Gulf ecosystem display for Sargent Beach pier now available as posters from Texas Sea Grant

The installation of a new educational display at the Sargent Fishing Pier in Matagorda County has been delayed by Hurricane Harvey, but paper copies of the posters are available now from the Texas Sea Grant College Program.

The new pier at Sargent Beach has been in the making for the better part of a decade, and once it started to come together, Matagorda County approached Texas Sea Grant’s Environmental Quality Specialist, Dr. Russ Miget, who also has a background in youth education, about designing an educational component for it.

Miget said he wanted the focus to be on increasing visitors’ knowledge about coastal ecosystems and Gulf of Mexico wildlife.

“I think it’s important to inform fishers about the life cycle of fish in the Gulf of Mexico because it helps them better understand why fishing regulations are set up the way they are,” he said. “Forty years ago, people considered the ocean an inexhaustible resource, and now we know that only around one percent of fish eggs ever make it to adulthood. So I suggested placing educational posters in this centrally located kiosk.”

Miget said a few ideas for topics were discussed, but the final decision was to do four posters about sea life in the Gulf of Mexico: “Ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico,” “Gulf of Mexico Food Webs,” “Ocean Animals” and “Estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico.” The posters include information and full-color illustrations, define scientific terms, show species from tiny plankton to sperm whales and their habitats, and highlight visitors’ connection to the sea.

Dawn Witherington of Drawn by Dawn Illustration and Design created the detailed illustrations and designed the posters, while Miget provided the concepts to be covered, scientific information and text. Witherington had previously completed a series of illustrated posters of endangered sea turtles, including a drawing of the Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, the state sea turtle of Texas, that Texas Sea Grant used on an informational card.

Because Hurricane Harvey has temporarily made access to Sargent Pier difficult, there has been a delay in installing the posters on the pier, but several hundred paper copies have already been printed for distribution to teachers and anyone who is interested in Gulf coast ecosystems.

“Once we finalized the plan for the pier display, I suggested that we print a couple thousand to pass out to school kids and teachers, for their classrooms, throughout the state of Texas,” Miget said.

The Texas A&M University College of Geosciences will be distributing the four posters for Texas Sea Grant at CAST, the Science Teachers Association of Texas’ annual conference, in Houston from Nov. 9 to 11, but posters also can be requested directly from Texas Sea Grant, while supplies are available, by contacting Alex Hood at or 979-458-8442.

Ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico – This poster illustrates the connection between the land and sea, including animals found on the beach and those living offshore from the surface to the deepest areas of the Gulf of Mexico. One section is devoted to different ways we are connected to the sea.

Gulf of Mexico Food Webs – This poster depicts plants and animals that comprise the marine food chain with emphasis on the microscopic size of phytoplankton, which allows them to remain in the sunlit surface waters. Microscopic zooplankton followed by increasingly larger predators are illustrated, as is the microbial loop, nutrient cycles and diurnal zooplankton migration. 

Ocean Animals: A Diversity of Species – This poster illustrates ten animal groups, pointing out that 87% of animal species in the ocean are invertebrates and not the more familiar fish and mammals. The manner in which fish extract oxygen from the water is shown, as is a timeline depicting the Cambrian explosion, mass extinctions and the resulting phyla we see today.

Estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico – This poster depicts a Gulf coast estuary showing major features including mudflats, seagrass beds and an oyster reef as well as fringing emergent vegetation. Nutrients and sediments supplied by rivers are discussed, as is the role vegetation plays in providing food and shelter for larval organisms.