Science

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 StudentsResearch Stories Grad Student Johnson Uses Amino Acids to Demystify Salt Marsh Food Webs Jessica presents her research at the 2016 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science conference in Tampa, FL. (Photo by Michael Polito)

Salt marshes support commercially and culturally important species and are often subject to natural and human-caused stressors. Gaps in our knowledge of salt marsh food webs made management and restoration decisions difficult after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Jessica Johnson helps fill this gap using novel chemical analysis techniques to describe the diets of salt marsh organisms and trace how Read More

Publication Highlights Study Assesses How Chemical Dispersant Affects Oil Plume Behavior A comparison of an oil plume without dispersant (left or a) and one with dispersant at a 1:100 dispersant to oil ratio (right or b). The insets show typical droplet sizes in magnified sections corresponding to the white squares. Image credit David Murphy.

  A comparison of an oil plume without dispersant (left or a) and one with dispersant at a 1:100 dispersant to oil ratio (right or b). The insets show typical droplet sizes in magnified sections corresponding to the white squares. Image credit David Murphy.   Scientists conducted laboratory experiments with a simulated oil plume to Read More

MaterialsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts Science at Sea: SPLASH Experiment Improves Predictions for Oil Moving toward Shore

Response decisions during Deepwater Horizon relied on forecasts of where the oil was going and when it would get there.  Researchers with the CARTHE consortium have been working to improve the information that goes into making ocean transport forecasts. The group recently completed the last of four field experiments that link the dynamics of deep ocean, shelf, Read More

Publication Highlights Study Identifies Oil Carbons Associated with Deepwater Horizon in Terrestrial Birds A Seaside Sparrow (Ammodramus maritimus) in the salt marshes. (Photo by Andrea Bonisoli Alquati)

Scientists analyzed the carbon composition in Seaside Sparrow tissues to learn if oil from the 2010 spill was incorporated into the terrestrial food web. The researchers found reduced radiocarbon and stable carbon concentration levels in the feathers of birds captured at oiled sites compared with birds from non-oiled sites, which is consistent with a fossil Read More

Research StoriesStudent Activities Beneath the Horizon: A Web Resource for the 1979 and 2010 Oil Spills A map of the Gulf of Mexico that shows the Deepwater Horizon and Ixtoc spills. Image provided by C-IMAGE

Scientists and outreach personnel created an on-line resource that examines two major oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico: The Deepwater Horizon in the northern Gulf and the Ixtoc in the southern Gulf. Beneath the Horizonwebsite, developed by the C-IMAGE research group and Jake Price Productions, explores these spills, the people who coped with and responded to these disasters, and expectations for Read More

GoMRI StudentsPublication Highlights Study Finds UV Exposure Late in Mahi-Mahi Embryo Development Enhances Oil Toxicity Ph.D student Jason Magnuson collects embryos at the University of Miami RSMAS. Photo provided by RECOVER.

Researchers conducted laboratory experiments on mahi-mahi embryos to determine the effects of ultraviolet radiation (UV) and oil co-exposure during different times in their development. The team observed that UV affected the success of mahi-mahi hatch in all exposure scenarios compared to controls but was highest (a 1.6- to 6-fold increase) when co-exposure occurred late in Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch Stories Science at Sea: U.S. and Cuban Scientists Collaborate in Historic OneGulf Expedition Marine geologist David Hollander (USF, right) instructs Cuban students on sediment core sampling techniques off northwest Cuba. Dr. Greg Brooks (Eckerd College, orange shirt) assists. Photo courtesy of C-IMAGE

Gulf-wide baseline for oil pollution monitoring complete!   Marine scientists advanced academic relations between the U.S. and Cuba during an 18-day research expedition (May 8-25) off the northwest coast of the island nation. Twenty-four scientists representing four universities sailed on the R/V Weatherbird II and collected 450 fish, 50 plankton, 150 water, and 1,500 sediment samples. They Read More

GoMRI ScientistsPublication Highlights Study Identifies Key Species that Influence Marsh Ecosystem Responses to Oiling The authors created a salt marsh food web with oil sensitivity ratings for each species or node. Clear circles indicate no data available. Blue, yellow, and red circles depict sensitivity scores of 0, 1, and 2, respectively. Nodes are arranged so that trophic level increases vertically. (Provided by Michael McCann)

Scientists constructed a food web model using data from published studies and their field experiences to understand how specific Louisiana salt marsh organisms influenced ecosystem response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The researchers found that carnivorous fishes were “critically resilient” and likely enhanced food web resilience. Gulls, terns, omnivorous snails, and wading birds were “critically sensitive” Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts RFP IV Update: Alabama Center for Ecological Resilience (Valentine) Researcher John Valentine

The ACER objectives are: To assess how coastal ecosystem structure, as measured by multiple estimates of biodiversity, and functioning (its provision of valuable processes and services) have been affected by differential exposure to Deepwater Horizon oiling. To determine how the biodiversity of coastal ecosystems can buffer resistance and recovery from oiling. To determine the conditions of Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Topography of Gulf of Mexico Influences Mixing and Distribution of Oil and Gas (Polzin) Researcher Kurt Polzin

The Understanding How the Complex Topography of the Deepwater Gulf of Mexico Influences Water-column Mixing Processes and the Vertical and Horizontal Distribution of Oil and Gas after a Blowout project is lead by Kurt Polzin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. An integrated, multi-platform, observational field effort is proposed that makes direct observations of turbulent mixing in Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: 3D Gulf Circulation and Biogeochemical Processes – Profiling Float & Ocean Model (Shay) Researcher Lynn IK. Nick

The Three-Dimensional Gulf Circulation and Biogeochemical Processes Unveiled by State-of-the-Art Profiling Float Technology and Data Assimilative Ocean Models project is lead by Lynn K. (Nick) Shay, University of Miami. The overarching goal of this proposed research is to build a rapid response capability that can be deployed in the event of an oil spill. The Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Toxicological Properties of Aromatic Hydrocarbons from Deepwater Horizon Spill (Miller) Researcher Jeffrey Wickliffe

  The Toxicological Properties of Specific Aromatic Hydrocarbons Isolated from Fresh and Aged Crude Oil from the Deepwater Horizon Spill project is lead by Charles Miller, Tulane University. The scientific goal of this research is to elucidate the highly toxic compounds within fresh and weathered crude oil from the MC252 oil spill. The hypothesis of Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Food-Grade Dispersants as Highly Efficient / Safe Materials for Oil Spills (Raghavan) Researcher Srinivasa R. Raghavan

  The Molecular Engineering of Food-Grade Dispersants as Highly Efficient and Safe Materials for the Treatment of Oil Spills project is lead by P.I. Srinivasa R. Raghavan, University of Maryland The goal is to engineer a new class of dispersants that combine environmental safety and high efficiency. By avoiding the synthetic components in current dispersants Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Influence of river induced fronts on hydrocarbon transport (Kourafalou) Research Villy Kourafalou

  The Influence of river induced fronts on hydrocarbon transport project is lead by P.I. Villy Kourafalou, University of Miami. The overarching study objective is to understand, quantify and be able to predict the role of river plume induced fronts and circulation regimes in enhancing, modifying or altering the transport pathways of hydrocarbons, in the Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Transport & fate of oil in the upper ocean (Meneveau) Researcher Charles Meneveau

  The Transport and fate of oil in the upper ocean: Studying and modeling multi-scale physical dispersion mechanisms and remediation strategies using Large Eddy Simulation project is lead by P.I. Charles Meneveau, Johns Hopkins University. In the aftermaths of deep water blowouts, oil plumes rise through and interact with various layers of the ocean and Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Vertical upwelling & bottom-boundary layer dispersal at a natural seep site (Di Iorio) Researcher Daniela Di Iorio

  The Vertical upwelling and bottom-boundary layer dispersal at a natural seep site project is lead by P.I. Daniela Di Iorio, University of Georgia. The physical understanding of the vertical upwelling velocity and bottom boundary layer dispersal of a hydrocarbon seep in the Gulf of Mexico is extremely limited due to paucity of direct long-term Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Deep-sea Risk Assessment & Species Sensitivity (Knap) Researcher Anthony Hayden Knap

  The Deep-sea Risk Assessment and species sensitivity to WAF, CEWAF and Dispersant project is lead by P.I. Anthony Hayden Knap, Texas A&M University. Subsea injection of dispersants offers some significant benefits compared to the application of dispersants on the sea surface, for example access to the freshest and non-emulsified oil in the high turbulence environment, Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Spectroscopy for Specific Isomer Determination of Petroleum Oil Spills (Campiglia) Research Andres D. Campiglia

The A Combined Analytical and Synthetic Approach Based on Line Narrowing Spectroscopy for Specific Isomer Determination of Petroleum Oil Spills project is lead by P.I. Andres D. Campiglia, University of Central Florida. This proposal tackles a different aspect of PAHs analysis as it focuses on detection and characterization of higher-molecular weight PAHs (HMW-PAHs), i.e. PAHs with Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Role of Microbial Motility for Degradation of Dispersed Oil (Conrad) Jacinta C. Conrad

  The Role of Microbial Motility for Degradation of Dispersed Oil project is lead by P.I. Jacinta C. Conrad, University of Houston. Microbial biodegradation processes are thought to have played a substantial role in the surprisingly swift disappearance of oil and gas released into the Gulf of Mexico after the catastrophic Deepwater Horizon MC252 blowout. Read More

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Oil-Marine Snow-Mineral Aggregate Interactions and Sedimentation (Burd) Researcher Adrian Burd

The Oil-Marine Snow-Mineral Aggregate Interactions and Sedimentation during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill project is lead by P.I. Adrian Burd, University of Georgia. The goal of this project will be to use coagulation theory to develop a predictive, mechanistic model for how oil coagulates with particulate material in the marine environment. There is strong Read More

GoMRI StudentsResearch Stories Grad Student Parks Assesses How Disasters and Social Factors Influence Human Health Vanessa inside a helicopter at a heliport in Cut Off, LA, where offshore oil workers commute to and from work. (Provided by Vanessa Parks)

A person’s socioeconomic position can influence their health and well-being, and disasters can place additional strain on those whose health and well-being are already compromised. Vanessa Parks compiles and analyzes data on Gulf Coast communities that explores how the Deepwater Horizon oil spill affected mental and physical health and how social factors contributed to post-disaster health outcomes. “I Read More

GoMRI ScientistsPublication Highlights Study Develops Method to Quantify DOSS in Gulf of Mexico Sediments Study author Samantha Joye collects Gulf of Mexico sediment samples using a multi-corer. Photo courtesy of ECOGIG.

  Scientists developed and validated a high-resolution mass spectrometry method to fill data gaps in existing methods that detect the surfactant DOSS, a significant Corexit component, in sediments near the Deepwater Horizonspill site. The LC-QTOF-MS (LC-high mass accuracy quadruple time of flight mass spectrometry) method improved the sensitivity and selectivity required to detect small quantities of Read More

GoMRI ScientistsPublication Highlights Study Documents Initial Impacts and Recovery of Benthic Foraminifera after Deepwater Horizon Patrick Schwing measures a sediment core extracted from the Gulf of Mexico seafloor. Photo Credit: Devon Firesinger 2015

Scientists analyzed sediment cores from two sites near the Macondo wellhead to characterize possible spill impacts on benthic foraminifera (single celled organisms with a hard shell). The team found elevated Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) concentrations and a significant decrease in density and species diversity for foraminifera. The first signs of benthic recovery took about 1 Read More

GoMRI ScientistsGoMRI StudentsPublication Highlights Study Describes Response from Distinct Bacterial Groups to Marine Oil Snow First Author Tingting Yang [right], thesis advisor Andreas Teske [left], and fellow graduate student Lisa Nigro [left] point to the multicorer full of seafloor sediments, onboard R/V Atlantis in the northern Gulf of Mexico, November 2010. Photo provided by Andreas Teske.

Scientists conducted genetic sequencing on bacteria to document the oil-associated groups in sediment affected by marine oil snow post-Deepwater Horizon. The researchers observed increases in bacteria that degrade aerobic Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and anaerobic sulfate-reducing bacteria in sediment collected from September-November 2010. Aerobic bacteria likely used oxygen rapidly when consuming PAHs and caused localized Read More

Publication Highlights Studies Highlight Complexities in Connecting Larval Fish Health to Deepwater Horizon Co-authors John Ransom (former GoMRI Scholar) and Dr. Jesse Filbrun (former GoMRI postdoc) prepare to deploy the BIONESS plankton sampler. (credit: USM Fisheries Oceanography and Ecology Lab) [Click to enlarge...]

Scientists examined Red Snapper and Spanish Mackerel larvae before, during, and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to determine if and how the spill may have affected them. The researchers observed that Red Snapper larvae were in poorer condition during and after the spill compared to pre-spill metrics, which may affect lifetime growth and fitness. However, this Read More

GoMRI SciencePublication Highlights Study Investigates Influence of Hurricanes on Ocean Surface Currents Hurricane Isaac from August 26 – 31, 2012 and GLAD drifter trajectories (thin black and red lines) during the same time period. More details about this image are available in the publication, Figure 1. Image provided by Shuyi S. Chen, Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Miami.

Scientists used GPS data collected from ocean drifters during Hurricane Isaac with a coupled atmosphere-wave-ocean model to better understand how hurricanes affect upper ocean circulation. The researchers found that hurricane-induced Stokes drift (wind-wave-driven water mass transport) created a cyclonic rotational flow to the storm’s left and an anticyclonic rotational flow to its right. Stokes drift Read More

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 ScienceResearch Stories Using Complementary Simulations to Improve Oil Tracking under Hurricane Conditions 4041a

Interactions among wind, waves, and upper-ocean currents are essential factors in predicting oil slick transport and fate. These complex interactions, however, make capturing their dynamics in simulations challenging, especially when turbulent weather conditions are present. The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative recently awarded Dr. William Drennan a grant to study how wind-wave-current interactions affect oil Read More

Publication Highlights Study Characterizes River Plume Mixing Processes in Coastal Waters 4046

Scientists assessed the behavior of a Florida river plume to determine how it might influence the transport and dispersion of surface oil near coastal regions. The researchers found that the near-surface measurements of dissipation at the front’s bounding edge were four orders of magnitude larger than the environment beneath. Frontal processes accounted for approximately 60% 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 ScienceGoMRI ScientistsResearch 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 ScienceGoMRI ScientistsResearch 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

Research 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 ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Chemical evolution & degradation of petroleum in saline marsh plants & soils (Van Bael) 3942

The importance of bacteria for biodegradation of petroleum is well described for contaminated seawater and coastal soils, but very little is known about the role of symbiotic plant bacteria in degrading petroleum. Endophytes are bacteria and fungi that live as symbionts within plant roots, stems and leaves. These symbionts are closely associated with the plant 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 StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Resilience Attributes for Children, Youth, and Communities in Deepwater Horizon (Slack) 3938

The Understanding Resilience Attributes for Children, Youth, and Communities in the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill project is lead by Tim Slack, Louisiana State University. This proposal outlines a research agenda to assess the public health impacts of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, with special emphasis 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

Publication Highlights 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

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Unraveling the Biotic and Abiotic Chemical Evolution of Macondo Oil (Rodgers) 3797

The The State-of-the-Art Unraveling of the Biotic and Abiotic Chemical Evolution of Macondo Oil: 2010-2018 project is lead by Ryan P. Rodgers, Florida State University. Once released into the environment, petroleum undergoes physical processes that modify its native composition (water washing and evaporative losses) and chemical processes (largely oxidative, i.e. photo-oxidation and biodegradation) that we 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

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Reproductive Failure in Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Recovery of Cetaceans (Smith) 3790

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

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

GoMRI ScientistsResearch StoriesVideo and Podcasts GoMRI RFP-V: Genomic Responses to Deepwater Horizon and high-throughput biological assays (Thomas) 3775

The Genomic Responses to the Deepwater Horizon event and development of high-throughput biological assays for oil spills project is lead by W. Kelley Thomas, University of New Hampshire. Within the GoM, the benthic environment is biologically hyper-diverse, performing critical ecosystem functions that have consequences for the ecology of the entire GoM region. Benthic communities are 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 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