Mississippi scientists find dead jellyfish covered with oil - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Mississippi scientists find dead jellyfish covered with oil

(Photo source: Dr. Vernon Asper) (Photo source: Dr. Vernon Asper)

GULF OF MEXICO (WLOX) - Mississippi scientists studying the impact of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico have found dead jellyfish covered with oil.

Dr. Vernon Asper and teams of marine scientists from the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi are on the research vessel Pelican, sampling water and sea life in areas of the Gulf impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil leak.

Asper has been sharing photos and accounts of the mission with WLOX News by email. Monday, the scientists sampled close to the mouth of the Mississippi River.

"After acquiring some other samples there, we steamed east to a point that was southeast of the delta and here we found a very interesting site: lots and lots of dead velella," Asper wrote. "These 'jellies' have a triangular sail that is very stiff and which crosses their body diagonally. Like Portuguese Man O War, they look like a single organism, but are actually a colony of animals living in collaboration, each doing its own part. These are not rare animals, but I had never seen anywhere near this many and especially not dead."

About eight miles northeast of "ground zero," the scientists deployed a high frequency recording device to monitor the sounds made by marine mammals to determine whether they are stressed by the spill. The device, called a HARP (High frequency Acoustic Recording Package) will remain in place for at least several months, after which it will be recovered and its data downloaded and analyzed.

Tuesday the team planned to take more samples from the bottom of the ocean with something called the Acrobat. Dr. Asper described the Acrobat as "a very nice package that is towed on the end of a long cable that has several wires inside. It has a moveable wing on the front so that, as it's towed, it cycles from the surface to about 75m depth and then back to the surface again, all automatically by computer control."

The device will allow the scientists to measure temperature, salinity and CDOM Colored, Dissolved, Organic Matter. Dr. Asper says hydrocarbons fall into this category.

Tuesday's tests will sample water under the oil plume.

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