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    Universities Should Not Abandon Cuba
    (2017-12-05) McKinney, Larry
    Larry McKinney, Executive Director Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Texas A&M University Corpus-Christi I traveled to Cuba on November 14, 2017 only a few days after the US State Department released new restriction for travel to Cuba. My purpose was to sign a cooperative research agreement with the University of Havana. My last trip there was in July to host a joint workshop with the Center for Marine Research (CIM). I could tell no difference, either coming or going between the two travels. I did not expect any. What was different was university response in the USA. My university system's risk assessment office put a hold on my travel and required my president to review and sign-off a second time, specifically because it was Cuba. I received all sorts of dire warnings and safety instruction. It was an abundance of caution, appreciated, but annoying and nothing I had to deal with in the previous three Cuba trips of 2017. Any number of colleagues from other universities questioned the safety of going there, understandable because of recent events. I was more disturbed when I heard from a Cuban colleague that a major New England university that had supported student exchanges in Cuba for more than twenty years had just canceled the program. I hope this is not a general trend with US universities. The general retreat from improving relations with Cuba is disappointing but fortunately, it has not targeted cooperative science efforts and education exchange. My hope is that this was deliberate, a recognition of the value in maintaining these relationships. As a marine scientist from an institute that has worked extensively in Cuba over the last ten years, I have seen the value of positive engagement as opposed to isolation and embargo. Science diplomacy, based on the pursuit of common conservation goals, has been a key element in advancing shared interests through difficult times. These efforts have been instrumental in sustaining contact when other possibilities have closed. My hope is that science will continue to fill that role in the face of a retreating policy of engagement. Despite decades of lingering restrictions, science and research have been an effective means of communicating with our neighbor, less than 100 miles to the south. On issues spanning disaster preparedness and response, fisheries health, the spread of diseases and more, there has been and will continue to be a real need for cooperation. The relatively recent agreement between the AAAS and the Cuban Academy of Sciences signed in April of 2014 to advance scientific cooperation is one of several that continue to build positive relationships and advance science diplomacy. Recently the National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program joined with the Harte Research Institute to help develop the next generation of Gulf scholars. The program brings together promising graduate students from around the Gulf of Mexico, including Cuba, to promote international cooperation and to foster a network of future Gulf research leaders. These efforts can only be successful if students and researchers are allowed, and most importantly, encouraged to participate. I do understand that the world is a far more dangerous place than it may have once been. No university wants to put either their staff or students at risk. I do not think Cuba represents any greater risk now, than before the new travel requirements. What we do risk is the significant progress that we have made over many years of productive science diplomacy between our two countries. Derailing that progress would be a tragedy.
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    A Conceptual Framework for Assessing Ecosystem Health
    (The Authors, 2019-03-25) Harwell, Mark A.; Gentile, John H.; McKinney, Larry D.; Tunnell Jr., John W.; Dennison, William C.; Kelsey, R Heath; Stanzel, Kiersten M.; Stunz, Gregory W.; Withers, Kim; Tunnell, Jace
    Over the past century, the environment of the Gulf of Mexico has been significantly altered and impaired by extensive human activities. A national commitment to restore the Gulf was finally initiated in response to the unprecedented Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. Consequently, there is a critical need for an assessment framework and associated set of indicators that can characterize the health and sustainability of an ecosystem having the scale and complexity of the Gulf. The assessment framework presented here was developed as an integration of previous ecological risk– and environmental management–based frameworks for assessing ecosystem health. It was designed to identify the natural and anthropogenic drivers, pressures, and stressors impinging on ecosystems and ecosystem services, and the ecological conditions that result, manifested as effects on valued ecosystem components. Four types of societal and ecological responses are identified: reduction of pressures and stressors, remediation of existing stressors, active ecosystem restoration, and natural ecological recovery. From this conceptual framework are derived the specific indicators to characterize ecological condition and progress toward achieving defined ecological health and sustainability goals. Additionally, the framework incorporates a hierarchical structure to communicate results to a diversity of audiences, from research scientists to environmental managers and decision makers, with the level of detail or aggregation appropriate for each targeted audience. Two proof-of-concept studies were conducted to test this integrated assessment and decision framework, a prototype Texas Coastal Ecosystems Report Card, and a pilot study on enhancing rookery islands in the Mission-Aransas Reserve, Texas, USA. This Drivers–Pressures–Stressors–Condition–Responses (DPSCR4) conceptual framework is a comprehensive conceptual model of the coupled human–ecological system. Much like its predecessor, the ecological risk assessment framework, the DPSCR4 conceptual framework can be tailored to different scales of complexity, different ecosystem types with different stress regimes, and different environmental settings. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2019;15:544–564. © 2019 The Authors. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of Society of Environmental Toxicology & Chemistry (SETAC)
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    Assessing the Effectiveness of Large‑Scale Environmental Restoration: Challenges and Opportunities
    (Estuaries and Coasts, 2022-11-21) Greening, Holly; Heck, Kenneth; McKinney, Larry; Diefenderfer, Heida; Boynton, Walter; Kleiss, Barbara; Mishra, Deepak; George II, Albert; Carl Kraft, Bethany; Kling, Cathy; Windecker, Laura
    A recent National Academies consensus report addresses monitoring and assessment of cumulative effects of large-scale and multiple restoration projects within the context of long-term environmental change. Fines and penalties from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) have supported hundreds of restoration projects at spatial scales not often possible in the past. Here, the report committee members and staff provide personal reflections from our time working on the study. We found that gaps in data collection, issues with data accessibility, and a lack of synthesis and analysis are hindering the ability to answer a basic question: What are the impacts of these many restoration efforts on improving ecosystem health and productivity in the GoM at the regional and Gulf wide scale? Restoration efforts are occurring in environments where many trends are changing and exhibiting higher variability than in the past, suggesting that previously successful restoration practices may no longer be adequate to compensate for the effects of environmental changes and variability. Our proposed approach to these challenges includes employing emerging monitoring technologies; using conceptual models; devising an adaptive management framework; rethinking restoration outcome goals; assessing cumulative effects; and undertaking rigorous synthesis and analysis of existing information on long-term environmental trends and restoration efforts. Restoration scientists and practitioners working in the GoM have an unprecedented opportunity to demonstrate large-scale environmental recovery if advances in monitoring, synthesis, assessment, and action are taken quickly. We are cautiously optimistic that, with mid-course adjustments, continued progress toward large-scale environmental recovery is possible.
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    Ten Years of Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Projects Since the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
    (PNAS, 2022-09-16) Diefenderfer, Heida L.; McKinney, Larry D.; Boynton, Walter R.; Heck Jr., Kenneth L.; Kleiss, Barbara A.; Mishra, Deepak R.; Greening, Holly; George II, Albert A.; Carl Kraft, Bethany A.; Kling, Catherine L.
    In 2020, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) Gulf Research Program created the Committee on Long-Term Environmental Trends in the Gulf of Mexico. Our committee was tasked to consider the synthesis of additive, synergistic, and antagonistic cumulative effects resulting from ecosystem restoration following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. This anticipated multidecadal restoration was made possible by dedicated settlement monies, distributed over the past decade as governed by the RESTORE Act of 2012 and other legal vehicles, which are today approaching one-half spent or committed. Thus, in our view, it is important to take stock of progress and, looking forward, to make recommendations regarding strategies for evaluation and management.
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    The Gulf of Mexico: An Overview
    (Oceanography, 2021-06-03) McKinney, Larry D.; Shepherd, John G.; Wilson, Charles A.; Hogarth, William T.; Chanton, Jeff; Murawski, Steven A.; Sandifer, Paul A.; Sutton, Tracey; Yoskowitz, David W.; Wowk, Katya; Özgökmen, Tamay M.; Joye, Samantha B.; Caffey, Rex
    The Gulf of Mexico is a place where the environment and the economy both coexist and contend. It is a resilient large marine ecosystem that has changed in response to many drivers and pressures that we are only now beginning to fully understand. Coastlines of the states that border the Gulf comprise about half of the US southern seaboard, and those states are capped by the vast Midwest. The Gulf drains most of North America and is both an economic keystone and an unintended waste receptacle. It is a renowned resource for seafood markets, recreational fishing, and beach destinations and an international maritime highway fueled by vast, but limited, hydrocarbon reserves. Today, more is known about the Gulf than was imagined possible only a few years ago. That gain in knowledge was driven by one of the greatest environmental disasters of this country’s history, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The multitude of response actions and subsequent funded research significantly contributed to expanding our knowledge and, perhaps most importantly, to guiding the work needed to restore the damage from that oil spill. Funding for further work should not wait for the next major disaster, which will be too late; progress must be maintained to ensure that the Gulf continues to be resilient.
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    La Picadora: People and nature in a rural Cuban community
    (Montané Anthropological Museum, University of Havana, Fernando Ortiz Foundation, 2018-08-15) Vázquez Sánchez, Vanessa; Rangel Rivero, Armando; Vázquez Sánchez, Vanessa; Rangel Rivero, Armando
    Yusi Wang was a student in the spring 2017 Institute for Study Abroad program that took U.S. students to study for a semester at the University of Havana. Under the guidance of School of Biology professors Vanessa Vázquez Sánchez and Armando Rangel Rivero, Yusi and her classmates spent four transformational days as part of the community in La Picadora. It’s clear from her poem that living in this community grabbed her heart in a special way. Reading this book, you’ll see how the authors of each chapter are captivated by the La Picadora community. Let yourself be drawn into these stories, that together serve as a microscope into the lives of the people of this community, past and present. Reading this book gives us a unique opportunity to understand a bit about these lives that are at once so distant from some of the authors’ lives, yet so clearly a part of our interconnected world, economy, environment, and knowledge base.
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    French American Innovation Days - Physics & Environment - Post Event Videos
    Innovation in Energy: | Water and the Environment: | Resilience in the Built Environment:
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    US-Cuba Scientific Collaboration: Emerging Issues and Opportunities in Marine and Related Environmental Sciences
    (Oceanography Society, 2012) Machlis, Gary; Frankovich, Thomas A.; Alcolado, Pedro M.; García-Machado, Erik; Hernández-Zanuy, Aida Caridad; Hueter, Robert E.; Knowlton, Nancy; Perera |, Erick; Jr, John W. Tunnell
    Despite diplomatic nonrecognition, vast political differences, a long-standing trade embargo, and strict limitations on travel, US-Cuban scientific collaboration is on the rise. In December 2011, independent US scientists traveled to Havana, Cuba, for a series of scientific discussions with members of the Cuban scientific community. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Cuban Academy of Sciences facilitated the trip. One topic for discussion concerned emerging issues and opportunities in marine and related environmental sciences. Shared resources (e.g., Gulf of Mexico fisheries) and high connectivity between US and Cuban ecosystems via regional oceanic and atmospheric circulations underscore the importance of increased US-Cuban cooperation in this field
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    Four Regional Marine Biodiversity Studies: Approaches and Contributions to Ecosystem-Based Management
    (PLOS, 2011) Ellis, Sara L.; Incze, Lewis S.; Lawton, Peter; Ojaveer, Henn; MacKenzie, Brian R.; Pitcher, C. Roland; Shirley, Thomas C.; Eero, Margit; Jr, John W. Tunnell; Doherty, Peter J.; Zeller, Brad M.
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    An Overview of Marine Biodiversity in United States Waters
    (PLOS, 2010) Fautin, Daphne; Dalton, Penelope; Incze, Lewis S.; Leong, Jo-Ann C.; Pautzke, Clarence; Rosenberg, Andrew; Sandifer, Paul; Sedberry, George; Jr, John W. Tunnell; Abbott, Isabella; Brainard, Russell E.; Brodeur, Melissa; Eldredge, Lucius G.; Feldman, Michael; Moretzsohn, Fabio; Vroom, Peter S.; Wainstein, Michelle; Wolff, Nicholas
    Marine biodiversity of the United States (U.S.) is extensively documented, but data assembled by the United States National Committee for the Census of Marine Life demonstrate that even the most complete taxonomic inventories are based on records scattered in space and time. The best-known taxa are those of commercial importance. Body size is directly correlated with knowledge of a species, and knowledge also diminishes with distance from shore and depth. Measures of biodiversity other than species diversity, such as ecosystem and genetic diversity, are poorly documented. Threats to marine biodiversity in the U.S. are the same as those for most of the world: overexploitation of living resources; reduced water quality; coastal development; shipping; invasive species; rising temperature and concentrations of carbon dioxide in the surface ocean, and other changes that may be consequences of global change, including shifting currents; increased number and size of hypoxic or anoxic areas; and increased number and duration of harmful algal blooms. More information must be obtained through field and laboratory research and monitoring that involve innovative sampling techniques (such as genetics and acoustics), but data that already exist must be made accessible. And all data must have a temporal component so trends can be identified. As data are compiled, techniques must be developed to make certain that scales are compatible, to combine and reconcile data collected for various purposes with disparate gear, and to automate taxonomic changes. Information on biotic and abiotic elements of the environment must be interactively linked. Impediments to assembling existing data and collecting new data on marine biodiversity include logistical problems as well as shortages in finances and taxonomic expertise.
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    Population dynamics of the nonindigenous brown mussel Perna perna in the Gulf of Mexico compared to other world-wide populations
    (InterResearch, 2001) Hicks, David W.; Tunnell, John W.; McMahon, Robert F.
    Texas Gulf of Mexico populations of the marine mytilid Perna perna (Linnaeus, 1758) were sampled monthly on Fish Pass Jetty (FP) (27°41¹N) from September 1993 to February 1995 and Mansfield Pass Jetty (MP) (26°34¹N) from March 1994 to June 1995 within 1 yr of initial colonization. Population density and mussel size distributions allowed identification of annual cohorts. Mean individual tissue and shell ash-free dry weights (AFDW) from subsamples allowed estimation of cohort standing crop shell + tissue biomass. FP was dominated by the 1993 cohort, while 1992 and 1993 cohorts dominated MP. At both sites, poorly recruited 1994 cohorts had negligible biomass or production. FP 1993 cohort density declined from 15000 to 1000 m-2 while those of the 1992 and 1993 MP cohorts declined from 1000 to 100 and 2000 to 1000 m-2, over their respective sampling periods. First-year shell growth was 42 and 53 mm at FP and MP, respectively. AFDW biomass and monthly productivity at both sites remained constant through time. Mean annual FP AFDW biomass = 1.95 kg m-2 and production = 2.44 kg m-2 yr-1; respective values for MP were 1.35 kg m-2 and 1.86 kg m-2 yr-1. Spawning periods, marked by reduced mean individual production, extended from March to October at temperatures >18 to 20°C. The MP 1993 cohort did not reproduce. Gamete release accounted for 76 and 74% of total production in the 1993 FP and 1992 MP cohorts, respectively. Laboratory spawned mussels lost 60% of tissue AFDW regardless of sex. Growth rate, biomass, productivity and reproductive effort in Texan populations were similar to those of other P. perna populations, suggesting that North American Gulf of Mexico shores can support this species.
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    Ecology of nesting seabirds on the Campeche Bank Islands, southeastern Gulf of México
    (Smithsonian Institute, 2002) Tunnell, J.W.; Chapman, B.R.
    Seabirds of the Campeche Bank islands in the Gulf of Mexico were surveyed during 1986. Eight of 12 permanently emergent islands had active seabird nesting colonies during the study period from winter through summer. Nine species of colonial seabirds nested on the islands: Masked Booby, Brown Booby, Red-footed Booby, Magnificent Frigatebird, Laughing Gull, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Sooty Tern, and Brown Noddy. Descriptions of colony locations in relation to vegetation or other island features along with bird censuses and historical records are presented. These large seabird populations in the southern Gulf of Mexico appear to have remained fairly stable, and they should be surveyed on a regular basis and protected.
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    Liljeborgiid Amphipods from the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea
    (Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science, 1979) D. McKinney, L
    The family Liljeborgiidae is represented in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea by two genera and five species. One species, Listriella barnardi Wigley, 1963, has previously been described from the east coast of North America. The remaining four species, Liljeborgia bousfieldi, Listriella quintana, Listriella bahia, and Listriella carinata are described as new species. L. bousfieldi appears closely related to the Hawaiian liljeborgiids while the listriellas appear more closely related to the east coast members of their genus.