John W. Tunnell, Jr., Ph.D.
HRI co-founder, Endowed Chair for Biodiversity and Conservation Science and Professor Emeritus Dr. John "Wes" Tunnell Jr. joined Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi in 1974, but his instruction, insight, and interests, his depth of experience and understanding of the Gulf of Mexico have reached throughout the world. Dr. Tunnell passed away on Saturday, July 14, 2018, after a long battle with cancer.
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 was often asked to present to a variety of audiences. He was 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 TAMUCC campus.
Dr. Tunnell was an educator at heart. During his career with the University, he taught 18 different courses. He worked closely with his associates and actively supported 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 longtime commitment to education and study of the Gulf. Visit the link below to contribute to the fellowship for future students.
HRI Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney writes about Dr. Tunnell's passing and his legacy for the Gulf of Mexico