The Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium research center and Tulane University are leading two of the eight BP oil leak research projects announced Tuesday in the biggest release of BP research dollars since last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.
Although LSU is a participant in the two Louisiana projects, none of the LSU-led proposals were selected for funding by the independent grant review committee, called the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Board.
Eight out of nearly 80 proposals were selected. The eight awards total $112.5 million over three years of BP’s entire $500 million commitment to independent research in the aftermath of the Gulf oil leak.
The project led by LUMCON Executive Director Nancy Rabalais is “The Effects of the Macondo Oil Spill on Coastal Ecosystems,” and the research led by Tulane’s Vijay John is “The Science and Technology of Dispersants as Relevant to Deep Sea Oil Releases.”
“We are just really glad to have the opportunity to do this,” Rabalais said Tuesday. “We are just so excited.”
Rabalais said her team’s work will focus on the ongoing effects of the oil on Louisiana marshlands out until the end of the continental shelf. That includes everything from the environmental aspects to the impacts on seafood, insects and the entire ecosystem, she said.
“There are marshes that are still heavily oiled,” she said.
The LUMCON project is worth almost $13 million over three years.
LSU, the LSU Agricultural Center, the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and others also are participating in the project.
Located in Cocodrie, LUMCON is governed by an executive board of leaders from LSU, Nicholls State University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Chris D’Elia, dean of the LSU School of the Coast and Environment, said the announcement Tuesday came as a disappointment in Baton Rouge because none of the LSU-led proposals were chosen.
But D’Elia did note that it is important that two Louisiana-based projects still were chosen.
D’Elia led one multi-university proposal that focused not just on the ecological impacts of the oil disaster, but also on the human and sociological effects.
“They held a competition that was scientifically rigorous,” D’Elia said. “This was the most complicated set of proposals I’ve ever seen.”
The BP research funding “came later than I’d hoped, but at least it’s come,” he said.
Despite the delays, D’Elia said, the larger problem is that the federal government is leaving everything up to BP’s dollars and that there is not additional federal funding being directed toward the Gulf oil research.
Regardless of the grant process being independent, he said, some people will always believe anything funded with BP dollars is “tainted.”
Thus far, LSU has received $10 million from BP for oil disaster research.
Apart from LUMCON and Tulane, the other six research projects are led by the University of Texas, Texas A&M University, Florida State University, the University of Miami, the University of South Florida and the University of Mississippi.