Oil Spill Update: Deep-Sea Degradation

This Dec. 1, 2010 photo provided by the University of Georgia, made from the submarine Alvin, shows a dead crab with oil residue near it on a still-damaged sea floor about 10 miles north of the BP oil rig accident. Marine biologist Samantha Joye of the University of Georgia said, We consistently saw dead fauna (animals) at all these sites. It's likely there's a fairly large area impacted," she said. (AP Photo/ University of Georgia, Samantha Joye

More bad news from the oil spill front. University of Georgia marine scientist Samantha Joye reporting findings from her fifth Gulf of Mexico expedition since the oil spill, noted the outlook is not optimistic.  Her team found multiple expanses of oil and soot-covered seafloor chemically linked to the BP Macondo deep sea well. The soot likely derived from the burning of oil that settled to the bottom. In this blanket is a large number of dead brittle stars, crabs, and tubeworms.  Keep in mind Joye’s team also warned about many studies overlooking the volume and impact of the 500,000 tons of methane also spilled into the Gulf.

I’ll leave you with this: “Apparently, the sheer quantity of sedimented oil, much of it trapped in a slimy mucilaginous matrix, simply overwhelmed and suffocated the sea floor microbial colonies that normally consume oil.”

Dr. M (1729 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Assistant Director of Science for the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center, a National Science Foundation supported initiative. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web. His forthcoming book, Science of the South (http://www.scienceofthesouth.com/), connects cultural icons of South such as pecan pie with the science behind them.

5 comments on “Oil Spill Update: Deep-Sea Degradation
  1. “Mucilaginous matrix” IS breakfast for many people… oatmeal, cheese grits, cream of wheat, porridge, tapioca pudding… Just sayin’

    Hmmm… Cheese grits! Time for southern style breakfast! Though the thought of the carnage from the BP mess does kill the appetite… Maybe just coffee afterall.

  2. So many people argue that environmental damage is a natural process, that the earth can absort immense damage and recover on its own. These same people miss the point when discussing environmental change. Change has occurred generally very slowly over long periods of time, and species had time to adapt. Because of human technological change, changes are occurring to quickly now for species adaptation. There is also a difference between change and pollution. Extinction is a natural occurrence, but not at the current rate, which threatens our own existence.

    We, as a species have developed a civilization that is based on oil and its by-products. Oil is a non-renewable resource and its very production and uses are destructive to the environment that we as animals depend on for our basic survival.

    We have also developed a very primitive social system based on favouring a few at the expense of the many. The rich have everything, the poor have nothing. We fail to control our population, so that eventually we reach the limits of our recourses and a collapse is inevitable.

    In a nut shell, we have developed an environment that is unfit for human consumption, both on a technological and a social level, and it is rapidly catching up with us. Unfortunately, human ability to adapt to the necessary changes that are needed to save ourselves seem beyond our reach. We are simply to primitive an animal to think beyond our immediate needs.

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