Kelsey Rogers collects samples of sediment particles onboard the R/V Endeavor’s laboratory. (Photo provided by Professor Joseph Montoya, Georgia Institute of Technology)

Grad Student Rogers Traces Gulf Oil as Scientific CSI

Kelsey Rogers looks for evidence of oil and methane intrusion into Gulf of Mexico water and sediment, but finding these hydrocarbons is only the beginning of her work. Like a scientific crime scene investigator, Kelsey analyzes the chemical fingerprints of oil and gas and uses them to identify their source, such as from an oil spill or a natural seafloor seep.

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Juan demonstrates Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data from the Deepwater Horizon incident. (Provided by Juan Pinales)

Grad Student Pinales Designs “Smart” Oil-Spill Detection Tool

Juan Pinales is working on a computational modelling system that will aid oil spill monitoring efforts. He combines Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and oceanographic conditions recorded during the Deepwater Horizon incident to improve surface oil detection using a semi-automated machine learning method known as artificial neural networking.

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Undergraduate students Nichole Clark (left) and Rachael Kalin (right) transfer a sediment core aboard R/V Justo Sierra. (Provided by C-IMAGE)

Researchers Seek New Insights from Decades-Old Spill

The Ixtoc I blowout happened in the Bay of Campeche over thirty-five years ago, so why are scientists studying this spill now? Because understanding what happened to Ixtoc I oil may help predict if and how Deepwater Horizon oil will degrade, persist, and impact northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystems over the next few decades.

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One of many fascinating creatures in the deep Gulf of Mexico is the Melanocetus johnsoni. This anglerfish has a fleshy growth from its head (the esca or illicium) that acts as a lure. (Photo by Dante´ Fenolio)

Discovering Vibrant, Dynamic Life in the Deep Gulf of Mexico

DEEPEND expands knowledge as a restoration tool for the Gulf’s largest ecosystem. Much uncertainty remains about impacts on the deep-sea environment from the 2010 oil spill that erupted more than 5,000 feet below the sea surface. However, knowing what was affected or what may change in the future is particularly difficult with little to no pre-existing knowledge about this obscure ecosystem. Environmental impact assessments of an area require some baseline of what lives and happens there.

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