University of Georgia researchers to study impact of Deepwater Horizon oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

UGA’s Samantha Joye is project director
UGA’s Samantha Joye is project director

University of Georgia researchers are going to the Gulf of Mexico to study the impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of seven years ago.

An article by Sara Beresford on the UGA website describes the work to be done there.

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon accident in the Gulf of Mexico resulted in the deaths of 11 oil rig workers and ultimately the largest marine oil spill in history. As this environmental disaster recedes into history, researchers from institutions across the U.S. continue to study its enduring ecological impacts.

A film about the accident starring Mark Wahlberg was released in 2016.

According to the article, UGA researchers will be embarking on a 12-day expedition in the Gulf on June 11 to investigate the impacts of oil, methane and chemical dispersants on the deep sea ecosystem-in particular deep sea corals. Deep sea corals are ecologically important and provide vital habitat for marine life, including commercially important species like shrimp, crab and grouper.

“Large oil and gas injections to an ecosystem, such as that resulting from the Deepwater Horizon accident cause both immediate and long term impacts,” said project director Samantha Joye of UGA.

The scientists are part of the University of Georgia-led Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas to the Gulf research consortium, one of several research consortia supported by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

The article says the team will send a remotely operated vehicle to depths of over 1,000 meters and use high-resolution cameras mounted to capture hundreds of still images of corals they have been monitoring yearly since shortly after the spill in 2010. These photographic data will be collected and analyzed- along with images from prior expeditions-to document the spill's impacts and improve understanding of the mechanisms that influence coral recovery and survival.

Anyone can stay up to date on the research in real time by following along via ECOGIG's Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels. Additional content including educational videos, podcasts and a documentary short film will become available after the expedition.

Institutions participating in this expedition include University of Georgia, Penn State University, Temple University, Lehigh University and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Larry Gierer: 706-571-8581, @lagierer