URI to host panel discussion on Gulf oil spill, Sept. 29

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KINGSTON, R.I. – September 16, 2010 – The University of Rhode Island will provide an in-depth analysis of the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico at a panel discussion on Sept. 29 at 6 p.m. at Corless Auditorium on the University’s Narragansett Bay campus.

The event, “Seeing Clear: Perspectives on the Gulf Oil Spill,” is free and open to the public, but registration is required by emailing events@advance.uri.edu or calling 401-874-2014.

“URI faculty and alumni have been on the frontlines of addressing this crisis from the very beginning, and this program will enable them to come together and tell us what happened, what they learned, and where we go from here,” said David Farmer, dean of the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

The panel will include a discussion of how and why the spill occurred and its resulting legal implications; the movement of the spill around the Gulf; how scientists determined the amount of oil that spilled; the clean-up operation and the government’s response; research in the Gulf while the spill was continuing; and the biological impact of the oil and the dispersants used.

The speakers will be:

– Dennis Nixon, associate dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography and a professor of marine affairs, an expert in marine pollution law and marine insurance. An attorney, he will provide unique insight into the regulatory framework in place and how and who will pay for the spill and its cleanup.

– Malcolm Spaulding, professor of ocean engineering, who developed the software program used to predict the movement of the oil around the Gulf. He was interviewed dozens of times by reporters around the world during the months after the spill, and he predicted very early on that the spill would not travel around the Florida peninsula and up the East Coast, despite intense speculation to the contrary.

– Coast Guard Rear Admiral Mary Landry, who oversaw the initial Coast Guard response to the disaster and served as the federal government’s chief spokesperson in the Gulf. A graduate of URI, she worked closely with officials from oil company BP and federal regulators to find a way to stop the flow of oil and remediate its effects without causing further damage to the fragile coastal environment.

– Peter Cornillon, professor of oceanography, who was invited by the federal government to participate on the team of scientists that determined how much oil was spilled in the disaster. His expertise in the analysis of remote sensing data provides him with unique insight into this determination.

– Chris Reddy, a marine chemist and director of the Coastal Ocean Institute at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who traveled aboard URI’s ship Endeavor to assess the quantity of oil on the surface and underwater. He has studied oil spills since his days as a doctoral student at URI where he conducted research on the North Cape oil spill in 1996.

– David Smith, associate dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography, has studied the bacterial degradation of oil byproducts in contaminated coastal marine sediments, and he has extensive experience studying the growth of bacteria in the deep sea. Last month he provided expert testimony to Congress on the use of oil dispersants in the Gulf oil spill.

The panel discussion will be streamed live on the Internet, which can be accessed from the URI homepage at www.uri.edu.

For more information about the panel discussion, visit http://www.advance.uri.edu/programming/events/oilspill.