TAMUCC Students Gear Up for Offshore Research Cruise

A few lucky students at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will be joining scientists from the Harte Research Institute for a major research project at sea.

The goal is to get a better understanding of our coastal waters, and the ecosystem, and they have some special, high-tech equipment at their disposal.

This is the R/V Falkor, an impressive 272-foot ship to be used by researchers from TAMUCC.

"It's very difficult to get offshore and do the kind of sampling we do with a big piece of equipment, so you really need something like this," said Michael Wetz, assistant professor of Marine Biology. "It's a huge help for our efforts."

Wetz is gearing up for a two-week cruise of the Gulf of Mexico that will take the researchers from Matagorda Bay halfway down to South Padre Island.

The journey has two main objectives: one, to better understand the chemical conditions off the coast and locate red tide; the other, to understand what kinds of fish use the artificial reefs offshore.

"Many of these reefs haven't been visited since they were created," said Greg Stunz, professor of Marine Biology.

The R/V Falkor is being provided by the Schmidt Ocean Institute. A public tour of the vessel shows just how unique it is, from its lab space to a room that looks more like the Starship Enterprise than anything. A wall of monitors display data and maps for the scientists.

Another part of the tour allowed us to get behind the controls of a ROV that can roam the bottom of the ocean floor and feed back 3D images to the control room.

"We're starting out by offering it for scientists in the United States, and NOAA, for two purposes," said Eric King of the Schmidt Ocean Institute. "Conduct real meaningful science, but also shakedown the ship and find out what's working well and what we need to improve upon."

While the Schmidt Ocean Institute provides the vessel, the researchers will provide the science, sharing the information they gather with the Institute.


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