Oil Spill Experts
More than a year after leading a statewide academic task force to help the Gulf Coast region respond to the devastating Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Florida State University researchers are now working to understand the longer-term environmental and economic consequences of the disaster. Though the spill was officially contained one year ago, the story is far from over. About 4.9 million barrels of oil were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, and FSU research faculty hope to better understand the repercussions. These experts are available to answer media questions and provide historical perspective on this ongoing story.
• Felicia Coleman, director, FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, (850) 697-4120; email@example.com
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 to provide 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; firstname.lastname@example.org
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; email@example.com
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.
“The oil spill was a horrific event for residents of the Gulf Coast. At the moment, the Gulf seems to have handled it amazingly well, but, in fact, the jury is still out. It would be premature to say that everything is back to normal, as sometimes effects from such an event reverberate through the system and show up years later. For example, in Alaska, the effect of the Valdez oil spill on the herring fishery expressed itself years following the disaster.”
• Steven Morey, research scientist at the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies, (850) 644-0345; firstname.lastname@example.org
Morey, an ocean modeler, has been 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.”
•Mark Bonn, the Robert H. Dedman Professor in Services Management, (850) 644-8244; email@example.com
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 this season, but the support industries are still struggling. Some of the mom and pop restaurants, gift shops, and the charter boat and watercraft rental businesses really struggled last year, and many of them just didn’t make it. The big challenge is to try to combat consumer perceptions that seafood from Northwest Florida is not safe — about 20 percent of consumers object to eating seafood from this area, and the farther away from the Gulf you get, the more we are seeing this response.”
For additional information about research taking place at Florida State University on issues related to the Deepwater Horizon disaster, visit http://deepwaterhorizon.fsu.edu/.