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President's Forum to focus on effects of oil spill

Loyola press release - April 18, 2011

As the anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill approaches, Loyola University New Orleans will host the 2010-11 President's Forum, "Oil and Water: Spotlight on the Gulf" on Wednesday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in Monroe Hall’s Nunemaker Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

The forum will provide first-hand accounts and analysis from experts who witnessed the environmental disaster up close. It will also explore the issue of climate change, what it means to our coast, the continued damage caused by the BP oil spill, and the lingering health and economic concerns of Gulf Coast citizens.

The event will feature a distinguished and diverse panel of experts in their fields.

Virginia Burkett, Ph.D., Senior Scientist for Global Change at the U.S. Geological Survey, is a nationally and internationally recognized leader in research on the impacts of climate change on our natural ecosystems. Dr. Burkett was an early leader in the advocacy movement for addressing climate change when she began to focus on the issue in the 1990s. She is renowned as one of the most knowledgeable scientists in her field and was a lead author of sections of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Third and Fourth Assessment Reports, for which Vice President Al Gore received the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Amy Harmon recently provided extensive coverage on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for the New York Times. Harmon spent months examining nearly every aspect of the oil spill, from its damaging effects on the environment to the plight of the fishermen nearly driven into bankruptcy as the seafood industry struggles to recover. She has written more than a half-dozen articles on the far reaching consequences of the oil spill, as well as contributing to the ongoing discussion on The Times’ environment and energy blog.

Gulf Restoration Network Executive Director Cynthia Sarthou has taken an active role in repairing the Gulf’s damaged ecosystem in the wake of the oil spill. In October 2010, she and other concerned parties joined forces in filing a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency in response to the use of possibly toxic dispersants used by companies charged in cleaning up the oil slick. She is also fighting Congress’ attempts to slash the budget that would drastically cut funding for clean water and clean air programs, national parks and clean energy programs.

Robert A. Thomas, Ph.D., director of Loyola’s Center for Environmental Communication, will serve as moderator. In addition to being an expert on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and its disastrous effects on the Gulf Coast’s fragile ecosystem, Thomas was the founding director of the Louisiana Nature Center and is past president of the Association of Nature Center Administrators. He was named Conservation Educator of the Year in 1986 and since the 2010 BP oil spill, Thomas joined the Louisiana Office of Tourism’s Expert Bureau to help improve Louisiana’s image nationally and has appeared in hundreds of news stories dedicated to the spill. He also has led more than 200 post-Katrina recovery tours of the New Orleans area.

Loyola University’s President’s Forum on Current Issues and Controversies seeks to explore and discuss some of the most compelling contemporary issues facing us today. Featuring internationally recognized scholars, the forum’s goal is to develop a dialogue with the larger community that helps us deepen our understanding and challenges us to move toward a more just and enlightened society.

This event is co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of New Orleans.

For more information on the President’s Forum or to schedule an interview, contact Matt Lambert at 504-861-5448 or by e-mail at mlambert@loyno.edu.