USF Scientists Spend 40 Days At Sea Looking For Evidence Of Oil

Marine science researchers, including some from USF, look at a scorpionfish taken from the Gulf of Mexico. Elizabeth Herdter / USF College of Marine Science

Marine science researchers, including some from USF, look at a scorpionfish taken from the Gulf of Mexico.
Elizabeth Herdter / USF College of Marine Science

A team of marine scientists, led by representatives of the University of South Florida, are about midway through a six-week expedition looking for evidence left over from the two largest accidental oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico.

(From WGCU) — During the “One Gulf Expedition,” researchers are collecting fish samples, particularly bottom-dwelling fish such as red snapper and golden tilefish, to see how much oil remains in their bodies.

The scientists also are taking sediment and water samples, as well as looking at coral and sediment, to see what long-term effects the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1979 Ixtoc oil spills are having on the Gulf.

The Deepwater Horizon blowout spilled 210 million gallons of crude into the Gulf, bypassing the previous record of 130 million gallons set by the Ixtoc I spill in the Bay of Campeche.

The USF College of Marine Science is the lead institution for the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), an international research consortium that includes researchers from Texas A & M University, Georgia Tech and schools in Mexico and Canada.

USF College of Marine Science professor, Steve Murawski, is C-IMAGE’s director, as well as the chief scientist on the 40-day expedition.

He spoke to WUSF almost halfway through the mission, via satellite phone from the bridge of the R/V Weatherbird II as it moved northwest through the Gulf, about 20 miles off the coast of Veracruz, Mexico.

“If you’re out on the Gulf, depending on where you are, if you’re in deeper waters, it’s an azure blue color, you really wouldn’t know that there was a massive oil spill,” Murawski said. “On the other hand, if you journey to the bottom of the ocean, you can see the impacts of that oil spill, particularly around the (Deepwater Horizon) site itself, and also you can easily find that oil in the marshes of Louisiana and other places as well.”

“The fish populations are particularly what I’m interested in,” Murawski said. “They’re showing signs of declining levels, in general, of the toxic parts of the crude oil. And so we’re seeing a partial return to normal after such a large event.”

In addition to the crew working on the water, a second set of researchers is working on land, moving through the mangroves and coastlines in the Mexican states of Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz.

Read the full article here: http://news.wgcu.org/post/usf-scientists-spend-40-days-sea-looking-evidence-oil

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