September 9, 2011

Biweekly Briefing head

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Dear Colleagues,

Now that the 2011 State Legislative session is behind us and we have a firmer understanding of the budgetary climate we will be operating in for the foreseeable future, Provost Watson is asking us to participate in "Commitment to Excellence Dialogues" this fall. The goal is to take time to consider and reflect on our shared responsibilities in advancing Texas A&M's role as a leader in higher education, and then to reflect on actions we can take to continue improving and demonstrating our institutional success to ourselves and others. The first dialog was held this past Wednesday, and events surrounding Academic Convocation this coming week, including an address by President Loftin about the results of the Vision 2020 midterm review, are parts of the dialog. The college leadership team will also engage in these discussions and I encourage all of you to participate as well. For more information, see the provost's website.

It is once again time to consider nominating colleagues for the College of Geosciences Dean's Distinguished Achievement Awards. These awards are one of the few ways we have to recognize truly outstanding contributions to the college and university among our staff and faculty members. I strongly urge you to take the time to nominate. Application materials may be obtained from and must be submitted to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it by Oct. 3.

Award recipients are selected based on their exemplary contributions to the teaching, research, and service missions of the College of Geosciences. These contributions exceed the normal expectations of their positions and commitment to job excellence, leadership, innovation, and initiative. All recipients will be recognized and honored at the Fall College Meeting. Faculty and Research Scientist award recipients will receive a bursary of $1,200. Staff award recipients will receive a cash award of $1,200.

It is also time for faculty members to think about applying for Faculty Development Leave. Applications are due to the college office by Oct. 21. You can find documents and instructions for the application on the Dean of Faculties and Associate Provost website.

Our College Advisory Council will be convening on Sept. 16. Over the summer, we have been working to revitalize the council by recruiting new members who have expertise in a variety of areas important to the college such as ocean observing technology, energy and the environment, and natural resource law. At the meeting we have a number of faculty, staff members, and students to highlight our activities in a number of areas such as progress at the Berg-Hughes Center for Petroleum and Sedimentary Systems and the Center for Tectonophysics; teaching and research activities in Latin America, China, and the Middle East; and our freshman mentoring program, GFGA. The council's website lists current members. Six new members are expected to be voted upon Friday, Sept. 16.

Again I want to thank all the faculty for their sustained efforts to post class syllabi and up-to-date CVs as required by state law at the start of the semester. The College of Geosciences was 100 percent compliant this fall, as we have been for both the spring and summer terms of 2011.

Finally, remember that everyone is welcome to visit with me during office hours from 2:45 to 3:45, Wednesday afternoons. I can be found in Halbouty 355 on the first Wednesday of the month, and in O&M 202 otherwise (sorry CSA denizens, we couldn't reserve a room there this semester).

Have a great week.

Kate Miller
Dean, College of Geosciences


Academic Convocation will take place 2 p.m., Sept. 16, in Rudder Theatre. The Convocation will feature President Loftin’s state-of-the-university address, including a mid-term look at university progress toward the goals of Vision 2020. For more information, visit the Academic Convocation website. 

All Texas A&M University faculty members are invited to participate in the procession to the Convocation site in the Rudder Theatre Complex. The procession will begin at 1:45 p.m. outside Sbisa Dining Hall. Academic Convocation will begin at approximately 2 p.m., or as soon as all procession participants are seated. Academic regalia is optional for the procession.

Texas A&M University will celebrate International Housekeepers' Week Sept. 11–17. During this week, we recognize the custodial staff who keeps our classrooms, labs, and offices neat and tidy. On Sept. 14, Custodial Services employees will be honored with a departmental celebration. Please take a minute this week to express your gratitude toward these dedicated employees.

O&M: Sandra Roney, Linda Jones, Luz Ortiz, Maria (Janie) Rosas

Halbouty: Claudia Ibarra, Ronald Oliver, Blanca Trevino

CSA: Melissa Benford, Velma Harris, Fannie Whitfield

IODP: Sonia Bustamonte, Enriqueta Guerrero

GERG: David Rhone

For more information about university events such as an invitation to join the Honors and Undergraduate Research listserv and details regarding proposals to teach out of the country in spring 2013, visit TamuTimes. 

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is holding the inaugural Beat the Hell Outta Cancer Pet Walk/Run at 8 a.m., Sept. 17, to benefit their new Diagnostic Imaging and Cancer Treatment Center. A grand opening to showcase the center will follow the race at 9 a.m. To register you and your pet and find out more about the course and parking, visit the run's website. Participants will receive gift bags and have a chance to win door prizes. Pets are optional.

The CVM would like to thank you for supporting cancer research, diagnosis, and treatment for animals that impacts the future of cancer care for animals and humans.


Before: Rusty radar dish on top of O&M buildingBefore: Rusty radar dish on top of O&M building After: Students from the radar meteorology class pose in front of  the repaired and repainted dishAfter: Students from the radar meteorology class pose in front of the repaired and repainted dish

The scaffolding and plastic sheeting around the radar dish atop the O&M Building has been removed. The newly repaired and repainted dish is getting some finishing touches, and students will soon be able to use the upgraded system.

The College of Geosciences will be hosting the Second Annual Geosciences Mixer immediately following the Sciences Career Fair, 3:30 p.m.–5 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 15, in the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building (ILSB) lobby. All students and faculty are invited to attend this event in order to network with employers interested in recruiting Aggie geoscientists. Please join us for this free come-and-go event. Refreshments will be provided. Students, please dress business casual and bring resumes. Faculty, please bring your business cards. Registration is not required. We hope to have a good faculty turnout to help support our students and make connections with employers.

Professional Activities


Dr. Will Heyman (GEOG) and Dr. Dawn Wright '86, ESRI chief scientist and former oceanography master's student (M.S. oceanography), served as guest editors for The Professional Geographer's upcoming Focus Section on marine geomorphology. This focus section includes Heyman's case study on Belize, "Elements for building a participatory, ecosystem-based marine reserve network." Heyman and Wright were co-authors of "Marine geomorphology in the design of marine reserve networks," the lead paper of this section. The Professional Geographer:doi: 10.1080/00330124.2011.585078

Dr. Andrew Dessler (ATMO) published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters: Dessler, A, 2011. "Cloud variations and the Earth's energy budget." Geophysical Research Letters: doi:10.1029/2011GL049236. For more information about Dessler's paper, see the news release by Texas A&M News and Information.



Dr. Heath Mills
(OCNG) will take part in IODP Expedition 336: "Mid-Atlantic ridge microbiology." JOIDES Resolution will leave Bridgetown, Barbados, Sept. 16. To see the scientific prospectus for this expedition, visit the IODP website.

The Scientific Prospectus for IODP Expedition 341: Southern Alaska Margin Tectonics, Climate &
Sedimentation is now available online.


Research awards

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awarded a $112.5 million grant to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico. The Texas A&M research group led by Dr. Piers Chapman (OCNG) received $14 million of this grant. Drs. Robert Hetland and Steve DiMarco (OCNG) and Dr. Scott Socolofsky from the College of Engineering make up the research group's executive committee. Other College of Geosciences researchers are Drs. Thomas Bianchi, Ping Chang, Norman Guinasso, Matt Howard, John Kessler, Shari-Yvon Lewis, Istvan Szunyogh, and Terry Wade.

Undergraduate experience

Environmental studies majors Sara Carpenter and Beth Stockert are taking part in Texas A&M's Public Policy Internship Program in Washington, D.C., this fall. Carpenter will intern with the Environmental Protection Agency and hopes to pursue a career involving environmental issues. Stockert will intern with the Peace Corps Green Strategy Committee and plans to work in environmental protection after she graduates. For more information about the program and the current interns, visit the PPIP website.

Debz DeFreitas (GERG) was recently elected by the members of the University Staff Council (USC) to serve a second term as an executive officer. She served as an at-large member of the executive committee in 2010–2011 and will now serve as secretary in 2011-2012. DeFreitas represents the College of Geosciences on the USC.


A $112.5 million award to study the Gulf of Mexico after the oil spill, of which Texas A&M received $14.4 million, has had over 150 mentions in media outlets around the country, including

Dr. Andrew Dessler (ATMO) has been mentioned in numerous media outlets, such as NPR, The New York Times blog Dot Earth, and Scientific American regarding his new paper in Geophysical Research Letters.

Dr. John Nielsen-Gammon (ATMO) has produced a series of maps showing the progress of the Bastrop county wildfire on his blog, Climate Abyss.

Dr. Charles Lafon (GEOG) has had his research on what tree ring data says about forest fire history featured in several news outlets, such as Texas A&M News and Information, UPI, and The Dallas Morning News.


Reveille in Dr. John Kessler's OCNG 251 class

Reveille with Dr. John  Kessler's OCNG 251 class

Reveille with Dr. John  Kessler's OCNG 251 class



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Calendar items are also posted on the College of Geosciences Facebook page. 

Sept. 12
4 p.m., O&M: "Harmful algal blooms in the Gulf of Mexico: New Answers." Dr. Lisa Campbell, Texas A&M Department of Oceanography

Sept. 13
3:55 p.m., O&M: "Impact of aging on radiative properties of atmospheric black carbon." Dr. Alexie Khalizov, Texas A&M Department of Atmospheric Sciences

Sept. 19
4 p.m., O&M: "50 million years of climate change from the equatorial Pacific: New results from IODP drilling." Dr. Mitch Lyle, Texas A&M Department of Oceanography

Sept. 20
3:55 p.m., O&M: "Multi-function phased array radar systems for next-generation weather observations." Dr. Mark Yeary, University of Oklahoma

The next issue is Sept. 23. Please submit items of general interest to the College to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it no later than Wednesday, Sept. 21. 

College of GeosciencesAtmospheric ScienceGeographyOceanographyGeology & GeophysicsEnvironmental ProgramsWater Degree Program