Monday, August 26, 2013


Deep-C and Above: Looking Forward at the Gulf of Mexico's Ecosystem Health
By Christina Omran 

I believe Deep-C Consortium’s research will benefit society by providing us with new ways to observe, quantify, and respond to future marine petroleum related hazards.  I also think it is imperative to share this kind of information with the public.  So as an inductee in the Florida State University's Social Science Scholars Program and a research student under Deep-C scientist Dr. Ian MacDonald, I initiated an interactive outreach series focused on spreading awareness about the current state of our Gulf of Mexico, including ecological and socioeconomic impacts. 

During presentations, I focus on the ecological and biological aspects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The outreach lectures, entitled “Deep-C and Above: Looking Forward at the Gulf of Mexico’s Ecosystem Health,” deal with the biological and ecological aspects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Subjects ranging from the effects on the biodiversity of the food chain from the microbial scale upwards, to the effects of oil mixed with dispersants on Gulf corals, are covered in a conversational setting. The talks typically touch on the ongoing mitigation efforts and comparing the social response of the 2010 oil spill to the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. Topics like the chemistry of heavy oil, the reaction of wildlife to oil in their environment, and environmental hazards as societal problems are also up for debate during each outreach event. 

Audience participation is a vital aspect of all outreach, so I welcome the exchange of facts and ideas with members of my audiences. This process of exchanging both scientific facts and public opinions allows the dynamics of open conversation to lead the scientific discussions. It also allows each outreach event to vary based on the audience’s interests. 

In addition to the ecological impacts, the students I meet with
often want to discuss societal issues related to the oil spill.
So far, I’ve had the privilege of interacting with more than 200 FSU students at these events, and every challenging question from the audience helps to expand my understanding of the issues and inform my future graduate school ambitions. As a matter of fact, the question and answer portion is my favorite part. 

I am inspired by how passionate many of the students are when learning about the work being done by Deep-C and discussing the current state of the Gulf. I've been fascinated to hear many of the students have specific, personal relationships to certain oil spill topics. For example, one student who attended an event has a family member who works for Beyond Petroleum. This student shared rich information and his perceptive on the global economic impacts; giving the audience and me an expanded insight. Another student who recently researched and wrote an essay on Corexit (the dispersant used during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill) spoke up about the synergistic effects of chemical dispersants in Gulf waters. It is clear to me that my outreach events are mutually beneficial because I learn from my audience as they learn from me. 

Moreover, I am eager to continue the learning process so I can enhance the outreach events. My goal is to expand the outreach, improve the content, and speak to as many students as possible. This fulfilling experience has enlightened me to the power of public opinion in the sciences and fueled my aspiration to study environmental science in my academic career.  


Christina Omran is a student at Florida State University (FSU) majoring in Environmental Studies with a certificate in Urban and Regional Planning. She is currently working as a research student with Deep-C researcher Dr. Ian MacDonald, an oceanographer of deep-ocean extreme communitiesUnder the guidance and mentorship of Dr. MacDonald, Christina initiated an interactive outreach series focusing on the impact of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the current state of the Gulf of Mexico

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