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Harte Research puts $2M grant to work in Corpus Christi

Bagged oyster shells collected from Corpus Christi restaurants wait to be dropped into Coastal Bend waters to rebuild oyster reefs as part of the Sink Your Shucks program at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Courtesy photo

The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies has a new $2 million grant and is looking for a new senior executive director. The grant awarded to the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi research center will be used to study water quality in Baffin Bay to continue oyster reef restoration and to model impacts of sea level rise and storm surge on the Texas Coast.

The $2 million comes from the Texas Coastal Management Program, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and managed by the Texas General Land Office.

“The scientists and staff at the Harte Research Institute are among the best in Texas, and being awarded these highly competitive CMP grants illustrates that point,” said HRI Senior Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney, who is retiring in August after 10 years at Harte. “It was especially gratifying to join forces with other TAMU-CC scientists to focus on Baffin Bay. Dr. Michael Wetz is the acknowledged expert on water quality in that system, but the additional perspectives this grant provides will be a valuable addition to future restoration efforts.”

Here’s how the money will be spent:

• $1,189,414 for integrated assessment of nutrient loadings to Baffin Bay — Will identify sources of nutrient pollution in Baffin Bay to better prioritize projects to determine the health of the entire watershed. Team will conduct coordinated sampling in the bay and watershed across an 18-month period and then feed data into a computer model of the watershed to determine nutrient loading hot spots.

• $555,712 to assess coastal change in support of the 2023 Texas Coastal Resiliency Master Plan — The Texas coast and its network of cities, towns, oil and gas producers, heavy industry, shipping industry, commercial and recreational fishing industries, and agriculture and tourism businesses are vulnerable to storm surge, flooding, wind damage, and coastal erosion. Using mapping and modeling technology, this project will demonstrate how natural and human systems are linked. It will assess coastal change, sea level rise impacts, and storm surge impacts over time and how these changes affect human infrastructure.

• $125,000 to enhance coastal resiliency via shell recycling, restoration, and community partnerships — The Sink Your Shucks program will use the money to continue its successful oyster recycling and conservation outreach program. Two new seafood restaurants will be enrolled in the project, which takes oyster shells that would otherwise be thrown into the trash and places them back in the estuary to create new reef habitat. Citizen-scientists and a research component also will be added.

A nationwide search to replace McKinney is underway. The senior executive director is in charge of the Harte Research Institute, which generates more than $20 million a year in research support across nine diverse research programs.

The Harte Research Institute is located on the Island University campus of TAMU-CC at 6300 Ocean Drive in Corpus Christi.

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