Course Details

Course offered Spring 2013

Honors 222 A: Disaster Science: Interdisciplinary Exploration of Marine Oil Spills (NSc)

Honors 222 A: Disaster Science: Interdisciplinary Exploration of Marine Oil Spills (NSc)

SLN 14568 (View UW registration info »)

Robert Pavia (School of Marine and Environmental Affairs)
Office: 3707 Brooklyn Avenue NE, Box 359485
Phone: 425-502-5243

Credits: 5
Limit: 30 students

Honors Credit Type

Over the past decade, there have been between 3,000 and 5,000 marine spill incidents annually. Marine oil spills are among the most visible and potentially damaging threats to fish and wildlife and their habitats, regional economies, and the people of a region in which a spill occurs. They can impact international relations, national energy policy, and even election outcomes, yet few people understand the scientific foundations of spills.

We will begin with an introduction to oil spills that have had a major impact on response science, technology, and policy in the United States. Each spill will illustrate key disciplines that provide the scientific foundation for mitigating spill impacts, such as physical oceanography, chemistry, geomorphology, and ecosystem interactions. Understanding oil spills requires an interdisciplinary approach that considers both natural and social sciences. In exploring spill response science, we will examine:

Oil spill history – legal, science, and policy frameworks
o The social and political role of oil in the United States
o Spills of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s
o Evolution of technology and policy
o Oil spill management

Oil spill fate and behavior in the marine environment.
o Oil chemistry and toxicity
o Transport and fate
o Natural resource sensitivity

Spill response methods for open water and shorelines.
o Mechanical and alternative response methods
o Determining cleanup endpoints
o Computer-based simulation models and tools

Natural resource and human effects
o Principles of ecological risk assessment
o Natural resource injury assessment and restoration
o Science and politics in disaster response

At the end of this course, the student will be able to:
– Explain how oil spills behave in the marine environment, with an emphasis on fate and effects on humans and ecosystems.
– List, describe, and compare the advantages and disadvantages of the basic spill response strategies and their differing impacts to the environment and humans.
– Demonstrate how to apply oil spill tools and models to an oil spill scenario in order to critique alternative response strategies.
– Recognize the role of old and new media in communicating science and affecting policy.
– Display a leadership role in the classroom community through discussion, group learning, and class presentations.