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Geological Survey grant awarded for study of climate change

image imageResearchers at Texas Tech University are working to discover the secrets of one of the state’s most perplexing water problems: the influence of climate change on Texas surface waters. A new three-year project, funded by $634,000 from the U.S. Geological Survey, will bring together a team of experts to learn how to model, study and predict the influence of the changes.

Officials indicated that $148,000 of the grant will go directly to the Texas Water Science Center field station at Texas Tech. The entire project is one of only 18 selected for Geological Survey funding from nearly 200 proposals this year.

“This is a first for a project of this nature to be conducted in Texas, and I’m excited about potential benefits this project may offer to conservation and management of aquatic natural resources in the state,” said Reynaldo Patino, a professor with Texas Tech’s Department of Natural Resources Management with a joint appointment at the Geological Survey.

Patino and fellow scientists, Katharine Hayhoe from the university’s geosciences department, Chris Taylor from Texas Tech’s natural resources management department, and William Asquith from the Geological Survey’s Texas Water Science Center, have identified four specific objectives. They include:
• Assemble an electronic database of observed historical water temperatures and other relevant water quality information for a number of the state’s reservoirs with significant fisheries resource status.
• Combine historical data with projected changes in air temperatures as reflected in leading extant climate simulation models.
• Assess impact of predicted changes in water temperature on the physical and chemical environments of the state’s aquatic biotic resources.
• And, ultimately, conduct a retrospective analysis of relationships that may exist between historical changes in water quality, and the relatively recent spread of golden algae throughout the region.

Golden algae are a harmful invasive species that have recently caused considerable damage to the state’s aquatic resources, as well as those of a number of other states in the region. First appearing in Texas in 1985 in the Pecos River, golden algae or Prymnesium parvum have since surfaced in many river systems throughout Texas.

Although it can exist in waters without being harmful, the algae have caused major fish kills in five of the state’s major river systems. When this algae has explosive increases in its population, called blooms, it secretes toxic chemicals into the water. These toxins kill fish and other gill-breathing animals.

Written by Sean Cleveland

CONTACT: Reynaldo Patino, unit leader and professor, Department of Natural Resources Management, Texas Tech University and U.S. Geological Survey – Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, (806) 742-2851 ext. 261 or reynaldo.patino@ttu.edu

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