Date:  Sept. 9, 2015


NAS Gulf Research Program Awards $1.5 Million in First Round of Exploratory Grants

WASHINGTON – The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced today the recipients of 12 exploratory grants, totaling more than $1.5 million, 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.


“We look forward to seeing how the innovative proposals funded under the first theme contribute to workforce capacity-building,” said Gulf Research Program senior program officer Evonne Tang. “We are also pleased that the projects funded under the second theme so clearly illustrate the links between human health and well-being and ecosystem services.”  The proposals were selected after an external peer-review process.


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 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. Their work could help future land managers make informed decisions about coastal planning and restoration.


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.


Project Director: John Day, Ph.D., Louisiana State University

David Dismukes, Ph.D., Christopher D’Elia, Ph.D., 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 will examine 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.


Project Director: Rich Haut, Ph.D., Houston Advanced Research Center

Virtual offshore disaster training (VODT) 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 tool to practice how they would respond to an emergency offshore.


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. The team plans to evaluate the degree to which this program prepares students to influence safety in their future workplaces.


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 skills and teaching them to community college students and current workers in oil production, marine operations, and nursing fields.


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 plan 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. Their work will produce a model that could predict how oil and gas production may influence human well-being in other regions.


Project Director: Paul Sandifer, 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. (retired)

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 derive fewer benefits from ecosystems following a natural or technological disaster. This work could provide a framework for improving resilience and recovery planning for future disasters.


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.


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 may be used by policymakers in other regions who want to maximize the benefits that ecosystems provide.


Project Director: Tiffany Zyniewicz, 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 proposes to train oil and gas workers and health professionals to better understand, communicate, and work with each other, enhancing their ability to respond to emergencies in the Gulf of Mexico.


To learn more about these exploratory grants, please visit More information about other Gulf Research Program funding opportunities is available at


The Gulf Research Program was established by agreements arising from the settlement of the U.S. government’s criminal complaints following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion, and seeks to improve understanding of the interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems of the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas, and foster application of these insights to benefit Gulf communities, ecosystems, and the nation. The Gulf Research Program funds studies, projects, and other activities using three broad approaches: research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring.


The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit



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