Oil Spill Science Outreach SpecialistNueces County
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi
6300 Ocean Drive
NRC 2800, Unit 5840
Corpus Christi, Texas, 78412
Organization: Texas Sea Grant
Christine Hale has a passion for community capacity-building, experience studying humans in nature, and a drive to help people utilize science to make informed decisions. Her main role as Oil Spill Science Outreach Specialist is as a link between communities and the science coming from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), a research program that aims to mitigate the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the marine environment and public health, and improve understanding of oil spill issues in general. Hale is one of four Sea Grant Oil Spill Science Outreach Specialists and works with her counterparts in the other Gulf of Mexico Sea Grant Programs to foster the two-way communication between researchers who conduct oil spill science and the multiple stakeholder groups that need this information to make more informed decisions.
“I was hired to share emerging oil spill science, both locally and regionally,” Hale says. “I take the science directly to people whose livelihoods depend on a healthy Gulf, primarily decision makers such as natural resource managers, emergency response personnel and political leaders, and those in the fishing industry and at nonprofit organizations. These are people who need the information to do their jobs.”
Hale and her colleagues publish bulletins distilling the latest research, and she shares that information through seminars and workshops as well. The first bulletins about spill impacts to fisheries, dispersant impacts to aquatic life, and seafood health were released in early 2015, with more scheduled to be published soon. The first seminar, which focused on the science of fisheries impacts, was delivered in January 2015 for the South Texas Chapter of Texas Master Naturalists. Similarly, two seminars and a workshop designed specifically for Gulf of Mexico natural resource managers was held at the 2015 Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference in Houston. Future events related to oil spill science will be announced on Gulf Sea Grant and GoMRI websites. Depending on funding, these outreach efforts may continue for 10 years.
So far, GoMRI has resulted in some 400 peer-reviewed publications. That represents a huge wealth of information, but also one that few people have the time or experience to sort through. Hale and the rest of the team are distilling the information and helping to bring everyone in the community to the table. They also examine research from other oil spills to help the Gulf community understand the complexity and comprehensive nature of long-term effects.
Hale encourages community feedback about which outreach efforts people find useful and what other kinds of information they need. “For example, we use feedback on what types of oil spill science people more or less of in order to deliver products specific to our audience, and adjust our goals for future outreach. Our effort is dependent upon what the community needs.”
She started at Texas Sea Grant in August 2014 and came to the program from the University of the Virgin Islands Sea Grant, where she was an Extension Specialist and Stewardship Coordinator. Her activities there included building public support to address “Ridge to Reef” or whole-ecosystem issues. She has a bachelor of science in marine science from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a master of science in marine and environmental science from the University of the Virgin Islands.