President-Elect: Megan La Peyre and Brian Roberts
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.
Brian Roberts, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium: I am honored to be nominated for President-Elect of GERS. I am an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist that has been conducting coastal and estuarine research for over 20 years and in the Gulf of Mexico region for the last 10 years. My BS in Biology and Philosophy was awarded from the College of William and Mary. My first coastal and estuarine research experience was gained through the Boston University Marine Program at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, first as a masters student then as a research assistant, where I studied the impacts of nitrogen loading on benthic invertebrates and other components of the estuaries of Waquoit Bay. This was followed by earning a PhD in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and the Biogeochemistry and Environmental Change Program at Cornell University. My dissertation research focused on using oxygen stable isotopes to better constrain daytime respiration rates and improve our understanding of the controls on ecosystem rates of primary production and respiration in pelagic ecosystems. After, I spent several years a postdoc in the Environmental Sciences Division at Oak Ridge National Laboratory examining controls on ecosystem metabolism and nutrient cycling in stream ecosystems before relocating to the Gulf Coast in 2007 to become an Assistant (now Associate) Professor at the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON). As of spring 2017, I am the Associate Director of Science for LUMCON. In this role, I serve as head of the scientific faculty and oversee the science programs and usage of LUMCON’s facilities, properties, and resources. My research program spans across coastal, estuarine, and ocean systems with a broad focus on how human activities influence the ability of ecosystems to retain and transform carbon, nutrients, and energy and how restoration activities may help ameliorate some of these impacts. Recently, our research has focused on a diversity of topics including the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal wetland biogeochemistry, plant ecology, and microbial ecology (I serve on an executive committee overseeing the 26 PIs of the GoMRI-funded Coastal Waters Consortium); controls on hypoxia on the LA-TX shelf; ocean acidification; and the influence of salinity alterations and marsh creation projects on wetland food webs. I have been an active member in CERF since attending my first CERF meeting in Providence in 1997 and have been involved in several GERS meetings through the attendance of my students, postdocs as well as myself. One of my favorite aspects of GERS is the friendly, encouraging, and supportive atmosphere it provides for students and early career scientists. This is a mission that has been central to my career since I first had the opportunity to help co-mentor an REU intern while at the MBL. One of my proudest accomplishments since my arrival at LUMCON has been the successful acquisition of funding to establish LUMCON as a NSF REU Site. I have served as the program’s director and mentored or co-mentored numerous interns since the program’s inception in 2011. I also was involved in the initiation and served as an original member of ASLO’s Early Career Committee and have served on numerous advisory panels and committees for both internal and external agencies and/or organizations. As President of GERS, my goal will be to continue to building on the tremendous foundation and spirit of collaboration, network building and professional development that GERS is known for. Specifically, I will aim to communicate regularly with membership about GERS activities and opportunities, encourage active participation of current members and recruitment of new members, represent GERS as a member of the CERF governing board, and organize and host a successful and fun GERS meeting.
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: Victoria Congdon, Melissa McCutcheon, Haley Nicholson
Victoria Congdon: The University of Texas at Austin: I completed my B.S. in Marine and Freshwater Biology at the University of Texas at Austin in 2013 and am currently a graduate student at the UT Marine Science Institute. Although my research primarily focuses on the carbon storage capacity of seagrass meadows along the Texas coast, my long-term interests are to better understand the complex processes intertwining various estuarine and coastal ecosystems, and convey the importance of these relationships to the public. My current project, using seagrass indicators to assess ecosystem health, has allowed me to demonstrate to a diverse audience that natural resources can be used to evaluate condition and serve as early detectors of environmental degradation. To facilitate communication among diverse groups composed of scientists, policy-makers and the public, one must acquire the ability to openly and effectively communicate his or her scientific findings. I strongly believe that GERS conferences provide members, particularly students, with an opportunity to practice and refine their techniques in a wonderfully supportive environment (speaking from personal experience!). As a candidate for the Student Representative position on the GERS Executive Board, my visions are to continue broadening the participation of members from diverse backgrounds, and promote and encourage student involvement. We can share in scientific, professional and personal growth by incorporating experiences from all walks of life, which will cultivate a set of fresh and diverse perspectives. This opportunity will allow me to meet more fellow GERSians (the experienced and newly minted) and determine the ongoing needs of our student members. The current challenges that post-graduate students face when venturing out into an academic or non-academic setting are at the forefront of many institutional discussions. What I envision for GERSians is a collective effort to identify the skills that are necessary for a student to succeed so that we can try to provide student members with an opportunity to develop and grow their skillset. To accomplish this, we will need the continued support from GERS members, including the Affiliate Societies, to pinpoint what types of professional development are needed and how to make them available and accessible to better prepare student members for academic or non-academic professions.
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.
Haley Nicholson: Dauphin Island Sea Lab: Haley Nicholson was raised on the Gulf of Mexico coast in Pensacola, FL. She attended the University of Miami where she swam competitively for four years and completed a BS in Marine Biology in 2013. She is currently a PhD student at the University of South Alabama and Dauphin Island Sea Lab under the direction of Senior Marine Scientist Dr. Ruth H. Carmichael. Haley’s dissertation work focuses on oyster larvae and wastewater distribution in Mobile Bay, AL and is funded by Mississippi Alabama Sea Grant and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab/U.S. FDA joint fellowship program. I envision a student friendly conference that not only has opportunities for students to present their research in a constructive and nurturing environment, but one that helps students navigate their careers towards success. This GERS will have larger student participation due to more student networking activities and workshops. Graduate students towards the end of their graduate careers would be more involved in mentoring early stage graduate students. Improved graduate student panel workshops will take place with a panel composed of late stage graduate students and early careers scientists to give students a wider viewpoint and to encourage student participation by invoking conversation among students in different stages of their graduate career. Also, to promote student work, not just during the GERS conference, student work will be highlighted on the GERS website and social media to promote not only GERS, but also the hard work of students in our regional affiliate society.
Members At Large: Kim Cressman, Kelly Darnell, Chet Rakocinski, Mark Woodrey
Kim Cressman, Mississippi Department of Marine Resources/Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve: Kim Cressman has worked in Gulf of Mexico estuaries since 2005. She has been involved in all aspects of water quality monitoring, from field collection and lab analyses to data management and reporting, since obtaining her master’s degree in marine biology from the University of North Carolina – Wilmington. Currently, she is System-Wide Monitoring Program Coordinator for the Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Kim has experience connecting people to natural resources through volunteer programs, and actively works to synthesize, analyze, and understand monitoring data so it can be applied to real-world situations. Kim appreciates that GERS is a welcoming group and will work to continue this. She will also work with other board members to ensure that GERS members’ work finds the appropriate audiences to promote sound coastal management in the face of the many ecological challenges we face.
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.
Chet Rakocinski, The University of Southern Mississippi: Presently, I am a Professor in the Division of Coastal Sciences within the USM School of Ocean Science and Technology housed at the USM Gulf Coast Research Laboratory. My research interests center on benthic and fisheries ecology. Research efforts encompass macrobenthic responses to environmental change and anthropogenic alteration, recruitment ecology, habitat use, and trophic ecology. My interest in running for GERS Member-at-large is to contribute to the future direction of this important regional scientific society by helping to craft an ongoing forward-looking strategy for GERS, and by contributing an historical perspective. Some worthy goals in that regards include helping to strengthen important linkages to the parent society (CERF), promoting GERS as a major center for the US GoM coastal professional community, and especially for nurturing and launching young professionals in estuarine and marine science, advocating for the benefits of science-based knowledge in service of coastal issues, providing a platform for communicating scientific findings at regional and national/international levels, and providing a vehicle for advocating and disseminating information about coastal issues to the public.
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.