Frequently Asked Questions
(1) What is Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc.? Why was it established?
Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc., is a nonprofit corporation organized in 2013 to oversee the expenditure of funds recovered by the Florida attorney general for economic damages to the state that resulted from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was established to distribute the funds and has oversight of expenditures for the recovery, diversification, and enhancement of the eight Northwest Florida counties disproportionately affected by the oil spill — Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Bay, Gulf, Franklin and Wakulla counties.
(2) What problem will FSU’s Triumph-funded project be seeking to address?
Our project, the Apalachicola Bay System Initiative (ABSI), will assess the current status of the oyster reef ecosystem and identify the underlying causes of the observed decline by collecting physical and ecological data, conducting laboratory and field experiments, and generating user-friendly predictive models of oyster ecosystem productivity. In partnership with area stakeholders, we will develop management and restoration plans that will facilitate the recovery of the oyster reefs and the health of the Bay. The idea is to develop plans that can serve as a blueprint for recovery throughout the affected counties in Florida and beyond.
(3) Who will be leading the Triumph-funded research?
The leadership on this project consists of Dr. Gary K. Ostrander, Vice President for Research, Dr. Sandra Brooke (ABSI Scientific Director), and Dr. Felicia Coleman (ABSI Co-Scientific Director). Coleman is also the director of the Florida State University Coastal and Marine Laboratory, which will be the scientific and logistical hub of ABSI.
(4) Can you explain why bringing back the oyster population would help the overall ecological health of Apalachicola Bay?
Oysters are important prey in the diet of other invertebrates and fish, and they provide food and income for humans. They are also ecosystem engineers, providing other invertebrate and fish species (many of which are economically and ecologically important) with feeding grounds, nursery habitat and critical refuge from predators. The oysters also provide important ecosystem services such as protecting shorelines from erosion, and improving water quality. If oyster populations recover, therefore, the entire ecosystem will benefit.
(5) How has the oyster population crash harmed the local and regional economies?
For many generations, the human communities around Apalachicola Bay have relied on the highly productive estuaries for food and income. Fisheries, particularly the oyster fishery, have been the mainstay of the local economy. When the oyster populations crashed, this created economic hardship and undermined the culture of Apalachicola Bay. In this rural region, alternative industries are limited, leaving local communities with few other sources of income.
(6) Is Florida State University getting into the oyster business?
No, and that was never the intent of ABSI. We are conducting scientific research that will help inform management and restoration decisions for the area. In that process, we will provide important information for fishers, hatchery owners, and aquaculturists that will help them maintain sustainable fisheries and produce healthy oysters.
(7) What is the timeline for this project?
While the initial five years of funding will be provided by Triumph Gulf Coast Inc., with significant contributions from Florida State University, we view this project as a decades-long commitment to improve the health of the Apalachicola Bay System. It will reach far beyond five years with the university taking over personnel obligations thereafter, and, through extramural funding, all of the continuing research.
(8) What other partners plan to collaborate with FSU on this project?
It is our intent to partner with state and federal resource managers, non-governmental organizations, and other stakeholders throughout the bay area. We will also collaborate with other researchers at FSU and other academic institutions.
(9) Will you be seeking additional funds to supplement those received from Triumph?
Yes. There are a number of research opportunities that will complement the work we will be doing with Triumph funding. Indeed, Triumph is the catalyst that will make those projects possible. This includes funding from state and federal organizations, private institutions, and corporations.
(10) How will oyster restoration be implemented in Apalachicola Bay?
The ABSI objectives include development of a scientifically backed restoration plan and a restoration partnership. The intent of the partnership will be to seek the funding necessary to implement the restoration plan.