RESTON, Va., Aug. 30, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Research on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico took a major step forward today with the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI) Research Board''s announcement that eight Research Consortia will be funded for the next three years. A total of $112.5 million over three years will support this portion of the GRI research effort. These teams will investigate the fate of petroleum in the environment, the impacts of the spill, and the development of new tools and technology for responding to future spills and improving mitigation and restoration.
The grant recipients announced today were selected using a competitive merit-review process.
The GRI Research Board is an independent body established by BP to administer the company''s 10-year, $500 million commitment to independent research into the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident. Through a series of competitive grant programs, the GRI is investigating the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and the affected coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events and their environmental stresses and public health implications. The GRI also funds research that improves techniques for detecting oil and gas, spill mitigation, and technologies to characterize and remediate spills. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improving the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.
"I know the research community has been awaiting this announcement," said Dr. Rita R. Colwell, Chairman of the GRI Research Board. "The GRI worked aggressively to develop RFP-I to ensure that we stimulate critically important research. The GRI has continued to work relentlessly to receive and review grants in order to make this announcement by the deadline we set last April."
The grants awarded today were in response to RFP-I, a request for proposals the GRI Research Board issued on April 25, 2011. This request for proposals solicited applications from Research Consortia – groups of researchers with compatible expertise from four or more institutions – to address one or more of the five intellectual themes established by the GRI Research Board. These themes are: 1) Physical distribution, dispersion, and dilution of petroleum, its constituents, and associated contaminants under the action of physical oceanographic processes, air-sea interactions, and tropical storms; 2) Chemical evolution and biological degradation of the petroleum/dispersant systems and subsequent interaction with coastal, open-ocean, and deep-water ecosystems; 3) Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms, and the science of ecosystem recovery; 4) Technology developments for improved responses, mitigation, detection, characterization, and remediation associated with oil spills and gas releases; and 5) Fundamental scientific research integrating results from the other four themes in the context of public health.
"These Consortia establish a research community of great strength with promise of substantial achievement. The results will illuminate the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill, and enable appropriate responses should there be future releases not only in the Gulf of Mexico, but anywhere that oil and gas is produced in ocean environments. They will also assist local, state and federal agencies in their work to remediate the consequences of the oil spill in coastal and marine environments. The long term contribution of this research will be of major benefit to industry, governments, and the people who live along the Gulf of Mexico coast," said Colwell.
"The GRI received a number of excellent proposals," said Colwell; "Following a competitive merit review process the Research Board approved funding for eight Research Consortia. These groups will be funded for the next three years and will then be eligible to apply for additional funding."
The Research Consortia funded are:
This is the second round of funding the GRI has provided this year. On June 30, 2011, the Research Board awarded 17 grants totaling $1.5 million to support the time-sensitive acquisition of critical samples and observations associated with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico. Funding for these grants was awarded under the terms of an emergency request for proposals, RFP-III.
There will be an additional opportunity for researchers to pursue funding from the GRI. Colwell advised, "The GRI is working to develop and issue another request for proposals, RFP-II, which will award approximately $7.5 million a year in smaller grants to individual or small teams of researchers."
GRI Research Board members are:
Rita R. Colwell, Ph.D., Research Board Chair
Margaret Leinen, Ph.D., Research Board Vice Chair
Debra S. Benoit, M.Ed.
Peter G. Brewer, Ph.D.
Richard E. Dodge, Ph.D.
John W. Farrington, Ph.D.
Kenneth M. Halanych, Ph.D.
David Halpern, Ph.D.
William T. Hogarth, Ph.D.
Jorg Imberger, Ph.D.
Raymond L. Orbach, Ph.D.
Jurgen Rullkotter, Ph.D.
David R. Shaw, Ph.D.
John Shepherd, Ph.D.
Bob Shipp, Ph.D.
Burton Singer, Ph.D.
Ciro V. Sumaya, M.D., MPHTM
Denis Wiesenburg, Ph.D.
Charles Wilson, Ph.D.
Dana Yoerger, Ph.D.