Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Bridge Grants (RFP-III)

Project Overview

Application of Passive Samplers to Monitor PAHs Concentrations in Water, Sediment Porewater, Sediment, and Commercially Important Organisms in the Gulf of Mexico in Order to Quantify Site-Specific, Chronic Damages to the Natural Resources

Principal Investigator
Johns Hopkins University
Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering
Member Institutions
Johns Hopkins University, Mote Marine Laboratory , National Aquarium, Texas Southern University, The University of Texas at Austin


The proposed research is designed to contribute to the major research theme: ‘Environmental effects of the petroleum/dispersant system on the sea floor, water column, coastal waters, beach sediments, wetlands, marshes, and organisms; and the science of ecosystem recovery’. The research team consists of three institutions: Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD), Mote Marine Laboratory (Sarasota, FL), and the National Aquarium Conservation Center (NACC) (Baltimore, MD). Our goal for the GRI III funds is to use passive samplers, such as semipermeable membrane devices (SPMDs) and polyethylene (PE) tubing, to monitor the PAH concentrations in water and sediment porewater impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These passive samplers are considered to be an innovative approach in measuring time-integrative ng/L levels in situ. In addition, PAHs levels in sediment and commercially important organisms such as oysters, shrimp and finfish, will be measured.

The monitoring results will be archived and shared with all interested stakeholders, researchers, and regulators. Subsequent to the GRI III period, our plans are to incorporate the measured values into mathematical models to study bioconcentration and bioaccumulation of PAHs in the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem impacted by the oil spill. In addition, the measured PAHs levels in water and sediment porewater can be used as base line concentrations, which will assist many research consortia for GRI I and II to conduct a variety of bioassays designed to assess the sublethal toxicity of PAHs and to generate new benchmarks for evaluating possible chronic damages.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.