Newswise — Officials say it may take up to three months to seal off a leaking oil well 5,000 feet below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico that has created a massive environmental crisis that could affect much of the Gulf coast. The Florida State University, which is leading a statewide Oil Spill Academic Task Force to assist the Gulf region in preparing for and responding to the oil spill, is home to some of the nation’s top experts in measuring and modeling the magnitude and trajectory of the spill, providing information on the potential and actual ecological impacts of the oil and evaluating risks associated with the spill. The spill followed an explosion on April 20.
ENVIRONMENT *Felicia Coleman, director, FSU Coastal and Marine Laboratory, (850) Coleman has expertise in the areas of marine ecology and fisheries science and policy. She can discuss the ecological consequences of the oil spill to coastal habitats and organisms in general and to fisheries and fishing communities specifically.
*Jeff Chanton, the John Widmer Winchester Professor of Oceanography, (850) 644-7493; email@example.comChanton’s research focuses on light hydrocarbon gases, particularly methane, in the ocean and seafloor. He is a member of the Gulf of Mexico Gas Hydrate Research Consortium, which maintains a seafloor observatory coincidentally located about 10 miles north of the BP site where the oil blowout is occurring. Chanton has extensive experience in marine geochemistry, particularly with regard to seafloor sediments. Chanton also works on methane in other environments, including permafrost, wetlands, peatlands and landfills.
FORECASTING AND TRACKING*Mark Bourassa, associate professor of meteorology, (850) 644-6923 or Bourassa’s expertise is in the transfer of energy and momentum between the ocean and the atmosphere and remote sensing, particularly of surface winds. He also is interested in surface water waves and the identification of tropical disturbances, a possible precursor to tropical cyclones. He can address the potential path of the oil and wave related issues. For example, if the layer of oil is thin, then wave mixing makes it easier for natural processes to break down the oil. However, if waves are too big, then the booms are far less effective.
*Eric Chassignet, professor and director of the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction StudiesOne aspect of Chassignet’s research is on ocean current and prediction with an emphasis on the study of western boundary currents and associated eddies. An example of such a current is the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current, which enters the Gulf between Yucatan and Cuba and then flows northward into the Gulf before turning back to exit between the Florida Keys and Cuba. He can discuss the probability of the oil slick being captured by the Loop Current.
*Oscar Garcia-Pineda, assistant scholar-scientist in oceanographyGarcia-Pineda is a marine systems expert who has developed cutting-edge computer algorithms for automatically detecting and quantifying oil quantities in satellite images.
*Ian R. MacDonald, professor of oceanographyMacDonald has been researching natural oil seeps in the Gulf of Mexico for more than 20 years and is an expert in remote-sensing detection of oil sheens and spills at sea using remote-sensing techniques.
*Steven Morey, research scientist at the FSU Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction StudiesMorey’s research focuses on studying physical processes and circulation within the Gulf of Mexico. He conducts studies of deepwater processes over steep topography that can affect oil exploration and extraction activities as part of research funded by the petroleum industry. He explores these problems by analyzing observational data and by performing experiments with numerical ocean models. He can address questions about the circulation in the Gulf that may affect the potential path of the oil.
*Paul Ruscher, associate professor of meteorologyRuscher studies coastal and boundary layer meteorology and measures, monitors, and studies coastal and offshore wind patterns in particular. During the past few years, many new high-density data sets and improved numerical models have become available that allow scientists to study complex coastal flow regimes, items of critical importance in situations of adverse or severe weather, pollution events, such as oil spills, and ocean response to high winds. He can address questions about the models used to forecast winds, waves and currents and the relative uncertainty related to the forecasts.
ECONOMY *Mark Isaac, Quinn Eminent Scholar and professor of economicsIsaac has worked on issues in energy regulation for more than 30 years. He is available to talk about energy prices and markets in the wake of the oil spill.
RISK AND INSURANCE*Lorilee A Schneider, assistant professor of risk and insurance and associate director of the Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management CenterSchneider can discuss pre-loss financing, such as insurance, for potentially catastrophic events and how modeling is used to determine the price of the financing. She has a background in utility/energy company risk control and financing issues. The Florida Catastrophic Storm Risk Management Center engages in research and promotes collaboration with state and federal agencies and other universities in areas such as storm modeling, protective engineering and construction, disaster risk management and financing.
TOURISM*Mark Bonn, the Robert H. Dedman Professor in Services ManagementBonn is a tourism industry expert and the only academic ever elected to the Florida Tourism Hall of Fame. He has conducted hundreds of research projects addressing the importance of tourism to Florida and its economy through visitor spending. His expertise includes consumer behavior market research, strategic planning, ecotourism and sustainability, coastal zone management, regional tourism development, economic value and forecasting. He can discuss the effect that the oil spill is having on tourism, and how the industry is responding.