Decommissioning oil rigs into artificial reefs, mental health impacts of disasters, and invasive lionfish are a few of the topics to be presented at the 2017 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference Feb. 6-9, 2017 in New Orleans, LA at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.

The four-day Conference will bring together oil spill-related experts from academia, state & federal agencies, non-governmental organizations, and industry to share the latest oil spill and ecosystem scientific discoveries, innovations, technologies, and policies through 23 scientific sessions with approximately 350 oral presentations and 260 poster presentations. The conference will have special emphasis on practical uses of scientific research in the Gulf of Mexico and will connect scientific research to decision makers in the response and restoration communities.

A few interesting scientific presentations to note:

  • Decommissioning and Rigs-to-Reefs Programs in the Gulf of Mexico - Current Status and Strategies, and a Review of Decommissioning Cost Estimation (Session 019), E. Kobrinski Keen, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi:
    Have you ever wondered what happens to oil rigs left idle in the ocean? In October 2010, over 3,000 wells and 600 platforms off the Gulf Coast waters were identified as being “Idle Iron,” posing navigational and safety hazards. Per federal policy, these structures must be decommissioned and removed, which has proved costly. Scientists will present a novel idea to assist with the decommissioning process of these structures that will also repurpose the structures to serve as artificial reefs, potentially helping nearby fish communities. This project seeks to highlight how by working together, managers, scientists, and the oil industry can help each other and the Gulf.
  • Assessing the Effects of Religion and Disruption on Mental Health in Vulnerable Communities (Session 011), L. Drakeford, Louisiana State University:
    Religion can be an important aspect of a community during a disaster. Past studies have focused on the effect of religious involvement at the individual level; scientists are now, however, trying to learn more about how faith and the structure of a religion can influence at the community level. In this talk, scientists will present research on how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill has impacted the mental health of communities and how that relates to the religious devotion and structure within their community. Scientists will discuss how the amount of religious adherence affected the mental health of those disrupted by the oil spill and how certain religions magnified negative effects.
  • Disturbance of Northern Gulf of Mexico Reef Fish Communities: The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and the Lionfish Invasion (Session 008b), K.A. Dahl, University of South Alabama:
    The Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in a widespread decline in fish abundance in the northern Gulf of Mexico. As these communities work to recover, however, a new disturbance has stressed their populations - invasive red lionfish. Red lionfish in the northern Gulf of Mexico are increasing exponentially, making it difficult to determine the effects of and subsequent recovery from the oil spill on native fish populations. Scientists will present recent trends in lionfish populations related to density, diet, and cannibalism, as well as the effectiveness of mitigation efforts to target and control their population in both artificial and natural reef communities.

Other program highlights include:

  • Keynote address by Dave Westerholm, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Oil Spill Science and Response: Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together
  • Panel discussion with six leading Gulf experts on how planning and response decisions are made by federal, state, and industry responders
  • Closing plenary discussion: Linking Science & Restoration: Now and in the Future, moderated by Monty Graham of the University of Southern Mississippi
  • Several associated meetings & events and workshops will also be held

Click here to view the Conference schedule at a glance. A searchable database of abstracts for oral and poster presentations as well as the full Conference schedule is available online here.

For accommodation information, click here.

The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference is made possible by the generous support of many organizations including its Gold Level sponsors: National Academies’ Gulf Research Program, NOAA, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

For more information, visit the Conference website and follow on Facebook and Twitter (#OneGulf).

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