Education & Outreach

Captain W. Jay Tarkington
Program Director, CCS Aquatic Education Program
Phone: (361) 825-3221
Under Captain Jay's leadership of the Aquatic Education Program (AEP) at CCS, local students have participated in experienced-based learning, teachers have expanded their science education and training, and community groups have learned about the beauty, diversity, and ecology of the area in which they live. AEP aims to educate the public on the unique ecology, history, and culture of the Texas coast.
All educators, civic or environmental groups and organizations, who are interested any of the available AEP program listed below, please contact Captain Jay directly.
*Check out our YouTube channel soon to watch an exclusive interview with Captain Jay!

Available AEP Programs

R/V Wetland Explorer Program

          The Center for Coastal Studies currently operates the shallow water research and education vessel, the R/V Wetland Explorer II. This unique vessel can operate in less than a foot of water and allow students to safely explore the shallow water areas of the Coastal Bend. 



Jay and others on Wetland Explorer

          The vessel is operated by a licensed captain with all “on the water” programming lead by a trained wetland biologist/educator. The R/V Wetland Explorer II is perfectly suited for travel in the bays and estuaries of South Texas and, over the past decade, has introduced over 20,000 individuals to the many Coastal Bend ecosystems. 

Jay with students outside

Field Experiences

          Various field experiences can be arranged for your class, organization, or civic group. AEP staff members will provide field experiences in various areas around the Coastal Bend. Field courses include: Boat-based wetland exploration, wetland kayak tours, beach walks, jetty walks, ecology and historic driving tours, bird and plant identification. All field experiences include extensive hands-on activities that require individual participation.

Wonders of Wetlands

          In the fall of 1999, the AEP began a lecture series targeting the many individuals who visit the coastal bend in the fall or winter. These popular one-day seminars, held at various locations, provide the participants with a “crash course” on wetland ecology and coastal bend ecological issues. 


AEP field experiences - students with Jay

          After spending the morning indoors learning about the diverse ecology through presentations and activities, the participants then spend the afternoon exploring in one of our local wetlands. By combining the classroom and field programs, the participants get a well-rounded picture of the Coastal Bend’s wetland resources and can experience them on a personal level.

Advanced/Special Topics Seminars

          These seminars and teacher workshops are provided to give special emphasis on a particular topic or location. Trained AEP/CCS staff provides participants with extensive information on an array of topics including: Padre Island Ecology, Texas Coastal History, Texas Coastal Ecology, and Texas Seagrass Ecology.

Service Projects

          The Bay Debris Removal Program was established in 2009 to educate students on the amount and effects of marine debris. Participants assist in the removal of various types of debris from our local bay systems. With the R/V Wetland Explorer II, students are able to travel to remote areas of the Coastal Bend and pick up, catalog, and dispose of debris from rarely traveled areas.

Two people removing debris from bay

          Along with the debris removal, the students are educated on our local ecosystem and how humans have an effect on the system. All students participating have a better understanding of the origins of marine debris and will practice proper environmental stewardship in the future.

Guest Speaking

          The AEP is always available for guest speaking engagements. We speak on a variety of subjects to diverse groups ranging from homeowners’ associations to garden club members. Talks to classes and community groups can be presented on: wetland function and value, wetland hydrology, coastal ecology, coastal history, and water quality. The program provides speaking engagements to over 500 individuals annually.

Current Education/Outreach Projects

Texas Terrapin Education and Research Program (TexasTerp)
Program Manager: Aaron Baxter
Collaborator: Jay Tarkington, Center for Coastal Studies Aquatic Education Director
Project Description: TexasTERP was founded in 2012 with the goal of joining terrapin research in Texas with a strong education/outreach component to make the public more aware of this unique species. Topics are varied and cover many aspects of terrapin biology and life history. Dissemination of information occurs in multiple formats including formal, and informal, presentations to local groups, attendance at local festivals/events, and educational modules geared towards school age children.

Terrapin for Terp project 2

Improving Community Health: MST and QMRA on the Texas Coast 

Sponsor: Environmental Protection Agency
Co-PI: Erin Hill
Project Description: The Center for Coastal Studies at Texas A&M University Corpus Christi and Voices of the Colonias will develop bi-lingual education outreach materials that target underserved communities (i.e., Colonias) in the Baffin Bay Watershed. Education outreach activities will take place at community events (i.e., health fairs, food bank distribution events) to actively engage underserved communities within the watershed to better understand microbial pollutant pathways and measures they can undertake to address these pollutants. These type of community events can reach up to or exceed 250 participants. Engaging stakeholders in twoway conversations will help to assess needs of those communities that have been long overlooked within this watershed. Conversations with the Colonias about how runoff flows through their community - on their local roads, in parks their children play at, in row crop fields with and without plants, in riparian buffer zones, and finally into the receiving waterbody. Communities will be informed on, for example, where bacteria comes from, where does it live and grow in the environment, how does it get into runoff, who and what can be infected by bacteria.
The objectives are to create an education and outreach program that cultivates personal responsibility for water quality and polluting behaviors within the Baffin Bay Watershed. Promote community engagement to protect and improve water quality that will in turn improve public health and revitalize watershed communities. Education outreach material will communicate microbial source tracking and risk assessment data outcomes in a simplistic approach that can be understood by the lay person.

Colonias outreach project Colonias outreach project

Oso Bay / Oso Creek Watershed Model & Outreach & Education 

Sponsor: Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program
Principal Investigator: Erin Hill
Project Description: The Oso Bay/Oso Creek watershed drains an area of approximately 255 square miles and is in the northern-most portion of the Nueces-Rio Grande Coastal Basin.  Oso Bay is an enclosed, shallow body of water situated along the southern shore of Corpus Christi Bay, with a surface area of approximately seven square miles. Oso Bay receives much of the storm water runoff from the City of Corpus Christi as well as the cooling water from the Barney Davis Power Plant.  The housing developments around the bay range from large, multi-acre tracts to neighborhoods with many houses per acre, to apartment complexes.
Stakeholders identified a number of human activities as potential contributors to water quality problems. A lack of natural resource awareness, a depreciated value for clean streams coupled with a deficit in the understanding of human activities that contribute to nonpoint pollution underlie the existing water quality impairments.  Refrigerators, tires, dead animals, and household garbage dumped at public road crossings testify to this awareness problem.  The objective of this project is to develop an educational activity and presentation, bilingual outreach materials, “Call to Action” questionnaire, and use the Oso Bay watershed model in outreach events in the Oso Bay watershed. The proposed project results from recommendations made by stakeholders during the I-Plan development process for this watershed and is included as a measure within the Implementation Plan.

Oso Bay watershed model outreach project 

Oso Bay Watershed Model