This section contains research stories, publication highlights, and other links related to the educational materials presented here and serves as an additional resource for educators and visitors in their exploration of GoMRI science.


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GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Analyzes Trends and Gaps in Oil Spill Literature Since 1968 3965

Researchers surveyed oil spill studies between 1968 and 2015 to characterize the field and describe changes. The team found that, despite its episodic nature, oil spill research is a rapidly expanding field with a growth rate greater than science as a whole. Research attention shifted dramatically to the Gulf of Mexico following Deepwater Horizon, rising Read More

GoMRI ScienceResearch Stories Oceanography Highlights Findings from Deepwater Horizon Research 3969

7th year of the largest coordinated research endeavor around an ocean event. The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and subsequent response efforts raised concerns about impacts on the Gulf of Mexico’s ocean and coastal environments. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI), in response to the spill, initiated an unprecedented 10-year scientific research program funded Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Quantifies Influence of Data Input on Confidence in Loop Current Forecasts 3981

Researchers described in a recent study a surrogate-based technique to quantify the uncertainty in forecasting the oceanic circulation. The authors focused on the time period during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill when an extended Loop Current increased the risk of carrying the oil slick towards the eastern seaboard of the U.S.  The new methodology, which Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Characterizes Natural Deep Sea Seeps 3989

Mississippi scientists surveyed natural seeps near the Macondo blowout using a high-resolution autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to inform biogeochemical studies about the post-Deepwater Horizon water column and seafloor. The researchers observed that the most distinctive physical features of the seepage systems were elongated depressions, pockmarks, and mud volcanoes/mounds. Visual imagery showed seep clusters on the Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Finds Jellyfish Mucus May Enhance Microbial Oil Biodegradation 4022a

Scientists conducted laboratory experiments to examine the influence of moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita) on crude oil aggregation and degradation. The researchers found that jellyfish swimming in a dispersed oil solution produced copious amounts of mucus which formed aggregates containing 26 times more oil than the surrounding water. Hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria density more than doubled and microbial Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Finds Corexit Triggers EPS Production, Enhancing Marine Snow Formation 4027

Scientists observed in laboratory experiments the formation of extracellular polymeric substances (EPS, a natural microorganism excretion) when phytoplankton and their associated bacteria were exposed to Corexit dispersant. The researchers observed that Corexit can trigger microorganisms in the phytoplankton community to produce EPS, even without oil present. EPS production was induced within days, and energy drawn Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Five-Year Study Finds Deepwater Horizon Negatively Affected Periwinkle Snails 4072a

Scientists conducted a meta-analysis on marsh periwinkle snails using data spanning five years to investigate how the oil spill affected them over time. The researchers found that snails from heavily-oiled sites exhibited decreased density and shell length. There were greater relative proportions of small adults and fewer large adults in heavily-oiled sites compared to reference Read More

GoMRI ScienceOutreach DROPPS Hosts and Participates in Community Response Meeting 4126

The quarterly South Texas Coastal Zone Area Committee Meeting is an opportunity for response community members to discuss recent activities and update area contingency plans. DROPPS’ Zhanfei Liu presented on petroleum hydrocarbon analysis and Sarah Cosgrove and Lalitha Asirvadam volunteered to participate in future workgroups, hoping to continue bridging the gap between science and response. Read More

GoMRI ScienceResearch Stories CWC Researchers Use GoPros to Monitor Land Loss 4122

A recent blog post describes how consortium scientists Giovanna McClenachan and R. Eugene Turner used GoPro® cameras to photograph a study site at two-hour intervals during four- to six-week periods between August 2014 and September 2015. Read about their findings here and check out the resulting time-lapse video!

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Demonstrates Sinking Marine Particles Help Remove PAHs from Water Column 4092a

Researchers measured polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations in water collected near the Deepwater Horizon site to understand how sinking particles, such as marine snow, influence the residence time of PAHs in the upper ocean.  They observed that dissolved PAH concentrations had decreased by over 1,000 times compared with concentrations reported during and immediately after the Read More

GoMRI ScienceProjectsResearch Stories Building a Rapid Response System for Predicting Water Column Processes and Oil Fate 4101a

As the Deepwater Horizon oil spill unfolded, there were concerns that the Loop Current might transport oil out of the Gulf to the Florida Keys and up the eastern seaboard. This possibility highlighted the need for quick predictions of oceanic flows and subsurface hydrocarbon distribution during and after a spill. Because physical and biochemical processes Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Suggests Brittle Stars Limited Deepwater Horizon Impacts on Deep Sea Corals 4106a

Pennsylvania State University scientists analyzed images of impacted and non-impacted deep sea corals to characterize their symbiotic relationship with brittle stars and determine if brittle stars influenced coral recovery from the Deepwater Horizon spill. The researchers observed that corals associated with brittle stars were healthier than corals that were not. Corals with brittle stars settled Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Develops Predictive Model for Oil-Particle Aggregate Formation 4111a

Scientists developed a new model to predict how much oil from a spill might bind to sediments or organic matter in the water column. The model, A-DROP, introduces a formula that accounts for oil stabilization by particles, particle hydrophobicity, and oil-particle size ratio. The model advances our understanding about the natural removal of oil and Read More

GoMRI ScienceProjectsResearch Stories Building a Benthic Genome Database for Improved Oil Spill Monitoring 4116a

Meiofauna are invertebrate organisms that live in seafloor sediments. These marine creatures perform ecosystem functions such as trophic transfer, biogeochemical cycles, pollution removal, and sediment transport stability. Sensitive to environmental events such as oil spills, meiofauna are valuable bioindicators of impacts from contamination. However, their small size and our limited knowledge about these organisms’ community Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Examines Transformation of Weathered Oil in Saltmarsh Sediment 3926

Scientists analyzed weathered and fresh Macondo oil to learn about oil products resulting from microbial degradation and photochemical reactions. They observed that 48 months after the Deepwater Horizon spill, less than 1 percent of oil remained in marsh sediments collected from heavily-impacted sites; however, it was still 400 times greater than sites with moderate-to-no observed Read More

GoMRI ScienceProjectsResearch Stories Resiliency and Recovery Connections in Oiled Wetland Plant-Microbial-Benthic Ecosystem 3908a

Marshes depend on a healthy, well-functioning complex of plants, microbes, and benthic communities to support the environmentally and economically important ecosystem services they offer, such as reducing storm surges and providing nursery grounds for many species. Researchers have been conducting studies assessing Louisiana marsh flora and fauna after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill and Read More

GoMRI ScienceMaterials CRGC Releases Working Paper Exploring Post-Spill Effects on Fisheries 3954

The consortium’s preliminary findings suggest the spill had at least short-run negative impacts on fisheries landings and that there may be both biological and behavioral components driving the observed changes. A free PDF of the full report is available here. What were the direct impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DH) oil spill on the Gulf Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Summarizes Current Knowledge on Marine Oil Snow During and After Deepwater Horizon 3903a

Scientists conducting oil spill research participated in the 2013 Marine Oil Snow Sedimentation and Flocculent Accumulation (MOSSFA) workshop. The researchers discussed the formation and fate of oil-associated marine snow and its ecological impacts on deep-sea environments and made recommendations for future marine oil snow research. The scientists published a report of their findings and discussions Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Advances Predictions of Air Pollution from Oil Slick Evaporation 3895a

Scientists ran model simulations for oil evaporation based on composition measurements of fresh Macondo crude oil and weathered surface oil from Deepwater Horizon slicks. The authors classified hydrocarbons with 10–30 carbons (which make up ~70% of total oil mass) by degree of branching, number of cyclic rings, aromaticity, and molecular weight. The simulations indicated that Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Finds UVB Radiation Increases Oil Toxicity in Marine Copepod Larvae 3890a

Scientists conducted laboratory exposure experiments to assess the effects of dispersed crude oil, Corexit 9500A dispersant, and natural ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation on early larval stages of planktonic copepods (“nauplii”). The researchers found that chemically-dispersed oil significantly reduced survival, growth, and movement of copepod nauplii compared to other treatments. UVB radiation further elevated mortality rates Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Identifying the “Missing Link” Between River-Induced Fronts and Hydrocarbon Transport 3859a

Researcher Oscar Garcia-Pineda demonstrates some of the methods the team uses to collect imagery and samples of floating oil near MC20. (Provided by Villy Kourafalou) The flow of the Mississippi River into the northern Gulf of Mexico may have caused circulation patterns and fronts that significantly influenced the transport and fate of Deepwater Horizon oil. Read More

Fact SheetsGoMRI ScienceOutreach Sea Grant Releases Brochure on Oil Spill’s Mental Health Impacts 3854

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative is pleased to announce a new informational brochure about how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected the mental health of some Gulf Coast residents. The Sea Grant Oil Spill Outreach Team reviewed published science and worked with experts to develop this brochure for a broad range of audiences, particularly those Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill on behaviors of fishers in Gulf of Mexico (Saul) 3761

The Avoiding Surprises: understanding the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the decision making behaviors of fishers and how this affects the assessment and management of commercially important fish species in the Gulf of Mexico using an agent-base project is lead by Steven Saul, Arizona State University. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill disrupted Read More

Research Stories Study Provides 1st Large-Scale Blue Crab Transcriptome Resource for Insights into Oil Exposure 3849a

Louisiana scientists conducted genetic sequencing on oil-exposed blue crabs to identify genes involved in the blue crabs’ short-term responses to oil. They found approximately 200 genes were significantly up- or down-regulated in gill and hepatopancreatic tissues and about 4,000 genes differed in how their transcripts were spliced together after oil-exposure. The gene expression changes suggest Read More

Research Stories Investigating Louisiana Dolphins’ Reproductive Health After Deepwater Horizon 3838a

Concern about how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill may continue to negatively affect wild bottlenose dolphins living in the spill’s footprint remains high. Researchers supporting the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) studied live and stranded dolphins in the heavily affected area of Louisiana’s Barataria Bay and reported that exposed dolphins exhibited increased lung disease, adrenal Read More

Publication Highlights Study Describes Oil Slick Differences in Natural Seeps and Deepwater Horizon 3827

Scientists analyzed synthetic aperture radar satellite (SAR) imagery to compare the magnitude and distribution of floating oil from natural seeps in the Gulf of Mexico and the Deepwater Horizon spill. They found fundamental differences in the surface footprints of chronic background sources (seeps) and large transient anthropogenic discharges (Deepwater Horizon). They published their findings in Read More

GoMRI Science Smithsonian Features Luminous Critters Living in the Deep, Dark Gulf 3816

Scientists are finding fascinating discoveries in the largely unknown deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Some fishes, invertebrates, and bacteria have evolved a special adaptation to living in dark conditions using bioluminescence. What’s new is the discovery of specific bacteria species that live symbiotically on anglerfish and emit light. The Smithsonian recently published an Read More

Research Stories Identifying Toxic Components in Fresh and Weathered Crude Oil 3806a

Hydrocarbons associated with oil spills can have harmful effects on humans and organisms, yet little is known about the specific compounds that contribute to toxicity. The ability to identify and quantify oil’s key toxic compounds will help improve predictions of future spills’ effects on human health and marine ecosystems. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Read More

Publication Highlights Rapid Response Study Documents Marine Microbial Response to Hercules Gas Blowout 3755a

Research consortia involved in the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) self-organized a rapid response to characterize the waters around the Hercules 265 rig. They found evidence of an immediate response from the surrounding environment’s microbial community to elevated methane concentrations. Using radium isotope measurements, researchers created a timeline of bottom water exposure to the Read More

Publication Highlights Study Advances Food Web Matrix for Improved Atlantis Ecosystem Model 3731

Researchers analyzed diet information for 474 unique fish species to quantify likely contributions of prey to predators’ diets for an improved marine food web matrix model. They identified previously missing predator-prey linkages, recategorized predators and prey into functional groups based on ecological factors, and quantified error ranges to reflect diet variability and data quality. The Read More

Publication Highlights Study Examines Gulf Killifish Rapid Adaptive Resistance to Contaminants 3726a

Scientists conducted exposure experiments on Gulf killifish populations with known adaptions to common environmental contaminates to determine how rapid adaptation affects future fish health. The researchers found that larvae from killifish that adapted to dioxin-like compounds exhibited higher resistance to oxidative stress and carbamates than did killifish larvae from areas with little-to-no known toxicant exposure. Read More

Publication Highlights Study Identifies Ocean Processes That Drive Surface Material Clustering 3714

Scientists analyzed Gulf of Mexico model simulations to understand the flow processes that drive clustering of buoyant material such as Sargassum, oil from seeps and spills, and debris on the ocean surface. They observed similar clustering patterns from the deep ocean and continental shelf, though the processes driving clustering differed between areas. Smaller-scale ocean features Read More

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 Stories 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 Stories 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 Stories 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 Stories 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

Research 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