by Dr. Wes Tunnell, HRI Associate Director
So, how do we judge how we are doing in school, in life or in the
Gulf of Mexico? Well, maybe not in life, but we might consider the
age-old school-time grading system, or report card, as a metric to
determine our success or failure in the current health of the Gulf
of Mexico, as well as in future massive restoration efforts.
Over the last several years HRI Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney and I have had this
parallel thinking about establishing a Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem
Report Card. However, we weren’t able to gain interest among our
colleagues. Most of them said, ”Are you crazy? The Gulf is too large
and besides no one can agree about how to do one of those things
appropriately.” With the big oil spill last year and plans for huge
restoration efforts, many others now see the need for a metric or
measuring tool. Even President Obama acknowledged the need for a
metric in his Executive Order establishing the
Gulf Coast Ecosystem
Restoration Task Force.
With this in mind and plans for the Gulf of Mexico Summit late in
2011, Larry and I established a world-class team to help us design a
Prospectus for a Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Report Card. Starting in
February, we met regularly via GoToMeeting webinars and one
face-to-face meeting in the Atlanta airport with our team of six and
by May 2011 we had a plan. Although we did not raise the funds to
bring in a large group of Gulf experts to design the framework for
the entire Gulf, we did receive enough funding from the
Walton Foundation to develop a Prototype Report Card for roll-out at the
On December 7, after former first lady Laura Bush’s
inspiring talk at the Summit about marine protected areas for the Gulf, we rolled out the Report Card concept and prototype
that demonstrates the Report Card vision.
(Click to open PDF 9MB)
with three presentations by our team, a panel discussion and questions from the audience.
Larry presented the concept for the Report Card first,
then Mark Harwell (with Jack Gentile) of Harwell Gentile & Associates
presented the comprehensive scientific framework, followed by Bill
Dennison (with Heath Kelsey) of the University of Maryland’s Center
for Environmental Sciences, who explained the Prototype Report Card and
its future directions and its usage across all scales (science,
management, policy makers, public).
To demonstrate the Report Card concept and framework for the future,
a three-fold brochure was presented to all Summit
participants, demonstrating the utility of the Report Card
by using Gulf-wide examples of Brown Pelicans and seagrass habitat.
The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies is fully
committed to the development of an ecosystem-wide Report Card and,
depending on future funding, hopes to start that larger process
of development during 2012.
Gulf Report Card vision (pdf 9 mb)
State of the Gulf of Mexico Summit