Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year One Block Grant - Florida Institute of Oceanography

Project Overview

Assessing the Concentration and the Molecular and Isotropic Composition of Deep sea Submerged Oils in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Principal Investigator
University of South Florida
College of Marine Science
Member Institutions
Pennsylvania State University, University of South Florida


This proposal focuses on determining the concentration and chemical composition hydrocarbons in the different layers of deep-sea submerged.  Utilizing state-of-the-art techniques in molecular organic and isotope geochemistry this research aims to develop a "chemical fingerprint" for the subsurface oil that future researchers can trace the flow and cycling of oil within the marine waters and sediments and within marine ecosystems and habitats. Using two research cruises we will also be able to evaluate how the concentration and chemical composition subsurface hydrocarbons are changing over time and space. Lab-based determination of the concentration and composition of the subsurface hydrocarbons will be used to quantitatively calibrate in situ and shipboard sensors for autonomous and remote identification and spatial mapping of the sub-surface oil plumes. 

This study of subsurface oils is also vitally needed for determining environmental baselines, understanding ecosystem responses and evaluation the causes of biological and chemical changes associated with pre-and post-impact assessments and restoration. The Deepwater Horizon is the first deep-water oil well blowout to have ever occurred. The results from the proposed research will provide valuable scientific information on the organic geochemistry of deep-water oil blowouts and will be a benefit to all FIO institutions, the State (DEP), the Federal Government (NOAA, EPA) and perhaps BP.

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