Texas Connect

In an Hour

Use a single hour break to take advantage of many unique university area offerings.

Our coastal Port Aransas colleagues share workday respites and favorite pastimes

Illustration of a boardwalk to a beach
Art by Marissa Kapp

Four hours south of our main campus sits the Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas. Our coastal colleagues work day in and day out conducting research in collaboration with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, conserving the wetlands and coastal habitats, monitoring plastics that wash up onto beaches, tracking multitudes of changes along Texas’ Gulf shores, and much more.

Illustration of flowers and a turtle

For this edition of “In an Hour,” we asked the faculty and staff at UTMSI to share what they enjoy doing around Port Aransas on breaks, after work, or during any spare hour.

Lilly Andersen illustration

Education Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator at UTMSI
I work in the Patton Center for Marine Science Education and enjoy educating the public on marine science topics. When I have an hour to kill outside of work, I love to walk through the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center watching birds and searching for Boots, Port Aransas’ famous wild American alligator. This boardwalk always provides a peaceful and interesting walk, and it connects to a more extensive nature preserve trail, which is a great hike when I have more time.


Tracy Weatherall illustration

Administrative Associate for Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at UTMSI
I spend most of my free time on the weekends baking and cooking for the upcoming week. I also love to spend time in my vegetable garden planting and harvesting tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn, okra, cowpeas etc. If it’s not too windy, I enjoy riding my bike through Port Aransas to the local city park — stopping by the birding center and the marina. I also love to catch the Jetty Boat to San Jose Island to collect seashells and look for sea turtle tracks during nesting season.


Kyle Runion illustration

Graduate Student
Being a small coastal campus, UTMSI has its fair share of charming and secluded spots. A personal favorite is the walking trail at the Wetlands Education Center. A stroll along the short, circular route might turn up jackrabbits in the brush or sea turtles and dolphins along the jetty. Signage indicates the different types of vegetation beside the trail, so you can call the sightseeing excursion a study session of the local flora. And, no matter if you just made a visit last week. Return visits offer new views of the seasonal transitions of the dunes and coastal ecosystem. There’s always something new to see here!


Katie Swanson illustration

Stewardship Coordinator for the Mission-Aransas NERR
I’m always learning from and working with plants whether it be monitoring them in native habitats or caring for them in one of our maintained landscapes at MSI. In my free time, I love to continue that activity at home (or anywhere!). For me, pulling weeds or invasive plants and getting dirt under my nails is therapeutic. I’ll visit nurseries and see what native species they carry, bringing them home to place in the ground or even in pots on the porch. The native plants and wildflowers in Texas are beautiful and support so much cool wildlife. Watching plants grow and thrive is so rewarding, and if they don’t survive, it just means another plant can be put in that empty spot!


Sally Palmer illustration

Communications Manager at UTMSI
The Marine Science Institute is a beautiful place to work — with the ocean literally outside our office door. As the communications manager and busy mom of three, I enjoy not thinking about schedules or my to-do list. Outside of work, I take morning walks at the beach along with my two steadfast walking buddies. We enjoy the sunrise, much-needed coffee and conversation. The weather is variable, but this time of year there’s a little less humidity in the air and less wind, which makes our sunrise walks very enjoyable.