Director of A&M’s Floating Classroom Program Selected for Lyondell Environmental Award through Earthwatch Institute

April 19, 2006

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Willie Younger, Extension Marine Education Specialist with the Marine Advisory Service of Texas A&M University, has been selected from a field of educators from across the nation to receive the Lyondell Environmental Award. 

The award, made possible by a partnership between the Earthwatch Institute and Lyondell Chemical Company, includes participation in a major research project. Participant travel and other costs of the award are funded by Lyondell.

In July of this year, Younger and a small team of environmentally focused educators will travel to southwest England to assist a British marine mammal research team in an ongoing study of North Atlantic gray seals.  Over a seven-day period, this international group of classroom teachers and outreach educators will document aspects of the growing interaction between these marine mammals and man.  The project’s goal is to determine what, if any, impact these frequent encounters are having on the gray seal population over the long term.

Both Lyondell and Earthwatch embrace the idea that “teachers,” both formal and informal alike, hold the key to developing a greater understanding and appreciation for the environment on a global scale.  Shelly Heuser, Plant Manager for Lyondell’s Matagorda (Texas) plant, explained that, “Through sharing the knowledge and skills these educators gain with students, fellow teachers and a variety of influential persons in their home communities, an enhanced awareness will develop of how all things are ultimately connected and what we can do to protect our planet. 

“We are certainly pleased that someone from Matagorda County was selected amongst all the applicants,” added Heuser. “This truly showcases the caliber of educators in our area.” 

Younger, director of Texas A&M University’s Floating Classroom Program, noted that, “Lyondell provided me this once in a lifetime opportunity -- to be part of an important study that can contribute to the sustainability of both earth’s natural resources and mankind’s well-being.  I greatly appreciate the confidence the sponsors have that I will produce a worthy return on their investment. Therefore, I enthusiastically look forward to this professional development adventure and my return to Texas to share with others what I saw, did and learned on the English coast while working with internationally respected marine mammal experts.”

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Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.