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Southern Miss Professors Continue to Assist in Gulf Oil Spill Research

Thu, 09/13/2012 - 09:59am | By: Van Arnold

Research teams that include University of Southern Mississippi professors Dr. Daniel Savin and Dr. Joseph Griffitt have received additional grant funding to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) recently announced that funding had been approved for 19 grants, which equates to approximately $20 million that will be awarded to researchers over the next three years.

Savin, assistant professor of polymer science and engineering, is lending his expertise to a team that includes Tulane University researchers Scott M. Grayson and Wayne Reed. The team received a little more than $1,000,000 for its project titled “Development of Cost-Efficient and Concentration-Independent Dispersants for Improved Oil Spill Remediation. Savin and his group of Southern Miss graduate/undergraduate students will receive approximately $322,000 from the grant to conduct research related to the project.

“In this project we are trying to develop new chemistry to make the dispersant hold on to the oil longer, allowing it to break down through natural microbial processes,” said Savin. “The dispersants we are proposing do not break apart, so they retain the oil as a droplet and not allow a slick to reform.”

Griffitt, assistant professor in the Department of Coastal Sciences at Southern Miss, is working with a team that includes University of Connecticut professors Christopher Perkins and Thijs Bosker and Purdue University professor Maria S. Sepulveda. The team's grant-funded project is titled “The Combined Effect of Environmental and Anthropogenic Stressors on Fish Health.” Or, as Griffitt explains, “Looking at how environmental factors (salinity and hypoxia) alter fish response to oil exposure.”

That project's total budget is $1.4 million with Griffitt's research group receiving approximately $420,000 for the three-year initiative.

To date, the GoMRI has awarded more than $150 million of the $500 million that BP committed to independent research into the devastating effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that occurred in April, 2010.