Research at Sea – Studying Oil Impacts on Food Web in Florida Waters

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Bongo nets, used for collectiong zooplankton, ready for deployment off the aft U-frame of the R/V Weatherbird II. (Credit: Bo Yang, Ph.D. student, USF College of Marine Science)

(Click to enlarge) Bongo nets, used for collectiong zooplankton, ready for deployment off the aft U-frame of the R/V Weatherbird II. (Credit: Bo Yang, Ph.D. student, USF College of Marine Science)

March 2012. Dr. Kendra Daly and Leslie Schwierzke-Wade at the University of South Florida (USF) are leading a group of researchers from the USF College of Marine Science and the Florida Wildlife Research Institute to assess the impact of oil on the food web in Gulf waters off the Florida coast.

Their team includes four graduate students. Their 10-day cruise aboard the R/V Weatherbird II (Feb 15-24) out of St. Petersburg was the 8th of 9 cruises planned for this project. Funds from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) support these efforts to understand the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The goal of this cruise was to investigate the impacts of the BP oil spill, focusing on the lower end of the water column food web.  Results will be compared to observations from other research cruises in the same region and observations from the non-impacted region on the west Florida shelf. We assessed benthic, microbial, phytoplankton, zooplankton communities through abundance and distribution, species composition, and toxicity studies.  Measurements of pH, total dissolved carbon and dissolved gases were collected. Sediment samples were also collected for hydrocarbon analysis — Leslie Schwierzke-Wade, Chief Scientist

Using bongo net tows and a continuous imaging camera (SIPPER), they collected samples and assessed marine and environmental conditions along two transects in the northern Gulf of Mexico as part of their long-term monitoring for oil impacts. Their research also seeks to understand the role of zooplankton in tracking oil movement.

To assess the impacts of oil on the marine food web, scientists sampled at stations along transects extending across the shelf from Panama City over the DeSoto Canyon and also south of Mobile Bay, where subsurface oil has been detected.

(Click to enlarge) To assess the impacts of oil on the marine food web, scientists sampled at stations along transects extending across the shelf from Panama City over the DeSoto Canyon and also south of Mobile Bay, where subsurface oil has been detected.

For more information about this research, visit the GoMRI-funded projects at the Florida Institute of Oceanography (title:  Baseline for Impact Assessment of Zooplankton and Imaging Oil Droplet Detection on the West Florida Shelf).

Their 9th cruise, originally scheduled for March 3-8, has been re-scheduled in April due to weather. This group of researchers has cruises planned in upcoming months through the GoMRI-awarded C-IMAGE research consortia.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. The GoMRI is a 10-year, $500 million independent research program established by an agreement between BP and the Gulf of Mexico Alliance to study the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the environment and public health.  

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