New Research Ship Advances Study of Artificial Reefs, Red Tide, and Mappings of Uncharted Region in Gulf of Mexico

R/V Falkor provided by Schmidt Ocean Institute with tours open to the public Oct. 5

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas, Oct. 2, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Scientists with the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) and the College of Science and Engineering at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi will study the oceanography of the South Texas coast, including influences on the distribution of red tide while aboard the R/V Falkor ( in October. The study is just one of many research projects that will be conducted by the scientists on the oceanographic research vessel outfitted with some of the most sophisticated scientific instruments in the world.

The R/V Falkor is being provided by the Schmidt Ocean Institute free of charge for two cruise legs from September 17-29 and October 8-23.

"The R/V Falkor is not only an excellent research vessel, but also provides a wonderful teaching opportunity for the University's marine biology and marine science graduate students," said Dr. Tom Shirley, chief scientist of the first cruise leg.

Dr. Shirley, a recently retired professor of Life Sciences and former endowed chair of Biodiversity and Conservation Science at the HRI, submitted the current research proposals for the R/V Falkor.

"Because of the scope and depth of our research in the Gulf of Mexico, we are now the beneficiaries of the first cruise legs of this new research ship," said Dr. Wes Tunnell, HRI associate director and endowed chair for Biodiversity and Conservation Science. "The vessel would cost tens of thousands of dollars, and we get it to use it for free!"

During the first leg, HRI scientists studied and mapped the South Texas Banks, a series of late Pleistocene-early Holocene coral-algal bank on the continental shelf edge between Corpus Christi and Brownsville. On the second leg, they will study fish usage of artificial reefs on the South Texas continental shelf and distribution of the organism responsible for red tide, as well as continue tagging sharks, snappers, and other sea creatures.

"The HRI is thrilled to be some of the first scientists on this ship equipped with the latest technology to help meet our research needs," said Tunnell. "This is an amazing opportunity for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, so it is our goal to make the most of it scientifically."

The 272-foot research vessel will be open for public and student viewing tours during a scheduled stop between the two cruise legs on Friday, Oct. 5, from 1-4 p.m. at the dock of the Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz International Center, 402 Harbor Drive. Scientists will set up stations throughout the working area of the ship to explain their current projects on the ship including coastal oceanographic, fisheries, and water quality work.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute (SOI) maintains and operates the R/V Falkor as a multi-functional ocean research platform that supports scientific research at sea by providing the collaborating scientists with free access to research vessels, on-board equipment, and associated technical support in exchange for a commitment to openly share the resulting scientific data.

"One of the challenges of oceanographers is really having an opportunity to go to sea, and having a suitable platform from which to conduct their research," said Eric King, director of Marine Operations for the SOI. "With over 90 percent of the ocean unexplored, there is a huge body of water that we want to be able to allow access to the scientists to get to, to collect their data and turn around and be able to use that data for all sorts of good things."

R/V Falkor can support operations such as over-the-side deployments, laboratory work in wet and dry lab areas, acoustic research using special instrumentation, mammal and bird observation on weather protected upper deck areas, and operations and outreach requiring continuous global Internet access, provided via C-Band VSAT.

Built in 1981 in Lubeck, Germany, as a fishery protection vessel, the R/V Falkor now provides on-board accommodations for 40, including 20 crew members required for operations at sea. The remaining 20 berths will be available to accommodate mission-specific scientific and technical personnel. For more information, go to

About the HRI: The Harte Research Institute, an endowed research component of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, is dedicated to advancing the long-term sustainable use and conservation of the Gulf of Mexico. Expertise at the Harte Research Institute (HRI) include the consequences and long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Harte Research Institute is made possible by an endowment from the Ed Harte family. For more information, go to

About Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: Offering more than 60 of the most popular degree programs in the state, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi has proudly provided a solid academic reputation, renowned faculty, and highly-rated degree programs since 1947. The Island University has earned its spot as one of the top research institutions in Texas and supports two marine-oriented Ph.D. programs. For more information, go to

SOURCE Texas A&M-Corpus Christi