UTRGV School of Earth, Environmental and Marine Sciences (SEEMS) awarded NSF grant

UTRGV Environmental Science students here are using an instrument called a vibracore to collect sediment samples at San Martin Lake near Brownsville. (UTRGV Courtesy Photo)

By Vicky Brito

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – MAY 23, 2015 – The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a $464,959 grant to The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley to expand education and outreach for Hispanics studying geoscience.

Geoscience is the interdisciplinary study of Earth systems and the environment that involves the composition, processes and history of the Earth, including environmental science, geology, hydrology, geophysics and oceanography.

The grant will fund a program called “GEOPATH-EXTRA: Stimulating Hispanic Participation in the Geosciences” (SHIP-GEO), which aims to reduce severe U.S. geoscience workforce shortages and increase Hispanic participation in geoscience careers. 

The project has four objectives:

  • Grow the existing Environmental and Earth Sciences program at UTRGV with the specific aim of recruiting, retaining and graduating increased numbers of students in geoscience.
  • Increase community awareness of Earth systems.
  • Guide community college and high school students into geoscience careers.
  • Provide undergraduate research experiences as an accelerated path to graduate school and professional careers.

The project also is awarding 50 scholarships to five cohorts of students over three years. The grant will be in effect from Sept. 1, 2016, through Aug. 31, 2019. 

SEEMS faculty involved in the grant are Principal Investigator Dr. Chu-Lin Cheng, assistant professor, and Co-Principal Investigators Dr. Juan Gonzalez, associate professor, Dr. Jihoon Kang, assistant professor, Dr. Carlos Cintra-Buenrostro, associate professor, and Dr. Jude Benavides, associate professor.

 “National workforce data continue to project a shortage of around 135,000 geoscientists by the end of the decade,” Cheng said.  “Many in the South Texas community might not be aware that geosciences actually relates very closely to our daily lives and the surrounding environment. Every day we use water, electricity (mostly generated by fossil fuels), plastic products (petroleum by-products), electronics (rare earth metals), and food (plants-water-soils).

“Many economic development issues in the Lower Rio Grande Valley are related to geosciences, such as water security and availability, water quality and contamination, energy resources, oil and gas exploration, earth mineral resources, and agriculture,” he said.

The new School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences (SEEMS) at UTRGV offers several degree options with Geoscience emphasis areas within the Bachelor of Science (BS) in Environmental Sciences. 

“This is a very exciting moment for SEEMS, UTRGV and LRGV communities,” Cheng said. “SHIP-GEO will not only provide scholarships and career-related events, but also help connect students with industrial partners, internship opportunities, other participating faculty, alumni and research projects for graduate degrees.”

For more information about the SHIP-GEO program, events and scholarship opportunities, contact Cheng at chulin.cheng@utrgv.edu or at (956) 665-2464.


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

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