Speaker Bios

The Forum Sponsors (UH-CL Environmental Institute, AIAA-Houston, Americans United in Action, JSC Speakers Program) are deeply grateful to the panelists for sharing their valuable time and expertise on this vital issue.


Neal F. Lane, Ph.D. (moderator) is the Senior Fellow in Science and Technology Policy at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy.  Neal F. LaneHe is also the Malcolm Gillis University Professor Emeritus, and Professor of Physics and Astronomy Emeritus, at Rice University.  Previously, Professor Lane served in the federal government as Assistant to the President (William J. Clinton) for Science and Technology, and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), from August 1998 to January 2001, and he also served as Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and member (ex officio) of the National Science Board from October 1993 to August 1998.  Before assuming his post at the NSF, Professor Lane was Provost and Professor of Physics at Rice University.  Professor Lane has received numerous awards for his distinguished contributions to science, public policy, and the public welfare.

See: http://www.bakerinstitute.org/experts/neal-f-lane/

Jim Blackburn, B.A., M.S., J.D. is a professor in the Civil and Environmental EngineeringJim Blackburn Department at Rice University and teaches courses in sustainable development and environmental law. He is also a practicing environmental lawyer with the Blackburn Carter law firm in Houston, and a Rice faculty scholar at the Baker Institute. At Rice, Professor Blackburn serves as co-director of the Severe Storms Prevention, Education and Evacuation from Disaster (SSPEED) Center and as director of the undergraduate minor in energy and water sustainability. At the SSPEED Center, he has been responsible for the development of landscape-scale green space solutions for surge damage mitigation, including the Lone Star Coastal National Recreation Area and a Web-based ecological services exchange, as well as structural alternatives. Professor Blackburn is the author of the recently published A Texan Plan for the Texas Coast and The Book of Texas Bays, both published by Texas A&M University Press, 2017 and 2004 respectively.  Professor Blackburn has received various public service awards for his numerous environmental activities and efforts.  He received a B.A. in history and a J.D. from The University of Texas at Austin and an M.S. in environmental science from Rice University.

See: https://www.bakerinstitute.org/experts/jim-blackburn/

John Branch, B.B.A, B.S. President, Clear Lake City Water Authority, and his family are 35-year residents of Clear Lake City.  Mr. Branch retired as the logistics manager for a large chemical company and now spends his time doing community service and currently leads the Clear Lake City Water Authority board of directors.  In addition, Mr. Branch serves as president of the Space Center Rotary Club, and in previous positions he has served as president of the Clear Lake City Civic League, as first president of the national board of directors for U.M. ARMY (Methodist youth organization which repairs homes of people in need), as former Cubmaster of Cub Scout Pack 869 and assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 848, as president of the board for Clear Lake City Stars’ swim team, several terms as chairman of the Administrative Board at Clear Lake United Methodist Church, assistant coach of numerous youth soccer and baseball teams, and served five years on the National Selection Panel of the US Dept. of Education Blue Ribbon School Program.  Mr. Branch is a veteran and served as an officer in the Army. He is very proud of what the CLCWA has been able to accomplish for the local area by maintaining low cost and high service levels and is enthusiastic about what the Clear Lake City Water Authority and Exploration Green Conservancy can achieve to enhance the quality of life in the Clear Lake area.

See: https://www.explorationgreen.org/board and http://www.clcwa.org/

Stephen Costello, B.S. Chief Resilience Officer, City of Houston, Image result for stephen costello houstonis an engineer with a background in flood control and drainage, which began with his first job out of school with the Corps of Engineers in Galveston.  It was with the Corps that Mr. Costello discovered his lifelong interest in storm water management and flooding issues after working with residents whose homes had been flooded. That led him to work for the passage of the ReBuild Houston program, which will address the city’s drainage and flooding issues with funds set aside for that purpose only. As an authority on flooding and storm water management, Mr. Costello has served as an expert witness for Harris County and TxDOT on drainage related issues. His depth of experience has been sought out by governmental agencies including large and small municipalities, county and state governments. In addition, Mr. Costello has helped to create and rewrite criteria manuals for the Harris County Flood Control District, Harris County and the City of Houston.

He co-founded Costello, Inc. in 1991, and served as Houston City Council Member At Large for 6 years from January of 2010 to December of 2015. In May of 2016, Mayor Turner appointed Mr. Costello as the city’s Chief Resilience Officer. His initial task is to focus on the flooding and drainage issues facing the city, which is why he’s been labeled the “Flood Czar.”

Mr. Costello is currently an active board member of Family Houston, SER Jobs for Progress, and Marathon Kids. He also served for many years as a member of the board of the Memorial Park Conservancy.  Mr. Costello is a longtime runner and triathlete. He and his wife Debbie raised two sons in Houston and are now proud grandparents of two granddaughters.

See: https://www.contractsinfive.com/bio-stephen-costello

André W. Droxler, Ph.D. is currently a professor in the Department of Earth Science and the director of the Center for the Study of Environment and Society at Rice University. His research has focused on studying the morphology of and the sediments accumulating on slopes and basin floors surrounding coral reefs and carbonate platforms. Over the past 30 years, he has conducted research programs in the Bahamas, offshore Jamaica, along the Belize margin, in the western Gulf of Mexico, in the Maldives (Indian Ocean), along the Australian Great Barrier Reef and in the Gulf of Papua (Papua New Guinea). The main focuses of Droxler’s research include the regional and global evolution of coral reefs, the paleo-oceanographic/climatic and sea level records archived in the sediments deposited around reefs and carbonate platforms. His work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the American Chemical Society and numerous grants from oil and gas companies. Droxler has published more than 100 scientific publications and has edited two books, including “Earth’s Climate and Orbital Eccentricity: The Marine Isotope Stage 11 Question” (2003). Before becoming an assistant professor at Rice in January 1987, he was a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of South Carolina from 1985 to 1986. Droxler received his master’s degree equivalent from the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) in 1978 and earned his Ph.D. from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Miami (Florida) in 1984.

See: https://www.bakerinstitute.org/experts/andre-droxler/

Lisa Gonzalez, B.S., M.A. President & CEO, Houston Advanced Research Center (HARC), is responsible for the strategic direction of HARC and its research programs which are designed to facilitate sustainable management of air, energy and water resources. She served as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of HARC from 2012-2016, overseeing the implementation of HARC’s 5-year strategic plan, development of HARC’s communication strategy, a reorganization of administrative operations and the design and construction of HARC’s new green headquarters. In addition to leading HARC, Ms. Gonzalez is active in research focused on the analysis and dissemination of data concerning the health and productivity of Texas Gulf Coast bays, estuaries, and watersheds. Her expertise includes analysis of coastal monitoring data sets and the development of indicators and outreach products describing coastal fish and wildlife populations, invasive species, coastal habitats, water quality, freshwater inflows, seafood safety, and climate change.

Ms. Gonzalez joined HARC in 2002 and regularly manages and contributes to research projects, including the Galveston Bay Report Card and an assessment of wetland permitting and mitigation activities in the Houston-Galveston region. She co-edited the second and third editions of the State of the Bay: A Characterization of the Galveston Bay Ecosystem published in 2002 and 2011, respectively. She also created The Quiet Invasion field guide series, a publication describing invasive plants and animals of the Galveston Bay region. Other past work includes the development of invasive species risk assessments, stakeholder-driven initiatives concerning ecosystem services and freshwater inflows, as well as the development of online data tools and applications.

Ms. Gonzalez holds a Master of Science in Environmental Management from the University of Houston – Clear Lake and a Bachelor of Science in Marine Fisheries from Texas A&M University at Galveston. Before joining HARC, she worked at the Institute of Marine Life Sciences at Texas A&M University at Galveston and then worked at UHCL’s Environmental Institute of Houston. Ms. Gonzalez stays active in the larger scientific community through participation in the Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation and the American Fisheries Society. She is Vice Chair of the Gulf and South Atlantic Regional Panel on Aquatic Nuisance Species; serves on the Monitoring and Research Subcommittee and the Invasive Species Working Group of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s Galveston Bay Estuary Program; and on the Technical Advisory Committee for the Texas General Land Office. Ms. Gonzalez also serves in an advisory capacity to other nonprofit organizations including, the Advisory Council of the Galveston Bay Foundation, the Houston Wilderness Regional Conservation Plan Science Task Force, and the Advisory Board of the Bayou Preservation Association.

See: http://www.harcresearch.org/people/lgonzalez

George Guillen, B.S., M.S., Ph.D. is executive director of the Environmental Institute of Image result for George Guillen uhclHouston and a professor of biology and environmental science at the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Guillen obtained his Ph.D. in environmental science from the University of Texas School of Public Health in 1996, his M.S. in wildlife and fisheries sciences, and his B.S. in marine biology from Texas A&M University. He is a native Houstonian and has lived in the area most of his life.

Previously, Guillen served as the chief of the Fisheries and Contaminants Program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service office in Arcata, Calif., from 2000–2004. From 1998–2000 he worked at the Minerals Management Service, in New Orleans, La., as the Toxicology and Risk Assessment Unit Chief. Prior to this, Guillen worked for 10 years with the TCEQ predecessor agencies (TNRCC and TWC) as District Manager and Program Manager. He also served as a biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for over four years.

During his tenure as a state and federal employee, Guillen managed various research and monitoring projects focusing on the effects of pollutants and instream flows on aquatic and marine organisms. Guillen also has previous teaching experience with UHCL (1993–1998), UH Central Campus (1998), and Texas A&M University at Galveston (1991–1994), having served as adjunct faculty at these campuses.

Guillen’s research interests include evaluation of the impacts of pollutants, altered hydrology, and habitat modification on fish and wildlife populations, with a focus on estuarine systems.

See: https://www.uhcl.edu/environmental-institute/people/staff/guillen

John Jacob, B.S., M.S., Ph.D. is the director of the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, and Image result for dr. john jacob waterProfessor and Extension Specialist with a joint appointment with the Texas A&M Sea Grant Program and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service through the Department of Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Science. His current project, Coastal CHARM (Community Health and Resource Management), focuses on enabling coastal communities in Texas to improve quality of life in cities and towns while preserving and enhancing the natural coastal environment.  Professor Jacob holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Texas Tech University, and a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University, all in soils and natural resources. He is registered as a Professional Geoscientist with the State of Texas and is a Professional Wetland Scientist.  Professor Jacob is a recognized expert on Texas wetlands, and has been active in consulting and research aspects of wetlands for more than 20 years. Jacob is co-author of the Texas Coastal Wetland guidebook, as well as the Texas Sea Grant Resilient Coast series on the built environment and wetlands.

The Texas Coastal Watershed Program provides education and outreach to local governments and citizens about the impact of land use on watershed health and water quality. The TCWP currently has 7 staff members which manage programs in sustainable urban planning, watershed management, habitat restoration, sustainable landscapes, and water quality issues.

See: https://tcwp.tamu.edu/about/staff-bio-john-jacob/#.Wg4-uEqnEdU

Brandt Mannchen, Sierra Club, Houston Group, has been an active and dedicated Sierra Image result for Brandt Mannchen sierra clubClub volunteer for over thirty years. Brandt’s distinguished history with the Club is marked both by his high level of commitment as well as by an impressive breadth of involvement in Club committees and chapter activities. During his tenure, Brandt has served as the Chair, Vice Chair, and Secretary of the Houston Sierra Group; he has been on the Executive Committee for both the Houston and Lone Star Chapters, and he has served on committees dealing with a range of issues, from wildlife and endangered species to offshore drilling. Brandt is proud to have worked to contest the first Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency off the Texas coast. In recent years, Brandt has been primarily involved in forestry issues, serving as the Forestry Chair for the Houston Group, and the Big Thicket Chair for the Lone Star Chapter.

See: https://content.sierraclub.org/environmentallaw/profile/legal-hero/brandt-mannchen

Bob Stokes, B.A., J.D., President, Galveston Bay Foundation, is a 1990 graduate of YaleImage result for bob stokes galveston bay foundation University and a 1994 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. After practicing law for ten years, Mr. Stokes joined the Galveston Bay Foundation as President in June, 2004. He had served on the board of the Foundation for five years prior to taking over as President and had served as the board’s chair for the previous two years. Mr. Stokes has also served on the Houston Wilderness Board of Directors since 2004, and on the Governing Board of Earth Share of Texas beginning in 2007.

See: http://galvbay.org/

Col. Len Waterworth, M.S., M.S., Executive Professor, Texas A&M University, MarineRelated image Administration, joined Texas A&M University at Galveston as an executive professor in the Department of Maritime Administration in 2014.  Colonel Waterworth was also appointed as a senior research associate in the Center for Texas Beaches and Shores. Colonel Waterworth holds a masters of strategic studies from US Army War College and a masters of engineering administration from George Washington University.

Colonel Waterworth’s duties include coordinating Ike Dike hurricane surge protection research activities with Texas A&M Galveston faculty and research partners at Delft University of Technology, Delft, Netherlands, the largest and oldest Dutch public technical university; the Institute for Regional Forecasting at the University of Houston and the Homeland Center of Excellence at Jackson State University in Mississippi, as well as public outreach efforts with businesses, municipalities, and non-governmental organizations in the Houston/Galveston region.

After a long and successful career in the Army, Colonel Waterworth has had a similarly successful administrative career in both governmental and private sectors with the Army Corps of Engineers, Dannenbaum Engineering Corporation, and most recently as executive director at the Port of Houston Authority Leadership for infrastructure, policy, and human resources.

See: http://www.tamug.edu/mara/FacultyBios/LeonardWaterworth.html