Scientists get $112M to study Gulf after BP oil spill

In this two picture combo, nesting terns and pelicans are seen on Cat Island on May 22, 2010, left, as oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts the shore of an island in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Lousiana. The island is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills. The second photo taken on April 8, 2011 near the same location, shows the shoreline heavily eroded, and the lush marsh grass and mangrove trees mostly dead or dying. Biologists from the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife say this is largely because the island was completely overwashed by the oil, and poorly maintained oil booms contributed to the damage as well.

AP Photo/ Gerald Herbert

In this two picture combo, nesting terns and pelicans are seen on Cat Island on May 22, 2010, left, as oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacts the shore of an island in Barataria Bay, just inside the the coast of Lousiana. The island is home to hundreds of brown pelican nests as well at terns, gulls and roseate spoonbills. The second photo taken on April 8, 2011 near the same location, shows the shoreline heavily eroded, and the lush marsh grass and mangrove trees mostly dead or dying. Biologists from the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife say this is largely because the island was completely overwashed by the oil, and poorly maintained oil booms contributed to the damage as well.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A science board overseeing $500 million in funds BP set aside to study the company's catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has awarded $112 million to independent researchers.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awarded the money Tuesday. The funds have been split up for eight research projects, each one led by a university based in a Gulf state.

Those universities are: Florida State University, the University of South Florida, the University of Miami, the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University at College Station, the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Tulane University and the University of Mississippi.

The science board said researchers will look at the fate of petroleum in the environment, come up with new tools and technology for dealing with future spills and improving methods for restoration the ecosystem damaged by the spill, the largest offshore spill in U.S. history.

BP set aside $500 million to fund 10 years of independent research into the spill, which was caused when the Deepwater Horizon exploded on April 20, 2010. Between April and July, when the blown-out BP well was finally capped, more than 200 million gallons of oil spewed from BP's Macondo well located off the Louisiana coast.

"The results will illuminate the consequences of the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill," said Rita R. Colwell, who heads the board awarding the BP money. She is a former director of the National Science Foundation and a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park.

She said the research would help oil spill responders in the future "not only in the Gulf of Mexico, but anywhere that oil and gas is produced in ocean environments."

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