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Archive: 2015 Gulf Research Program Exploratory Grants Recipients

The Gulf Research Program announced the recipients of 12 exploratory grants, totaling more than $1.5 million, for award year 2015.

Listed in alphabetical order by principal investigator, the award recipients and their grant research topics are:

Project Director: Madeline Burillo, Ed.D., Houston Community College
Identifying critical middle-skilled positions and career pathways in the upstream oil and gas industry – $138,000
By identifying the most safety-critical jobs in the Gulf Coast of Mexico, project partners intend to help industry standardize and prioritize training programs that enhance safety culture and reduce risk during offshore drilling. Partners also plan to develop a training program for one of the jobs identified. Project team members include upstream oil and gas industry partners, industry associations, and higher education partners across the Gulf Coast.
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Project Director: Tim J.B. Carruthers, Ph.D., The Water Institute of the Gulf
Scott Hemmerling, Ph.D., The Water Institute of the Gulf
Assessing long-term linkages between development of oil and gas industry-related coastal infrastructure, societal well-being and ecosystem function in coastal Louisiana – $130,000
Researchers will examine the costs and benefits of expanding oil and gas activity in coastal Louisiana by looking at how human well-being and ecosystems changed as onshore oil and gas infrastructure developed from 1950 to 2015. By mapping trends in these relationships at different levels (by parish, by community, and coast-wide), this work intends to help future land managers make informed decisions about coastal planning and restoration in Louisiana’s rapidly-changing coastal areas. The decision-making framework this research produces could also be relevant to other Gulf coast areas with developing oil and gas infrastructure.
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Project Director: Gretchen Daily, Ph.D., Stanford University
Katie Arkema, Ph.D., Spencer A. Wood, Ph.D., and Anne D. Guerry, Ph.D., Stanford University
Bonnie Keeler, Ph.D. and Peter Hawthorne, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
Josh Goldstein, Ph.D. and Christine Shepard, Ph.D., The Nature Conservancy
Advancing optimization of ecosystem services to inform management and restoration of the Gulf of Mexico - $128,000
This project team will work to advance the use of science in strategic management and planning in the Gulf of Mexico. Team members plan to develop a science-based framework to prioritize restoration projects that provide the greatest returns for people and nature. By accounting for external factors like a changing climate and its effects on ecosystems and the benefits they provide to people, this project intends to identify the best places to enhance resilience in a region affected by oil and gas activity.
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Project Director: John Day, Ph.D., Louisiana State University
David Dismukes, Ph.D., Dr. Christopher D’Elia, Ph.D., Dr. Robert Lane, Ph.D., and David Batker, Louisiana State University
Expanding ecosystem service provisioning from coastal restoration to minimize environmental and energy constraints - $148,000
Researchers intend to show how healthy ecosystems support healthy and resilient Gulf communities through benefits like improved water quality, sustainable fisheries and recreation, and better storm protection. The team plans to address how these benefits change over time, both with and without restoration activities that respond to climate change, sea-level rise, and future energy costs. This work could help decision makers prioritize and sequence restoration projects by showing them how project timing affects project costs.
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Project Director: Rich Haut, Ph.D., Houston Advanced Research Center
Virtual offshore disaster training (VDOT) site - $125,000
This project team will work to enhance oil and gas workers’ ability to prevent and respond to offshore disasters by developing an interactive, virtual training tool. Workers will be able to use this “virtual rig” tool to identify situations and then practice how they may avoid or respond to an emergency offshore. This tool aims to help reinforce knowledge in areas like spill containment and response, equipment maintenance and repair, personal safety, and environmental protection. It will incorporate input from industry subject matter experts, environmental organizations, and other key stakeholders.
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Project Director: Joan Hendrix, Ph.D., Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
John Shows, Joan Hendrix, D.N.P., Millie Hyatt, and Larry Porter, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College
Immersion simulation:  Interdisciplinary training for the  Gulf of Mexico workforce (ISIM) – $125,000
The project team will work to train oil and gas workers and health professionals to better understand, communicate, and work with each other in simulated emergency environments, enhancing their ability to respond to medical and environmental emergencies in the Gulf of Mexico. By addressing existing gaps in interdisciplinary training for these two groups, the project team intends to build a cohort of Gulf-based responders who are prepared to collaborate with one another during future disaster response scenarios. This training program may also be useful in other U.S. coastal areas where oil and gas production occurs.
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Project Director: Jabaria Jenkins, Mobile Area Education Foundation
Jennifer Langhinrichsen-Rohling, Ph.D., University of South Alabama
Sue Ann Sarpy, Sarpy and Associates, LLC
Larry Mouton, Mobile County Public Schools
Robert Keyser, AH Environmental Consultants
Melissa Dean, Mobile Area Education Foundation
Using problem-based learning to develop a future labor force of environmentally knowledgeable and safety-certified workers – $125,000
This project team will work to cultivate future safety leaders for the energy and maritime workforce in Mobile by creating an environmental health and safety leadership program for high school students. This program will train students in risk analysis, occupational safety regulations, emergency scenarios, and leadership skills. The project team plans to assess the program’s performance and share lessons learned, empowering other schools and training organizations to use this work to develop their own student safety leadership programs.
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Project Director: Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., M.P.H., Tulane University
Roy Rando, Sc.D. and Jeffrey Wickliffe, Ph.D., Tulane University
Derrick Manns, Ph.D., Alvin Justelien III, Ph.D., and Sonia Fanguy-Clarke, D.N.P., Fletcher Technical Community College
Carl Moore, South Central Louisiana Technical College
Linking energy production technologies to human health protection: A "to and through" approach to the interdisciplinary training of a middle-skilled workforce - $125,000
The project team will work to build a safer workforce in southeastern Louisiana by identifying key environmental health and disaster management knowledge and skills and teaching them to community college students and current workers in oil production, marine operations, and nursing. Project partners plan to develop educational products that other organizations can adapt and use. The project team will work to ensure that key practical skills and training products are relevant to workplace settings by drawing on the expertise of its members, which include educational institutions, industry groups, and employers.
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Project Director: Paul Montagna, Ph.D., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
David Yoskowitz, Ph.D. and Cristina Carollo, Ph.D., Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
The effect of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on human well-being in the Gulf of Mexico – $118,000
Researchers propose to develop a better understanding of how offshore oil and gas production affects the links between human well-being and offshore ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico. By developing a model with data from before and after the 2010 oil spill, researchers intend to determine how the benefits that ecosystems provide to people have changed during this period. They also intend to test the resilience of offshore environments and assess their potential for recovery. This work will produce a model that could predict how oil and gas production may influence human well-being in other regions.  
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Project Director: Paul Sandifer, Ph.D., College of Charleston
Ariana Sutton-Grier, Ph.D., University of Maryland
Dwayne Porter, Ph.D. and Geoffrey I. Scott, Ph.D., University of South Carolina
William Sullivan, Ph.D., University of Illinois
Tracy Collier, Ph.D., ret.
Modeling stress-associated health effects of multiple impacted ecosystem services in the Gulf of Mexico – $126,000
Researchers will examine how human health and well-being are affected when people in the affected area derive fewer benefits from ecosystems following a natural or technological disaster. They will test their hypothesis that healthy coastal environments and marine biodiversity support improved human health. This work could provide a framework for improving resilience and recovery planning for future disasters. It could also help researchers better understand and anticipate the health effects of future disasters.
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Project Director: Minor Sinclair, Oxfam America
Telley Madina and Laura Inouye, Oxfam America 
Patrick Barnes, P.G., Sherry Callaway, P.G., and Elizabeth Cornell, P.G., Limitless Vistas, Inc.
Preparing underserved communities for career paths in energy, environmental health, and restoration – $177,000
To improve economic opportunities, promote resilience, and fill workforce gaps, the project team will work to train underserved minorities and women in low-income Gulf Coast communities for high-demand, higher-wage work with local employers in energy, environmental health, disaster response, and ecosystem restoration. Team members plan to develop relationships with these employers to cultivate opportunities for program participants. By growing this program designed to build employment equity in the workforce, the project intends to help communities be more resilient in the face of future disasters.
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Project Director: Wei Wu, Ph.D., University of Southern Mississippi
Developing a decision support tool to evaluate ecosystem services and associated uncertainties using a Bayesian belief network - $124,000
This project proposes to develop a tool which integrates knowledge from both natural and social sciences and quantifies uncertainties to help resource managers in the Gulf of Mexico understand how ecosystems—and the benefits they provide to people—may change as a result of different management decisions (such as developing offshore oil and gas or restoring coastal wetlands). This tool could allow decision makers to evaluate the potential risks and tradeoffs that these types of decisions entail in a dynamic system like the Gulf of Mexico. This tool may also be used by policymakers in other regions who want to maximize the benefits that ecosystems provide to people.
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About the Gulf Research Program’s 2015 Exploratory Grants


The Gulf Research Program’s 2015 exploratory grants are intended to catalyze innovative thinking in one of two areas: (1) how to effectively educate and train offshore oil and gas and health professionals and (2) how to improve understanding of links between human well-being and ecosystem services related to oil and gas production.

The one-year grants provide seed money for research in its early conceptual phase, for activities that can accelerate concept to testing, or for development of novel approaches.  These grants also could support the application of new expertise or engagement of non-traditional disciplinary or interdisciplinary perspectives.

Visit the funding opportunities page to learn more about other Gulf Research Program funding opportunities.  

View the press release for this announcement.