News FocusEcology

The Exxon Valdez's Scientific Gold Rush

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Science  09 Apr 1999:
Vol. 284, Issue 5412, pp. 247-249
DOI: 10.1126/science.284.5412.247

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ANCHORAGE, ALASKA-- Scientists gathered at a symposium here last month, 10 years after the worst oil spill in U.S. waters, to trot out findings from what may be the most expensive ecology program ever undertaken--the $900 million civil settlement fund set up after the Exxon Valdez ran aground in pristine Prince William Sound. After a rocky start, many researchers say that Exxon Valdez science has been transformed from a scientific pariah to a respected effort. But some observers question its underlying philosophy, which is to restore resources by understanding them better. And some prominent ecologists question the vast expenditure on studying the fallout of a local calamity when research efforts on more-imperiled species and global problems like tropical deforestation are scrambling for funds.