Monday 19 February 2018

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.

A major new initiative in this proposal is to carry out DWH oil and Corexit 9500 exposure studies designed to establish sublethal responses of such exposures in multiple pathways (dietary, water, and sediment) in marine fish, and microbes. Short-term effects of oil spills on fishes are generally clear and readily documented. Long-term effects and recovery processes of impacted species and ecosystems are much more difficult to recognize and demonstrate. Readily-recognizable endpoints that serve as measures of effect are not necessarily pertinent in terms of long-term ecological relevance.

To address this critical issue, researchers are using a suite of endpoints that allow bridging exposure-related observations along a continuum of responses. Molecular biomarkers provide avenues by which scientists can directly measure biologically significant responses such as immune system function, acute-phase protein responses, fertility potential and genotoxicity. They empirically assess effects of a stressor, rather than simply identifying whether an organism has been exposed. Second, many biomarkers are very sensitive, allowing documentation of the onset of harmful effects long before the critical stage is reached. There is ample literature documenting the impacts of oil spills on various biomarkers of exposure and their ultimate effects on marine fishes. A study of killifish from the oil-impacted nearshore environments has linked PAH exposures to genomic changes and alterations in protein expression.

Studies from a number of previous oil spill events such as Exxon Valdez clearly demonstrate immune system suppression can persist in marine fishes more than ten years after the initial event. Naturally, a decrease in ability to exhibit a competent immune response will jeopardize the sustainability of a population. Further, exposure to PAHs can have significant sublethal effects on reproductive capacity of individuals. In fishes, PAHs are metabolically transformed, but the metabolites are toxic and can cause cell damage, mutagenesis, teratogenesis, and carcinogenesis. Fish immune cells and organs associated with the circulatory system partly act as filter and are exceptionally vulnerable to toxicants via this route of exposure but also via the neuro-endocrine system. The critical questions are (1) how can immunotoxic effects be assessed most effectively and efficiently?, (2) what are the mechanisms leading to immunotoxicity?, and (3) what are the implications for immunocompetence and fitness?

Our researchers are answering these questions and more at the Mote Marine Aquaculture Park and at Wageningen University with ongoing exposure studies.


If you are an investigator with C-IMAGE, you can visit the Geodata Portal for access to the exposure study data and experiment timeline.

Task 5 Publications

Molecular characterization of benthic foraminifera communities from the Northeastern Gulf of Mexico shelf and slope following the Deepwater Horizon event

Molecular characterization of benthic foramin…

Abstract: Benthic foraminifera are globally distributed protozoa in the world's ocea...


Was the extreme and wide-spread MOSSFA event of DwH unique?

Was the extreme and wide-spread MOSSFA event …

A recent publication from Wageningen University in the Netherlands performed a meta-a...


Quantification of the effect of oil layer thickness on entrainment of surface oil

Quantification of the effect of oil layer thi…

This study quantifies the effect of oil layer thickness on entrainment and dispersion...


Using dispersants after oil spills: impacts on the composition and activity of microbial communities

Using dispersants after oil spills: impacts o…

UDispersants are globally and routinely applied as an emergency response to oil spill...


Sand patties provide evidence for the presence of Deepwater Horizon oil on the beaches of the West Florida Shelf

Sand patties provide evidence for the presenc…

A new study out of the University of South Florida and the University of Tennessee ha...


Toxic waters reach NE GoM

Toxic waters reach NE GoM

C-IMAGE co-PI Dr. John Paul received some media attention earlier this month when his...


Listen to our Podcasts

  • #10 The Risks for Fish +

    #10 The Risks for Fish What happened to the fish in the days and weeks after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill? With a suite of Read More
  • #9 Forensic Oceanography +

    Listen to learn how scientists reanalyzed remotely sensed data taken in the late 1970s to study the Ixtoc 1 oil Read More
  • #8 In the Mud in Mexico +

    #8 In the Mud in Mexico “We were of the mind that with studying the Deepwater Horizon in the northern Gulf we weren’t getting a full Read More
  • #7 The Ixtoc Spill: Reflections +

    #7 The Ixtoc Spill: Reflections The Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened just a few years ago, but it might be possible to predict its impact Read More
  • #1 Overview of C-IMAGE +

    #1 Overview of C-IMAGE C-IMAGE PI Dr. Steven Murawski talks to David Levin about the research goals of our center and the importance of Read More
  • #2 Sampling for oil in the sediments in the Gulf of Mexico +

    #2 Sampling for oil in the sediments in the Gulf of Mexico C-IMAGE PI's Steven Murawski and David Hollander on board the Weatherbird II in August of 2012 talking to David Levin Read More
  • #3 The "not-so-visible" impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico +

    #3 The Three years after the BP oil well disaster, scientists are struggling to understand the effects on the Gulf ecosystem. From Read More
  • #4 Fitting the Gulf of Mexico inside a computer: how to build an ecosystem model +

    #4 Fitting the Gulf of Mexico inside a computer: how to build an ecosystem model Mind Open Media's David Levin talks with C-IMAGE members Cameron Ainsworth, Jason Lenes, Michelle Masi and Brian Smith about building Read More
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