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Press Release:

MEDIA CONTACT: Gisele Galoustian

FAU Research Projects Selected to Examine Oil Spill Impact on the Gulf of Mexico
Florida Institute of Oceanography to provide up to $9 million in BP funds for these and other research projects

BOCA RATON, FL (August 19, 2010) —Florida Atlantic University is well represented among the 27 research projects selected by the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) Council to examine the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico. The projects were selected from 233 proposals submitted by researchers at the 20 FIO member institutions and reviewed by top scientists from around Florida. FAU is spearheading three and collaborating on another of the 27 selected projects, which range from investigating the effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil and dispersants on reefs, corals and salt marshes to examining how coastal and marine food webs, from plankton to sharks, have fared in the disaster.

“To address an environmental crisis of this magnitude requires the combined expertise and resources of many researchers and scientists across the state, nation and globe,” said FAU President Mary Jane Saunders. “As a member of the Oil Spill Academic Task Force, we are collaborating with our colleagues across the state to assist with this national effort in response to the oil spill and its aftermath.     

Research on all four of the projects involves FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute or the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science.   Molecular Diagnoses of Coral Exposed to Oil and Dispersants: a Holobiont Approach to Investigate Potential Effects on Corals will address the toxic contaminants from the oil spill that are currently threatening nearby coral reef ecosystems, such as those among the Florida Keys. Understanding the impacts of oil and dispersants on coral health is critical for developing management strategies to reduce or mitigate coral loss. Researchers in The Impact of Crude Oil and the Dispersant Corexit® on Three Key Gulf of Mexico Invertebrate Species will examine the impact of the oil spill on the seafood industry, not only with respect to mortality of important commercial species, but also as a result of closures of fishing grounds and oyster beds. The goal of this research is to determine the effects of oil and the dispersant, Corexit®, on the mortality, development, and growth of three ecologically and economically important invertebrate species from the Gulf of Mexico. The objective of The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Assessing Impacts on a Critical Habitat, Oyster Reefs and Associated Species in Florida Gulf Estuaries is to obtain baseline data on oyster reefs and the biodiverse communities associated with oysters along the Florida Gulf coast. Studies in this project include assessment of pre-spill conditions in oyster habitats from the Panhandle through extreme South Florida, collection o f data and cataloguing survival and growth in areas where different degrees of oil-related impacts occurred, and determining pre-spill levels of genetic diversity.

The central aim of Baseline and Oil Spill Impacted Marine Sponge Microbial Communities and Gene Expression Analysis with Metagenomics is to use “sentinel” sponge species and their associated microbiota along with advanced molecular and genomic tools to assess the impact of oil contamination on western Florida shelf reefs. Researchers from FAU, working with other universities, will compare archived samples from a collection at Harbor Branch and freshly collected sponges of the same species from the Gulf of Mexico directly impacted by the oil spill.

State University System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan thanked the panel for its hard work and said that he was encouraged that the first phase of grant funds were released through a competitive grant process on an aggressive timeline. “We will be good stewards of these funds so that we can leverage the research capacity of the experts and assets amid our universities,” said Brogan. “I look forward to the collaboration that will be necessary to assist the needs of the state and its agencies, which are depending on this scientific data as stakeholders in the state’s response efforts.”

FAU is a member of the Oil Spill Academic Task Force established by Chancellor Brogan to provide assistance to local, state and federal agencies in dealing with the Gulf of Mexico spill and its aftermath. FAU is assisting with this national effort, offering a broad variety of environmental science, engineering and technology resources to aid response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Leading the charge for FAU on the Oil Spill Academic Task Force is Leonard Berry, Ph.D., director of the Florida Center for Environmental Studies housed at FAU.

The FIO is a consortium of public and private marine science centers and institutes in Florida that have worked cooperatively for more than four decades on scientific projects on Florida’s waters and along its more than 1,200 miles of coastline. As a State University asset, the FIO operates under a Memorandum of Understanding with the 20 institutions and agencies engaged in marine research, education and resources management including all 11 public universities in Florida.

FAU has numerous experts who are available to discuss the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and its consequences with regard to biology, ecology and marine organisms, as well as in the areas of the geosciences and civil, environmental and geomatics engineering. For more information, visit or contact Gisele Galoustian at 561-297-2010 or .

- FAU -

About FAU’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute:

Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University is a research institute dedicated to exploration, innovation, conservation and education related to the oceans.  Harbor Branch was founded in 1971 as a private non-profit organization. In December 2007, Harbor Branch joined Florida Atlantic University. The institute specializes in ocean engineering, at-sea operations, drug discovery and biotechnology from the oceans, coastal ecology and conservation, marine mammal research and conservation, aquaculture, and marine education. For more information, visit .

About Florida Atlantic University:

Florida Atlantic University opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University serves more than 28,000 undergraduate and graduate students on seven campuses and sites. Building on its rich tradition as a teaching university, with a world-class faculty, FAU hosts 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts & Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of  Education, the College of  Engineering & Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. For more information, visit .

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