Ten faculty members from The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will join researchers from six other Texas institutions to participate in the Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence.

The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence, being led by the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi, is one of two centers of excellence that will share $4.036 million from the RESTORE Trust Fund of the federal RESTORE Act.

The federal RESTORE Act requires the five Gulf states affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to establish centers to conduct research on the Gulf Coast region.

The Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence will split the initial award with the Subsea Systems Institute at the University of Houston. Another $2.1 million is pending.

The UTRGV participating faculty members are:

Dr. Chip Breier, professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Karl Berg, assistant professor, Biology

Dr. Carlos Cintra Buenrostro, associate professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Alejandro Fierro, assistant professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Diego Figueroa, assistant professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. David Hicks, director and professor, School of Multidisciplinary Sciences

Dr. Richard Klein, assistant professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Daniele Provenzano, professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Abdullah Rahman, professor, Coastal & Marine Sciences

Dr. Owen Temby, assistant professor, Political Science

“We are delighted to have received this good news, announced yesterday by Toby Baker, commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality,” said Dr. David W. Hicks, director ad interim of the UTRGV School of Multidisciplinary Sciences and associate professor of Marine and Coastal Sciences.

Baker, Texas’ representative on the RESTORE Council and manager of the implementation of the RESTORE Act in Texas, said Texas is the first state in the nation to receive funding from the RESTORE Trust Fund.

“We are pleased that Texas is the first state to be awarded these funds,” Baker said. “Through these dedicated financial resources, we can now get to work and focus on the research and development needed to protect and revitalize our Gulf Coast and enrich our state’s economy impacted by this disaster.”

Texas OneGulf will assemble a consortium of Texas institutions focused on marine science and human health to promote collaborative, multi-disciplinary research, synthesis and problem solving concentrated on the Gulf of Mexico. The research will focus on fostering sustainable and resilient growth, as well as economic and commercial development in the coastal region.

Hicks has been named one of nine Texas OneGulf Consortium Leaders, all with national and international reputations in their respective fields.

“This tremendous effort will enable scientists and researchers to pursue the mission of the Texas OneGulf Center by gathering and improving knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico,” Hicks said. “These findings will assist decision-making processes related to the environmental quality and resiliency of Gulf coastal communities, which impact human health and well-being.”

Hicks said Texas OneGulf is designed to provide the best available science aimed at addressing all five disciplines denoted in Section 1605 of RESTORE:

Foster coastal sustainability, restoration and protection;

Enhance coastal fisheries and wildlife ecosystem research and monitoring;

Secure the safe, sustainable development of the offshore energy resources of the Gulf of Mexico;

Support sustainable and resilient growth, and economic and commercial development;

And provide comprehensive observation, monitoring and mapping of the Gulf of Mexico.

Hicks and the other UTRGV faculty who will serve on the Texas OneGulf Network of Experts are from two academic units within the College of Science – Marine & Coastal Sciences and Environment & Earth Science – along with one professor from the Department of Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts. They also will assist in strategic planning and are eligible to serve as principal investigators on proposals submitted to OneGulf.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Larry McKinney,” Hicks said. “As executive director of the Harte Research Institute, he believes strongly in this vast initiative. I am honored that he reached out to UTRGV to join forces in this alliance.”

McKinney said the Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence will realize its goals through collaborative, multi-disciplinary research.

“This collaboration will ensure that our political leadership, resource managers, business and industry, and our citizens have the best available science to address issues affecting the environmental and economic health of our state,” he said.