Category Archives: GoMRI Science

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GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories OneGulf Voyage Gathers Unprecedented Marine Samples for Two Oil Spills 3699a

An international science team recently completed a 4,000-mile expedition to learn more about the long-term fate of two of the world’s largest subsea oil spills, the 1979 Ixtoc-I and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon. The 40-day Gulf of Mexico voyage continued their 2015 field campaign, contributing to a multi-year Gulf-wide analysis of these oil spills and Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds No Obvious Recovery from Oiled Island Shoreline Erosion 3695

Louisiana State University scientists quantified Louisiana island erosion pre- and post-Deepwater Horizon to determine the shoreline retreat rate when oiled, the length of time that oiling effects lasted, and whether or not there was recovery. They observed that the average oiled and unoiled island width, length, and erosion rate before the spill were similar, and Read More

Publication Highlights Study Introduces Computer Science Students to Problem Solving Using Deepwater Horizon Imagery 3688a

University professors developed a team-based educational project using satellite images of Deepwater Horizon surface slicks to introduce first-year computer science students to socially-relevant problem solving. The professors guided students in designing and applying an algorithm to address an open-ended problem of outlining oil contaminated areas. The project’s use of realistic scenarios highlighted the societal contributions Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Wetland plant-microbial-benthic ecosystem responses & mitigation strategy (Lin) Researcher Qianxin Lin

The Long-Term Impact, Recovery and Resilience: Wetland plant-microbial-benthic ecosystem responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and mitigation strategies promoting sustainability by P.I. Qianxin Lin, Louisiana State University The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill exposed the nation’s largest and most productive wetland estuarine environment, the Mississippi River Delta coastal wetland ecosystem, to an unprecedented potential Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Can Bacteria Living in Plant Tissues Help Clean Up Oiled Marshes? Postdoc Brittany Bernik strains marsh mud through a screen to prepare it for greenhouse experiments at Tulane University. (Photo by Sunshine Van Bael)

Living inside the roots and leaf tissues of marsh grass are bacteria and fungi known as endophytes that help promote plant growth. Since some endophytes can also help degrade petroleum that the plants absorb, it is possible they could be a natural tool to help clean up oil buried in marsh soils. The Gulf of Read More

Publication Highlights Study Suggests Wider Range of Mahi-Mahi’s Genetic Responses to Oil Exposure Mahi-mahi. Photo provided by Dan DiNicola, RECOVER Outreach Coordinator

Scientists used novel bioinformatics to investigate molecular-level changes over time and toxicity pathways in mahi-mahi embryos and larvae exposed to Deepwater Horizon oil. They observed that weathered oil (collected from slick skimming operations) induced more pronounced gene expression changes than a non-weathered source oil (collected from the subsea containment system directly over the wellhead). The Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds Natural Sunlight Affects Oil-Degrading Bacteria Composition and Dynamics Dr. Hernando Bacosa works at the seawater filtration system aboard the R/V Pelican 2013 cruise to the Deepwater Horizon site in the Gulf of Mexico. Photo provided by Hernando Bacosa.

Scientists from the University of Texas Marine Science Institute demonstrated how natural sunlight affects Gulf of Mexico microbial communities in the presence of Corexit (dispersant) and crude oil. They observed that sunlight significantly reduced the diversity of bacterial communities in the presence of oil, Corexit, or both. While sunlight negatively affected several bacterial groups, it Read More

Research Stories Scientists Use Oil Spill Research to Track Pollution in Biscayne Bay The CARTHE team is receiving data from 15 biodegradable, GPS-equipped drifters. This image shows the tracks after 24 hours. (Image by CARTHE)

It’s almost like a game of tug-of-war. There are growing numbers of residents, tourists, and industry at one end and the environment where people live, work, and play at the other. When the former increases, the latter is stressed. This scenario plays out all over the world, especially in coastal areas. Biscayne Bay near Miami, Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Oil Spill Transport in a Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment (Drennan) Researcher William Drennan

The Investigation of Oil Spill Transport in a Coupled Wind-Wave Current Environment Using Simulation and Laboratory Studies project is lead by P.I. William M. Drennan, University of Miami. This project aims at studying the transport of oil droplets in upper oceans subject to actions of Langmuir cells and breaking waves and the transport of oiled Read More

Publication Highlights Now Available! GoMRI and Oil Spill Science Special Issue of Oceanography Cover of the September 2016 Oceanography Magazine, Volume 29, Number 3

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is pleased to announce a special issue of Oceanography Magazine: GoMRI: Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science.  This special issue – a collaborative effort among scientists funded by GoMRI, the GoMRI Research Board, and the GoMRI management team – highlights scientific advances from the program. Twenty papers Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Synergistic Dispersant & Herding Systems using Tubular Clay & Gel Phase (John) Researcher John Vjay

The Design of Synergistic Dispersant and Herding Systems using Tubular Clay Structures and Gel Phase Materials project is lead by P.I. Vijay John, Tulane University. Dispersants are typically solutions containing one or more surfactants dissolved in a solvent. They work by reducing the interfacial tension between oil and water, thereby reducing the work needed to Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Improving How Oil Spill Models Predict Plume Dispersion and Transport A Large Eddy Simulation of oil droplet (color contours) and gas bubble (white lines) plumes emerging from 1500 m below the surface into a stratified ocean, including 3D Coriolis force and west-to-east current effects. (Simulation performed by Dr. Di Yang, University of Houston)

Deep ocean oil plumes that formed from the Deepwater Horizon spill and their subsequent rise through the water column were greatly influenced by physical mixing mechanisms such as turbulence, Langmuir circulations, and sub-mesoscale eddies. These mixing processes are crucial variables needed for existing models to accurately predict a plume’s overall size, shape, and transport direction. Read More

Publication Highlights Rapid Response Study Characterizes Behaviors of Accidental Short-Term Oil Blowouts A researcher conducts surface drifter deployment, July 2013. (Photo credit: CARTHE Consortium)

An interdisciplinary scientific team conducted a rapid response sampling campaign in the immediate aftermath of the 2013 Hercules 265 blowout to determine if sediment and fish were polluted above established baseline levels. Surface sediments and fish bile analyses suggested that the blowout transported and deposited an increased concentration of Hercules-derived hydrocarbons to the environment. They Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Biodegradation & ecosystem recovery in coastal marine sediments (Huettel) Researcher Markus Huettel

Markus Huettel gives an overview of the project at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference January 2016 The A systems approach to improve predictions of biodegradation and ecosystem recovery in coastal marine sediments impacted by oil spill project is lead by P.I. Markus Huettel, Florida State University. After coastal oil spills, Read More

Publication Highlights Study Details Underwater Oil Plume Formation and Droplet Size Distribution  Researchers conducted a large-scale underwater experiment that released oil through 25.4 mm (one-inch) horizontal pipe. High-resolution cameras captured the detailed turbulent structures, characteristics of primary breakup, and oil droplet separation from the upper plume in the discharged oil jet. (Photo by Franklin Shaffer; Modified by Lin Zhao)

Scientists simulated an underwater blowout to analyze the formation, path, and duration of oil plumes. They noted that the simulated blowout formed two plumes, one due to momentum and plume buoyancy and another due to the buoyancy of individual oil droplets separating from the first plume. They also observed that oil plumes form through a Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Bringing Marine Snow to the Oil Transport Forecast A photograph of oil-marine snow aggregates at the water’s surface in the Gulf of Mexico, May 2011. (Photo by Andrew Warren)

Evidence suggests that when oil interacts with particles in the marine environment, it can form larger, rapidly sinking particles called marine snow. These oily aggregates are often transported from the sea surface to the seafloor. The snow falls more like a heavy blizzard than a light flurry for large discharges such as the Deepwater Horizon Read More

Publication Highlights Study Improves Tracking and Forecasting of Underwater Oil Plumes Shown here is a mixture of oil and gas coming out of the Deepwater Horizon Macondo wellhead. (Image provided by D. Lindo-Atichati)

Scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg used models, lab experiments, and observations from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to evaluate the importance of variables in oil transport and fate models, particularly those influencing underwater plume development. Factors that affected the time oil Read More

GoMRI StudentsPublication Highlights Study Compares Natural Sunlight Effects on Macondo and Surrogate Oil University of West Florida Associate Professor in Chemistry, Pam Vaughan (far right), mentors undergraduate students Cynthia McCord and Michelle Waters in determining photochemical degradation and relative toxicity of MC252 and Surrogate oil water accommodated fractions. (Photo credit: Michael Spooneybarger)

Scientists developed the first molecular-level comparison of photochemical effects on surrogate and Macondo (MC252) oil to better understand this weathering process and the toxicity mechanisms it produces. The team observed increased nitrogen in surrogate oil’s response to sunlight and oxidation across a wider range of carbon numbers than MC252. Solar exposure inhibited microbial production in Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Horse fly populations & food web dynamics as stress indicators on coastal marsh (Foil) 3368

Claudia Husseneder gives an overview of the project at the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference January 2016 A Study of horse fly (Tabanidae) populations and their food web dynamics as indicators of the effects of environmental stress on coastal marsh health project is lead by P.I. Lane Foil, Louisiana State University Read More

Publication Highlights Study Investigates Oil Spill Impacts & Recovery of Salt Marsh Fiddler Crab Populations 3347a

Scientists conducted a meta-analysis of Gulf of Mexico fiddler crab data across multiple years, sites, and studies to examine if the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted the crabs’ size, abundance, and population composition. They found that oiling negatively impacted all three metrics directly following the spill, significantly reducing abundance and size and altering species composition Read More

Research StoriesVideo and Podcasts The Mud and Blood Cruise – The Whole Story (Dispatches from the Gulf) Dispatches_Logo

The Weatherbird embarks on a two-week research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Its mission is to collect and analyze fish and soil samples near the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Dave Hollander and Steve Murawski from the University of South Florida lead the team of oceanographers. The research is divided into two Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Investigating How Complex Deepwater Topography Influences Oil Dispersion 3207a

    The active environment of the Gulf of Mexico’s continental slope contains diverse currents that are difficult to simulate and predict. We know that turbulence is an essential mechanism for hydrocarbon transport and subsurface oil plume dispersion, but we still have much to learn about the complex processes behind this area’s diverse currents. The Read More

Publication Highlights Study Uses Gulf Science Data to Analyze Water Chemistry near Deepwater Horizon 3325

Texas A&M University scientists analyzed data made publically-available by BP for 20,000+ water samples collected from 13,000 stations during and after the 2010 spill. They found that oil occurrence was patchy with only about 20% of the samples having hydrocarbon levels above pre-spill background conditions. The highest hydrocarbon concentrations were within 25 kilometers of the Read More

Publication HighlightsVideo and Podcasts Study Uses ROV Imaging System to Measure Gas Bubble Size, Velocity, and Diffusion 3194

Scientists used stereoscopic high-speed, high-resolution cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to make fine-scale imaging and chemistry measurements inside and around gas bubbles rising from two natural Gulf of Mexico seeps. They found that median bubble sizes were 3 – 4.5 millimeters and that a clathrate hydrate shell formed around bubbles at 1.3 meters Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Identifying Effective, Food-Grade Dispersants for the Future 3207

Oil spill responders currently have the option to treat oil spills with a synthetic dispersant called Corexit, however scientists continue to search for alternatives. In this search, scientists seek to develop an understanding of the specific mechanisms that drive dispersion and identify an effective combination of food-grade components. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Read More

GoMRI StudentsPublication Highlights Study Examines Sediment East of Deepwater Horizon for Oil-Associated Marine Snow  Eckerd College students transferring a multicore from a collection barrel to a working barrel aboard the R/V Weatherbird II, June 2011. (Photo provided by Gregg Brooks)

Scientists analyzed sea floor sediment in the Gulf of Mexico’s DeSoto Canyon region to investigate potential oil spill impacts. Evidence from sedimentological, geochronological, geochemical, and biological sources pointed to a rapid, 4-5 month sedimentation event in late 2010. The sediment’s top centimeter was distinct from underlying compositions, with deposited particles originating from the sea surface. Read More

Research Stories ACER’s primary study site – The Chandeleur Islands 3180

Many of ACER’s field experiments are being conducted around the Chandeleur Islands. These uninhabited barrier islands lie about 60 miles east of New Orleans and 30 miles south of Biloxi, MS helping to protect eastern Louisiana from waves and storms. Landward (west) of the island chain lies Chandeleur Sound and seaward (east) lies the Gulf Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Digging Up the Mechanisms of Buried Oil Degradation 3114a

Spilled oil buried in nearshore sediment can persist for many years and act as a long-term source of episodic hydrocarbon contamination in the environment. Although we have a basic understanding of how fast crude oil degrades in soils, we still do not fully understand what influences the degradation process or the microbial community responsible for Read More

Publication Highlights Study Observes Mobile Bay Plume Dynamics on Coastal Circulation 3042

Scientists monitored a major river discharge event in Mobile Bay in March 2011 to better understand how such inputs affect Gulf of Mexico nearshore water transport. The river discharge formed a very shallow surface layer (less than 2 meters thick) that had, at times, a clockwise recirculation, altering how material exiting the Bay was dispersed Read More

Research Stories An Ocean Oil Spill Science Legacy 3066

There have been two large scale oil spills over the past 4 decades in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ixtoc I spill in 1979 off the coast of Carmen, Mexico released 3.5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf, and the Macondo wellhead blowout off the coast of Louisiana, USA in 2010 released 3.19 Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Unraveling the Mystery of Oil Compounds, Weathering, and Toxicity 3071a

Responders to the Deepwater Horizon spill used large quantities of dispersant to facilitate oil biodegradation, but could a different method be safer for the environment? Oil compounds take on additional oxygen atoms as physical and chemical processes weather them. However, the classical methods that scientists use to analyze and describe these molecular compositional changes cannot Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Using Luminescent Radiation to Describe “Forgotten” PAHs 3049a

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons with high molecular weights (HMW-PAHs) are potentially toxic compounds that can cause genetic mutations. However, current environmental monitoring and analyses of human health risks only focus on the sixteen PAHs that the Environmental Protection Agency considers priority pollutants. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative awarded Dr. Andres D. Campiglia a grant to Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Now Available: Hydrocarbon Intercalibration Experiment Reports 3027

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is pleased to announce the release of two reports detailing the results of the Hydrocarbon Intercalibration Experiment (HIE). The first report, the Summary of Results from the 2014/2015 Hydrocarbon Intercalibration Experiment (HIE), provides an overview of all test results involved in the experiment. The second report, the2014/2015 Hydrocarbon Read More

Publication Highlights Study Models Oil Aerobic Biodegradation Rates in Tidal Beaches 3012

A team of scientists created a numerical model that simulates hydrocarbon biodegradation and transport in tidally influenced beaches to identify key factors affecting biodegradation in these environments. They found that several limiting factors, including tidal stages, oxygen and nutrient concentrations, and groundwater seepage into the water column significantly affected modeled biodegradation rates in these areas. Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Assessing Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Impacts on Families and Children 3006

Immediately following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness surveyed households in highly-affected Louisiana areas to track the event’s health and social impacts. Follow up studies in 2014 revealed that physical and mental distress resulting from the spill still persisted, with over 15% of respondents reporting no perceived recovery of their Read More

Publication Highlights Study Estimates Beaked Whale Populations in Gulf of Mexico 299

Scientists used passive acoustic monitoring during 2010-2013 to detect the presence of beaked whales in the Gulf of Mexico.  These animals are difficult to study visually because they spend little time at the sea surface and are only present in offshore deep waters; they are rarely found on the continental shelf and near-shore waters. Analysis Read More

Research StoriesVideo and Podcasts Ten Outstanding Education Products Six Years After Deepwater Horizon 2912_sm

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. Here are ten outstanding education products and resources that GoMRI and its science community have developed to share what they Read More

Research StoriesVideo and Podcasts Sneak Peek Screening of Dispatches from the Gulf video_announcement

Six Years After the Largest Oil Spill in U.S. History A New Film By Marilyn & Hal Weiner. Narrated By Matt Damon. April 20, 2016 @ 2 pm & 7 pm EDT Tune to our Live Stream channel to watch: _________________________________________________________________________________ Dispatches From The Gulf investigates the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Featuring Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Using Acoustics to Monitor Oil and Gas from Deep Natural Seafloor Seeps 2784a

There is a lot of action at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. A turbulent mixed layer of water and sediment particles known as the bottom boundary layer circulates counterclockwise across the seafloor, flowing against the water above. Meanwhile, oil and gas naturally seep into this active environment from the seafloor. Scientists are investigating Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories LASER Focus Advances Knowledge of How Gulf of Mexico Water Moves 2758a_sm

CARTHE conducts unprecedented experiment to improve oil fate models. Predictions for decisions – our world relies on them, from daily weather to annual financial forecasts. Predictions, though, are only as good as the information that goes into making them. And those predictions carry even more weight when they involve human safety in situations like storm Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories What Can Horse Flies Tell Us About Marsh Health? 2718a

Greenhead horse fly larvae live in Spartina marshes and are the top predator in the coastal wetlands invertebrate food chain between Texas and Nova Scotia. Drs. Lane Foil and Claudia Husseneder discovered reduced genetic variation and severe declines in adult and larval horse fly populations living in oiled marshes, which showed that the horse flies Read More

Publication Highlights Study Improves Knowledge about Dispersants’ Net Effect on Oil Fate 2707a

←Visualization of oil droplet and water mixing processes. Under a breaking wave, oil is entrained and broken into various-sized droplets and distributed. While the oil droplets are suspended, the wind helps move the slick. Droplets resurface upwind from their original location, the distance depending on the suspension time. A droplet’s rise speed is determined by Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows OilingHas Multiple Subtle Negative Effects on Submerged Vegetation 2666a

Scientists conducted experiments to assess oil exposure effects on Ruppa maritima, a common underwater plant species in Gulf of Mexico estuaries. They observed that plant roots in oiled sediment did not grow as deeply and were uprooted more easily compared to control plots. Oil-exposed Ruppia flowered less, reducing its ability to reproduce, although plant height Read More

Publication Highlights Study Links Recovery of Oiled Marsh with Return of Salt Marsh Vegetation 2641

Scientists studied the relationship between the resiliency of Louisiana salt marsh plants, invertebrates, and microbes in heavily-oiled sediment after the Deepwater Horizon spill. The numbers and diversity of many small invertebrates associated with Spartina alterniflora roots had rebounded three years after the spill. This response indicates a strong link between recovery of Spartina and the food-web Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Creating Improved Dispersants and Delivery Systems for Oil Spill Mitigation 2592a300

Research about commercial dispersant safety has seen increased efforts to identify benign alternatives and improve current dispersant systems since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Preliminary research suggests that dispersants formulated as gels may be a viable alternative to liquid dispersants and may address certain problems and concerns about Corexit 9500 use and application. The Gulf Read More

Research Stories CONCORDE Blog Informs Readers on Glider Research 2435

An update to the CONCORDE blog documents the latest deployment of the RU31 glider. Researchers Travis Miles and Oscar Schofield used the glider to document temperature, salinity, colored dissolved organic matter, density, chlorophyll, and oxygen saturation. Click here to view the blog….

Research Stories ECOGIG Maps Naturally Occurring Gulf of Mexico Seeps ecogiglogo

Researchers recently developed a comprehensive analysis Gulf oil and determined how much came from natural or Deepwater Horizon sources. They used their findings to map the locations of active natural oil seeps.   For more information…  The entire paper can be found at:

Research Stories Researchers Seek New Insights from Decades-Old Spill C-IMAGE_Ixtoc-I_2279a

The Ixtoc I blowout happened in the Bay of Campeche over thirty-five years ago, so why are scientists studying this spill now? Because understanding what happened to Ixtoc I oil may help predict if and how Deepwater Horizon oil will degrade, persist, and impact northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystems over the next few decades. A Read More

Research Stories Discovering Vibrant, Dynamic Life in the Deep Gulf of Mexico Deepend_Melanocetus-johnsoni_Y-WEB

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 Read More

Research Stories CARTHE Webpage Features LASER Experiment 2378

The LAgrangian Submesoscale ExpeRiment (LASER) now has its own home on the consortium website. For information about the experiment’s design and progress, visit the LASER homepage and check out the CARTHE blog.  

Publication Highlights Study Shows Raindrops Push Oil Spill Pollutants into Air and Below Sea Surface 2358a

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University used high-speed imaging and digital holography in laboratory experiments to investigate the effects of raindrops falling on a simulated oil slick. They observed an increase in the number of ejected droplets when the oil slick was introduced. The number of aerosolized oil droplets increased as the slick layer thickened, and Read More

Publication Highlights Study Describes How Hurricane Isaac Stirred Up a Marine Snow Storm Kiervogel_2321_

Scientists representing eight institutions conducted in-situ observations and laboratory experiments to determine if Hurricane Isaac redistributed sedimented oil near the Deepwater Horizon site. Using a turbidity sensor and a deep-sea particle camera after the storm passed, they found thick hazy water layers known as bottom nepheloid layers (BNLs) 200 meters above the seafloor close to Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Understanding How Deepwater Horizon Affected Fishing Community Decisions fishing_communities_2187

Authorities closed large portions of the Gulf of Mexico to commercial and recreational fishing following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to contain and mitigate oil contamination of fish and seafood products. The fishing closures may have caused many fishers to search for alternative income solutions, such as relocating or chartering their vessels for the cleanup Read More

Publication Highlights Oil May Have Diminished and Altered Phytoplankton Communities Parsons_2159

Scientists compared phytoplankton time-series data collected in Louisiana coastal waters after the Deepwater Horizon spill. They found that phytoplankton abundance was significantly lower in 2010 and that the community’s species composition significantly shifted immediately after the spill. They published their findings in Environmental Pollution: Phytoplankton and the Macondo oil spill: A comparison of the 2010 Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Understanding Coastal Ecosystems Response to Environmental Stress Acer_Env_Stress_2193

ACER investigates biodiversity’s role in oil spill recovery Disturbances to coastal environments, such as storms and pollution, cause great concern as these areas are typically heavily populated, are home to important industries, and provide critical ecosystem services. Ecologists have debated coastal ecosystems response to disturbances for decades. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused this debate Read More

GoMRI ScientistsLinksResearch Stories Smithsonian Highlights How Scientists Use Genomics to Study Oil Spills genomics_2206

Genomics is a powerful method to track things that humans cannot see. Months and years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, many people wondered where the oil went or where it might be lingering or what it may affect after it was no longer visible. Scientists are using genomic techniques such as DNA sequencing to Read More

Publication Highlights Study Identifies Molecular Fingerprints for Tracking Oil and Dispersant Fate Seidel_2221

An international science team examined the effects of dispersant on the activity and composition of oil-degrading marine microorganisms.The researchers found that the biodegraded oil-derived compounds exhibited a specific molecular composition that distinguished them from naturally occurring dissolved organic matter. The presence of dispersants combined with available nutrients may have affected the type of organic compounds Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories How Scientists are Monitoring the Harmful Algal Bloom Algal_Bloom_2166

It’s a catchy name, but the common phrase “Red Tide” for the algal bloom happening right now in the northern Gulf of Mexico is not quite right, scientifically. The bloom is not always red and it’s not always related to tides. However, the name does invoke a sense of concern about a potential threat to Read More

Publication Highlights Study Suggests Coastal Marine Animals Assimilated Carbon from Deepwater Horizon Chanton_2225

Scientists measured radiocarbon levels in coastal invertebrates and fishes (such as oysters and catfish) to evaluate impacts from the 2010 oil spill on Gulf of Mexico food webs. The researchers observed significantly lower radiocarbon (C14) values, the depletion of which is used as an indicator of carbon from petroleum reservoirs, in species collected from heavily Read More

Publication Highlights Study: Nitrogen Enhances Microbial Oil Degradation oil-degradation_2081

Scientists from Brown University and the University of Rhode Island investigated how Alcanivorax borkumensis, a dominate bacterium in marine environments that contain high hydrocarbon levels, can be supported to naturally degrade oil. The researchers found that A. borkumensis grew faster when the oil-water interface was supplemented with dissolved organic nitrogen. Nitrogen reduced the time it Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows Oil and Dispersants Damage Mangroves Differently mangroves_a_2086

Scientists evaluated the effects of oil contamination on coastal mangrove plants. Their partially-submerged root system makes them vulnerable to pollutants. Scientists found that oil coated the mangrove roots and reduced water transport, leading to rapid plant dehydration. The presence of dispersant allowed water that contained oil fractions to enter the roots, weakening and structurally damaging Read More

Fact SheetsResearch Stories Deep-C Helps Develop New Ocean Modelling Software opendrift_2040

A new, open source software for modeling the trajectories and fate of particles (Lagrangian Elements) drifting in the ocean, or even in the atmosphere, has been developed a the Norwegian Meteorological Institute in cooperation with the Institute of Marine Research. The software, known as OpenDrift, is a generic framework written in Python. It is openly Read More

Publication Highlights Study: Different Dispersant Surfactants Help and Hinder Oil-Degrading Bacteria dispersant_2030

Scientists studied the interactions of the oil-degrading bacterium Alcanivorax borkumensis with oil across oil-water interfaces that had varying amounts of different surfactants. They found that not all surfactants aid the bacteria’s natural oil degradation processes. The surfactant Tween 20 worked synergistically with the bacteria and increased the available oil interface, allowing for more bacterial growth Read More

Publication Highlights Study: Early-Responder Microbial Groups Differed Over Time in Oiled Beach Sands Jonathan Delgardio and Will A. Overholt (Georgia Institute of Technology) collect samples from a Pensacola Beach sand trench with oil layers. (Photo by Markus Huettel)

Scientists analyzed microbial communities on beaches oiled by theDeepwater Horizon spill and found taxonomic and functional changes after hydrocarbon exposure. Taxonomically, there was an increase in specific oil-degrading bacteria followed by a return of more diverse non-oil degrading bacteria a year later. While these returning microbes were typical for beach sand, they were different from Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows Hypoxia and Dispersed Oil May Increase Fish Mortality Subham Dasgupta (left) and Irvin Huang (right) used this glove box to create hypoxic conditions for this study.  (Photo provided by Anne E. McElroy)

Scientists conducted experiments to determine the effects of hypoxia (reduced oxygen conditions), a seasonal occurrence in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and oil spill contaminants on sheepshead minnow larvae. Hypoxia as a co-stressor with Corexit® 9500 or Corexit-dispersed oil reduced larvae survival by 80% to 90%. There were no significant effects observed to the larvae Read More

Publication Highlights Studies Identify Oil Spill Effects in Deep Sea Fish A red snapper collected from Gulf of Mexico waters for oil spill impact studies. (Photo provided by Joseph Tarnecki)

Two studies show that some demersal fishes living in waters likely contaminated by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill exhibited elevated hydrocarbon concentrations and experienced shifts in diet and trophic level. Scientists in the study PAH Exposure in Gulf of Mexico demersal fishes, post-Deepwater Horizon (Environmental Science & Technology) assessed the bile of golden tilefish, king Read More

Publication Highlights Study Suggests Biodegradation Strongly Influences Oil Spill Transport Predictions biodegradation_1742b

Scientists simulated twenty subsurface spill scenarios, using data reflective of the Deepwater Horizon spill, and found large differences in transport predictions when model parameters included bacterial consumption (biodegradation) of oil droplets. Simulations with biodegradation indicated that tiny oil droplets remained deeper by hundreds of meters and were less spread out by thousands of kilometers compared Read More

Publication Highlights Modelling Study Quantifies Gas Bubbles Effects on Oil Plume Dynamics gas_bubbles1564a

Scientists assessed subsurface hydrocarbon plume simulations to understand the role of released gases on plume behavior. A three-dimensional visualization of a bubble plume’s vertical velocity. The lateral shaded area has conditions to allow the entrainment of fresh fluid into the domain and momentum on the sides. The top shaded area has conditions that allow for Read More

Publication Highlights Model Comparison Study Confirms Subsea Dispersant Effectiveness Die visualizations of stratified bubble plume flows. (Image provided by Scott Socolofsky

An international science team assessed predictions from multiple oil spill models and found that subsea dispersants used during response to a simulated accidental blowout may reduce oil droplet size by at least one order of magnitude. This size reduction contributed to a one to two order of magnitude distance increase to where oil surfaced downstream Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Understanding Oil Transport in Coastal Waters Understanding Oil Transport

CONCORDE studies sub-surface exposure pathways After the Deepwater Horizon incident, the coastline oiling that occurred raised questions about oil movement and impact. For example, before a surface slick reached land, was there oil below the surface waters and how might that affect coastal environments and organisms? The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently awarded CONCORDE Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Smithsonian Highlights Oil Spill Research on Jellyfish Jellyfish_1318

Jellyfish push water in and out of their bells to propel themselves forward. Researchers are investigating if and how the small underwater waves and currents created by Jellyfish movements can help break up oil spilled in marine ecosystems. The Smithsonian posted an article featuring scientist Brad Gemmell’s research about interactions of gelatinous zooplankton with oil. Read More

Publication Highlights Study Quantifies Photooxidation and Biodegradation of Surface Oil Study Quantifies Photooxidation and Biodegradation of Surface Oil

Scientists from the University of Texas at Austin assessed photooxidation and biodegradation rates on different hydrocarbon groups. They found that photooxidation was the main driver for degrading aromatic hydrocarbons, and biodegradation was the key process controlling the degradation of saturated hydrocarbons (alkanes). Exposure to sunlight, however, inhibited the biodegradation of the branched alkanes, pristane and Read More

Publication Highlights Study: Eco-Friendly Oil Herders Show Promise for Effective Marine Spill Cleanup Eco-Friendly Oil Herders Show Promise for Effective Marine Spill Cleanup

Scientists demonstrated an effective and environmentally benign technology to harness the forces that cause an oil spill to spread. Researchers from the City College of New York and Tulane University developed chemicals from a biomolecule abundant in marine algae that reversed the direction of the spreading force when applied to the surrounding edge of oil Read More

Publication Highlights Study Describes Transport Pathways During Estuary and Coastal Waters Exchange  Time series of temperature (a, c) and salinity (b, d) profiles at Station 1 (landward, left column) and Station 2 (seaward, right column). Black dots indicate depth and time (December 2013) of measurements. An early flood front accumulates material throughout the water column between 9.8 and 10. An early ebb front appears at ~10.3 and displays more vertical structure than the early flood front.

An international science team conducted a tidal-cycle study across a Destin, Florida inlet to better understand currents and the transport of dissolved and suspended materials between an estuary and the coastal ocean. They observed salinity and water temperature fronts at low and high tide. The high tide front transported oceanic buoyant material into the estuary Read More

Publication Highlights Study Reviews Forecast System Used During Deepwater Horizon Researchers simulated the oil spill from June 10 to July 10, 2010 in 5-day increments. The objective was to understand the factors causing the inshore incursion of oil into the western Mississippi Sound in late June. (Provided by Pat Fitzpatrick)

A team of university, NOAA, Naval Research Lab (NRL), and Naval Oceanographic Office researchers reviewed four evaluations of the ocean forecast system American Seas (AMSEAS) which was used during the 2010 spill to simulate oil trajectory. ←Researchers simulated the oil spill from June 10 to July 10, 2010 in 5-day increments. The objective was to Read More

Publication Highlights Study Informs Oil Spill Forensics with Petroleum Biomarkers Degradation Data Aeppi Holding San Patties

An international science team investigated the effects of weathering of petroleum biomarkers on the reliability of these compounds for fingerprinting Macondo oil. ←Christoph Aeppli collects samples of oil-soaked sand patties in Gulfshores, Alabama. (Photo credit: J. Suflita) They identified individual biomarkers that were resistant to weathering processes and others that were depleted by these processes. Read More

Publication Highlights Study Estimates Carbon, Likely from Deepwater Horizon Spill, in Gulf Sediment Chanton_MulticoreSamples_1465a

Scientists measured the natural abundance of radiocarbon (14C) in sediments near the Deepwater Horizon spill site and estimated the location and amount of carbon derived from crude oil or gas. ←Florida State University graduate students Brian Wells and Brian DeSanti prepare to collect multicore samples on the deck of the RV Weatherbird II. (Photo by Read More

Publication Highlights Study Identifies Short-Term Changes in Plankton Communities after Oil Spill Hernandez_JohnRansom-DrFilman_plankton1467

Scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi and Sultan Qaboos University assessed community responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill using data from a long-term plankton survey off the Alabama coast. ←USM graduate student John Ransom (left) and postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jesse Filbrun (right) prepare to deploy the multinet sampler during a cruise off the Read More

Publication Highlights Study Estimates Subsea Dispersant Marginally Reduced Surface Oil MGP-UWA-EMI-1397

Scientists at the University of Miami and the University of Western Australia measured oil droplet size and simulated oil dispersion under conditions similar to those at the Deepwater Horizon wellhead. ← Researchers used this autoclave apparatus with an external camera that visually captured oil droplets in water. (Photo provided by Zachary Aman) The authors reported that, Read More

Publication Highlights Study Describes Functional Diversity of Oil-Degrading Microbes in Coral and Sediment SimisterStudy_sediment_1478

Scientists from Haverford College examined Gulf of Mexico sediment and flocculent material (floc) associated with oil-impacted corals to study indigenous microbial communities and their oil degradation potential. ←Rachel Simister (lead author of the study) prepares sediment cores on a research cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. (Photo credit: H. White) They found high bacteria and Read More

Research Stories Scientists Coordinate Research with Responders in Santa Barbara Oil Spill Crews clean-up the oil using boom operations off the coast of Goleta, Calif., May 21, 2015. The clean-up operation for the spill began the evening of Tuesday May 19, 2015. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Andrea Anderson)

One of the most significant outcomes of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has been the fostering of a multi-disciplinary collaborative academic community ready to put science into practice. Members of the GoMRI community have been cultivating relationships with emergency responders so that science gets to the right people at the right time. These Read More

Publication Highlights Study Reveals Oil Spill Changed Oxygen Conditions in Gulf Sediment Hastings_1482

A team of scientists from Eckerd College and University of South Florida conducted a time-series sediment study to better understand impacts from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. ←Using a multi-core sediment sampler, David Hastings recovers sediment cores from the Northern Gulf of Mexico. (Photo provided by D. Hastings) Three years post-spill, they found a continued Read More

Publication Highlights Studies Describe Lingering Presence of Hydrocarbons along the Alabama Shoreline Oil_Mousse_1484

Auburn University scientists documented submerged oil mats and surface residual balls (also known as tar balls) on Alabama’s sandy beach systems and analyzed the physical and chemical evolution of compounds matching the characteristics of Macondo oil. ←Typical mousse, SOM, and SRB samples recovered from Alabama’s beaches. (Image provided courtesy of P. Clement from Yin, et Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Smithsonian Features GoMRI Research on Methane-Eating Microbes Methane bubbles rise through a bed of mussels near the Pascagoula Dome. (Image courtesy of the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program)

During the Deepwater Horizon incident, both oil and methane entered the surrounding marine environment from the Macondo reservoir. Scientists are investigating the released methane’s effects on deep-sea ecosystems. The Smithsonian published a story featuring the work of three GoMRI scientists – Samantha Joye, Jeff Chanton, and Frank Hernandez – who are examining microbes that feed on Read More

Publication Highlights Study Explains Pathways for Oiled Marine Snow Formation Passow_adding oil_1487

University of California Marine Science Institute researcher Uta Passow investigated the formation of aggregated oil and organic material, commonly called marine snow, after the Deepwater Horizon spill. ←Lab manager Julia Sweet prepares treatments for the rolling tanks experiments. (Photo provided by Uta Passow) She found that microbes and plankton had distinct interactions with oil, subsequently Read More

Publication Highlights Study Describes Two New “Mud Dragon” Species Discovered in Gulf of Mexico Mud Dragon 1639

Scientists from Troy University and the University of Copenhagen, who are studying potential oil spill impacts on seafloor-dwelling marine life, examined microscopic invertebrates that live in the sediment (meiofauna). They identified about twenty-two different kinorhynchs, worm-like animals commonly called mud dragons, including several new to science. They characterized two of these new species and published Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds High Pressure Inhibits Growth and Function of Oil-Degrading Microbes Oil-Degrading Microbes 1638

Scientists at the Hamburg University of Technology conducted high-pressure biodegradation experiments simulating conditions at theDeepwater Horizon site. They found that pressures lower than had previously been reported in literature impacted bacterial growth and degradation abilities. The growth of one bacterial strain decreased and then stopped at pressures lower than those at the spill site, however Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds Sunlight Enhances Water Solubility of Oil Study_Sunlight_Oil_Water_1650

Scientists from the University of New Orleans and Florida State University conducted simulated sunlight exposure experiments to determine sunlight’s effects on oil fate. They found that solar energy generated chemical reactions in oil molecules that resulted in increased oxidation, changing the oil’s chemical structure and promoting the mixing of oil and water. Once oxidized, multiple Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts Tracking Marine Mammal Recovery after the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill LADC-GEMM

LADC-GEMM studies acoustic signals in spill vicinityDid whale and dolphin populations change after the oil spill? Prior monitoring indicated that large numbers of these deep-diving marine mammals were living near the Deepwater Horizon site. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently awarded the LADC-GEMM consortium a grant to study endangered sperm whales, beaked whales, and Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds Ecofriendly Clay Delivers and Improves Oil Spill Treating Agents Clay_Improves_dispersents_1654

Scientists assessed the use of clay particles in experiments to develop a new class of dispersant that is effective and less toxic than those used in the Deepwater Horizon response. They found that clay particles adhered to the interface where oil and water meet and acted as emulsifiers, combining the oil and water into droplets. Read More

Publication Highlights Study Finds Three Ways for Oil Spill to Impact Gulf Seaweed Powers_SargassumMesocosm-225x169

Alabama scientists investigated oil spill effects on floating Sargassum, a critical seaweed habitat for many important Gulf species. They observed disappearance during and after the Deepwater Horizon spill and then conducted mesocosm experiments with Louisiana sweet crude oil and Corexit 9500 dispersant to test the fate of oiled Sargassum. They found that oil accumulated on Read More

Publication Highlights Study Reveals Mix of Resilience and Vulnerability of Oiled Marsh Grass marsh-grass_2097

Louisiana State University scientists simulated Deepwater Horizon oiling scenarios with a dominant Mississippi River Delta marsh reed and analyzed its reaction to oil exposure. They found that Phragmites australis, the common reed, had a high tolerance to above-ground oiling but not to below-ground oiling, which reduced the reed’s growth and function. They published their findings Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows Extended Footprint of Oil Spill Impact on Corals coral_2104

Scientists widened their study scope of deep-sea coral communities after finding oil-impacted coral near the Deepwater Horizon site. They documented corals with a distinctive visible pathology indicative of recent damage from water borne toxins on coral located twice as far from and in 50% deeper waters than the impacted coral they initially found near the Read More

Publication Highlights Study Extends Precise Analysis of Oxygenated Products in Weathered Oil 2501

A large team of scientists used a combination of complex, cutting-edge-science testing methods to expand the understanding of the chemical components present in weathered oil. They completed a detailed molecular analysis of oiled sand found on beaches near Pensacola, Florida following the Deepwater Horizon spill and identified tens of thousands of oxygenated compounds. The researchers Read More

Publication Highlights Study Establishes Corexit Analysis Method 2505

Chemists from Oregon State University developed a method that detects and measures the chemical composition of the four Corexit surfactants in seawater. This research also helped to identify best practices that addresses the complexities of sample collection, handling, and storage for improved toxicity testing and biodegradation experiments. They published their findings in the 2014 Deep-Sea Read More

Publication Highlights Study Identifies Efficient Food-Grade Emulsifier as Dispersant Alternative 2510

Scientists from the University of Maryland and Tulane University investigated the possibility of using food-grade materials for oil spill remediation. Their goal was to find alternatives to synthetic detergents, such as Corexit 9500A, that are currently used for this purpose. As a first step towards this goal, they examined the stability of emulsions of crude Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows Drifter Data on Surface Currents Critical to Predict Pollutant Transport 2416

Scientists measured the speed of small, short-lived Gulf surface currents using position data from nearly 300 drifters to determine surface current impact on the dispersion of ocean contaminants. They found that the energy contained in these fluctuating currents makes them primary contributors to the local dispersion and transport of pollutants. Drifter clusters revealed a broad, Read More

Publication Highlights Study Shows Bursting Bubbles Can Redistribute Oil Droplets into a Water Column Dr. Howard Stone (right), the Donald R. Dixon ’69 and Elizabeth W. Dixon Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University, and gradute student Jie Feng (left) observe bubbles in a tank. (Photo credit: Frank Wojciechowski, Princeton University)

Scientists using a high-speed camera to observe bubbles bursting have gained new insight into the hydrodynamics of complex fluids. They found that collapsing bubbles emit a downward spray into the water and that the presence of a surfactant can facilitate the transport of tiny, submicron-diameter oil droplets into the underlying water column. While this phenomenon Read More

Research Stories Little Critters that tell a BIG Story: Benthic Foraminifera and the Gulf Oil Spill Source: Noora Al-Meer, Flicker (

You are not alone if you don’t know what forams (short for foraminifera) are, so let’s start with the basics. Simply put, forams are single-celled organisms related to the familiar amoeba that produce a hard shell. These shells look like the shells you might pick up on the beach, but they are much smaller—most are Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories GoMRI Advances Science Four Years after Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill 2803a

Since August 2011, eight research consortia funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) have been working hard to understand impacts from and responses to the Deepwater Horizonincident. Their work represents the efforts of over 1,000 people, including 400 scientists and 275 graduate students, from over 100 national and international institutions. When asked about Read More