As the fall semester kicks off, The University of Texas Marine Science Institute welcomes four incoming assistant professors to its ranks, Drs. Kristin Nielsen, Jessica O’Connell, Jordan Casey, and Simon Brandl.

Dr. Kristin Nielsen is an aquatic toxicologist with a research focus on how environmental contaminants impact the development of aquatic organisms. Dr. Nielsen was formerly the State Toxicologist and Program Manager for the Alaska Division of Public Health, but has already begun research on critical local and statewide issues. As an example, she is collaborating with colleague, Dr. Ed Buskey, on several projects related to Harbor Island developments.

Dr. Jessica O’Connell is a wetland ecologist, remote sensing and geoinformatics specialist who uses big data to understand landscape scale changes and patterns in wetlands. Dr. O’Connell’s has expertise in evaluating broad-scale coastal and interior wetland ecosystem services and functions from across the United States and will expand the University’s ability to provide information on how local and state wetlands respond to change, such as hurricanes and droughts. Texas wetlands help protect the 346 miles of the Texas coast.

Dr. Jordan Casey is a marine ecologist that uses molecular tools to understand how marine organisms interact with one another. Most of Dr. Casey’s work is based on tropical coral reefs, but she will also apply molecular techniques to study food webs in the Texas Coastal Bend. Her work will help us get a grasp on the diversity and resilience of tropical and temperate marine systems.

Dr. Simon Brandl is a fish ecologist that studies the ecology, evolution, and functional role of fishes. Dr. Brandl is particularly interested in some of the most common, but difficult to see fish known as “cryptobenthic fishes”, or just “cryptos.” These fishes, such as gobies and blennies, are small and live on the bottom of many ecosystems, such as coral reefs or the local oyster reefs. While they are often overlooked, they are extremely abundant in tropical coastal ecosystems worldwide, account for almost 1/10 of all vertebrate diversity on Earth, and feed many of the larger species we care about. Insight into these types of fish will help researchers better understand the role fish have in marine ecosystems.

The State of Texas and the Coastal Bend region will be well served by the new influx of faculty that deal with current and future coastal influences and challenges facing Texas.

New Faculty 2021
The University of Texas Marine Science Institute welcomes four incoming assistant professors to its faculty ranks with Drs. Kristin Nielsen, Jessica O’Connell, Simon Brandl and Jordan Casey.