More Known about Life in Gulf of Mexico than Ever Before, Gulf of Mexico Info Collection Reaches 18 Terabytes

November 03, 2014

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – More than 2,400 researchers from 214 institutions have collected more than 18 terabytes of data from more than 200 scientific studies investigating life in the Gulf of Mexico.

All of these studies, experiments, publications and datasets are part of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC), allowing for Gulf researchers to collaborate in a way that’s never been done before.

“We have research on burrowing clams with hydrocarbon traces; jellyfish with a high tolerance for crude oil toxins; zooplankton that react to oil dispersants; gulf killifish with altered reproduction habits from environmental stressors. And that’s just the beginning,” said Dr. Jim Gibeaut, Endowed Chair for Geospatial Sciences at the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, and the director of the data cooperative.

            Visit GRIIDC at https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

The legacy of data and one-stop site

Perhaps most valuable in times of crisis, the database, allows researchers quick access to existing data.

 “The first thing a scientist wants to do when a disaster like the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon spill hits is find out what we already know about the area of impact,” Gibeaut said. “Well, that means seeking out studies and data housed at different institutions, or, in some cases, not available online at all. This database is greatly improving that data discovery process”

With all the research in one spot, scientists and on-the-ground responders will be able to review what’s worked in the past quicker, and use that knowledge to make a more informed plan to mitigate a spill’s impact.

Collecting the raw data from more than 200 scientific investigations means the information is readily available for other scientist to review, and use as a springboard for new, innovative projects.

For example, all the information collected on how oil dispersants react and affect the ecosystem could be analyzed by researchers working to develop a more environmentally friendly household cleaner.

“The data we have could be the key to something we haven’t even thought of yet, something with an impact even larger than the Gulf of Mexico region,” Gibeaut said.

The data cooperative is a project of Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a 10-year independent research program established in 2010 through a $500 million commitment from BP to understand, respond to, and mitigate impacts of petroleum pollution on the environment and public health.

 “This database is promoting continual scientific discovery, raising public awareness of gulf research, and creating a process by which the information is shared and archived, as a legacy for future researchers,” Gibeaut said.

Another expected outcome of the more than 18 terabytes of data is informing governmental leaders and future ocean policies.

“Science-based policy is a goal of the leadership at HRI,” said Dr. Larry McKinney, HRI Director. “It’s imperative that our state and national leaders understand what is happening in the Gulf ecosystem, and use this type of data to make the best policies that allow for a productive and healthy Gulf.”

The data repository for research into the impacts from the oil spill covers a wide range of scientific disciplines, including:

  • ecology,
  • biology,
  • chemistry,
  • physical oceanography,
  • atmospheric science,
  • human health,
  • sociology,
  • cultural studies,
  • political science, and
  • economics.

 

Key is Data Sharing

“Sharing data early in the process is a shift in thinking for many researchers, but it helps the research community in many ways,” Gibeaut said. “GRIIDC is helping to lower the barriers that have caused hesitation previously in regard to such sharing.”

Sharing data allows for opportunities to review results of others for verification and to use existing data in new and innovative ways for new research opportunities, he said. It also preserves and collects data over time and from various sources and locations.

And it can save money and time, as all the data is online in one place, researchers don’t have to redo data collection or search far and wide for the information.

While researchers are the target audience for the database, an interactive tool lets interested members of the public find out what research is happening in their areas simply by highlighting the area on the homepage map. 

The site also creates tools for researchers that make it easier for sharing all the metadata that is collected during this type of research. That information ensures the data is useable to other researchers and that it follows established scientific protocol.

 “Through the data accessed via GRIIDC, we can help build solutions to solve real world challenges and use it to enhance educational programs,” Gibeaut said.