To see detailed schedules, abstracts and author information for the Sessions, please see our online Program Planner.


Note: Click on the title of the Session for more information.
* denotes Session Organizer

Half Day Sessions: Sunday, January 26, 1-5pm

Session 001. Education and Outreach: Setting the Record Straight: Debunking Myths and Misconceptions about Oil in the Gulf and Promoting Ocean Literacy

Session Chairs:
Tina Miller-Way, Dauphin Island Sea Lab*
Teresa Greeley, University of South Florida
Laura Bracken, University of Miami
Tracy Ippolito, Florida State University

In this session, we will bring together ocean scientists representative of the 2014 Conference’s disciplinary themes (i.e., physical processes, chemistry, ecosystem, technology, and public health) and outreach specialists to address common misconceptions about oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Scientists: This is your chance to address any assumptions and false “knowledge” about the oil spill that you’ve encountered when talking with non-scientific audiences. We want to set the record straight! Outreach specialists: Let’s share our challenges and success stories in communicating the science of oil spills and work together to make our messages more accurate and informative. In the afternoon discussion, we will distill the myths and facts relayed during the morning presentations into public-friendly statements and develop a plan for broad dissemination.


Session 002. Data Management and Informatics Supporting Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science

Session Chairs:
Matthew Howard, Texas A&M University*
Dave Reed, Fish and Wildlife Research Institute
Fabio Moretzsohn, Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi
Amy Merten, NOAA

The number of research studies in the Gulf of Mexico has increased recently due to the decade-long Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and other concurrent programs. These studies are producing numerous heterogeneous data sets and model outputs, both large and small. The challenge is to assemble, integrate, and analyze these distributed data collections to support intelligent decision-making. Data Management (data stewardship) and Informatics (the science of processing, managing, and retrieving information) are key components of the next generation of data management systems. Regional, national, and private sector groups are working hard to develop and deploy a cyberinfrastructure for interoperable networked data systems to support contemporary environmental research. These systems will enable researchers and resource managers to locate, retrieve and visualize observations and model output more easily. This session’s conveners invite all people working to integrate comprehensive environmental data sets and model output with application to scientifically-based decision-making, especially in the context of oil spill response and restoration and policy, to present their work in this session.


Full-Day Sessions: Monday January 27

Session 003. Impact of Gulf of Mexico Physical Processes on Chemical and Biological Transport

Session Chairs:
Eric Chassignet, Florida State University*
Tamay Ozgokmen, RSMAS
Clint Dawson, University of Texas

This session should highlight the importance of the physical processes that significantly impact chemical and biological transport in the Gulf of Mexico. The main goal of this inter-disciplinary session is to identify the physical processes (large and small scales) that need to be captured in predictive earth system numerical models for a successful depiction of oil pathways. We encourage submissions on in-situ observations (physical, biological, and chemical), earth system models, process studies, laboratory experiments, and cutting-edge numerical modeling. The group discussion will provide a forum for communication between physicists, chemists, and biologists.


Session 004. Integrated Understanding of the Impacts of the DWH Oil Spill on Fisheries: Exposure Vectors, Biological-Physiological Effects and Abundance of Fisheries Populations

Session Chairs:
Steven Murawski, University of South Florida*
William Patterson, University of South Alabama
David Hollander, University of South Florida
Felicia Coleman, Florida State University

The Gulf of Mexico supports a diverse community of fishes and invertebrates that in turn support valuable recreational and commercial fisheries. The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill interacted with fishes and invertebrates in the deep sea (e.g., deep demersal species), in the mesopelagic realm, in the surface pelagic region, on the continental shelf, and in nearshore areas including many bays and estuaries. A wide variety of studies have been initiated to examine the exposure of fishes and invertebrates to oil in these various geographic domains including contaminant analyses (especially for the presence of PAHs in various tissues and organs), and other components leading to sub-lethal effects. Moreover, studies are underway to determine the effects of contaminant composition (nature and concentration) on the mortality of various life stages, growth rates and recruitment effects. Impacts can extend from the species to the community and ecosystem levels of organization. The situation is complicated by the dearth of contaminant load baselines pre-DWH as well as multiple hydrocarbon sources in the Gulf of Mexico.

This session will examine the exposure vectors – active (food source) vs. passive (sediments, and waters, dissolved and particulates) uptake-, exposure scenarios (chemical composition and concentrations of contaminants), and impacts of the DWH spill on fish and fisheries of the Gulf of Mexico. It will incorporate information about where oil and oil products were distributed in the environment and how they degraded over time. For example, demersal fishes and invertebrates interact with marine sediments that were contaminated in some areas with sunken DWH oil. There are a number of potential vectors of how oil may be taken up by demersal species including ingestion of sediments, through contaminated prey and transdermal exposure and contact. As well, mesopelagic and pelagic fishes were likely exposed from contact with rising/sinking oil and through their prey. Inshore species may have been exposed through oil stranded in marshes, in the water, and in shallow sediments. The impacts on species and communities of fishes will include information on the impacts of fishery closures on the abundance and productivity of fishes and the shifts in fishing effort distributions as a result of closures instituted for seafood safety protection.

We invite papers that are integrative in nature and include multiple disciplines including toxicology, sediment dynamics, physical oceanography, population and community dynamics and fishery economics. Our selection of papers will emphasize multidisciplinary, integrative studies, as well as a selection of papers within relevant disciplines that will foster information-sharing leading to a better mechanistic understanding of contamination/mitigation scenarios and effects. The goal of this session is to review work accomplished to date by academic, private, state and federal researchers and to stimulate interdisciplinary synthesis of such information, thus leading to a deeper understanding of the mechanisms and effects of DWH contamination.


Session 006. Socio-Economic Analysis of Ecosystem Change: From Baselines to Catastrophic Events

Session Chairs:
David Yoskowitz, Harte Research Institute*
Rex Caffey, Louisiana State University

Oil spills, hurricanes, floods, and other man-created or natural disasters can have substantial effects on ecosystems and human well-being. Understanding the bio-physical/human well-being nexus is critical for the effective management of our natural resources, including protection and restoration, but also in the immediate response to these disasters. Currently a deficiency of socio-economic studies and comprehensive data collection efforts in the coastal and marine environment exists, yet there is growing recognition that a holistic approach (natural, social, and policy sciences) is required in ongoing baseline studies as well as event driven work. There is concern that because of the lack of relevant socio-economic data, significant opportunities for co-improvement in ecosystems and human well-being might be lost. This session will examine where we currently are, what we can expect the needs to be, and where the gaps exist with regards to socio economic data and analysis. A white paper and list of recommendations are an expected outcome of this session.

Papers submitted to this session should focus on at least one of the following:

• The connection between ecological structure and function and human well-being and how it manifests itself through both market and non-market ecosystem services;

• The socio-economic data gaps that exist for effective ecosystem management;

• Changes in social-ecological resilience due to both acute disasters and gradual ecosystem change;

• New technologies and approaches for collecting socio-economic data;

• New analysis techniques to demonstrate ecosystem service values in monetary and non-monetary terms;

• Integrated social and economic analysis of typically understudied economic sectors or communities; and

• The potential application of socio-economic analysis to ecosystem-based management.


Session 007. Coastal Ecosystem Couplings Three Years after the DWH Oil Spill

Session Chairs:
R. Eugene Turner, LSU*
Nancy Rabalais, LUMCON
Linda Hooper-Bui, LSU
Brian Roberts, LSU

In order to fully understand the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on coastal ecosystems it is important to examine responses over multiple timescales since the effects on some communities may be immediate while others make longer periods of time for the effects to cascade up food webs. An important additional consideration is that the time scales over which impacts persist may vary for different populations/communities of the impacted ecosystems as well as for the ecological and biogeochemical process rates that regulate these systems. This session invites contributions on how coastal marshes and nearshore water ecosystems have been affected, or not, following 3+ years of oil exposure following the Deepwater Horizon spill. We invite talks on the responses for a wide range of topics including oil distributions and degradation in the marshes and nearshore sediments, trajectories of oil transport, marsh erosion and stability, marsh vegetation, food web studies, and specific community responses (e.g., insects, infauna, birds, fish, etc.), commercial fisheries and ecological and biogeochemical process rates, oil fate and transport: integrating field data and transport models, marsh food webs, including insects, birds; benthos, microbes, ppen water baseline and stressors: offshore systems, commercial fisheries: distribution of effort post-spill, biogeophysical, including microbial indicators and research designs for the next spill.


Full Day Sessions Tuesday January 28

Session 005. Fate and Transport of Oil Spill Residues and their Impacts on Nearshore Coastal Environments

Session Chairs:
Prabhakar Clement, Auburn University*
John Valentine, Dauphin Island Sea Lab
Michel Boufadel, The New Jersey Institute of Technology
Chris Reddy, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Deepwater Horizon oil spill has deposited large amounts of residual emulsified oil in the form of tar balls and tar mats into beach and wetland environments located along the Gulf Coast region. The persistence of some toxic chemicals (such as PAHs and alkylated PAHs) in these residues could cause negative effects on the ecology of these shoreline environments; furthermore, the physical presence of tar balls and tar mats could also adversely impact the local economy. The objective of this session is to invite research presentations that can help improve our understanding of the fate and transport of oil spill residues in nearshore coastal environments and help quantify their impacts on local ecosystems.

Papers of particular interest are those that describe:

• Mechanistic models and laboratory studies that can help understand the fate of floating oil affected by various physical transport processes including evaporation, dissolution, photo-oxidation, mixing and emulsification in the open ocean environment;

• Processes that lead to the deposition of emulsified oil in near shore environments;

• Novel analytical methods used for characterizing oil spill wastes;

• Methods for quantifying the biochemical fate and decay processes in beaches and nearshore water bodies including wetlands;

• Methods for quantifying beach and wetland recovery processes;

• Technologies for identifying and removing sunken oil (e.g., tar mats) from beaches and wetlands;

• Impacts of the presence of oil spill residues on the economy of coastal communities;

• Characterizing human and environmental toxicity of oil spill residues; and

• Hydrodynamic and sediment transport models that can predict the long term fate and transport of oil spill residues deposited in beaches and wetlands.


Session 008. Advances in Dispersant Science and Technology: Molecular Mechanisms, Novel Dispersant Systems, and Environmental Impacts

Session Chairs:
Norma Alcantar, University of South Florida*
Ronald Larson, University of Michigan
Ramanan Krishnamoorti, University of Houston
Berrin Tansel, Florida International University

The session will be directed to new advances in dispersant science and technology focusing on translation from fundamental physiochemical aspects to the integrative aspects of dispersant fate and ecosystem impacts. A distinctive aspect of the session is the integration of length scales, from molecular concepts to the large scale of dispersant application in the open ocean environment. Additionally, the session will reflect research encompassing the extremely small temporal scale of dispersant dynamics, to the long term fate of dispersants. We envision having mini sessions on each of these aspects, and discussion seeking to integrate the time and length scales of dispersant action. Talks will also focus on the next generation of dispersants including novel methods of delivery. We seek unifying concepts of dispersant application in deep sea environments, in surface spills representative of incidents in the Gulf of Mexico, and spills in the Arctic. Presenters will be expected to write an extended abstract with a conceptual figure that will be integrated into a white paper. We plan to make the session very inclusive to include researchers from academia, industry and the federal laboratories. In writing abstracts, the session coordinators request that that results be accompanied by the underlying concepts to enable findings of lasting impact.


Session 009. Public Health, Ecology and Society in the Context of Resilience: a Systems Approach to Assessing the Potential Impact of the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

Session Chairs:
Maureen Lichtveld, Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine*
Symma Finn, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Dale Sandler, National Insitute of Environmental Health Sciences
Jeffrey Wickliffe, Tulane University School of Public health and Tropical Medicine

Communities on the U.S Gulf Coast have faced decades of interdependent environmental, public health, psychosocial, and economic challenges directly affecting their individual health and that of their communities. Among those challenges are historical environmental contamination, lack of preparedness against natural disasters and the impact of those disasters on physical and mental health, persistent health disparities related to chronic conditions including cancer and asthma or to birth outcomes such as preterm birth and low birth weight. In addition to previous natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill further stressed coastal habitats and communities resulting in a complex array of new scientific questions and concerns, including the role of resilience in disaster recovery of ecosystems and people. While extensive investigations are under way and progress has been made in expanding the discipline-specific knowledge base, robust interdisciplinary research has been limited. This session proposes to bring together researchers to present findings and identify gaps from an integrated environmental public health, ecosystem and social science perspective. Using a systematic environmental pathway framework, three tailored presentations modules will focus on characterizing the spill-related exposures ( module 1: environmental media and exposure), examining the ecosystem- and human health impacts (module 2: public health-, ecosystem- and socioeconomic impact ), and evaluating evidence-based strategies to bolster community engagement in oil spill research (module 3: Community Engagement in Research, Outreach and Education) with the overall aim to reduce adverse public health, ecosystems, and societal effects and improve preparedness for future events by strengthening ecosystem- and community resilience.


Session 010. Current and Future Ecosystem-Monitoring Strategies in the Gulf of Mexico: Spanning Disciplines, Platforms, and Affiliations

Session Chairs:
Rebecca Green, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)*
Chris Elfring, National Academy of Sciences (NAS)
Alyssa Dausman, USGS
Steven Murawski, University of South Florida

This session will focus on ecosystem monitoring studies currently underway in the Gulf, as well as a vision for an expanded ocean observing network for meeting regional coastal and ocean energy-related needs, including oil spill response, restoration, and effects on human health. “Ecosystem monitoring” broadly spans a variety of disciplines, spatiotemporal scales, and data collection methods, all of which will be appropriate topics. For example, monitoring may include continuous in situ measurements from a buoy network, periodically repeated habitat surveys, pre- and post-activity studies, and remote sensing time series. As well, ocean observing encompasses multiple disciplines, and interdisciplinary participation is of key importance, ranging from the physical, chemical, and biological sciences (e.g., hydrodynamics, pollutants, lower- to higher-trophic levels) to socio-economic considerations (e.g., societal and economic benefits). Discussion will include the numerous types of monitoring that are currently underway, including in response to the DWH oil spill, as well as the coastal and ocean community’s observing priorities and vision for an expanded, integrated observing network in support of future spill response and research.

The session strongly encourages and incorporates interdisciplinary contributions from the various science disciplines and policy/decision makers, including Universities, NGOs, State and Federal Government, and Business and Industry. Session framework incorporates invited speakers, oral and poster sessions, and facilitated discussion, including an Agency-Perspectives panel. A final report will synthesize current monitoring assets/projects relevant to Gulf spill research, the monitoring community’s observing priorities, and recommendations on enhancements for a future “right-sized” observing operation.


Each session will include scientific talks and a poster session followed by extended facilitated discussion. Eight full-day sessions will take place during the conference, along with two half day sessions. Chairs will report the Session outcomes during a plenary session on the final day of the conference.

For a list of Associated Meetings and Events (Special Sessions), please click here.