The Gulf of Mexico is one of four “super-diverse” ecoregions in the world; yet, we don’t know much about how its deep environment changed after Deepwater Horizon because very little was known about it before the spill.
“Magical discovery moments” is how Dr. Samantha “Mandy” Joye describes scenes at the bottom of the ocean. Now, thanks to the BBC-produced documentary series Blue Planet II, we can get a glimpse of these discovery moments and join discussions about the ocean’s importance.
The deep-pelagic ecosystem was the largest habitat affected by the Deepwater Horizon incident, yet our limited knowledge about its fauna makes it difficult to compare their conditions before and after the spill. Researchers with the DEEPEND consortium are developing a quantitative, taxonomically comprehensive assessment of these deep-sea creatures to estimate their vulnerability and ability to recover from disturbances.
The Smithsonian’s Ocean Portal published an article about the diverse deep sea species found in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon incident. The DEEPEND research consortium identified nearly 800 different species in Gulf waters, including 180 species not previously observed in the Gulf of Mexico region.
The high cost and small catch sizes associated with deep-sea research often limits scientists’ ability to study many deep-pelagic species. Mike Novotny examines the stomach contents of various bathypelagic fishes to better understand their feeding habits and collect valuable data.
Scientists are finding fascinating discoveries in the largely unknown deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some fishes, invertebrates, and bacteria have evolved a special adaptation to living in dark conditions using bioluminescence.
The Smithsonian posted an article about deep-sea research, using eye-popping photography to make the unreal real.
Communicating oil spill research is essential to improve society’s understanding about spills and their ability to respond to and mitigate them. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has been funding spill-related research since 2010.
Laura Timm examines connections among shellfish ecology and evolution to help scientists understand how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected certain Gulf of Mexico species: “My work focuses on establishing pre-spill baselines and comparing them to samples taken 3-7 years after the oil spill, providing a timeline of crustacean recovery.”
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.