Chief Academic Officer Newsletter

Dr. Louchouarn
VPAA Dr. Louchouarn

Calendar and Upcoming Events

Faculty Forum Friday August 23, 3:00 to 5:00pm


Summer Commencement '13

White Coat Summary '13

Department Publications (2011-2013)

General Academics

Maritime Administration

Marine Biology

Marine Sciences

Marine Engineering Tech/Maritime Syst. Engineering


August Newsletter

VPAA-Briefs - October 2013

Dear members and friends of the Sea Aggie community, before I start this Newsletter, I cannot but acknowledge the huge loss TAMUG has experienced in the passing of Dr. Sammy Ray. I do not speak lightly when I say that a “patriarch of science” has left us. I did my graduate studies at an institution where one such patriarch worked until his 93th birthday (Dr. Pierre Dansereau, a central figure in botany and ecology in the mid-20th century). The commonality between these men (and several others at other institutions) was the intimate marriage they held between a keen intellect and profound humanity. And as typical of patriarchs, they told immemorial stories to provide a human context to our professional lives, and they led by example. They worked harder, longer, and were twice as compassionate with their students (and Sammy would say “twice as lucky”). Their generosity, particularly to younger generations, was legendary, and they have changed countless lives not just for their mentorship and scientific advice, but for the guidance on how to succeed in a highly competitive environment while keeping a deep sense of respect for everyone they interacted with. These men were driven by the need to teach and touch lives. And we are better for it today. They are the models we should seek to emulate and their loss is only tempered by the timeless lesson they left behind, namely that a passion for knowledge and its dissemination are at their best when shared freely with others. I join the entire TAMUG community to send our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Dr. Sammy. But they should know, there is no life left untouched by Sammy on this campus (and beyond in many cases). He will remain an inspiration for generations yet to come. And I for one, will always look for him in thoughts to proudly say, “look what we’ve all done with what you’ve started”. And in closing, our continuous achievements highlight the old adage that Sammy lived and worked by (and one that was repeated a few times at his memorial): “If you work twice as hard and twice as long, you will get twice as lucky." So true, and such a mark of a life devoted to his passion, family, and friends. Sammy was a true member of “America’s Greatest Generation”.

Now, these last two months have been filled with achievements and activities and I invite you to read the following for an update. The first major achievement for the entire campus is that welcomed our largest student population this fall, which reaches just short of 2,200 students (undergraduates and graduates). TAMUG’s proportional increases in student head count and student credit hours (+8%) are the second and third highest, respectively, in the System. Secondly, we welcomed our largest “class” of new Faculty with 12 highly talented individual joining our ranks. We are continuing our period of recruitment and will be engaging this fall to spring in a number searches which include two Department Heads (Marine Sciences and Maritime Systems Engineering/Marine Engineering Technology) and a umber of Faculty positions.

In mid-October, TAMUG hosted the retreat from the Department of Oceanography, which also included the visit of Dr. Kate Miller, Dean of Geoscience, and members of her executive team (Dr. Jack Baldauf,
Executive Associate Dean and Associate Dean for Research, and Dr. Eric Riggs, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Graduate Student Development). This visit allowed the Faculty of the Department of Oceanography (with a number of joint appointees on our campus) to chart a new course for the future. These discussions are but one example of the stronger ties we are building with a number Departments and Colleges on main campus. I look forward to provide more updates on these initiatives in the near future.

And Finally, I want to extend a warm and sincere shout out of appreciation to the entire academic community at TAMUG. This Fall is particularly busy with intense work to prepare for the new Core Curriculum (to be implemented in Fall ’14), the development of Departmental metrics, the preparation for the name change of the Maritime Systems Engineering degree to its new name of Offshore and Coastal Systems Engineering, and the preparation of a number of new degrees which we will seek to implement in the coming 1-2 years. In addition to the largest build out of new labs to accommodate the recently recruited Faculty, we do not lack for fires to attend to, and the positive attitude of everyone has been phenomenal, and a strong reason why we are still sane (or at least I think we are). This is the kind of “yes can do” attitude that gets you to higher grounds. If any thing, and in spite of the very high demand for multitasking from anyone, I know that we will soon see the light on many of these projects and be ready for the transition to fully meet the mission of excellence, affordability, accessibility, and service to the public good that characterizes Texas A&M University. I recently had to write a short vision statement for TAMUG for the next 5 to 10 years, approved by RADM Smith. Here are the aspirations we articulated for TAMUG in this time frame:

By 2023, TAMUG will be recognized for being a dynamic component of Texas A&M and for playing a significant role in its identified goals of student success (higher than state average graduation rates, lower than average national school debt, high recruitment rate of graduates). By this time, TAMUG will also have matured its expertise in applied research themes of social importance with respect to marine affairs, and contribute to the development of broad based pinnacles of excellence in scholarship and innovation at Texas A&M. Socially-relevant fields in which TAMUG will seek to make a difference are: Marine-focused One Health research, Energy, Economic development, Educating leaders for the 21st Century, and Natural and Built Environment.

This is only a vision statement and only possible with the commitment and engagement of all of TAMUG’s actors. But I know that with the talent of its Faculty and staff, its highly enthusiastic students, and TAMUG’s unique 360-degrees view on marine related studies, we can lead this institution through its transition. Again, I thank you for your hard work and sharing this vision. Remember Sammy’s words: “If you work twice as hard and twice as long, you will get twice as lucky."

University Announcements

a)     University leadership:

Here are some changes in leadership in some Departments and the Office of Research and Graduate Studies:

  • Marine Sciences: Dr. Melanie Lesko, Instructional Associate Professor, has accepted to lead the Department in the capacity of Interim Head until we complete a National search for a new Head. Dr. Lesko brings years of experience as Assistant Department Head of Marine Sciences.
  • Maritime Systems Engineering/Marine Engineering Technology: Dr. Bert Sweetman, Associate Professor in the Department of Maritime Systems Engineering, has accepted to lead the two Departments in the capacity of Interim Head until we complete a National search for a new Head. Mr. Gerard Coleman, Instructional Assistant Professor and Assistant Department Head of Marine Engineering Technology, has accepted to increase his time commitment and support Dr. Sweetman’s effort in leading these two Departments.
  • General Academics: Mr. John Carhart continues to serve as Interim Department Head for General Academics until Dr. JoAnn DiGeorgio-Lutz joins us in January to take the permanent post of Department Head and Professor of Political Sciences.
  • Office of Research and Graduate Studies: As we grew our graduate enrollment by double digits again this year, and recruited our largest freshman class of tenure-track Faculty, we needed to establish better connections with the Office of the Vice President of Research, College Deans, and the Office of Graduate and Professional Studies (OGAPS) in College Station. Also, as research compliance and management continue to increase in complexity, we need to make sure that we pay enough attention to pre- and post-award research management. For these reasons, I have reorganized the functioning of the Office of Research and Graduate Studies at TAMUG. Dr. Antonietta Quigg, Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, has taken the leadership of the Office of Graduate Studies, will continue her service of Research Development, and will also act as the Director of the Texas Institute of Oceanography, a position she has held as Interim since November 2011. Dr. Tammy Holliday, Associate Vice President for Research Operations, will now focus on pre- and post-award research management and will continue to interface with Texas A&M Research Sponsored Research Services, Texas agencies, and the Contract & Grants Office for all TAMUG contracts.

Professional Activities

a)    Publications

  • On the right hand side of the Newsletter page, you will find a list of publication for each Department for the past three years. I was amazed at the breadth of subjects and the diversity of journals that we publish into. From Limnology & Oceanography, to Croatica Chemica Acta, to Nano Letters (I love the name of that one. You need powerful glasses to read it), and Nature and Science, we cover it all. In fact, the number of peer-reviewed publications or books/book chapters by TAMUG Faculty has increased steadily in the last three year (~55% since 2011) from 120 in 2011, 142 in 2012, and 185 in 2013. Considering that 2013 is not yet over, this is just a mark of where we are headed. So, I encourage you to browse the list of publication and feel amazed by the breadth and depth of our research and scholarship on campus (please also note the number of student publications in these lists!).

b)    Achievements, Honors, and Awards 

  • Congratulations for Dr. Tom Iliffe, Professor in Marine Biology, for receiving the 2013 Newsmaker Image Award from Texas A&M University’s Division of Marketing & Communications. This award recognizes individuals who have “gone the extra mile” in helping Texas A&M with its media relations endeavors. In Dr. Tom’s case, the “extra mile” is particularly noteworthy since we are talking underwater and underground miles… This awards honors an individual for his or her noteworthy contributions in helping create a positive image for Texas A&M and demonstrating the highest ideals and goals of the university. A luncheon in Dr. Iliffe’s honor was held on main campus on Oct. 23rd, 2013. Find the full story at:

  • Congratulations to Dr. Traber, Associate Professor in General Academics, for being elected as the American Literature representative of the South Central Modern Language Association Executive Committee (eight elected members). The South Central Modern Language Association officially includes the states of Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi, but with members in the United States and abroad.  The mission of the Association is to enhance its members’ involvement in scholarship, teaching, and research in the modern languages and literatures.

c)    Faculty “in the World and in the News”

  • In this issue I want to recognize one of our Faculty who has led extraordinary and impactful activities for veterans for the past two years. Last summer, Mr. Gerard Coleman, Instructional Assistant Professor and Assistant Department Head of Marine Engineering Technology (and Coach of the Sailing Team), led a team through a Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC) to the Ruth Glacier in Alaska. The CWVC is a non-profit charitable organization led by other Combat Wounded veterans dedicated to improve the lives of wounded and injured veterans through rehabilitative high-adventure and therapeutic outdoor challenges while furthering the physiological, biomedical and pathological sciences associated with their injuries. Vulneror non Vincor (Wounded – not Conquered) is the CWVC motto. The Challenge expeditions are physically and psychologically demanding alpine and wilderness efforts. These expeditions provide sufficiently arduous, reasonably achievable, and extremely motivational isolated wilderness experiences that simultaneously provide achievement and camaraderie for the Challenge team, and a unique setting for physiological and psychological research.


  • In July 2013, the Combat Wounded Veteran Challenge (CWVC) team flew in small ski-equipped Alaskan bush planes from Talkeetna AK to the Ruth Glacier (at the foot of Mt. McKinley), and established its base of operations at the Don Sheldon Mountain House. CWVC team injuries included below-the-knee (BK) amputations, brain trauma, and paralysis. Four members of the CWVC team, along with guides, prosthetists and orthotists, and CWVC support persons (including Professor Gerard Coleman) conducted research and training in prosthetics, traumatic brain injuries, ice climbing, crevasse rescue, glacier travel, and back country skiing. Mr. Coleman continues to go above and beyond in his service to veterans and is a true inspiration for his sailing team, students, Faculty, and many others off campus.

  • Dr. Bill Merrell, Professor and George P. Mitchell ’40 chair in Marine Sciences, and Dr. Sam Brody, Professor in Marine Sciences, George P. Mitchell '40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts and Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities and the Texas Center for Beaches and Shores, attended the 8th annual I-Storm (International Network for Storm Surge Barriers) conference in Venice Italy from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 as guest of the Chairman.  They toured the Venice barrier and learned about the surge suppression techniques of other participating countries, as well as shared information about their proposal for a surge protection system for Galveston Bay.  The meeting was very successful and future collaborations with the I-Storm network are already under way.

  • In September, Dr. Timothy Dellapenna, Associate Professor in the Marine Science, and his graduate Joshua William, Ph.D. candidate in the TAMU Oceanography Dept., visited Recife, Brazil to collaborate with scientists from the Department of Oceanography at Pernambuco Federal University. This was a reconnaissance visit and not only allowed for the collection of an important data set, but it also provided the opportunity to plan a broader collaborative research program between Brazilian and TAMUG scientists both in Brazil and Texas. In October, Dr. Dellapenna, travelled to South Korea and Shanghia, China, as part of his Faculty Development Leave.  He visited Dr. Guan-hong Lee, a professor of Oceanography with Inha University, in Incheon.  Dr. Lee and his family spent the past year living in Galveston during his sabbatical, hosted through the TAMUG TIO Visiting Scholar program.  Dr. Dellapenna gave seminars at Mokpo Maritime National University and Gunsan National University on their research investigating the impact of estuarine dams on the geology and geomorphology of Korean estuaries.  
d)    Grants awarded
  • Congratulations to Dr. Jens Figlus, Assistant Professor in Maritime Systems Engineering, Dr. Tim Dellapenna, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, and Dr. Anna Armitage, Associate Professor in the Dept. of Marine Biology, for their successful awards from the Sea Grant 2014-2016 research grants competition. Of the 120 pre-proposals that were encouraged for development into full proposals, the review panels ranked the top 15 and were able to fund only the first 6. The three TAMUG Faculty were part of this very select group. At a 5% success rate, this is indeed a very select group! The title of Dr. Figlus’ project (where Dr. Dellapenna is Co-PI) is “ If we lose Folletts Island, we lose coastal communities and Christmas Bay: A geological framework and numerical model study of the sustainability of Folletts Island”. Dr. Armitage is a Co-PI on a project awarded to Dr. Steven Pennings (PI), at the University of Houston, entitled “Mangroves are invading Texas salt marshes: what are the consequences?”
Other grant awards:
  • Dr. Anna Armitage (PI), Associate Professor in the Dept. of Marine Biology, and Dr. Antonietta Quigg (Co-PI), Professor in the Dept. of Marine Biology and Associate Vice President for Research and Graduate Studies, were awarded a project by the Texas General Land Office and NOAA. The title of their project is “Maximizing the ecological value of coastal wetland restoration: Comparison among restoration techniques”.
  • Dr. Sam Brody (PI), Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, George P. Mitchell '40 Chair in Sustainable Coasts and Executive Director of the Institute for Sustainable Coastal Communities and the Texas Center for Beaches and Shores, was awarded a project by William Marsh-Rice University entitled “The stress nexus of coastlines: Population development, infrastructure security, and morphological dynamics of the upper Texas Gulf Coast”.
  • Dr. Tim Dellapenna (PI), Associate Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, was awarded a project by the Texas General Land Office entitled “Assessment of Holocene Sedimentation around San Luis Pass-West Galveston Bay (Supplement)”.
  • Dr. Tim Dellapenna (PI), Associate Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, and Dr. Pete van Hengstum (Co-PI), Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, were awarded additional funding for a project funded by the Texas General Land Office and NOAA. The title of their project is “Geological framework study of Follett’s Island-Brazoria County – Phase II – Data processing and modeling”.
  • Dr. Juan Horrillo (PI), Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Maritime Systems Engineering, was awarded a project by NOAA entitled “A probabilistic methodology for hazard assessment of tsunami generated by submarine landslide and for construction of tsunami inundation maps in the Gulf of Mexico”.
  • Dr. Karl Kaiser (PI), Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Marine Sciences, was awarded a project by NSF entitled “Research application of biomarkers to examine transformation of dissolved carbon and nitrogen reservoirs in Arctic Rivers”.
  • Dr. David Wells (PI), Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Marine Biology, and Dr. Jay Rooker (Co-PI), Professor in the Dept. of Marine Biology, were awarded a project by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department entitled “ Biomass and community structure of reef fishes on TPWD artificial reefs in North Texas”.
e)    Student Success
Yet a new tradition begins! On August 30th, the Office of Academic Enhancement unveiled the first “Wall of Scholars” in the Jack K. Williams Library. Three plaques were displayed to recognize students who have demonstrated academic excellence during the previous academic year. The plaques and the ceremony were made possible through the donation of funds from the Association of Former Students and from the Academic Enhancement Office. One of the plaques lists the name of students on the Dean's Honor Roll. Undergraduate students are awarded this title when they complete a semester schedule of at least 15 hours or a summer session schedule of at least 12 hours with no grade lower than C and with a grade point ratio of not less than 3.75. The second plaque honors Distinguished Students, a designation given to students who complete a semester schedule of at least 15 hours or a summer session schedule of at least 12 hours with no grade lower than C and with a grade point ratio of not less than 3.5. Finally, the third plaque recognizes members of the Honors Program during the 2012-2013 academic year. The emphasis of Texas A&M University at Galveston Honors Program is to promote undergraduate scholarship by providing academically talented students with the opportunity to participate in specially designed courses that prepare them to conduct independent research and/or scholarly activity under the oversight of a faculty mentor. A number of administrator and family members were invited and I have the great pleasure to congratulate these bright students for their exceptional achievements.


Student Presentations (Sept-Oct)

Kendra Kopp(M.Sc. MARM with Dr. P. Louchouarn) was awarded “Best Student Poster Presentation Award” at the International Symposium on Polycyclic Aromatic Compounds in early September. Kendra’s presentation was entitled “A 300 Years Record of Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons in Lake Botanisk, Copenhagen: Historical Reconstruction of Combustion Processes in a Scandinavian Urban Lake”. Congratulations!

Jeff Frazier and Brandon Hill (M.Sc. MARM with Dr. T. Linton) were awarded “Best Student Poster Presentation Award” at the American Shore & Beach Preservation Association in late October at the Association's 2013 annual conference held on South Padre Island. Their presentation was entitled, "The Sargassum Early Advisory System (SEAS); A Predictive Model." Brandon Hill is the first student on our campus accepted into the fast track (3+2) degree in Ocean and Coastal Resources (Bachelor)-Marine Resource Management (Master).

Allison Myers-Pigg (Ph.D. OCNG with Dr. P. Louchouarn) presented a poster in Late October at the Geological Society of America, entitled “Implications for significant loss of labile pyrogenic DOC in major Arctic Rivers”.

Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

TAMUG has 11 students participating in the 2013-2014 Undergraduate Research Scholars Program (22% increase from 2012 and 38% increase from 2011).  Galveston students have been participating in this program for about 10 years.  This program gives students an opportunity to undertake a complex research project with a faculty mentor and introduces the student to the academic publication process and scholarly community.  Participants, their majors, and advisors are:

  • Melissa D’Amore (MARB) – Mentor: Dr. Robin Brinkmeyer
  • Taylor Farrell          (MARA) – Mentor: Dr. Joan Mileski
  • Brandon Hill (OCRE) – Mentor: Dr. Thomas Linton
  • Rachel McMahon (MARS) – Mentor: Dr. Karl Kaiser
  • Burkely Pettijohn (MARS) – Mentor: Dr.            Ayal Anis
  • Joclyn Bosquez (MARB) – Mentor: Dr. Bernd Würsig
  • Kelsey Elizabeth Johnson (MARB) – Mentor: Dr. Bernd Würsig
  • Isaac Johnston (MARS) – Mentor: Dr. Peter Santschi
  • James Kuslich (MARB) – Mentor: Dr. Gilbert Rowe
  • Marissa Oldiges (MARB) – Mentor: Dr. Anja Schulze
  • Robert Tyler (MASE)          – Mentor: Dr. Jens Figlus

Four of these Undergraduate Research Scholars also received support from the Texas Institute of Oceanography (TIO) for the academic year. The students and their project’s titles appear below:

  • Kelsey Elizabeth Johnson (MARB): Shore-based observation of Bottlenose dolphins in the Galveston Ship Channel using photo identification.
  • Isaac Johnston (MARS): Pu concentration and isotopic composition analysis of contaminated soils from Savannah River Site, USA and Fukushima Prefecture, Japan by a Thermo XSERIES 2 Quadrupole ICP-MS and Alpha Counting.
  • James Kuslich (MARB): Environmental factors influencing benthic macrofaunal invertebrate community structure in the Flower Gardens East Bank.
  • Marissa Oldiges (MARB): Trematode Diversity as an Indicator for Galveston Marsh Health.

Undergraduate Scholarships

A number of awards and scholarships are given each year to recognize high academic performance and