Twelve-Year Internship Program Advances Fisheries Studies in Gulf of Mexico

September 19, 2014

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – A total of 38 marine science students in the College of Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi have benefited from a unique internship opportunity program managed by the Harte Research Institute and funded by the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) for the past 12 years.

Interns learn how to conduct surveys on water quality and collected organisms found in Texas bays and estuaries. This data allows the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s (TPWD) Coastal Fisheries Management Resource and Harvesting Program to monitor the health of our local bays.

This summer, the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi was awarded a $38,000 scholarship for internships from the CCA, Mr. Big Fish, and Mrs. Big Fish. The 2014 summer marked the 12th year CCA and TPWD have collaborated with the Island University to provide marine science students with the opportunity to get their feet wet in the field working with state agency staff.

“This is a little known, but long-term commitment by the Coastal Conservation Association of Texas, and now the Mr. and Mrs. Big Fish Tournaments, to help assure that the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has access to the best and brightest fisheries biologists,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, HRI Executive Director. “This internship opportunity is a great cooperative program between the Harte Research Institute and these outstanding organizations to make sure the fisheries resources of Texas are in good hands.”

The 2014 CCA scholarship recipients and work locations are:

  • Sarah Kimbrough – Aransas Bay Ecosystem, TPWD Rockport Office
  • Meghan Martinez – Corpus Christi Bay Ecosystem, TPWD Rockport Office
  • Nicole Thomas – Upper Laguna Madre Ecosystem, TPWD Corpus Christi Office
  • Maria Cooksey – Lower Laguna Madre Ecosystem, TPWD Brownsville Office

Each of the 2014 CCA students received a stipend of $6,500 for the three-month internship.

The 2014 Mr. and Mrs. Big Fish scholarship recipients and work locations are:

  • Greg Purtle – Upper Laguna Madre Ecosystem, TPWD Corpus Christi Office
  • Heidi Ballew – Upper Laguna Madre Ecosystem, TPWD Corpus Christi Office

Each of the 2014 Mr. and Mrs. Big Fish students received a stipend of $6,000 for the three-month internship.

Past interns also include:

2013: Clinton S. Witherell, Danielle R. Zimmermann, David R. Norris, Gloria E. Acaraz, and Erin E. Buschfort

2012: Zaida F. Hager, Nathan Huysman, Elliot M. Briell, Nicole F. Poluson, and Michael L. Birchfield

2011: Amanda L. Gruber, Nathan M. Gurierrez, Aaron M. Otero, James A. Sanchez, and Marci D. Durocher

2010: Lee A. Schoech, Bobby J. Johnson, Jeffrey J. Long, Abigail J. Lashbrook, and Colin W. Nash

2009: Daniel R. Pritchard, Brian M. Witherell, Abigail J. Lashbrook, and Cynthia A. Kelly

2008: Paul D. Cason and Sunnie L. Hart

2007: Elani K. Morgan

2006: Adriana Leiva

2005: Aaron S. Baxter

2004: Brian L. Bartram

2003: Kevin J. Kolodziejcyk

2002: Steven E. Dial

Since 2002, the program has provided more than $239,000 in funding and given students the opportunity to work with TPWD coastal fisheries biologists in the Texas bay systems. The partnership was originally started by Dr. David McKee, retired Professor of Biology and Mariculture at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, who works with the TPWD in the selection process. Many interns have become full-time employees after completing their internships with TPWD.