Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Seeks to Understand, Help Gulf

Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative remains steadfast in investigating the effect of oil spills on the environment and public health.

(From / by Chris Turner-Neal) — After the disastrous Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the summer of 2010, BP promised to renew its commitment to the Gulf of Mexico and the people who use it, and to work to repair the damage done by the uncontained well. “Put your money where your mouth is,” America grumbled, and went back to pretending to care about the World Cup. Quietly, almost unobtrusively, BP did exactly that. On May 20, well before the leak had been contained and the damage fully assessed, the company established a $500 million research fund to explore the impacts of the oil spill, as well as potential ways to mitigate its effects, over the next ten years. Tapped to head the new Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) was veteran scientific administrator and former head of the National Science Foundation Dr. Rita Colwell. Oil Online recently had the chance to speak with Dr.Colwell and learn more about GoMRI, its research mission, and how recovery is proceeding. 

“I have to sing the praises of BP” is not necessarily a phrase one expects a scientist with a long interest in water and public health to use, yet Dr. Colwell stressed the enormous opportunity GoMRI represented for scientific study. Though she had already had a long and enviable career, Colwell was excited to be asked to head GoMRI, citing the thrill of the independent, multidisciplinary, and—music to a researcher’s ears—well-funded research she would helm. The project dovetailed in many ways with her prior research experience and interests, and she had the chance to recruit “the best and brightest” to do boots-on-the-ground, flippers-in-the-water basic research with the potential to address pressing public needs. The project is also massive in scope and operation: GoMRI boasts 2600 researchers, students, and staff, representing 203 universities, 41 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 15 countries, and representing the fields of biology, chemistry, oceanography, environmental science, public health, and more. 

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GoMRI “In the news” is a reposting of articles about GoMRI-funded research (published by various news outlets). The author’s interpretations and opinions expressed in these articles is not necessarily that of GoMRI.