Gulf Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Science Outreach Team Receives National Superior Outreach Programming Award

October 24, 2018

Chris Hale, Texas Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Science Outreach Specialist, is a member of Gulf Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Science Outreach Team.  In Portland, Oregon on September 20th, the team was awarded Sea Grant’s highest extension honor, the National Superior Programming Award, for their excellence and outstanding success in oil spill-related science and information outreach. 

When the Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, people needed answers to questions about the spill’s impact on the environment and their well-being.  To answer these questions and deliver the information to the people whose lives depended on a healthy Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative requested the Oil Spill Science Outreach Team to distribute their research findings. The team has since synthesized peer-reviewed science into easily digestible pieces and continues to deliver it back to the people asking questions about oil-spill impacts.  

Since the Gulf Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Science Outreach Team was founded in 2014, the program has become a major hub for oil spill-related science and information with workshops, seminars, and distributing publications.  One of the team’s goals was to gain trust from Gulf coast communities.  Through the Oil Spill Outreach Team’s dedication to providing reliable information and resources, people have begun to identify the program as the go-to source for oil spill-related subjects.  The team works with a variety of audiences to communicate this information; such as fishermen, emergency responders, elected officials, oil and gas industry, educators, tourism professionals, and natural resource managers.

Additional members of the team include manager Steve Sempier (Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium), Communications Specialist Tara Skelton (Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium), Extension Specialist Missy Partyka who took over for Larissa Graham (Mississippi-Alabama Sea Grant Consortium), Extension Specialist Emily Maung-Douglass (Louisiana Sea Grant), and Extension Specialist Monica Wilson (Florida Sea Grant). Hale states, “I am lucky to be part of an amazing regional team…together, we work hard to make sure we address the needs of people across the Gulf.”

On behalf of the Oil Spill Science Outreach Team, Hale is the lead for addressing environmental issues and questions.  She’s has organized seminars and workshops and wrote publications discussing and exploring how oil and dispersants can impact corals, sea turtles, oysters, and fish.  Additionally, Hale is the team lead for addressing oil spill science concerns in the Caribbean region.  A new facet of her work includes putting together a workshop series focusing on prioritizing human well-being issues related to oil spill preparedness in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. West Coast including Alaska, and the U.S. Mid-Atlantic.

Hale explained that she was honored be on the team that received the award and that it was “wonderful. Sea Grant is an extra-large family of the most talented and passionate people you can find working in the cross section of science & society.  We come from all walks of life, pulling all sorts of innovative ideas forward to address some of the most challenging problems humans face. I am full of gratitude to be counted among this family.”

Texas Sea Grant’s Senior Associate Director for Planning & Extension Heather Wade explains “The Oil Spill team is the epitome of what Extension is all about. They are a model for all programs on how to effectively synthesize research findings, engage communities and leaders, and assist with using peer-reviewed science in decision-making processes.”

Wade continues, “Chris Hale has excelled in her role as an Oil Spill Science Outreach Specialist and has naturally evolved into providing great leadership and guidance to not only her regional team members, but to her Texas colleagues and coworkers, as well.  We are proud of the work Chris has accomplished and are excited to see her continue her work and passions into the future.”

More information about Gulf Sea Grant’s Oil Spill Science Outreach Team is available online at  


By Kimber De Salvo