Winter 2018 – Frequently Asked Questions

(From Winter 2018 Newsletter) Principal Investigator Dr. Eric Chassignet and Scientific Director Dr. Steve Moray from the Consortium for Simulation of Oil-Microbial Interactions in the Ocean (CSOMIO) and Principal Investigator Dr. Lori Schwacke from the Consortium for Advanced Research on Marine Mammal Health Assessment (CARMMHA) answered a few questions about their newly funded RFP-VI consortia.

CSOMIO: Dr. Eric Chassignet and Dr. Steve Moray

Question: Please tell us a bit about your consortium! What are the goals of CSOMIO’s research?

Answer: The Consortium for Simulation of Oil-Microbial Interactions in the Ocean (CSOMIO, pronounced see-so-me-o) is working to synthesize recently developed technology, tools, and scientific knowledge into a comprehensive framework for simulating and understanding the role that microbes play in mitigating the impacts of oil spills. The consortium’s overarching goal is to combine recent model developments and results from field- and laboratory-based microbial studies in order to fundamentally advance understanding of how microbial biodegradation influences accumulation of petroleum in the water column and in marine sediments of the deep ocean and the shelf and to investigate the impacts of potential future oil spills under different temperatures, oxygen levels, suspended particulate matter, transport, and bathymetric regimes, all of which would influence biodegradation. The CSOMIO Earth System Model will be an open source product for application in scenario planning, scientific studies, and oil spill response.

Question: What is something you are looking forward to or most excited about regarding CSOMIO’s work?

Answer: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill resulted in an unprecedented commitment to study and better understand different aspects of the fate of oil released in the northeast region of the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Countless research teams supported by GoMRI have spent considerable resources developing modeling tools, collecting and analyzing measurements, and performing scientific studies to understand different aspects governing the eventual fate of the oil. Together, these efforts have provided the basis for development of vastly improved modeling tools for tracking the distribution and chemical evolution of oil. But one area where our understanding remains quite limited is the role that microbes play in determining the eventual fate of oil, its impact on ecosystems, and how these processes depend on environmental conditions (hydrographic and biogeochemical properties of the water and circulation), hindering predictive capability. CSOMIO’s integrated modeling system will simulate and thus help us better understand the role that microbes play in mitigating the impacts of oil spills. Other expected outcomes include the ability to predict the impact of oil spills occurring under different temperature, hydrodynamic, and biogeochemical regimes, a consistently annotated synthesis of genomic and transcriptomic data for the Gulf of Mexico, and the elucidation of mechanisms relating hydrocarbon degradation to microbial community dynamics, flocculation, and sediment transport processes.

Question: Where can we go to learn more and follow along with CSOMIO?

Answer: You can learn more about CSOMIO at the consortium’s website www.csomio.org. We can also be followed on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CSOMIO and on Twitter at twitter.com/C_SOMIO.

 

CARMMHA: Dr. Lori Schwacke

Question: Please tell us a bit about your consortium! What are the goals of CARMMHA’s research?

Answer: After the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, a number of studies were conducted to understand the potential effects on cetaceans (dolphins and whales) in the Gulf of Mexico. The DWH studies were a significant step forward in our understanding of oil-associated toxic endpoints in cetaceans, but many questions still remain unanswered. Specifically, questions still linger regarding the persistent effects on cetacean cardiac and immune systems and how these and other adverse effects may affect population health into the future.

CARMMHA is focused on answering these lingering questions and brings together internationally renowned experts from multiple disciplines, including marine mammal medicine, cardiology, immunology, toxicology, ecology, and mathematical modeling. Over the next two years, CARMMHA’s goal is to develop a thorough and comprehensive understanding of long-term adverse health effects from oil exposure in cetaceans and to produce a suite of mathematical models using the best-available data from before, during, and the eight years after the spill to predict population recovery trajectories for the injured cetacean stocks.

Question: What is something you are looking forward to or most excited about regarding CARMMHA’s work?

Answer: Over the eight years following the DWH spill, an immense amount of data has been collected. I’m really looking forward to integrating and synthesizing all the knowledge and information that we have acquired in the near decade after the DWH spill, to understand the long-term impact that the spill has had on Gulf cetacean populations. One of the primary challenges in assessing effects of the DWH spill was the lack of information on the health of dolphin populations before the spill. One thing that I am particularly excited about is getting the chance to assess the health of a dolphin population that inhabits the deeper coastal waters. Previous marine mammal health work in the Gulf of Mexico has been limited to inshore populations where they are more easily sampled. CARMMHA will, for the first time, attempt to evaluate the health of the northern coastal stock of bottlenose dolphins.

Question: Where can we go to learn more and follow along with CARMMHA?

Answer: For more information visit www.carmmha.org and follow us on our Facebook page. As the project progresses, we will be introducing a video series on YouTube highlighting the many ways which oil affects dolphins and also featuring updates from our research and fieldwork. Additionally, we are developing presentations and hands- on activities for kids which will be available to download on the website this summer.

[Back to the Winter 2018 Newsletter]