The Harte Research Institute (HRI) for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi honored five unsung leaders of Gulf conservation at its annual celebration, “Harte’s Heroes: Champions of the Gulf,” held Tuesday, June 2, at the Art Museum of South Texas.

“This event allows us to bring attention to our world’s oceans and gives us a public way to honor our colleagues who have contributed to the betterment of the Gulf, an essential body of water,” said Dr. Flavius Killebrew, President and CEO of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “The health of the Gulf of Mexico is complex and requires dedicated individuals with different areas of expertise and interests. These five honorees have demonstrated not just their expertise, but their integrity and their ability to listen, communicate and stay focused and committed to conservation.”

Each year, the HRI commemorates World Oceans Day by recognizing individuals and groups who have dedicated their careers to protecting and preserving the Gulf of Mexico’s natural resources. This year’s ceremony honored five people who have been quietly working behind the scenes for decades to accomplish important conservation milestones.

HRI Executive Director Dr. Larry McKinney said each were chosen for following the simple but transformative directive of the institute’s founder, newspaper magnate and conservationist Ed Harte, whose instructions were to “make a difference.”

“It’s important that we recognize these individuals who have done so much for our oceans, and the Gulf of Mexico in particular. We take so much for granted when it comes to our oceans,” McKinney said. “We do our share of abuse, but the Gulf still produces more than $1.4 billion of seafood for us annually, and will continue to do so as long as it remains healthy. These individuals we are honoring tonight are some of those who are helping to keep the Gulf healthy and productive for us longterm.” The 2015 Champions for the Gulf are:

  • Dr. Michael Carron, Director of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, administers $500 million in BP funds granted to the Gulf of Mexico Alliance in response to destruction caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Since 2011, he has overseen the research of more than 120 universities that are studying the spill’s environmental effects and developing improvements for spill mitigation, oil detection, and remediation technologies. From 2007-2011, he served as Director of the Northern Gulf Institute consortium.
  • Susan Kaderka, Regional Executive Director of the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) South Central Center, oversees conservation and environmental education initiatives in seven states, including Texas. She has led NWF’s advocacy on behalf of the post-Deepwater Horizon restoration of coastal Louisiana, serving on the Louisiana Governor’s Advisory Commission on Coastal Restoration and Conservation and seeking federal support for an ecosystem-scale restoration program for the area.
  • Paul Kelly serves on the Join Ocean Commission Initiative and on the Ocean Research and Resources Advisory Panel, providing independent advice under the U.S. Ocean Action Plan. He served four presidential administrations on the Secretary of the Interior’s Outer Continental Shelf Policy Committee. In 2001, President George Bush appointed him to the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, which developed recommendations for a comprehensive national ocean policy.
  • Raul Rodriguez is Co-Chair of HRI’s International Committee and Chairman of the Board of the U.S.-Mexico Foundation, a leader in bi-national cooperation in education and civic engagement. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Monterrey Tech where he now serves as Associate Vice President for International Affairs. At Harvard, he was recognized with the Littauer Fellow award for his “commitment to excellence, academic achievement, and public service.”
  • Dr. Andrew Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University-San Marcos, is a leading advocate for the study of freshwater resources that flow into the Gulf of Mexico. As founder of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation, he is responsible for the acquisition and protection of more than 500,000 acres of conservation lands in Texas.

About the Harte Research Institute: The Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, 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. HRI provides international leadership in generating and disseminating knowledge about the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and its critical role in the economies of the North American region.

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