UM-Led Coastal Experiment to Study Path of Oil Spills Begins

Three-week SCOPE Experiment will use state-of-the-art instruments to study ocean currents within the surf zone

MIAMI – (Dec. 2, 2013) – A University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science-led study to understand the path of oil or other pollutants in coastal areas begins offshore of Ft. Walton Beach, Florida today. During the three-week SCOPE Experiment – Surfzone Coastal Oil Pathways Experiment – scientists will deploy GPS-equipped drifters and other advanced instruments to study the ocean currents along the coast to better understand how oil may move onshore in the event of a future spill.

“In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill it became clear that understanding the ocean currents in the surfzone is vital to improve our understanding and prediction of oil spills,” said Dr. Tamay Özgökmen, UM Professor and Director of the Consortium for Advanced Research on Transport of Hydrocarbons in the Environment (CARTHE). “There are catastrophic socio-economic impacts when oil spills reach our beaches.”

UM Professor Ad Reniers and his colleague Professor Jamie MacMahan from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., will deploy a variety of instruments, including 200 GPS-equipped drifters, unmanned aerial vehicles and pressure and dye sensors at the surface and at varying depths, to measure the movement of ocean currents along the coast to study how oil, fish larvae, or toxins in the water are carried by currents close to shore.

“This study will collect important data necessary to understand the ocean currents in the near-shore marine environment,” said Reniers, associate professor of applied marine physics at the UM Rosenstiel School and lead investigator of the SCOPE Experiment. “The information collected will be used to develop computer models of the coastal zone, to improve our scientific understanding of this region in the event of a future oil spills, as well as to better understand how larvae or water pollutants travel close to shore.”

The unmanned aerial vehicles will be equipped with cameras to monitor the drifters and used in a dye experiment, where EPA-approved colored dye is placed in the near-shore waters to collect visual data on the movement of currents. Several of the drifters being deployed during the experiment were designed by students from three Florida high schools, MAST Academy, South Broward High School and Maclay School, as part of a CARTHE-sponsored educational outreach program. This research is made possible by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The GoMRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident and the potential associated impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health. For more information, visit

SCOPE is the second large experiment conducted by CARTHE that brings together a wide range of scientific experts and experiment with measurement methods to study oil spills. The first experiment, called GLAD (Grand Lagrangian Deployment), was conducted near the Deepwater Horizon site in the summer of 2012 also under the support of GoMRI. Information collected by scientists from both experiments will be used to model the transport and fate of oil in the Gulf of Mexico, in the event of a future spill.

The SCOPE Experiment is a project of the UM-based CARTHE. The CARTHE program includes 26 principal investigators from 12 research institutions in eight states. Together these scientists are engaged in novel research through the development of a suite of integrated models and state-of-the-art computations that bridge the scale gap between existing models and natural processes. For more information about CARTHE, please visit or on Facebook at

About the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School

The University of Miami is the largest private research institution in the southeastern United States. The University’s mission is to provide quality education, attract and retain outstanding students, support the faculty and their research, and build an endowment for University initiatives. Founded in the 1940’s, the Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science has grown into one of the world’s premier marine and atmospheric research institutions. Offering dynamic interdisciplinary academics, the Rosenstiel School is dedicated to helping communities to better understand the planet, participating in the establishment of environmental policies, and aiding in the improvement of society and quality of life. For more information, visit:

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