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 a network of automated imaging instruments on the Texas coast -- the Texas Observatory for Algal Succession Time-series (TOAST). From this phytoplankton time series, successful early warning has been provided for eight harmful algal bloom events. Potential REU projects: 1- Time series analysis of HAB species using data from the Imaging FlowCytobot; 2- Interannual variation in phytoplankton community structure and composition in Texas coastal waters; 3- Bloom initiation of individual dinoflagellate species in the Gulf of Mexico.


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 (Program Co-Director) 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 the biogeochemistry of chromophoric (CDOM) and fluorescent (FDOM) dissolved organic matter in estuaries and coastal waters. He is currently participating in a project on the long-term characterization of CDOM/FDOM in Galveston Bay, and also in the characterization of CDOM/FDOM in REU cruises. A particular interest is the relationship between CDOM/FDOM and hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico, and recently he is collaborating on a study of CDOM/FDOM produced by freshwater bacteria. Potential REU projects include: Use of multivariate techniques to analyze fluorescence spectra of hydrocarbons in marine samples.


Dr. Darren Henrichs is biologist with research interests in modeling of phytoplankton bloom origins, and time series analysis of phytoplankton community dynamics. Potential REU projects include: 1) Identifying key environmental factors driving changes/succession in the phytoplankton community; 2) Developing a predictive model for members of the community using historical time series; 3) Identifying potential origins of bloom forming species using an individual-based model. (Dr. Henrichs will not be taking students in 2020.)


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. 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 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. Yina Liu is a chemical oceanographer interested in understanding processes affecting the production and fate of organic compounds, from natural dissolved organic matter (DOM) to anthropogenic compounds as well as different cell metabolites. She employs state-of-the-art mass spectrometry to study the production and transformation of organic molecules through biotic and abiotic mechanisms. Potential REU projects include: (1) Assessing the performance of solid-phase extraction (SPE) methods for organic compounds with diverse chemical properties; (2) Understanding the occurrence of emerging contaminants in different water bodies; and (3) Using data science to understand possible chemical characteristics of halogenated volatile organic compound precursors.


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. Henry Potter is a physical oceanographer interested in the interaction of the ocean and atmosphere as they exchange mass, momentum, and heat. In particular, how these exchanges at high wind speeds influence the intensity of tropical cyclones and impact waves, currents, and mixing of the upper ocean. Potential REU projects include: 1) Waves and air-sea interaction; 2) Gulf of Mexico hurricanes; 3) Hypoxia on the Louisiana-Texas shelf.


Dr. Sanjiv Ramachandran is a numerical modeler who uses high-performance computing to study physical processes in the upper ocean. He is interested in studying how eddies of different "scales" (sizes) interact with each other and the impact of such interactions on the atmosphere. His recent work has involved identifying signatures of submesoscale (1-10 km) processes using observations in the northern Indian Ocean and reproducing some of them in high-resolution numerical models. Potential themes for REU projects are: (i) analyzing temperature/salinity measurements from argo floats to characterize submesoscale horizontal variability in the upper ocean; (ii) designing one-dimensional and three-dimensional simulations based on such measurements; (iii) analysis of model output from existing state-of-the-art coupled ocean-atmosphere simulations (performed at TAMU) to study air-sea interactions.


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. Niall Slowey is a geological oceanographer whose research focuses on paleoceanography, high-resolution seafloor mapping and seismic stratigraphy


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. Socolofsky will not be taking students in 2020.)


Dr. Jason Sylvan is a biological oceanographer. His lab studies the geomicrobiology and biogeochemistry of deep ocean hydrothermal ecosystems and the deep biosphere in subseafloor basaltic crust. They address fundamental questions about the biology, chemistry and geology of the Earth through the study of interactions between the ocean crust and the marine biosphere. His lab is also interested in the microbiology and biogeochemistry of our own backyard, the Gulf of Mexico, where they are currently studying a variety of questions related to how microbial populations respond to events such as oil spills and hurricanes in this unique environment.


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. Kristen Thyng is a physical oceanographer interested in puzzling out details of coastal and shelf physics using numerical or data approaches, including connecting what is occurring at regional scales with larger scale dynamics from global scale models. She is currently working with model output of the Texas-Louisiana shelves to track particles to better understand patterns in flow and how they impact material transport. Additionally, she has been working with data to better understand the physics of Texas estuaries in the wake of extreme events like Hurricane Harvey, and remote sensing data to help give context to other data. Potential REU projects include: 1. Simulate drifters to backtrack the origin of a raft that landed on the Texas shelf in 2014; 2. Analyze global scale model output for climate-related questions particular to the northwest Gulf of Mexico such as hypoxia; 3. Combine data from Texas area bays to better understand flooding events, given the likelihood of increasing number of floods in the future, 4. Use high resolution remote sensing data of Galveston Bay to track the tidal plume on ebb tide and apply relationship with chlorophyll to better understand ecosystem dynamics.


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. Kerri Whilden is an Assistant Research Scientist at the Geochemical & Environmental Research Group (GERG). Her background is in ocean engineering with research focuses in coastal oceanography, tidal inlet and estuary dynamics, and ocean observing systems. She oversees the day-to-day operations of the GERG Autonomous Vehicle Laboratory and works with data from the Texas High Frequency Radar network, which is maintained and operated by GERG. Potential projects for REU students include: 1 - Quality control of oceanographic data sets; 2 - Opportunity to participate in the deployment, recovery, installation, or maintenance of oceanographic equipment; 3 - Examine seasonal changes in high frequency radar data; 4 - Investigate physical and biological data collected by autonomous vehicles.


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 halogenated volatile organic carbon compounds such as freons, solvents like carbon tetrachloride, and natural compounds like methyl bromide.  She also studies greenhouse gases such as methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide.  Potential REU projects include:  1- Measuring air-sea fluxes of methane or nitrous oxide; 2- Investigating global oceanic uptake and emission of climatically important trace species through models; 3-Air-sea gas exchange and coastal air quality/water quality.


Dr. Yige Zhang is a paleoceanographer interested in using geochemistry as tools to study past changes in climate and global biogeochemical cycles, with the goal of learning lessons for our future. Specific research topics include ocean temperature and atmospheric CO2 reconstructions, surface and bottom water circulations, upwelling, and Earth system climate sensitivity in the Cenozoic era (65 million years ago to the present). He runs an organic geochemistry lab equipped with gas chromatography, liquid chromatography and isotope ratio mass spectrometry that are specialized at measuring the composition and stable isotopes of lipid biomarkers or “molecular fossils”.