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Johns Hopkins Joins Study of Oil Spill Impact on Florida Ecosystem

Johns Hopkins researchers are part of a multi-institution team formed to determine how the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill affects a sensitive aquatic environment off the coast of Florida.

Team members have begun collecting samples of water, sediment, marine animals and plant life in the Sarasota Bay region, which has not yet been impacted by the massive oil spill. As the oil spreads, however, it may enter the Sarasota Bay ecosystem. The baseline data being collected is expected to give the researchers a way to measure any changes to the aquatic environment if oil does move into the region.

The research effort is being led by the National Aquarium, in collaboration with the Sarasota-based Mote Marine Laboratory and The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Contaminant Transport, Fate and Remediation. This center, directed by Edward Bouwer, chair of the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering in Johns Hopkins’ Whiting School of Engineering, includes researchers from the Whiting School and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The center’s role will be to use data gathered in Sarasota Bay to develop mathematical models to shed light on how contaminants in oil move through the food chain and accumulate in marine plant and animal tissues. These models also may help determine how humans could be affected by contaminated seafood.

“This study is allowing us to be proactive by conducting a before-and-after comparison of the sediment, water and biota in the Sarasota Bay to more accurately determine the lasting ecological effects from the oil spill,” Bouwer said. “The data analysis and model development will give us a predictive tool to assess the impact of the oil at other locations.”

The research project is being funded primarily by the National Aquarium Institute, with additional support from Johns Hopkins.

Related links:
Johns Hopkins Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering:
National Aquarium:

Phil Sneiderman | Newswise Science News
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