A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 17 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.
The degradation of oil, methane, and changes in bacterial communities during biodegradation are tested in pressurized vessels. Rhodococcus PC20 from Gulf of Mexico sediments is used to measure differences in pressurized and ambient conditions. The Institute of Biocatalysis at the Hamburg University of Technology (TUHH) studies three aspect of the biodegradation process
The Gorigia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) is collaborating with TUHH in comparing results from high pressure experiments. Integrating of the impacts of dispersants in high-pressure degradation will help understand the impacts of deep-sea dispersant injections.
Continuous bottom long line surveys in Gulf waters have established a new pre-spill baseline of oil spills. Studies of fish health include:
To synthesize the efforts of the other five tasks, ecosystem modeles have been developed for the Deepwater Horizon recovery (Atlantis) and Ixtoc I recovery (Campechec Bay Model). These models estimate the long-term recovery of fisheries, benthic, or planktic communities following oil spills. Future work will continue to incorporate C-IMAGE-wide studies, especially the impacts of MOSSFA events on the recovery of Gulf ecosystems.
The impact of microbial degradation is studied through several projects within task 3: the affect of dispersants on microbial communities at high-pressure and oceanographic controls, anaerobic hydrocarbon degradation, and mechanisms used for removing contaminating oil.
Meio- and macrofaunal communities in the Gulf provide diverse ecosystem services to the benthic environment. Animals like Copepods and Nematodes are the base of the food web and their abundance and diversity can indicate the health of the seafloor.
Processing sediment cores at 2 mm resolution and analyzing them through ICP-MS for trace elements (Mn, Fe, Re, U, Mo, Cd, Cu, V, and Cr). Pore water from Gulf sediments (2015, 2016) is being analyzed for Mn, Re, and Fe.
The dissolution of oil fragments and methane at varying depth and temperature, with or without dispersants is tested in the Calgary partitioning device. The solubility of BTEX (benzene-toluene-ethylbenzene-xylene), alkylphenols and other petrochemicals is determined between gas charged oil and seawater at high pressures.
Ultra high-resolution Fourier transform ion cyclotron resonance mass spectrometry (FTICR-MS) is utilized to study the composition, behavior and fate of complex petrogenic and biogenic organic mixtures in marine sediments and dissolved organic matter (DOM). FTICR-MS is used to analyze results of TUHH high-pressure studies and Wageningen mesocosm studies.
Compiling surface distributions, sediment contamination, droplet size distribution, and ocean circulation creates a 4-dimensional visualization of the Deepwater Horizon spill. Outputs of the model include estimate subsurface distribution, PAH concentrations in water and sediments, and mass balance. Incorporates biodegradation, droplet dynamics, MOSSFA formation, icthyoplankton impacts, and Lagrangian dynamics from other C-IMAGE and GoMRI research projects.