Research Needs: Human Dimensions of Oil Spill Response

Thursday, June 1, 2006
Durham, New Hampshire

Workshop Final Report

Meeting Goals

In June 2006, the Center held a workshop that included spill response practitioners and researchers from the social sciences in a discussion of risk communication, coordination in spill response and restoration, environmental ethics, valuing natural resources, and the social impacts of spills on communities and subsistence peoples. This workshop was the first of its kind to address these issues.

Broadly understood, human dimensions research aims to:

1. Understand human-environment interactions, including:

(a) the ecological role of humans as proximate causes of ecosystem stress, and underlying social drivers of those causes,

(b) consequences of ecosystem stress for the achievability, sustainability, and trade offs among diverse societal objectives, and

(c) human mitigative and adaptive responses to ecosystem stress.

2. Harness this understanding in policy, management, and other governance contexts to balance social and environmental goals in the context of natural resources management.

Workshop Overview & Goals



Topics to be Discussed

News & Resources

This link provides access to the Compendium of Research on Social and Economic Impacts of Marine Oil Spills* (Ritchie, Gill, and Rezek 2005). The contents of the compendium are derived from a comprehensive, cross-national review of marine oil spill research conducted between October 2003 and November 2004

The NCCOS Human Dimensions Strategic Plan (FY2009-FY2014) can be found here. Please feel free to contact Marybeth Bauer for a PDF if you are unable to download the document.

A recent report, Harmful Algal Research and Response: A Human Dimensions Strategy, summarizes human dimensions research needs to support HAB mitigation. This report can be found here. It is a companion document to the National HAB Plan - Harmful Algal Research and Response: A National Environmental Science Strategy (HARRNESS) - which can be found here.

A New Interagency Human Dimensions Web Portal for Natural Resource Management More

NOAA Offering Fellowships for Social Science Research in ReservesNOAA Offering Fellowships for Social Science Research in Reserves For more information on application guidelines and participating reserves, please visit: or

Workshop Final Report

Workshop Reading Materials

NOAA’s Coastal Services Center is spearheading development of (

Measuring Response: A Balanced Response Scorecard for Evaluating Success by Captains Joseph Kuchin and Larry Hereth. This paper proposes a model for response evaluation that highlights six key areas that must be addressed to adequately define success before, during and after a response. The areas are: 1) human health and safety; 2) natural environment; 3) economic impact; 4) public communications; 5) stakeholder service and support; and 6) response organization. Each of these areas has critical success factors. By assessing these critical success factors, as part of a Balanced Response Scorecard, a response organization has the chance to modify actions during the response to ensure the best opportunity for success.

Overview of M/V Selendang Ayu Response by Captain Ron Morris, USCG Retired. This draft of a presentation made at the Aleutian Life Forum in August 2005 provides a brief overview of the initial response of the Unified Command to a shipwreck and oil spill in the Aleutian Islands.

The Day the Water Died by Chief Walter Meganack. This is an editorial originally published in the Anchorage Daily News that gives an Alaska Native perspective on the Exxon Valdez oil spill a few months after it occurred.

The Day the Water Died: The Exxon Valdez Disaster and Indigenous Culture by Duane A. Gill and J. Steven Picou. This chapter from a book edited by Steven Beil (2001) extends Chief Meganack's editorial by examining a variety of impacts of the EVOS on Alaska Native culture, including views from Natives ten years after the disaster.

What is Good Ecological Restoration? by Eric S. Higgs. This article explores a question that is fundamental to the practice and policy of oil spill response and restoration - what are the criteria for a good ecological restoration? Higgs argues that good restoration requires an expanded view that includes historical, social, cultural, political, aesthetic, and moral aspects.

Additional Reading

Chalk Point Damage Assessment & Restoration Plan Natural resource damage assessments conducted under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 end with a final Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan (DARP) that summarizes the extent of environmental injury, itemizes those restoration options considered by the Trustees, and identifies those options that have been selected for implementation. The Chalk Point, Maryland DARP is an example of the evaluations conducted and decisions made for a moderate size oil spill in an estuarine environment.

History of the California Office of Spill Prevention and Response by The Resources Agency California Department of Fish & Game. On the federal level, oil spill response in the marine environment, is governed primarily by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA'90), passed in the wake of the Exxon Valdez. In addition to the requirements outlined in OPA'90, many states have adopted their own often more stringent requirements, including the State of California. This brief paper outlines some of the oil spill programs implemented by the State of California's Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Incident Management Handbook The U.S. Coast Guard Incident Management Handbook (IMH) is designed to assist Coast Guard personnel in the use of the Incident Command System (ICS) during response operations. The IMH is intended to be used as an easy reference job aid for responders. It is not a policy document, but rather guidance for response personnel. During development of the IMH, it was recognized that eighty-percent of all response operations share common principles, procedures and processes. The other twenty-percent of response operations are unique to the type of incident, such as a search and rescue case or an oil spill. The handbook is laid out so that the generic information applicable to all responses is presented up-front.

IPIECA Report: Oil Spill Preparedness and Response IPIECA oil spill report series under one cover. It provides a complete overview of issues that can be referenced in the preparation for, and response to, oil spills at sea. The 17 reports in the series focus on the biological impacts of spills on sensitive environments and other general and specific aspects of oil spill contingency planning and response. The reports represent a consensus of industry views on good practice in oil spill preparedness and response. They are made available to guide oil spill response managers, practitioners, trainers and government officials alike.

The Politics of Ecological Restoration by Andrew Light & Eric S. Higgs. This article focuses on the inherent participatory capacity at the heart of ecological restoration - an aspect that may be integral to the development of oil spill restoration practice and policy.

The Selendang Ayu Oil Spill: A Study of the Renewable Resource Community of Dutch Harbor/Unalaska by Liesel A. Ritchie and Duane A. Gill. This 2006 Quick Response Report prepared for the Natural Hazards Center examines community responses to this incident and provides a general model for considering social impacts of oil spills.

Ethics and Ecological Restoration by Andrew Light. This is a summary of ethical issues in ecological restoration.

Communicating Across Cultures: Substance & Science - A DVD produced by the Unalaska Community Broadcasting during a subsistence life fair on Unalaska, AK, Apr 8-9, 2005 following the Selendang Ayu oil spill (Dec 8, 2004), records Rev. Michael Oleska keynote dialog. Rev. Oleska, a Russian Orthodox Priest from Unalaska does a tremendous job illustrating the disconnect that can occur when cultural differences are not fully considered, especially in the context of an oil spill affecting subsistence resources. His speech is non-threatening, gentle and enlightening on how well-intended scientists can miscommunicate with the people they are trying to help by not recognizing differences in perspectives, lifestyles, and communication methods. Please contact KTOO - TV in Juneau to request a copy.

Grand Challenges for Disaster Reduction by Subcommittee on Disaster Reduction This document (2005) may be of interest due to our recent Workshop and extensive conversations regarding disaster resilient communities.

Scaling Compensation Restoration Actions by NOAA This detailed document will talk about restoration scaling and compensatory restoration.

Breakout Session Groups

Breakout Group Worksheets

Questions?  Please contact or (603) 862-1545