Summer 2015 – Note from the Research Board Chair

(From Summer 2015 Newsletter) Dr. Rita Colwell, University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University

As stated in the Legacy Goals of the GoMRI, one of our primary objectives is to build scientific and intellectual capacity for rapid and coordinated response and effective mitigation strategies for future oil spill events. GoMRI has demonstrated significant success and results as presented in the extensive publications of GoMRI scientists. Also, a manifestation of this success is the participation of graduate students in GoMRI-funded research, in effect, the next generation of oil spill scientists. While carrying out research and guiding graduate students, GoMRI scientists have joined oil spill emergency response teams as the need arises.

More than 600 scientific publications have been published that derive from GoMRI-funded science and these have appeared at a rate of approximately 50 manuscripts published in peer reviewed journals each quarter, with more in the pipeline. These publications comprise a lasting contribution to the scientific literature, providing researchers for generations to come information that they can rely on and build upon. GoMRI publications are archived and can be accessioned from the GoMRI website here<. Recent publications have frequently been highlighted in our newsletter (visit Science Corner on page 9) and in the Featured News section of our website. GRIIDC serves as the GoMRI data archive and the GRIIDC team is in the process of enhancing their software to be able to link data sets to publications.

GoMRI builds intellectual and scientific capacity by integrating graduate students into the ongoing research. Including students directly in the research helps to train and develop the next generation of oil spill scientists. These students are the front line of those who will continue this important work into the future, representing an important component of the GoMRI legacy, long after GoMRI itself has completed its work (visit the FAQs section of this newsletter on page 12 for more information about graduate students involved in the program).

Perhaps most important is that GoMRI scientists and the research they do are actually being called upon when oil spill events have occurred. They have assisted in emergency response efforts. It is a measure of the respect they have earned that emergency responders look to our GoMRI scientists for assistance during oil spills. The benefit to our GoMRI scientists is that not only are called upon as experts, but they gain unprecedented access to spill sites for study. There is a relationship and strong trust being built between emergency responders, the Coast Guard and other Federal agencies, and GoMRI scientists that allows for better coordination and faster response to oil spills. Examples of these coordinated efforts include the Hercules gas blowout in 2013, the Galveston Bay oil spill in 2014, and, most recently, the Santa Barbara oil spill in May of this year. Admiral Thad Allen stressed the critical importance of placing “the best available information into the hands of the decision makers” when he spoke at the plenary session of the 2014 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference. In summary, the body of scientific literature that has been produced, the cadre of young oil spill scientists that is being trained, and the strong relationships that now exist between responders and scientists attest to the success of GoMRI in building the capacity for meeting the challenges of future oil spill events.

[Back to the Summer 2015 Newsletter]