Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year 5-7 Consortia Grants (RFP-IV)

Project Overview

Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf-2 (ECOGIG-2)

Principal Investigator
University of Georgia
Department of Marine Sciences
Member Institutions
Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Columbia University, Florida State University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University, Temple University, University of California Santa Barbara, University of Georgia, University of Maryland, University of New Hampshire, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Oldenburg, University of Southern Mississippi


The ECOGIG-2 (Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf - 2) Research Consortium conducts multi-scale, multidisciplinary research to study the impacts and fates of oil and gas released in offshore waters of the Gulf of Mexico (hereafter, Gulf). With more than 20,000 natural hydrocarbon seeps, the Northern Gulf hosts complex and fascinating ecosystems that are intimately tied to oil and gas seepage. Seeps and their environs are influenced by complex large- and small-scale circulation patterns, as well as significant nutrient inputs from the Mississippi River system. The Gulf is, therefore, an ideal natural system for studying feedbacks between natural and accidental hydrocarbon releases and the physical and biological processes that determine their fate. The ECOGIG-2 team's work will improve our ability to understand, quantify, and predict the large- and small-scale processes that distribute and degrade hydrocarbons throughout the Northern Gulf, from the deep seafloor to the ocean surface. ECOGIG-2 scientists will work at scales ranging from molecules to ecosystems, and from point source inputs to the entire Gulf system. The program will employ novel, highly sophisticated technologies to achieve in situ monitoring of benthic and water column dynamics on time scales from a few weeks to as long as a year. The ECOGIG-2 team will continue their unprecedented time-series sampling to track impacts of and recovery from the Deepwater Horizon blowout in benthic systems, many of which still retain a clear imprint of the incident.

Scientific Approach: ECOGIG-2 will address fundamental scientific problems that span GoMRI Research Themes 1 through 4. The primary research goals are to:

  1. Elucidate and quantify the ecosystem impacts and fates of natural and anthropogenic hydrocarbon inputs in benthic and pelagic environments, and the role of natural seepage in generating the biological capacity to mitigate accidental hydrocarbon releases.
  2. Quantify how hydrocarbons are incorporated into marine oil snow and evaluate the role of oil snow as a fate for hydrocarbons introduced into the Gulf's waters.
  3. Determine how natural perturbations, such as tectonic activity, large storms, variability in bottom currents or gas hydrate destabilization may affect hydrocarbon release rates, which in turn impact biogeochemical and biological processes in sediments and in the water column.
  4. Quantify the impacts of extreme accidental hydrocarbon discharges and purposeful dispersant additions on different biological communities through in situ time-series observations complemented by experimental work done at sea and in the laboratory.

Broader Impact: The Gulf of Mexico plays a vital role in the regional and national economy. ECOGIG-2 will advance the Gulf community's understanding of the environmental impacts of both natural and accidental hydrocarbon releases by communicating consortium activities and key findings to policymakers and to the general public through media events associated with cruises, focused educational outreach efforts at multiple levels from "K to Gray," and through an ongoing series of short films that will be distributed nationally. Three signature education and outreach activities will highlight Gulf Ecosystem Science, within and beyond ECOGIG-2, in innovative ways and through unique venues. The ECOGIG-2 program will train at least 78 early career scientists from undergraduates, to graduate and postdoctoral scholars. Because hydrocarbon seeps and deepwater hydrocarbon extraction occur across the globe, technological innovations and scientific discoveries made through ECOGIG-2 will be of regional, national, and global relevance.

Project Research Overview (2015):

An overview of the proposed research activities from the GoMRI 2015 Meeting in Houston.

Direct link to the Research Overview presentation.

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