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REU Mentors and Potential Student Research Project Topics

Dr. Lisa Campbell (Program Director) is a biological oceanographer whose research focuses on phytoplankton ecology, with particular emphasis harmful algal blooms. She operates an automated imaging instrument at the Texas Observatory for Algal Succession Time-series (TOAST) station in Port Aransas, TX. From this phytoplankton time series, successful early warning has been provided for seven harmful algal bloom events. Potential REU projects: 1- Improved automated classification for HAB species using data from the Imaging FlowCytobot at TOAST; 2- Interannual variation in phytoplankton community structure and composition in Texas coastal waters; 3-Species-specific growth rates and bloom dynamics of individual dinoflagellate species at TOAST.

Dr. Steve DiMarco is a professor in the Department of Oceanography and Ocean Observing Team Leader in the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M University. He is a charter member of the US National Science Foundation – University National Oceanographic Laboratory System – Ocean Observing Science Committee and has served on the UNOLS Regional Class Research Vessel Science Oversight Committee. Dr. DiMarco is an observational oceanographer whose research has focused on interdisciplinary studies in which physical and biogeochemical processes overlap. He is deeply involved in regional, national, and international programs implementing new technologies and methodologies associated with ocean observing systems and involve applied problems associated with societal concerns of human impact of the marine environment. The results of his research have been used to guide management policies and drive agency decision in the US and abroad. He has authored or co-authored 50+ peer-reviewed journal publications, 20 technical reports and more than 130 conference abstracts. Dr. DiMarco’s students have researched a wide variety of topics, including oil spill preparedness and response, oceanographic conditions during offshore petroleum exploration and production, coastal hypoxia and upwelling, the relation of harmful algal blooms to ocean circulation, oceanic response to hurricanes, meso-scale and coastal circulation patterns and the use of coupled physical and biogeochemical numerical modeling in the coastal ocean.

Dr. Jessica Fitzsimmons is a chemical oceanographer whose research focuses on the biogeochemistry of trace metals in the ocean. She studies both the processes that control the cycling of bioactive trace metals that are required as nutrients to phytoplankton (such as iron, manganese, zinc, copper, and nickel) as well as the delivery of pollutant trace metals to the oceans (such as lead). Her work utilizes inductively-coupled plasma mass spectrometry to determine trace metal concentrations, speciation, and isotope signatures. Potential REU projects include: 1 - Investigating the spatial and/or temporal variability of pollutant trace metal delivery to coastal Gulf of Mexico; 2 – Measuring the speciation and isotope signature of metals in coastal Gulf of Mexico; 3 – Exploring the concentrations, speciation, size partitioning, and/or isotope signatures of metals from a variety of open ocean research cruises, including Station ALOHA (Hawaii), coastal California, the South Pacific, the West Antarctic Peninsula continental shelf, and the Western Arctic Ocean.

Dr. Gerardo Gold Bouchot is a chemical oceanographer with research interests in pollutants in coastal and marine ecosystems and the environmental effects of pollutants. He is designing and building a ferry box system to monitor the Gulf of Mexico. Potential REU projects include: 1) Investigating environmental conditions in the Gulf of Mexico using ferry boxes; 2) Use of passive samplers to monitor organic pollutants in coastal environments; 3) Use of multivariate techniques to analyze fluorescence spectra of hydrocarbons in marine samples.

Dr. Melissa Grunlan is an associate professor of Biomedical Engineering whose research is broadly focused on new inorganic-organic polymeric biomaterials prepared by combining inorganic silicon-containing polymers with organic polymers. Materials are prepared as solid coatings, hydrogels, shape memory polymers and foams. Several specific research areas include: anti-fouling coatings, self-cleaning membranes for implanted biosensors and scaffolds for osteochondral and bone tissue healing. Potential REU research projects would contribute to on-going efforts to develop anti-fouling, environmentally-friendly marine coating that resist biological adhesion via the rapid, water-driven reorganization of amphiphilic components to the coating surface.

Dr. Robert Hetland is a physical oceanographer whose work focuses on the theory and numerical simulation of flow in estuarine, coastal, and continental shelf environments; applications include plankton bloom dynamics, continental shelf hypoxia, ocean current forecasting.  Undergraduate research projects would focus on visualization of flow conditions during different environmental circumstances (strong winds, large river discharge, etc.) and statistical correlations between observed oceanic properties and large-scale environmental conditions, such as unusual weather patterns, draught, and hurricanes.

Dr. Matthew Howard is a physical oceanographer who manages large oceanographic data sets and currently leads the Data and Communications Management for the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System. His interests include data management, informatics and interoperability and he has extensive experience performing QA/QC on Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD), XBT, optics, current meter and marine meteorological data sets. Potential REU topics include: 1-Training in the use of UNIX utilities and high-level procedural languages like Matlab or IDL to perform quality control on data and make basic data-based products; 2-Training in vender supplied software to process data from basic oceanographic instruments such as CTD sensors and profiling gliders; 3-Training in standard visualizations of ocean profiles, vertical sections, and plan views of oceanographic data and model output.

Dr. Andrew Klein is a Geographer whose research focuses on the application of remote sensing and Geographic Information Science (GISci) to study the cryosphere. Dr. Klein is actively involved in using these technologies to study the localized human impacts in the marine and terrestrial environments surrounding U.S. scientific stations in the Antarctic. Dr. Klein and his students also use remote sensing to study glacier recession in the tropics. He has been actively involved in developing algorithms to measure snow extent and snow albedo from satellites, especially that collected by the NASA’s MODIS instrument. Dr. Klein’s potential REU topics will revolve around using mapping and geospatial analysis to investigate human impact in the local terrestrial and marine environments surrounding McMurdo and Palmer Stations, Antarctica as determined from over a decade of geochemical and biological measurements.

Dr. Anthony Knap (Program co-Director) is a biogeochemist interested in petroleum hydrocarbons and climate studies and was the founder and PI of the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series program.  His scientific interests are oceanography, organic geochemistry, environmental science, atmosphere/ocean interactions, oil pollution and dispersant use, effects of contaminants on the marine environment; ocean health and human health interactions. Global climate change – climate instability, business/science interactions, renewable energy, marine-derived bio-fuels, ocean genomics and ocean acidification. Potential REU projects could focus on the following areas: 1-Develop an Ocean Observing System and cost for the Texas Coast; 2-Develop an Ocean Observing System and cost for coastal Brazil; 3-The effects of the Deepwater Horizon Spill on Human Health 4- The effects of oil and dispersants on the formation of Marine Snow.

Dr. Alejandro Orsi is a sea-going physical oceanographer with research focused on ocean currents, sea surface exchange of gasses, primary productivity, ocean mixing, stratification and circulation. Through REU projects, students will learn 1- unique skills on the reduction, quality control and analysis of large datasets derived from in-situ  (CTD, ADCP, currents and CTD times series) and satellite-borne (sea-ice, reanalysis winds, among others) sensors; 2- characterize the summer 2014 and 2015 stratification of waters off the Totten Glacier based on Underway CTD data, contrast to other areas around Antarctica with similar settings; 3- characterize the concurrent upper-layer flow patterns based on Shipboard ADCP data, relate to high-resolution MultiBeam bathymetric data; 4--characterize the currents structure and variability at tidal to seasonal scales based on time series from six 1-yr moorings equipped with current meters and CTD sensors;

Dr. José Sericano is an oceanographer with research interests in the determination, impact and fate of trace organic contaminants in the environment with emphasis in biomonitoring and the analysis of persistent organic contaminants (POPs). Potential REU research projects for students to develop either individually or in teams: 1-Loses of POPs as a consequence of extended oven drying times;   2-Effect of prolonged freeze drying of samples in the concentration of POPs; 3-Introductory hands-on experience in GC/MS analyses; 4-Experimental approach to learn about factors affecting compounds retention times in gas chromatography.

Dr. Kathryn Shamberger is a chemical oceanographer whose research focuses on ocean acidification in the coastal ocean.  She studies the chemical, biological, and physical processes that control seawater carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and the sensitivity of coastal ecosystems to ocean acidification. She is particularly interested in ecosystems that are dominated by organisms that make calcium carbonate skeletons or shells, such as coral reefs and shellfish beds, because calcium carbonate production is directly affected by ocean acidification.  Potential REU topics include: 1-Tropical coral reef ecosystems; 2-Deep sea coral beds; 3-Oyster reefs; 4-Gulf of Mexico coastal ecosystems.

Dr. Scott A. Socolofsky is an ocean engineer with research focus in environmental fluid mechanics, including stratified and multiphase flows, dynamic behavior of oil-well blowouts, and shallow geophysical flows.  His work includes laboratory, field, and numerical modeling of fate and transport processes.  REU projects could include: 1-Image acquisition and analysis for laboratory and field measurements of bubbles, drops, and particles; 2- Numerical simulations of fate and transport of oil from subsea oil spills; 3-Development of advanced equations of state for petroleum fluids in harsh environments (deep ocean, arctic ice, complex mixtures, sediment flocks, etc.); 4-Field measurement of exchange flows and larvae transport for Texas bays and estuaries.

Dr. Steven Sweet is a senior research at GERG. His professional interests include the fate and behavior of oil spills, environmental monitoring and assessment, effects of chemicals on the marine environment, hydrocarbon chemistry, gas hydrates, geochemistry, phytoplankton pigments, bile metabolites, and atmospheric chemistry.  He manages the trace organic extraction lab and the trace metal lab at GERG. Potential REU projects include: 1-Extraction and analysis of Antarctic tissue samples for chemical contaminants – what contaminants are found near McMurdo Station and why? 2-Atmospheric sampling and short term atmospheric deposition study – can combustion products be detected in the air and what are their sources? 3-Short term oil weathering experiment – what happens to the oil after it is released to a water body? 4-Tar balls found on beaches – where do they come from, how can their origins be determined? 5-Mercury in the market-basket – sampling and analysis of a variety of foods from local grocers, what foods should we limit in our diets based on the study?

Dr. Jason Sylvan is interested in how the diversity and activity of microbes are influenced by the environment in which they live, and how they, in turn, manipulate that environment.  He is currently funded to study how bacteria in surface waters react to exposure to oil and how the exudates made by different species of bacteria influence coagulation or dispersal of oil spills.  Potential REU projects would integrate with this project and could include: 1-  growing bacterial isolates and testing their gene expression under different conditions of oil exposure; 2-  participating in 100 liter experiments where oil and oil dispersant are added to natural marine microbial communities under controlled conditions to try to better understand the microbial community response and the chemical exudates produced as a result of oil exposure.

Dr. Daniel Thornton is a biological oceanographer interested in microbial ecology, phytoplankton physiology, and biogeochemical processes in the ocean.  Potential projects for REU students include: 1-Using laser in situ scattering and transmissometry (LISST) instruments to characterize particle dynamics in the ocean; 2 – Role of phytoplankton in the generation of organic aerosols and cloud formation.

Dr. Kristin Thyng is interested in numerical modeling, especially of coastal physics; drifter modeling to track material such as oil and phytoplankton; modeling of physical environmental impacts to flow field by in-stream tidal turbines.

Dr. Terry Wade is an oceanographer who is interested in the sources, fate, and effects of pollution. He has developed and validated methods for the analysis of pollutants in environmental samples. He applies these methods to research projects involving air, rain, fresh water, seawater, soils, sediments, plant tissues and animal tissues. He is interested in the current status and trends over time of pollutants in a variety of ecosystems. Potential REU projects include 1-How nutrients in rain and run-off effects productivity and hypoxia in marine systems, 2-Determination of historical pollution using ocean sediment cores. 3-Using mussels and oysters as sentinels of ocean pollution.

John Walpert, oversees the day to day operations, maintenance and development of the Texas Automated Buoy System. His main interests are in ocean observing system design, mooring system design, instrumentation and glider operations.  He is responsible for the design of the TABS Responder quick response buoy, TABS 2.25m buoy and the 1.4m Coastal Monitoring Buoy and is currently developing a new TABS communication system called TABSCOMS.  REU students will have the opportunity to work with GERG engineers to learn about different oceanographic sensors and how they are integrated into observing systems, help in the fabrication and assembly of new Coastal Monitoring Buoys, work with autonomous gliders, learn about subsurface mooring design and fabrication and take part in available TABS cruises. Specific projects or themes REU students could work on include: 1-Integration and testing of a prototype TABSCOMS system into the TABS network; 2-Design strategies and mooring models for surface platforms deployed in deep water, loop current regions of the Gulf of Mexico; 3-Design considerations in measuring platform motions using strapped down accelerometers; 4-Design of a towed instrumented sled to measure CTD, current, CDOM, Methane, Dissolved Oxygen and video over a fiber optic cable.

Dr. Shari Yvon-Lewis is a chemical oceanographer who studies the role of the ocean in regulating important atmospheric gases. Her current research focuses on marine trace gas biogeochemistry of halocarbons (CC44, CH3Br, etc.), CH44, CO22, and other trace gases, and modeling of ocean atmosphere trace gas interactions. Potential REU projects include:  1- Measuring air-sea fluxes of CO2 and CH4; 2- Investigating global oceanic uptake and emission of climatically important trace species; 3-Air-sea gas exchange and coastal air quality/water quality

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