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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.