One last bridge: Final researcher/responder workshop April 24 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

In April of 2015, Florida Sea Grant’s Monica Wilson convened a meeting in Port Aransas, Texas, to get people whose job is to study oil spills in the room with people whose job is to respond to them. Wilson, a specialist with a newly formed Sea Grant team dedicated to sharing oil spill science around the Gulf, wanted to give researchers and responders a chance to learn from one another—to share interests and frustrations, hoping to find common ground on what aspects of oil spill science would be the most helpful to responders for researchers to study next. She called this workshop “Bridging the gap.”

“We received great feedback from those in attendance,” Wilson said of this first event. “They enjoyed the information that was shared as well as the opportunity to meet and network with people who they normally do not or have not associated themselves with in the past.”

Wilson decided to continue the conversation around the Gulf. In the ensuing years, she hosted meetings following the same format in New Orleans, Biloxi, and Mobile. At every meeting, she scheduled in an opportunity for attendees to breakout in small groups and discuss the following questions: How are research findings useful to oil spill responders and what role can academia play in response? How can response efforts contribute to research opportunities? What are the greatest challenges or barriers for these types of collaboration? What are some of the solutions to tackle these challenges? Are there any tools or strategies that you feel would be useful to help bridge this gap? She is keeping track of the responses at every meeting to get an idea of commonalities and differences around the Gulf.

Having moved west to east, Wilson will be finishing the seminar series a stone’s throw from her home office in St. Petersburg, Florida. The final installment, “How does science guide oil spill response? Collaborating before, during and after a spill,” will take place on April 24 at the Karen Steidinger Auditorium in the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. She has invited a mix of government and industry oil spill responders and university researchers to present to the room and of course will have a break out session to encourage more in-depth conversations between presenters and attendees.

“I hope this event brings researchers and responders together to discuss ways to collaborate for future spills,” said Wilson, adding, “It is important to have these discussions and network opportunities before a spill occurs.”

As with all Sea Grant oil spill science outreach meetings, the April 24 event is free and open to the public, with lunch provided to attendees who register online by April 19. The seminar will also be livestreamed via webinar for those whose schedules do not allow them to be in St. Petersburg on that day. To learn more about this and other oil spill science outreach meetings available, check out the ‘Seminars and workshops’ page on gulfseagrant.org.

Featured image: Florida Sea Grant oil spill science specialist Monica Wilson interacts with attendees during breakout sessions at a Research/Response meeting in New Orleans in 2017.