Newswise — The University of North Carolina Wilmington offers several faculty experts in marine biology and marine sciences that are available to comment on various aspects of the Gulf Coast oil spill, its environmental consequences and potential issues it may create if oil is carried to the Gulf Stream and up the East Coast. These faculty members also have expertise in the overall issue of offshore oil drilling and its potential environmental impact in the Atlantic Ocean.
Dr. Larry Cahoon, professor of biology and marine biology, has an extensive history studying the issue of offshore drilling. As a member of the NC Ocean Science Council from 1991-93 and chair of the NC Ocean Resources Task Force from 1993-96, he participated in writing the state’s current policy on offshore oil and gas exploration. He served on an advisory committee for the Division of Coastal Management that looked at updates to NC’s coastal ocean policies including energy sources, such as wind. Most recently, he completed service on the NC General Assembly’s Legislative Study Subcommittee on Offshore Energy Development.
Dr. Steve Ross, research associate professor at the UNC Wilmington Center for Marine Science, studies the marine ecology and diversity of the coasts of the southern United States. He is available to discuss the history of U.S. coastal preservation, the ramifications of oil drilling and other invasive underwater practices and the future of national marine preservation policy.
For years, Ross has been heavily imbedded in international discussions surrounding oil drilling off the U.S. coast. Ross has led offshore studies for the U.S. Geological Survey and other national agencies, served as research coordinator for the N.C. Coastal Reserve Program for 13 years and continues to serve as lead investigator for research cruises from the Gulf of Mexico to North Carolina. His current research focuses on exploring deepwater coral reefs and fish habitats in order to facilitate management and protection of these underwater ecosystems, and he plans to begin a new international research cruise at the end of May.
Dr. Jennifer Culbertson is a research associate in biology and marine biology. While earning her doctorate, she worked with one of the top oil experts in the country, Chris Reddy, a scientist in marine chemistry and geochemistry at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who is now consulting with NOAA on the Gulf Coast spill. During that time, she studied the long-term ecological effects of the Wild Harbor oil spill, which took place in 1969 when the barge Florida ran aground off Cape Cod, spilling 189,000 gallons of fuel. Culbertson particularly researched the effects of the spill on fiddler crabs, shellfish populations and salt marsh grasses. Some of her research has been used and considered as part of the most recent Supreme Court ruling on the Exxon Valdez oil spill.