A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 19 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Ainsworth's research is focused on understanding how human activities and climate influence the structure and functioning of marine communities and developing new tools and methodologies to support ecosystem-based management. As part of this research, Dr. Ainsworth and his students employ a variety of statistical and numerical simulation models to characterize trophic linkages in marine ecosystems, habitat use by fish and invertebrates, and the influence of physical oceanography on the distribution of marine life. His ongoing studies include a management strategy evaluation (MSE) of Gulf of Mexico marine protected area design. The MSE approach is a type of closed-loop policy analysis that simulates each part of Holling's adaptive management cycle (stock assessment, implementation of harvest rules, and policy evaluation). Key to this approach is recognizing feedbacks from the ecosystem that occur in response to management actions and evaluating tradeoffs with respect to socioeconomic and ecological policy objectives. This work is being done in collaboration with NOAA as part of their Integrated Ecosystem Assessment for the Gulf of Mexico, and other Gulf-area agencies. Another major project ongoing in the Ainsworth lab is the evaluation of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This study focuses on the short and long-term impacts of oil toxicity in the ecosystem, as well as the impacts of mediation actions like the use of dispersants and fishery closures.
In 2013, Dr. Ainsworth received a Sloan Research Fellowship, awarded to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise. These two-year fellowships are awarded yearly to 126 researchers in recognition of distinguished performance and a unique potential to make substantial contributions to their field. Dr. Ainsworth is one of only two Sloan Fellowships awarded in the state of Florida.
As a biological oceanographer, J. J. Walsh has focused on systems analyses of continental shelves over the last 40 years, publishing more than 100 books, papers, and reports. In addition to prior studies of coastal upwelling off Peru, Northwest Africa, Baja California, and Venezuela, the ecological components of global carbon and nitrogen budgets have been stressed. Satellite images have also been used to constrain coupled numerical models of biophysical processes effecting species succession of plankton within the food webs of the Southern Ocean, the Bering/Chukchi/ Beaufort Seas, the Mid-Atlantic/South Atlantic Bights, the Sargasso/Caribbean Seas, and the Gulf of Mexico. Continuing research involves simulation analyses of the future food web consequences of past loss of ice cover within Arctic Seas. During recent years, this basic research has also led to applied simulation analyses of the origin, transport, and fate of Florida toxic red tides of dinoflagellates for future development of operational ecological models of phytoplankton competition, effected by biochemical cycling of multiple elements and nested within physical circulation models, in shelf waters of the southeastern United States as part of the newly formed Center for Prediction of Red tides (CPR) at USF.
Dr. Yoskowitz brings the economic perspective to issues that impact the Gulf of Mexico region. His work helps to model the socio-economic implications of resource utilization. By looking at the economic impact of sea level rise, ecosystem services, the economics of water, and sustainable development, we can determine the productive value of the Gulf of Mexico. Connecting our human behaviors with socio-economic benefits of irreplaceable natural resources adds a dimension of value to science.