Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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GoMRI Research Program Overview:

Program Development:

Research Themes:

  1. Physical distribution, dispersion, and dilution of petroleum (oil and gas), its constituents, and associated contaminants (e.g., dispersants) under the action of physical oceanographic processes, air sea interactions, and tropical storms.
  2. Chemical evolution and biological degradation of the petroleum/dispersant systems and subsequent interaction with coastal, open-ocean, and deep-water ecosystems.
  3. Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms; and the science of ecosystem recovery.
  4. Technology developments for improved response, mitigation, detection, characterization, and remediation associated with oil spills and gas releases.
  5. Impact of oil spills on public health including behavioral, socioeconomic, environmental risk assessment, community capacity and other population health considerations and issues.

Development of Research Themes:

Since the DWH spill in April 2010, the oceanographic and environmental communities have strongly advocated the importance of research in the Gulf of Mexico and the affected Gulf States for characterization of the event, elucidation of the processes affecting the oil/dispersant system, and assessment of the long-term impact. Numerous discussions and three important meetings open to public participation were held to define the GoMRI intellectual themes.

The first meeting was convened by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy on 19 May 2010 in Washington, DC and was hosted by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The meeting included approximately 40 leaders from major ocean research institutions, with strong representation from Gulf Coast States.

The second meeting was held on 3 June 2010 at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, LA and was co-sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Consortium for Ocean Leadership. This meeting included about 200 researchers representing the major oceanographic institutions and academic departments in the United States, including representatives from all of the affected Gulf States. The meeting was convened to address both short-term response actions and long-term monitoring and understanding of environmental impacts.

The third meeting was held 22-23 June 2010 at New Orleans, LA and was sponsored by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science. Over 300 participants attended the workshop, including representatives from all of the affected Gulf Coast States. The meeting was convened to address public health impacts and responses to them in the short- and long-term, including monitoring and surveillance of potentially affected populations.

The GoMRI Research Board also convened a Public Health Workshop on July 30,2013 to inform the GoMRI Research Board of ongoing research and potential future directions for investment related to public health impacts of oil spills with emphasis on the Deepwater Horizon event. As a result of this meeting, the wording of Theme 5 has been updated to be more encompassing of what the GoMRI Research Board hopes to accomplish in the public health arena.

The output from these meetings is the basis for the major research themes to be addressed in future request for proposals.