Texas Sea Grant brings new extension specialists in economics, oil spill outreach and healthy coastal ecosystems to Texas coast

September 02, 2014

By Cindie Powell

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — The Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University has hired three new extension specialists this month who bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to the Texas coast.

Dr. Stuart Carlton, the program’s new Healthy Coastal Ecosystems/Social Science Specialist, is located on the Texas A&M University-Galveston campus, while Christine Hale, the Oil Spill Outreach Coordinator, is working from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) campus, and Dr. Andrew Ropicki, the Marine Economics Extension Specialist and an assistant professor in Texas A&M University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, has offices on the TAMUCC campus and also at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Program in Corpus Christi.

“Texas Sea Grant is fortunate to bring on three accomplished scientists from diverse fields to enhance and strengthen our transdisciplinary extension team,” said Dr. Pamela Plotkin, Texas Sea Grant Director. “These new positions were also created with the aim of building our presence within Texas coastal universities to capture the intellectual capacities there and build stronger foundations with the coastal communities they serve.”

The Healthy Coastal Ecosystems/Social Science Specialist is a newly created position. Carlton, who started with Texas Sea Grant on August 18, holds a bachelor of arts in English with a minor in ecology, evolution and organismal biology from Tulane University in New Orleans, a master of science in fisheries biology from the University of Georgia, and a Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology from the University of Florida. His primary research interests are the human dimensions of climate change, natural resource controversies, and rare and imperiled species. He most recently served as a postdoctoral research assistant in the Natural Resources Social Science Laboratory at Purdue University and also worked for two years at Florida Sea Grant as a Program Assistant.

Hale became Texas Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Outreach Coordinator, which is also a new position, on August 11. She comes to the program from the University of the Virgin Islands Sea Grant, where she was an Extension Specialist and Stewardship Coordinator. Her activities included building public support to address “Ridge to Reef” or whole-ecosystem issues. She has a bachelor of science in marine science from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a master of science in marine and environmental science from the University of the Virgin Islands.

The Oil Spill Outreach Coordinator position is one of four oil spill science specialist positions recently created by the Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant programs as part of a new oil spill science education project. Each of the four specialists are located in a different state but will work regionally as a team to conduct workshops in coastal communities to share the results of oil spill research and produce oil spill-related publications and press reports. The collaborative project is funded by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI), an independent organization created in 2010 with funds from BP to support oil spill research in the Gulf. Texas Sea Grant received $288,000 from GOMRI over a two-year period for its portion of the Gulf Sea Grant oil spill education project. If the project goes well, the initial two-year grant can be renewed for up to 10 years.

Ropicki, who joined Texas Sea Grant on August 1, fills the Marine Economics Specialist position most recently held by Mike Haby, who retired in April. Ropicki received bachelor of science and master of science degrees in finance and a second master’s degree and Ph.D. in food and resource economics, all from the University of Florida. He most recently worked as a Research Assistant in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida. His research interests include the evaluation of rights-based fisheries management, the application of social network analysis techniques to tradable permit markets, the valuation of environmental and natural resources, and marine resource economics.

PHOTOS: From left, Dr. Stuart Carlton, Christine Hale and Dr. Andrew Ropicki.

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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.