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NOAA CCME Scholar Summer Martinez attended the Science of Oil Spills (SOS) classes at the Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Alabama on March 24th - 29th 2019. These classes help spill responders increase their understanding of oil spill science when analyzing spills and making risk-based decisions. Below, she shares her experiences of attending the class.

This March 24th- 29th, I attended the Science of Oil Spills classes at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association Office of Response and Restoration’s (NOAA ORR) Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center in Mobile, AL. The course was hosted by Katie Krushinski and taught by eleven instructors from multiple related NOAA branches. It was such an amazing experience to gain well rounded knowledge about oil spills and all the work and science that goes into restoration and response to these disasters. I was first amazed to see how often spills occur, and how many people are involved in the cleanup. I have had a chance to network with many oil spill responders such as members of the Coast Guard, oil companies, and state agents from the gulf regions. It is unfortunate that there's still not an effective fix to most spills, even despite the hard efforts of all these various groups and agencies. Restoration and responses are a convoluted process and every situation is completely different.

I learned about many different aspects of oil spills and how they affect response. One topic was the importance of media influence and how responders must adapt to situations depending if media helps or hinders response actions. I also got to learn about the various response scenarios depending on the type of oil, the location, and types of habitats and animals at risk. We went on a field trip to Dauphin Island to apply what we learned into a real-life scenario. Sometimes, a team will choose to do nothing when a spill occurs in various reasons, and I think the least they can do is bioremediate in these circumstances. I now believe even stronger in my research on bioremediation of oil spills using fungi. Maybe I'll be able to do my thesis on this topic, and this course gave me some ideas on different aspects I can test to make this a legitimate option for responders and Shoreline Cleanup Assessment (SCAT) Teams to decide on. Since I got a chance to learn about the complex factors that go into responding and the agencies that may be involved, I can potentially invent valid research projects with these factors in mind.

I also got a chance to connect with the scientists and experts who lectured that may benefit me in the future. I have already reached out to Charlie Henry and Alan Mearns, and both are excited to discuss my research and I believe they will give me helpful insight and resources. Not only did I get to learn basic oil spill information, but now I am able to ask questions to scientists that have done research in this field. At the end of the course I received a certificate of completion of the course, and that will enhance my CV for applications for grad school. I am pleased to have had this experience, and I want to thank NOAA’s Center for Coastal and Marine Ecosystems for giving me the opportunity to attend this course.