Steve Lanoux

Researchers at the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas are already preparing for hurricane season. Officials said scientists and animal rehabilitation experts are used to the impact hurricanes have on their work.

Steve Lanoux, assistant director of operations at the institute, said the institute has shut down four times in the last 10 years although only one of those was for a mandatory evacuation during Hurricane Rita. He said every year he revises the institute’s evacuation plan to accommodate for changes at the institute and to the county’s evacuation plan.

Lanoux said island residents can only leave the island by boarding the Texas Department of Transportation’s ferry or by using the Corpus Christi Causeway. He said this makes it a challenge to evacuate the island according to plan.

“If the water floods by over five feet, the highway is not usable and the ferry is not usable either because of the ramp angle,” Lanoux said.
Lanoux said the shutdowns and evacuations of the institute interfere with instruction time and productivity.

“The research staff has to put its research on hold,” Lanoux said. “We remove our seawater pumps [during evacuations] so researchers have to treat water and recirculate it instead of having fresh water for their experiments.”

Animals in the process of rehabilitation are the most vulnerable during hurricane season and must be taken into consideration when planning for evacuation at the UT Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, said Tony Amos, who manages the institute’s Animal Rehabilitation Keep.

Amos said the keep currently houses 30 green sea turtles and many baby birds because their breeding seasons are underway. He said many of the birds will be able to fly on their own by the end of August.

“Every year we try to make sure that the animals that can be released are released before a hurricane is coming,” Amos said. “We do it only if and when they are ready to go, however.”

Amos’ team is ready to evacuate the animals in a boat fitted with cages and in tanks and cages that can be taken by hand if necessary.

“We would probably leave some of the big [sea turtles] in the tank,” Amos said. “Should it overflow they would probably survive. We have some permanent home birds that do not have full use of their wings so those will have to come with us.”

Amos said hurricane season storms bring in most of the animals they care for — including many not indigenous to the area.

“One storm brought in a white tailed tropic,” Amos said. “It’s a beautiful bird with a really long tail, and it’s the symbol of Bermuda. Another storm brought in a rare yellow nosed albatross, but unfortunately it was found dead.”

Candice Mottet, who rehabilitates animals at the institute, said Hurricane Katrina washed many animals on to shore that were in need of constant care. Ike was more devastating to the island, and she took many small reptiles with her when she and other scientists evacuated before the storm.

“I brought home a diamondback terrepin, a red-eared slider, an ornate box turtle and I ended up also bring with me a black cat that had been hanging around our area,” Mottet said. “I had them for approximately a week.”

Mottet said it was a great experience to be able to ensure the safety of the animals she had been trying to rehabilitate.

Danielle Hale, Nueces County emergency management coordinator, said the county is hosting a meeting today at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi to remind the population about hurricane season awareness since peak hurricane activity happens in September and October. She said a tropical storm is currently brewing that will be named Don if it fully develops. She said she hopes it increases the attendance at tonight’s meeting.

Printed on Thursday, July 28, 2011 as: Marine Science Institute plans for animal evacuation

There are currently ten construction projects underway on campus. Private donations along with federal funds have allowed the university to continue to build while others struggle with budget cuts.

Photo Credit: Andrew Edmonson | Daily Texan Staff

While higher education continues to struggle with budget cuts, donations from various organizations continue to allow for the beginning of new construction projects throughout the University, project managers said.

University project manager Jim Shackelford said six construction companies are handling the University’s 10 in-progress construction projects. New buildings underway include the computer science complex, the liberal arts building, the Belo Center for New Media, finishing touches to the Norman Hackerman Building and a new research building at the Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas.

Construction projects are also improving parts of the Jackson School of Geosciences building, Welch Hall, Clark Field, the Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium and the Texas Union.

Shackelford said the University advertises prospective building projects to qualified construction managers and awards contracts to the company with the best value at the time.

Renovations to the geology building will be complete next summer and renovations to Welch Hall will be finished next spring.

“In the geology building we are making changes to the second floor,” Shackelford said. “At Welch we are completely renovating the laboratories and office space. We are replacing the air handling systems and all electrical and plumbing systems.”

Shackelford said two projects are currently in design. One is a new facility at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus set to begin this fall and be complete by summer of 2012. The other is a new engineering education research center for the main campus set to begin summer of 2012 and be complete by 2015.

Steve Lanoux, assistant director for the University of Texas Marine Science Institute, said the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new research building will be held July 23.

Lanoux said the 36,000 square foot building was built using $6 million from federal funds and a partial match of that money from the University. He said the school is still searching for donations to finish paying off building costs, although he couldn’t say how much money they still need.

“We are one of 28 natural reserves around the country, so it is important that we have a facility to host visiting scientists,” Lanoux said. “All of the laboratories have balanced environmental systems with capabilities to create any environment by adjusting pressure and humidity and can also be completely blacked out for photo analysis.”

Lanoux said the federal funds were donated to build a headquarters for the reserve that also provides coastal and geographical information system training programs along with research.

Bruce Porter, professor and chairman of the Department of Computer Sciences, said the new Computer Science Complex was built to house the entire Department of Computer Sciences in one building as opposed to in six separate buildings as it is now.

He said the building of the new complex was made possible by donations from the University, the UT System, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. He said the 234,000-square-foot building will cost around $120 million to complete and is slightly ahead of schedule for completion in fall 2012.

“The complex will have approximately 140,000 indoor assignable square feet, enough space for sixty faculty and 350 grad students and lots of undergrad facilities,” Porter said. “The new space is designed to be easily upgraded and to give us the functionality we need for many years to come.”

Construction engineer Mayur Sethi said the new liberal arts building will cover 200,000 square feet when completed. He said the project will cost $60 million, and the building will be usable by Dec. 17, 2012.

Printed on 06/27/2011 as: Campus construction continues with help various donors