Loggerhead Challenge Sportsmanship Award named for Dr. Wes Tunnell

July 16, 2010

By Jim Hiney

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Humble in victory, gracious in defeat, exhibiting the highest integrity, excelling in scholarship and promoting fair play. These are the qualities that describe the high school students honored for sportsmanship during an annual marine science competition here and define the man for whom the award is now named.

Beginning in 2011, The Dr. Wes Tunnell Sportsmanship Award will be given to the team judged to best embody the spirit of earnest competition while demonstrating exemplary decorum during the Loggerhead Challenge Regional Competition of the National Ocean Sciences Bowl (NOSB), held in Corpus Christi.

Tunnell, associate director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi (TAMUCC), is a much respected scientist who has been fixture in marine research for more than 35 years.

“We have decided to name the Loggerhead Challenge Sportsmanship Award in honor of Wes Tunnell because of the leadership and dedication he has provided in the work of educating others about ocean and coastal environments,” said Liz Turner, regional coordinator of the Loggerhead Challenge. “Those who know him best describe his reputation for hard work, persistence, intelligence and integrity. We hope those who receive the Dr. Wes Tunnell Sportsmanship Award will emulate Wes.”

Tunnell is a broadly trained marine biologist/ecologist with a particular interest in field studies on coral reefs and coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Although his current focus is on biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico, he has studied and published on coral reef ecology, coastal ecology, molluscan distribution and ecology, oil spill impacts, brachiopods, colonial waterbirds, and vertebrate fossils from the seabed.

In the mid-1980s, Tunnell founded the Center for Coastal Studies, the first research center at what was then Corpus Christi State University (now TAMUCC). The success and standing of the Center for Coastal Studies within the marine research community was a major factor in philanthropist Ed Harte’s decision to donate $46 million to TAMUCC in 2000 to create the Harte Research Institute.

NOSB is an academically rigorous tournament in which teams of high school students compete head-to-head answering questions about ocean and coastal environments. There are 25 regional NOSB competitions held across the country each year, usually in February or March. Texas boasts two regional competitions – the Loggerhead Challenge, held at TAMUCC, and the Dolphin Challenge, which is held at Texas A&M University in College Station. The winner of each region goes
on to compete in the NOSB National Finals.

The National Finals location changes each year. The 2011 National Finals will be held in
Galveston.

“The high school students who excel in NOSB competitions must demonstrate discipline and dedication, studying and practicing every week for months to prepare for competition day,” said Turner, who is also marine education specialist with the Texas Sea Grant College Program, which hosts both Texas NOSB competitions. “They do this because they are interested in the ocean and want compete in the National Finals, but also because they possess strength of character. As they work hard, elbow-to-elbow, they discover that being on the team is part of the prize.

“The Dr. Wes Tunnell Sportsmanship Award will be given based upon a team’s participation, attitude and demeanor throughout the Loggerhead Challenge, from the Friday night social event through the Saturday competition rounds,” Turner continued. “Competition officials will look for teams who lead the way in the qualities that contribute to being good sports.”

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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.