Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi

Ryan Fikes

An Outstanding Islander

Outline photo of Ryan Fikes

Gulf Conservation

Conservationist Ryan Fikes is committed to protecting the resources of the Gulf of Mexico because he wants to ensure that “America’s Working Coast” will be around for future generations to enjoy. That means taking measures so that the Gulf remains viable in key areas of economic, recreational, and natural resources.

Before Fikes graduated with his Master of Science in Marine Biology in 2008 from the Island University, he was hired as project coordinator for the Gulf of Mexico Foundation. In 2010, he was promoted to deputy director to oversee coastal habitat restoration and conservation, activities, manage state and federal contracts, and supervise environmental education programming.

“It’s really exciting for me to be involved in every facet of this fast-growing non-profit organization from the science to the business end,” said Fikes (BS in biology in ’04). “Through this, we’re able to craft and mold our program around our strengths.”

Fikes, recipient of a 2011 EPA Environmental Quality Award for his coordination of restoration activities and conservation alliance efforts in the Caribbean, is a co-principal investigator on more than $3 million in grants. Much of his success he attributes to the student employment opportunities he pursued while at the University. He was lab operations manager for the Harte Research Institute and conducted research in marine community ecology at the Center for Coastal Studies.

While working as a research coordinator for the Pollution Prevention Partnership, Fikes received the National Student Employee of the Year award. He also served as a fellow for the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Bocas del Toro, Panama, where he dove daily to search for new species of algae. He also coordinated scientific diving expeditions in the southern Mexican Caribbean and assisted with long-term coral reef monitoring with Dr. Wes Tunnell.

“For three years in a row, I went to see the changes in habitats and coral reef systems, said Fikes, a former intern for Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Coastal Fisheries Division. “That is something that stands out very vividly to me. I took advantage of every opportunity. Working in the field where I was pursing the degree at the same time helped me achieve my goals.”

Currently, Fikes is conducting dives at 15 sites within the Gulf and Caribbean to ensure projects are resulting in sustainable ecosystem restoration.

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