Scientists study possible impact of oil spill on marine life - - The News for South Mississippi

Scientists study possible impact of oil spill on marine life

By Doug Walker – bio | email

MISSISSIPPI SOUND (WLOX) - The waters of the Mississippi Sound were quiet Wednesday morning as a group of scientists headed out to sea. They feel their research is vitally important with the threat of oil looming offshore.

"What we're doing today is part of an effort to establish baseline information, so that if we do have an impact from the oil spill, we'll be able to access the damage," Harriet Perry said.  

The first trawl was laid down, then brought back up, teaming with life. The animals were combed though. Some were kept, while others were thrown back.  The next trawl took place in the deep water south of Horn Island.

"We go back out, if and when the oil comes in, to the same locations," Dr. Joe Griffitt said. "Sample the same species and do the same studies, and we can look for differences that can be attributed to the presence of the oil."  

Officials at the Gulf Coast Research Lab hope the research conducted in the Gulf Wednesday will help other areas that may one day be impacted by a similar spill.

"Be ready to provide, really, whatever is needed as far as the information to the management of the Environmental Protection Agency, and other national agencies," Research Lab Director Dr. Bill Hawkins said. 

Catching and tagging sharks was also part of the operation, as was taking water samples adds to the data base.  Even nearshore oysters beds are part of the equation.  Then it was back to the lab for testing and analysis, a process that will take several days to document. 

But Harriet said the work of these scientists is far from over.

"Almost every boat we have at the laboratory is in the water and have had them in the water for about a week taking various kinds of samples."

The scientists are not the only ones working on the research project.  Dozens of students from the University of Southern Mississippi are also involved as part of the marine biology curriculum at the college.

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