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Testing sediment for oil and other pollutants in shrimping areas. (Photo: USCG, P.O. Cory J. Mendenhall)

Consortia gets USD 112.5 mln to study oil spill's effects on Mexican Gulf

Click on the flag for more information about United States UNITED STATES
Thursday, September 01, 2011, 22:40 (GMT + 9)

Research on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took a major step forward this week with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) Research Board's announcement that eight Research Consortia will be funded for the next three years. A total of USD 112.5 million over three years will support this portion of the GRI research effort.

These teams will investigate the fate of petroleum in the environment, the impacts of the spill, and the development of new tools and technology for responding to future spills and improving mitigation and restoration.   

The grant recipients were selected using a competitive merit-review process. 

The GRI Research Board is an independent body established by BP to administer the company's 10-year, USD 500 million-commitment to independent research into the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident.

Through a series of competitive grant programmes, the GRI is investigating the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and the affected coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events and their environmental stresses and public health implications. 



The GRI also funds research that improves techniques for detecting oil and gas, spill mitigation, and technologies to characterize and remediate spills. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico. 

"The GRI worked aggressively to develop RFP-I to ensure that we stimulate critically important research. The GRI has continued to work relentlessly to receive and review grants in order to make this announcement by the deadline we set last April," said Dr Rita R Colwell, Chairman of the GRI Research Board.

The grants awarded today were in response to RFP-I, a request for proposals the GRI Research Board issued on 25 April.

This request for proposals solicited applications from Research Consortia – groups of researchers with compatible expertise from four or more institutions – to address one or more of the five intellectual themes established by the GRI Research Board. 

These themes are: 1) Physical distribution, dispersion and dilution of petroleum, its constituents and associated contaminants under the action of physical oceanographic processes, air-sea interactions and tropical storms; 2) Chemical evolution and biological degradation of the petroleum/dispersant systems and subsequent interaction with coastal, open-ocean and deep-water ecosystems; 3) Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes and organisms and the science of ecosystem recovery; 4) Technology developments for improved responses, mitigation, detection, characterization and remediation associated with oil spills and gas releases; and 5) Fundamental scientific research integrating results from the other four themes in the context of public health.



"These Consortia establish a research community of great strength with promise of substantial achievement. The results will illuminate the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, and enable appropriate responses should there be future releases not only in the Gulf of Mexico, but anywhere that oil and gas is produced in ocean environments,” Colwell said.

“They will also assist local, state and federal agencies in their work to remediate the consequences of the oil spill in coastal and marine environments," added Colwell.
 
The Research Consortia funded are: the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, Florida State University, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, University of South Florida, University of Miami, Tulane University and University of Mississippi.

Related article:

-
Research to examine long-term effects of oil on Gulf seafood

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