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March 2014

2014 Scholarship Banquet
Join us at 6 p.m., Friday, April 4, in the Hagler Center to celebrate the academic achievements of our Geosciences students and the donors who support our college. 

In This Issue

Dean Kate Miller
Dear Colleagues,


This month, the College office has been busy with a variety of planning activities as well as meeting with candidates for positions in the College. On March 7, the College Executive Committee met to exchange information on Phase I of our strategic planning process, which included definitions of Vision, Mission, and values for each unit and the College office as well as assessments of internal strengths, weaknesses, external opportunities and threats, and critical issues. We are now well into working on Phase II, which centers on goals and action plans. That effort will culminate in early to mid-May. I know that many of you have contributed your time to this important process and I thank you for that effort. We are aiming for a "short, sweet, and useful" process that will feed into the university planning process that begins in the fall.


It has been a pleasure for me to visit with the many strong candidates for assistant professorships in Geography, Geology and Geophysics as well as Oceanography. In addition, I have had the opportunity to talk with great candidates for Head of the Department of Marine Sciences in Galveston. These candidates' visits to College Station are an important indicator of our growing research and education partnership with our Galveston campus. In the College office, the committee leading the effort to hire a new Director of Recruitment to replace Sonia Garcia, has completed phone interviews and will be inviting candidates in for interviews shortly. Searches for a new Director of Environmental Programs and Associate Dean for Academics are ongoing, but should be complete by late April. No matter how you look at it, we will have a great group of new colleagues joining us as well as some fresh faces on the administrative staff by fall.


Coming up this week is our annual scholarship dinner, where we celebrate our students' accomplishments with the donors who make them possible.  Next week is the annual meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, where the College will have a booth in the exhibit hall and a reception Monday evening. If you are attending the meeting, please join us for a reception from 6-8 pm. Ernest A. Mancini, former director of the Berg-Hughes Center will receive the  Sidney Powers Memorial Award on Sunday, and Carlos Dengo, Berg-Hughes director, will give the Michel T. Halbouty Monday afternoon.


March has gone out "like a lamb." Hopefully, a beautiful April awaits us.





College News

New Bush Library and Museum Exhibit to Explore Offshore Drilling 
Learn about the history, pioneers, and technological advances of the offshore drilling industry at a new interactive exhibit, "Offshore Drilling: The Promise of Discovery," March 31, 2014 through Feb. 1, 2015, at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum at Texas A&M University. The exhibit focuses on the history, current developments, and future of offshore drilling, with an emphasis on the work of George Bush, emerging technologies, and ongoing research at Texas A&M University. 
The College of Geosciences has a special section featuring models of the TABS buoy and glider and a core sample from the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group, hands-on demonstrations from the Gulf Integrated Spill Response Consortium, a ship's model of JOIDES Resolution and core samples from the International Ocean Discovery Program, Aglantis Jr. aquarium from Texas Sea Grant, rock samples from Geology and Geophysics, and information about the Berg-Hughes Center. 
Former Presidential Advisor to Speak on U.S. Science and Technology
The Texas Center for Climate Studies and the College of Geosciences is sponsoring Dr. Neal Lane, former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. He will present "Giving Science Advice to the President -- and Why It's Getting Harder" at 4 p.m., Thursday, April 10, in Room 215 of the Animal Industries Building.

More information about Dr. Lane and his experience is on the GeoNews site.

Renowned Environmentalist Bill McKibben Will Speak on Campus
The College of Geosciences is one of the sponsors of an appearance by environmental activist, lecturer and author Bill McKibben. He will speak at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 10, in Rudder Theater, and at 10:30 a.m., Friday, April 11, in Preston Geren Auditorium, Building B of the Langford Architecture Building.

For more information about McKibben and his work, see the College of Architecture's website.

Congratulations, and Pizza, Go to Geosciences 
As a reward for winning a food collection competition with the College of Architecture this fall, Geosciences was rewarded by the Architecture student government with a pizza party. Geosciences who helped collect over 800 lbs. of food items to benefit the Brazos Valley Food Bank. 

Staff Appreciation Day the Geosciences Way
Texas A&M University's University Staff Council and Human Resources hosted its inaugural Staff Appreciation Week from March 3-7 with events at Rudder Plaza for staff, including prize giveaways, vendor booths and information, entertainment, and snacks. Thanks go out to the College of Geosciences Dean's Office, the Department of Geology and Geophysics and the Texas Sea Grant Program for donating items to this event. 

Dr. Kate Miller showed her appreciation by providing breakfast for each department and unit area on Thursday, March 6. In an email to all staff, Dr. Miller wrote: "The staff members at the College of Geosciences play an integral part in realizing our college's mission. Thank you for your dedication, hard work and commitment to the college and the geosciences."
University News

Free On-Campus Motorist Assistance Services

Transportation Services provides free on-campus motorist assistance services. This new service assists faculty, staff, students and their guests with with car problems while on university property. Assistance includes air for flat tires, jump starts for dead batteries, or a gallon of gas for empty tanks.


Fundraiser: Brazos Valley African American Museum 

The College of Architecture needs one-gallon plastic jugs for its project, for the Brazos Valley African American Museum in Bryan, the "3000 Jugs for the "Shades Project": A Recycled Masterpiece." The jugs will be used to create an art installation and shade project for the Brazos Valley African American Museum in Bryan. Contact Patrick Patterson, project lead, at for more information.

 Center Helps Rebuild Town of West

The College of Architecture seeks volunteers to help the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center rebuild the city of West, Texas, damaged in a deadly explosion last year. The volunteer group is looking for skilled and unskilled teams to help with rebuilds and repairs. If interested, contact Michelle Meyer at 979-862-1414 or


 Professional Activities


The 17th biennial Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM), co-sponsored by the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO), The Oceanography Society (TOS), and the American Geophysical Union (AGU), was held Feb. 23-28 at the Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Aggies from the departments of Atmospheric Sciences and Oceanography along with the Geochemical and Environmental Research group (GERG) and Texas A&M Galveston had more than 50 students, professors and researchers that attended. Videos, photos and daily blog posts from the Geosciences Communications Office coverage of OSM are featured on our blog.

Presenters at OSM included the following (GERG and OCNG unless indicated):
Mullins-Perry, R. L.; Jochens, A. E.,Howard; M. K., Howden, S.
Building Toward A Sustainable, Integrated, and Operational Glider Network in the Gulf of Mexico.   

Mullins-Perry, R. L.; DiMarco, S. F.; Walpert, J.; Dreger, K.; Knap, 
Investigating hydrographic variability in the Western Gulf of Mexico using autonomous underwater vehicles.

Howard, M. K.; Gayanilo, F. C.;
Stössel, M.; Baum, S. K. GCOOS and GRIIDC: A Third Coast Partnership for Big Ocean Data. Tools and Techniques for Data Transfers.
Wang, Z.; DiMarco, S. 
Observations and Analysis of turbulent mixing near the site of the BP Deep Horizon Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico. 

*Zhang, W.; Hetland, R.; DiMarco, S.  Processes controlling a mid-water column oxygen minimum over the Texas-Louisiana Shelf.    

*Spencer, L.; DiMarco, S.; Khuel, J.; Kurian, J.; Chang, P. 
Water column inertial and sub-inertial oceanic response to Hurricane Issac in the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico 

*Zimmerle, H. M.; DiMarco, S.; Guinasso, Jr., N. L. 
Quantifying Texas Coastal Current Reversals in the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico using 18 year time series
Behl, M. (TXSG), Simple models for the heat flux from the Atlantic meridional overturning to the atmosphere.
The TIAS Lecture and Reception, with keynote speaker Dr. Peter Liss speaking on "What on Earth Are We Doing?," Feb. 14, was an occasion for faculty, friends and spouses to celebrate Dr. Liss' tenure at Texas A&M. A poster session before the lecture included the following: 

Alison Smyth*, Peter Liss, Piers Chapman and Shari Yvon-Lewis (OCNG). "The Effects of Ozone and Dissolved Organic Matter on Manganese Speciation in the Surface Ocean."

Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG) co-organized and co-chaired the 12th Symposium on Coastal Environment at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society. Twenty scientists from around the country presented their research results.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program invited Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG) to lead the the panel, "Building Capacity for Engagement around the Third National Climate Assessment Report," at the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) Report.

Heather Wade (TXSG) presented "Bringing Texas Coastal CHARM to Rockport, Texas: Using Real-time GIS Modeling and an Interactive Tabletop to Help Coastal Communities Plan for the Future," at Bay Talks at the Bay Education Center in Rockport, Jan. 31.

Dr. Pamela Plotkin (TXSG) attended the Sea Grant Association meeting in Washington, D.C., March 11-12.

Heather Wade (TXSG) is a member of the Climate Community of Practice Conference Planning Committee. The conference will take place in April in Orange Beach, Ala.

Rhonda Cummins (TXSG) attended the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission meeting in New Orleans on March 18. She serves on the Sea Grant Fisheries Extension Advisory Committee with Tony Reisinger.

The U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) invited Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG), to lead a discussion in a workshop on "Building Capacity for Engagement around the Third National Climate Assessment Report." The workshop brought together authors of the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA3) Report, developers of tools supporting the NCA, and communication, education and outreach experts within and outside of the federal government, including USGCRP agencies and members of NCAnet.

Dr. Pamela Plotkin (TXSG) gave a presentation about Texas Sea Grant at the Houston A&M Club on March 3. 

*Indicates graduate student

Dr. Bob Duce (OCNG/ATMO) chaired an external review of the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute of the University of Tokyo, Kashiwa Campus, Tokyo, March 4-7.

Dr. Bob Duce (OCNG/ATMO) chaired a meeting of the National Academy of Sciences Ocean Studies Board at the National Academy of Sciences Building in Washington, D.C., March 12-14.  
Heather Wade (TXSG) facilitated the Coastal Resilience Index (CRI) self-assessment for the City of Aransas Pass, which included more than 20 participants. Aransas Pass has agreed to work with Texas Sea Grant on the city's comprehensive plan, emergency management plan, and a resilience strategy document from the outcome of the CRI.

Terrie Looney, with assistance from Heather Wade, Rhonda Cummins and Cindie Powel (all (TXSG), coordinated the National Ocean Sciences Bowl regional competition for South Texas, the Loggerhead Challenge. Ten teams of high school students participated in the quiz bowl-style competition March 1 in Port Aransas.

Mary Carol Edwards (TXSG) initiated agreements with the City of Pearland, the City of Alvin, and the Exploration Green Conservancy for the design and installation of stormwater wetlands at three sites on the Texas Gulf Coast. These projects are part of the larger effort to improve non-point source (i.e., stormwater runoff) water quality in the Galveston Bay watershed by demonstrating the use of engineered wetlands as a stormwater Best Management Practice. The effort is grant-funded through the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Galveston Bay Estuary Program.

A selection committee of Rhonda Patterson, Dr. Mona Behl, Peggy Foster and Miranda Rubach (all TXSG) chose 20 schools in late February to host an Aglantis Jr. aquarium. Texas Sea Grant will install 10 aquaria in local schools during the spring semester and an additional 10 in the fall through its Adopt-A-Tank program as part of its local outreach efforts. Patterson installed BioCube tanks at South Knoll Elementary and A&M Consolidated High School in February and at Cypress Grove Elementary, Fannin Elementary, College Station Middle School, St. Joseph Catholic School, Brazos Christian, St. Michael's Academy and the Mary Catherine Harris School of Choice in March.

Charriss York and Chris LaChance (TXSG) provided grant application and management support and technical assistance for the water quality and conservation features of the new Ghirardi WaterSmart Park, which was formally dedicated by the City of League City on March 22. Texas Sea Grant staff will continue to work with the park to evaluate how well the Best Management Practices incorporated in the park are improving water quality.

At the request of Texas A&M, Dr. Mona Behl (TXSG) led a group of three students for an all-day visit to the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio. The visit included briefings, tours, and presentations by researchers working in different divisions at SwRI. These students were selected for participation after a campus-wide call for expression of interest for an externship opportunity at SwRI. Other participating institutions include Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Texas A&M Kingsville.

Heather Wade (TXSG) partnered with the Coastal Training Program to teach a class to Girl Scouts about how science is used to make laws as part of the "Women in Marine Science" daylong program at The University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.

Rhonda Patterson (TXSG) gave an ocean awareness presentation to St. Joseph Catholic School eighth graders.

Rhonda Cummins (TXSG) led the students in the Mariners 4-H club in an educational exercise building models of mudflats and black mangrove trees to learn about how the trees breathe through special roots called pneumatophores.

Rhonda Cummins (TXSG) hosted a "Cooking with Seafood" event March 17 that featured a demonstration of shrimp and sausage jambalaya and a discussion of basic nutritional facts about seafood. 


Dr. Sarah Bednarz (Dean's Office/GEOG) has been elected to serve a three-year term as vice president (beginning July 2014), president (beginning July 2015), and past president (beginning July 2016) of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). AAG is a nonprofit scientific and educational society contributing to the advancement of geography. Its members from more than 60 countries share interests in theory, methods, and practice.  (Dean's Office/GEOG) has been elected to serve a three-year term as vice president (beginning July 2014), president (beginning July 2015), and past president (beginning July 2016) of the Association of American Geographers (AAG). AAG is a nonprofit scientific and educational society contributing to the advancement of geography. Its members from more than 60 countries share interests in theory, methods, and practice. 


Marissa Sipocz and Cullen Ondracek (both TXSG) have been recognized for their work on the Sheldon Lake Prairie Wetland Restoration, which is a finalist in the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's Texas Environmental Excellence Awards in the Civic/Community category. They will be honored at an awards ceremony in May. The project pioneers a new technique for restoring wetlands on landscapes. It is a joint effort by Texas Sea Grant, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Sheldon Lake State Park and Environmental Learning Center. 



Down under with the Aggie flag are Payton Baldridge, Jacob Ford, Tiffany Hall and Forrest Chevaillier.



Geographers Down Under

Over spring break, students in the Geography with GIS option, Payton Baldridge, Jacob Ford, and Forrest Chevaillier, and graduate student Tiffany Hall traveled with Dr. Dan Goldberg (GEOG) to Perth, Western Australia to experience GIS abroad and conclude a semester-long international teaching experiment. They visited the Curtin University Department of Spatial Sciences and other Western Australian agencies including Landgate, WALIS, and Western Australia's Departments of Health, Fire and Emergency Services, and Transport to see how GIS plays an integral role in the administration and operation of public services. In addition to encounters with wild kangaroos, quokkas, and the occasional deadly and dangerous drop bear, the group gave a series of research presentations and built connections for research and educational exchanges between Australia and Texas A&M.

Students Attend the Esri Development Summit in Palm Springs, California
Graduate and undergraduate students represented Texas A&M and the Esri Development Center (EDC), housed in the Department of Geography, at the Esri Developer Summit in Palm Springs, Calif. over spring break. Geography graduate students Andrew Evans and Zhongxia Li, and undergraduate students Kelsi Davis (ENVP), Jannel Gonzales (GEOG-GIS) and Michael Schwind (GEOG-GIS) were part of in the largest gathering of GIS developers in the world. Andy, Michael, and Kelsi  gave research talks to audiences which included top Esri brass and other international developers and companies seeking to hire GIS programmers. Most students also participated in hands-on training sessions with the latest and greatest Esri technologies in advance of the conference. Zhongxia, Michael, and Kelsi finished off the trip with a series of research meetings at UCLA related to the on-the-ground-testing of their CatMapper Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) cell phone app. Student research presentations included:   


A. Evans*, D. Goldberg,
M. Michalowski, "True Spatial-Temporal Development Analysis using ArcGIS and the R Statistical Computing Language"

M. Schwind**, K. Davis**, P. Baldridge**, Z. Li*, D. Goldberg, CatMapper: the iOS and Android Application"   


K. Davis**, M. Schwind**, P. Baldridge**, Z. Li*, D. Goldberg, "The Ethical Dilemma: Ethics and VGI"


Department Holds First Geography Graduate Student Research Symposium 

 The Department of Geography hosted its inaugural research symposium for geography graduate students. The symposium emphasized effective communication of research results to other scientists and the public at large. The event included oral and poster presentations from geography graduate students as well as keynote speeches from former students Dr. Jill Urban Karr '86, executive vice president of Stewart Global Solutions, Dr. Jeff Fitzgerald '94, group manager and director of Jacobs Engineering Inc., and Dr. Daehyun Kim '09, assistant professor of Geography at the University of Kentucky.




Dr. Mark Everett (GEPL) and his team of researchers from Texas A&M and CHICO State have been featured in media outlets such as the BBC World News, the Weather Channel, the Examiner, FOX News and the Houston Chronicle for their research using ground-penetrating radar on Alcatraz Island to uncover Civil War era fortifications under the Recreation Yard of the infamous prison. We originally brought you this story following the American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting back in December.

Dr. Renyi Zhang (ATMO/CHEM) and his team of researchers were featured in Nature Climate Change and the TAMU Times for their research that concluded that aerosols tend to weaken the development of hurricanes and typhoons. They also found that aerosols tend to cause a hurricane to fall apart earlier and wind speeds are lower than storms where anthropogenic aerosols are not present. Articles appeared in more than 60 news media worldwide, including UPI, Wired, Economic Times, Smithsonian Online, Discovery Channel, Voice of America and EarthSky.


Dr. Piers Chapman was featured in In Daily for his analysis of BP's plan to drill for oil and gas in the Great Australian Bight. In considering the "risk of spill," Chapman said an exploration team would need to contend with extreme ocean conditions as it negotiates depths of up to 5,000 meters near a large marine peak

Two publications, "The Steps Required to Produce Visually Perfect, Premium Quality, Great Tasting Wild Shrimp" by Mike Haby, Russ Miget and Tony Reisinger (all TXSG) and "Reducing Fuel Use in the Southeastern U.S. Shrimp Fishery with Vented, Cambered Doors and Braided, Sapphire® Webbing" by Haby and Gary Graham (TXSG), both designed to support the Southeastern U.S. shrimp fishing industry, have been posted for dissemination to the industry on several fishery websites, including the Gulf & South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation, Inc. and the Southern Shrimp Alliance.

Dr. Pamela Plotkin (TXSG) was quoted in an article, titled "New Sea Turtle Challenges," in the April 2014 issue of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.

A TABS buoy, operated by Texas A&M's Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG), was on site of the oil spill in the Houston Ship Channel within a day of the spill. Instruments in the buoy relay near-real time information on currents, wave and wind data in the area of the spill. GERG maintains the buoys for the Texas General Land Office. 


GERG and Texas A&M Galveston's efforts were noted in several local and regional news outlets.


Drs. David Cairns, Sarah Brooks, and Franco Marcantonio were featured on the latest issue of Witness of the Arctic. Dr. Cairns serves on the Board of Directors of the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS). 



Stay up-to-date with the expeditions from the JOIDES Resolution with their blog, written by Peter Cliff.

Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG) was at Flinders University in Adelaide during March to collaborate on the coastal oceanography of southern Australia. He delivered two talks, "Deepwater Oil Spills: new threats and new research," at Flinders University and at the Aquatic Sciences Division of the South Australian Research and Development Institute.  


Graduate students in Oceanography, under the direction of Dr. Niall Slowey and with assistance from Dr. Julia O'Hern conducted a multibeam bathymetric survey January 17-20 at Coffee Lump, a site near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Also participating were representatives from BP and NOAA. The survey is part of a long-term project with the marine sanctuary to identify areas of sensitive habitat where protection may be expanded.   


An Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) swims next to the multibeam polemount. 


David Hoffman, Julia O'Hern, Claire Mckinley (OCNG) and Kaitlin McGraw (NOAA) deploy the multibeam. 






































Mackenzie Schoemann, graduate student in Geography, has been awarded an National Science Foundation (NSF) East Asia and Pacific Summer Institutes (EAPSI) Program grant for Australia. The grant includes a stipend, living allowance, and travel money and is partially supported by the Australian Academy of Science. Mackenzie will spend 10 weeks at the Research School of Earth Sciences, Australian National University this summer (or winter in Australia) working with Dr. Stewart Fallow on paired radiocarbon and U/Th dating of deep-sea corals.

Drs. Wilford Gardner and Mary Jo Richardson and Co-PI's Drs. Dan Thornton, Shari Yvon-Lewis and Ben Giese (all OCNG) have been awarded a five-year NSF grant for $618,826. The project, "Oceanography Scholars" is to recruit new academically-talented students with demonstrated, financial need as Scholars in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (S-STEM) and provide students with scholarships that will provide them with partial support while pursuing MS and PhD degrees in the Department of Oceanography. This comes as we complete a similar $600,000 NSF S-STEM grant that has helped support 29 graduate students in Oceanography during the last six years.

The Gulf Integrated Response Consortium (GISR) has been invited to resubmit for a new RFP funding by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG) is PI for GISR.  










March 31-Feb. 1, 2015
George Bush Presidential Library and Museum

April 4
AAG Practice Talks, Department of Geography Graduate Students, 4 p.m., 112 O&M.

April 4
College of Geosciences Scholarship Banquet, 6 p.m., Hagler Center. Banquet for scholarship recipients, donors, and faculty and staff.

April 7
"Superstorm Sandy: Results from a Rapid Response Initiative on Long Island's South Shore," Dr. Stephan Howden, University of Southern Mississippi. 

April 10
Neal Lane, "Giving Science Advice to the President, and Why it is Getting Harder," 4 p.m., room 215, Animal Industries Building.

April 10 and April 11
7 p.m., April 10, Rudder Theater

10:30 a.m., April 11, Preston Geren Auditorium, Building B, Langford Architecture Building

April 12
Parents' Weekend, 9:30-11:30 a.m., O&M Lobby

April 14
"Does ENSO Care about Orbital Forcing? A View from the Seabed," Dr. Beth Christensen, Adelphi University.

April 25
"Deep-Sea Coral Perspective of Environmental Change in the Oceans," Dr. Brendan Roark, Texas A&M University, 4 p.m., O&M 112.


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