UTRGV Office of Sustainability hosts statewide participants at SPI for annual TRACS Summit

Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Summit

UTRGV hosted the fourth annual Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Summit (TRACS), held Feb. 1-3 at South Padre Island. The first day included an Eco-Tour of the bay and up the shipping channel, where the mouth of the Bahia Grande has been dug to reclaim wetlands. The tour was led by Dr. Richard Kline, UTRGV professor of Coastal and Marine Sciences. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Photo Gallery

By Cheryl Taylor

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS – FEB. 4, 2016 – One hundred fifty representatives from universities and community colleges across Texas attended the fourth annual Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability (TRACS) Summit, held Feb. 1-3 at the South Padre Island Convention Centre.

The event was hosted by The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and coordinated by the UTRGV Office for Sustainability.

“Given the success of this conference over the past several years, and wanting to introduce participants from other institutions to the new UTRGV, we are so pleased to have been this year’s host campus,” said UTRGV Chief Sustainability Officer Marianella Franklin. “What better place to share ideas regarding campus sustainability than right here on South Padre Island, a place of beauty, as well as a scientist’s dream with its ecological diversity and abundant wildlife.”

Early arrivals were treated to a boat tour arranged with Osprey Cruises at Pier 19. Dr. Richard Kline, assistant professor in the UTRGV School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences, treated the group to a show-and-tell of native species caught by net in the first 10 minutes of the boat tour.

Kline’s area of research is applied ecology in the Coastal Zone. His current research with his students includes optimizing artificial reefs as fish habitat.

Dr. Larry Beran, senior research scientist at Texas A&M AgriLife Research & Extension Center at Stephenville, was attending his first TRACS conference.

“Getting together like this is a productive way to share ideas and help establish future collaborations,” said Beran, who was accompanied by his wife, Janelle.

After the conference, the two were departing SPI, heading to Falcon Dam where Beran will begin work on water quality issues in the lower region of the Rio Grande.

Grace Hsieh, an energy steward on the Energy and Water Conservation team at The University of Texas at Austin, gave a presentation entitled “20 by 2020 – UT Austin’s Plan to Achieving Energy Conservation.”

Hsieh shared the ways UT Austin’s Energy and Water Conservation team is accomplishing its goal of a 20 percent reduction from demand-side energy by 2020. She explained the four key factors the team has determined to drive a successful program – stewardship, technical expertise, education and engagement.

Matthew Seyhun was attending the conference as an exhibitor, representing Lucid, a software company with offices in Oakland, Calif., and Portland, Ore. Seyhun said he was eager to return to Texas for his fourth TRACS conference to bring information on what his company offers to both academia and private industry – helping manage “connected buildings.”

“This is a great way for me to meet people from across the state who are working in this field, who have questions and are looking for better ways to solve problems. I get to understand their situations and needs and we can have a real conversation and develop personal relationships,” said Seyhun, who admitted he was attracted to the location and visiting SPI for the first time.


UTRGV serves as a model for the region by integrating sustainability goals of preserving a healthy and renewable ecological system, developing economic viability, and pursuing social justice across all areas of the university. By addressing university goals through the wide scope of sustainability, and in accordance with local tradition and global movements, UTRGV works to maintain a high standard of environmental responsibility.

TRACS is a member of The Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). According to its website, AASHE is “a non-profit membership organization that empowers higher education faculty, administrators, staff and students to be effective change agents and drivers of sustainability innovation.”

For more information on the UTRGV Office of Sustainability, contact Naomi Keith at (956) 665-3030 or naomi.keith@utrgv.edu.

Dr. Richard Kline
Dr. Richard Kline, UTRGV professor of Coastal and Marine Sciences, shows some of the plant life found in the bay to participants in the fourth annual Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability Summit (TRACS), hosted this year by UTRGV. During an Eco-Tour of the bay, Kline pointed out habitat reclamation projects and local flora and fauna dredged up with a shrimp net. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Staff, faculty and students working together at TRACS
The Texas Regional Alliance for Campus Sustainability (TRACS) held its fourth annual conference, hosted by UTRGV at South Padre Island. Staff, faculty and students involved with campus sustainability projects across Texas came together Feb. 1-3 for three days of education and to share experiences. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)


Marci.Caltabiano@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of News and Internal Communications

Jennifer.McGehee@UTRGV.edu UTRGV Director of Public Relations