Fall 2018 – Guest Frequently Asked Questions

(From Fall 2018 Newsletter) Dr. Larry McKinney, Executive Director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies and Chair of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science (GoMOSES) conference Executive Committee (ExComm), answered a few questions about the role of the ExComm, the 2019 GoMOSES conference, and plans for the future.

Question: What is the Executive Committee’s role in planning the GoMOSES conference?

Answer: The Executive Committee’s (ExComm) role in planning GoMOSES is to provide the excellent and experienced conference planning team both actual support and, probably more importantly, moral support in planning the largest and most complex annual science meeting focused on the Gulf of Mexico. The ExComm, as we call ourselves, is made up of representatives from the Gulf science community who positively contribution to making GoMOSES as impactful as possible. While the initial members were appointed by the GoMRI Research Board, the ExComm has grown and evolved to meet the changing needs and goals of GoMOSES. Nearly all the ExComm members are seasoned hands in putting workshops and conferences together, so no matter the challenge, someone on the committee has probably successfully dealt with it before. After so many years of successful GoMOSES meetings, the mechanics of putting it together are well established. There are always new challenges in execution, and that is where the ExComm helps the planning team. Hurricanes are accommodated and obdurate hotels are endured with the help of the ExComm. Making sure GoMOSES has an interesting schedule of presentations and posters that reflect the complex and diverse nature of Gulf research is an annual challenge, and I think this is where the ExComm members really shine in reviewing proposals and helping session organizers (also on my list of heroes) to work their magic making GoMOSES seem as smooth and organized as it is every year. GoMOSES may seem like the swan serenely sailing along the lake. The ExComm and staff are beneath the surface madly paddling to make it so.

Question: How does this year’s theme reflect the evolution of the conference in recent years?

Answer: This year’s conference theme, Changing Focus: From Oil Spill Response to Restoration, is an effort to reflect the accelerating shift of nearly a decade of Gulf research related to Deepwater Horizon. It is also an effort to encourage the Gulf’s science community to both look to improving science support of restoration and to engage synthesis efforts to better focus on future research priorities. It is an extraordinary time for the Gulf. Never has so much restoration funding been aligned with a greater need in the Gulf of Mexico. And, never has there been a greater need for support from the Gulf’s science community. That community, led by GoMRI, has stepped up. Think about it for just a moment. We have expended more on science and learned more about the Gulf of Mexico over the last ten years than in all times before. That may seem a bold statement but it is not difficult to back up. The challenge now is bringing all of that science to bear in making sure that the billions of restoration dollars that will be expended in the Gulf over the next ten to fifteen years make a meaningful impact. What better way to move forward than to look back at learn lessons from history, in this case Exxon Valdez. They have been there and done that. Additionally, it is important that we assess all that we have learned in the Gulf since April 20, 2010. There will be many research programs carrying on after GoMRI, and they will build upon a sound foundation. This is an opportunity that hopefully comes only once from such a source, and we must make the most of it. We have an opportunity to show the country and world that funding science and restoration is a sound investment. The GoMOSES opening plenary is an effort to focus our attention on that daunting but achievable challenge.

Question: What are the ExComm’s goals and plans for GoMOSES after GoMRI ends in 2020?

Answer: GoMOSES has become the go-to science meeting for the Gulf of Mexico. The opportunity for 900 to 1,000 Gulf scientists to come together did not exist before the GoMRI program. Now GoMOSES, in addition to topical science sessions of broad appeal, has become the meeting place of opportunity. The Monday before the conference is filled with diverse workshops, and side meetings of just about every Gulf-centric organization abound throughout the week. What comes after GoMOSES and GoMRI, that continues the synergy and sustains this energy, is a topic of great focus within the ExComm. There are three key Gulfwide meetings acknowledged as “must attend.” GoMOSES is one, and the GOMA All Hands and the Harte Research Institute’s State of the Gulf Summit are the other two. All three share some common ground but are distinct in their own right. As other Gulf science programs hit their stride, especially the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Gulf Research Program, RESTORE Centers of Excellence, and the NOAA RESTORE Science Program, all are considering how to better coordinate and work together. Some future form of GoMOSES is a part of answering that question. The ExComm has fostered an effort to develop a GoMOSES successor. The GoMRI Research Board is intent on supporting such an ongoing effort, if it can sustain what GoMOSES initiated and has so successfully sustained. The Gulf of Mexico Restoration and Ecosystem Sciences Symposium (GoMRESS) is the ExComm’s evolving vision of what that might look like. This year and next will be the last official GoMOSES meetings, and the ExComm is working towards a sustainable successor. By the time we meet in Tampa for the 2020 GoMOSES, our goal is to have GoMRESS ready to roll out.

[Back to the Fall 2018 Newsletter]