Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Dr. Mark Luther, PhD

Co-Major Professor

Dr. Barnali Dixon, PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Steven Murawski, PhD

Committee Member

Dr. Miles O. Hayes, PhD


General NOAA Operational Modeling Environment (GNOME), Panhandle, Florida, Geodatabase, Contingency, Planning, Fish, Wildlife, Habitats, Estuary, Florida Marine Spill Analysis System (FMSAS), Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI)


The Oil Pollution Act of 1990 requires the development of Regional and Area Contingency Plans. For more than 20 years, the State of Florida, under both the Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, has worked closely with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to develop these plans for coastal and marine oil spill response. Current plans, developed with local, state and federal stakeholder input, use geographic information systems (GIS) data such as location and extent of sensitive ecological, wildlife, and human-use features (termed Environmental Sensitivity Index data), pre-defined protection priorities, and spatially explicit protection strategies to support decision-making by responders (termed Geographic Response Plans). However, they are long overdue for improvements that incorporate modern oceanographic modeling techniques and integrated data from coastal ocean observing systems. Better understanding of circulation in nearshore and estuarine waters, at a scale consistent with other spatial data, is especially lacking in Area Contingency Plans. This paper identifies the gaps in readily available information on the circulation-driven causes and effects missing in current oil spill contingency planning and describes a sample methodology whereby multiple coastal and ocean spatial science disciplines are used to answer questions that no single, non-integrated discipline can answer by itself. A path forward for further integration and development of more comprehensive plans to better support coastal protection in Florida is proposed. The advances made here are applicable to other coastal regions of the world.