Island University Selected as Texas’ RESTORE Center of Excellence

Published: January 16, 2015

Island University Selected as Texas’ RESTORE Center of Excellence

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – The Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi was named as a lead organization of the state’s RESTORE Research Centers of Excellence.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced Friday two consortia to establish Centers of Excellence in Texas. 

The RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States) resulted from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, and directs penalties into a trust fund to support programs, projects, and activities that restore and protect the environment and economy of the Gulf Coast region.  RESTORE directs 80% of all Deepwater Horizon fines and judgments to the Gulf. Some 2.5% goes to establish a Center of Excellence in each of the five states bordering the gulf. Depending on final judgments, that could total from $10 million to $40 million available to each center.  Of that, $4 million is expected to be available immediately.

The robust gulf research being done at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the University’s location positions the University to be the ideal recipients of the RESTORE funding.  The Harte Research Institute of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi is the only marine science institution dedicated solely to study of the Gulf of Mexico.

“Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi is excited to continue the robust gulf research already underway at the Institute and the University with establishment of this Research Center of Excellence,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President and CEO. “This center builds on the belief that the Gulf must be studied as a whole. That’s the specialty of the Harte Research Institute and all the researchers who understand that the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t have political boundaries.”

The other Texas consortium announced Friday will be led by the University of Houston and will study offshore energy development.

Texas will join other Centers of Excellence in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

The centers will serve as a hub of study into the effects of such man-made and natural disasters to help guide research and restoration efforts.

John Sharp, Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, said that this distinction highlights the priority put on research across the System.

“This is what the Chancellor’s Research Initiative is all about, and we are honored that Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has been chosen as the lead institution for this important RESTORE initiative,” Chancellor Sharp said.

The HRI, an endowed research center, was established in 2000. With a goal of an ecologically and economically sustainable Gulf of Mexico, the Center finds science-driven solutions with an ecosystem approach that includes research on science, economics and marine and public policies.

“All of us at the Harte Research Institute are very gratified and humbled to help lead a statewide effort with this Center of Excellence,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, Executive Director of the HRI. “The Center of Excellence gives us opportunities to bring together all the best Texas scientists --- not just from A&M, but from the University of Texas, from the University of Houston, and leading marine institutions across Texas --  to bring them together in one place to focus on Gulf problems that affect Texas.

“It also gives us the opportunity to make our marine research institutes and Texas more competitive in obtaining federal dollars by working together under the Center of Excellence concept. Our goal is science-driven solutions to Gulf problems that affect the health of our environment and economy, as well as, the health and well-being of Texas citizens.”   

The center led by Harte is a partnership with members of the Texas OneGulf Consortium.

“Texas OneGulf recognizes that humans are part of the environment and that a healthy environment, healthy economy, and healthy citizens define a Gulf of Mexico that Texas wants now and for the future,” said Cheryl Walker, director of the Texas A&M Health Science Center Institute of Biosciences and Technology and deputy director of Texas OneGulf. “The Texas A&M Health Science Center played a key role in developing the focus of Texas OneGulf on human health and well-being, which makes it unique among the other RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence.”

Partners in the center led by Harte include the following Texas OneGulf Consortium leaders:

  • Center for Translational Environmental Health Research, a partnership between TAMU, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Baylor College of Medicine and the University of Houston;
  • Marine Biology, Science & Engineering at Texas A&M University Galveston;
  • Geochemical and Environmental Research Group at Texas A&M University;
  • Biological and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas-Brownsville (RGV);
  • Sealy Center for Environmental Health and Medicine at University of Texas Medical Branch;
  • The Meadows Center for Water and Environment at Texas State University;
  • Center for U.S. and Mexican Law at University of Houston;
  • Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System Regional Association.