Science & Technology

TAMUG team receives grants to study deep sea fish in the area of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 

By Alyssa Garcia, '16

All academic ventures large and small have one thing in common: the need for funding. It isn’t easy begging for money. It takes persistence and ultimately a research proposal. However, it is all worthwhile when the opportunity is given to achieve aspirations so fulfilling and enriching not only for the recipient, but also everyone involved with the project.

Texas A&M University at Galveston has many different projects and consortiums occurring within every branch and field the university offers. In order to undertake such enterprises monetary resources must be in place to make it happen, mostly in the form of grants.

One grant recipient by the name of Max Weber ’17, California native and Tulane University alumni, is a marine biology graduate student working in Dr. Ron Eytan’s genetics lab. Max is currently operating under three grants.

 He recently received the Mooney Travel Grant for his own research that stretches along the Gulf of Mexico coastline. Max described it saying, “It helps grad students to cover cost of travel to either field work or conferences. I received to it to pay for travel expenses associated with my field work so I was able to use it this summer on a trip I took this summer to Florida where I dove to collect artificial reef fishes for my attraction and production (source-sink) study.”

 He also received the Lerner-Grey Grant for Marine Research from the American Museum of Natural History, in which he states:

“I received [the Lerner-Grey Grant] to look at artificial reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically to perform field work and collect three different species of fish on artificial reefs. The idea behind this project is that you have artificial reefs in all the Gulf States and artificial reef programs which are run by the states in which the primary purpose behind these programs is to increase fisheries productivity – largely for recreational and commercial fishing opportunities. My idea was to investigate this problem using genetics and what I’m trying to do is collect from artificial reefs from Florida to Texas. Genetics will allow us to find genetically distinct populations and source-sink dynamics. It’s a really good way fisheries managers could monitor their artificial reefs and how well they’re working.”

The third grant that is an ongoing project since 2015 in which Ron Eytan, in part with a couple other TAMUG scientists, received $1.9 million from The Nova Southeastern University consortium. This award is to study deep sea fish in the area of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill which is part of a larger ongoing project that is using a $140 million grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI; established in 2010 by BP) called the Deepend Consortium.

Max spearheads the genetics work giving him major credibility to conduct his own research and be a part of an esteemed corroboration. “We are studying the deep sea habitat in the Northern Gulf of Mexico. Deep water habitats are poorly studied, very little is known about the animal life relative to most other marine and terrestrial environments so this is unique and interesting opportunity to go out there and sample and answer all sorts of questions. I am on the fish genetics team. We can do things like species discovery and look at genetic diversity, and it will allow us to go back in time and look at changes in population size in recent history. This genetics data is very important and will answer a lot of questions for us.”

Grants may not be glamorous but they provide more than enough opportunity and explorative initiatives that make it all the worthwhile. Max is one of the many in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program to receive grants, but of course there is no research nor researcher quite alike. Along with funding it takes passion, perseverance, and patience to make a difference.

Annual Conference of Parties (COP 22) proposes plans to enforce climate change regulation and policy

By Alyssa Garcia, ‘16

Climate change is occurring daily and many policies have been enacted to curb the effect society’s carbon emissions contribute to degrading Earth’s atmosphere. An international meeting of many countries occurs every year to create and enforce plans for decreasing the anthropogenic impact on the environment while remaining sustainable for society’s needs. The yearly sessions of the Conference of the Parties (COP) gather to propose to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) largely impactful plans for the globe to adhere to so the Earth’s temperature does not exceed a harmful range to the inhabitants that is irreversible.

Last year’s session COP 21 was very important in that the Paris Agreement brought newly proposed plans for each nation. They actively reduce carbon emissions that pollute the atmosphere and raise the planet’s temperature by changing certain energy policies so the temperature does not exceed 2° C above pre-industrial levels. COP 22 takes place November 7 – 18 in Marrakech, Morocco to initiate the enforcement of the Paris Agreement (officially beginning November 4) among other related issues.

Dr. Jones is a well credited climate scientist on his work with climate studies. One of his more recent papers “The 21st century population-energy-climate nexus” written in part with graduate student Kevin J. Warner was published in March of this year. Washington Post as well as a French paper La Monde, the Houston Chronicle, and Galveston County’s The Daily News wrote of this published work the first of its kind. He teaches Earth’s Climate and Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Resource Scarcity for marine sciences.

“The theme for this year’s COP meeting is ‘accelerating implementation of the Paris Agreement.’ It’s a great thing that everyone signed it, so now it’s about how we really keep it moving so that it’s actually going to make a difference.”

What will be occurring in the week prior to the official meeting of COP 22 is a pre-meeting of sorts in which most of the poor nations of world will be discussing a subject that was proposed half a decade ago. The plan would create a budget for the developed and rich countries of the world in which they would make 100 billion dollars per year available to the poorer countries for green energy, as described by Jones. The Conference of Parties began in 1995 and what gets accomplished defines how impacting they are. One of these important meeting Jones said, “was the 17th in which the Kyoto Protocol was now a binding agreement and it was the first time they started talking about the 100 billion dollars that the developed countries would send to the poorer countries to deal with global warming. That is where they started negotiating what came out of the 21st COP. So, it takes five years of negotiating and then the Paris Accord came up last year and pretty much everyone signed on.” Since globally impactful legislature is proposed at the sessions it ultimately must be accepted by an individual nation if it is not an obligate enforcement. Jones reflects on a time when the environment combatted with policy when he declares, “If you go back historically in the Conference of Parties, the third one was important for the Kyoto Protocol. At that time the United States signed on to it but our Congress never ratified it, and we were not a participant. Then when President Bush came in 2001 he [did] not want to honor it at all.”

Summarized by Jones the week of November 4 the Paris Agreement will be in force in which a minimum of 55 countries, contributing at least 55% of the emissions, were required to submit a plan of how they were going to cut their fossil fuel emissions.  A total of about 150 signed on and agreed to adhere. At the COP 21 it was highlighted that both President Obama and the Chinese President, which are leaders of the top two countries with the most emissions agreed to the Paris Agreement together.

 “That was really important because the United States and China are number two and number one as far as CO2 emissions. If they didn’t sign onto it, it wouldn’t have happened because they had to get that 55% of all global emissions from the countries. So now we have the same problem. In principle, we signed on to it, it’s a good idea but then to say the United States is going to do anything about it, our Congress must ratify it. Given the mix of dysfunction between Democrats and Republicans right now it’s probably not going to happen, unfortunately. [However,] it’s a legal document ‘in force’ so the Obama administration is arguing that it will be in force,” Jones said.

A lot of policies change within countries but international policies are what keep us working toward a greater goal. It is hopeful this Agreement will be integrated in a short matter of time as climate change effects have already become apparent. However, many remain skeptical, including Dr. Jones in part, due to the agreement aiming for implementation by 2020. COP 22 will be the step needed to take this plan further to better the future for humanity and its only planet Earth.