The Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that occurred on April 20, 2010 not only triggered an unprecedented contamination of the northern Gulf of Mexico, but also yielded an unparalleled research effort to gauge the effects of the massive oil spill.
Five years after the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history, scientists at The University of Southern Mississippi continue to lead the way in mapping and analyzing the oil spill's effects on the Gulf waters' fragile ecosystem.
The British Petroleum-leased Deepwater Horizon platform was drilling approximately 50 miles southeast of the Louisiana coast when an explosion and subsequent fire destroyed the rig, causing the spill. Almost immediately USM scientists from the Gulf Coast Research Laboratory and Stennis Space Center began investigating and processing the damage caused by the spill.
“I don't think anyone involved in the aftermath of this disaster really understood the magnitude of what took place. It wasn't the sort of thing you could imagine happening,” said Dr. Monty Graham, chair of the Department of Marine Science at Southern Miss.
The University assembled an Oil Spill Response Team to coordinate the University's efforts in monitoring the spill's repercussions.
“USM has been at the forefront of the oil spill research almost since day one,” said Dr. Read Hendon, director of the Center for Fisheries Research and Development at GCRL.
“That, coupled with USM's diverse range of expertise in marine and coastal sciences, has allowed the University to serve a prominent role in this process over the last five years,” said Hendon.