Brazos Valley Outreach SpecialistBrazos County
Texas A&M University
TAES Annex Building
730 Lamar Street
College Station, Texas, 77843-4115
Organization: Texas Sea Grant
Most of the Texas Sea Grant Extension team work on the coast, but Rhonda Patterson provides outreach to Texas Sea Grant's home institution, Texas A&M University, and the surrounding community. One of her functions is to educate the community about the watershed of the Brazos River — one of only two rivers in Texas that empty directly into the Gulf of Mexico — and what they can do to protect it.
As part of her mission to promote ocean awareness and improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resoures, Patterson manages Aglantis, the 300-gallon saltwater aquarium installed with support from the university's Office of the Provost in the Memorial Student Center, one of the most heavily visited buildings on campus. Through the affiliated Aglantis Jr. Adopt-A-Tank Program, she also installs aquariums in local schools. She provides a kit containing everything needed for the first six months, including a step-by-step maintenance guide, and acts as troubleshooter and resource for schools as they care for their aquarium. Twenty were installed in 2014 and a second 20 in 2015. These small pieces of the ocean can help students appreciate the resource and, she says, inspire them to make changes in the things they do that affect it. Patterson also set up an aquarium as part of a recent exhibit on offshore drilling at the George Bush Library, in cooperation with the College of Geosciences, that saw more than 85,000 visitors.
Her other duties include conducting presentations about marine animals to school groups, scouts and other students, and at community events. Using live animals and literature, she covers watershed issues, pollution and what people can do to help.
“My passion is educating people and inspiring them to make changes. I would rather sit at the aquarium all day long and talk about the animals than be behind a desk,” she says. Aquariums, she notes, are like living water coolers, bringing people together to talk and interact.
Patterson, who has been with Texas Sea Grant since February 2013, holds a B.S. in Biology from Texas A&M University.