The Last GoMOSES Conference

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Left to right: William Nichols (GIS and Metadata Specialist), Rosalie Rossi (Program Manager), Lalitha Asirvadam (Technical Coordinator), Bipana Sigdel (Research Specialist), Dr. Jim Gibeaut (GRIIDC Director)
Left to right: William Nichols (GIS and Metadata Specialist), Rosalie Rossi (Program Manager), Lalitha Asirvadam (Technical Coordinator), Bipana Sigdel (Research Specialist), Dr. Jim Gibeaut (GRIIDC Director)

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 Dr. Larry McKinney of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) presents at the opening plenary at GoMOSES
Dr. Larry McKinney of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI) presents at the opening plenary at GoMOSES

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) held the last Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Ecosystem and Science (GoMOSES) conference this February in downtown Tampa, Florida, from February 3-6. The conference theme: “2020: A Milestone in Gulf of Mexico Research” celebrates the scientific accomplishments over the last 10 years, and considers the future of science and management in the Gulf.

Since its inception, the annual GoMOSES conference has provided the time and space for the GoMRI science community to learn about each other’s research and progress through series of oral presentations, student poster sessions, workshops, networking events, luncheons, film screenings and meetings. This year there was a total of 693 people registered for the conference from ten countries, 85 universities and 19 government agencies.

Hundreds of scientists, as well as program administrators, research board members, outreach coordinators, data management specialists, government contractors, and many others who have been integral to the success of the GoMRI program, met for the last time before the program ends later this year. The group has been dedicated to increasing the knowledge of marine oil spill science in the Gulf for the last 10 years — when it was first established in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the one of the largest known oil spills in U.S. history.

It was around this time that the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) was also established. As part of the Master Research agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA), provisions were included that stated that all data collected or generated through the agreement must be made publicly available. After nearly 10 years of fine tuning, GRIIDC is “one of the single greatest collaborations of Gulf sciences ever,” according to Dr. Larry McKinney of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. This is because GRIIDC offers a data repository unlike any other for this particular niche of science. Anyone, whether they be a researcher or a concerned citizen, can visit the GRIIDC website and search through thousands of datasets that are available for download in subjects such as biology, chemistry, physical oceanography, sociology, political science, and public health.

The GoMOSES conference kicked off on Monday with the GoMRI symposium. Dr. Rita Colwell, GoMRI Research Board Chair, and Dr. Ellen Williams, former Chief Scientist at BP, informally discussed how GoMRI, and hence GRIIDC, was initiated after the oil spill. Dr. Williams stated that during this time of disaster they needed to learn from the past and you can only do that if the data are readily available. She mentioned that GRIIDC is a “complex database” and a “huge success”. The symposium consisted of a mixture of speakers and panel discussions focusing on GoMRI outreach, physical circulation, degradation of oil, microbes, impacts of oil on life, and GoMRI scholars.

During the opening plenary on Tuesday, February 4, Dr. Colwell discussed how the mission and goal of GoMRI was to have an independent research program for analysis and remediation of the oil spill. BP appointed the Research Board with input from Dr. Colwell and the Gulf States Governors. By carefully planning the structure and appointing two highly qualified scientists from each of the five Gulf of Mexico states (with diverse knowledge in science, public health, and research administration) the GoMRI program was created and secured to a solid foundation for new Gulf of Mexico research to flourish.

Dr. Chuck Wilson, GoMRI Chief Science Officer, spoke next and explained how the GoMRI management team is comprised of many people who work for the Gulf state Centers of Excellence, GOMA, HRI, the Northern Gulf Institute, and Sea Grant. He also mentioned how fundamental GRIIDC has been to the program and how “data management is the heart and soul of science.” He proudly stated that every bit of the “powerful and robust” scientific data generated is publicly available through GRIIDC and data is already being used to publish new research papers. He informed the audience that GoMRI is funding GRIIDC for the next 10 years to continue managing its datasets. The GoMRI legacy includes around 1,400 publications, 5,000 presentations, and 2,800 datasets. GoMRI has also funded around 455 post-doctoral researchers, 627 Ph.D.s, 561 Master’s graduates, and over 1,000 undergraduate/high school students — totaling approximately 4,000 researchers involved with GoMRI!

GRIIDC held its Advisory Committee (AC) luncheon on Tuesday, Feb. 4. GRIIDC provided updates on the program’s progress and future plans to AC members, including research consortia representatives and members of the Research Board Data Committee. Rosalie Rossi, GRIIDC Program Manager, reported on the status of archiving data to National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Other announcements included new software improvements, the GRIIDC program’s future, and future users. GRIIDC will receive GoMRI funding for the next 10 years to continue managing GoMRI data. GRIIDC is already working with a number of other funding organizations including the Mississippi Based RESTORE Act Center of Excellence (MBRACE), Texas OneGulf Center of Excellence, Florida RESTORE Act Centers of Excellence Program (FLRACEP), the National Academy of Sciences, GoMRI,HRI, NOAA and Texas Parks and Wildlife.

The Gulf of Mexico Data Tools Café took place later that evening where attendees learned about GRIIDC’s useful tools for data management planning such as the Data Discovery portal and updates to the search feature. GRIIDC also hosted an exhibit booth throughout the conference in order to help researchers with their data and distribute general information about the program. Dr. Jim Gibeaut (GRIIDC Director), Rosalie Rossi (Program Manager) William Nichols (GIS and Metadata Specialist), Bipana Sigdel (Research Specialist), and Lalitha Asirvadam (Technical Coordinator) were all in attendance.

The GRIIDC team attended some interesting sessions including “Tell Your Story: Making Your Data Clear, Understandable, and Usable,” where a few talks included the novel idea of using social media to track data during natural disasters. Another interesting session was “Lessons Learned from Implementing Oil Spill Science Outreach and Education Programs: Reflections 10 Years after a Major Oil Spill.” Consortia outreach experts discussed the successes of their outreach programs over the years. Many consortia developed lasting outreach products such as books, podcasts, posters, a “Virtual Laboratory” app, an outreach article in Current magazine, and hundreds of stories.

The meeting adjourned Thursday afternoon and the attendees parted ways, but not forever! While the GoMOSES conferences have ended, the successor is the Gulf of Mexico Conference (GOMCON), established by GoMRI. GOMCON will combine efforts from the GoMOSES conference, the Gulf of Mexico Alliance’s All Hands and HRI’s State of the Gulf Summit. GRIIDC plans to continue to be a part of this important community so we’ll see you there in Baton Rouge, Louisiana next April!