HRI Hosts The Explorers Club ‘Balance in Blue’ Conference

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Explorer's Club

“We don’t know as much about the Gulf of Mexico as we thought we did, but we are learning.” That was the message HRI Executive Director Larry McKinney delivered to more than 30 members of The Explorers Club during the Texas chapter’s “Balance in Blue” Conference Jan. 16-18 at the Harte Research Institute.

Over the last 50 years, the world’s seas have been subjected to human pressures that have taken a considerable toll on the resilience and productivity of the marine environment. The conference on sustainable methods of preserving and harnessing the resources of the world’s oceans brought together scientists to discuss scientific exploration, resource access and utilization and the implementation of policies and practices that propagate effective balanced protection of the oceans.

“The Gulf of Mexico is the single most valuable body of water touching the United States and yet for too long it its importance to the energy security, economic vitality and environmental health of the country was ignored,” said McKinney. “The Deepwater Horizon disaster brought about a sea change in environmental attention toward the long neglected Gulf and produced unprecedented opportunities to address many of the long-term issues fundamental to the its sustainability. The Gulf of Mexico is now a laboratory for the rest of the world, showing how a healthy ocean environment and a vibrant economy can coexist.”

Following Dr. McKinney’s overview of the HRI Model, its emphasis on science driven solutions and the groundbreaking trans-disciplinary research being conducted at the only research institute focused on the Gulf of Mexico, several HRI scientists addressed the group. They included Dr. Greg Stunz, Endowed Chair Fisheries and Ocean Health; Dr. Paul Montagna, Endowed Chair, Ecosystems and Modeling; Dr. Jim Gibeaut, Endowed Chair, Geospatial Sciences; and Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer in Residence and Chair of the HRI Advisory Board.

Explorer's Club
Dr. Sylvia Earle (far right) presents to her fellow Explorers

Dr. Wes Tunnell, HRI Associate Director and Endowed Chair, Biodiversity and Conservation Science, led a Sunday field trip to the Padre Island National Seashore. During the four-hour tour, the group visited the Bird Island Basin on the shore of the Laguna Madre, the Malaquite Visitor’s Center and the beach just to the south, and Little Shell Beach, an area where several Gulf currents meet to toss large deposits of unbroken shells onto the sand.

“The Padre Island field trip was a great success with more than 30 participants enjoying a beautiful day at the beach while learning about the geology and biology of the area,” said Tunnell. 

Founded in 1904, The Explorers Club is an international multidisciplinary professional society dedicated to the advancement of field research and the ideal that it is vital to preserve the instinct to explore. The Explorers Club members have been the first to reach many of the world’s most remote sites including the North and South Poles, the summit of Mount Everest, the world’s highest point, and the Mariana Trench, the deepest known area of the oceans.