This month, GCOOS Executive Director Dr. Jorge Brenner is settling in — getting to know GCOOS and its many data partners as his tenure gets off to a busy start with Hurricanes Ida and Nicholas and Gulf waters ripe for more hurricane formation and intensification in an already-busy hurricane season that is just now at its peak.
With such an extensive network throughout the Gulf of Mexico — and our fall meeting going virtual this year — it’s going to take time for Dr. Brenner to meet everyone. To help with the introductions, we asked Dr. Brenner to tell us about himself.
How did you become interested in marine science?
I grew up along the southern coast of the Gulf of Mexico in Veracruz, Mexico — a city with a several- centuries-old maritime culture and one of the largest coral reef corridors in the entire Gulf. As a child, my father immersed me in aquatic activities such as sailing and waterskiing, and he later encouraged me to learn to SCUBA dive. Experiencing the diversity of the coral ecosystems, as well as the unforgiving nature of the ocean environment made want to explore more, and I later left home to study marine biochemistry in the Gulf of California in the Pacific Ocean. There, in one of the most beautiful seas in the Americas, my interests for all aspects of marine science — marine mammals, aquaculture, conservation biology and geospatial sciences — solidified.
A lot of your work has been focused on conservation and long-term change. Why have you focused on these areas?
The diversity of all forms of life is what makes us unique, and our life on Earth possible. However, sustainably managing the ecosystems that make this diversity possible is a complex task. With the advent of GIS and remote sensing technologies, I embraced the digital revolution and began using geospatial technology and data science to support the conservation of species and their habitats. These tools have been with me throughout my career — particularly during the past decade, when it has been almost impossible to not pay attention to the global changes taking place. Today, most people can see the impact that the changing environment is having on their lives, businesses, and for some communities, how these changes limit their capacity to rebuild their lives following recurrent catastrophic events in the Gulf of Mexico.
I started modeling coastal hazards such as sea-level rise and storm surge impacts years ago when their impacts to heavily populated areas or critical infrastructure was mostly unknown to science and decision-makers. That effort taught us that accurate, diverse, timely and available information was key to the process of building a resilient coastal environment, for people and nature’s future.
What are some of your initial goals for learning about the Gulf ocean observing community? How would you like people to contact you?
I’m spending my first weeks at GCOOS learning as much as I can about the extensive suite of ocean observation needs, technology, current infrastructure, and their connections to the Gulf’s people, economy, species and ecosystems. I’m impressed by GCOOS’s huge contributions in the Gulf to human health and safety, economic activities, the management of living resources, and in understanding climate change impacts, as well as the wider contribution that GCOOS and each regional association brings to the nation as part of IOOS. I’m trying to understand the direct and indirect values at the whole-system scale of the Gulf of Mexico, and the collaborations with many practitioners and scientists that make our work possible. This learning process has been productive as I assess how to achieve our mission as we implement our Strategic Plan 2020-2025.
I very much want to hear a variety of voices and ideas about how GCOOS can make relevant contributions to lives and livelihoods from around and across the Gulf of Mexico, and I encourage you to reach out to me directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you have early priorities for GCOOS?
I do! I’m here to make sure that we continue providing the highest quality and diversity of data and information services required to support marine resources management, encourage a ‘Blue Economy’ and continue building a resilient coastal environment for people and nature. GCOOS’s recent Strategic Plan 2020-2025 outlines goals and actions for each of the organization’s four key focus areas and four cross-cutting themes drawn from a participatory analysis.
My priority is to support its implementation through strategic collaborations, adequate funding, and information and technological innovations. I also want to support inclusive access to the data needed to continue supporting evidence-based management, future planning, and a productive Gulf of Mexico.
Last but not least, I also want GCOOS to continue being a vital and valued partner in the Gulf of Mexico. I am honored to join the GCOOS Family — our board, staff and network of partners — to continue the development of our organization.
Tell us a little about your personal life…
I’ve enjoyed nature in on land and sea as far back as I can remember. I’ve had the opportunity to study and work in Mexico, Spain and the U.S., and I’ve never lived away from the coast for long periods of time. I’m married with a daughter, 13, and a son, 9. In our family, the idea of a great vacation is always related to experiences in nature and we hope our kids continue to share this interest and appreciation. When water opportunities aren’t available (including when traveling), I take opportunities to experience nature through bird watching, and I remain enthusiastic about diversity – whether it’s in diversity of fish or birds or even the night sky.