Two Years Later, Florida State University Gulf Oil Spill Experts Focus on Long-Term Impacts

Apr 18 • 285 Views • View Comments

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Two years after leading a statewide academic task force to help the Gulf Coast regionrespond to the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Florida State University researchers continue to study the longer-term environmental and economic consequences of the disaster. With 4.9 million barrels of oil dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, the lasting effects continue to permeate throughout the region. Florida State researchers are available to answer media questions about their areas of expertise and provide historical perspective on this ongoing story.

ECOLOGICAL CONSEQUENCES

• Felicia Coleman, director, FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, (850) 697-4120; coleman@bio.fsu.edu
Coleman has expertise in the areas of marine ecology and fisheries science and policy. She can discuss the ecological consequences of the oil spill for coastal habitats and organisms in general and to fisheries and fishing communities specifically.

“Despite years of good intentions, we still have a long way to go to ensure that terrestrial and marine ecosystems continue toprovide the services we take for granted and on which we depend entirely for our well-being. We learned that dispersants, despite keeping millions of gallons of oil from reaching the shore, have created problems in the deep sea that are only now coming to light. We learned just how much we care about this part of our world, from Florida’s Big Bend to the Big Easy, and how much we want to protect the few pristine areas we have left and restore those that have taken the brunt of our disregard. If there is any good that came from this immense spill, it is that it focused a bright light on what we stand to lose through carelessness.”

• Ian R. MacDonald, professor of oceanography, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, (361) 548-9648; imacdonald@fsu.edu
MacDonald conducts research on the natural sources of oil and gas in the ocean. He can comment on the vulnerability of the deep-sea ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico to energy exploration and production. MacDonald has used satellite imaging to quantify the trajectory of the oil discharged from the Deepwater Horizon blowout and was the first scientist to successfully challenge federal estimates of the initial rates of discharge from the well.
“In the aftermath of this catastrophic blowout, we have the strongest impetus to enforce the highest standards of safety for offshore drilling and energy production. And we clearly see the imperative to raise our capacity for safeguarding the health of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. The rhetoric may be in place, but the present funding and enforcement are not adequate to get the job done. Failure to follow through on these requirements creates a moral hazard that will make another offshore disaster inevitable.”
• Jeff Chanton, the John W. Winchester Professor of Oceanography, Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science, (850) 644-7493; jchanton@fsu.edu
Chanton is using natural tracers to understand the fate of the oil spilled into the Gulf. Specifically, he is investigating whether the oil is ending up in the sediments and or if it is being taken up by marine animals.
“So far, the Gulf seems to have handled the spill fairly well, but, given the amount of oil that leaked, it would be premature to say that everything is back to normal. Sometimes effects from such an eventreverberate through the system and won’t show up until years later. For example, in Alaska, the effect of the Valdez oil spill on the herring fishery expressed itself years after the disaster.”

OCEAN MODELING

• Steven Morey, research scientist at the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, (850) 644-0345; smorey@fsu.edu
Morey, an ocean modeler, hasbeen developing methods to better incorporate satellite data into oil spill models to improve those models and our understanding of the oil spill. The data provides a means of producing a concise depiction of the area of the ocean’s surface affected by the oil spill as well as the history of the surface slick.

”The unprecedented quantity of data we have gathered from satellites, in situ observations and models provides us opportunities to make significant improvements in our understanding of the fate of oil following a disaster such as the BP oil spill, as well as developing better tools for predicting future consequences of this and other spills.”

TOURISM

•Mark Bonn, the Robert H. Dedman Professor in Services Management, (850) 644-8244; mbonn@cob.fsu.edu
Bonn is a tourism industry expert and the only educator ever inducted into the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. He has conducted hundreds of research projects addressing the importance of tourism to Florida and its economy through visitor spending. Bonn can discuss the effect that the oil spill had — and is continuing to have — on tourism and the seafood industry. He is currently researching consumer perceptions about Florida and the seafood industry and can discuss his preliminary findings.

“Both the resorts and the budget hotels in Northwest Florida have rebounded and are doing well, but the support industries are still struggling. Some of the mom and pop restaurants, gift shops, and the charter boat and watercraft rental businesses have really struggled, and many of them just didn’t make it.”

For additional information about research taking place at Florida State University on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, visit http://deepwaterhorizon.fsu.edu/.

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CONTACT: Tom Butler
(850) 644-5929; tbutler@admin.fsu.edu

 

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