Oceanography Dedicates New Learning Facility

Aug 11, 2015

Named in honor of a revered professor, a unique learning center focuses on ocean observing, collaborative studies, and big data acquisition.



The wall of video monitors relays constant information from around the world in real time. Debbie Thomas demonstrates the measurements that the glider (automated underwater vehicle) is sending from the Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Measurements include oxygen levels, temperature, salinity, and chlorophyl. Zach Rolewicz is a master's student, and Heather Zimmerle, MS '14, is a research associate in Oceanography.

The Department of Oceanography will formally dedicate the Robert O. Reid Ocean Observing Educational Facility, named in honor of a beloved faculty member and conceived as a unique learning environment for current and future oceanographers.

Designed to provide a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary learning environment for both graduate and undergraduate students, the two-room suite features space that visually and technically enhances students’ access to ocean-observing and oceanography tools, techniques and data.

The first room features a wall of video monitors for the display and analysis of real-time and recorded data from ocean monitoring sources and devices, including buoys, gliders, imaging flow cytobot, ferry boxes, flow-through systems, and satellite imagery. The information streams from around the world, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Eastern Mediterranean, among others, in cooperation with the College of Geosciences’ global research partners.

“The video wall is mirrored by identical walls at the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group on Graham Road and Texas A&M-Galveston,” said Dr. Debbie Thomas, professor and head of the Department of Oceanography. “And coming soon, we will have a fourth monitoring station at the University of Haifa in Israel, our newest partner in ocean observing.”   

The interior room is home to a computational learning facility used for courses involving numerically intensive instruction, including big data, data methods and analysis, and programming. It is also set up for distance education learning.

The named facility honors Dr. Robert Osborne Reid, who died in 2009.

“Dr. Reid remains one of the most iconic members of the international oceanographic community,” Dr. Thomas said. “His pioneering work laid much of the foundation for modern ocean-observing science and technology.”

Renowned researcher, revered teacher
Dr. Reid joined Texas A&M University in 1951 as one of the founding members of the oceanography department and quickly became recognized worldwide as a prolific and eminent researcher. At Texas A&M he was named a University Distinguished Professor in 1978, the first designee for the college, and during his tenure, he received an Association of Former Students Distinguished Achievement Award for both research and for teaching and the Minnie Piper Foundation Award for Teaching. He also was granted the Special Award of the American Meteorological Society and the Medal of the University of Liege, Belgium. He was a Fellow in the American Geophysical Union and a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

According to colleagues and former students, however, his greatest legacy was as an educator, chairing the graduate committees of nearly 100 master’s and doctoral students. In a dedication page of a1983 symposium honoring Dr. Reid, his students wrote that “We . . . believe that Professor Reid’s greatest academic achievement has been in the guidance of graduate students. His scientific competence and interest combined with his kindness and patience make him uniquely qualified to guide graduate research. We consider ourselves most fortunate in both the personal and professional sense to have had Professor Reid as a major professor – for we had the best.”

The formal dedication is at 4 p.m., Friday, Aug. 21, in Room 602 of the Eller O&M Building, with former students, colleagues and family members invited to attend.

“I can only imagine how much Bob Reid would have appreciated a facility like this,” Dr. Thomas said. “This facility is truly a living tribute to Bob’s impact on the cutting edge of oceanographic education and research, past, present and future.”  

For more information about Dr. Reid’s contributions to the intellectual and scientific fabric of the College of Geosciences and beyond, read the tribute written by colleague Dr. Worth Nowlin, University Distinguished Professor Emeritus.[Tribute to Dr. Reid:EOS]

Karen Riedel
Communications Manager
For more information about the dedication or facility:

Dr. Debbie Thomas 
Department Head, Oceanography