TAMU-CC’s Blucher Institute Taps Two Longtime Researchers to Serve in Inaugural Chair Appointments

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Since 1987, the Conrad Blucher Institute for Surveying and Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has played a vital role in informing and protecting citizens and property along the Gulf Coast. The institute seeks to build on its mission to promote surveying education and protect and serve the public through its research, accurate data, and related outreach. Accordingly, it has created the CBI Scientific Leadership Team to guide the institute’s continued evolution.

Dr. Michael Starek ’98, ’02, TAMU-CC Associate Professor of Geospatial Systems Engineering, will serve as CBI Chair for Remote Sensing and Autonomous Systems for Geomatics. Dr. Philippe Tissot, who served as the interim Director at CBI and is an Associate Research Professor at TAMU-CC, will serve as CBI Chair for Coastal Artificial Intelligence (AI). 

Dr. Richard Smith, CBI Executive Director, said the chair appointments will give Starek and Tissot access to CBI endowment funds to further develop and enrich their research agendas.

“Drs. Tissot and Starek have achieved the highest level of academic and scientific productivity, community engagement, and student support. I am excited to have them as leaders of our scientific future and am proud to have them appointed the inaugural CBI chairs,” Smith said.

The Scientific Leadership Team also includes Dr. Davey Edwards, TAMU-CC Assistant Professional Professor and Director of the Texas Spatial Reference Center (TSRC); Jim Naismith, CBI Chair for Excellence in Hydrographic and Coastal Surveying and Ports Practice Leader at T. Baker Smith; James Rizzo, TSRC Associate Director and CBI Development Specialist; and Deidre Williams, CBI Coastal Research Scientist.

The team is charged with identifying the future big-picture scientific research topics and funding opportunities. Additionally, the team will work with the CBI Advisory Board to gather input and advice as well as make community connections. Smith said the CBI chairs will also act as mentors to TAMU-CC faculty.


Drs. Tissot and Starek have achieved the highest level of academic and scientific productivity, community engagement, and student support. I am excited to have them as leaders of our scientific future ...

Dr. Richard Smith, CBI Executive Director

Tissot first joined CBI in 1999 and has served as a CBI research scientist as well as assistant and associate professor of physics at TAMU-CC. During his tenure at the Island University, Tissot is most recognized for the development of AI methods to assess the coastal environment.

“The institute has been my research home for over 23 years. The CBI culture of openness, creativity, and teamwork was essential to develop and implement new artificial intelligence methods for the coast,” Tissot said. “Being named an honorary chair is fantastic news, the greatest honor of my career.”   

Tissot heads the TAMU-CC portion of AI2ES.org, one of the inaugural $20 million National Science Foundation AI institutes. The Island University team coordinates and funds a group of about 20 graduate and undergraduate students, while pushing new methods to predict coastal inundation – coastal fog that impedes sea and air transportation.

“We also contribute to sea turtle conservations during winter cold-stunning events when we share our AI predictions with 100+ stakeholders such as state and federal agencies, local community groups and private sector companies,” he said. “This is a dream project; we are all enjoying it and working hard.”

Starek became an assistant professor with the Geographic Information Science and Geospatial Systems Engineering Program in 2014 and joined CBI as an affiliated research scientist.

That same year, Starek founded the Measurement Analytics Lab (MANTIS) at CBI to explore the merging of geomatics, remote sensing, and geospatial computing to aid scientific and engineering decision-making through improved measurement and analytics of natural and built environments. MANTIS has been involved in numerous research projects supported by local, state, and federal agencies in areas including unmanned aerial systems (UAS), photogrammetry, LiDAR (Light Detection and Ranging), geospatial AI and machine learning, and GIS.

“To receive this recognition from CBI is an honor and a humbling one at that,” Starek said. “CBI has an enduring legacy of providing coastal-environmental observations and data for stakeholders along the Texas Gulf coast and is a national leader in geospatial science education and research. As someone who is passionate about the coast and all things geospatial, getting designated a chair for CBI is a pinnacle of my career.”

“This achievement is foremost a reflection of the work by current and former students that I have had the pleasure to mentor and to the supportive environment CBI provides,” Starek expressed. “CBI fosters collaboration, provides unparalleled administrative support, and offers exceptional IT and field operations capacity that enables researcher and student success.”