Public Release: 

NOAA disburses $16.7 million in oil spill penalties to fund research

Thirteen projects led by Gulf of Mexico researchers receive awards

Louisiana State University

LSU has received one of the competitive federal grants funded from penalties paid by parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. A research team led by LSU Department of Oceanography & Coastal Sciences Assistant Professor Michael Polito has been awarded funding from NOAA's RESTORE Science Program to study how current coastal land loss restoration practices impact marsh food webs.

"Little is known about how river diversions impact plants, animals and their interactions with each other in natural and man-made coastal marshes," Polito said. "Our work aims to increase the understanding of the marsh ecosystem so that coastal land managers will have more information and a more complete picture when making management decisions."

The project is a collaboration with researchers from Rutgers University; University of Florida; University of Tennessee-Knoxville; Michigan Technological University; Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, or LUMCON; and LSU.

Of the 15 selected projects, 13 projects are led by institutions located in the Gulf of Mexico region.

"There is a wealth of knowledge and expertise here among Gulf of Mexico research institutions. With support from this federally funded science program, we can continue to delve deep into research of the Gulf, which is a critical U.S. natural resource," said Co-principal Investigator Nancy Rabalais, Shell Oil Endowed Chair in Wetland Sciences at LSU and LUMCON Distinguished Research Professor.

In total, 78 researchers and resource managers will be involved, with 58 of them located in the region. The awards range from $231,671 to $2,312,275. These projects were selected following a rigorous and highly competitive process, which included a review by a panel of outside experts.

"The overwhelming response to our call and the number of strong proposals we received, shows we can meet the science needs of the Gulf by partnering and funding local and regional research," said W. Russell Callender, assistant NOAA administrator for the National Ocean Service. "We look forward to tapping into this expertise with future competitions."

Awards in this round of funding will go to researchers and resource managers from 37 institutions including universities, federal and state agencies, and non-governmental organizations.

The LSU project, titled "Linking community and food-web approaches to restoration: An ecological assessment of created and natural marshes influenced by river diversions," has been awarded a grant for more than $2 million.

"We spoke with Gulf resource managers and asked what they needed to make decisions on sustaining and restoring living coastal and marine resources in the region," said Julien Lartigue, director of the NOAA RESTORE Science Program. "These projects will have a measureable effect on our understanding of finfish, shellfish and other important species in the Gulf."

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This funding is part of the RESTORE Act, which authorized NOAA to establish and administer the RESTORE science program. The program is funded by 2.5 percent of the Gulf Coast Restoration Trust Fund, which will result in approximately $133 million in total funding for the program over the next 16 years. The funding stems from penalties paid by parties responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

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