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5/24/2010 - Jackson, Miss.

Scientists, researchers and others teaching and working at the state’s four public research institutions have banded together to create the Mississippi Research Consortium Deepwater Horizon Response Team (DHRT).

The group is assisting other federal, state and private agencies in monitoring and mitigating the oil spill off the Louisiana Coast. The Deepwater Horizon oil rig – the offshore drilling platform under contract with British Petroleum (BP) – exploded April 20 killing 11 workers and causing thousands of gallons of oil to begin pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.

Oil from the drill site has not yet reached the Mississippi Coast, but many are concerned about the impact it may have on the environment and economy in all the Gulf states.

“Mississippi universities employ some of the best minds in the world. By working together within our system, and with other higher education systems in affected states, we can help find practical solutions to the problems that could follow this devastating oil spill,” Commissioner of Higher Education Dr. Hank Bounds said.

Dr. Bounds will join higher education representatives from Florida, including Chancellor Frank T. Brogan, in Washington, D.C., Wednesday for a congressional briefing on universities’ efforts in relation to the spill. The briefing will be held from 1:30-2:45 p.m. in Room B-369 of the Rayburn Office Building, part of the U.S. Capitol complex.

Shortly after the spill, the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) established the Oil Spill Response Team, which includes scientists, faculty, staff and students from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory, Stennis Space Center, and the Gulf Park and Hattiesburg campuses.

The Mississippi Research Consortium (MRC), formed by the four Mississippi research universities (JSU, MSU, UM and USM) in 1986, created the DHRT shortly after Southern Miss established its team in order to coordinate the response to the spill across the system. The DHRT is comprised of two representatives from each research university.

“We have faculty with substantial, relevant expertise at each of these institutions,” said Dr. Alice Clark, Vice Chancellor for Research at The University of Mississippi (UM) and MRC Chair. “This response team will help us stay organized in sharing knowledge and resources by managing requests for assistance and identifying the best person or group to respond.”

The DHRT’s current capabilities and efforts include:

  • Observing and forecasting the coastal movement and impact of the spill;
  • Environmental monitoring of water quality, marine life and fisheries;
  • Analyzing impacts at the spill site;
  • Analyzing impacts to human and wildlife health;
  • Analyzing the socio-ecological and socio-economic impacts of oil on coastal communities;
  • Filming and documenting the development of events; and
  • Coordinating community education and outreach.

UM and USM are already a part of the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST), which is leading the study of the impact at the spill site.

Researchers from Mississippi State University (MSU) and USM are working with other Gulf Coast institutions such as Louisiana State University, Florida State University and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab on research related to land, ocean and atmosphere interactions through the Northern Gulf Institute (NGI).

Click here for more information about USM’s Oil Spill Response Team. Click here to visit the NIUST’s website. Click here to visit the NGI’s website.


The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

Click here for more information about IHL and Mississippi’s public universities.

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