New research center at Galveston will study turtles in Gulf of Mexico

Image: Texas A&M University at Galveston

Texas A&M University at Galveston will serve as home for the new Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research, with Department of Marine Biology Professor  Christopher Marshall as the inaugural director.

The Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research will use its strategic location and research expertise to facilitate the coordination of sea turtle experts from institutions across Texas and the Gulf of Mexico to promote and support research that leads to restoration of sea turtle populations in the Gulf.

The primary goal of the Center is to create a consortium that will enhance the efforts of individual researchers in support of programmatic grant proposals that individual researchers usually cannot access. Other goals include establishing research priorities, increased cooperation and communication of researchers throughout the Gulf, train the sea turtle biologists of the next generation, and conduct sea turtle research in the region.

The research center will fulfill the need for data regarding local sea turtle populations in the western Gulf of Mexico, which currently is relatively incomplete compared with that of the eastern Gulf.

“I noticed that my colleagues from the eastern Gulf use the word ‘black box’ in terms of data for sea turtles from Texas and the western Gulf of Mexico,” Marshall said. “Right now in the western Gulf of Mexico there are actually very few groups conducting sea turtle research.”

“It just made me realize that we really need to pull together region-wide if we are going to make any progress. We need to get out of our silos and work cooperatively. Sea turtles have been underserved in this part of the Gulf. And that’s not through any lack of effort, but there’s only been a couple of camps doing the majority of the work. It’s a long coast. We need more scientists in this region studying sea turtles.”

But Marshall does not want to confine the new center’s impact and reach to the Texas Gulf Coast. “It’s not just the western Gulf,” he said. “We’ll have representatives from all over the Gulf of Mexico. Particularly exciting is that we’ll be reaching out to our Mexican and Cuban collaborators. So the Gulf Center for Sea Turtle Research really is all about the entire Gulf of Mexico.”

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