Fall 2014 – Frequently Asked Questions by Dr. Chuck Wilson

(From Fall 2014 Newsletter) Dr. Chuck Wilson, Chief Scientific Officer for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), answers a few of the most frequently asked questions about the program.

Question: How will the partnership with Sea Grant help spread the word about GoMRI research?

Answer: The GoMRI Research Board is delighted to partner with Florida, Mississippi/ Alabama, Louisiana and Texas Sea Grant College Programs to enhance GoMRI’s outreach efforts. The GoMRI research consortia have robust outreach programs, and have already integrated GoMRI research findings into their communities through a varied and successful assortment of efforts, including workshops, career events, Teacher at Sea programs, podcasts, educational videos, community lectures, and hands-on lab and outdoor activities, just to name a few.

The new partnership with the four Gulf Sea Grant College Programs will supplement and strengthen current GoMRI outreach efforts, filling in geographic or target audience gaps that may exist. Not only will Sea Grant carry science facts and new findings out to target audiences, but GoMRI will benefit from Sea Grant’s unique ability to collect and assimilate oil spill science priorities, attitudes, and opinions from stakeholders so we can respond to community needs.

For example, the four Sea Grant oil spill science outreach specialists, who are part of the Sea Grant network in the Gulf, will reach out to resource managers, emergency responders and people from industries that rely on a healthy Gulf of Mexico to facilitate stronger ties between GoMRI and its stakeholders and improve two-way communication. Such efforts allow these groups to share concerns and lessons learned, and help the community be better prepared to communicate and respond in the event of future spills.

Question: What are the particular strengths that Sea Grant brings to this partnership?

Answer: Sea Grant programs are located in every coastal state including the Great Lakes region and have a long standing reputation of success in forming relationships and partnerships with stakeholders in coastal regions. In this partnership with GoMRI, Sea Grant will focus on people who live, work and play in the Gulf region. This includes fishermen, people from the tourism industry, local business leaders, staff from environmental organizations, elected officials, emergency responders, and natural resource managers, among others. Sea Grant will also reach out to their extended network of 33 state-based Sea Grant extension programs and personnel to arm them with oil spill science information to better serve the communities that they work with directly. Building on existing relationships that Sea Grant has in the Gulf of Mexico region and beyond will help GoMRI achieve its legacy goal of promoting better understanding, confidence, and public trust, and helping to inform the best science-based policy and management.

The GoMRI research community is producing a vast expanse of scientific findings, as evidenced by the more than 330 journal publications and 1600 presentations to date. With the help of the Sea Grant oil spill science outreach specialists, that information can be translated into resources that can easily be understood by the public. Sea Grant specialists and extension agents will engage in two-way communication with stakeholders to identify where information gaps exist that can be filled by GoMRI research findings.

In addition to educating key target audiences about GoMRI research findings, the partnership will also create an integrated network of knowledgeable, experienced, and effective oil spill science communicators who can transfer their knowledge and processes to other regions should an oil spill occur elsewhere in the US. This will prepare the US-wide Sea Grant network to continue to serve its mission as a credible and trusted resource in disaster response.

Question: What are some of the products that will be developed to help the public better understand research results and the work that GoMRI scientists are doing?

Answer: The oil spill outreach program will allow Sea Grant specialists to find out what types of information stakeholders want and develop tailor-made products for them. The outreach specialists will produce a variety of materials, such as fact sheets and bulletins, focused on meeting information needs. The specialists will also gather input from community workshop participants and work with researchers to share oil spill research results at science seminars that will be facilitated by the specialists. The program’s outreach materials and events will offer information about numerous

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