Areas of Speciality
- Coastal hazards
- Community development
- Environmental education (K-12 and adult)
- Marine fisheries
- Texas Master Naturalist volunteers
- Resilient coastal communities
- Emergency management
- B.S. Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University
- M.S. Wildlife & Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University
- Brazoria County Coastal & Marine Resources-Texas A&M Agrilife Extension (Facebook)
- Texas Monofilament Recovery and Recycling (Facebook)
John O’Connell is the coordinator of the Monofilament Recovery and Recycling Program (MRRP) a volunteer-led effort to reduce high-density nylon fishing line in the environment. Monofilament line can be harmful to boat motors and marine wildlife, and the program includes public awareness of the negative impacts of fishing line debris and collection of the line so that it can be recycled into other products. Volunteers maintain collection bins and drop-off locations at marine and freshwater recreational areas across the state.
O’Connell’s work in Brazoria County often focuses on water quality issues, including in private empoundments or ponds. He regularly offers a three-part pond management series that covers design, construction and management. “People have ponds for multiple reasons — ornamental, for livestock, recreation or fishing or even fire control — and unless ponds are lined with plastic, they eventually become infested with weeds.” When that happens, O’Connell helps property owners identify the type of weeds and recommend treatment, either chemical, mechanical or biological.
He also advises a Brazoria County Master Naturalist chapter and provides educational programs at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge for students, primarily grades 4 and 7. He conducts another educational program for third graders with Master Gardeners who run an educational garden and Master Naturalists who have education stations at the Hudson Woods refuge tract, and he also teaches educational sessions on estuaries. Thanks to volunteer Master Naturalists who present educational programs at every county library and multiple events in individual communities, O’Connell’s messages reach more than 20,000 people annually. Topics include the benefits of reptiles, the importance of the coastal environment, marine debris, freshwater inflows, recreational fishing and sea turtles.
Water is an important issue along the Texas coast, and O’Connell conducts educational programs on freshwater and offers an annual public conference covering water conservation and quality. He plans workshops on rain barrel use and teaches people how to construct them inexpensively from used food-grade drums.
To reach English as a Second Language audiences, O’Connell partners with Better Living for Texans to cover seafood safety and selection. He also presents a series on selecting and cooking seafood, primarily for a senior audience, at a local community college. He is planning workshops on aquaponics or hydroponics, which combines raising fish and growing plants, and also helps area live bait dealers improve holding systems to keep bait longer.
He also was a member of a team of Texas Sea Grant agents and specialists who provided training and helped commercial shrimp fishermen qualify for Trade Adjustment Assistance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The group won the 2012 Superior Service Award in the team category from Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for their efforts.