Winter 2015 – Frequently Asked Questions by Dr. Chuck Wilson
– March 12, 2015
(From Winter 2015 Newsletter) Dr. Chuck Wilson, Chief Scientific Officer for the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), answers a few of the most frequently asked questions about the program.
Question: The GoMRI just announced twelve Consortia awards through the RFP-IV process. How can we expect to see the consortia that were previously funded through RFP-I build on their current research as they move forward over the next three years?
Answer: All eight of the RFPI consortia have done an excellent job in fulfilling their respective missions. GoMRI investigators have advanced oil spill modeling, identified and tracked previously understood and new oil decomposition analyses through various pathways, tracked impacts and recovery through the ecosystem from the deep ocean to the coastal marshes, advanced technology, and improved our understanding of health effects on various organisms. An important goal of the GoMRI model is to build research capacity in the Gulf region and the five continuing consortia have all proposed to move their respective programs into new directions that will grow our capacity to respond to and predict oil spill impacts. These established teams should be even more productive over the next 3 years as they already have worked to establish that “capacity” and can continue the current momentum. Their equipment and teams are in place, cruises are scheduled and laboratory experiments are in design to advance our understanding of oil spill impacts.
Question: How will the seven newly formed consortia impact the current scope of GoMRI research, particularly when addressing the five GoMRI research themes?
Answer: The seven new consortia will take GoMRI in several innovative directions, many of which touch on ecological impacts. We have one consortia continuing their NOAA funded research programs on marine mammals with emphasis on whales. The impact of oil spills on marine mammals is poorly understood and sampling in particular is a challenge. There are several new and one continuing consortia working on marine fishes. Fishes are highly mobile and tend to be higher trophic level feeders; they will address questions such as has fish behavior changed or have there been longer term impacts to reproductive capacity or gene pools as a result of the spill. The difficult challenge which we expect these groups to meet is that they must tease out cause and effect, as there are a number of anthropogenic and natural stressors in the marine environment. We have also added one focused public health project that will conduct research, outreach, and education activities aimed at assessing and addressing the public health, social, and economic impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico region. This Consortium brings together distinguished scientists who plan to address a major cross-cutting issue of concern to Gulf region stakeholders and decision makers: How can communities build resilience to adverse future events like the DWH oil spill?
Question: With the advent of this second round of Consortia funding, how are we working with NAS and RESTORE to avoid duplication and leverage opportunities?
Answer: Like GoMRI, several other national organizations focused on the Gulf region have been formed through various funding mechanisms as a result of the Deepwater Horizon tragedy. The National Academy of Sciences Gulf Research Program, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the RESTORE program housed within NOAA have, like GOMRI, each developed and formalized their own role, scope, mission and process for distributing funds. All four groups have worked together to communicate activities under our respective charges. Each program is unique and different, but by having regular conference calls and meeting at conferences of opportunity we have prevented overlap and duplication since inception. Three of these groups cosponsor and help guide the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference; its priority