Queen Of Netherlands Visits With Texas A&M-Galveston Faculty To Discuss Climate
Queen Máxima of the Netherlands visited the Greater Houston area last week to discuss climate concerns and flood mitigation. Four Texas A&M University at Galveston faculty members were involved in her exclusive visit.
The Galveston Campus’ Sam Brody, professor in the Department of Marine and Coastal Environmental Science (MCES) and director of the Institute for a Disaster Resilient Texas (IDRT), interacted with the Dutch queen and her royal contingent on multiple occasions during her visit.
Thanks to Brody’s extensive research on flood mitigation strategies and urban planning, he was chosen to moderate a speaking engagement and discussion with the queen, also including Galveston Campus faculty researcher Jens Figlus, and IDRT’s Yoonjeong Lee. Absent due to health reasons was MCES Professor and George P. Mitchell Chair Bill Merrell, originator of the Ike Dike, and instigator of building a coastal spine in Texas similar to the Dutch’s Maeslant barrier.
“I actually presented a book to the queen, a compendium marking our 13-year collaboration with the Dutch,” said Brody. “It traces all of the threads of our intellectual exchange focused on this project, our kind of symbiotic educational relationship that all started thanks to Dr. Merrell.”
Brody said in the decades since the “massive coastal resiliency project” was sparked in the mind of Merrell, hundreds of Dutch and American students have enjoyed the benefits of the National Science Foundation Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) educational exchange program
The coastal flood risk reduction program allows for Aggie by the Sea students, as well as those from the University of Houston, Rice University, the Delft University of Technology and more to explore the many synergistic components of flood risk management.
“Overall, it felt celebratory. It’s a historic time to celebrate how far we’ve come, to talk about the future, the important role of research, and how education stimulates massive projects and undertakings,” Brody said.
He emphasized to the queen the importance of recognizing the power of scientific research in the context of academics informed by very real-world issues.
“I traced the story of how this now-$30 billion project, the Ike Dike, sprang from the mind of a Galveston professor, and from an applied research setting,” he said. “Our campus – even though it’s relatively small – is playing a central role in driving this whole project.”
Brody said the queen and her ministers were especially interested in the natural aspects of the coastal spine proposal.
“They were enthusiastic about having dunes and other ecologically restorative considerations built into the design of the barrier,” he explained.
Brody reflected on the nature of the visit and the growth of the partnership with the Netherlands.
“We really want to keep this collaboration going, this transfer of knowledge. I think we’d be wise to get the private sector involved. Mainly though,” Brody laughed, “I was trying really hard to not step on the queen’s shoes, while also instilling the fact that the literal Queen of The Netherlands would not be here talking to me, visiting us, if Dr. Merrell hadn’t taken such a global interest in this work all those years ago.”