Two years after the Deepwater Horizon blow out, scientists are still piecing together what happened to the millions of gallons of crude oil that gushed into the Gulf of Mexico and what the environmental consequences would be. Recently, FSUCML scientists Dr. Grubbs and Dr. Coleman and their colleagues in the Deep-C Consortium gathered in Tallahassee to discuss their long-term study of oil effects, where they were interviewed by WFSU news director Trimmel Gomes.
FSUCML in the News
Dean Grubbs, usually found at the FSU Marine Lab, will talk about how the animals that live in the deepest waters near the BP oil spill are doing. When not hosting Science Cafe, Dean can be found tagging 15-foot sharks, then releasing them and harvesting the electronic data their transmitters send back to him until the devices pop off. Written by Kathleen Laufenberg - Special to the Chronicle.
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GOMRI), which is responsible for organizing the BP-funded research consortia studying the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, highlights the at-sea research of the Deep-C Consortium. FSUCML researchers Dr. Dean Grubbs, Dr. Chris Koenig, and Dr. Felicia Coleman, make up part of the ecology team and are working closely with the geochemists to determine paths of oil-related contaminants through the food web, particularly as it impacts economically important fish species.
In a recent paper in Ecology and Evolution, Dr. Laure Petes, Alicia Brown, and Carley Knight describe the effect of water withdrawals and drought on the incidence of disease in Apalachicola oysters. Large oysters suffered higher mortality than small oysters and conditions worsened in summer. This has important implications for watershed management to control disease. Dr. Petes (NOAA Climate Office) conducted this research as a post doc at FSUCML, working with Alicia (FSU PhD student) and Carley (University of Southern Mississippi MSc student) when they were undergraduates in the Certificate Program in Marine Biology.
In late August, a massive fish kill at a Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) nuclear power plant included 50 to 75 protected goliath grouper. But, the fact that goliath grouper were killed went unreported for months. FSUCML faculty, Dr. Chris Koenig comments on how the lack of communication from FPL has affected goliath research. FPL's actions have also prompted Florida wildlife officials to create a protocol for gathering information about fish kills at power plants.
A Florida crown conch population explosion devastates the oyster populations in Southern St. Johns County. The conchs eat oysters and clams and can destroy entire reefs. In particular, the data collected by graduate student, Hanna Garland, reveals the crown conch racing through oyster beds, especially near Matanzas Inlet. She was looking to find whether the animals were eating oysters that were killed off by something else or if they were directly responsible for the damage. Results proved that it was solely the conchs, without a doubt.
FSUCML faculty Christopher Koenig and Felicia Coleman's research, which synthesized data from over 30,000 surveys to map goliath density across space and time, shows that the recovery of the species is concentrated off the southwest coast of Florida. This research as well as Koenig and Coleman's new investigation will provide more insight into the impact and successes of the 1990 goliath grouper fishing ban.
As the critically-endangered goliath grouper become more visible in Southwest Florida waters, fishermen are increasingly asking for the right to fish them again. Regulators, however, say science has not shown that the species can handle the fishing pressure. Data on the fish is weak; both their current and historical populations in the region are unknown. The extent of the population increase as well as the viability of a limited goliath fishery is currently under investigation by FSUCML faculty, Christopher Koenig and Felicia Coleman, in a new three year study.
For two years NOAA and FSU have teamed up on a sawfish abundance study that is slowly piecing together the mysterious lives of the first marine fish placed on the federal endangered species list. Among the researchers is FSUCML's grad student Lisa Hollensead, who uses the radio signals from tags placed on the sawfish to find and follow them around by kayak to learn more details about their habits in real time.