Hydrocarbons from oil slicks floating on the ocean’s surface can be aerosolized by evaporation, breaking waves and bursting bubbles.
Those who have ever photographed the ocean on a sunny day have likely noticed how the reflected sunlight made the water gleam, often distorting the image. Shaojie Sun has quantified this phenomenon, called “sun glint,” to help address a longstanding limitation in scientists’ ability to assess oil seeps and spills using satellite imagery.
Microscopic organisms called plankton, an important component of the marine food web, congregate in the freshwater-laden coastal waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Adam Boyette wants to learn more about how and where these plankton live to better understand how an oil spill or other disaster might impact their populations.
As a child in India, Aprami Jaggi witnessed firsthand how polluted water sources impact society. Her desire to make water remediation her life’s work has led her from Delhi to Calgary, Canada, to study oil mitigation.
When disaster strikes, responders look at how creatures in its path may be impacted to mitigate damage. Tingting Tang takes the process one step further, using mathematical models to predict how long recovery may take. The creatures that Tingting focuses on are some of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest predators and most charismatic animals, beaked and sperm whales.
Elizabeth Robinson studies blue crab’s role in the northern Gulf of Mexico food web, looking closely at how Deepwater Horizon oil might have affected the natural predator-prey balance.
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.”
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.
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.
Emily Chancellor is applying her engineering and computer science background to a field that inspires her – marine science – focusing on how the oil spill may have impacted larval fish populations.