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Sharing oil-spill science with our coastal audiences

By: Melissa Schneider / Published: Oct 17,  2014

I’ve been with Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant for almost three months now — wow, how time flies! In my new position, I am one of four Oil Spill Science Research Specialists that are positioned around the Gulf of Mexico to share oil spill science with our coastal communities. This includes our elected officials, natural resources managers, public health officials, the tourism industry, the fishing industry and many more groups. The information that our Outreach Team will be sharing with these groups comes from a $500 million research program that is being implemented by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, also known as GoMRI. You can learn more about our project by reading our summary

Over the past few months, I’ve been working hard to meet our partners around Mississippi and Alabama that might be interested in learning more about science related to oil spills. It’s amazing how this research ties into so many topics that are important to all of us — whether the fish we catch and eat, the water we swim in, the beaches we go to or the habitats that keep our waters thriving. It’s all related.

As I started to dig through the 380+ publications that have already come out of the GoMRI effort and search various sources, I stumbled upon some interesting websites that I wanted to share with you all:

Our Outreach Team has been assessing the needs of our communities and compiling the many questions that still exist about oil spills. In the next year, we’ll be pulling together workshops and science seminars that will answer these questions. We’re also working on many bulletins that focus on topics such as dispersants, seafood safety and the impacts that oil and dispersants have had on humans, wildlife, and habitats. Stay tuned for those!

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill brought many challenges for our coastal communities. Responders had to react to the unprecedented amount of oil and dispersants that were released into the Gulf, managers had to assess how wildlife and the environment would react and recover from the spill, and our coastal communities whose livelihoods depend on the Gulf of Mexico had to overcome direct impacts of the spill as well as public perception which effected tourism businesses and seafood sales.

Despite these challenges, it is great to see science being conducted that can answer the questions that still linger in people’s minds and provide relevant information to help us better manage our natural resources and protect our valuable waters from future oil spills.

If you’d like to learn more about our Oil Spill Science Outreach Program or get on our e-mail list to receive science updates, please email or call me at Larissa.Graham@auburn.edu or 251-438-5690. 

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