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Central Gulf of Mexico Ocean Observing System

Sponsor: U. Southern Mississippi (ONR)

Brief Description:  GERG has been working with University of Southern Mississippi on development of Central Gulf Ocean Observing System GERG designed, built, and delivered an advanced three meter buoy USM3M01 with an acoustically linked bottom package. This buoy was deployed south of Biloxi MS in December 2004. This buoy was damaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but successfully recorded winds and ocean currents as the eye of Katrina passed nearby.

In the Spring of 2006, GERG began construction of a second three meter discus buoy for CenGOOS and also began the refurbishment of the USM3M01.

Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program (CBBEP): Atmospheric Deposition

GERG has established and manages the operation of a National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) site at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi (NADP site TX 39) for CBBEP. Evidence has mounted over the past 1-2 decades that atmospheric transport and deposition is an important pathway by which certain toxic chemicals reach coastal waters. While information on toxic chemicals and nutrients has or currently is being generated by other investigations in Corpus Christi Bay, such as EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program, NOAA National Status and Trends Program and others, little reliable data is available to assess the impact of atmospheric deposition. The concentrations of nutrients and selected ions in wet atmospheric deposition will be measured at a site at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. These research results are critical to the understanding of the relative importance of nutrient inputs to Corpus Christi Bay.

The analytical results of this project will provide atmospheric deposition and composition data that will allow an integrated assessment of the relationships of air and water nutrient inputs for Corpus Christi Bay which can lead to informed management decisions. The information will be used to supply atmospheric deposition data for total loading models.

Flower Garden Banks Joint Industry Project

Sponsor: J. Connor Consulting, Houston, TX

This program operates two data buoys near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary at Sites N and V. The buoys measure winds, air temperature and humidity, atmospheric pressure, conductivity, and surface currents and report the data in near real time though the Texas Automated Buoy System.

Hudson Canyon Study

Sponsor: MMS

The year was 1979 and the U..S. Atlantic was first opened for exploration drilling by the U.S. Minerals Management Service. The first drilling was not encouraging but then Getty, Texaco and Tenneco struck oil in and around the Hudson Canyon Block 598 area offshore New Jersey. Although several wells were drilled, the discovery of gas and oil was declared uneconomic and a drilling moratorium prevented further exploration near the biggest energy consuming states. The Resource Geosciences Group and the MMS are trying to find out the age of the source rock that gave rise to oil and gas in Hudson Canyon by using "chemical fossils" and carbon isotopes. This type of research on petroleum geochemistry contributes to our national energy security.

Mercury Contamination in Qatari Coastal Water: An Inverse Model

Terry Wade Participates in Research Cruise in Qatar

Dr. Terry L. Wade traveled to Doha, Qatar, in February to participate in a research cruise aboard Qatar University’s research vessel the R/V Mukhtabar Al-Bihar. The purpose of the cruise was to collect samples for a two year joint research project titled “Mercury Contamination in Qatari Coastal Water: An Inverse Model”. Other participants included: Dr. Rowe (PI, TAMU Galveston), Mr. Nunnally (Phd. Student in Oceanography, TAMU Galveston), Dr. Al-Ansi (PI, Qatar University), Dr. Abdel-Moati (Qatar Ministry of Environment) and Dr. Soliman (PI; received Ph.D. in Oceanography from TAMU College Station with Drs. Rowe and Wade as committee chairs).

Oriskany Reef Monitoring Project

State of Florida Marine Resources Division

The decommissioned 888 foot long aircraft carrier ex U.S.S. Oriskany (CVA-34) was sunk, as an artificial reef, in just over 200 feet of water, 25 miles off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, on May 17, 2006. The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) analyzes fish tissue samples from the area for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) to determine if the hull of the U.S.S. Oriskany is a source of contamination. GERG performs the analysis by high resolution gas chromatography / high resolution mass spectrometry and quantifies 209 PCB (some co-elute). The monitoring is being conducted for the protection of human health.

Spatial and Temporal Scales of Human Disturbance - McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Sponsor: Department of Defense 

When humans establish a presence in any area they alter their surroundings. Modern societies have a wide range of materials they use that may enter the area they inhabit. Studies in the 1990's reported localized, contamination of sediments in Winter Quarters Bay (WQB) which is adjacent to McMurdo Station, the U.S. scientific research station in Antarctica. The bay's sediments are contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polychlorinated terphenyls (PCTs) and metals, with little evidence of microbial degradation. PCB sediment concentrations often exceeded concentrations known to cause toxic effects in marine organisms.

GERG researches have been studying the contaminant "footprint" at McMurdo Station since 1999. The "footprint" of PCB, hydrocarbons (TPH and PAH) and metals contamination at most locations at McMurdo Station is minimal. However, there are legacies from previous practices (particularly in Winter Quarter Bay) and areas where current activities create the opportunity for contamination (i.e. small hydrocarbon spills at fueling locations and helicopter pad). Heavily impacted areas are small (meters or less in size). There are limited biological resources in the terrestrial setting that are at risk of exposure to contaminants. Terrestrial contaminants are not at levels of concern for human health. The most severe contamination is the PCB, hydrocarbon and trace element legacy from past disposal practices into Winter Quarters Bay. The sediment contamination within the Bay is patchy and localized. Analyses of biota from the Bay indicates that they concentrate some of these contaminants. GERG researchers and their collaborators continues to monitor these contaminants to determine there persistence, distribution and effects.

State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation

The Alaska Monitoring and Assessment Program (AKMAP) is conducting a baseline study in the Chukchi Sea, where major oil and gas resource survey and development activities are taking place. Marine sediment and biological tissue samples are analyzed for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, petroleum biomarkers, saturated hydrocarbons and trace metals. Select samples are also analyzed for organochlorine contaminants. The results of the AKMAP Chukchi Sea survey, together with data from other environmental studies being conducted in the region, are used to support the protection and restoration of coastal marine environments, mitigate damage to the marine ecosystem, and implement discharge monitoring requirements.

Statewide Fish Tissue Monitoring Program

Texas Department of State Health Services (TX DSHS) Seafood and Aquatic Life Group (SALG)

The Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) conducts laboratory testing and analytical services on fish tissue samples from waters selected by the Texas Department of State Health Services (TX DSHS) for quantitative risk characterization. GERG has been providing these services since 2004. Tissue samples are collected from a number of water bodies including the Trinity River, Houston Ship Channel, Arroyo Colorado River, Lavaca-Matagorda Bay Estuary, Sam Rayburn Lake, and Lake Livingston by the TX DSHS and are sent to GERG, where scientists detect and measure chemical contaminants in the samples. The chemical contaminants analyzed are chosen based on historical data and/or suspected contaminants and include trace metals (especially mercury), pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), dioxins/furans, volatile organic contaminants, and semi- volatile organic contaminants.

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