Auburn University researcher to participate in oil spill impact community forum

AUBURN – Auburn University biological sciences professor Ken Halanych will participate in a public community forum on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and what scientists are learning about its impact on Saturday, Dec. 3, from 10 a.m. to noon.

The forum will be held by teleconference from Dauphin Island Sea Lab Shelby Center at 101 Bienville Blvd., Dauphin Island, Ala.; Auburn High School at 405 S. Dean Road, Auburn, Ala.; and Southern Environmental Center at Birmingham Southern College, 900 Arkadelphia Road, Birmingham, Ala. All sites will be networked and audiences will be able to hear from and ask questions of the scientists at each location.

Scheduled speakers and talks include Halanych, “Oil spill impacts on sediment dwelling animals in the Gulf of Mexico”; Marcus Drymon of Dauphin Island Sea Lab, “Implications of the Deepwater Horizon explosion on Alabama’s fisheries”; Asim Bej of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “Little things rule the world: microbial responses to oil”; and Thane Wibbells of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, “Oil spill impacts on terrapins and turtles in coastal waters.”

“Residents of the Gulf region are still struggling to understand the impact of the oil spill. Events such as the COSEE Community Forum are critical to the continued recovery process and for connecting the residents of coastal states with the current situation in the Gulf,” Halanych said. “The future health of the Gulf of Mexico is dependent on the public’s understanding of the science that goes into assessing our understanding and management of ecosystems. Thus, dialog among the public researchers and the community is critical.”

Halanych is an Alumni Professor and coordinator of the Marine Biology program at Auburn University. His research focuses on the biodiversity of marine invertebrate animals. His research team received funding through the Marine Environmental Sciences Consortium Gulf Oil Response Initiative to examine sediment dwelling animals in the Gulf using DNA sequencing technologies and to determine the impacts of disturbances like oil spills on their abundance and activity level. Halanych’s funding will also support training of students in marine biodiversity.

Go to http://cosee-central-gom.org/community_forum_al.htm for more information on the speakers and their research interests.  For further event details, call the Dauphin Island Sea Lab at (251) 861-2141, Auburn High School at (334) 887-4970 or Southern Environmental Center at (205) 226-4934.

The community forum is sponsored by the National Science Foundation through the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, Central Gulf of Mexico Program, or COSEE: CGOM. For more information on COSEE, go to http://cosee-central-gom.org.

Candis Birchfield, College of Sciences and Mathematics, (334) 844-5734 (ceh0012@auburn.edu), or
Mike Clardy, Office of Communications and Marketing, (334) 844-9999 (clardch@auburn.edu)