In February 2018, GCOOS founding staff member Matthew K. Howard died suddenly while attending a business conference in Seattle. He was 65 years old. Matt, DMAC Manager at GCOOS, was an b6a60b9a-ed11-4185-b5cc-c7a1afd0e8b4accomplished research scientist with many contributions to the study of oceanography.

Following Matt’s untimely death, his many friends and colleagues sought to memorialize his professional gifts and talents for oceanographic research and data systems and solutions, as well as his personal intellect, generosity, enthusiasm and — of course — his sense of humor.

GCOOS is currently working to have an undersea geological feature named in his honor and in April 2018, we established the Matthew K. Howard Memorial Fund. The Howard Memorial Fund will support:

  • The Howard Innovation Challenge: An annual competition for students to develop novel products based on GCOOS/IOOS data or novel ways to share data. Projects will require working in a collaborative environment.
  • The Howard Innovation Award: This award will recognize exemplary and visionary data management practices in the GCOOS footprint.
  • The Howard Mockumentary Competition: To celebrate Matt’s humor, GCOOS will host a video contest that uses humor to tackle a serious ocean monitoring or data management issue.

South Pass, Louisiana, United States

A Brief Biography

Matthew Howard received a B.S. degree in physical oceanography in 1977 from Humbolt State University, Calif. He was employed by Interstate Electronics Corp. in Anaheim Calif. (1977-80) and Dynamics Technology Inc. in Torrance, Calif. (1980-82). Matt then moved to College Station and enrolled as a graduate student in the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University, receiving the Ph.D. in oceanography in 1992. Meanwhile, he worked for Applied Research Corporation and the Geochemical Environmental Research Group at TAMU, both in College Station, from 1989 to 1994. He then joined the Department of Oceanography and advanced to be an Associate Member of the TAMU Graduate Faculty in 2006 a Research Scientist in 2011.

Beginning in 1992, Matt was the data manager and researcher on a series of five major studies in the Gulf of Mexico sponsored by the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service: a study of the circulation and transport processes over the Texas and Louisiana continental shelves; a study of the chemical and physical oceanography of the northeastern continental shelf waters; a synthesis and reanalysis of all physical data from deep water regions of the Gulf; a study to understand processes that maintain dissolved oxygen levels in the deep water Gulf; and a study of sperm whales and their reaction to seismic activity (noise) in the Gulf. These studies continued for 13 years during which time he also served as data manager for various studies funded by petroleum companies.

From 2001 to 2003, Matt’s contributions to oceanic research were extensive and his work will continue to advance the sciences for many years to come. Matt worked with Worth Nowlin, distinguished professor of oceanography emeritus at TAMU, to promote open data sharing (to all) by entities with ongoing observations in the Gulf of Mexico, using support from the Office of Naval Research. Subsequently, this concept of data collection, management, product development and open distribution to all users evolved by 2005 into the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS), incorporated in 2012 and granted tax-exempt status.

As Data Management and Communications Lead for the GCOOS since its inception, Matt provided the technical leadership for this regional association and was engaged in many related activities. His areas of professional interest and expertise were physical and coastal oceanography; integrated ocean observing systems; ocean data management systems; information architecture; informatics, semantic mediation, and ontologies; and model-data.

Matt was born Aug. 29, 1952, in Killeen, Texas to Lt Col (USA Ret) Walter A. Howard and May-Jean Warren Howard RN. As a military family, Matt lived in several locations, including New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Germany, Missouri and finally Rialto, California, where Matt graduated from high school in 1970.

Preceding him in death were his parents, a brother Samuel Howard, sisters Ami Howard, Lara Howard York, Kim Howard, and a nephew Joshua Howard.

Matt was a loving husband and devoted father who cared deeply for a large and extended family.  Matt’s legacy is one of a husband, father, brother, uncle, son, and friend who put family first.  When Matt was with his family, he was always present and focused fully in the moment and with the company he shared.  Matt had a passion for entertaining.  He could prepare an exquisite meal for 5 or for 50 with multiple courses, perfectly paired with red wine and martinis that matched the occasion.

Matt proposed to his wife Ailene, on bended knee with 30+ family members present, proving that sharing his life extended beyond his words, beyond his commitment and now, beyond his life on earth.

Matt is survived by his wife,  Ailene Howard, son Nathan K. Howard and former wife Debbie Partain, all of College Station. He is also survived by two brothers and one sister: brother Dan Howard of Anchorage, Alaska; brother Lt Col (USAF Ret) Luke Howard and wife Leverne of Charleston, S.C.; sister Dallis Crow and husband Sean Crow of Centennial, Colo.; sister-in-law Kelly Howard Daley of Indio, Calif; brother-in-law Jim York and wife Susan of New Richmond, WI.  His surviving nieces and nephews are Addison Howard, Caroline Howard, Emily York, Mary-Jean Barnes and husband Clifford Barnes, Ashley Campagna and husband Chris Campagna, Amanda Speck and husband Frank Speck, Samantha Crow, Jackson Crow, Lucas Crow and Matt Howard. Grand nieces and nephews are Lana Barnes, Veda Barnes, Alana Campagna, Alexa Campagna, Brooks Campagna and Fiona Speck.

Matt’s family circle expanded when he married the love of his life, Ailene in 2015. The following members of her family also survive Matt:

Step daughter Kandice Trujillo and husband Manny Trujillo and their children Kade, Karson and Mia; step son Kevin Hay and wife Tamara and their daughter Haley; step sister-in-law Darlene Anderson and husband Bruce; step brother-in-law John Bowling and wife Sharon; step nephew Marc McKeehan and wife Nikki and children Sloan, Payton, Hailey, Garret and Kacie; step niece Nicole Anderson and children David and Regan; step nephew Chris Bowling and wife Cristy and children Adam, Cole, Jaxon, Kyndal and Joslyn; step niece Andrea and husband Tucker; and step nephew Brent Bowling and wife Marissa.

Matt’s personal passions included gardening, cooking, popular culture and enjoying the company of his family and many friends.  The last several years brought Matt so much joy to be able to spend significant time with his love Ailene, Nathan, his son who he adored, and his large family who loved him beyond measure.  His humor, creativity, ability to regale with stories and his love for his family will be profoundly missed.

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