Expert sources on the gulf oil spill

The following UC Davis experts are available to comment on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster.


Developmental toxicology of oil

Gary Cherr, professor of environmental toxicology and nutrition, and director of the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory, is available to comment on the toxicity of oil in estuaries and coastal waters and potential impacts on developing aquatic organisms. Cherr's laboratory has worked on adaptive mechanisms by which developing organisms acquire tolerance to oil, as well as the phenomenon of phototoxicity, where oil constituents at non-toxic concentrations in the absence of sunlight become toxic in the presence of sunlight. Cherr was a co-leader of the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis' Gulf Ecotoxicology Working Group, which focused on the Deepwater Horizon spill. He was one of the leaders of the damage assessment for the Cosco Busan spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007. Contact: Gary Cherr, Bodega Marine Laboratory, (707) 875-2051 (office),

Impact on wildlife

Veterinarian Michael Ziccardi (pronounced "zuh-CAR-dee") is an associate professor of clinical wildlife health at the UC Davis Wildlife Health Center and director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network. He is overseeing rescue and rehabilitation of sea turtles and marine mammals at the wildlife command post in Houma, La. Contact: Sylvia Wright, UC Davis News Service, (530) 219-8849, Blog:

Toxicology of dispersants

Ron Tjeerdema, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology, is available to comment on the application of chemical dispersants and the impact on ecosystems in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Tjeerdema is internationally recognized for his nearly 25 years of research on oil spills. He was part of a 50-member international panel of scientific experts called to an emergency meeting in Louisiana in late May to advise the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and BP on the continued subsurface application of chemical dispersants. According to Tjeerdema, the current situation is unprecedented in both the way in which the chemical dispersant has been delivered (subsurface) and the massive quantities already used, more than 700,000 gallons. Contact: Ron Tjeerdema (pronounced “chur-DEE-ma”), Environmental Toxicology, (530) 754-5192 (office), (707) 266-4236 (cell),

Satellite imaging of oil spills

Susan Ustin, director of the Center for Spatial Technologies and Remote Sensing at UC Davis, can describe how images from satellites and aircraft can be used to assess damage from oil spills and to guide the restoration of wetlands. Based on pre-spill imaging, restoration managers can tell what plants grew in the healthy wetland and use new images to identify damaged areas that need attention, she said. Ustin has worked on oil spills on land in California and New Mexico, and has assessed impacts of oil on coastal wetlands in California, Texas and Louisiana. Ustin is a professor of resource science in the UC Davis Department of Land, Air, and Water Resources. Contact: Susan Ustin, (530) 752-0621, Website:

Transport of oil in coastal waters

John Largier, professor of coastal oceanography at UC Davis' Bodega Marine Laboratory and Department of Environmental Science and Policy, can provide insight on the transport of oils toward the shore and into estuaries, bayous and rivers. He can also discuss how oil is flushed out of these waters when the ocean eventually clears up. Contact: John Largier, Bodega Marine Laboratory, (707) 875-1930,

Economic valuation of natural resources

James (Jim) Sanchirico, professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy, can comment on the economic value of natural resources, such as fisheries and other marine and coastal resources. His research includes measuring values of ecosystem services from coastal habitats, such as the ones that are threatened by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Sanchirico serves on the Science Advisory Board of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration and recently served on the National Research Council's committee to review the U.S. Ocean Research Priorities Plan. In 2008, he testified before a U.S. Senate Subcommittee for Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and the Coast Guard on the economic benefits of catch share programs for U.S. commercial fisheries. Contact: Jim Sanchirico, Environmental Science and Policy, (530) 754-9883,


Coastal law and energy issues

Richard Frank, a visiting professor of law at UC Davis and executive director of the UC Berkeley Law School's Center for Law, Energy and the Environment, has specialized in coastal and energy issues for nearly 40 years. He has done so as an attorney with the California Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Energy, and as an academic. Frank has litigated offshore oil drilling cases against both the federal government and major oil companies. He has taught and written extensively on coastal, energy and ocean issues. Richard Frank, School of Law, (916) 217-1292-cell,

Environmental law

Law professor Albert Lin researches and teaches environmental law. Lin previously worked as a trial attorney for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and can discuss potential civil and criminal liability for BP and other parties involved in the oil spill. Contact: Al Lin, School of Law, (530) 752-8021,


History of disaster in the gulf

Environmental historian Ari Kelman, an associate professor of history at UC Davis, can comment in depth about the history of disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and more specifically, Louisiana. Kelman is the author of the 2003 book, “A River and Its City: The Nature of Landscape in New Orleans.” His research interests include historical memory and the built environment. Contact: Ari Kelman, History, (303) 520-2500,

Organization of a crisis

Thomas Beamish, associate professor of sociology, is an expert on organizational, economic and environmental sociology. The author of the book "Silent Spill: The Organization of an Industrial Crisis," he can discuss many aspects of the Gulf of Mexico spill that are remarkable in their similarities to previous disaster events. These include a delayed response (Beamish calls it "slow, halting and secretive"); industry priorities (of the oil producers as well as those of the regulators and lawmakers who propose, create and enforce regulations); and spills as "normal accidents" (events so predictable that we should require oil producers to fund research, environmental and safety equipment, and accident preparation). May 6 essay: Contact: Thomas Beamish, Sociology,

Crisis and social movements

John Hall, professor of sociology, is author of the book "Apocalypse: From Antiquity to the Empire of Modernity." He can discuss the relationship of social crises and environmental developments to the proliferation of apocalyptic ideas and social movements. Contact: John Hall, Sociology, (530) 752-7035,

'Apocalyptic' disasters

Naomi Janowitz, professor of religious studies, can comment on how events as large and disastrous as the gulf oil spill can be perceived as apocalyptic and how those views can impact society’s views and attitudes. Janowitz has published extensively on the formative period of Judaism and Christianity. Contact: Naomi Janowitz, Religious Studies Program, (530) 752-6255 office, (510) 841-9159 home,


Oil geology

UC Davis geologist David Osleger studies the types of rocks that are present where oil and gas deposits are found. He can discuss how those deposits are formed and why some are easier to extract than others. Earlier in his career, Osleger worked as a geologist for the Gulf Oil Corp. and at the Bureau of Economic Geology at the University of Texas. Contact: David Osleger, Geology, (530) 754-7824,

Robotic vehicles for deep-sea exploration

Sanjay Joshi, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, can discuss the use of robots and remote-controlled vehicles to explore and work in remote, inaccessible and dangerous environments. Joshi studies autonomous systems and robots that can carry out tasks without human intervention, especially for space exploration. Before joining UC Davis, he worked on robotics projects at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Contact: Sanjay Joshi, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, (530) 400-5746,


Catalysis and fuel refining

Bruce Gates, distinguished professor of chemical engineering and materials science at UC Davis, can comment on the chemistry of fuel refining and the need for new classes of catalysts (materials that accelerate chemical reactions) to take advantage of new energy sources, such as biofuels. Gates, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, co-chaired a 2007 workshop and report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy on "Basic Research Needs: Catalysis for Energy." Contact: Bruce Gates, Chemical Engineering and Materials Science, (530) 752-3953,

Transportation policy, technology and the environment

Daniel Sperling is a leading international expert on transportation technology assessment, energy and environmental aspects of transportation, and transportation policy. He is a UC Davis professor of civil engineering and of environmental science and policy, and founding director of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies. Sperling can comment on alternative transportation fuels, electric vehicles and other low-emission vehicles, and energy policy. Sperling is the author of the 2009 book, "Two Billion Cars." Contact: Daniel Sperling, ITS-Davis, (530) 752-7434,


Management Professor Kimberly Elsbach can comment on the crisis communication of BP and the federal government in response to the oil spill. Elsbach focuses her research on the acquisition and maintenance of organizational images, identities and reputations, especially images of legitimacy, trustworthiness and creativity. Her research provides a framework for communicating with shareholders, customers and employees in the immediacy of a crisis and through long-term recovery. Contact: Kimberly Elsbach, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-0910,

Marketing Professor Olivier Rubel can comment on brand building and market strategies BP might take in the aftermath of the oil spill. Rubel’s research examines how companies can best determine and allocate resources to marketing activities when facing a crisis. Contact: Olivier Rubel, Graduate School of Management, (530) 752-3739,

About UC Davis

For more than 100 years, UC Davis has engaged in teaching, research and public service that matter to California and transform the world. Located close to the state capital, UC Davis has 32,000 students, an annual research budget that exceeds $600 million, a comprehensive health system and 13 specialized research centers. The university offers interdisciplinary graduate study and more than 100 undergraduate majors in four colleges — Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering, and Letters and Science. It also houses six professional schools — Education, Law, Management, Medicine, Veterinary Medicine and the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing.

Media Resources

Pat Bailey, Research news (emphasis: agricultural and nutritional sciences, and veterinary medicine), 530-219-9640,

Andy Fell, 530-752-4533,

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Science & Technology Society, Arts & Culture Environment Society, Arts & Culture Society, Arts & Culture University