science Teaching (CAST) conference in Houston, Nov. 7-9. 


Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG), research coordinator and climate change specialist, participated in the annual Renewable Natural Resources Foundation conference, "Congress on Coastal Resilience," College Park, Md., Dec. 11-12. 


Dr. Pam Plotkin (TXSG) participated in the marine biology indisciplinary retreat, Dec. 12-13, at TAMU-Galveston that involved students and faculty from TAMU, TAMUG and TAMU-Corpus Christi. 


Dr. Pam Plotkin (TXSG) was an invited participant to the Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtle Bi-national Recovery Working Group meeting, Brownsville, Texas, in November. 


Dr. Lisa Campbell, postdocs Drs. Reagan Errera and Darren Henrichs and graduate student Darcie Ryan along with Dr. Rob Hetland's postdoc, Dr. Kristen Thyng (all OCNG), were well represented at the Seventh Symposium on Harmful Algae in the U.S., Sarasota, Fla., in October: 


Campbell, L., R.M. Errera, D.E. Ryan, and A. J. Bourdelais. 2013. Cellular response to osmotic stress in
Karenia brevis.


Errera, R.M.,* S. Niven, A. J. Bourdelais, and L. Campbell. 2013. A day in the life of Karenia brevis: diel variation in cell volume and ladder-frame polyether production.


Henrichs, D.W.,* R.D. Hetland, and L. Campbell. 2013. Predicted origins of Karenia brevis bloom formation along the coast of Texas using an individual-based model. 


Ryan, D.E.* and L. Campbell. 2013. Karenia brevis reference transcriptome assembly and transmembrane protein sequence discovery. 


Thyng, K.M,* R.D. Hetland, M.T. Ogle, X. Zhang, F. Chen, and L. Campbell. 2013. Physical mechanism for Karenia brevis bloom initiation in Texas. 


Alex Van Plantinga (GEPL Ph.D. student) presented at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America: "Tracing Brazos and Navasota River waters and quantifying evaporation with stable isotopes and conductivity."


(Abstract): Van Plantinga*, A., Winning*, D., Stockert*, E.M., Robertson*, J.R., Roark, E.B., and Grossman, E.L., 2013. Tracing Brazos and Navasota River waters and quantifying evaporation with stable isotopes and conductivity. Geol. Soc. America Abstracts with Programs, v. 45. 


*Indicates student







Thursday, Jan. 30
"Shifting Geographies of Distrubance: Managing for Ecosystem Resilience in a Changing World," Dr. Erica Smithwick, Penn State, 4-5 p.m., O&M 112.

Friday, February 14
"What on Earth are we doing? Lessons from the past to help solve future environmental and climate problems," Professor Peter Liss, CBE, FRS, School of Environmental Siences, University of East Anglia, Norwhich UK and Texas A&M Institute for Advanced Study Faculty Fellow, Department of Oceanography, Texas A&M University, 4-5 p.m., Annenberg Presidential Library.


Send items of interest for the January issue to Karen Riedel.
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