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USF-led group wins $11 million BP grant to study gulf oil spill

ST. PETERSBURG — A research group led by the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science was awarded an $11 million grant to study the ecological impacts of last year's gulf oil spill and the unprecedented use of dispersants.

More than 70 groups nationwide were vying for $112.5 million that the British oil company BP had put up for research projects on the Gulf of Mexico. After a competitive review, BP's Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awarded grants to eight research teams.

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill that coated gulf beaches in oil for part of last summer, BP promised to spend $500 million over the course of 10 years for independent scientific research related to the disaster and its effects.

The prospect of so much money for research prompted many universities to team up. The USF-led consortium is made up of universities in four states, Canada, the Netherlands and Germany.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to continue our work in the gulf," said College of Marine Science dean Jackie Dixon.

Florida accounts for three of the eight consortiums awarded funding, with projects led not only by USF but also by Florida State University and the University of Miami.

The USF-led researchers will focus on two areas: Understanding the physical, chemical, biological and geological processes that control the dispersion and fate of oil and gas released during a deep-sea blowout, and understanding the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill on the marine ecosystem.

USF's role in researching the spill's impact has not been without controversy. Last year USF scientists reported finding a plume of oil deep beneath the surface and 20 miles from the leaking well, prompting criticism and skepticism from federal officials. Other scientists verified the discovery.

Although the money comes from BP, the rules attached to the grant money stipulate that all research will be published in peer-reviewed scientific journals with no requirement for BP's approval.

Craig Pittman can be reached at craig@sptimes.com.

USF-led group wins $11 million BP grant to study gulf oil spill 08/30/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 9:29pm]
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