USF Launches Oil Spill Information Center

The online resource culls together data on the Gulf disaster from numerous sources.


By Barbara Melendez News Writer


TAMPA, Fla. (July 8, 2010) – Its own research vessel, the Weatherbird II, is playing a central role in tracking and researching the Gulf oil spill and University of South Florida College of Marine Science  experts are providing valuable insight to media outlets around the world.

Now, a new USF service promises to be another highly valuable resource to the media, the public and researchers everywhere. 

The USF Libraries’ Gulf Oil Spill Information Center (GOSIC) offers a free, one-stop connection to many facets of the story – with a plan to emphasize hard-to-find technical reports and research papers.  An online trip to this site allows anyone interested in learning more to click on tabs linking to USF’s response to the oil spill, BP company information, current issues, K-12 curriculum resources, and maps and images, as well as debates and discrepancies.  The impact on wildlife is a forthcoming category.    

In each case, multiple resources appear that connect to a growing list of sites and articles with background information in abundance.  There is also a link to a comprehensive PBS report on the R/V Weatherbird II and an embedded video of the research vessel’s first trip to the Gulf in May.

Especially striking are maps and models developed by the College of Marine Science that show the status of the Gulf dating back to 2005 and all the changes during and after oil began gushing out of the failed Deepwater Horizon drilling rig.

A work in progress, expanding with every new chapter in the quickly changing story, GOSIC is the brainchild of Todd Chavez, director USF Libraries’ academic resources.  He and USF Librarian Vera Lux are overseeing GOSIC’s evolution.

“We started this as an impartial and wide-ranging resource, capturing the latest information as it becomes available from all the distinct perspectives,” Chavez said.  “We see GOSIC collaborating with other universities to make this a strong academic research portal.”

USF Libraries has four other similar online resource portals and collections targeting global environmental subjects that researchers from around the world have been using since the first one, the Karst Information Portal, went live in 2005.  The other three, (two of which are being worked on now and slated to be launched this fall) under the heading global solutions, deal with caves and cave formations.    

Chavez already has reached out to the libraries at the University of Florida, Florida International University, Florida State University, and Florida Atlantic University, as well as the U.S. Geological Survey to add their materials to the list of resources.  The members of the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) are the next targets for collaboration.  So far, UF and FAU are on board.

“This spill is a tragedy for the entire gulf region, but solutions to the many challenges it presents will come from people across the globe,” Chavez said. “That reality fuels our belief that the resource will be more useful if we develop global collaborations from the outset.”

Chavez also needs the support of USF’s faculty to contribute the data that they collect as their research progresses.

“We have geologists, marine scientists, economists and other researchers who have much to offer, and we are open to material from all the scientists currently working out in the field, wherever they’re from,” Chavez said.  “We encourage everyone to avail themselves of our offer to archive and serve their data, when appropriate.”

And there is more on the way.

“We are seeking permission from major publishers to allow us to offer published research as an open-access collection via the site,” said Chavez.  “We have a graduate student and a team of librarians reviewing the literature concerning other oil spills that are relevant to this catastrophe.  

“I see this material serving as a catalyst for further research in the days and years to come.  In relatively short order we will have a high quality digital library in place that will serve to contextualize the Gulf oil spill and its aftermath. Despite the situation, it is exciting to be able to compile something of this importance in real time.”

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.