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Goni, Gustav
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Goni, Gustav

Explaining how ocean observations answered key questions about the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Gustavo Goni is a physical oceanographer and director of the Physical Oceanography Division at the Atlantic Oceanic and Meteorological Laboratory (AOML) in Miami, Fla. Originally from Argentina, he has a bachelor's degree in physical oceanography and ocean engineering from the Buenos Aires Institute of Technology. He went on to earn a master's degree in acoustics at Penn State and a Ph.D. in marine physics and ocean engineering from the University of Miami. He recently contributed to the research collaboration in the Gulf of Mexico to better understand the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.


1. Why does your research matter?

What I do matters because it is related to NOAA’s mission to understand and predict changes in Earth’s environment, and because it has societal implications.

2. What do you enjoy the most about your work?

The opportunities provided by NOAA and the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Lab to work in an environment of healthy research, and collaboration within the organization and with other national and international laboratories.

3. Did the priorities of your research change after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?

The priorities remained the same. What changed were the inside and outside perceptions that AOML work is mostly research related to weather and climate.  AOML has shown that it can rapidly respond in an efficient, cost-effective, and excellent way to operational needs in case of extreme events, such as the oil spill.

4. What did your research contribute to our knowledge of the spill?

AOML is a leader in the design, implementation, and maintenance of large components of the ocean observing system, as well as the analysis of data derived from this network. AOML also leads several efforts in the monitoring and analysis of the upper ocean using blended hydrographic and satellite observations. The strong experience in ocean data analysis and monitoring allowed for a rapid response that, in turn, helped several operational agencies and decision-makers to have a clearer understanding of the ocean dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico during the oil spill, and how ocean dynamics were affecting the extent of oil and dispersants.

5. If you could invent any instrument to advance your research and cost were no object, what would it be? Why?

It would depend on the specific scientific or operational question that I want to address. I believe that an autonomous observational platform would be a good pick. This type of platform requires less human intervention, less dedicated ship time, and could measure various parameters simultaneously.

"AOML has shown that it can rapidly respond in an efficient, cost-effective, and excellent way to operational needs in case of extreme events."

6. When did you know you wanted to pursue science?

When I was a kid, I spent time at the family farm in Argentina, which helped me gain appreciation for the environment. However, at that time my early goal was to study agriculture.

7. What’s at the top of your recommended reading list for someone wanting to explore a career in science?

First, I would not limit this to a list of books, given the various ways of acquiring knowledge that are available today, including internet, cable channels, etc, which are heavily used by the younger generation. There are so many possibilities. I would recommend contacting a local laboratory/agency and trying to obtain a summer internship to learn more about the field of their interest. This is something that a book cannot provide.

8. And how about a personal favorite book?

I read mostly history and geography. The last book that I really enjoyed was The Dark Fate of the Man Who Sailed Charles Darwin Around the World, which tells the story of Fitz Roy, the Captain of HMS Beagle during Darwin’s famous voyage.

9. What part of your job as a NOAA scientist did you least expect to be doing?

I was never expecting to do so much national and international collaboration, which is critical for NOAA in order to play a leading role in many aspects of climate studies.

10. Do you have an outside hobby?

I read history books, swim, and collect bells from places I visit.

11. What would you be doing if you had not become a scientist?

I cannot even guess.

12. Who is your favorite historical scientist and why?

Charles Darwin. He struggled with his professional, personal, family, and spiritual life – he had vision and was a leader. 

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