Hogarth on Oil Spill

May 7, 2010

Statement from USF College of Marine Science Dean Bill Hogarth on the Gulf Oil Spill Efforts:

"From the first day it became apparent that the Deepwater Horizon spill posed a threat to the ecology of the Gulf of Mexico and the vital fishing and tourism industries which depend on it, researchers at the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science have enlisted our most advanced technology, knowledge and know-how to aid authorities and the public in understanding the ramifications of this oil spill. The academic community and Florida's State University System have joined forces with local, state and federal authorities to maximize our response capabilities. We are actively engaged in efforts to provide policy and decision-makers with the best evidence based on science, as well as accurate predictions on the oil's movement based on the most advanced technology and computer modeling systems in operation today.

Florida beaches remain free from oil and its fishing industry - both commercial and recreational - is open for business. Our coastal waters continue to serve the people of this state well as a source of food,  jobs and industry, and as a great public treasure. Our scientists, however, know that this event is far from over and the long-term health of the gulf remains in question.

That is why we continue these key efforts:

·         The R/V Weatherbird II is gathering baseline data on marine life in the areas of the northern gulf not yet impacted by the spill and next week will venture into the spill zone to conduct its most important research ever - to assess the toxicity of the spill and its impact on the fragile gulf food web. The Weatherbird will spend 10 days on this research cruise, working in conjunction with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration which will oversee mitigation efforts as well as gathering needed evidence to establish damage to the gulf ecosystem for any future recouping of costs.

·         Our Ocean Circulation Group continues to monitor and predict the movement of oil through the water using advanced sensors and NASA satellite images. The College of Marine Science is fortunate to have one of the world's most sophisticated sensor systems that allow us to track current and winds so that response efforts can be targeted and get ahead of the oil. The efficient use of public resources depends on time-sensitive, efficient and accurate information.

·         Our chemists and biologists are using their combined expertise to create a full understanding of what this tragedy means for Florida, its neighbors and the Gulf of Mexico environment. Our vast knowledge of marine organisms, the lifecycle of fisheries, the impact of toxic chemicals on the brains and development of marine mammals and the physiology of how plant and animal life survive, and hopefully thrive, in the gulf will be central to recovery efforts.

·         Our Center for Ocean Technology, which is deploying its world-class underwater imaging system SIPPER on the R/V Weatherbird II cruise, will serve the need for high-tech sensors and data-gathering equipment at all phases of this operation. The technology that is central to USF's effort is created, developed and built in our own laboratories, giving responding agencies access unparalleled investigative tools.

We are honored to serve the public with the full breadth of our expertise and resources. We remain heartened at the extraordinary cooperation and coordination between the various agencies that have a role in addressing this emergency and carrying out long-term mitigation and recovery efforts. And we are proud that the scientific resources provided to us by the public now serve our state and nation at this most critical time."