A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 19 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.
Steve Curwood of PRI's Living on Earth hosted a pair of stories about the C-IMAGE Ixtoc I studies. David Levin interviews C-IMAGE researchers as part of The Loop podcasts.
While studying the mechanisms and impacts of oil spills on Gulf ecosystems, we sometimes lose our perspective of the impacts marine oil blowouts have on people; especially the families of the 11 men killed during the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. The Story Collider kicked off the 2017 GoMOSES Conference with five stories from people who have a story about science and the Gulf to share..
Dealing with the Spill
Charlie Henry, a Louisiana native, is the Director of NOAA's Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center in Mobile, AL. In addition oil spills, Henry works as a liaison of science into the disaster response to minimize the damage done by natural or man-made disaster.
His efforts with Deepwater Horizon began like any other oil spill with a phone call late at night from the Coast Guard, but as the spill progressed he and his colleagues had a feeling that this one was going to be big. Henry breaks down his job into five questions spill responders ask during a spill: (1) what was spilled (chemical, oil), (2) where is it going to go, (3) what is going to get hit and impacted, (4) how is it going to hurt (toxic or physical response), and (5) what can we do to make it better?
John Farrington, a chemical oceanographer, first heard of DwH from news headlines at home. After letting the tragedy of April 20th settle, he thought "Not again." Farrington experienced another mega Gulf spill in the late-1970s. While the Ixtoc I blowout in 1979 spread oil across the southern and western Gulf for 9 months, Farrington and colleagues collected samples from around the Campeche Bay to understand the chemical properties of the oil and what impacts it might have on different ecosystems.
This scientific response of Farrington's group provided vital context to the evolution of Ixtoc I, and even today helps C-IMAGE researchers study the impacts 35+ years later.
A Memorable Moment
Elva Escobar is the director of the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). She studies organisms at the seafloor to understand nutrients traveling through the environement. Her story involved her first trip in a deep-sea submersible and the unexpected events waiting for her in the deep sea.
In the days preparing for the 8-hour dive to the sea-floor, reviewing science plans, planning meals and bathroom breaks, a nervousness was lingering for Escobar. Once inside the submersible with two French pilots, the calm of the ocean came over the crew on their way down to 2,500m. Rested on the sea floor, Escobar was ready to get to work, but the French had priorities. Lunch. From the sub's compartments comes salad, soups, cheeses, chocolates and a main course filet, all complete with a bottle of French wine. Research resumed after the meal and once back on the ships deck, Elva is greeted with an ice bath, to celebrate her first submersible dive.
Robert Campo is a 4th generation Louisiana fisherman. For 117 years, the Campo family has known nothing but fishing. Campo was patrolling his oyster beds on April 20th, while the afternoon was like any other one before, 50 bags of oysters to call it a day. When back at the dock, he gets a call from a New York area code.
On the other line is Anne Thompson (NBC Nightly News), asking about the impacts of the spill on the family business, the rig exploding. "Woah, slow down!" Campo says. The Deepwater Horizon news broke to him over the phone and he immediately began thinking how the winds would impact his oyster beds. In the following weeks, fish kills washed ashore for miles along the Gulf coast. Campo's beds still have not recovered from the spill, he's moved into shrimping since and continues to fish in Gulf waters because it is his home, and he knows nothing else.
Path towards Recovery
Estelle Robichaux is a Restoration Project Analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund. Her memory of hearing about the spill came when she was finishing a semester in graduate school, and preparing to travel to Europe. Her busy travel schedule didn't allow for her to catch up on the daily events in April and May, 2010, but her curiosity and concern for the Gulf's health caught up to her. With a loved one ill, and oil in the Gulf, Robichaux saw the people and places she loved change from what she knew.
While working at the Environmental Defense Fund years later, the BP settlement money came through to pay for large-scale restorations to the marshes. The empowerment Robichaux felt after the settlement give her hope for the recovery of the Gulf.
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative has provided a path towards recovery from oil spill. Not just Deepwater Horizon, future spills too. The research produced by GoMRI centers provides recover and restoration agencies a better tools and resources to better understand Gulf dynamics and impacts.
Recordings of these stories will be adapted to a podcast series on the Story Collider webpage. To listen to last years stories from the Tampa event in February, visit the C-IMAGE Youtube Channel.
What is FameLab?
FameLab is a communications competition designed to engage and entertain by breaking down science, technology and engineering concepts into three minute presentations.
Contestants from around the world take part armed only with their wits and a few props – the result is an unpredictable, enlightening and exciting way to encourage your curiosity and find out about the latest research.
FameLab was started in 2005 in the UK by Cheltenham Science Festival and has quickly become established as a diamond model for successfully identifying, training and mentoring scientists and engineers to share their enthusiasm for their subjects with the public.
In 2016, Shokouh Rahsepar, a Ph.D. student from Wageningen University shared information about Deepwater Horizon oil spill and participated in the FameLab competition for presenting a scientific concept to non-expert audience.
Click here to learn more about FameLab.
For every marine sediment sample from the GoM that C-IMAGE PI David Hastings processes with his students, he generates four (4) plastic disposable test tubes. He prefers not to re-use them since the trace element analysis is sensitive to very low levels of contamination.
That Dr. Hastings' lab is generating substantial plastic waste in an effort to understand the eventual fate of the oil that was spilled trying to provide us with petroleum resources, like the plastic test tubes, was an interesting contradiction. He put out a call for Eckerd students to make a piece of art with the used test tubes. Without any additional information, one art student found a modelling simulation of the subsurface plume transport from Dr. Claire Paris, a researcher out of the University of Miami, RSMAS and, ironically, a fellow C-IMAGE Researcher. The art student, Robin Rowland, replicated the subsurface intrusion using the test tubes suspended by waste monofilament fishing line recovered by Tampa Bay Watch. This art installation was part of her senior art project.
The full exhibit description can be found here:
Leonard Lopate hosts the conversation New Yorkers turn to each afternoon for insight into contemporary art, theater, and literature, plus expert tips about the ever-important lunchtime topic: food. On this particular day, Mr. Lopate sits down with Marilyn Weiner and Hal Weiner, directors and producers of the PBS series “Journey to the Planet Earth," to talk about their new film “Dispatches from the Gulf,” which looks at the environmental fallout from the disaster. Steve Murawski, a fisheries biologist and marine ecologist who is featured in the documentary, joins the conversation.
The full show can be heard here:
“Dispatches from the Gulf,” a new episode in the series “Journey to Planet Earth,” (www.dispatchesfromthegulf.com) shares the first-hand accounts of scientists studying the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The film also incorporates the impact the 3-month long spill had on fishermen in the Gulf, mainly in Louisiana.
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil platform exploded in the northern Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 oil workers and leading to the release over 200 million gallons of oil from the sea floor, 4,900 feet deep.
Concerned researchers from across the Gulf, like the Florida Institute of Oceanography, took swift action to document the impact of oil and dispersants on marine life and Gulf ecosystems in the months following the spill. An independent research group, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI, www.gulfresearchinitiative.org/), established a 10-year research plan following the oil spill and developed consortiums studying different aspects of oil spills. ‘Dispatches from the Gulf,’ a GoMRI funded film, highlights the work of these consortiums, in particular scientists the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (www.marine.usf.edu/c-image).
Dr. Steven Murawski, Professor at the USF-College of Marine Science and Lead Principal Investigator of C-IMAGE (a GoMRI funded consortium), is featured throughout the film for his work on fisheries impacted by Deepwater Horizon.
“Our major focus is to see if contamination from DWH persists, and how it might have affected species and fish communities,” said Murawski. His work aboard the R/V Weatherbird II is known as ‘Mud & Blood’ for the ocean muds and fish tissues collected. “My students and I were seen sampling the fish community offshore of Louisiana in the general vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We have sampled this region every year since 2011 to look for oil residue in fishes and the abundance of species and communities,” Murawski said.
Dr. Will Paterson (Dauphin Island Sea Lab, Alabama) is featured in the documentary studying artificial and natural reefs in the Gulf of Mexico via remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs. From the cabin of his boat, Patterson uses cameras and joysticks to count and measure fish living on the northern Gulf reefs.
Patterson made a surprising discovery in his work post-DwH: Lionfish began dominating reefs in the years following the oil spill. These ‘invasive exotics’ compete for the same food as native Gulf species, causing native fish populations to decline. Patterson and his lab share more detail of their efforts in the film and continue to monitor Lionfish presence on reefs.
Amy Wallace is a PhD student at the USF College of Marine Science using fish eyes and ear bones called “otoliths” to recreate the fish’s life history. Amy is a leading member of the ‘Blood’ crew and recalls working with the film crew on one hot, summer day. “Everyone was so nice and really focused on telling the full story of the science,” Wallace explains. “It was really busy when we are processing fish from our long-line catch and I hardly noticed the film crew was even there!”
The fish tell just one half of the story USF researchers are studying from the Gulf, the sea floor muds and sediments tell the other. Ten percent (20 million gallons) of all oil spilled deposited on the sea floor, impacting sea bottom (‘benthic’) communities. Dr. Isabel Romero, a researcher at the USF-College of Marine Science studies these sediments by using layered mud cores as pages in time features her work on the ‘Mud’ crew.
“Our major objective is to see how long contamination persist on the sediments, the main oil-derived compounds that persist, and their potential impact to benthic communities,” said Romero. The areas of the ocean she studies gives insight to the sub-sea oil we never see reaching the surface.
‘Dispatches from the Gulf’ covers the work of three of the twelve Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative consortia, C-IMAGE, RECOVER, and ECOGIG.
Screenings of the documentary may be happening near you. Visit their webpage (dispatchesfromthegulf.com/screenings/) to see the when and where!
AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and is an international non-profit organization “dedication to advancing science for the benefit of all people.”
According to AAAS, “These individuals have been elevated to this rank because of their efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.” The gold and blue rosette pin awarded each new Fellow. Courtesy American Association for the Advancement of Science.
The Fellows from USF are:
Professor Kendra L. Daly, Ph.D., College of Marine Science;
Dean and Professor Jacqueline Eaby Dixon, Ph.D., College of Marine Science;
Professor Steven A. Murawski, Ph.D., College of Marine Science.
Daly: “For distinguished contributions to the field of ocean science, particularly for advancing knowledge of Antarctic marine food webs and ecosystem dynamics in ice covered seas.”
Jacqueline E. Dixon: “For distinguished contributions to the fields of marine science and geology.”
Murawski: “For distinguished contributions to the fields of fisheries and marine ecosystem science, particularly for theoretical and empirical contributions to understanding the dynamics of exploited ecosystems.”
AAAS will present its official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin, representing science and engineering, in February at its annual AAAS Fellows Forum during the 2016 AAAS Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. The formal announcement appears in the AAAS News & Notes section of the Nov. 25 issue of “Science” magazine.
For the full AAAS press release, click here.
Dr. Jeff Chanton and Dr. Allan Clarke have been chosen by the American Geophysical Union (AGU) as the 2015 AGU Fellows. Both professors, from Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL, have made exceptional contributions to Earth and space sciences in the eyes of their peers, this respect is shared by section and focus group committees.
Dr. Chanton and his lab studies emissions and cycling of the carbon gasses methane and carbon dioxide. Chanton is interested in methane gas hydrates, estimated as large reservoirs of fossil fuels to be mined.
Dr. John Farrington is a GoMRI board member and professor at Wood Hole Oceanographic Institute. His research interests include marine organic geochemistry, biogeochemistry of organic chemicals of environmental concern, and the interaction between science and policy.
C-IMAGE, CARTHE, and RECOVER gather in Tallahassee for Florida Ocean's Day sponsored by the Florida Ocean Alliance. Consortia staff and graduate students spoke with the general public and political staff about GoMRI research taking place in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Science Conference condensed four February days with nearly 500 scientific presentations and posters (C-IMAGE hosting 70 of these, and co-chairing eight of 18 sessions), making a busy week for all involved. The C-IMAGE Story Collider allowed the public to hear our researchers speak, but in a personal tone, connecting their own motivations with the work they do.
Hosted by Ari Daniel Shapiro and Erin Baker, the Story Collider featured five personal tales: four researchers from the University of South Florida-College of Marine Science, and one editor for the Tampa Bay Times. Each story was focused around the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Which parts of their childhoods lead to their wonder of science? How has the 2010 oil spill affected their perspectives on the Gulf?
Beginning with Jim's wonder and awe of space, strapped into his makeshift cockpit of a lawn chair and a seat belt, going through his imaginary liftoff in his Illinois backyard, science gives Jim a way to ask and learn about the natural world. While taking a scientific track in college, he found that his ability to explain science to others gave him a unique advantage over his classmates. He changed his academic focus from science to journalism but still kept his inclination towards science.
For the 5th anniversary of Deepwater Horizon, Jim and his staff produced a two-page Perspectives piece breaking down five years of GoMRI & C-IMAGE research into a dynamic 4-page spread. 'The Dirty Blizzard' used to describe flocculated materials sinking to the sea floor, improving the public's understanding of how oil, clays, and algae sink to the sea floor.
Kendra studies the basis of the marine food web: phytoplankton and zooplankton. Understanding these foundations of the food chain led to discovery of a MOSSFA, or 'Dirty Blizzard' following an oil spill. Kendra has spent years of her life at sea including relief efforts during the Ixtoc I spill. Her experiences in the southern Gulf of Mexico and Ixtoc I brings back memories of constant oil fumes and headaches, heat from the burning oil slicks, and soot in the air.
Thirty years after the Ixtoc-1 spill, Kendra begins researching the base of the food web in the Gulf in oil impacted areas by planning several research expeditions into the northern Gulf. Her research has opened up a new discovery of oil attaching to sinking plankton on its way to the sea floor.
From his childhood in Louisiana, miles from oil refineries and memories of his teen-age brother coming home from oil-field work with his teeth black from oil, Ernst draws a personal motivation towards studying oil spills as reprisal for the industries destruction of his home environment.
The audience learns how this mid-western boy grew up with a love of fish. Steve takes us on his journey that begins with carving out fish in a frozen lake in Kansas as a child to his role as one of the top science advisors during the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Isabel's perspective on the impact of oil spills on communities and the environment is initially through the eyes of a six year old in conflict-laden Colombia. As a child, she remembers seeing images of spilled oil flashing on the TV and vows to one day be part of the solution.
Photo album of the event is available on our Flickr page, here.
St. Petersburg, Florida (Feb. 18, 2016) – “Dispatches from the Gulf,” is a new episode in the series “Journey to Planet Earth,” (www.dispatchesfromthegulf.com), and it shares the first-hand accounts of scientists studying the recovery of the Gulf of Mexico in the five years since the Deepwater Horizon disaster. In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil platform exploded in the northern Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 oil workers and releasing over 200 million gallons of oil over 87 days. This subsea blowout occurred nearly one mile below the ocean’s surface.
On Leap Day 2016, over 1,100 local residents attended the Florida premiere of "Dispatches from the Gulf" at the Mahaffey Theater in downtown St. Pete to learn about how members of the scientific community conduct research on how the Gulf is responding to the spill. The event was co-sponsored by the Florida Institute of Oceanography, Duke Energy and the Tradewinds Island Resort.
Before the event, guests had an opportunity to browse posters from GoMRI students and researchers and look at the oceanographic equipment used to conduct the research during the film.
After the movie, panel discussion moderated by Bay News 9 Al Ruechel follows the film where featured researchers and responders will discuss their work to the audience. Panel members include, Brendon Baumeister, Martin Grosell, Mandy Joye, Amy Wallace, producers Marilyn and Hal Weiner, Chuck Wilson and Steve Murawski.
One of these centers, C-IMAGE, is hosted at USF’s College of Marine Science (www.marine.usf.edu/c-image).
Dr. Steven Murawski, Professor at the USF-College of Marine Science and Director of C-IMAGE is featured throughout the film for his work on fisheries impacted by Deepwater Horizon. “Our major focus is to see if contamination from DWH persists, and how it might have affected species and fish communities,” said Murawski. His work aboard the R/V Weatherbird II is known as ‘Mud & Blood’ for the ocean muds and fish tissues collected. “My students and I were seen sampling the fish community offshore of Louisiana in the general vicinity of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. We have sampled this region every year since 2011 to look for oil residue in fishes and the abundance of species and communities,” Murawski said.
Amy Wallace is a Ph.D. student at the USF College of Marine Science who uses fish eye lenses and ear bones, or otoliths, to recreate the fish’s life history. Amy is a leading member of the ‘Blood’ crew and recalls working with the film crew on one hot, summer day. “Everyone was so nice and really focused on telling the full story of the science,” Wallace explains. “It was really busy when we are processing fish from our long-line catch and I hardly noticed the film crew was even there!”
The fish tell just one half of the story; the sea floor muds and sediments tell the other. Ten percent (20 million gallons) of the oil that spilled was deposited on the sea floor, impacting sea bottom (‘benthic’) communities. Dr. Isabel Romero, a researcher on the “Mud” crew at the USF-College of Marine Science studies these sediments by using layered mud cores as pages in time. “Our major objective is to see how long contamination persists in the sediments, the main oil-derived compounds that persist, and their potential impact to benthic communities,” said Romero. The areas of the ocean she studies gives insight to the ultimate fate of sub-sea oil that never reaches the surface.
‘Dispatches from the Gulf’ covers the work of three of the 12 Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative consortia, C-IMAGE (hosted out of USF), RECOVER (hosted out of the University of Miami), and ECOGIG (hosted out of the University of Georgia). The February 29th premiere is hosted by Florida Institute of Oceanography.
The hour-long film premieres Monday, February 29, at 7:00 pm at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, FL; free tickets are available here (www.dispatches.eventbrite.com).
Mr. Al Ruechel is Bay News 9's senior anchor. He has won four Emmy awards for breaking news and investigative reporting and more than 20 other state and national reporting and anchoring awards.
Mr. Brendon Baumeister is the Marine Captain of the R/V Weatherbird II at the Florida Institute of Oceanography.
Dr. Martin Grosell is the lead PI and director of RECOVER. Dr. Grosell is a Maytag professor of ichthyology with specialty in environmental physiology and toxicology at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS).
Dr. Samantha “Mandy” Joye is an expert in biogeochemistry and microbial ecology and works in open ocean and coastal ecosystems. Her work is interdisciplinary, bridging the fields of chemistry, microbiology, and geology.
Ms. Amy Wallace is a doctorate student at the University of South Florida, College of Marine Science studying fish eye lenses to learn about trophic shifts and migration in fish. Her research is highlighted in Dispatches from the Gulf from Screenscope, Inc.
Producers Marilyn and Hal Weiner have written, and directed more than 225 documentaries and five public television series, including “Journey to Planet Earth,” “Women at Work,” and “The World of Cooking” and won Emmy® Awards for “The Earth Summit Pledge” and “Streets of Sorrow.”
Dr. Charles “Chuck” Wilson serves as the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) Chief Scientific Officer, which provides scientific and research advice and leadership to the GoMRI. Dr. Wilson coordinates the work of the GoMRI Research Board, the GoMRI Administrative Unit, and the funded science projects to implement the research program.
Dr. Steve Murawski is a fisheries biologist and marine ecologist involved in understanding the impacts of human activities on the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. Dr. Murawski currently serves as Director of the Center for Integrated Analysis and Modeling of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), which is funded by a grant from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
Free tickets can be accessed at dispatches.eventbrite.com.
Monday, February 29, 2016 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EST)
400 1st Street SE, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
FIO is one of Florida’s Academic Infrastructure Support Organization (AISO) established by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG). FIO is a system resource hosted by the University of South Florida, and is homeported in St. Petersburg, to provide underlying technology and resources for academic programs statewide. FIO enables entities across academia, government and the private sectors opportunities to collaborate and support excellence in marine science, technology and education through infrastructure, programs, information and people. FIO operates two sea-going research vessels, the R/V Bellows and R/V Weatherbird II and operates the Keys Marine Laboratory in Layton, Florida. The R/V Weatherbird II, a 115-foot, 194-ton vessel has become one of the nation’s most storied research vessels after its repeated voyages to carry out scientific missions in the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill catastrophe.
The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success. USF is a Top 25 research university among public institutions nationwide in total research expenditures, according to the National Science Foundation. Serving over 48,000 students, the USF System has an annual budget of $1.6 billion and an annual economic impact of $4.4 billion. USF is a member of the American Athletic Conference.
Journey To Planet Earth is an award-winning television series that dramatizes new ways of looking at the delicate relationship between people and the world they inhabit. It is designed to help viewers understand the complexities of the most important environmental issues of the 21st century. Through an interdisciplinary approach, these programs reach beyond the physical sciences and draw connections to politics, economics, sociology, and history.
About Matt Damon Matt Damon has been honored for his work on both sides of the camera, most recently winning a Golden Globe Award® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy for “The Martian.” He is nominated for an Academy Award® for Best Actor in a Leading Role for the same film. Earlier in his career, Damon won an Academy Award® for Best Screenplay and received an Oscar® nomination for Best Actor, both for his breakthrough feature “Good Will Hunting.” Damon and close friend Ben Affleck formed Pearl Street Films to create stories in film and television. Pearl Street produces “Project Greenlight” for HBO and recently co-produced the theatrical film “Promised Land.” Jennifer Todd (“Memento,” “Alice in Wonderland”) serves as President of the company, which has a first look deal with Warner Brothers Pictures. Damon is the co-founder of Water.org, a non-profit organization that works to bring safe drinking water and sanitation options to the billions of people on the planet who lack access.
Marilyn and Hal Weiner have produced, written, and directed more than 225 documentaries and five public television series, including “Journey to Planet Earth,” “Women at Work,” and “The World of Cooking” and won Emmy® Awards for “The Earth Summit Pledge” and “Streets of Sorrow.” They’ve also produced three feature films: Family Business, The Imagemaker, and K2.
The Ocean 180 Video Challenge (www.ocean180.org) is entering its third year, offering opportunities for ocean scientists to demonstrate their communication skills and connect with classrooms around the world. We would like to invite scientists and educators affiliated with C-IMAGE I/ C-IMAGE II to participate.
Sponsored by the Florida Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Florida) and funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation, Ocean 180 challenges scientists to create short (3 minute) video abstracts that effectively communicate the meaning, significance, and relevance of published research to general, non-scientific audiences.
Scientists of all career stages, undergraduates to senior scientists, are eligible to participate and compete for $9,000 in cash prizes.
Entries are initially evaluated by a team of science and communication experts to determine the top ten finalists, but the winners are selected by student judges from 6th-8th grade classrooms around the world. Last year's finalists were viewed and judged by over 35,000 students in 21 countries. Teachers are encouraged to visit the competition website (www.ocean180.org) to register their classes to participate.
This year’s finalists will also be showcased at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in New Orleans. Competition winners will be announced at the meeting on February 23, 2016. This is a fantastic opportunity for scientists to broaden the impact and raise the profile of their research while practicing their communication skills.
C-IMAGE researchers on the Weatherbird II get ready for setting the longline for fish collection
With thirteen scientists aboard, the R/V Weatherbird fired up its engines earlier this month at the USF College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, FL, for its straight shot across the Gulf of Mexico into Mexican waters. Their science mission is to begin the first ever Gulf-wide fish health survey establishing much needed baseline information about some dominant Gulf fish like red snapper, golden tilefish, king snake eel and Atlantic sharpnose sharks.
Steven Murawski, Chief Scientist for the expedition and Director for the Center of the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) is leading a team of researchers on a 22-day sampling expedition through the southern Gulf of Mexico. C-IMAGE – a Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI)-funded consortium of 19 institutions from six countries – is committed to understanding the complex chemical and biological interactions related to marine oil blowouts of the Gulf of Mexico. Murawski’s team of technicians, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers began studying the impacts of oil exposure on fish just after the Deepwater Horizon (DwH) blowout.
Their attention now turns to the southern Gulf of Mexico. In 1979, the Ixtoc-I exploratory well suffered an oil blowout followed by 10 months and 3.5 million barrels of spilled oil into the southern Gulf of Mexico. Shortly after, PEMEX, the Mexican state-operated oil company, established an exclusion zone around the Ixtoc-I site. Only vessel traffic directly related to platform operations is allowed in the 4,000 km2 exclusion region, until now. Our researchers gained special access through the Mexican government to conduct scientific fishing within the exclusion zone.
After arriving and being processed at the intake Port of Progresso on September 17, 2015 the RV Weatherbird II made its way north, then gradually southwest along the Yucatan Shelf. The research team sampled from sunrise to past sunset, often averaging 14-hour days at transects 32, 33, and 34 in the northwest Yucatan (Figure 2).
Dr. Shannon O’Leary is a genomics researcher from Texas A&M University, Corpus Christi who is aboard the vessel for the three week trip. “We were all very curious to see what we would get on our first set [in the exclusion zone]. Theory is that if nobody has fished here for so long, we should have more fish, bigger fish and a greater diversity of fish. On the other hand, there is quite a bit of pollution from the well heads and the associated activities of building and maintaining the platforms.”
Time told the story, large numbers of fish, mostly Gafftopsail catfish (Figure 3) were caught there. These catfish have been studied for PAH exposure (a toxic derivative in oil) around the exclusion zone, so having samples within the Ixtoc-I vicinity offers an interesting historical perspective, especially since they are found on the bottom and in contact with possibly oiled sediments.
Research published last year from C-IMAGE found evidence of a marine snow event associated with the DwH spill creating a mechanism for oiled particles to reach the seafloor. Initial sediment work around the Ixtoc-I site from C-IMAGE collaborations with members of the Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología at Universidad National Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM) and USF indicate a similar event may have occurred in the southern Gulf. This finding may have cascading effects on burrowing fish and other benthic marine life.
Researchers are collecting fish muscle, bile, blood, liver, heart, otoliths, eyeballs and fin clip samples for genomic studies, stock health assessment, PAH compound concentrations, and any sublethal symptoms that may be related to long term low levels of hydrocarbon exposure through habitat or diet. They continue to survey the commercially relevant red snapper and other fish of interest like golden tilefish, and king snake eel.
After visiting the exclusion zone, researchers from UNAM, TAMU-CC, USF, and Florida State University continued to sample southwest then northwest along Veracruz. This region is the expected resting place for a majority of oil following the 1979 Ixtoc-I disaster. In these shallowest stations, researchers caught 15 tilefish and large numbers of Gulf hake. “The significance of this catch cannot be overemphasized”, Murawski said. “We now can compare tilefish in the Southeast Campeche region near the oil producing area with a similar catch from earlier in the expedition (perhaps non-polluted). This species is predominant and highly polluted in the northern Gulf. We can now answer the question, are tilefish equally heavily polluted by PAHs in the entire Gulf or just in the vicinity of the DwH?”
Figure 3 Dr. Joel Ortega-Ortiz unhooks a Gafftopsail catfish.
Dr. Adolfo Gracia is the UNAM science lead for C-IMAGE and a member of the Mexican Academy of Sciences. He has been studying shrimp fisheries in the southwest Gulf of Mexico and impacts of environmental contamination for over 30 years. “The fish cruise was extremely successful, we can hardly wait to see the findings and compare them with existing data of sediment oil and biological analyses recorded by UNAM and our C-IMAGE partners in the Ixtoc-I area. This will give important hints for understanding long term fish communities and ecosystem responses to oil megablowouts.” His team returns to Mexico City with hundreds of biological samples that will be analyzed over the next year.
The research team will exit Mexico at Tuxpan and begin their five day journey home along the longest axis of the Gulf, west to east. While underway, the science will continue. Researchers will measure basic oceanographic variables and collect water to gain information about the vertical and horizontal distributions of plankton, fish eggs and larval distributions across the Gulf. They will also take water samples to assess microplastic concentrations across the Gulf.
While on board, researchers populated blogs summarizing their experiences and photo-documented the trip. Please visit our website and check back often for updates.
The full science party (from left to right): Balbina Suárez Achával, Itzel Michel López Durán, Juan Antonio Frausto Castillo, David Portnoy, Brittany Verbeke, Joel Ortega-Ortiz, Amy Wallace, Erin Pulster, Shannon O’Leary, Susan Snyder, Kristina Deak, Lt. Paola Moreno, Gustavo Enciso Sánchez, Steven Murawski, Daniel Gasca Flores, José Martín Ramírez Gutiérrez
C-IMAGE scientists will return to the southern and western Gulf next year to continue the fish survey and to establish baseline fish health metrics.
C-IMAGE, CARTHE, DEEP-C and RECOVER gather in Tallahassee for Florida Ocean's Day sponsored by the Florida Ocean Alliance. Consortia staff and graduate students spoke with the general public and political staff about GoMRI research taking place in the Gulf of Mexico.
SAVE THE DATE!
The Oil Spill Outreach Team would like to inform you of three workshops/science seminars that we will be hosting in the next couple of months. Please mark your calendars and join us!
Impacts of Oil on Coastal Habitats
Wednesday July 22nd, 2015 1:00 pm –4:30 pm
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
13051 North Telecom Parkway
Temple Terrace, FL 33637
Navigating Shifting Sands: Oil on our Beaches
Wednesday, August 5th, 2015 9:00 am –5:00 pm
J. Earle Bowden Building
120 Church St.
Pensacola, FL 32502
Impacts of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill to Gulf Wetlands
Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 9:00 am –4:00 pm
Slidell Municipal Auditorium
2056 Second St.
Slidell, LA 70460
For more information please visit http://gulfseagrant.org/oilspilloutreach/presentations
Researchers from the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) are setting off on a cruise to collect sediment and water samples in areas affected by the IXTOC-I spill. The cruise marks the first time since these studies have been performed in over three decades.
The IXTOC-I blowout occurred in the Bay of Campeche in the Southern Gulf of Mexico between 3 June 1979 and 10 March 1980, spilling an estimated 126M-210M gallons of oil into the Southern Gulf of Mexico.
C-IMAGE researchers will compare impacts of the IXTOC-I blowout to those of the Deepwater Horizon event. Preliminary studies of sediment cores from the IXTOC site provide evidence of a similar fate of oil between both gulf spills.
A combination of sediment cores and water samples will be used to study oil abundance, spatial distribution and fate, micro and macrofauna within the sediment - including foraminfera and burrowing worms, water column hydrology, and organic and radiochemistry changes as oils degrade in sediments. Water column hydrology will be collected using a CTD (Conductivity, Temperature, Depth) and a multi-sampler. The combination of sediment samples and water column data provides researchers with a holistic analysis from the sea surface to the seafloor.
Cores from the IXTOC site “will help us characterize the long-term sedimentary record of the IXTOC event […] which will provide an analogous forecast for the Northern Gulf of Mexico, 30-40 years after the Deepwater Horizon event,” says Dr. Patrick Schwing, the chief scientist on the upcoming cruise. Essentially, the scientists are looking for a timeline for the Northern Gulf of Mexico’s recovery.
The cruise will mark the addition of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to the C-IMAGE consortium.
Joining the scientists from UNAM will be researchers from Penn State University, Georgia Tech, Florida State University, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, University of South Florida, Eckerd College, University of Calgary, and ETH Zurich.
Meet the Scientists:
It will be the first time many of the cruise members have done research in Mexico. “I can't wait to travel to a country I've never visited before and meet other students and professors who share similar passions that I do,” says Devon Firesinger, a master’s student at USF’s College of Marine Science.
Dr. Schwing is also looking forward to practicing his Spanish. Overall, the scientists are excited to see what the largely unexplored IXTOC site holds in store. Travis Washburn, a PhD student from Texas A&M Corpus Christi, hopes that “we can limit the damage of future oil spills with the knowledge we get from this cruise.”
The scientists will be on the R/V Justo Sierra for 13 days, leaving from and returning to Tuxpan, Mexico. Mind Open Media reporters Ari Daniel Shapiro and David Levin will use audio collected on board for a second round of podcasts about C-IMAGE research. They hope to capture the researcher’s excitement as well as their many discussions and discoveries aboard the Justo Sierra.
Patrick Schwing, PhD
Post-Doctoral Research Associate, USF-College of Marine Science
Cruise Roles: Chief Scientist, Core Transfer, Processing & Storage
“People in the field of oceanography typically get into this field for the field work, and there is nothing quite like working offshore. My favorite times are at dawn and dusk, when the seas are calm. It can be other-worldly and absolutely beautiful.”
PhD Student, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Cruise Roles: Macrofauna Sectioning & Preservation
“There is always work to do, and you really feel like you are accomplishing something important as you successfully collect samples.”
PhD Student, University of Calgary
Ship Roles: Water Sampling & Filtration
"The Ixtoc waters represent oil water interactions at very low depths in a natural setting. The identification of an oil signature (if any present) in the waters long after the spill will shed light on the delivery of pollutants."
Research Assistant, Florida State University, Dept. of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Science
Cruise Roles: Core Transfer, Processing & Storage
“I will be helping with collecting sediment cores and filtering water for particulate organic matter. Specifically, our lab is interested in tracing petrocarbon through the food web using 14C analyses.”
M.S. Student, USF-College of Marine Science
Ship Roles: Core Transfer, Processing & Storage
“Water column measurements coupled with sediment samples could provide insight on the future of the Deepwater Horizon spill. How fast will the oiled sediments degrade, how will biodiversity change in the area and will wildlife be able to adapt to the great change in their habitats?”
Undergraduate Student, Eckerd College
Ship Roles: Core Transfer, Processing & Storage
“I am looking forward to getting more hands on research experience on a Mexican vessel. I am not looking forward to the heat, but I live in Florida so I am used to it.”
Lab Technician, University of South Florida
Cruise Roles: Oxygen Probes & Micro Extrusions
“I am looking forward in meeting other scientists and also learning new collection and experimental methods. To prepare I am packing and excercising.”
Their best estimate was that oil-derived carbon equivalent to 3 – 4.9 percent of reported oil from the 2010 spill may be accounted for by carbon found in the sediments. Most of the deposited petrocarbon (authors defined as oil, gas, and organic compounds produced from chemical and biological alteration of oil and gas) was located southwest of the spill site where oil plumes were observed in the water column. They published their findings in the January 2015 issue of Environmental Science & Technology: Using natural abundance radiocarbon to trace the flux of petrocarbon to the seafloor following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
On May 20, 2015, Dr. David Hollander (USF) took part in Pint of Science at Southern Brewing in Tampa, FL.
Pint of Science brings in local experts in geology, astronomy, and marine sciences to speak with the public (no PowerPoints allowed) on topical science issues. David spoke to the crowd of over 100 for 45 minutes, and was later swarmed by audience members wanting to know more about oils, sediments, relief efforts.
Pint of Science has other chapters in Boston, Houston, San Diego, and Berlin.
Robin Rowland, an Eckerd College art student, has collaborated with Claire Paris and Task 1 members to create a 3D sculpture of the Deepwater Horizon oil dispersion. Using dispersion models from Paris' group, Rowland's work - made entirely from test tube caps - shows the density and location of suspended oil in the northern Gulf. "She wants to be accurate," Paris said, "she's asking how many droplets there are at different depths, she wants our model outputs to represent her work."
Our Ecotoxicology Study is a collaboration between MOTE Marine Laboratory, Wageningen University, University of West Florida, and USF-College of Marine Science looking at the toxicity of oil in Gulf fishes using samples collected in situ and in the exposure experiments. We are looking at the sublethal impacts of oil PAH exposure and investigating the role of habitat and diet in the exposure matrix. These exposure studies are new to C-IMAGE II and focus on the exposure of fish to varying levels of non-lethal oil exposure and monitor physiological and behavioral changes over time. The initial injections began July 6th, 2015. To aid in the collection of exposure data, MOTE has developed a data repository to organize their findings. This data repository is for C-IMAGE personnel only. Contact Ben Prueitt for access to the data portal.
ST. PETERSBURG, FL The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science today announced a formal partnership with Agilent Technologies and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to refresh analytical chemistry equipment for studying oil spills. Funded by GoMRI and Agilent’s Research Support Program, this partnership will allow access to cutting edge analytical instrumentation to better understand the effects of oil as well as other emerging contaminants in the environment.
The Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) is a research consortium funded by GoMRI that will analyze the long-term pathways and impacts of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) and IXTOC-1 (Mexico) incidents. While hosted through the University of South Florida, C-IMAGE has fourteen institutional members in the U.S., and international partners in Canada, Mexico, Germany, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Agilent’s Research Support Program provided a High Performance Liquid Chromatography system (HPLC) to GoMRI. This instrument is capable of separating and quantifying analytes of interest (e.g., oil) found in a number of different matrices that were impacted by hydrocarbon exposure. Also, the agreement will result in the acquisition of two additional Mass Spectrometers for oil spill analytes.
Over the next three years, sediment, fish tissue, and water samples will be collected and analyzed to advance discovery towards C-IMAGE’s main goals of (1) improving observational and predictive tools for interpreting impacts and consequences of oil spills, (2) better understanding the DWH and IXTOC-1 oil well blowout events, and (3) developing novel molecular oil and biological markers to assess future submarine oil blowouts and surface spills.
“Access to these state-of-the-art technologies will allow C-IMAGE and GoMRI researchers to evaluate lingering toxic effects of oil in the Gulf of Mexico from spills separated by 36 years and over 600 miles,” said Dr. Steve Murawski, C-IMAGE Principal Investigator and USF-College of Marine Professor, on the new acquisition. The High-Performance Liquid Chromatography instrument and the two new Mass Spectrometers will be housed at the College of Marine Science in St. Petersburg, Florida as part of the PaleoOceanography, PaleoClimatology and Biogeochemistry and the Population and Marine Ecosystem Dynamics Laboratories. The HPLC system, along with other instruments including Isotope Ratio Mass Spectrometers (IRMS), Gas Chromatographs coupled to both Triple Quadrapole Mass Spectrometer (GC/MS/MS) and IRMS system, and LC Triple Quad Mass Spectrometer will process biological and sediment samples collected from oil effected areas through the C-IMAGE consortium.
Dr. David Hollander, Chief Science Officer of C-IMAGE and College of Marine Science faculty is excited for the prospect of these multiple systems. “Acquiring these new instruments capable of measuring the vast array of oil-derived molecules and their byproducts enable us to more accurately trace the complex fate of oil in the environment with unprecedented accuracy,” said Hollander. The complimentary HPLC instrument supports an underlying goal and vision of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
“We are delighted see the partnership between Agilent and GoMRI’s C-IMAGE consortium,” said Dr. Chuck Wilson, GoMRI’s Chief Science Officer, upon news of the partnership. “A primary vision behind the creation of GoMRI was to build oil spill research capacity in the Gulf of Mexico. This new partnership will add to that capacity and assure accurate and up to date chemical analysis equipment are available.”
Agilent Technologies is an international leader in the life science, diagnostic, and chemical markets by providing laboratories with state of the art instruments and applications for trusted results. Agilent was created as a spin-off company from Hewlett-Packard in 1999 and since has won hundreds of awards for their innovations.
C-IMAGE’s funding comes from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, an independent research program funded by BP’s commitment to provide $500 million over the course of 10 years for scientific research related to the Deepwater Horizon incident.
Dr. Jackie Dixon, Dean of the College of Marine Science feels this partnership between C-IMAGE and Agilent will benefit the college for years to come.“The use of these new instruments will enhance the educational experience, not only for USF students, but those in Mexico and throughout the research consortium. Our students will be well equipped to enter the job market with access to the latest in analytical instrumentation,” she said.
This investment from Agilent and GoMRI along with the continued support from the University solidifies the College’s high standards in employing state-of-the-art analytical techniques to successfully compete for additional grants that rely on analytical capabilities that otherwise would need to be contracted out to other institutions or agencies. This investment creates a competitive advantage that will bring additional attention and research funding to the College.
Our announcement was picked up by Marine Technology News.
C-IMAGE, CARTHE, and DEEP-C gather in Tallahassee for Florida Ocean's Day. Consortia staff and graduate students spoke with the general public and political staff about GoMRI research taking place in the Gulf of Mexico.