USFSP oceanographer works to prepare for next disaster

(From Tampa Bay Times / November 2, 2019)

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 was the largest marine oil spill in history. Almost 5 million barrels of oil flowed unchecked into the Gulf of Mexico for six months; the damage persists and is still not entirely understood.

Deepwater Horizon will never happen again. That doesn’t mean the sea is safe; it means the next industrial disaster will have its own character, create its own unique brand of devastation.

Anticipating the next catastrophe — and figuring out what to do about it — has been one of Steven Murawski’s jobs for years. Murawski is chairman of biological oceanography at the University of South Florida College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg.

An oceanographer specializing in marine population and ecosystem dynamics, he has been actively involved in assessing the environmental impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill and its long-term implications for managing the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico. He serves as principal investigator for the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems, an 18-institution global scientific partnership comprised of over 150 researchers.

Murawski is the lead editor of Scenarios and Responses to Future Deep Oil Spills: Fighting the Next War. The book is a scientific and technical text summarizing the massive research project, and it isn’t for the casual reader. But its overarching message, Murawski says, is for everyone. Since Deepwater Horizon blew, crude oil production from ultra-deep waters has increased, not slowed down. Modeling what can possibly go wrong (and there’s a lot) can prepare us for the next time. As Murawski and his co-authors write in the introduction, “The work described herein has been undertaken with the goal of preventing such accidents from ever happening again and reducing risks to the environment and people should they reoccur.”

Steven Murawski will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 9 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. He will speak at 11:15 a.m. in Davis Hall Room 130. Free. festivalofreading.com.

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