Hydrocarbons from oil slicks floating on the ocean’s surface can be aerosolized by evaporation, breaking waves and bursting bubbles.
Hydrocarbon-degrading microbes living in ocean environments consumed and metabolized oil droplets following Deepwater Horizon, which significantly influenced the oil’s fate in the Gulf of Mexico.
Oil spilled in the ocean can sink to the seafloor due to its high density or by attaching to floating particulate matter, as happened during the Marine Oil Snow Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) event following Deepwater Horizon.
Marine ecosystems provide many valuable resources for humans, including seafood and petroleum. Conservation policies that protect marine ecosystems, especially pollution and petroleum-related policies, depend on accurate scientific data about the ways different marine species experience pollution.
Coral reefs provide food, shelter, and habitat to thousands of organisms living in the Gulf of Mexico. However, their vulnerability to physical and toxicological damage increases corals’ risk during environmental disturbances, particularly in shallow water where dangers from coastline proximity include wastewater pollution, moving sediment, salinity and nutrient changes, scavengers, and boating and fishing activities.
The microbial community living in fish’s gastrointestinal tracts, also called the gut microbiome, are vital to their developing immune systems and can influence behaviors such as foraging.
Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, resource managers recognized the need for species-specific fish risk assessments to help identify which organisms and habitats would be most affected.
Kendal Leftwich conducts acoustic research assessing how northern Gulf of Mexico dolphin populations changed and recovered over time to help researchers better understand the health of dolphin species living in affected areas.
Seaside Sparrows live and forage in coastal Gulf of Mexico marshlands, some of which were oiled following the Deepwater Horizon incident. Sparrows in these oiled marshes likely ingested invertebrates that were also exposed to oil. Allison Snider uses DNA analyses to investigate potential long-term changes in the diets of Seaside Sparrows following Deepwater Horizon.
Oil droplets can attach to tiny sediment particles suspended in the water column, causing them to sink to the seafloor where they can linger for a long time. Sediment grain size influences if and how oil droplets are resuspended into the water column.