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December 1, 2015

Science/Innovation - Florida Newsmakers of the Year

Mark R. Howard | 1/1/2011

• IAN MACDONALD - Florida State University
• WILLIAM HOGARTH - University of South Florida

William Hogarth
William Hogarth took a leading role in gathering data after the BP oil spill [Photo: Mark Wemple]

Researchers at a number of Florida universities were in the thick of the analysis of the spill and its impact on the Gulf. Scientists such as USF's Bob Weisberg, an expert in the Gulf's "loop current," testified before Congress, and the state's schools put together a consortium of scholars and scientists called the Oil Spill Academic Task Force to marshal expertise and resources and work with the state Department of Environmental Protection.

Among the most prominent scientists as the spill played out were FSU oceanography professor Ian MacDonald and William Hogarth, dean of USF's College of Marine Science, whose research vessels enabled the school to take a lead role in gathering data.


Ian MacDonald
Ian MacDonald was one of the first to question BP's oil spill estimates. [Photo: Ray Stanyard]

MacDonald is an expert in using satellite imagery to analyze "oil seeps" in the Gulf — naturally occurring leaks of oil and other hydrocarbons from fissures in the seabed. MacDonald's expertise led him to question BP's estimates of how much oil was gushing from the damaged well into the Gulf. MacDonald was outspoken in pushing the oil company and the government for an accurate accounting of both how much oil was leaking and how much damage was being done to the deep ocean.

Hogarth likewise butted heads with federal agencies, specifically the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Coast Guard, after USF scientists found evidence that plumes of oil had formed in the depths of the Gulf. NOAA and the Coast Guard essentially tried to gag the research they themselves had commissioned from the USF group. Eventually, NOAA's own research confirmed the USF findings. Hogarth, who is stepping down from his dean's post this month to be replaced by geochemist Jacqueline Eaby Dixon, was appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist to the Gulf of Mexico Research Advisory Council, which will oversee the distribution of more than $460 million that BP has set aside for spill-related research over the next nine years. Meanwhile, Hogarth scored another coup when he hired the Natural Marine Fisheries' lead oil spill scientist, Steve Murawski, to join the faculty at USF.

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Tags: Environment

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