Oceanography The Official Magazine of
The Oceanography Society
Volume 29 Issue 03

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Volume 29, No. 3
Pages 38 - 45

An Opportunity to Inform and Educate Through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative: Outreach Efforts Surrounding the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Debra S. Benoit Leigh A. ZimmermannKatie H. FillinghamStephen H. Sempier Nilde M. DannreutherJarryl B. RitchieKenneth M. Halanych
Article Abstract

The role of science and technology (S&T) in society is fundamental to community progress in a number of ways, from improved engineering and production, to environment and human safety, to a basic understanding of natural systems. How science and technology influences lives within a community can be unclear. Events of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill immediately thrust several unfamiliar and complex concepts to the forefront of daily news outlets for weeks on end. From the outset of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), there was a realization of the need to demystify S&T concepts associated with the DWH spill (from drilling for oil to human health and ecological impacts), as well as to increase baseline S&T understanding in local communities. In particular, effective outreach on S&T addresses the societal need to have informed constituents who can help communities make educated decisions on resource management, community health, and environmental and occupational safety. Although many of these issues are local, the impact of the DWH oil spill transcended regional, national, and international interests, and impinged on numerous segments of society. Because of these issues, GoMRI deemed it paramount to develop and execute a progressive and ambitious outreach program focused on its scientific discoveries. With the hope of stimulating similar efforts in the future, this article outlines and documents key aspects and decision points of this broad-scale outreach program. 


Benoit, D.S., L.A. Zimmermann, K.H. Fillingham, S.H. Sempier, N.M. Dannreuther, J.B. Ritchie, and K.M. Halanych. 2016. An opportunity to inform and educate through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative: Outreach efforts surrounding the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Oceanography 29(3):38–45, https://doi.org/10.5670/oceanog.2016.60.