Thursday, 27 January 2011

Grants To Colleges Factor Response To Delicate Balance and Needs Of World's Oceans

A fishnet is more than a style of hosiery. It's also the name of a marine life database upon which researchers exploring the effects of the BP Horizon oil spill rely. Thanks to a grant provided to a university in New Orleans, Louisiana, Fishnet2, as it's known, is also undergoing an expansion.
The database, which is overseen by the institution's Museum of Natural History, includes years of scientific information that's been collected about fish and other forms of marine life inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico, the announcement noted. Researchers primarily use Fishnet2 to find the names of fish, and, with the help of a near-$200,000 grant, it's about to also provide scientists information about the water itself.
The grant money provided to help the Louisiana institution expand its Fishnet2 service came from the National Science Foundation. The institution plans to put the money toward adding information to the database such as water depths and surface geography, the announcement noted. Hank Bart, an ecology and evolutionary biology professor, works as the university Museum of Natural History director and curator of fishes. He was quoted in the announcement as saying that the database changes would allow oil spill researchers to ask questions where they might better determine through Fishnet2 the oil spill's potential effects.
A research university in Georgia also received grant money from the National Science Foundation. The "rapid response" grant money was part of nearly 300,000 in grants that were provided to marine sciences researchers Samantha Joye and Patricia Medeiros. These researchers plan to focus their studies on concentrations of carbon in the water as a result of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
BP in June announced that it was beginning to distribute $500 million in grants to research universities so that they might work independently to determine the effects of the April Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 oil rig workers and sent millions to billions of gallons of petroleum oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico. The grant money led some to speculate how "independent" the institutional research might really be. In Florida, a Florida Institute of Oceanography consortium of 20 colleges and universities was among the recipients.
In Florida in July, a university in Florida revealed the results of a survey suggesting that the oil spill could have negative impacts on an already suffering real estate industry. The university's Center for Real Estate Studies Director Timothy Becker was quoted in a news release as saying that the spill had created a "giant cloud of uncertainty" that affected different markets throughout the state. South Florida's real estate market was most vital at the time and the number of foreclosed residences, while down statewide, still ranked third in the country, behind Arizona and Nevada, according to Becker.
Some Florida institutions are exploring the oil spill's impacts on marshes from the northwest coast to South Florida, an August article in the Gainesville Sun noted. The same has been happening off the coast of Louisiana. There, debates about coastal restoration have been reignited, according to what a New Orleans Times-Picayune article in October suggested. The state's oyster beds suffered losses with coastal restoration and have since been affected by fresh water that was diverted to keep oil away, the Times-Picayune article and a November Associated Press article in Bloomberg Businessweek noted.
The grant money itself might illustrate how costly the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill has been. When industries are affected, that too has economic consequences. The affects of the oil spill as it relates to the general health and welfare of people who not only eat fish but also drink water might not be as easy to quantify.
Fighting the effects of spills such as this, along with other ecological disasters, often fall under a STEM degree heading and online scholarships and grants abound for these career fields. Students can make a difference in a very real way on the forefront of these situations; getting the field experience they need while getting theironline degree.