Gulf Watch Alaska is the long-term ecosystem monitoring program of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council for the marine ecosystem affected by the 1989 oil spill. The current five-year, $12 million program began in February 2012 and is the first increment of a program anticipated to span a 20-year period. The program is organized into four related ecosystem monitoring components, with data management, modeling and synthesis components providing overall integration across the program.
Why are we monitoring?
Extensive restoration, research, and monitoring efforts have taken place over the past two decades following the Exxon Valdez oil spill, but full recovery is still not complete. Some oil is still lingering in beaches and may continue to affect the environment. With this program, the Trustee Council has committed to long-term monitoring to gain information about the lingering oil and the recovery of species and resources injured by the spill, as well as other factors that may be affecting recovery, such as changing climate, oceanographic and ecosystem conditions.
The overall goals of Gulf Watch Alaska are to:
- Provide sound scientific information on biological resources and environmental conditions to management agencies, the scientific research community and the general public;
- Identify and help understand the impacts of multiple factors on recovery of resources injured by the 1989 oil spill; and
- Leverage partnerships with state and federal agencies, universities, non-profits and private entities to integrate and provide access to data from broader monitoring efforts in the region.
What are the benefits to researchers and managers?
- 30 years of historic data are being compiled and synthesized with ongoing and future data collection.
- Patterns in environmental conditions for a variety of species (trends in abundance, geographic distribution and community composition over different time periods) can be examined to address questions about recovery from the oil spill and other factors limiting recovery across the Gulf of Alaska and lower Cook Inlet, including climate change.
- All program data will be accessible through the project website and Gulf of Alaska data portal for use by other scientists to better understand marine ecosystems and by natural resource managers to better understand the potential effects of management decisions.
- Data and information products will be accessible to teachers for use in the classroom.