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Resilient Marine Scientists Home Again as Lab Building Reopens after Harvey

Resilient Marine Scientists Home Again as Lab Building Reopens after Harvey

Being a marine scientist entails coping with extremes, from scuba diving deep in the ocean to interacting with living organisms that are among the planet's most mysterious creatures. Nonetheless, Hurricane Harvey was a whole new extreme for The University of Texas's Marine Science Institute. 

Just over a year ago, the storm severely damaged UTMSI, located in Port Aransas, with winds of more than 130 mph that obliterated six buildings and caused the campus to temporarily close. Today, after a year of rebuilding and with the halfway point toward recovery within sight, UTMSI celebrated the reopening of its Estuarine Research Center, one of three main laboratory buildings, for scientists and students.

"All great things come with determination and great effort. The Marine Science campus will be rebuilt for the future, stronger and smarter," said Marine Science Institute Director Robert Dickey. "We look forward to providing facilities that will support our hardworking faculty and students for generations to come." 

As Port Aransas' largest employer and a critical contributor to the research mission of the University, UTMSI's return is big news for Longhorn Nation and the coastal community alike. So in attendance to help celebrate today's milestone were a wide range of champions for UT marine science. President Greg Fenves, UT Austin supporter Bobby Patton, College of Natural Sciences Dean Paul Goldbart, Mayor Charles Bujan, Chief of Police Scott Burrows, Mayor Pro-Tem Wendy Moore, City Council Member Dr. Joan Holt, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sharon McKinney and more visitors from the main campus and the community in Port Aransas were on site.

Cutting-edge research on marine ecosystems, oceans and coasts occurs at UTMSI, but many projects had to ground to a halt temporarily after the eye of the hurricane passed over UTMSI in August 2017. Research operations relocated briefly last fall, but scientists now are getting back to their labs and bringing instruments back online.

UT News today highlighted some of the marine science research that is ongoing. Graduate student Chris Biggs studies spotted seatrout and is featured in a new video. Keeping the Texas coast strong is a priority for Biggs and everyone at UT's Marine Science Institute.

"I am one of 80 researchers and graduate students working [here]," Biggs says in the film. "Most of the work we do here is focused on understanding what makes these bays and estuaries tick so these waters can continue supporting the local communities and economy for generations to come."

It seemed a good sign for the recovery effort that this day of celebration of new beginnings began with a rainbow appearing over UTMSI.

The Marine Science Institute is currently on track to reopen to the public in the spring of 2019.

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Friday, 03 February 2023

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