How does science guide oil spill response?

How does science guide oil spill response? Collaborating before, during and after a spill

April 24, 2019 – St. Petersburg, FL
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Emergency responders and scientists came together to network, communicate, and form partnerships. Federal, state, and industry responders explained how oil spill response works in each of their respective rolls. Scientists shared research results from case studies, coral toxicity, and deep-ocean trends.

This seminar was organized by the Sea Grant Oil Spill Outreach Team and was hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, FL. The event was the last of a five-part series of similar workshops conducted in the other four Gulf states.

View the agenda here. View the flyer here.

Introduction to the seminar

Dr. Monica Wilson of Florida Sea Grant welcomed participants to the workshop and facilitated the input session. She explained the Sea Grant-GoMRI oil spill science outreach program as well as the importance of the significance of the workshop. View slides here.

Morning Session

The morning session consisted of five speakers who spoke about the response side of oil spills.

Brad Benggio is the NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator for United State Coast Guard District 7. His presentation included a brief explanation of NOAA’s Office of Response & Restoration and its role during an oil spill. He also shared what a NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator is responsible for and the structure of incident command. View slides here.

Timyn Rice is the Scientific Support Coordinator for the state of Florida with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute (FWRI). Timyn briefly touched on FWRI’s oil spill support program and spoke on how environmental sensitivity index maps are useful during spills. He explained how the maps include shoreline habitats and biological resources that are necessary when making response decisions. View slides here.

Peter Wenner is an environmental specialist with Florida’s Department of Environmental Protection. Peter spoke about the scientific tools and technologies used to respond to oil and chemical spills. He also shared an example of how science-based decision were made relating to air monitoring. View slides here.

MST2 Eric Post and MSTC Dale Walker from the United States Coast Guard spoke about Coast Guard’s role during a pollution response. They shared how science and research is incorporated into response,  how Coast Guard uses interagency collaborations when responding to spills, and the use of volunteers and how they may get involved. View Post slides here and Walker slides here.

Paul Schuler is the Director of External Affairs for the Americas from Oil Spill Response Limited (OSRL), headquartered in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Paul represented the industry response side and spoke about the options and strategies available when a spill occurs. He gave an overview of the equipment and training available as well as explanation of the Global Incident Response Group created by the oil industry. View slides here.

Q & A panel with morning speakers:

Afternoon Session

The afternoon session of the workshop consisted of four speakers and focused on the oil spill research and assessments that has been done since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Dr. Scott Zengel is the Vice President and Environmental Scientist with Research Planning, Inc located in Tallahassee, FL. Dr. Zengel shared results from case studies conducted on heavily oiled salt marshes. He explained how different types of cleanup treatments were tested and on oiled marshes. The team monitored specific locations chosen for this study to determine what cleanup techniques worked best. Dr. Zengel published these results in a paper titled Heavily oiled salt marsh following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, ecological comparisons of shoreline cleanup treatments and recovery, which can be accessed at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0132324. View slides here.

Dr. Abigail Renegar is a research scientist at Nova Southeastern University’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography. Dr Renegar shared her experiences in collaborating with oil industry representatives to design a purposeful coral toxicity study. She shared the phases of the project and how decisions were made with the research partners. Dr. Renegar also showed photos of a few observations of the type of response the corals had when they were exposed to PAH exposures. View slides here.

Dr. Isabel Romero is a research associate with the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science. Dr. Romero gave a brief overview of the DEEPEND consortium and shared some of the impacts the oil spill has had on the deep-pelagic environment. She also spoke about the consortium’s accomplishments and the number of new species they discovered while conducting their research. View slides here.

Dr. Daniel Hahn is the primary NOAA Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) spill coordinator for Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, the U.S. Caribbean, and the offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Dr. Hahn spoke about the assessment and restoration side of oil and chemical spills. He gave an overview of NRDA and how science is used to help activities after a spill occurs. View slides here.

Q & A panel with afternoon speakers:

Questions? Please contact Monica Wilson with Florida Sea Grant at monicawilson447@ufl.edu or 727-553-3516.

Featured image: Scientists pour oil in the tank at the Ohmsett facility in New Jersey to test new dispersants.