An exciting aspect of scientific research is unexpected discovery. While investigating impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, scientists made unanticipated, yet fundamentally important, discoveries that shape our understanding of ocean science and Gulf ecosystems.
Caroline Johansen laughs when her family tells others that her research involves counting bubbles. But the bubbles she studies come from seeps at the bottom of the Gulf and contain naturally-occurring hydrocarbons that are an important part of the deep-sea ecosystem.
Unhealthy diet and inactivity are the first things that people think about that cause obesity. However, Alexis Temkin is finding an unexpected potential contributor to increased fat cell production: a component in dispersants used for oil spill cleanup and many personal care products.
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill and the remediation efforts that followed raised many concerns about impacts on coastal and ocean environments.
The prevention or reduction of coastline oiling was high on responders’ priorities immediately following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Five years later, much discussion continues about balancing benefits and risks regarding dispersants, and there are increased research efforts for alternatives or enhancements to existing dispersant systems.
On behalf of the GoMRI science community, the Research Board extends our thoughts and prayers to those who lost their lives on April 20, 2010 and their families and to those whose health and livelihoods were impacted.
If another oil spill were to occur in the Gulf of Mexico today, have there been scientific advances and new tools developed that could better inform response decisions? Have communication and collaboration among scientists and responders improved? Yes and yes.
Responders to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill used nearly two million gallons of dispersant to assist biodegradation and prevent shoreline oiling.
Auburn University scientists documented submerged oil mats and surface residual balls (also known as tar balls) on Alabama’s sandy beach systems and analyzed the physical and chemical evolution of compounds matching the characteristics of Macondo oil.
During the Deepwater Horizon incident, both oil and methane entered the surrounding marine environment from the Macondo reservoir. Scientists are investigating the released methane’s effects on deep-sea ecosystems.