It Got Complicated (Dispatches from the Gulf)

Dispatches_LogoProfessor Will Patterson and Oceanographer Joe Tarnecki – both with Dauphin Island Sea Lab – use an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) to measure the impact of oil and dispersants on reef habitats. They’ve been studying the northern Gulf of Mexico for the last decade, so they have an abundance of data from the pre-spill environment. They revisit the same sites to collect post-oil spill data and discover that the population of the reef fish has dramatically decreased.


Impacts from the oil spill may be the cause, but an unanticipated element adds a layer of complexity to their research. To learn how their research “got complicated,” watch this short video: Invasion of the Lionfish .

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“Dispatches from the Gulf” is a new Journey to Planet Earth (J2PE) episode showing how scientists confront the challenges of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The documentary also investigates the impact of the event on the ecosystems and communities along the Gulf of Mexico.

J2PE dramatizes new ways of looking at the delicate relationship between people and the world they inhabit. The series is designed to help viewers understand and cope with the most important environmental issues of the 21st century.

Through an interdisciplinary approach, these programs reach beyond the physical sciences and draw connections to politics, economics, sociology, and history. A common thread runs throughout — the necessity to achieve a balance between the needs of people and the needs of the environment. Though photographed on different continents and focusing on different sets of problems, audiences come to see why all of these stories are connected, providing a dramatic mosaic of how the Earth works as an interrelated system.