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LSU researchers secure NSF rapid response grants to study impact of oil spill

BATON ROUGE Several LSU researchers have been awarded Rapid Response Grants from the National Science Foundation, or NSF, to study a variety of pathways in which the oil spill might impact the fragile ecosystems both wildlife and human of the Louisiana wetlands and Gulf of Mexico region.

"Our researchers take the potential impacts of this disastrous and as of yet ongoing oil spill quite seriously," said Doris Carver, interim vice chancellor for research and economic development at LSU. "From the beginning, our faculty have been on the forefront using their expertise to help the situation. Many have spent out of their own pockets to engage in this valuable research, so the fact that NSF has recognized the importance of this work and chosen to support it speaks volumes."

Impact on Marine Bacteria

Crystal Johnson and Ed Laws of LSU's Department of Environmental Sciences in the School of the Coast & Environment, together with Gary King of the Department of Biological Sciences, have secured a rapid response grant to study the impact of oil on naturally-occurring bacteria found in oyster beds.

These bacteria, called Vibrio parahaemolyticus and Vibrio vulnificus, cause disease in humans and sometimes even in marine animals. Because some species of phytoplankton actually produce antibiotics that inhibit bacterial growth, the researchers also want to know what effect the oil is having on these phytoplankton and the potential for use of the antibiotics to treat bacterial infections.

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Human Response

Christopher Kenny, Christopher Weber and Kathleen Bratton, all professors in LSU's Department of Political Science, have received a rapid response grant to study how people use social networks to cope in a variety of ways in the wake of major disasters. According to the researchers, the main focus of the grant is to determine the social nature of disaster response, or in other words, how social networks shape and influence emotional and behavioral responses to large-magnitude disasters. While some disaster-related scholarship exists, little to none focuses on oil spills.

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Contact: Ashley Berthelot
Louisiana State University

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