Southern Miss-Led Consortia Receives $11 Million Award for Oil Research
Wed, 11/19/2014 - 17:09pm | By: Van Arnold
A research consortia led by The University of Southern Mississippi has been awarded $11 million by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to conduct scientific studies of the impacts of oil, dispersed oil and dispersant on the Gulf's ecosystem and public health.
The funding is part of a $140 million award by GoMRI to support research that will be conducted from 2015-17. A total of 12 research consortia were chosen for the awards. Each consortia consists of a lead investigator and collaborators from four or more other institutions.
Southern Miss is the state's only university leading one of the 12 selected consortia. The group will focus on a project titled, “CONsortium for oil spill exposure pathways in COastal River-Dominated Ecosystems (CONCORDE).” Dr. Monty Graham, chair of the Department of Marine Science at Southern Miss, is the lead investigator of the project.
“Our primary emphasis is on near-shore waters in the northern Gulf of Mexico and how rivers influence the transport, fate and toxicity of oil as it interacts with coastal waters and biology,” said Graham. “Deepwater Horizon revealed many surprises including formation of deep plumes and impacts to wetlands. One of the major missing linkages is how oil interacted with the nearshore environment around the large river inputs of the north central Gulf.”
A total of 47 research proposals were submitted for merit review by the GoMRI board. The Southern Miss-led consortia, including the Department of Marine Science located at Stennis Space Center and the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs, features a prestigious group of research partners, including Mississippi State; Rutgers University; Oregon State University; Dauphin Island Sea Lab; Old Dominion; University of Montana; the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. There are 15 co-investigators in addition to Graham.
Dr. Gordon Cannon, vice president-research at Southern Miss, notes that the award serves to illustrate the University's reputation and expertise as a leader in research for the Gulf South region.
“I'm not at all surprised that the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has selected these Southern Miss researchers to lead a major project aimed at understanding the complex chemical and physical processes that take place in the Gulf,” said Cannon. “The Gulf is our backyard, and we have a long and successful history of studying all aspects of its nature – it's what we do.”
Graham points out that CONCORDE will help fulfill GoMRI's mission of using rigorous science and advanced technologies as means for “improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of oil, dispersed oil and dispersant and their environmental stresses.” The integration and synthesis of CONCORDE research will advance the understanding of how coastal marine ecosystems respond to, and recover from, large-magnitude oiling events.
GoMRI is a 10-year research initiative established in 2010 and funded by a $500 million commitment by British Petroleum. GoMRI is administered by an independent Research Board, which consists of 20 experts in science, research administration, and public health. The Research Board evaluates research proposals following merit review guidelines of the National Academies of Science and procedures similar to those of the U.S. National Science Foundation.