The Gulf of Mexico Alliance (Alliance), a regional partnership of the five U.S. Gulf Coast States numerous federal agencies, academia and non-governmental organizations, is pleased to announce that the Master Research Agreement (MRA) between the Alliance and BP has been officially executed. The MRA is the governing document that directs the implementation of the new Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). A copy of the MRA is publically available at www.gomri.org.

The GoMRI is a research program developed by BP shortly after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill in May 2010. At that time, BP voluntarily committed up to $500 million to an open research program designed to study the impact of the oil spill and its associated response on the environment and public health in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the MRA, the Alliance will manage the administration of the research initiative, including proposal evaluations, proposals summaries budget monitoring, and grant management.

Dr. Bill Walker, Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources and current Co-Chair of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance Management Team, said, “We believe the fundamental work provided by this research initiative will both inform and help direct work to ensure the viability of the Gulf Coast.”

An independent Research Board has been established to develop a Request for Proposal (RFP) and to select proposals for funding. The Research Board is composed of scientists from academic institutions with peer-recognized credentials. BP and the Alliance have appointed an equal number of research scientists to the board.

Jim Breson, BP’s Project General Manager for the development of the GRI, commented, “BP wants to ensure, in every way possible, independent research free from influence – whether it is the results or the funding of the project – academic freedom is of the highest priority.”

The RFP should be ready for public announcement in coming weeks. Researchers interested in applying are encouraged to collaborate with other research institutions, especially those located in the Gulf of Mexico. When released, the RFP will contain instructions for research consortia to submit letters of intent identifying the thematic element upon which the consortia will focus.  The RFP and more details of the proposal process will be posted at www.gomri.org.

Research objectives should fall within one of the following five themes:

  • The physical distribution and ultimate fate of contaminants associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident.
  • The chemical evolution and biological degradation of the contaminants.
  • The environmental effects of the contaminants on Gulf of Mexico ecosystems, and the science of ecosystem recovery.
  • Technology developments for improved detection, characterization, mitigation, and remediation of offshore oil spills.
  • Integration of the previous four themes in the context of human health.

The knowledge accrued as a part of this research initiative is intended not only to resolve issues related to the spill but also to improve the long-term environmental health of the Gulf of Mexico. Specifically, the mission of the GRI effort is to improve society’s ability to understand and mitigate the impacts of hydrocarbon pollution and stressors of the marine environment, with an emphasis on conditions found in the Gulf of Mexico. Ultimately, the effort will also increase the scientific and research capacity of the Gulf region.

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About the Gulf of Mexico Alliance
The Gulf of Mexico Alliance is a non-profit public charity representing the Gulf States of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The Alliance has been in operation since 2004, although it was formalized into a 501(c)3 organization in 2010. The Alliance’s mission is to enhance the ecological and economic health of the Gulf region by encouraging collaboration among government agencies, businesses, academia and other non-governmental organizations. Priorities for achieving the alliance’s mission include water quality, habitat conservation, ecosystems assessment, hypoxia, resilience and environmental education. More details can be found at www.gulfofmexicoalliance.org.