Senior Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney Announces Retirement After 12 Years of Leadership at Harte Research Institute

Contributed Content | Published: December 10, 2019

Senior Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney Announces Retirement After 12 Years of Leadership at Harte Research Institute

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Larry McKinney, Senior Executive Director for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, has announced that after more than a decade of service he will retire from his position leading the Gulf’s only dedicated marine science and policy institute effective August 30, 2020.

“The work of the Harte Research Institute, under the leadership of Larry McKinney, has been nothing short of extraordinary. Over the last decade, Dr. McKinney has made science-driven solutions for the Gulf of Mexico synonymous with HRI,” said University President Kelly Miller Quintanilla.

A national search will begin in January to select the new Senior Executive Director for the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. 

The first scientist to lead HRI as director after its founding in 2000, McKinney was hired to lead the institute in 2008. He was uniquely qualified to lead a Gulf of Mexico institute bridging scientific research and marine policy after spending half of his career managing Texas fish and wildlife resources with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) and the other half as an academic researcher.

Over his 50-year career as a researcher and resource manager, McKinney has secured some $186 million in research and conservation funding and spent nearly 7 1/2 months underwater, completing over 8,000 dives. While the bulk of that work has been in the Gulf of Mexico, he has worked in the Arctic, Antarctic, Caribbean, and even the Aral Sea as well as the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. There is no Texas bay, estuary, or lagoon untouched by McKinney’s research.

During his tenure at HRI, McKinney completed the recruiting of the first team of Endowed Chairs, as envisioned by the institute’s founders – hiring Socio-Economic Chair Dr. David Yoskowitz and Ocean Health and Fisheries Chair Dr. Greg Stunz.

McKinney diving underwater

He grew the institute from a total of 37 staff and students with a $2.9 million annual budget in 2008 to 154 staff and students and an annual budget of nearly $27 million in 2020. He significantly expanded HRI’s international reach, establishing two international chairs  – one in Cuba and one in Mexico. He also developed the international student program, now known as Student Workshop on International Coastal and Marine Management (SWIMM) and secured National Academy of Sciences funding for it. He launched international research projects in both Cuba and Mexico on fisheries development, biodiversity, and coral reefs. All these projects continue today.

Through his leadership, HRI has become now one of the most impactful and well-known research institutes in the Gulf of Mexico. HRI was the first to fully integrate natural sciences, marine policy, law, and socio-economic expertise in its unique “HRI Model” to address pressing Gulf of Mexico problems. Using this model, McKinney led some of the Gulf’s most respected researchers at HRI in efforts in responding to the Gulf’s largest environmental disaster, Deepwater Horizon; revising fisheries management of recreational species at both regional and national levels: dealing with sea level rise in Texas and the Gulf, improving coastal community and ecosystem resilience; securing environmental water for Texas bays and estuaries; and, most recently, developing a the Texas Coast Report Card evaluating the environmental health of the Texas Gulf Coast.

“It has been my honor and privilege to be part of HRI,” McKinney said. “From the Foundation Board that oversees Ed Harte’s incredible founding gift of $46 million, to the students that wash the bottles in the labs, and everyone in between, there could be no more dedicated, nor talented group of people. When you are part of a team like that you just do not want to let them down, so you must give 100 percent of your effort all the time, doing all you can to make them successful. However, I do feel it is time to step back and allow new energy and perspectives to carry HRI forward into a very bright and impactful future.”

Securing HRI’s credibility has been McKinney’s primary goal as a director, and he has led major summits on the state of the Gulf of Mexico in 2011, 2014, and 2017, bringing hundreds of Gulf leaders together to find common cause. McKinney established and directs Texas OneGulf, a consortium of Texas’ nine leading marine research institutions and the first RESTORE Center of Excellence designated as such in the Gulf of Mexico. McKinney is a founding board member and former chair of the Gulf of Mexico University Research Collaborative (GOMURC), an organization of 80+ marine research institutes from across the Gulf of Mexico. He also chairs the Program Committee for GoMOSES, the Gulf’s largest annual marine science meeting. McKinney will continue at HRI as Chair for Gulf Strategies, supporting the new director and helping to sustain and grow the institute’s capacity to provide science driven solutions to Gulf of Mexico problems.

For a more detailed release with more information about McKinney’s background and career, visit harteresearchinstitute.org.