The Gulf Research Program of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recently announced the recipients of nine data synthesis grants, totaling more than $4.4 million.

These grants are designed to support activities that synthesize existing data for one of two purposes: 1) to inform efforts to restore and maintain the Gulf of Mexico's ecosystem services, or 2) to enhance understanding of the Deep Gulf or its physical and biological connectivity to coastal communities. Dr. Kenneth L. Heck, Senior Marine Scientist, DISL, will receive $469,000 for his project Living shorelines: Synthesizing the results of a decade of implementation in coastal Alabama.

Restoration of coastal habitats has proceeded rapidly over the last two decades and will likely accelerate in light of the civil settlement stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. With opportune timing, the project research team plans to synthesize data that capture biological and physical effects of living shorelines with data from companion socio-economic studies to fully evaluate the benefits of living shoreline projects across coastal Alabama.

The research is expected to contribute insights into the performance and efficacy of the different environmental restoration strategies being applied across the Gulf region.

Dr. Heck's project team includes: Dorothy Byron David, DISL; Dr. Brittany Blomberg, DISL; Judy Haner, The Nature Conservancy; Jonathan H. Grabowski, Ph.D., Steven B. Scyphers, Ph.D., and Matthias Ruth, Ph.D., Northeastern University

"Our Project Team will synthesize data from 13 existing living shoreline projects across coastal Alabama to quantify and value the services they provide, including such things as habitat enhancement, shoreline protection and water quality benefits.

"We will also synthesize data from companion socioeconomic studies and use market values and non-market techniques to estimate the value and benefits of their services to society. This detailed evaluation of the performance of different restoration methods will allow us to strengthen the science behind future living shoreline projects that will be used in mitigating the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill," explained Dr. Heck.

The two-year grants support activities that integrate or synthesize existing data from different sources that, analyzed together, may provide additional insights, address important questions, or lead to new approaches to interpreting and monitoring data. The research supported by these grants could increase understanding of the Gulf of Mexico region as a dynamic system, lead to better-informed decision making, translate into human benefits, or foster other actionable outcomes.

"These projects will add value to earlier investments in monitoring while improving our understanding of Gulf of Mexico ecosystems and communities," said Gulf Research Program senior program officer Evonne Tang. The proposals were selected after an external peer-review process.   

To learn more about these grants, please visit Information about 2016 Gulf Research Program funding opportunities is available at

The Gulf Research Program was established by agreements arising from the settlement of the U.S. government's criminal complaints following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion. The Program seeks to improve understanding of the interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems of the Gulf of Mexico and other U.S. outer continental shelf areas, and foster application of these insights to benefit Gulf communities, ecosystems, and the nation. The Program funds studies, projects, and other activities using three broad approaches: research and development, education and training, and environmental monitoring.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. The Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit