Auburn professor to continue study of oil spill impact with Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative grant

AUBURN – Stephen “Ash” Bullard, assistant professor in Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in the College of Agriculture, has received a $132,000 grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, or GRI, Research Board to continue studies on the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

GRI has awarded similar grants to selected researchers across the country to fund research through September. Bullard was one of only two recipients from the state of Alabama.

Bullard, who previously received two National Science Foundation grants for his research on the Gulf, post oil spill, said this grant will allow him and his collaborators, including Covadonga Arias, associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in the College of Agriculture, Mike Unger, associate professor at Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and both Auburn University and Virginia Institute of Marine Science graduate students to continue research from the other grants.

“We were really happy to get the funding because it was highly competitive,” Bullard said. “There were nearly 115 proposals submitted and only 17 were selected, so it is great to have Auburn University represented in that list.”

Bullard said it was only natural for him to get involved with the oil spill research.

“I’ve been working in the gulf for about 12 years, so I was pretty interested in getting research started to document any negative effect of the oil spill,” Bullard said.

The grant will be used to maintain reference sites along the Gulf Coast that are used to monitor for ecological effects of the spill. While most people assume the effect of the spill will be catastrophic, Bullard said he’s not jumping to any conclusions.

“We will be studying the tissues of fish, as well as the parasites and bacteria living on fish, to measure the Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, a known carcinogen caused by oil spills,” Bullard said. “We will compare the oiled sites with the non-oiled areas. The oil doesn’t affect all of the coastal areas the same; we won’t know everything until we’ve had time to gather long-term effects data.”

The funding Bullard received for the grant is given as a part of BP’s commitment to provide $500 million over 10 years to support research in the Gulf of Mexico.

To read more about the grant, go to http://griresearchboard.org/news/press-releases.html.

(Written by Katie Horn.)

Contact: Ash Bullard, (228) 238-2030, (sab0019@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, (334-844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)