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Oil spill symposium to convene scientists, media, policymakers and community leaders

Athens, Ga. Scientists, government officials, Gulf Coast community leaders and journalists from across the nation will gather at the University of Georgia Jan. 25-27 for a symposium that will examine communication during the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

TheUGA/Georgia Sea Grant Oil Spill Symposium, titled "Building Bridges in Crisis," will begin Tuesday, Jan. 25 at 2 p.m. in the Chapel with a lecture by Sylvia Earle, National Geographic explorer-in-residence and former chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

On Jan. 26, a series of panel discussions and a roundtable discussion will bring leaders involved in Gulf response efforts together with the goal of improving information flow among stakeholders. Speakers will include Justin Gillis, New York Times reporter; Ray Jakubczak, BP Deepwater Horizon Florida Team representative; Richard Harris, National Public Radio reporter; Samantha Joye, University of Georgia professor of marine sciences; and Steve Murawski, former NOAA director of scientific programs and chief science adviser.

Like the Earle lecture, the Jan. 26 events are free and open to the public, although registration at is recommended. On Jan. 27, panelists will meet in a closed session to develop a white paper that will detail the lessons learned from the symposium.

"Communication among stakeholders was one of the major challenges associated with this oil spill, and the symposium will bring experts from several fields together with the goal of maximizing cooperation and collaboration," said Garnett Stokes, dean of the UGA Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and chair of the symposium.

The Jan. 26 panel and roundtable discussions will be held from 8:30 a.m. to

4 p.m. in Mahler Auditorium of the Georgia Center for Continuing Education Conference Center and Hotel.

  • In "Scientific Synergies," (8:30 to 10 a.m.) nationally-recognized scientists will give a brief overview of the current state of knowledge about the spill and its impacts and discuss how research has been shared and coordinated.
  • In the "Human Connection," (10:10 to 11 a.m.) representatives of industries and communities affected by the spill will discuss its socioeconomic impacts and the challenges of accessing and providing information on a local level.
  • In "Covering Catastrophe," (11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.) representatives of the news media will discuss how they covered the oil spill and share their ideas for improving the reporting of complex and controversial scientific matters.
  • In "Promoting Partnership," (1:15 to 2:30 p.m.) representatives from government and industry will discuss their role in coordinating research and the flow of information. The panelists also will offer their perspectives on how to strengthen collaboration among stakeholders.
  • "Building Bridges," (2:45 to 4 p.m.) is a roundtable discussion that will bring representatives from the earlier sessions together to synthesize ideas and define areas of consensus.

A reception hosted by the UGA Franklin College will be held Jan. 26 from 4:15 to 5:15 p.m. in Hill Atrium at the Georgia Center.

UGA Vice President for Research David Lee noted that the symposium continues the university's leadership role in responding to the nation's worst maritime oil spill and encouraged faculty, students and members of the community to attend.

"We expect the lessons learned from this symposium to have implications for several other complex situations that involve the intersection of science, government, industry and the public," Lee said.


Contact: Hollis Yates
University of Georgia

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