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

Project Overview

Floating Sargassum Communities of the Gulf of Mexico: Data Collection for the Continued Assessment of Associated Faunal Assemblages, Trophic Interations and Habitat Function in the Wake of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Principal Investigator
University of Southern Mississippi
Division of Coastal Sciences
Member Institutions
Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL), University of South Alabama, University of Southern Mississippi


We propose to continue our investigation of the distribution of Sargassum, the biological community within the Sargassum and the potential consequences of Sargassum loss on ecological processes. The data collection proposed (below) for July, August and September 2011 will mirror that of 2010 and serve as:

  1. A critical means of comparing impact vs. post-impact habitat function;
  2. A measure of community resiliency, and
  3. A basis for examining the following objectives:


  1. Determine the areal extent and distribution of Sargassum in the northcentral Gulf of Mexico during the 2011 summer season (July, August, and September).
  2. Determine the relationship between Sargassum patch size and species richness and density for planktonic and pelagic fish and invertebrates at multiple life stages.
  3. Quantify via stable isotopes and diet analysis trophic linkages within the Sargassum food web.

We propose a series of twelve aerial and ship-based surveys (four during each month) to collect observations on the abundance and distribution of Sargassum and the associated faunal assemblages. The data collection components of each survey and the sample preservation procedures are outlined below.

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