Dr. Wes Tunnell honored with Legacy Award at Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Banquet

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Tunnell Award

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Former HRI Endowed Chair for Biodiversity and Conservation Science Dr. John "Wes" Tunnell Jr. was posthumously honored with a Legacy Award for his lifetime of service to protecting and preserving Coastal Bend natural resources Tuesday, November 12, at the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation’s annual Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Banquet.

Tunnell, a founding member of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, lost his long battle with cancer in July 2018, and the award was accepted on his behalf by his family.

The Conservation and Environmental Stewardship Awards Program recognizes and honors outstanding Coastal Bend citizens, educators, businesses, governing bodies and other entities that have made significant contributions to education and or protection of Coastal Bend natural resources, habitats and native species.

In addition to being a well-loved leader and colleague at HRI, Tunnell was an accomplished marine ecologist and biologist focusing primarily on coastal and coral reef ecosystems, a dedicated writer and editor, and a Professor of Biology at Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi for more than 40 years. He helped to found the Center for Coastal Studies at TAMUCC, the first dedicated research center on campus, and later the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, where he served as its first associate director.

Known for his quiet dedication to his work and caring mentorship, Tunnell advised or co-advised 71 M.S. students, 7 Ph.D. students, and 4 post-doctoral research associates. For 32 years, he taught a celebrated Coral Reef Ecology class, taking students on two-week field trips to Veracruz or the Mexican Caribbean as part of an international teaching and research program. This was one of 18 classes he taught over the course of his career.

Tunnell published 114 peer-reviewed manuscripts and 76 technical reports, 7 books, and received 154 research grants and contracts worth more than $20 million. He was also editor of two book series for Texas A&M University Press. He received numerous awards and served on many professional and community service boards and councils.

In their comments about choosing to honor Tunnell, the Coastal Bend Bays Foundation wrote: “Wes was a true academic inspiration and mentor to thousands of students, established the Center for Coastal Studies at TAMUCC, and was the heart and soul of the Harte Research Institute. He was passionate about science with an unrivaled work ethic, from the academic programs he built to the countless lives he influenced, Wes’s contributions to the scientific community will be felt for generations to come.”