USF Research Vessel Heads to Oil Spill

USF's oceangoing vessel
The Weatherbird II
ST. PETERSBURG (2010-5-4) -

Of all the unknowns surrounding the Gulf oil spill, the biggest mystery so far might be its effect on marine life. A dozen researchers will venture into the waters Wednesday morning near the spill to compare the variety of life before and after the oil slick spreads.

The ten-day expedition to the northern Gulf of Mexico is onboard the research vessel Weatherbird II. Onboard will be a team of biologists from the University of South Florida's College of Marine Science.

They'll first venture to an area just east of the spill, off Florida's panhandle. There, they'll monitor the numbers of fish and plankton and examine the sediment on the bottom of the Gulf. Then, they'll head into the spill, where they'll run the same tests.

Ernst Peebles is an oceanographer with the College of Marine Science.

"After the spill has run its course, then we'll be able to gauge its magnitude, how bad it was, what effect it had," he said. "By going back to the areas we surveyed beforehand, we can see what kind of change happened."

Peebles says the mission will not only allow researchers to determine the impact of the spill, but continued monitoring will help assess the Gulf's recovery.

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