Scientists research to help with oil spill - - The News for South Mississippi

Scientists research to help with oil spill

Aquatic Toxicologist Joe Griffith Aquatic Toxicologist Joe Griffith
Fisheries Biologist Jim Franks Fisheries Biologist Jim Franks

By Krystal Allan – bio | email

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Collecting samples and charting data have become increasingly important in the days following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Professor Joe Griffith is an aquatic toxicologist. He and his grad student are studying genes and proteins in sea life, like fish, shrimp and oysters.  They're looking for any changes in proteins to determine if the oil is having an impact on sea life.

"It'll tell us precisely how the organisms are affected, where the organisms are being affected and the extent of the what the affect is," Griffitt said.

One of Dr. Griffitt's main concerns involves the dispersed oil where it will end up.

"The dispersed oil, again, is more bio-available to the organisms. So rather than just being at the slick, it's all throughout the water column. Fish that normally would avoid the surface are swimming in the water below and now exposed to it," Griffitt said.

Jim Franks is a fisheries biologist who just returned from a mission studying blue fin tuna.  The tuna are spawning this time of year.  While it's research Franks typically conducts, this year the oil is likely to impact what he finds.

"We did encounter some affects from the spill," Franks said. "We found that in areas we believe traditionally have served as some spawning grounds for the tuna, not only the blue fin but yellow fin tuna and blue tuna. The sheen has us concerned because of the location and magnitude of the spill. We think these young fish are in a precarious situation at this time."

The scientists still have a lot to analyze among the samples they've collected. Their hope is that the research can provide much-needed insight to help fight the coastal crisis.

Dr. Griffitt hopes to take a team out sometime next week to study more sea life by the Chandeleur Islands.

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