Florida Institute of Oceanography Receives $10M

The money will be used for projects related to dealing with the impact of the Gulf oil spill


By Vickie Chachere

USF.edu News Manager


ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 24, 2010) – The Florida Institute of Oceanography has received $10 million pledged by oil company BP and is now accepting research proposals from the state’s marine scientists to assess, monitor and plan for the protection and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico.


Scientists have until July 2, 2010, to submit quick response research proposals to the Florida Institute of Oceanography. The one- and two-year projects will be funded through grants recommended by the FIO Oil Spill Research Advisory Panel and endorsed by the FIO Executive Committee.


The Florida Institute of Oceanography is a consortium of 20 public and private marine research centers in Florida, including the 11 state universities. The University of South Florida serves as the host institution for the consortium, which in addition to coordinating marine science research and education efforts operates the R/V Weatherbird II, the R/V Bellows and the Keys Marine Lab.


“Florida’s marine science community is eager to put its world-class expertise to work in fully documenting and understanding the environmental impacts of the oil spill,” said Shirley Pomponi, chair of the FIO Executive Council and executive director of the Cooperative Institute for Ocean Exploration, Research, and Technology at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute/Florida Atlantic University.  “As scientists and Floridians it is our obligation to focus our research efforts on the Gulf of Mexico to support restoration, conservation, and sustainable use of this national treasure.”


The FIO is continuing to seek as much as $100 million more for Florida research efforts in response to the spill, said William Hogarth, acting director of FIO and dean of USF’s College of Marine Science.


FIO received the BP grant with the support of the Florida Congressional delegation led by Rep. C.W. “Bill” Young and Rep. Kathy Castor; Sens. Bill Nelson and George LeMieux and Gov. Charlie Crist. Government leaders are continuing to press for further research funding given the magnitude of the environmental disaster and the extreme impact it is having on the gulf environment and economy.


“We will be conducting a careful review of proposals to ensure the most critical aspects of the spill are addressed through scientific research,” Hogarth said. “We know the effects of this spill will need to be studied for decades to come. We will continue to focus on ensuring that Florida has the resources to scientifically document and monitor the effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the fragile gulf environment.”


Scientists are asked to develop research proposals to:


·         Determine the properties, distribution, and extent of the oil spill and dispersants.

·         Conduct baseline studies and impact assessments to provide the basis for long-term monitoring. 

·         Contribute to an integrated coastal and ocean observing system, and improve modeling capabilities for forecasting environmental impacts related to the oil spill.

·         Develop and implement systems for data integration, synthesis, sharing, and dissemination.

·         Develop and implement strategies to protect and restore habitats and species.



Priority will be given to projects that are collaborative between two or more FIO members and/or the Northern Gulf Institute and Louisiana State University, which also received BP funding for initial research.


“I want Florida scientists to put this $10 million grant to work as soon as possible,” said Frank T. Brogan, chancellor of the State University System of Florida. “The scientific analysis of the Florida Institute of Oceanography and other researchers in our state, working together in cooperation, has proved invaluable as the state and nation wrestles with the crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. There is no time to waste. We need to continue to build the baseline data that will be crucial in the recovery from the oil spill.”


In BP’s letter of intent to FIO, it states the research effort will be “managed in the tradition of full academic freedom and independent peer-review, and BP’s support shall in no way interfere with the academic freedom of the research institutions.” The resulting data, measurement information and findings will be made public, FIO and BP have agreed.


“The FIO community is appreciative of the hard work of our leaders in Tallahassee and Washington in securing resources for these important scientific inquiries. We also appreciate the open, progressive attitude demonstrated by BP in supporting a rigorous scientific examination of this disaster and the company’s respect for academic freedom,” said USF Provost Ralph Wilcox.  “We believe that FIO’s long history of inter-institution collaboration and the globally recognized expertise of Florida’s marine scientists will provide invaluable information on the extent of ecological damage from the Deepwater Horizon spill and will serve the people of the Gulf Coast in the eventual restoration of this magnificent natural resource.”


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.