The Smithsonian recently published an article that included research, funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), that investigated the behavior of fish larvae around oil. The referenced study is of particular interest because the amount of oil used in exposure experiments were at levels recorded in industrialized sections of tropical coral reefs worldwide.
Researchers assessed various structures of clay nanotubes or halloysites, which are being studied for their potential in oil spill emulsification. They tested the nanotubes to identify which structures generated the most stable emulsions and smallest oil droplets and if catalytic reactions improved at the oil-water interface.
Researchers used population models to investigate how reduced survival and fertility after environmental disturbances, such as an oil spill, might affect sperm whale populations. Model simulations indicated that the magnitude of a disturbance had a stronger impact on recovery from lethal and sublethal effects than its duration.
Crude oil contains tens of thousands of hydrocarbons, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that create unique chemical fingerprints for different types of oil. Dawei “David” Shi uses geochemical analysis techniques in mesocosm studies to track these fingerprints.
Researchers analyzed simulated interactions of oil droplets and marine particle aggregates to understand how they could affect the behavior of an oil spill. The scientists found that the attachment of oil droplets to particle aggregates changed the distribution of oil droplet sizes over time scales of hours.
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative congratulates its Research Board Chair Dr. Rita Colwell on her selection as the 33rd laureate of the International Prize for Biology. The prize, managed by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, honors outstanding contributions to research advances in fundamental biology and is one of the most prestigious honors a natural scientist can receive.
Researchers from the United States, Australia, and Europe conducted mesocosm experiments to assess how larval reef fishes respond physiologically and cognitively to low crude oil concentrations. The team observed that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), at levels recorded in industrialized sections of tropical coral reefs worldwide, increased larvae mortality and stunted growth rates.
Meiofauna provide important ecosystem services such as waste removal to the deep sea-floor environment and can act as indicators of ecosystem health.
Scientists video recorded bubbles released from natural seafloor seeps in the Gulf of Mexico to determine the rate and volume of oil and gas released. The researchers observed that oily bubbles were larger and released more slowly than gaseous or mixed (part-oil, part-gas) bubbles.
Laser light and high-speed cameras can help researchers observe the behavior of oil droplets within a laboratory-simulated oil plume and interpret how the oil subsequently may move through the water column. Xinzhi Xue uses lasers to non-invasively probe inside the oil plume and get a detailed look at the oil fragmentation process.