Megan La Peyre, Louisiana State University: I would be honored to be President-Elect of GERS. I have been involved in coastal research, restoration and management along the Gulf of Mexico Coast for the last 20 years. Prior to moving to the Gulf Coast, I received degrees in biology and political science from Duke University, a masters in marine science from Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and worked as water resources manager for the U.S National Park Service before completing my PhD at Louisiana State University. In 2001, I took the position as Research Fisheries Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Louisiana Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit, based in the School of Renewable Natural Resources at Louisiana State University Agricultural Center. My research involves field and laboratory studies examining the ecology and ecosystem services of shallow water habitats (shellfish reefs, submerged aquatic vegetation), and I work extensively on interdisciplinary and collaborative projects involving the population biology, ecology, physiology, genetics, restoration, modeling and management models of the eastern oyster. As President-Elect, I plan to draw on my diverse experiences and extensive network of collaborators. My research has involved extensive mentoring and inclusion of undergraduate and graduate students, and post-doctoral research associates, and I consider their involvement in GERS highly critical. I have been involved in numerous gulf and nation-wide efforts to assess coastal ecosystems vulnerability, develop oyster restoration priorities, and recommend standardized monitoring programs for key habitats, and I bring this gulf-wide view to my work. In my work with non-governmental organizations on restoration, and, in my position with the Cooperative Research Unit working closely with state management agencies, I have gained significant experience in communicating and identifying science needs to help inform restoration and management. With GERS, I hope to continue working to provide science necessary to inform natural resources policy, and to encourage student involvement.
Secretary-Treasurer: Zachary Darnell
Zachary Darnell, The University of Southern Mississippi: I am an Assistant Professor in the School of Ocean Science and Technology at the University of Southern Mississippi. I have served as the GERS Secretary-Treasurer since 2015. My goals for this position remain the same: to keep GERS financially stable and to work with the other Executive Board members to ensure that GERS runs as smoothly as possible.
Student Representative: Melissa McCutcheon
Melissa McCutcheon: Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi: I got my bachelors degree in biology at Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania, during which time I spent my summers at the Wallops Island Marine Science Consortium (now Chincoteague Bay Field Station) studying the Chincoteague Bay system. The great experiences that I had there lead me to decide that I wanted to make a career of studying estuarine systems. I have now been living in Corpus Christi, TX, for four years, where I have attended Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) to get my M.S. in Environmental Science and where I am currently pursuing a Ph. D. in Coastal and Marine System Science. I work in the Hu Carbon Cycle Lab, and my research is focused on the variability and controlling factors of carbonate chemistry of the estuaries of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. I have projects underway that include calculations of CO2 fluxes and long-term trends in pCO2 along the entire Texas coastal estuaries, examination of the diel and seasonal fluctuations in the carbonate system, an investigation of the influence of submarine groundwater discharge on the carbonate system of a semi-arid estuary, and investigation of the sediment geochemistry and subsequent carbonate preservation at different types of oyster reef restoration sites. I have a love for sharing knowledge, whether it is through exchange with other scientists, with community members, or with younger developing scientists. In my time at TAMUCC, I have served as the vice president and then president of the TAMUCC Marine Science Graduate Student Organization (MSGSO) for a total of two years, during which time I was the event organizer for two MSGSO Annual Student Research Forums that have included attendance of undergraduate and graduate students from TAMUCC and several other universities in this region. I also cofounded and currently serve as an editorial board member for a community outreach magazine called Third Coast Science for You that will be biannually distributed by MSGSO to the Texas coastal bend area. (The first issue was distributed in April 2017). The peer-reviewed, bilingual, popular science magazine is an effort to bridge the gap between the scientific community and the public and disperse information about locally relevant scientific issues and topics in a way that can be understood and appreciated by the community. I have served as the instructor of record for Issues in Environmental Science, Environmental Biology, and Oceanography courses at TAMUCC, and I intend to pursue a career in academia where I hope to continue to prioritize my role as an educator. I love the GERS goal of promoting research across the Gulf of Mexico, and I think that it is equally important to encourage interdisciplinary communication amongst researchers around the Gulf so that we can work together to develop a better understanding and better management of the coastal systems. I would love to play a role in this by serving as the student representative for the GERS Executive Board, and I would try my best to encourage student involvement in GERS and convey student concerns to the Board.
Members At Large: Kelly Darnell and Mark Woodrey
Kelly Darnell, The University of Southern Mississippi: I am a Research Assistant Professor in the School of Ocean Science and Technology at The University of Southern Mississippi, where I also hold the position of Deputy Director of the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence. Prior to this position, I was a Research Scientist at The Water Institute of the Gulf, a non-profit research institute in Baton Rouge, LA, and the Deputy Director of the RESTORE Act Center of Excellence for Louisiana. My experiences in academia, at a non-profit, and the administrative roles I’ve held have given me the broad perspective to represent the wide breadth of GERS members. I received my Ph.D. from The University of Texas at Austin and M.S. from the University of South Alabama, and have worked in all five of the Gulf Coast States. I appreciate the unique social and ecological aspects of each State, but also recognize the interconnectedness of the States as part of a larger functioning system. Broadly, my research focuses on the ecology of coastal and benthic systems. This includes investigating the functional role of submerged, floating and emergent coastal plants as habitat and food for nearshore animals; the reproductive ecology of submerged plants; and ecological consequences of complexity across scales in coastal systems. I have served on the GERS Board as a Member-at-Large for the past two years and was the chair of the fundraising committee for the 2016 GERS meeting, raising over $5,000 to help defray meeting expenses. I have been a member of CERF and GERS since 2007, when I attended my first CERF (ERF) conference as a graduate student. I look forward to the opportunity to serve the organization that has supported me as a student and early-career scientist by promoting the support and training of students and the active participation of members across all career stages.
Mark Woodrey, Mississippi State University/Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Dr. Mark Woodrey is an Assistant Research Professor at the Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, Mississippi. He also serves as the Research Coordinator at the NOAA/Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) in Moss Point, Mississippi. He received his Ph.D. in Biology from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he studied fall bird migration in coastal Alabama. Mark has extensive background developing monitoring programs and conducting avian conservation and estuarine ecology biology research and management. The main goal of his research and monitoring efforts are to better understand the ecological relationships between the flora and fauna of coastal ecosystems along the northern Gulf of Mexico as well as evaluate the ‘success’ of ecological restoration projects. Results from his work, including 30+ coastal-related peer-reviewed publications, multiple book chapters, and hundreds of presentations, have allowed management agencies and conservation organizations to make more informed and effective natural resource management decisions. I have been a member of GERS since 2002 and have attended several of our meetings. I would like to see a more consistent wider geographic representation at each of our meetings. My experience has been that our meetings are very heavy on local participation which often results in presentations that are limited in thematic as well as geographic scope. To address this issue, I would like to work with the GERS Board and membership to come up with creative ways to get a more folks involved in meetings, perhaps through taking advantage of recent technological advances in communications. Given my connection with the National Estuarine Research Reserve Program, I will also work with the five Gulf reserves to increase participation in our meetings as well as work with them to provide limited financial support to assist students with travel funds to attend meetings. I see student training as the biggest benefit to GERS and will seek to encourage the participation by students I helping to organize and directly participate in various meeting activities.