USF Oil Spill Researchers Just Getting Started

USF research vesse
USF's Research Vessel Weatherbird II
TAMPA (2010-9-28) -

As Navy Secretary Ray Mabus unveiled the federal government's long-range oil spill recovery plan, researchers at USF's College of Marine Science looked back at their work uncovering the extent of the spill's damage - and what needs to be done.

This summer, USF's Research Vessel Weatherbird II discovered hidden plumes of oil beneath the waves - earning the ire of BP and early denials by the federal government.

Now, researchers want to take the next step: trips with chemists who can determine the makeup on the oil, as well as biologists who can determine its effect on the marine life. Oceanographer David Hollander:

"You identify oil in real time, you take those waters and feed them to organisms and see how they behave - organisms that you bring there as canaries," says Hollander. "The next step is to try to see how organisms in the environment are really responding to that oil."

He says that would include looking at not only marine life in the water column, but in the buried sediment - where a lot of oil sank after being mixed with dispersants. And that's important, says Hollander, because if organisms on the Gulf's bottom are found to contain toxins, that could upset the entire foundation of the Gulf's food web.

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