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FSU to Lead Oil Spill Research

A research team led by Florida State University will receive about $20 million over three years to study effects of Gulf spill.

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The nation will be looking to the Florida State University and its expertise in the marine sciences as it studies the long-term aftereffects and changes in the Gulf of Mexico following last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) announced Tuesday that the FSU-led consortium "Deep-C: Deepsea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico" will receive roughly $20 million in research funds — $6.75 million each year for three years. The GRI awarded a total of $112.5 million over three years to eight research teams, including the FSU-led consortium, after a competitive review process.

FSU scientists in a wide swath of disciplines will lead a consortium of universities and research institutions as they study the "environmental consequences of petroleum hydrocarbon release in the deep Gulf on living marine resources and ecosystem health."

"About 4.9 million barrels of oil were dumped into the Gulf of Mexico, so it is important to find out exactly how the oil affected marine life and the health of the ecosystem," said FSU Vice President for Research Kirby Kemper. "Florida State University is pleased to be leading the way in helping the nation to understand the answers to important questions that have arisen in the wake of the disaster."

FSU lead researcher Eric Chassignet, professor of oceanography in the university's Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences (EOAS) and the director of FSU's Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies (COAPS), said the news "is exciting because it's recognition of a group effort by the amazing team we've put together."

Chassignet and his colleagues applied to the GRI for grant money in early July, pulling together a winning proposal in a matter of weeks. The GRI is an organization that oversees BP's commitment to provide $500 million in funding over 10 years for independent scientific research related to the Deepwater Horizon spill. Out of more than 80 research consortiums that applied for funding, only eight, including the consortium led by FSU, were chosen.

The GRI award means FSU researchers will work closely with a select group of universities and research institutions including the University of West Florida; the University of South Florida; the University of Miami; the Georgia Institute of Technology; the Naval Research Laboratory; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; the Norwegian Meteorological Institute; the Dauphin Island Sea Lab; and Science Applications International Corporation. Within FSU, about 30 scientists from the university's research and teaching faculties will contribute research and expertise.

"It's an interdisciplinary group consisting of geologists, biologists, chemists, physicists and meteorologists," Chassignet said. "They will be examining how oil is dispersed into the deep ocean and can make it back up to the beaches. Observations will be combined with earth system and food web models in order to better evaluate the consequences of crude oil and gas released in the Gulf of Mexico."

Scientists will take on five research tasks looking at everything from the biogeochemical and ecological effects of the spill to how it actually moved through the Gulf. According to the proposal summary, the resulting combination of earth system and food web research models "will produce a powerful tool set that can be used to investigate and forecast environmental impact scenarios and to assess the influence of hydrocarbon releases on fisheries, tourism and human health."

"The grant validates the collective strengths in the marine and allied sciences at FSU," said W. Ross Ellington, FSU's associate vice president for Research. "It's also an affirmation of Eric's leadership role."

For more information about the FSU-led consortium, visit www.deep-c.org or contact Chassignet at (850) 644-4581 or echassignet@coaps.fsu.edu.

To watch a video on the announcement, click here.