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Joint Institute To Focus On Gulf of Mexico Disaster Preparedness

USF College of Marine Science

Eight years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, there still is a lack of knowledge on the complex ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico.

But new research may soon be developing along the Gulf Coast. University of South Florida St. Petersburgand the St. Petersburg Innovation District will discuss a proposal for a Joint Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies Wednesday.

The institute will serve as a hub for collaboration about the Gulf of Mexico between academia, government and industry. Bill Hogarth is a chairman in the committee for the Joint Institute. The former head of USF's College of Marine Science stressed this accumulation of knowledge is necessary for researching the Gulf.

“You want to be prepared,” Hogarth said. “You want to be able to instantly address and have the right expertise, the right equipment and the right people to respond.”

Hogarth credits the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for inspiring the institute. After an explosion caused millions of gallons of crude oil to spill into the Gulf in 2010, scientists and government agencies realized they were ill prepared for such a large-scale disaster.

“I think we learned a lot from Deepwater Horizon,” Hogarth said. “We didn’t have the baseline information we needed. We didn’t have work set up to do, the type of studies that we really needed immediately.”

State money allocated to the institute will go toward programs, equipment and space for research on the USF St. Pete campus.

“We want to learn from the past and make sure that if we have another disaster, for example, that we are ready and have the expertise and equipment,” Hogarth said.

Hogarth noted that nearly $50 billion of Florida’s economy is dependent upon the Gulf of Mexico.

“It’s just such an important economic driver of the state of Florida that we have to make sure we understand and we do everything we can protect it,” Hogarth said.

Hogarth says the institute will also drive economic development and education opportunities in the area.

The community forum will be held Wednesday at noon in USF St. Petersburg’s Harbor Hall Community Room. The public is invited to attend and provide feedback and can RSVP online.

Molly Urnek is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for summer 2018.
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