Looking Back: How the Shutdown Impacted Tech Research

When the government shut down on Oct. 1, many students and faculty members at Texas Tech University were not directly affected. However, one department on campus saw an immediate impact with furloughed researchers and limited resources.

The Texas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, which is housed in the Department of Natural Resources Management, experienced a direct hit because its funding comes from the United States Geological Survey. According to the website for the program, its mission is to conduct and facilitate research and educational activities related to natural resource management and conservation.

Tim Grabowski, an assistant unit leader in fisheries, said he and two other federal researchers employed by the unit were furloughed because of the shutdown.

“Luckily my personal research is in a down-cycle at the moment,” Grabowski said. “One of our researchers though had to completely reschedule a research trip that was supposed to happen during the shutdown.”

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Dr. Clint Boal, whose research trip was delayed thanks to the partial federal shutdown last week.

Clint Boal, a fellow researcher, was scheduled to make a research trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands during the shutdown, but was furloughed and unable to go.

Reynaldo Patiño, another researcher in the unit, said Boal had begun preparations to leave for his trip as soon as the government re-opened, but he will still not be able to completely fulfill his initial research goals.

“His trip was meant to be a month long, but now he will only be able to stay for a few weeks,” Patiño said. “He may only get to accomplish a third of the work he was supposed to do while down there.”

Federal researchers in the unit were not the only ones affected — graduate research assistants also saw difficulty in completing their tasks and research. Although the students were not furloughed through the shutdown, they faced the issue of not being in easy contact with their advisors.

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Texas Tech research projects were directly impacted by the federal shutdown, with many projects stalled last week.

Matt Vanlandeghem, a graduate research assistant, said although he and his fellow assistants were able to continue their research, their progress was slowed because of the absence of their bosses.

“It was difficult to not be able to meet with them,” Vanlandeghem said. “We were stuck asking ‘What is the next step?’”

Vanlandeghem said student assistants also found it difficult to travel to their various field research locations because their four federal vehicles were unable to be used, leaving all 10 to 12 assistants to share one state-owned vehicle.

Although the unit was able to successfully make it through this shutdown without any major projects being ruined, they are anticipating January and the possible issues that could arise from another shutdown.

Patiño said if another shutdown were to happen, many more research projects would be affected, and classes taught by some of the researchers would also be impacted. In the meantime though, Patiño said they will continue their research plans and hope for the best.

About Katelyn Perry
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