Publication 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Study Reveals Oil Spill Changed Oxygen Conditions in Gulf Sediment Hastings_1482

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

Studies Describe Lingering Presence of Hydrocarbons along the Alabama Shoreline Oil_Mousse_1484

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

Study Explains Pathways for Oiled Marine Snow Formation Passow_adding oil_1487

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

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

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

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

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

Study Finds Sunlight Enhances Water Solubility of Oil Study_Sunlight_Oil_Water_1650

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Study Shows Extended Footprint of Oil Spill Impact on Corals coral_2104

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

Study Extends Precise Analysis of Oxygenated Products in Weathered Oil 2501

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

Study Establishes Corexit Analysis Method 2505

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

Study Identifies Efficient Food-Grade Emulsifier as Dispersant Alternative 2510

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

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

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

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

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

Study Confirms Methane-Eating Bacteria Contributed to Carbon Entering Food Web 2414

Scientists confirmed that methane-derived carbon, likely from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill entered the food web via small particles through a pathway known as methanotrophy. They published their findings in the December 2013 issue of Environmental Science and Technology Letters: Fossil carbon in particulate organic matter in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon Read More

Study: Wave Data Can Improve Forecasts that Help Search and Rescue Operations and Oil Spill Response – August 26, 2013 Wave_Data_590

Scientists with the Norwegian Meteorological Institute are quantifying wave effects for use in ocean models that predict the direction of surface water movement.  Calculations that go into these models have important implications and relevant applications: improving them can provide better information in time-critical situations such as accidents and disasters. Researchers found that “the predictability of Read More

Study Describes Use of Oil Fingerprinting to Identify Source of 2012 Gulf Sheen – August 2013 oil_fingerprinting_580

Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and University of California, Santa Barbara used a novel fingerprinting technique to identify the source of oil sheens that appeared in late 2012 near the site of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. ←After researchers retrieved oil-coated screens used to collect samples from surface sheens, each screen was sectioned into several Read More

Study Describes Mechanics of Dispersant Adsorption at Oil-Water Interface Study_Dispersant_Adsorption_578

Scientists are trying to develop more stable, safer dispersants.  Carnegie Mellon researchers examining the chemical interaction of Tween 80 (a primary component in typical dispersants) at the point where oil and water meet have characterized dispersants behavior in variable test environments. They observed reorganization, irreversible adsorption, and high values of surface elasticity. The researchers discuss Read More

Study Finds PAHs in Mississippi Seafood below Levels of Concern Mississippi State Chemical Laboratory residue manager and paper co-author Christina Childers analyzes data from seafood samples for PAH contamination using the Agilent 7000B Triple Quadrupole GC/MS/MS system. (Photo courtesy of Mississippi State University)

Scientists studying oil impacts on fish, shrimp, crab, and oysters from coastal Mississippi waters one year post-spill found PAH levels were below Levels of Concern (LOC) established jointly by NOAA/FDA/Gulf Coast states by “at least 2 orders of magnitude.” They also found that PAH levels were similar to those found in “commonly consumed processed foods Read More

Study Links Negative Biological Impacts to Oil-Exposed Killifish This representative image of an un-hatched Gulf killifish embryo at 21 days post-fertilization appears underdeveloped, having characteristic features of PAH exposure such as cardiac edema. (Image provided by Benjamin Dubansky)

Scientists from Louisiana State University, University of California-Davis, and Clemson University, studying Deepwater Horizon impacts on killifish from oiled Louisiana estuaries, found that adult fish exhibited genetic responses that indicate physical and reproductive impairment over one year post spill. Laboratory tests on killifish embryos exposed to oiled sediments showed developmental defects.  These results were published Read More

Study Shows Bacteria Contributed to Consumption of 200,000 tons of Oil and Gas  Oil slick, photo provided by John Kessler.

Scientists who tracked deep underwater oil and gas plumes after the Deepwater Horizon incident concluded that the respiration of dissolved and trapped hydrocarbons resulted in reduced dissolved oxygen concentrations from a bloom of hydrocarbon-eating bacteria. These naturally occurring microbes then consumed an estimated 200,000 tons of hydrocarbons, and the study suggests that the use of Read More

Study: Dispersants Can Move Hydrocarbons Faster and Deeper into Gulf Sand Markus Huettel holds a sediment core sample from Pensacola Beach, Florida. Researchers used sands from this area for their study.

Scientists studying the fate of oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident published their findings in the November 2012 edition of Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE):  Dispersants as used in response to the MC252-spill lead to higher mobility of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in oil-contaminated Gulf of Mexico sand. Researchers concluded that the addition of dispersants Read More

Coastal Alabama Marine Life Returns to Pre-Spill Numbers  Marine technicians Jennifer Hemphill, Matthew Metcalf and Sara Kerner set fyke nets (traps used to collect marsh-associated finfish and shellfish) near Point-aux-Pins, AL. (Photo credit: Ryan M. Moody)

Biologists studying the impacts of oil on marine species living in coastal Alabama salt marshes published their results in the March 2013 edition of the Public Library of Science (PLoS ONE): Interannual recruitment dynamics for resident and transient marsh species: Evidence for a lack of impact by the Macondo oil spill. Scientists found that oil Read More