Local researchers will lead a continued assessment of the BP oil spill’s impact on the environment under a new $16 million grant.
(From houmatoday.com / by Xerxes Wilson) — The Coastal Waters Consortium, led by Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium Director Nancy Rabalais, was awarded the grant by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, the gatekeeper of $500 million in BP money to pay for research on the 2010 spill.
The Coastal Waters Consortium had previously received an $11 million grant to conduct research over the past three years.
“It was definitely not a done deal. We knew we would have to compete,” Rabalais said. “We were thrilled to continue the work.”
The money was awarding in a wave of $140 million going to 12 different groups to conduct spill research.
Other members of the Coastal Waters Consortium are Louisiana State University, LSU AgCenter, Connecticut College, George Washington University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Marine Biological Laboratory, Rutgers University, University of Tennessee, University of Maryland, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Rabalais said there are several hypothesis the consortium will continue explore. Those include questions about the level of toxins remaining in the environment, effects to the food web and the spill’s effect on shoreline erosion.
Prior research documented shoreline erosion caused by oiling and future work will research whether that erosion is permanent, Rabalais said.
The research will also look at historic contamination in the marshes compared to contamination from the oil spill.
The Louisiana marshes are not pristine when it comes to hydrocarbons,” Rabalais said. “There are pipelines that break and diesel fuel spilled. There is a level of hydrocarbons there already.”
The research will help scientists to increase their knowledge of the Gulf, said Rita Colwell, chairwoman of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Board.
“A significant benefit of our prior support is increased collaboration among scientists and institutions across the Gulf. This round of funding will continue to build a research community focused on understanding the dynamics of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem,” she said.
The Gulf Of Mexico Research Initiative is a 10-year, independent body that consists of 20 experts in science, research administration and public health.
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