Welcome to the Gulf Research Program’s 2018 Annual Report!
The Gulf Research Program (GRP) completed 2018, its fifth year, on both low and high notes. The GRP continues to mourn the loss of its inaugural Executive Director and our friend, Ms. Chris Elfring, who passed away in June. It is with much thanks to Chris that 2018 also marked a major milestone of the program completing its first 5 years, and we celebrate the progress made to date toward building a flagship program benefitting the Gulf of Mexico. I was appointed as the new Executive Director in mid-December and feel very fortunate to have these solid foundations to build on going forward. Simply stated, it has been quite a year for the GRP.
Despite these ups and downs, the GRP kept pace in 2018. It continued to invest in developing the future Gulf workforce through its Early-Career and Science Policy Fellowships. More than 80 young professionals are now a part of the GRP Fellows family, continuing to grow the promise that a motivated set of fellows can bring through independent contributions and collaboration.
The program awarded $20 million in grants this year. These grants strive to enhance capacity building and education, ecosystem health, resilient communities, and safer offshore energy systems. They provide the foundation for research, collaboration, and impact stemming from the GRP.
Various other activities remained a critical part of the GRP’s funding portfolio this past year. Through 2018, the GRP funded seven consensus studies to inform its work and advance its goals, including studies to improve understanding of community resilience, chemical dispersant use in oil spill response, effective mentoring, the coupled natural-human system, and the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current System. In addition, this year saw an uptick in external collaborations in the form of workshops and trainings; support for a pilot effort to convert an ocean mooring into a deep ocean observatory; and the appointment of a standing committee to guide sustained programmatic work in ocean systems.
Finally, 2018 provided an opportunity for the GRP to take stock of its first 5 years, build on the program’s successes to date, and refine the path forward for the years to come. In the year ahead, we look forward to a refreshed GRP strategic plan, a new series on our website highlighting key activities of the first 5 years, and ways that we can capitalize on lessons learned as we turn to 2019 and beyond.
For my part, I am excited, humbled, and honored to be entrusted with this important program at the National Academies. I look forward to opportunities to collaborate with existing and new partners as we realize the potential and promise of the GRP in the years to come.
Lauren Alexander Augustine