Farewell 2020 – Note from the Research Board Chair

(From Fall 2019 Newsletter) Dr. Rita Colwell, University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University

Nearly 10 years ago, I received a phone call from Dr. Ellen Williams, then chief scientist at BP, who informed me of a research program being launched that was to be dedicated to understanding impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and would be unprecedented in scope. This program would become the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). When asked by Dr. Williams to consider serving as leader of the program, I readily accepted. Of course, I, as well as the members of the GoMRI Research Board, did not know exactly what the future would bring but we believed that with dedicated effort and in partnership with our Management Team and outstanding research scientists, we could succeed. In fact, the program has, by far, exceeded all our expectations.

Today, I look back on the past 10 years of GoMRI with tremendous pride and great admiration for the dedication of the scientists and the discoveries arising from the entire GoMRI research community. As you read this farewell issue of the GoMRI newsletter, I am certain you will appreciate the relentless pursuit of knowledge exhibited by members of the GoMRI Research Board, Research Consortia, Individual Investigators, and our critical outreach partners. As of this date, the GoMRI community has produced 1,434 peer-reviewed journal articles, created 3,222 valuable sets of data, and contributed significantly to the education and training of more than 1,200 graduate students. These impressive numbers comprise the legacy of GoMRI, but the sum is more than statistics. The legacy of GoMRI includes the community, the network, the family of researchers of all ages, representing many different institutions and reaching across a variety of research disciplines. The GoMRI program has set a new precedent for how collaborative research can be done, and perhaps more importantly, how it should be done if the complex challenges of the world today are to be met.

We learned a great deal during these 10 years, including the amazing role of microorganisms in responding to oil spills, what effects the chemical components of oil have on living systems, why sunlight matters, what MOSSFA is and what it does, and how all of the information gained from every discipline fits together in oceanographic and operational models. And so much more!

Many activities and events that had been organized to present results of GoMRI’s scientific research in the format of interdisciplinary synthesis have had to be rescheduled because of pandemic COVID-19. However, you can stay informed of dates, times, and locations of the rescheduled events by following the GoMRI Synthesis and Legacy page of the website, here. Speaking of the website, GoMRI plans to keep www.gulfresearchinitiative.org available and active for the next 10 years. At the end of 2020, you will notice a new design for the homepage, but you will be able to find all your trusted resources! These include the entire list of publications, datasets, Synthesis products, and the amazing library of educational materials.

It is traditional to look back and reflect when a major and influential activity comes to an end. While GoMRI has, in total, gathered a significant amount of new information and amassed extensive and useful sets of data, we also know there is still so much more work to be done and to be incorporated into what has been done to date. Therefore, I am excited for the future of the Gulf of Mexico and the utility of the oil spill research we have done… knowing that it more still is needed. High-impact publications of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative will continue to be released over the next several years and will serve to guide future Gulf scientists. Graduate students who grew up in GoMRI will become leaders in their fields and the knowledge gained from GoMRI research will inform decisions in the future. I look forward to all that is ahead and thank each of you for your role in GoMRI over the past 10 years!

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