NSU Oceanographic Center investigates oil spill

NSU’s Oceanographic Center will team up with several universities in Florida to conduct research on the Gulf Oil Spill and its impact on marine life.

As part of a $10 million block grant from BP, NSU’s OC will assess the impact of oil exposure to marine life in the deep sea. The researchers will pay particular attention to marine sponge and microbe and coral-sponge communities, as well as periodically evaluating offshore fishing communities.

The Florida Institute of Oceanography selected NSU’s Oceanographic Center to conduct four of 27 research projects. The principal OC researchers include Jose Lopez, an associate professor, and David Kerstetter, a research scientist. Two other OC researchers, Mahmood Shivji, professor of marine biology and director of the OC’s Guy Harvey Researcher Institute, and Jim Thomas, OC professor of marine biodiversity, are investigating the other projects.

Lopez, who studies sponges and microbe communities, said, “Actions taken to abate the April 20 oil spill, such as using chemical dispersants to breakdown the oil, may have effectively submerged or dispersed the oil into Gulf of Mexico water. Therefore, filter feeding sponges can possibly behave as good barometers to detect the oil’s impact on marine environments over time.”

In contrast, Kerstetter, who studies offshore fishing communities, said that his study is critical. It would look into things that almost nothing is known about. These include the feeding ecology of fish and how subtle changes in the availability of smaller prey species might affect larger fish.

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