July 29, 2014  

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Southern Miss Gulf Coast Researchers Receive Grant for Oil Spill Research

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Dr. David Butler,director and associate professor of the International Development (IDV) Doctoral Program at The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast, and Dr. Edward Sayre, assistant director and associate professor for IDV, will use a $450,000 federal grant to continue their research on Hurricane Katrina by studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The grant, awarded by the Department of Homeland Security through the Southeast Regional Research Initiative (SERRI), will fund the research project from May 2011 through August 2012. The funding will allow Butler and Sayre to conduct interviews with responders and local leaders, arrange focus groups with the public, develop a survey instrument, and model the oil spill recovery.

“The goal of the grant is to measure the economic and social impact of the oil spill on Mississippi and Alabama,” said Butler. “This includes the direct and indirect impacts which are often hard to measure and often overlooked in a simple analysis. Our findings will be invaluable in understanding how people, communities and cities respond to a human-induced disaster like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill compared to a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina.”

The current research project serves as a second phase to a previous project led by Butler and Sayre. The previous research project, “Modeling Micro-Economic Resilience and Restoration after a Large-Scale Catastrophe: An Analysis of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina,” began in 2009 after the researchers received initial funding from SERRI. With the first project near completion, the researchers presented an opportunity to continue their research through a second phase to further the model.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil spill is another disaster that affects Katrina recovery as well as creates new issues,” said Butler. “This new project will build off of the previous one, but incorporate aspects of the oil spill as well. Additionally, we will be looking at social networks before, during and after the disaster event to model how these networks change during a disaster.”

Butler added that by understanding the social network dynamics, the information “will assist responders and planners with resource allocation and information dissemination.”

The findings of the previous research project were published in a white paper released to the public in August 2010 – five years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast. Butler and Sayre’s findings concluded that employment in Mississippi’s three coastal counties had not yet fully recovered from Hurricane Katrina before it was hit with the recession of 2008.

“For the Gulf Coast this has been a rolling disaster,” explained Butler. “First there was Hurricane Katrina, then the recession of 2008, and now the oil spill of 2010. It has been difficult for many coastal residents to regain their footing in the last five years.”

A complete copy of Butler and Sayre’s initial research project, “Modeling Micro-Economic Resilience and Restoration after a Large-Scale Catastrophe: An Analysis of the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina,” may be downloaded at: http://www.usm.edu/international/files/Katrina-Employment-White-Paper100806.pdf.

For more information, contact the Southern Miss Gulf Coast Office of University Communications at 228.865.4573.