Experts in marine biology and ecology available to discuss oil spill

Scientists specializing in marine wildlife, offshore oil production and coastal areas are available

The Ecological Society of America (ESA), the nation’s largest organization of ecological scientists, recommends six members of its Rapid Response Team (RRT) to discuss the current and future status of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill as it pertains to wildlife and ecosystems. These experts have backgrounds ranging from offshore oil production facilities and marine conservation to the effects of human perturbations on seabirds and wetlands on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

The massive oil spill has touched land and nears fragile areas along the Louisiana coast. It threatens the wetlands and beaches where thousands of waterfowl, such as the brown pelican, are nesting and migrating birds are landing to rest. Bluefin tuna, sea turtles, whale sharks, sperm whales and oysters are also at risk. Meanwhile, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson, Energy and Climate Change Policy Assistant Carol Browner and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Administrator Jane Lubchenco plan to visit the Gulf Coast region today to evaluate the environmental impact of the spill and oversee federal efforts.

The following six ESA experts are available:

Felicia Coleman, director of Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Lab. She has served on several scientific advisory committees related to marine conservation, including the National Marine Fisheries Service Ecosystem Management Council, the International Advisory Committee on Marine Reserves, the National Research Council and an appointment to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council. She can be reached at coleman@bio.fsu.edu or +1 850-697-4120.

Robert Twilley, professor at Louisiana State University’s Department of Oceanography and Coastal Science. His expertise lies in understanding the ecology and management of wetlands located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. He has been involved with the restoration of coastal ecosystems of the Florida Coastal Everglades. He can be reached at rtwilley@lsu.edu or +1225-578-8806.

Mark Carr, professor of marine ecology at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Lab. He has conducted applied research on artificial reefs, including offshore oil production facilities in southern California, to determine the ecological effects of decommissioning options. He can be reached atcarr@biology.ucsc.edu or +1 831-459-3958.

Ron Kneib, ecological consultant, recently at the University of Georgia’s Marine Institute. His expertise lies in quantifying ecological functions of estuarine wetlands. He has served on review and technical panels for numerous government and private programs including the U.S. EPA, NOAA Sea Grant, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, Center for a Sustainable Coast and the Estuary Enhancement Program of Public Service Enterprise Group. He can be reached at rtkneib2@directv.net or +1 912-270-3409.

Alan Covich, professor and former director of the Institute of Ecology at the University of Georgia. His expertise lies in understanding the effects of disturbances such as hurricanes on aquatic ecosystems and food webs. He has served as a president of the Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences and was a member of the National Research Council panel on Freshwater Ecosystem Services. He can be reached at alanc@uga.edu or +1 706-542-6006.

Dee Boersma, chair and professor in Conservation Science at the University of Washington. Her academic research is in conservation biology and the role of seabirds as indicators of environmental change and the effects of human perturbations and policy changes on their survival. She has served as President of the Society for Conservation Biology and can be reached at boersma@u.washington.edu or +1 206-616-2185.

Members of the RRT provide on-call ecological expertise in a variety of ways, such as serving as panelists in briefings for congressional staff, providing expert testimony to Congress, analyzing the likely ecological consequences of proposed changes to environmental regulations and providing scientific feedback for news stories. A searchable database of RRT members is available online athttp://www.esa.org/pao/rrt/.

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