The Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem

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.


News (27)

Stay up to date with the latest News from C-IMAGE.

Download all of the podcast segments of The Loop available on Applie iTunes.

iTunes: The Loop

The Loop takes a deep dive into the Gulf of Mexico with the researchers studying the processes, mechanisms, and impacts of after two mega oil spills, Deepwater Horizon and Ixtoc I. Researchers from C-IMAGE discuss their studies with David Levin of Mind Open Media. The goal of C-IMAGE is to advance understanding of the fundamental processes and mechanisms of marine blowouts and their consequences, ensuring that society is better-prepared to mitigate future events. C-IMAGE research was made possible by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

Episodes include:

  • The Cuban Connection: Spills & Science Diplomacy - Episode 11
  • The Risks for Fish - Episode 10
  • Mapping Oil Spills by Satellite - Episode 9
  • Return to Ixtox - Episode 8
  • The Gulf's Big Blowout - Episode 7
  • Dispersants and New Solutions - Episode 6
  • Under Pressure - Episode 5
  • Modeling the Gulf - Episode 4
  • The Little Guys - Episode 3
  • The Mud and the Blood - Episode 2
  • Overview of C-IMAGE - Episode 1

C-IMAGE has partnered with Story Collider for a second year during the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill & Ecosystem Sciences Conference. The 2017 C-IMAGE Story Collider featured a diverse perspective of science stories and oil spills:

  • Robert Campo: A Louisiana fisherman whose oyster company had to adapt following the 2010 oil spill.
  • Estelle Robichaux: An environmental restoration manager who compares the apparent death of the Gulf of Mexico with an ailing loved one.
  • Charlie Henry: Charlie shares the expeirences he's had working spills with the NOAA Disaster Response Center
  • John Farrington: The long-time ocean chemist compares him hearing about the Deepwater Horizon spill with working the 1979 Ixtoc I spill clean up.
  • Elva Escobar-Briones: A researcher at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México shares her first dive in a deep sea submersible

Featured Stories

Story Collider chooses several stories from their events to adapt into podcasts. The 2017 New Orleans events is highlighted by Robert Campo and Estelle Robichaux.

For transcripts of Estelle Robichaux's and Robert Campo's stories, and more information about the 2017 Story Collider, visit the Story Collider webpage.

Story Collider Unites Community, Research, and Restoration - GoMRI News

MTS TechSurge Workshop

  • Wednesday, 21 March 2018

When: Monday February 5, 2018

Where:   Morial Convention Center Room 352

900 Convention Center Blvd, New Orleans, LA 70130


Since 2011, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has enabled the investigation of the effects of oil spills on the environment and public health. The investigations yielded research results and technological advancements that will improve future studies and impact modeling efforts. This meeting will bring together the GoMRI and MTS communities, share research results and begin discussions of how the two communities might work together to better prepare for the next spill.

Agenda - Sunday February 4

6:00-7:00pm Welcome Reception (cancelled due to Super Bowl)

Agenda - Monday February 5

8:30am Registration and Breakfast
9:15am Welcome and Introductions, Dr. Richard Spinrad and Dr. Steven Murawski
9:30am Panel Session 1-Modeling and Prediction
Moderated by Dr. Ian Stewart
Experimental simulation of oil-water partitioning of organics during a deep submarine oil spill
Dr. Aprami Jaggi, University of Calgary
Deep Sea in a Can: Microbial Degradation Under High Pressure
Dr. Andreas Liese, Hamburg University of Technology
Consortium of Advanced Research of Hydrocarbon Transport in the Environment
Dr. Tamay Ozgokmen, The University of Miami
Advances in deep-sea blowout modeling and key technical challenges for improving predictions and mitigation
Dr. Claire Paris, The University of Miami
Oil Spill Modeling: State of the Art and Research Needs
Dr. Deborah French McCay, RPS Group
10:45am (Salty) Coffee Break
11:15am Panel Session 2-Technology for Detection
Is it 'Actionable Oil'?
Moderated by Dr. Robyn Conmy, Environmental Protection Agency
Detection/characterization of the structure and function of microbial communities under as close to in situ conditions as possible
Dr. Joel Kostka, Georgia Institute of Technology
Omics approaches to Understanding Impacts of Oil Spills on Macroorganisms
Dr. David Portnoy, Harte Research Institute
Tactical Airborne Oil Spill Remote Sensing - a New Operational Approach
Mr. Alessandro Vagata, Fototerra
Integrating Proven Technologies for Autonomous Detection & Mitigation
Mr. Andrew Ziegwied, ASV Unmanned Marine Systems
12:30pm Lunch and Poster Session
1:45pm Panel Session 3-Mitigation
Moderated by Dr. Nancy Kinner
Mitigation - Pollution
Mr. Michael Sams, Eighth Coast Guard District
Remote detection and quantification of oil spills
Dr. Chuanmin Hu, University of South Florida-College of Marine Science
Oil exposure pathways in Coastal River-Dominated Ecosystems
Dr. Stephan Howden, University of Southern Mississippi
Mitigation Research
Dr. Kurt A. Hansen, UNCLA
Dispersants and Related Oil Spill Technologies – at the Nanoscale!
Dr. Vijay John, Tulane University
3:00pm Break
3:15pm Panel Session 4-Ecosystem Health
Moderated by Dr. Barbara Kirkpatrick
Documenting and tracking offshore ecosystem dynamics: baselines, impacts, and recovery
Dr. Samantha Joye, University of Georgia
Design of Multiple Recirculating Aquaculture Systems to Evaluate Oil Toxicity in Marine Fishes
Dr. Dana Wetzel, Mote Marine Laboratory
Passive Acoustics for Ecosystem Monitoring
Dr. Kait Frasier, UC San Diego
Counting Fish & Mapping Their Benthic Habitats
Mr. Chad Lembke, University of South Florida-College of Marine Science
4:00pm Discussion
4:30pm Closing Remarks, Dr. Richard Shaw and Dr. Steven Murawski


MTS Journal Call for Papers

Team will board the R/V Weatherbird II for the longest research cruise to date in a six-year plan to fully understand 2010 and 1979 oil spills

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (July 28, 2016) – Researchers from the University of South Florida College of Marine Science, along with colleagues representing institutions across the country and internationally, are set to embark on a 40-day research cruise through the Gulf Mexico to gather key data that will provide a more complete understanding of the destructive effects from two significant oil spills. The USF-led research group will study the seas, coastlines and reefs impacted by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon and 1979 Ixtoc oil spills, the two largest submarine blowouts in history.

The team of 13 researchers will board the R/V Weatherbird II on Tuesday, Aug. 3 for the group’s longest trip to date in a six-year plan to study the incidents.

USF is the lead institution for the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), an international research consortium studying the impacts and processes of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. By continuing to study the two massive spills, Deepwater Horizon (210 million gallons) and Ixtoc (130 million gallons), C-IMAGE ultimately hopes to provide powerful new tools and knowledge to response teams, researchers and policy makers in the event of future oil spills. 

Researchers on the cruise, being called the “One Gulf Expedition,” will gather important baseline data to help further study how fish populations have been impacted. The scientists will collect fish samples along the Yucatan Peninsula, around the Bay of Campeche and along the Mexico and Texas coasts in search of bottom-dwelling fish – such as red snapper – as well as sediment and water samples.

Dr. Steve Murawski, USF College of Marine Science professor and director of the C-IMAGE consortium, is the expedition’s chief scientist.

“The muscle and liver tissues, bile, blood, and otoliths (fish ear bones) we are collecting with this expedition will contribute to the first complete set of baseline samples from around the Gulf. It enables us to characterize the present condition of the Gulf and such an expedition has never before been conducted,” said Murawski.

In addition to baseline data, the expedition will provide samples for continued research at USF labs to study the physiological response of fish to toxins, how sick fish respond when encountering oil and the recovery of animal life in Gulf sediments following spills.

“We have learned a great deal about the health of the Gulf following the 2010 spill,” Murawski said. “But we can’t stop here. There’s a remarkable potential waiting for us in the southern Gulf as well.”

This trip is particularly unique as there will also be a team of land-based researchers trekking through mangroves and rocky shorelines in the Campeche, Tabasco and Veracruz states of Mexico looking for traces of oil washed ashore during the 1979 Ixtoc oil spill.

“We hope to be able to fully characterize the oil residue still remaining along the Mexican coasts,” said Dr. Patrick Schwing, a geochemist at the USF College of Marine Science and team lead. “We hope to identify the spatial extent, thickness, any lasting impacts, and study the products of natural weathering of this oil. This part of the effort is to provide the larger context of a comparative effort between the Ixtoc and Deepwater Horizon spills. While the coastal settings may not be exactly the same as in Louisiana, the researchers hope this expedition will help forecast what the impacted sites in the northern Gulf may look like in 30 years.”

During the trip, a vessel tracker will give hourly status reports of the R/V Weatherbird’s position. Frequent updates, including photos, will be provided via the C-IMAGE Facebook and Twitter accounts, as well as an expedition blog that will offer a more in-depth look at the research findings. 

Since 2011, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) has provided $353 million in research dollars funding consortia – like C-IMAGE – and grants to study spill impacts on coastal, surface, and deep-sea environments, impacts on human health, and properties of oil droplets and dispersants in the ocean. C-IMAGE is one of twelve similar research consortia funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative. In 2015, USF was awarded $20.2 million to continue C-IMAGE research.

There have been two large scale oil spills over the past 4 decades in the Gulf of Mexico. The Ixtoc I spill in 1979 off the coast of Carmen, Mexico released 3.5 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf, and the Macondo wellhead blowout off the coast of Louisiana, USA in 2010 released 3.19 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Both of these incidents resulted in scientists coming together to gather the data needed to understand the fate of the oil, the disturbances it caused to the ecosystem, and its impacts on humans.  One of the largest drivers of research efforts surrounding the 2010 Deepwater Horizon incident is the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). GoMRI-funded research has significantly enhanced our knowledge of Gulf ecosystems and the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf

It has also identified gaps in our understanding that are leading to new research and insights that will inform society’s response to future oil spills through improved mitigation efforts, refined detection of oil and gas in the environment, more robust spill simulation models, and novel technologies. 

Rapid Responses to Continuing Spill Threats

Oil spills are a persistent threat to the Gulf of Mexico. Just last month, a subsea wellhead oil flow line discharged an estimated 2000 barrels off the coast of Louisiana. When the flow line leak was detected, GOMRI scientists mobilized to visit the site within a few days of the leak to begin studying the impacts of the oil. This rapid response was the result of the research infrastructure developed by GoMRI funding.  Similar to last month’s spill, GoMRI scientists have rapidly responded to other smaller spills.  Within a few days of the July 2013 explosion on the Hercules gas platform off the coast of Louisiana, a diverse team of GoMRI scientists from five research consortia quickly mobilized to visit the rig site.  

The next year, after a cargo ship off the coast of Texas collided with a barge, spilling 168,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil into Galveston Bay, GoMRI scientists were on the scene alongside government and industry workers within days.

This rapid response is not limited to the Gulf of Mexico.  In May 2015, 2,000 miles away from the Gulf, a spill occurred off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA and within hours GoMRI scientists were remotely assisting local researchers.

The GoMRI Legacy

The GoMRI legacy focuses on creating an overall preparedness for future spills by increasing our knowledge of the Gulf, oil, and dispersants; advancing technology and modeling; training future generations of scientists and engineers; engaging and informing the public and stakeholders; and making all GoMRI data available through online open access.

Importantly, unlike during the era of the Ixtoc I spill, technology now allows scientists to archive and share their data with other researchers.  Currently there are 26,000 GB (gigabytes) of data stored in the GoMRI Information & Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) public, online data repository with datasets added daily.  Such data accessibility was not available decades ago.  In many cases, all we have are the publications that resulted from Ixtoc I research, but much of the original data were lost to time.

To date, GoMRI research represents the efforts of 293 institutions from 42 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and 17 countries. The almost 3,400 GoMRI scientists spread across these institutions collaborate on 242 projects and have created 1,100 unique datasets and counting. GoMRI funding has provided research opportunities for over 2,400 students from high school through post-doctoral studies.

The story of some of these researchers and their important discoveries about petroleum pollution, and marine and coastal ecosystems is portrayed in the “Dispatches from the Gulf” documentary produced by Screenscope.

A Legacy Still Being Written

This summer GoMRI scientists forge ahead with fieldwork to continue to monitor the long term impacts of Deepwater Horizon oil and understand oil spill dynamics, including revisiting the Ixtoc I spill site.  GoMRI researchers are wading into marshes and retrieving creatures from the deep ocean; sampling the sediment and surface wave dynamics; examining sounds of whales and bubbles of methane.  Along the way, these researchers will also continue to write the GoMRI legacy.

The annual "Mud & Blood" ("Barro y Sangre" in Spanish) will have a  twist from C-IMAGE's routine of collecting Gulf sediments and fish samples aboard the same vessel. This summer, our sediment researcher will take to the land in search of buried oil from the 1979 Ixtoc I spill. The target coastlines are those which C-IMAGE Member, Dr. Wes Tunnell studied soon after the 1979 spill in the Campeche Bay region. The 'Tunnell Trek' provides and opportunity to see what nearly four decades of buried oil degradation in mangroves, beaches and coastlines.

While the sediment team is trekking through southern Mexico, the fishing team will be fishing in the western Gulf of Mexico for the 'One Gulf' cruise. In previous Mud & Blood years, fish were collected from the northern, eastern and southern Gulf. Now to complete the Gulf with baseline measurement, the crew on the R/V Weatherbird II will circumnavigate around Mexico and across the Texas coast collecting water and fish tissue samples. 

Today, on World Oceans Day, we can reflect on the progress GOMRI has made in advancing oil spill research, and subsequently our ability to deal with the ever present threat of oil spills. Due to the groundbreaking research GOMRI has sponsored, we will be better prepared to understand and respond to any future petroleum releases into marine systems. 

About GoMRI

All research discussed in this article was made possible by grants from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). The GoMRI is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit




On April 20, 2010, an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico following an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killing 11 workers. Oil spewed from the one mile deep well head for a total of 87 days while response efforts added almost two million gallons of dispersants into the Gulf.  Both oil and dispersant made their marks on all scales of marine life.  Researchers are still studying their impacts six years later and are beginning to see signs of recovery. Studying these impacts are providing valuable new lessons when dealing with future oil spills.

This year  marks the 6th anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

The University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science is the lead institution of an international research consortium, the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis (C-IMAGE) that studies the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Diving into the largest accidental spill in history has provided lessons learned for researchers.

‘What we didn’t know’ during the Deepwater Horizon event is a long list. With an unprecedented amount of research funding steered to the Gulf of Mexico, how has our knowledge evolved over the last six years?

Lesson 1: The need for baseline data throughout the oceans to determine the effects of any disaster

Under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA), which was established after the Exxon Valdez spill, the responsible party of a spill is required to pay for cleanup, property damage, to compensate economic losses, and to restore natural resources to its pre-spill condition. An important component of the OPA90 is the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) regulation designating government agencies to quantify the damage and to restore the injured ecosystem back to its pre-spill or “baseline” condition.

In a working Gulf pierced with thousands of drilling platforms, this is not an easy task. Additionally, not having a complete picture of the “before” condition for much of the Gulf leaves us blind to the full picture of recovery. Scientists argue that having quality and wide-ranging baseline data provide an invaluable assessment of the “present” condition in any natural system and could have even influenced how responders worked through their risk assessments. The Gulf had been vastly understudied before 2010. In the six years since the spill, federally and privately funded researchers have collected thousands of samples, making the Gulf a little less mysterious than it was on April 19, 2010.

Lesson 2: Oil can sink, even when on the surface

Marine “snow” is a term used to describe the particulate matter (dead and dying plankton) that falls to the seafloor. Marine snow is a pathway through which oil can be deposited on the seafloor through mixing with falling particles. Researchers speculate that the marine snow process has greatest impact on oil spills during spring and summer –plankton bloom seasons, especially during years of high river flow. Adding to the complexity of these marine snow events is the increased toxicity of burned oil compounds. Crude oil is made of thousands of different arrangements of carbon that become more toxic after they are burned.  These toxic compounds can be trapped in the marine snow where they can cover the seabed and harm the organisms living on the sea floor.

Lesson 3: Dispersants may not as useful as once believed, particularly in the deep-sea

An unprecedented 2.1 million gallons of dispersants – mostly Corexit 9500A – were released during relief efforts both at the surface and at the well-head.  Dispersants are used to break up larger droplets into smaller ones, allowing for increased bacterial degradation. However, studies following the oil spill showed dispersants not only did not stimulate bacterial growth, but may have inhibited bacterial growth, suppressing biodegradation (full study here). 

In the deep ocean, the pressure is 151-times greater than the surface and the temperature is about 4º C (40º F), a much different environment than at the surface.  Historically, dispersants have been used to break up oil at the ocean’s surface.  Little is known about their behavior in the deep sea.

Computer models are used to reenact the impact of dispersant application in the deep sea conditions. Adding dispersants at depth made the sub-surface plumes of oil larger, resulting in larger areas of the sea floor being covered in oil. “Up to 10 percent of the sea floor in the area is covered with oil,” said Dr. David Hollander of USF-College of Marine Science and Chief Scientist of C-IMAGE.

Lesson 4: Prolonged oil toxicity in fish continues even after oil is gone

Fish communities in the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill were exposed to high levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), one of the more toxic components of oil. High levels of PAHs can cause severe negative effects on fish health, behavior, and reproduction. USF researchers studied the extent of exposure over time and evaluated fish muscle and liver tissue for PAH since 2010. Both shallow and deep water fish communities were sampled and it was determined that after the 2010 DWH spill PAH concentrations in deep water fish increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2011 while the increase in PAH content in shallow water fish increased 20-fold. After 2012, PAH concentrations in these fish fell to levels closer to baseline levels established in 2007.

On July 29th, researchers from the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) will be setting off on a cruise to collect sediment and water samples in areas affected by the IXTOC-I spill. Samples have not been collected for this purpose 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, an estimated 126M-210M gallons of oil escaped into the Southern Gulf of Mexico. The fate of all that oil is still unknown.

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 that oil from both spills shared a similar fate in the gulf.

Sediment cores and water samples will be used to study oil abundance, spatial distribution and fate, micro and macrofauna within the sediment, water column hydrology, and more. The combination of sediment samples and water column data will provide researchers with a holistic analysis from the 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 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.

Completing fieldwork at the IXTOC-I site is a new initiative for C-IMAGE. The cruise will mark the addition of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM) to the consortium. The project will be the first collaboration between a Mexican institution and C-IMAGE.

Joining the scientists from UNAM will be researchers from Penn State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Florida State University, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, University of South Florida, University of Calgary, ETH Zurich, and Eckerd College.

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 RV 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.

Meet some of the scientists:

      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.” 
      Travis Washburn
 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.”
      Aprami Jaggi
 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."
      Samantha Bosman
 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.”
      Devon Firesinger
 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?”
      Rachel Kalin
 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.”

Stay tuned to our twitter and facebook for more information regarding the Mud & Blood Cruises this Summer.

News #1

  • Wednesday, 11 April 2012

7703634 sNews topic 1 goes here

Tuxpan, MX

It’s well after midnight aboard the Mexican research vessel Justo Sierra, but an international team of scientists are busy securing marine water and mud samples brought aboard the ship off the coast of Campeche.

Digging 35 years into the past, marine researchers are looking to compare environmental impacts of the IXTOC-I oil blowout (1979-1980) with those from the more recent Deepwater Horizon (2010). Scientists will compare these spills by collecting water and sea floor sediment (“Mud”) samples during a two-week research cruise to the southern Gulf of Mexico aboard the Justo Sierra, owned and operated by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM).

Return to Ixtoc” is a fitting title for the research cruise of the international team of scientists from the Center for Integrated Modeling and Analysis of Gulf Ecosystems (C-IMAGE), supported by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) and UNAM. This is the first synoptic research cruise to the affected region in over three decades. Research findings from the cruise can help predict the future of the Gulf post-Deepwater Horizon by studying the chemical and biological consequences of what happened to oil that reached the sea bottom in the past.

The cruise departed Tuxpan (near Veracruz), Mexico on Thursday, 30 July 2015 with graduate students, post-docs, research technicians, and professors from the University of Calgary, UNAM, Georgia Tech, Penn State University, Florida State University, University of South Florida-College of Marine Science and Eckerd College.

Over the next 14 days, around-the-clock sampling of the biology, chemistry and geology of ocean sediments, including microbial communities and burrowing animals, and seawater provides a holistic approach to understanding the fate and effects of marine oil spills.

Not only does this cruise benchmark a 35-year hiatus of IXTOC research, it also symbolizes a renewed partnership between the U.S. and Mexican universities, in sharing expertise and interests in the dynamics of our shared ocean – the Gulf of Mexico.

“Bringing UNAM’s knowledge, expertise, and perspectives to the C-IMAGE consortium benefits not only our students and researchers, but the overall understanding of how human impacts affect our valuable shared seas,” said Dr. Elva Escobar, Director of the UNAM-Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnologia (Institute of Marine Science and Limnology). “Studying the IXTOC oil spill in comparison to Deepwater Horizon allows us to better understand mechanisms that result in oil at the sea bottom, and to project what the Deepwater Horizon area will look like three decades from now.”

While aboard the R/V Justo Sierra, marine geologists, biologists and chemists collect samples from the ocean floor and take measurements to see just how 35 years changes oil toxicity. Research topics include studying oil-degrading bacteria, organic chemistry of oil contaminants, microscopic shelled animals called “forams”, radio and stable carbon isotopes, and macrofauna such as burrowing worms.

“IXTOC poses an array of questions for researchers,” said Dr. David Hollander, Chief Scientist overseeing IXTOC cruise and Chief Science Officer of C-IMAGE.

“The diverse approach from each of our colleagues allows us to examine oil spills from many different perspectives. Ultimately, allowing us to be better understand the longer-term impacts of a release of large volumes of oil in the environment and to get a handle on the recovery rates of benthic ecosystems resulting from sub-surface marine oil well blowouts,” said Hollander.

“This work at IXTOC will allow us to better predict, and hopefully, prevent some of the effects and unexpected consequences arising from any future marine oil well blowout.”  Studies conducted onboard Justo Sierra are as diverse as the C-IMAGE consortium itself: nineteen research institutions in six countries.

The IXTOC expedition is the first of three major Gulf of Mexico research cruises setting sail this summer by C-IMAGE scientists. Known as “Mud & Blood”, for sediment, mud and fish toxicology, C-IMAGE studies ecological impacts of oil on fish and sediments in the northern and now southern Gulf of Mexico.

C-IMAGE scientists and students aboard the Justo Sierra are sending pictures, blogging, and tweeting.  They are describing their experiences and reflecting on this incredible opportunity for building relationships and partnerships, something crucial for early career scientists.

For more information on C-IMAGE and their cruise schedule, visit the C-IMAGE Webpage, or follow C-IMAGE on Twitter or Facebook.

The Gulf of Mexcio Sea Grant Oil Spill Outreach Team is organizing another workshop on Wednesday, May 20 in Lafayette, LA titled:

Understanding the toxicity of oil and dispersant mixtures, and the development of alternative dispersants

The seminar will be hosted by the Sierra Club-Acadian Group, and will take place from 6:30-8:30 pm at the First United Methodist Church in Lafayette, LA (please see flyer for more details). This event is free and open to the public, and will feature speakers from LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant. Additionally, there will be a question+answer period, followed up by an audience input session. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Emily Maung Douglass, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. / (225) 578-9926.

The full flyer can be viewed here.

It is shaping up to be a great event - hope to see you then!

Podcasts from The Loop

The Loop is a series of podcasts which take an in depth look at C-IMAGE research. Partnering with Mind Open Media reporters Ari Daniel Shapiro and David Levin, our researchers share the importance of their studies and how they help our understanding of oil spills. David and Ari have produced eight podcasts and have more in the queue. The podcasts are linked below. Plug in and learn about our research!

Listen to More Podcasts!