BP-Sponsored Gulf Of Mexico Research Initiative Announces Availability Of Research Funding

Research Board Requests Proposals to Establish Consortia to Study Effects of Deepwater Horizon on the Gulf of Mexico

(WASHINGTON /PRNewswire-USNewswire) — The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Research Board announced today the availability of a minimum of $37.5 million per year to establish four to eight Research Consortia to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident on the Gulf of Mexico.  The research that will be conducted through these consortia will inform the scientific understanding of oil spill and dispersant impacts on ocean and coastal systems in the Gulf region, as well as other ocean and coastal systems, and how these systems respond to oil and gas inputs, especially large accidental inputs.  The grant application guidance and requirements, along with the research themes that will be funded, are described in the GoMRI Research Board request for proposals (RFP-I).

“Today is a significant milestone in our efforts to understand the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident on the Gulf of Mexico,” said GoMRI Research Board Chair Dr. Rita Colwell .  “The Research Board was created by BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to develop an independent, merit-based process to identify and fund the best possible research into the fate and effects of oil and oil dispersants on the Gulf of Mexico.  This request for proposals is a major step toward that goal.”

On 24 May 2010, BP committed $500 million over a 10-year period to create a broad, independent research program to be conducted at research institutions primarily in the U.S. Gulf Coast States.  The program is known as the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI).

On 15 June 2010, BP announced the names of the scientific experts who would form GoMRI’s independent Research Board.  In consultation with the White House and the Governors of the five Gulf Coastal States, BP later expanded the GoMRI Research Board by adding additional scientific expertise.  The GoMRI Research Board has 20 members, 10 appointed by BP and 2 recommended by the Governor of each of the five Gulf Coast States and appointed by the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.  The GoMRI Research Board is responsible for preparing this and subsequent requests for proposals, enabling an open and transparent peer-review process, selecting proposals for funding, and reviewing annual progress for continuation funding.

The GoMRI will investigate the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and affected Gulf Coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events, the associated environmental stresses, and the public health implications.  The GoMRI will also develop improved spill mitigation, oil and gas detection, characterization, and remediation technologies.  The ultimate goal of the GoMRI is to improve society’s ability to understand and respond to the impacts of petroleum pollution and related stressors of marine and coastal ecosystems, with an emphasis on conditions in the Gulf of Mexico.  Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improvement of the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.

Since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in April 2010, the oceanographic and environmental communities have strongly advocated the importance of research in the Gulf of Mexico and the affected Gulf States for characterization of the event, elucidation of the processes affecting the oil/dispersant system, and assessment of the long-term impact.

“The Research Board has had numerous discussions and has been informed by past research results and the results of three important public scientific meetings to receive input and to help define the intellectual themes for research,” said Colwell.

The first meeting was convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on 19 May 2010 in Washington, DC, and was hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  The meeting included approximately 40 leaders from major ocean research institutions, with strong representation from Gulf Coast States.  The second meeting was held on 3 June 2010 at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA, and was co-sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership (COL).  This meeting included about 200 researchers representing the major oceanographic institutions and academic departments in the United States, including representatives from all of the affected Gulf States.  The meeting was convened to address both short-term response actions and long-term monitoring and understanding of environmental impacts.  The third meeting was held 22–23 June 2010 at New Orleans, LA, and was sponsored by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science.  Over 300 participants attended the workshop, including representatives from all of the affected Gulf States.  The meeting considered public health impacts and responses to them in the short- and long-term, including monitoring and surveillance of potentially affected populations.

“The output from these meetings is the basis for the major research themes addressed in RFP-I,” said Colwell.  “Under RFP-I, proposals are being sought that address one or some combination of the following five areas.”

  1. Physical distribution, dispersion, and dilution of petroleum (oil and gas), its constituents, and associated contaminants (e.g., dispersants) 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 response, mitigation, detection, characterization, and remediation associated with oil spills and gas releases.
  5. Fundamental scientific research integrating results from the other four themes in the context of public health.

According to Colwell, “The Research Board is funding consortia in this initial request for proposals because some of the research will be so complex that it necessitates contributions by multiple institutions and multi-disciplinary science teams.”

Each Research Consortia proposal is expected to develop and enunciate a clear plan to address any one of the themes or a cross-disciplinary program of work involving a grouping of some of these topics.  Successful applications will clearly describe how the proposed research will accomplish the long-term goals of the GoMRI.

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