LSU Researchers Funded to Address Oil Spill Issues

12/01/2014 11:18 AM

oiled coastlineBATON ROUGE – The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GoMRI, recently announced its second round of BP-funded consortium research grants to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. In this round, GoMRI has granted $140 million to 12 collaborative research projects, which support several LSU researchers’ work. One of the projects LSU sociologists are leading is the first GoMRI-funded study of the oil spill’s impact on human health and coastal communities.

“It was clear that research on public health is needed,” said Rita Colwell, chairman of the GoMRI Research Board. “I’m pleased that in this round of awards there are funds to study public health issues in the Gulf of Mexico region associated with the oil spill.”


Since 2010, LSU researchers have collected data on the mental and physical health impacts of the oil spill on residents in coastal Louisiana. LSU will receive $1.2 million from GoMRI to continue this research as part of the Consortium for Resilient Gulf Communities project. This consortium, which consists of experts from RAND Corporation, Tulane University, Louisiana Public Health Institute, the University of South Alabama and LSU, received $8 million to extend the research to the Gulf Coast communities that were impacted most directly by the oil spill.

“LSU and its consortium partners bring a deep local knowledge and a variety of expertise to address the main concern of Gulf region stakeholders and decision makers, which is how can communities build resilience for future adverse events like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?” said Matthew Lee, LSU sociology professor, senior associate vice chancellor of the Office of Research and Economic Development and lead co-principal investigator for this project.

The researchers will survey a large, but targeted geographical region in order to collect an array of information on demographically diverse coastal communities and a variety of coastal industries.

“We are also funding research focused on increasing our knowledge of the biology of the Gulf and the interaction of oil with the ecosystem,” Colwell said.

The Coastal Waters Consortium, composed of LSU and 13 other institutions including the lead research institution, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, received funding to expand upon its research of the impacts of petroleum pollution on the marine and coastal ecosystems. The multi-agency consortium was granted $16.1 million to continue its research. This research, which includes work from more than 20 researchers, has evolved to examine how larger scale impacts such as sea-level rise, salinity changes from proposed freshwater diversions, warming temperatures and changes in animal and plant life will interact with future oiling events.

“Our success in the review was based in large measure on our research productivity, successful administration, solid education and outreach and successful mid-project review outcomes over the last three years. It was the result of the combination of good ideas, hard-nosed science, engaged communication strategies, relevance and a helpful administration that made the difference,” said Gene Turner, LSU Boyd professor in the Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Coastal Waters Consortium executive committee member and co-principal investigator on this project.

Additionally, the project will continue its public outreach and education components, which includes the training of students from high school through graduate school levels. New to this round of research are efforts to reach out to the oil spill response industry.

For the 2015-17 program, the GoMRI Research Board received 47 proposals. Of those, 12 were funded.

“Our research expertise at LSU benefits the entire Gulf Coast region particularly our most vulnerable communities. Grants such as GoMRI offer valuable opportunities for our region to convene the best minds to address our most pressing environmental concerns today,” said Kalliat T. Valsaraj, LSU vice chancellor of research and economic development.

GoMRI is a 10-year research initiative established in 2010 and funded by a $500 million commitment by BP. Twenty experts in science, research administration and public health comprise the independent GoMRI Research Board that makes the funding decisions.


Additional Link: Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Awards $140 Million to Support Research




Alison Satake
LSU Media Relations

Posted on Monday, December 1, 2014