DATE:  March 21, 2005
CONTACT: Dr. Wes Tunnell, Associate Director and Harte Research Institute Scientist, (361) 825-2768; Jorge A. Ramirez, Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications, (361) 825-2427

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Harte Research Institute Championing Conservation of Gulf of Mexico

Momentum is building at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi as it enters ifs fourth year of development and operation toward its goal of sustaining and conserving the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources.

As part of the HRI’s Distinguished Lecturer Series, Dr. Don Walsh will deliver a lecture on the latest in deep ocean exploration and technology on Tuesday, March 22 at 7 p.m. in the University Center Ballroom. The event is free and open to the public.

Walsh, whose unequaled dive to the bottom of the 35,800-foot deep Mariana’s Trench off the coast of Guam in 1960 earned him the country’s Legion of Merit award, is the only living person to have explored the ocean’s greatest depths. He has taken part in 22 Antarctic and 24 Arctic exhibitions, including trips to both the north and south poles and was named one of the top explorers of the 20th Century by Life Magazine.

On another front, the HRI is gearing up for its State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit in November. The conference will unite U.S. and Mexican leaders of government, industry, ocean research, and conservation in a focused discussion of collaboration aimed at achieving sustainable economies and environmental quality throughout the Gulf of Mexico region.

The upcoming summit was the major topic of conversation when the Institute’s advisory council met in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico on Wednesday and Thursday, March 17-18. According to Dr. Wes Tunnell, associate director of the HRI, one of the outcomes of the meeting was the identification of the top leaders in science, government and conservation to determine Mexico’s participation in the November summit.

 “The agenda included presentations and meetings with Mexican leaders in conservation and science,” said Tunnell. “Mexico has been very active with conservation efforts in the Sea of Cortez. We hope to use some of their activities as a model for application to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Other ongoing and upcoming HRI activities include:

  • A June 22-July 2 research expedition to Pulley Ridge in Southwestern Florida, the deepest coral reef in the continental United States. HRI Advisory Council chair Dr. Sylvia Earle is one of the explorers who will be aboard the four research vessels involved in the expedition. HRI collaborators are Mote Marine Laboratory, the U.S. Geological Survey, the State of Florida, the University of South Florida, the National Marine Sanctuary Program, and Deep Marine Technology of Houston.
  • Continuation of the hiring of research scientists for the Institute. By September, hires are expected in Coastal and Marine Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Ecosystem Studies and Modeling, and Marine Biodiversity/Conservation Science. Dr. Richard McLaughlin, an expert in Coastal and Marine Policy and Law, is the Center’s first research scientist.
  • The summer move-in to the HRI Building on the A&M-Corpus Christi campus. The $18 million, 57,000 square foot facility will feature 10 labs, including two seawater labs, plus a conference center, GIS suites and an education/outreach center. The new building will house HRI researchers and administration, and eight TAMUCC marine faculty.
  • Receipt of the first HRI research grant of $95,000 to characterize the northwest coast of Cuba. HRI associate Dr. Wes Tunnell and advisory council member Dr. David Guggenheim are the principal investigators in this project made possible by a grant from the Bay and Paul foundations.