Years after the Deepwater Horizon, what is the long-term impact to the Gulf Coast environment and economy? InFocus looks back at the work that University of West Florida researchers have dedicated to this subject.

Behind the scenes

Dr. Wade Jeffrey
Dr. Bill Huth
Dr. Jane Caffrey
Phyllis Pooley

Initial response

Faculty and student researchers from the University of West Florida responded quickly to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Despite not having any grant funding, they developed a plan to test water and sediment to see whether oil was reaching local beaches and what effect the spill could have on coastal ecosystems.

Environmental impact

In the years since the spill, the ongoing research by UWF faculty and students has led to key insights into the long-term effects of oil and surfactants on the Gulf environment, in both microbial communities and larger marine life.

Effect on economy

The environmental impact in Northwest Florida caused by the oil spill may have been minimal compared to those seen in other areas of the Gulf Coast, but the local economy was devastated. There were significant downturns in tourism and the seafood industry. The Northwest Florida economy didn’t start to grow again until 2013, but the gains have been steady since.


The Florida Legislature appropriated $30 million to UWF’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement to develop an economic development plan across the eight coastal counties across Northwest Florida that were significantly affected by the flood. The OEDE implemented an Industry Recruitment, Retention and Expansion Grant Fund Program that is forecast to support the creation of more than 28,000 jobs across the region.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill profoundly affected Northwest Florida, its economy, its ecosystems and its communities. From the day oil began flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, University of West Florida researchers have been at work monitoring the disaster and mitigating the damage done to local industries.

The InFocus investigative team spoke with scientists, economists, businesspeople and data analysts to find out how Northwest Florida is faring nearly nine years after the spill. The experts also offered insight into what communities in the region could do to protect the environment and economy should another disaster like the oil spill happen in the future.

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