Following the BP Deepwater Horizon Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, BP committed $500 million over a 10 year period to create a broad, independent research program to be conducted at research institutions primarily in the US Gulf Coast States. The program was named the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GRI).1 In January 2011 the GRI awarded Jacksonville State University seven grants totaling $210,000. The projects funded ranged from assessing the meiofauna abundance/diversity in the northern Gulf of Mexico to studying the interaction of the oil spill with marine sediments and solid surfaces.
Principal investigators were Dr. Frank Romano, Dr. Jim Rayburn and Dr. Safaa Al-Hamdani from the Biology Department and Dr. Jan Gryko, Dr. Nixon Mwebi, Dr. Al Nichols, and Dr. David Steffy from the Department of Physical and Earth Sciences. Jacksonville State University graduate and undergraduate students will also be assisting in the research projects. Working collaboratively with other university faculty members and researchers at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, these projects will help explain the impact of the spill on the environment. The objectives of the GRI are to investigate the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and affected Gulf Coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events, the associated environmental stresses, and the public health implications. The ultimate goal of the GRI will be to improve society's ability to understand and respond to the impacts of petroleum pollution and related stressors of the marine and coastal ecosystems, with an emphasis on conditions in the Gulf of Mexico. Knowledge accrued will be applied to restoration and to improvement of the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico.