During the last 50 years, the numbers and sizes of oil spills have been significantly reduced through prevention. But spills still occur, and it is critical to prepare for these events through planning and exercises. Operational decisions are designed to expedite cleanup and minimize overall impacts, yet they often involve complex tradeoffs between a multitude of competing interests. It is imperative to apply the best technology and science when events occur. However, while planning and response tactics have evolved over time, determining what may be most at risk is often confounded by sparse background data, modeling limitations, scalability, or research gaps. Since 2010, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) and other oil spill research helped address many issues and propelled advances in spill modeling. As a result, there is an increased understanding of environmental impacts, how to assess damages, and the unintended consequences of spill countermeasures. The unprecedented amount of information resulting from this research has strengthened the bridge between the academic community and operational responders and brought improvements in preparedness, planning, and operations. This paper focuses primarily on GoMRI research and advances that relate to operational activities, as well as limitations and opportunities for gap-filling future research.
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