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Ocean and Coastal Research Experiences for Undergraduates

OCEANUS is an exciting interdisciplinary program funded by the National Science Foundation (Award Number: 1560242) that invites talented students from diverse backgrounds to participated in a 10-week immersive experience to conduct semi-independent, research that will address the complexities and challenges related to our world’s oceans and coastal environments.

Program Description

May 30th - August 9th, 2017

Dr. Liz Borda
Program Coordinator

Department of Marine Biology
Galveston, TX 77553
Office: 409-740-4542


To expose diverse students to an empowering learning and research experience that will enhance leadership and communication skills, foster retention towards baccalaureate completion, encourage graduate school matriculation and the pursuit of ocean and coastal-oriented STEM careers.


Students will participate in scientific discussions and communication, laboratory tours, research field trips, interactive workshops, social activities, and two end-of- summer undergraduate research symposia at TAMUG (oral session) and the LAUNCH Summer 2017 Undergraduate Research Poster Session at Texas A&M University, in College Station, TX. Students will leaving a lasting ‘footprint’ of their summer experience with a 3-minute video abstract to highlight undergraduate student contributions in STEM research and establish a medium for outreach to local high school students, future REU recruits and potential graduate student recruits interested in ocean and coastal STEM fields.


  • $5,560 summer stipend (plus fringe)
  • Airfare and travel costs to and from Houston/TAMUG covered (to $600)
  • Summer housing and meal plan covered
  • Engage in high impact learning experiences through hands-on training to enhance research, leadership, communication and transferable skills
  • Enhance research, leadership and communication skills
  • Build a professional network through TAMUG Faculty sponsorship
  • Receive tools for success to navigate the academic pipeline
    Participate in scientific seminar luncheons and workshops in scientific research and communication, leadership, professional development for diverse STEM careers, ethics, diversity and inclusion and applying to graduate school
  • Field trips to Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico aboard R/V Trident to learn oceanographic data and sample collection techniques
  • Enjoy organized outdoor recreational activities around the Galveston/Houston area and behind the scenes tours of Moody Gardens and NOAA Southeast Fisheries Lab

Program Requirements


Open to all biology, physics, chemistry, environmental science, geosciences, maritime industry/commerce, computer science and engineering majors.


December 2017 or later.


Previous research experience not necessary.


Selection will be based on a variety of factors including current academic standing, major grade point average (GPA; 2.6 or better), letter of recommendation from a Faculty Member and a personal statement. GPA is not a strict minimum to be eligible to apply. Previous research experience is not necessary. Students affiliated with the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP), enrolled in minority serving institutions or community colleges are strongly encouraged to apply. Eligible to U.S. Citizens, U.S. Nationals, and Permanent Residents.

How to apply

  1. Complete Application via
  2. Submit:
    Completed application packet
    Unofficial Academic Transcripts
    Personal Statement
    Education Statement
    Letter of Recommendation from a Faculty Member
  3. Applications will be accepted until February 15th, 2017. Late or incomplete applications will not be reviewed.
  4. Applicants will be notified by March 15th, 2017.

Research Areas

Marine Biology

Biodiversity & Systematics


The REU will assess hydrozoan diversity in the Galveston area of the northern GoM using the mitochondrial 16S gene (the hydrozoan “barcoding" molecule). Sequences will be analyzed and compared with available datasets such as GenBank, to evaluate local biodiversity, identify putative new species and/or invasive species. The newly generated sequences will represent the first step toward a long term monitoring of local hydrozoan biodiversity.

Coastal Wetlands & Climate Change


The REU will learn how to conduct field and laboratory feeding assays and stable isotope analyses to measure food chain length and define trophic relationships. This information can be used to assess wetland restoration success or to determine the ecological consequences of the expansion of native black mangrove populations into northern GoM salt marshes in response to near-term climate change and sea level rise. 

Evolution & Speciation


Recent genetic and taxonomic work has shown that members of the coral reef fish group Blennioidei consist of numerous species complexes. The REU will learn computational methods, use genetic analysis software, and a combination of extraction, PCR, and NanoDrop technologies to determine genetic relatedness and the geography of their speciation in the Caribbean. 

Feeding/Trophic Ecology


REU research will focus on the feeding ecology of coastal shark species that are common inhabitants of estuarine and coastal waters in the GoM. Students will collect and analyze stomach contents for short-term diet information (days) and stable isotopes of the muscle tissue to reveal longer term (weeks to months) feeding habits of these animals. The goal of the research is to understand the foraging behavior of these species that share similar habitats to determine their feeding niche. Ultimately, information generated from this study can be used to assist in ecosystem-based fishery management. 

Marine Sciences



Dissolved organic matter (DOM) is a critical component of modern biogeochemical cycles, containing as much total carbon as the atmosphere, contributing the majority of carbon flux from terrestrial to marine environments, and fueling microbial foodwebs in all aqueous environments. Proposed research includes the development of novel biomarkers for vascular plant and microbial sources, studies on terrigenous organic matter decay, and the interaction of DOM with trace elements in the Arctic Ocean. REU students will have the opportunity to participate in fieldwork and use cutting-edge analytical tools within the scope of these projects. 

Physical Oceanography


As in many important coastal systems in the U.S., Galveston Bay has quite extensive pre-existing data for a number of oceanographic (e.g., water level, salinity, temperature) and meteorological (e.g., wind and precipitation) parameters. We, however, have been under-utilizing the existing data as it has been in many other coastal systems in the U.S. The Texas Coastal Ocean Observation Network, a confluence of federal, state and local governmental entities in partnership with academia, is a unique network of scientific data collection platforms used to amass critical data for Texas coastal systems. REU students will participate in the analysis of existing data to better understand the physical processes that take place in Texas coastal systems. 



The Coastal Geosciences Group at TAMUG has identified several shallow coastal ponds and channels that contain multiple overwash deposits related to historic intense hurricane strikes on Galveston (e.g., 1900 Storm event). The overwash deposits related to these historic hurricane events provide modern analogs to interpret millennial-scale records of hurricane activity using longer sediment cores collected with standard vibracoring technology. In a span of a summer project, an REU will use standard sedimentological techniques and equipment (e.g., coring tools and particle size analysis) to generate a long-term hurricane record for Galveston Island, which would provide important baseline information on prehistoric hurricane activity for the upper Texas coast, which is critical to guide decision makers addressing the sustainability of Galveston.

Coastal Geology


Antecedent geological controls on barrier island stability-using both existing and new side scan sonar, ultra high resolution swath bathymetry and CHIRP seismics data sets, coupled with sediment coring and analyses, the REU will contribute to our on-going investigation into the antecedent geological controls on the structuring of the upper Texas coast shore face and investigate modern sedimentary processes that are operating within this system. 

Ocean Engineering

Tsunami Modeling


Tsunami hazard associated with submarine slumps remains poorly investigated, while generating catastrophic tsunamis. Through physically modeling of submarine slump tsunami generation, propagation and runup, the ultimate goal is to reexamine the underlying physics for better prediction and mitigation of submarine slump hazard in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM). We focus on deformable submarine tsunami generation processes to obtain important physical parameters. The REU will engage in both experimental and 3D numerical modeling (Full Navier-Stokes and Volume of Fluid method) to compensate for missing parameters required for accurate calculation of submarine slump scenarios for the GoM.

Maritime Administration

Port Resilience Modeling


Through a several step methodology of port case studies in Texas using optimization mathematical modeling, the REU will participate in research that will address the critical gap in disaster planning with an emphasis on ports and port infrastructure as wicked issues and potential solutions to address the management of this wicked problem. The research aims to address how Texas ports respond to, and recover from, major disruption to the movement of cargo through their facilities by evaluating the conditions, variables, stakeholders, best practices, and processes that will enhance seaport resilience.

Marine Engineering Technology

Microbes in Diesel Fuel


For over a hundred years researchers have known that microbes live in diesel fuel at the water-fuel interface. These microbes can deteriorate the quality of the diesel fuel, can clog filters and fuel lines, can reduce power of the engine, can increase fuel consumption, can increase air emissions, and can corrode tanks. The REU will assist in the investigation of identifying new ways of dealing with microbes that exist in diesel fuels made possible by recent developments in characterizing microbes by medical researchers. This knowledge of the dominant microbial community will help in the development of novel treatments that will serve as an alternative to biocides, typically used to kill the microbes. Thus the goal of this project will be to treat microbial communities the same way hospital treat patients with: probiotics, targeted antibiotics for treatment and prevention, and finally by microbiome transplants.