ST. PETERSBURG — The academic community and the federal government are one step closer to coordinating research efforts concerning the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
About 100 academic scientists and representatives from BP, private companies and several federal agencies gathered for the first of three brainstorming sessions Tuesday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
"It's not that we weren't communicating before," said Steve Murawski, chief fisheries scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which called the meeting as part of the federal government's recovery plan. "But we can always do better."
Much research has been done in the gulf since the beginning of the April 20 oil spill. But up until now, officials said, the research has not been very unified.
Officials are hoping to bring cohesion and cooperation to future research efforts without diminishing the independence of the public universities.
At the meeting they talked about what needs to be researched, how it needs to be done and priorities for long-term observations.
"I thought it was extremely timely," USF marine sciences dean William Hogarth said. "It was a good exchange, an excellent exchange."
USF has conducted hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of research related to the oil spill, Hogarth said.
Some of the big priorities going forward is the research of subsurface oil, sediment and the deep pockets of oil still believed to be near marshes and beaches.
The second session is set to take place today in Biloxi, Miss. A third occurs Thursday at Tulane University in Louisiana.
A final plan is expected late next week, Murawski, said.
"Clearly this is an unprecedented event in terms of scale and magnitude," he said. "The public expects that we work together."