Research Projects

Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC)
(2010- Present)

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by a Master Research Agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. James Gibeaut at the Harte research institute was charged with development of a research database that would house data collected under the GoMRI. This data will then be made available to fulfill the goal of improving society’s ability to understand and mitigate the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and stressors on the marine environment and apply the accrued knowledge to the restoration and improvement of the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) is the vehicle by which the GoMRI compiles and manages the data collected by their funded researchers. The GRIIDC will serve the GoMRI by assisting researchers with data archiving and ensuring data interoperability among GoMRI and other datasets. The mission of the GRIIDC is to ensure a data and information legacy that promotes continual scientific discovery and public awareness of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

    Links:    Data Management     Research     GoMRI Home  

Living With Sea Level Rise in Texas

The Living with Sea Level Rise in Texas project will assess the impacts of sea level rise on the Texas coast with the goal of providing the knowledge to adapt to higher sea level during the next 50 to 100 years. This assessment will involve projecting the geographic changes that sea level rise is expected to cause, their socio-economic and environmental impact, and the current policies and opportunities for better coastal zone management. Results will be disseminated through a data- and information-rich website that will enable policy-makers, managers, and the general public to evaluate the impacts or risks of private and public land use decisions. This project requires an approach that applies the multidisciplinary expertise at HRI: Geospatial Sciences, Socio-Economics, and Marine Policy and Law. With support of the Houston Endowment and numerous contributors, project activities are currently underway for the Greater Houston Area.

Mustang and North Padre Island Beach Maintenance Impacts and Recommendations for Best Management Practices
Sponsors: glo

This project is funded through the Coastal Erosion Planning and Response Act, administered through the Texas General Land Office, and seeks to identify the potential geomorphic impacts of beach maintenance practices on Mustang and North Padre Islands. Beaches and dunes along the Texas Gulf coast provide recreational benefits, protect landward development from storm impacts, and serve as habitat for a variety of species. Recreational use of the beaches has required local governments to remove trash and sargassum and in some areas scraping of the beach helps achieve a better vehicle driving surface.

This project combines beach and dune surveys, vegetation monitoring, and available historical data to determine the effect that beach maintenance practices have on the beach and dune morphology, vegetation structure, and sediment transport and deposition patterns along the Gulf shoreline of Mustang and North Padre Islands. This work seeks to contribute recommendations for beach management practices.

Tidal Inlet Protection Strategies (TIPS) for the Texas Gulf Coast

The Coastal and Marine Geospatial Lab (CMGL) is working with the National Spill Control School (NSCS) at Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi (TAMUCC) and is establishing Tidal Inlet Protection Strategies (TIPS) for the Texas Gulf Coast. The objective of this project is to develop workable defenses to protect our vital coastal resources by developing strategies for each inlet with various anticipated tidal conditions. This TIPS program will help mitigate the potential harm of offshore oil releases to Texas' sensitive bays and estuaries by planning the direction, capture, and containment of released oil before it can fully penetrate tidal inlets.

Barrier Island Vulnerability: Data Integration and Assessment

In collaboration with the Gulf Coast Prairie Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Barrier Island Vulnerability: Data Integration and Assessment project supports the effort of the Gulf Coast Vulnerability Assessment through Gulf-wide spatial data integration and assessment. Barrier islands on the Gulf of Mexico provide habitat for several focal species and are under increasing pressure from development, environmental and climate change, and external factors like tropical storms (e.g. Katrina, Rita, and Ike) and events like the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Geospatial data products for the Gulf of Mexico developed for this project include climate, geomorphology, habitat, land cover and land-use, and topographic theme maps. Datasets will be incorporated into the Conservation Planning Atlas to provide easily accessible maps and data to conservation partners.

    Reports:    Barrier Island Report  

Evaluation of Ecosystem Services of Coastal Habitats
Sponsors: epa

    Links:    Ecosystem Poster  

Texas Shoreline Type Mapping
Sponsors: glo

This Texas General Land Office Oil Spill Prevention & Response Program project will provide up-to-date shoreline type classifications in the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) ranking system. It will update and improve the accuracy and resolution of the ESI shoreline data in the current Texas General Land Office's Oil Spill Planning and Response Atlas. The shoreline developed for this work may also be used for shoreline change analysis and the new low-altitude oblique photography and video acquired for this project will allow shoreline inspections for a variety of purposes.

    Reports:    ESI Report (Draft)  

Shoreline Change and Beach/Dune Morphodynamics along the Gulf Coast
Sponsors: boeg glo

This work was funded by the Texas General Land Office and the Department of the Interior, Mineral Management Service (MMS) and was completed in collaboration with the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas at Austin. The goal of this project was to improve the management, protection, and restoration of the beach/dune system along the Texas Gulf of Mexico shoreline by improving the knowledge of shoreline trends and beach-dune storm protection potential. Protection of the natural foredunes and their enhancement is an excellent way to decrease the susceptibility of the shoreline to storm damage, while improving the beach/dune environment.

For this project the CMGL developed a number of products derived from Digital Elevation Models including shorelines, vegetation lines, and dune boundary maps for the years 2010, 2011, and 2012. In addition, a storm susceptibility map was developed, which provides a theoretical storm protection value as provided by beaches and dunes of the Texas coast. Combined with information on priority areas for protection, this classification will help determine needs for projects to mitigate future storm damage.

Employing the Conservation Design Approach on Coastal Avian Habitats along the Central Texas Coast
Sponsors: icf

Texas Coastal Planning Initiative- Coastal Resources Data Gathering and Assessment
(2011- Present)
Sponsors: glo

To encourage a balanced approach to coastal resource use and management, the CMGL is supporting the Texas General Land Office Coastal Management Program’s planning initiative. The goal is to develop GIS-based decision-making tools to assist state and local resource management to support economic growth and smart development. Through this project, two products have currently been developed with input from stakeholders and coastal experts, a process which fosters regional and statewide partnerships.

One product is the Texas Coastal Needs Assessment which sought to identify priority coastal issues, potential solutions, and needs. Assessments were conducted in a workshop-style meeting with a group of regional and state-wide coastal experts, named the Technical Advisory Committee. In addition, the CMGL provided assistance in achieving an update to the Texas Resource Management Codes (RMCs). RMCs are based on recommendations by the Data Standards Committee, a group of permitting and natural resource experts, and are designed to serve as a tool to assist state land lessees during the Corp permitting process. Recommendations promote best management practices to avoid impacts to sensitive areas. RMCs are presented via online maps and provide natural resource information for sensitive biological habitats, cultural resources, and other areas of concern within state-owned submerged lands.

Gulf Ecological Management Sites
(2012- Present)

HRI and the Gulf of Mexico Foundation are currently developing a geospatial web application for the Gulf Ecological Management Sites (GEMS). Each state designated areas of ecological significance and displayed their sites on independent websites. The GEMS web portal brings together geospatial data and information on GEMS sites, including past restoration projects within the GEMS. The concept has been taken a step further with the Gulf of Mexico CRP Portal, This portal displays not only the GEMS sites, but also serves as a data portal and spatial viewer for conservation, preservation and restoration sites from an interdisciplinary group of non-governmental organizations, engineering and environmental consulting companies, local, state and federal entities, and lands trusts from around the gulf. This portal will be useful to environmental planners, policy makers and educators, coastal ecologists and resiliency coordinators. Data may be downloaded for regions of interest. Maps using a variety of base layers can be exported in a variety of formats, and simple geo-processing tasks can be performed without installed GIS software.

CAMEO: Building the Foundation - An Integrative Approach to Managing the Dewatering of Estuaries
Sponsors: noaa

This project, funded by NOAA, will conduct ecosystem and human dimensions research to develop integrative decision-support tools. These tools will provide decision-makers information for managing freshwater inflows to estuaries. The project addresses two main goals of the Comparative Analysis of Marine Ecosystem Organization (CAMEO) program: (1) integrate information from experimental, observational, human dimension, and modeling approaches and (2) provide science-based information to policy makers and managers. This project involves all areas of research at the Harte Research Institute, and the CMGL's portion involves using remote sensing technologies to compare the spatial and temporal variation of suspended sediments in three Texas estuaries and relate those variations to freshwater inflow. This analysis will allow prediction on how estuaries may respond to continued dewatering or watering.

    Links:    NOAA  

Post Hurricane Ike Study
Sponsors: hdr

Hurricane Ike made landfall on the upper Texas coast at Galveston on September 13, 2008. The storm, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is likely to be the third most costly in U.S. history, causing major erosion of the shoreline and vegetation line. The Coastal and Marine Geospatial lab have been involved in various efforts to document and analyze storm impact and recovery of the Gulf-facing beached and dunes. Ground and remote sensed data are used to assess coastal change including shoreline position, volumetric losses, and recovery. These studies will provide increased information necessary to understand hurricane impacts and to better plan for future storms.

    Reports:    HDR Engineering Report  

Gulf of Mexico Alliance: Identification and Characterization of Gulf Habitats
Sponsors: noaa

This major project, funded by NOAA, supports the Gulf of Mexico Alliance's Ecosystem Integration and Assessment Priority Issue Team. The primary goal of this project is to improve management of Gulf habitats through the creation of a publicly accessible Internet portal for searching, viewing, analyzing, and downloading habitat related geospatial data. Through partnerships with Gulf States and federal government agencies, we are compiling geospatial data on habitats and developing tools for accessing and analyzing habitat related geospatial data. These tools and data will be used by coastal resource managers for evaluating permit applications, tracking environmental trends, and developing and implementing ecosystem-based management policy. Work will be done in close partnership with federal and Gulf state agencies.

Coastal Geohazards Mapping
Sponsors: noaa cbbep glo sotcon

Barrier islands are highly vulnerable to relative sea-level rise, erosion, and tropical storms, but simply categorizing their entire extent as a risky place to live would not help guide ongoing urban development. The Coastal and Marine Geospatial Lab has worked to provide interactive coastal geohazards maps of 3 barrier islands on the Texas coast. These maps show areas that vary in their susceptibility to, and function for, mitigating the effects of geological processes. These processes include relative sea-level rise, erosion, and storm-surge flooding and washover. Information about geoenvironments, terrain elevation, historical and projected shoreline positions, and parcels is also included. These maps consider the spatial and temporal patterns of geological processes, geomorphology, and geoenvironments (e.g., wetlands and dunes) that combine to create potentially hazardous conditions. Features that mitigate hazardous conditions, such as dune ridges, will also be mapped. Model projections on how the island will change in 60 years will be incorporated in the map so that people may plan for the future. The goal is to provide information to the planning process, but it will also serve to increase public awareness of the natural physical processes acting on the islands. Geohazards maps have been developed of Galveston Island and South Padre Island Texas, and Mustang Island Texas. Completed maps and progress on the ongoing project can be accessed online at

The Galveston Island Geohazards Map was completed in April of 2007. This project was funded by the city of Galveston with a portion of the general mapping supported by the STATEMAP component of the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping program administered by the U.S. Geologic Survey. Earlier support to develop datasets incorporated in this map come from the Texas General Land Office, NOAA and Galveston Bay Estuary Program.

The South Padre Island Geohazards Map is funded as part of the Texas Coastal Coordination Council, pursuant of the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration.

The Mustang and North Padre Islands Geohazards map was developed thanks to the funding provided the Coastal Bend Bays Estuary Program and the Texas General Land Office.

    Links:    Geohazards  

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