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Scientists Study Oil/Gas Impact in Gulf Deepwaters

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Collaboration unites numerous universities in research, data collection

CHAUVIN, La. – Scientists from several universities were in the Gulf of Mexico Saturday (Oct. 5) studying how oil and gas spilled there in 2010 has affected marine life and activities in its depths.

The Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf Project began after the Deepwater Horizon incident three years ago. Approximately 200 million gallons of oil were released into the Gulf. Using new experimental devices and sensors, researchers are assessing both natural seeps and the spill’s deep water movement and degradation.

“We plan to spend 10 days at sea on the RV Pelican, visiting study sites,” said Beth Orcutt, senior research scientist at the Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Students. “Some sites are natural oil and gas seeps; others are non-seep sites selected to provide background data on the levels of fallout from the spill.”

Data from both types of sources will be compared to understand the movement of hydrocarbons from natural seep environments at depths similar to the Macondo well. This information could be vital in helping the scientific community respond in the unwelcome event of future oil spill incidents.

This month’s research cruise is the latest in a series of 14 completed for the ECOGIG project. A remotely operated vehicle and other camera-guided equipment from the University of Mississippi will be used to service instruments on the seafloor. Scientists will be joined by engineers from UM and the University of Southern Mississippi for the excursion.

The research was made possible by a grant from the BP/Gulf of Mexico Initiative, a 10-year, $500 million independent program established to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon incident and the potential associate impact of this and similar incidents on the environment and public health.

To contact Orcutt, call 682-970-0499 or email borcutt@bigelow.org. Twitter:@DeepMicrobe,# ECOGIG. For more information, visit www.ecogig.org/

Edwin Smith, Ole Miss News Desk

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