Post-Deepwater-Horizon Research Consortium Announces First Project Awards
The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence has announced more than USD 2 million in research projects to address priority problems affecting the health and well-being of the Gulf of Mexico and those who depend on it. Texas OneGulf is led by the Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.
These projects, funded by the Office of the Governor, represent the first major allocation of research dollars from the Texas OneGulf consortium, which was created after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to direct funding in support of programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region. The projects tackle a variety of issues that directly affect the Gulf of Mexico and its residents, including studying the effect of red tide blooms on human health and the health care infrastructure and using underwater gliders to search the coast for hypoxic dead zones.
“We are very appreciative of the governor’s support of Texas OneGulf as it has allowed us to fund these diverse and innovative projects,” said Larry McKinney, director at HRI. “What happens in the Gulf of Mexico affects the health and economic wellbeing of Texas citizens on a daily basis.”
A consortium of nine Texas institutions, Texas OneGulf is a unique multidisciplinary team of marine science, socioeconomic, and human health researchers united to promote collaborative research and problem-solving actions.
The projects, helmed by a variety of institutions across Texas, are
Gulf of Mexico Report Card Prototype for Texas
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 550,000
Collaborating institutions: Harwell Gentile and Associates and the University of Delaware
This project will develop a prototype Gulf of Mexico report card by evaluating the overall ecosystem health of the Texas Gulf Coast. Workshops of scientists, stakeholders, and Texas environmental managers will convene to identify the pressures and stressors that impinge on coastal Texas ecosystems and define long-term sustainability goals.
Restoring and Enhancing Structurally Complex Nursery Habitat To Enhance Reef Fish Populations
Texas A&M University at Galveston, USD 223,752
Collaborating institutions: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi and The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
This project will develop a structurally complex nursery habitat using both natural and man-made materials to improve the early life survival and recruitment success of reef-dependent fish and gather baseline biological information on the fishery benefits of creating and enhancing these habitats in the northwest Gulf of Mexico.
Isotope Geochemistry of Texas Coastal Waters
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 220,365
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University
Texas has 400 miles of coastline, and growing evidence shows extensive areas of hypoxia (critically low oxygen) as well as a buildup of nutrients within this complex coastal ocean of bays, estuaries, and barrier islands. This project uses an underwater glider to conduct sampling, providing an early and late summer overview of coastal Texas water column carbon and nitrogen source variations, and examine how they contribute to water column hypoxia. This project will complement sampling scheduled for summer 2016 under a separate grant.
Developing a Predictive Ecosystem Model for the Lower Laguna Madre
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, USD 213,956
Collaborating institution: Texas State University
This project will develop an ecological modeling system for sustainable management of the Lower Laguna Madre, a data-poor yet ecologically important region of the Gulf of Mexico.
The Marine Microbiome as a Sentinel for Ecological Health and Resiliency
The University of Texas Medical Branch, USD 186,224
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University at Galveston
This project will establish a baseline of diversity and species composition in microbial communities, microscopic populations of bacteria, fungi, algae, and other microorganisms, in near-shore Gulf of Mexico environments, and monitor changes associated with oil pollutants.
Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence Pilot Project Program
Texas A&M University Health Science Center, USD 150,000
Collaborating institution: The University of Texas Medical Branch
The Texas OneGulf Disaster Research Response Program will create, for the first time, an infrastructure to support disaster research response encompassing environmental, human health, and economic assessment capabilities. The project will provide seed money for pilot projects that can be deployed rapidly to assess the effect of disasters along the Texas Gulf Coast in real time.
Socioeconomic Indicators for Coastal Community Disaster Response and Resilience
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 125,060
This project will identify socioeconomic indicators that can be used in disaster response assessments by bringing together leading expertise in this area to populate a searchable database of indicators for community and human well-being, working with the Gulf of Mexico National Estuarine Research Reserves to apply these in a local context, and publishing online and in print a guide to socioeconomic indicators for disaster response and community resilience.
Red Tide Data Integration Project
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 103,650
When harmful algal blooms such as red tide algae grow and disintegrate along the Texas coast, their neurotoxins may become an aerosol, causing adverse effects that can significantly increase emergency room traffic and visits to doctors. The Texas Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB) Data Integration Project will team up Texas researchers with expertise in HABs and medical researchers familiar with data about the effects of HABs on humans to work together to better prepare first responders, emergency rooms, and the medical system in responding to red tide events, minimizing human health risks.
Texas OneGulf Network of Experts Communications
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, USD 81,390
Collaborating institution: Amazee Labs
This grant will develop and implement a communication strategy that includes the existing Gulf of Mexico web portal GulfBase.org to enhance the ability of the Texas OneGulf Network of Experts (TONE) to inform all Texas stakeholders about its capabilities and expertise. TONE is a network of more than 150 Texas experts in human health, science, marine policy, and related fields convened to work to tackle Gulf problems. The goal of this tool is to facilitate communications among researchers, policy makers, and the general public.
Impact of Environmental Criminal Enforcement on Disaster Response
University of Houston Law Center, USD 80,251
Collaborating institution: Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
This study will aid future responses to environmental incidents and releases in the Texas Gulf region by shedding light on the true risks of environmental enforcement after disasters and offer suggestions on how best to promote effective and speedy disclosure and cleanup in light of those risks. This research will assemble a database of all major industrial disasters in the United States since 2000, focusing on incidents that have occurred in the Texas Gulf region.
Species Identification Training for Effective Monitoring and Management of HABs
Texas A&M University at Galveston, USD 60,000
Collaborating institutions: Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System
Effective monitoring and management of HABs, over growths of algae that can affect ecosystems and human and animal health, relies on accurate and timely identification of the species involved. However, many trained in this specialty are either retired or retiring. This program will provide critical comprehensive training in identification and taxonomy for scientists, technicians, and managers.