Skidaway Institute to research effects of 2010 Gulf oil spill - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Skidaway Institute to research effects of Gulf oil spill

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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill viewed from space. (Source: Skidaway Institute & NASA) The Deepwater Horizon oil spill viewed from space. (Source: Skidaway Institute & NASA)

The Skidaway Institute of Oceanography will be studying the effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on blue crabs and grass shrimp. 

The research project will run through 2013. Researchers are looking at two forms of oil - emulsified oil and oil treated with dispersants.  

Emulsified oil is a thick, oil-water mixture produced by wave turbulence, according to the Skidaway Institute.

During the Deepwater Horizon spill, chemical dispersants were used on the surface of the Gulf of Mexico to disperse the oil. It causes the oil to break down into micro-droplets, and dispersed oil forms a underwater plume that can extend for miles, according to the Skidaway Institute.

Skidaway Institute professor Richard Lee, the chief scientist on the project, and his team will be exposing blue crabs and grass shrimp to emulsified oil and will add dispersed oil droplets to tanks with crabs and shrimp embryos to see how dispersed or emulsified oil affects how they grow.  

The study is funded by a $500,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Lee is working with research associate Karrie Bulski at Skidaway Institute. Other team members include: Sook Chung from the institute of Marine and Environmental Technology at the University of Maryland; and Harriet Perry and Christopher Snyder from the University of Southern Mississippi's Gulf Coast Research Laboratory.

Tissues samples of the shrimp and crab's endocrine organs will be sent to Anna Walker, a researcher at the Mercer University School of Medicine, who will look at physiological or pathological changes, according to the institute.

Another major part of the project will be to explain the results of the study to the public, especially the fishermen whose livelihood depends on a healthy marine ecosystem, according to the Skidaway Institute.  

Part of the grant $80,000 will go toward establishment and implementation of a Community Outreach for Accurate Science Translation teams in four communities along the north central Gulf of Mexico coast to present and explain the research results to the public.

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