Geosciences Information Letters
Info Letter #23


TO: Faculty and Staff of:

Department of Atmospheric Sciences
Department of Geology & Geophysics
Department of Geography
Department of Oceanography
Environmental Programs in Geosciences
Water Degree Program
Geochemical and Environmental Research Group
Integrated Ocean Drilling Program
Texas Sea Grant Office


Björn Kjerfve, Dean
College of Geosciences

DATE: 22 May 2009

New Challenges

As of this weekend, I will be leaving Texas A&M University to assume the position as President of the World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden. World Maritime University (WMU) is a post-graduate university established in 1983 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to serve the global maritime community, offering MSc and PhD degrees. It is the only UN institution in Sweden and is a member of the European University Association, the International Association of Universities, the US Council of Graduate Schools, and the International Association of Maritime Universities.

In looking back at the past five years, I note that it has been a period of dynamic growth at Texas A&M University as well as in the College of Geosciences. The Reinvestment Program, formulated by then President Robert M. Gates and then Provost David B. Prior, created unbelievable excitement, growth, and opportunity, which will continue to serve TAMU well for the decades to come. During my 5-year tenure as Dean, the College hired 45 tenured and tenure-track faculty, in addition to three research and two instructional faculty, in the process making the College of Geosciences a vibrant place to be with a more youthful and more diverse faculty than ever before. These five years have been a period of significant increase in research funding and development giving. The Environmental Program in Geosciences was formalized earlier this year after several years of languishing in the shadows without a home. There is excitement at the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) - as well as challenges – with new leadership at the helm and with the D/V JOIDES Resolution (JR) having resumed ocean drilling after the two-year lay-up in Singapore and the conclusion of the $130 million conversion project. I am very happy to see the JR once again drilling the ocean floor to uncover clues of past environments and climates on Earth.

In leaving Texas A&M, I want to express my sincere thanks to my staff for its great competence, capacity, hard work, enjoyable times, and many successes in making the College of Geosciences a better place. I would like to recognize the dedication of the Geosciences team, Executive Associate Dean and Associate Dean for Research (Luis Cifuentes, Ethan Grossman, John Nielson-Gammon, and again Luis Cifuentes), Associate Dean for Academic Affairs (Sarah Bednarz and Vatche Tchakerian), Assistant Dean for Finance and Administration (Janice Mills), Director of IT (Jim Rosser), Director of Development (Diana Barron), Web Master (Jennifer Rumford), Communications Coordinator (Carol Troon), Director of Recruitment (Sonia Garcia), Facilities Coordinator (Maureen Reap), Senior Academic Adviser (Roxanna Russell) and their assistants Michele Beal, Rachel Rodriguez, and Michelle Newton, and the many incredibly smart and dedicated student workers. Most of all, I want to express my sincere thanks to Connie Toon, Assistant to the Dean, who more so than anybody runs the Dean’s Office and provides transparency and institutional memory. I would also like to thank the College of Geosciences Advisory Council (Les Shepard, Carlos Dengo, Tom Kelly, Jim Belville, Dan Allen Hughes, Dick Findley, and Bill Dark) for dedicating time, interest, and commitment to help build a better College. I thank you all!

Kate Miller Named Dean of the College of Geosciences

This morning, the Search Committee Chair Joe Newton, Dean, College of Science, announced by email that Kate Miller has accepted the position of Dean of the College of Geosciences, pending approval by the Board of Regents at the July meeting. Her appointment will be effective 17 August. Kate Miller is Professor of Geology at University of Texas at El Paso, has served as Associate Dean of the College of Science at the University of Texas at El Paso, and Chair of the Department of Geological Sciences. Recent accomplishment of Miller include obtaining National Science Foundation awards from the Opportunities for Enhancing Diversity in the Geosciences (OEDG) and initiating major programs in cooperation with corporate development. As of 1 June, Luis Cifuentes will serve as Interim Dean until Miller arrives.

JOIDES Resolution Celebration

The return of the JOIDES Resolution to scientific drilling operations was celebrated in Honolulu, Hawaii, 5-7 May 2009. The U.S. Implementing Organization for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP-USIO) and the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) at the University of Hawaii hosted a series of events for dignitaries from the National Science Foundation and IODP member countries (Japan, the European Consortium for Ocean Research Drilling, Korea, India, and Australia/New Zealand). The Honolulu port call included a reception at the Waikiki Aquarium hosted by SOEST on 5 May, and on 6 May, the JOIDES Resolution received a traditional Hawaiian blessing followed by speeches and public tours at Pier 2 in Honolulu Harbor. On 7 May, the USIO led educational workshops and tours for high school students and teachers from Oahu. The port call concluded with scientific orientation meetings between the off going and oncoming scientists and staff. Arden Bement, Director of the National Science Foundation gave a presentation. Björn Kjerfve, Dean of the College of Geosciences, and Steve Bohlen, Director of Science Operations of IODP, participated in addition to numerous faculty and research scientists from Texas A&M University.

The JOIDES Resolution successfully completed Expedition 320, the first leg of the Pacific Equatorial Age Transect (PEAT), and embarked on Expedition 321, the continuation of that scientific program. Five PEAT sites were cored during Expedition 320, achieving their coring and scientific objectives.

The JOIDES Resolution departed Honolulu on 9 May and is expected to arrive at Site U1337 on 19 May. Mitch Lyle and Dan Murphy from OCNG and Bridget Wade from G&G are sailing as Co-Chief Scientist, Sedimentologist, and Micropaleontologist, respectively. You can follow the expedition online through the PEAT website at which includes daily and weekly ship reports, links to video interviews and more.

Geoconnections Wins Award of Excellence

Editor Carol Trono and designer Jennifer Rumford won an Award of Excellence for the 2008 issue of Geoconnections from the Brazos Valley Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (BV-IABC) in its 2009 Brazos Bravo Awards competition. Texas A&M and Texas A&M System communicators were honored at an awards ceremony hosted by BV-IABC on 23 April at the University Club. IABC is an international knowledge network for professionals in strategic business communication management.

Wade Awarded an NSF CAREER Grant

Bridget Wade, an assistant professor of G&G, has received a CAREER Award through the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. This program offers NSF's most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. With this grant, Bridget will continue investigating implications for planktonic foraminiferal taxonomy, paleobiology, and marine temperatures.

TAMRF Revised FY2009 Administrative Rates

Texas A&M Research Foundation (TAMRF) finalized their FY2009 cost recovery methodology with a notice to Deans, Department Heads, and Principal Investigators dated 27 March 2009

( While backing off from a controversial $755 per proposal submission fee, TAMRF did revise its overall administrative rates and cost recovery methodology. TAMRF’s administrative rate for TAMU for FY2009 for scholarships, tuition, equipment, and cash balance accounts will be 2% of these direct expenses with 6.84% charged on all other direct expenses including subcontracts less than or equal to $500K. There will be no charge for individual subcontract expenditures over $500K. The College will continue to encourage PI and departmental analysis of potential indirect cost return utilizing both TAMRF and TAMU’s Research Services and monitor proposal submissions in this regard.

College IT Operations Budget

Information Letter #19, dated 5 December 2008, discussed College operational budget allocations for FY09. This piece offers further details regarding the College’s budget, with a focus on funding information technology operations (including web support) and the portfolio of services discussed in Information Letter #21

FY09 IT Operating Budget

$518K  Budgeted IT salaries for 10 personnel (E&G, GPE, and IE/EF funds)

$  56K  Student support (GANTs and student workers for web development, help desk, and 3G system maintenance)

$  11K  Communications (communication allowances for IT staff, server room land line)

$  10K  Equipment  (IT staff computers, tools)

$  35K  Maintenance/repair  (licensing fees/software upgrades)

$  12K  IT personnel professional development training

$  10K  Supplies (backup tapes/cabling/etc.)

$    3K   Miscellaneous (power for additional racks, classroom support, etc.)

$655K  TOTAL

Data Center

$490K  Phase I Data Center Construction in O&M B04 (FY06-FY09). This includes: fixing safety issues; adding additional chill water capability; adding power and battery backup; adding a security card swipe system; and adding in-row cooling units.

Recruitment/Admissions Update

According to the most recent TAMU Enrollment Management Report, Sonia Garcia in her first eight months as recruitment director for the College has surpassed undergraduate recruiting numbers targeted in her recruitment plan. The deadline for students to accept/confirm admission to Texas A&M and register for their new student conference was midnight Friday 1 May. The Enrollment Report shows an increase in both admitted and confirmed students as compared to last year’s class. In 2008 the College had a total of 132 students admitted with 81 confirming. This year’s class has 191 admitted students with 114 confirming. The breakdown of confirmed undergraduate geosciences students by major is as follows:  ENGS/ENST 28 (18 in 2008); GEOG 1 (same as 2008); GEOL/GEOP 38 (28 in 2008); METR 44 (33 in 2008); and SPGS 3 (1 in 2008). We had an unprecedented number of ethnic minority students admitted to geosciences this year, but only 21 of those Hispanic and African American students confirmed (2%). Last year we had 30 incoming freshman who were African American and Hispanic (2.8%). Many of this year’s admitted African American and Hispanic students accepted scholarship offers from UT, UTSA and University of Houston as well as out-of-state schools such as LSU and Duke. Seven of the 114 confirmed students are Geosciences Regents’ Scholars. The Regents’ scholarship assists low-income first generation students in achieving their educational goals at Texas A&M.

Jochens Receives MMS Offshore Leadership Award

Ann Jochens, a research scientist in OCNG, was presented the Offshore Leadership Award by the Minerals Management Service (MMS) at their Safety Awards for Excellence luncheon on 7 May at the Reliant Center in Houston. This award recognizes individuals for performing an act or service that significantly enhances MMS's ability to meet offshore energy and minerals management mission objectives. According to MMS, Ann was nominated for this award in recognition of her proactive approach in bringing several federal agencies together to establish information about the biology and behavior of whales while she was program manager and principal investigator for a five-year Sperm Whale Seismic Study (SWSS).

Kennicutt Leads Delegation to 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting

OCNG Professor Chuck Kennicutt led the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) delegation to the 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting hosted by the U.S. in Baltimore 6-17 April. The meeting celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Antarctic Treaty and the conclusion of the International Polar Year 2007-2008. A joint session of officials and foreign ministers representing the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Parties and the Arctic Council were convened on 6 April with an address by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Chuck participated in the joint session and attended a luncheon hosted by Secretary Clinton at the U.S. State Department. Chuck is president of SCAR which is an inter-disciplinary body of the International Council for Science.

Climate Symposium Will Honor Gerald North

ATMO will host a scientific symposium on "Climate, Statistics, and Satellites" 8-10 June at the Annenberg Presidential Conference Center. The symposium honors Gerald North on the occasion of his 70th birthday. Jerry is a Distinguished Professor in ATMO and OCNG and a well-known expert on climate studies. The symposium will explore the intersection of the many fields of science, including statistics and satellite remote sensing, that contribute to our understanding of climate science and global warming. It is being organized by Andrew Dessler and R. Saravanan in ATMO; Marc Genton of the Department of Statistics at TAMU; Robert Cahalan, head of the Climate & Radiation Branch of NASA; Joe Tribbia, senior scientist of the Climate and Global Dynamics Division at NCAR, and Doug Nychka, director of IMAGe at NCAR. Registration and other information is available at the symposium website.

College Awarded Diversity Grant for iGeo Weekend Program

The College will host some of the state’s top African American and Hispanic students through a new program called Investigate Geosciences, or iGeo, designed by Recruitment Director Sonia Garcia. The program will bring Texas’ top high-achieving junior and senior students to campus for a weekend this fall to meet geosciences faculty and learn about the College. They will also stay in a residence hall with a current geosciences student, tour campus, meet former students, and attend an Aggie tailgate party and football game. The program is supported by a grant from the Texas A&M Minority Recruitment and Retention Leadership Team (MRRLT) based in the Office of the Dean of Undergraduate Programs. These grants fund efforts to raise awareness and increase recruitment and retention levels of highly qualified African American and Hispanic students on campus.

IODP on YouTube

The Quick Links at the bottom of the College website now include a link to IODP on YouTube. Ocean Leadership’s YouTube page is currently featuring reports from PNN (PEAT News Network) that provide a lighthearted look at the expedition and life onboard a drill ship. The latest report even includes footage of Mitch Lyle and Dan Murphy. 

Congratulations to Geosciences’ Gathright Scholars

Congratulations to the College of Geosciences’ 2009 Gathright Scholars: meteorology major Zachary Adian ’09, Boerne, Texas; meteorology major Brad Reinhart ’10, Diamond, Mississippi; and environmental geosciences major Maxwell Lukenback ’11, Rusk, Texas. The Thomas S. Gathright Scholar Academic Excellence Award was established in 1973 by Student Government at Texas A&M to recognize superior academic achievement by undergraduates. Named in honor of A&M's first president, the Association of Former Students sponsors this annual award that goes to 30 of the highest-scoring undergraduates on campus. The award goes to the sophomore, junior, and senior from each of the 10 academic colleges with the highest grade point average in his or her respective classes.

Facilities Update


Radiogenic Lab. Analysis of the hood ductwork in the lab shows that inferior metal was installed which quickly rusted and created a hazard for users. With the lab operators' approval, Physical Plant will bypass the old ductwork with a new system at no cost to the College.

  • Halbouty Exterior Work. The project to re-point the brickwork, repair the tile, and re-caulk the windows is scheduled for this summer, but a start date has not yet been set.
  • Halbouty Exterior Door Locks. The system is installed and ready for operation. Instructions for users will be announced by G&G


  • Rooms 105-109 (Environmental Programs). Construction is completed. The ENVP office plans to move in by the end of May.
  • Room 203. Audiovisual equipment will be upgraded in the TTVN room before Summer I session begins. The new configuration will feature three projectors, two cameras, overhead microphones, and enhanced electronics.
  • Rooms 207-209 (OCNG Teaching Labs). A contractor has been selected and will begin work on or before 1 June with completion by 14 August. Owing to construction noise, no classes will be held in Rooms 112 or 206 during both summer sessions.
  • Fifth floor hall. The College has requested that the fifth floor hall be repaired and painted. The work is planned for August.
  • Rooms 714-715 (Mills Lab). This project is moving forward. Electrical work and some demolition will begin soon to be followed later this summer by installation of the new hood and cabinetry.

Geosciences 2009 Comparative Unit Performance Metrics

The College has once again summarized College unit performance metrics for academic departments and research centers to assess their status and progress in pertinent teaching and research categories. These metrics are variously used by the University and the College in reporting performance and in resource allocation. Academic departmental comparisons were provided in previous newsletters (FY07- Letter #9 and FY08 – Letter #15). This year’s comparison summaries are provided as an attachment to this information letter.



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