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College of Arts & Sciences

The Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University was established in 1949, under the auspices of the University Land Grant mission to assist the state with emerging challenges in the Gulf of Mexico dealing with oyster diseases, coastal disasters, and oil platform and pipeline design. Beginning with four professors, the Department of Oceanography became the first university department of oceanography in the country. The Department added meteorology to its program early in the 1950s and officially became the Department of Oceanography and Meteorology. In 1966 the Department of Meteorology was established as a separate department in the new College of Geosciences (now comprised of the four departments — Geology and Geophysics, Geography, Atmospheric Sciences, and Oceanography). The Texas Sea Grant College Program was added to the College of Geosciences in 1966. Ocean engineering studies also initially were taught in the Department of Oceanography, but that discipline ultimately developed into a separate program in the Department of Civil Engineering at Texas A&M, and now as a new Department of Ocean Engineering.

From its inception, the Department of Oceanography has maintained significant research programs in Galveston. In 1952 the Marine Laboratory at Galveston was created to support oceanography and biological research, and the Texas Maritime Academy began operations at Galveston in 1962. The institution became Texas A&M University at Galveston in 1979 and began offering bachelor of science degrees through the Departments of Marine Biology and Marine Science. The Texas A&M University Galveston Campus, as it is now officially titled, is a vibrant and growing special-purpose institution that fully integrates marine and maritime studies into all of its degree programs, and is among the nation’s leaders in conferring degrees in the marine operations and marine science. Currently, thirteen faculty in the Departments of Marine Sciences and Marine Biology at Texas A&M Galveston have joint appointment or graduate faculty affiliations in Oceanography and support the Oceanography graduate programs through student advising, mentoring, and funding.

The Department’s first research vessel (R/V) was the sailing ship R/V Jakkula. In the mid-1950s, it was replaced by the R/V Hidalgo, a converted mine sweeper, and in the early 1960s a second naval vessel was completely converted and renamed the R/V Alaminos. The intermediate class R/V Gyre was built in 1973 and was sold in December 2005.

The Department of Oceanography was established in 1949 and celebrated its 70th anniversary as a department at Texas A&M University in 2019.

 

In 1983 Texas A&M was awarded the contract to host the operations of the Ocean Drilling Program and the Gulf Coast Repository core storage and research facility. In 2003, we successfully competed to retain the U.S. component of the first phase of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program. Texas A&M secured the bid to again retain the science operator distinction for the second phase, the International Ocean Discovery Program, in 2013, and again in 2019.

Texas A&M was one of the first Sea Grant Institutions established through the National Sea Grant College and Program Act of 1966. Texas Sea Grant is part of a national network of Sea Grant programs in coastal and Great Lakes states, funded by NOAA in partnership with the states, to help connect the research conducted at Sea Grant institutions with the public. Texas Sea Grant unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas, local governments, industry and universities across the state. Sea Grant is NOAA’s primary university-based program, dedicated to helping citizens use scientific information to support a vibrant economy while ensuring ecological sustainability.

The Department has produced more than 1,000 Ph.D. and master’s graduates since its inception. Since its creation in 2007, more than 60 undergraduate students have graduated with a minor in Oceanography.

The Department of Oceanography began offering a bachelor of science degree in Oceanography in 2017. By the fall of 2019, over 20 undergraduate students, including freshmen, change of majors, and transfer students, were enrolled in the oceanography undergraduate degree program.