USF Gets Grant to Study Oil Spill

Aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana's tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

(Click to enlarge) Aerial photo taken in the Gulf of Mexico more than 50 miles southeast of Venice on Louisiana’s tip, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig is seen burning. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Researchers at the University of South Florida have landed a $20.2 million grant to continue studying the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

(From The St. Augustine Record / by Jerome R. Stockfisch) — The award, from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, is the largest single grant for the College of Marine Science for its work on the spill. USF researchers working in conjunction with the Florida Institute of Oceanography and its research vessels, R/V Weatherbird II and R/V Bellows, were among the first to begin documenting the spill and played a key role in understanding its dynamics.

“Data, analyses and models of the fate and effects of the Deepwater Horizon and similar oil spills will enable the nation and the world to be better prepared in the advent of a similar oil well blowout,” said Jackie Dixon, dean of USF’s College of Marine Science in a statement announcing the grant.

“Studies completed under this grant will help to design more effective oil spill prevention and response strategies. They will also provide a contamination baseline from which all future spills in the Gulf of Mexico can be judged.”

In one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters, BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded in April 2010, killing 11 workers and spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf by the time the wellhead could be capped almost three months later.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is a 10-year program funded with $500 million from BP. On Friday, the initiative named 12 research groups including USF’s to receive $140 million for research on the impacts of oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and public health for the next three years.

USF’s grant will support the efforts of the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems, or C-IMAGE, a consortium of professors, post-doctoral scholars and students at 19 collaborating institutions in five countries.

The C-IMAGE lead investigator is USF’s Steven Murawski, whose work has focused on the health of key fisheries in the Gulf following the spill.

In July, a team of local researchers announced they had found strong evidence that skin lesions discovered on fish in the northern Gulf of Mexico were related to the Deepwater Horizon spill.

USF president Judy Genshaft said the grant “affirms the leadership of USF scientists, who bring world-class scientific expertise, state-of-the-art instrumentation and facilities, and strong international collaborations to the table to better understand the long-term impacts of the spill.”

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