John W. Tunnell, Jr., Ph.D.

Former Endowed Chair for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and Professor Emeritus
Senior Leadership
Ph.D. in Biology; Texas A&M University. (1974)
M.S. in Biology (Geology Minor); Texas A&I University. (1969)
B.S. in Biology (Chemistry Minor); Texas A&I University. (1967)

HRI co-founder, Endowed Chair for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and Professor Emeritus Dr. John "Wes" Tunnell Jr. passed away on Saturday, July 14, 2018, after a long battle with cancer. 

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Dr. Tunnell joined the University in 1974. Through his instruction, insight, and interests, his depth of experience and understanding of the Gulf of Mexico have reached throughout the world. He was an early advocate for strong relationships between the United States, Mexico, and Cuba to research and support the Gulf of Mexico. As a broadly trained marine biologist/ecologist with a particular interest in field studies on coral reefs and coastal areas of the Gulf, seashells of Texas, oil spills in the marine environment, and biodiversity of the Gulf of Mexico, he is often asked to present to a variety of audiences.

Dr. Tunnell has been instrumental in developing not only the Harte Research Institute, but also founding the Center for Coastal Studies and pioneering the concept of co-locating environmental and natural resources agencies to the TAMU-CC campus. As a committed steward and scientist, today Dr. Tunnell balances his time between research, editor of our two book series, and liaison work with Mexico and Cuba.


Additional Activities

Dr. Tunnell is an educator at heart. During his career with the University, he taught 18 different courses. He works closely with his associates and actively supports a wide range of environmental initiatives. In 1985 Dr. Tunnell was named the university’s first Fulbright Scholar and in 1998 the first Regent’s Professor. In 2007, he was recognized by the University as an Outstanding Research Scholar, and in 2015 he was named Professor Emeritus. An endowment, the “Dr. Wes Tunnell Gulf of Mexico Fellowship Program”, was established in 2016 by the Harte Charitable Foundation to fund graduate student studies of the Gulf of Mexico and to honor Dr. Tunnell’s long-time commitment to education and study of the Gulf.


Research Focus and Interests

Although Dr. Tunnell retired in 2013, he continues on at half-time at HRI, primarily leading our two book series, and handling HRI’s international work and cooperative agreements with Mexico and Cuba. He still has research interest in the reefs and banks of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as someday implementing a Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Report Card. Current research projects include Biodiversity of the Southern Gulf of Mexico and a look back at the long-term impacts of the Ixtoc I oil spill with the GoMRI C-IMAGE II consortium.


Selected Publications

Throughout his career, Dr. Tunnell has been committed to publishing his works through journals, articles, and books. He has published over 115 articles, book chapters, and proceedings papers, as well as 7 books.

Sun, S., C. Hu, and J.W. Tunnell, Jr. 2015. Surface oil footprint and trajectory of the Ixtoc-I oil spill determined from Landsat/MSS and CZCS observations. Marine Pollution Bulletin 101 (2015):632-641.

Tunnell, J.W., Jr. and J.W. Tunnell. 2015. Pioneering Archaeology in the Texas Coastal Bend: The Pape-Tunnell Collection. Texas A&M University Press, College Station.

Tunnell, J.W., Jr., N. Barrera, and F. Moretzsohn. 2014. Texas Seashells – A Field Guide. Texas A&M University Press, College Station. 278pp.

Nash, H., J.W. Tunnell, Jr., and T.C. Shirley. 2013. Mapping the South Texas Banks. Proceedings of the 66th Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, November 4-8, 2013, Corpus Christi, Texas. pp 365-367.

Khanna, P., A.W. Droxler, J.A. Nittrouer, J.W. Tunnell, Jr., and T.C. Shirley. 2017. Coralgal reef morphology records punctuated sea-level rise during the last deglaciation. Nature Communications 8 (1046): 1-8pp. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-017-00966-x


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