Nearly 50 ocean science researchers presented the results of years of study Tuesday afternoon at the Texas Sea Grant Research Symposium, hosted at the Texas A&M Hotel and Conference Center.

Between 2014 and 2017, Sea Grant Texas at Texas A&M allotted more than $3.5 million in grant money to professionals and college students working to better the lives of both marine species and humans impacted by the ocean.

Among those honored Tuesday afternoon was Kirby Goidel, a professor of communications and Public Policy Research Institute director at Texas A&M. His months of data collection on the Texas coast and years of research played a special part in the symposium, and he was presented with an award from the Sea Grant for his engagement on social media. Goidel’s research, which was funded with over $210,000 from Sea Grant, theoretically could improve the lives of Texans heavily impacted by hurricanes.

In 2016, he was given funding to survey Texans living in coastal counties, asking questions regarding their sense of preparedness for future hurricanes and evaluating their perceived needs in combating storm damage. When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, Sea Grant offered Goidel an additional $10,000 to re-interview some of the original survey participants. The goal of this research, Goidel explained, was to help local governments along the Texas coast better understand what their constituents need before and after a storm.

“What’s really neat about the second round of funding is that, though we have a lot of people who analyze disasters, [my colleagues and I] were able to collect data right before and right after Hurricane Harvey,” Goidel said. “That kind of collection is very unique bracketing, and Sea Grant really liked it.”

Goidel and a colleague presented their research via a poster presentation on Tuesday. Their poster was just one set up among more than 45 in a ballroom of the Texas A&M hotel. Other projects focused more on animal life and environmental changes.

Pamela T. Plotkin, director of the Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M, explained that every four years Sea Grant’s federal office sends both federal and state level advisers to the university to review how the organization’s grant money is being used. For the state, Sea Grant money is provided via Texas A&M’s funding and through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

During the cyclical “site reviews” from federal offices, Texas Sea Grant staff typically like to show off a small handful of research project presentations to display the scientific breakthrough returns from the funding. This year, however, Texas Sea Grant staff member Kimber De Salvo had the idea of hosting a full symposium that showcased a larger number of individual projects from Texan professionals and college students.

“This is kind of a nice event we’re doing in the middle of the site visit,” Plotkin said. “It’s a great chance not just to show the site team what we’re doing, but to celebrate that work.”

For more information on Sea Grant Texas and the symposium, visit texasseagrant.org.

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