Exploring the intersection between oil spill science and response

Fostering emergency responder and university researcher collaboration: Workshop summary report

February 6, 2017 – New Orleans, LA

The Sea Grant Oil Spill Outreach Team hosted this workshop in conjunction with the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference in New Orleans, LA. The workshop focused on bringing local oil spill scientists and emergency responders together to communicate their needs and form partnerships with one another.
View the full workshop agenda here.
Click the image to the left to read the final workshop series report.


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Introduction to the Oil Spill Science Outreach Program

Monica Wilson is Florida Sea Grant’s oil spill research extension specialist. She facilitated the workshop and explained the Sea Grant-GoMRI oil spill science outreach program. View video here.

How does science inform response?

Dave Westerholm is a Senior Executive with NOAA and serves as the Director of the Office of Response and Restoration. He manages an Emergency Response Program which includes Scientific Support to oil and chemical spills. He oversees NOAA’s Disaster Response Center and his Damage Assessment and Restoration Program is responsible for assessing damage under the Clean Water Act, CERCLA, and Oil Pollution Act. Dave explained the government’s response process and how the latest scientific research is introduced within that framework. View video here.

NOAA’s SSC’s role in oil spill response

Paige Doelling is a NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC) for USCG District 8. She has been the NOAA SSC for coastal Louisiana and Texas since late 2013, serving as the principal scientific advisor to the Coast Guard for oil and hazmat spill response and planning in the coastal zone. Paige shared the responsibilities of the SSCs and the Scientific Support Team during an oil spill. She also shared training opportunities for those interested in learning more about response. View video here.

Science and Response

Commander Kelly Denning and Lieutenant Ryan Dickson from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector New Orleans explained the Coast Guard’s roles and responsibilities in oil spill response. They spoke about the organization of the Incident Command system and how that command system is utilized during an oil spill. View Denning’s video here.

View Dickson’s video here.

An industry perspective on offshore oil spill response

Tim Nedwed of ExxonMobil spoke about the industry’s perspective on research. He talked about the basic tools used during an offshore oil spill response, emphasizing that speed is the key to effectively combatting an oil spill. He also shared some of the challenges of integrating academic research and oil industry research and how collaboration between these two entities is key to turning research into commercial technology. View video here.

Marsh health from before the BP oil spill to 2016

Dr. Eugene Turner from Louisiana State University shared his latest oil spill research on Louisiana salt marshes. He spoke about the impacts the oil had to the marshes of Louisiana and the land loss that the Louisiana coastline has experienced. He also shared some of the knowledge that scientist have gained from studying marshes during and after the Deepwater Horizon. View video here.

Responding to oil spills means understanding what oil is, what it does when spilled, and what to do and not to do during response

Dr. Ed Overton is an Emeritus Professor at Louisiana State University. Dr. Overton spoke about oil as a natural product, its structure, and chemical components. He reviewed the mechanisms that cause environmental impacts from oil spills. These include toxicity and route of exposure, smothering and coating, as well as oxygen depletion. He also explained what happens to oil when it is spilled into the water and the weathering processes it undergoes once it’s in the environment. View video here.

There were two Question and Answer (Q&A) sessions held after Commander Denning and Lt. Dickson’s presentation and after Dr. Overton’s presentation. Those in attendance asked the speakers questions about response as well as how researchers can begin to get more involved and how their science can be incorporated into response plans. The first Q&A session can be viewed here .

The second session is here.

After the speakers, the Oil Spill Outreach Team broke the audience into four groups to conduct an input session. Group members were asked specific questions about research and response collaborations and how those can be improved for future spills. The groups provided potential solutions to these challenges.


If you would like to learn more about our seminars, please visit our presentations webpage.