USM scientists stay busy with oil spill research

USM scientists stay busy with oil spill research

OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - Scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi have been at the forefront of oil spill research in the five years since the disaster. And that work is far from over.

Almost immediately after the explosion in the gulf five years ago, scientists began arriving to study the impact. Since many were not from this region, USM's Gulf Coast Research Lab proved an invaluable asset.

"Having a repository of scientists, local to the area, that knew the area, that knew the systems, brought a critical component to how we dealt with the impact and how we'll move forward in the long term," said Dr. Monty Graham, interim director of the Gulf Coast Research Center.

In the five years since the spill, dozens of USM scientists and researchers have studied a multitude of oil spill impacts: Everything from microbiology and genetics... to commercial fishing... to bio-chemical responses of the eco system.

"We have people studying the very deepest parts of the gulf, very close to where the spill actually occurred. So, all aspects we're contributing science and published peer reviewed papers," he said.

To help the public better understand the oil spill studies, GCRL will host a series of interactive lectures beginning April 20. Keep in mind, when it comes to science, there are no quick or easy answers.

"But every time you ask a question about a new event, it's a different question. And so it has to be addressed with a new scientific study. And science is a process that takes awhile," said Dr. Jessica Kastler, who coordinates programs at the Marine Education Center at GCRL.

Studying short and long term impacts on an eco-system can be complex, but the scientific studies are yielding results.

"It's a work in progress. And I guess I'm beginning to think of it as a jigsaw puzzle, where we're getting a lot of little pieces out of each study that comes out. And some of those pieces relate to other pieces and we can connect those," said Dr. Kastler.

"There are going to be studies for the next, you know, decades. Because some of the impacts of the spill we probably won't fully understand for years, or maybe even decades," said Dr. Graham.

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