Neglected local ecosystems now have the chance to be restored

The Corpus Christi Bay Area is part of the coastal ecosystem that has been experiencing a variety of negative impacts.

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The Corpus Christi Bay Area is part of the coastal ecosystem that has been experiencing a variety of negative impacts.

Alessandra Francisco, Reporter

The valuable coastal ecosystems we have in South Texas have been experiencing a variety of negative impacts for years. Four TAMU-CC and HRI researchers just received $1.6 million in grants from the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust. With this, the researchers can now conduct research on the health and water quality of local bay ecosystems for future restoration projects.

The institutional lead and HRI Chair for HydroEcology, Dr. Paul Montagna said, “This new Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust program will benefit coastal communities by putting a focus on the ecosystems comprised (in) San Antonio, Lavaca, and Matagorda Bays, which have been underserved in the past.”

The environmental threat our coastal ecosystems face includes areas with potentially high levels of mercury and plastic, habitat loss, harmful algal blooms and population loss of marine species. Thanks to the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust, TAMU-CC researchers, each having projects dedicated to researching and resolving these issues, now have the funding to do so.

Each of the four researchers, who are a part of an educational partnership with NOAA’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems program, intend to address one of the aforementioned environmental problems. The potentially high levels of mercury and plastic in Lavaca Bay will be researched in Dr. Jeremy Conkle’s project. High levels of these substances could be transported to other bays and contaminate the fish we eat, so he will also be researching the Matagorda and San Antonio bays.

Dr. Greg Stunz’s project will mainly revolve around habitat abundance in the Colorado River Delta. The data from this study can be used for future planning of habitat restoration in the area.

Dr. Michael Weltz’s project is to research and monitor harmful algal blooms in Matagorda Bay and San Antonio Bay. The algae blooms have caused negative impacts on the fishing industry, so figuring out how to stop it can make a lasting impact on the health of Matagorda Bay and San Antonio Bay fisheries.

Lastly, Dr. Paul Montagna will research trends in population loss of marine species dwelling on the seafloor to see if they are still declining. Once Dr. Montagna finds out if and why it’s still happening, we can then see if it’s something that can be prevented and restored.

The researchers have an important task to determine how serious the issues at hand are and how to help the cause. The information these projects will provide can be incredibly useful for our leaders and organizations to implement sustainable plans to rejuvenate the health and quality of our coastal ecosystems.

To find out more about the Matagorda Bay Mitigation Trust project awards, visit