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.
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 ocean’s deep-pelagic ecosystem is the largest and least understood habitat on Earth. In the Gulf of Mexico, it was the largest ecosystem affected by the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Natural seeps are abundant in the Gulf of Mexico and help create a chemically unique habitat where microbial populations can flourish. Andy Montgomery is researching the relationship between marine microbes and ocean chemistry and how chemical shifts affect the role microorganisms play in biogeochemical cycling, a common pathway for chemicals and organic matter to move through the ocean.
Nikaela Flournoy’s scientific journey has always carried a societal tie, from her passion for research’s social relevance to her realizations about the relationship between society and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math). Though she is excited to see a greater emphasis on STEM in primary and secondary education, she hopes to help expand STEM awareness and curriculum to students from diverse educational and social backgrounds.
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.
When oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill began approaching land, one proposed response was to divert Mississippi River water and sediment into the marshes to try and push surface oil more towards the Louisiana-Texas shelf. Linlin Cui is investigating the impacts of Mississippi River diversions on Barataria Bay hydrodynamics to help inform how future oil spill responders plan and execute freshwater diversions.
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.