The Effects of Drilling on Cold-Water Corals

Our newest faculty member, Dr. Sandra Brooke, is in Norway right now observing the impact of drilling discharges on larvae of the coral Lophelia pertusa. This is a small component of a large project funded by The Research Council of Norway to investigate the effect of drilling muds used for oil and gas extraction on Norwegian cold-water corals, specifically Lophelia pertusa. The project is a collaborative effort led by Dr. Thierry Baussant from the International Research Institute of Stavanger (IRIS) and includes several scientists from the US, Norway and the Netherlands. Dr. Sandra Brooke and her colleague, Dr. Johanna Jarnegren, are working on the survival of Lophelia larvae exposed to different levels of drilling muds. They know from their previous work that this species spawns in February, releasing eggs and sperm into the water column, and that the larvae spend some time in the plankton before settling. Therefore, earlier this month she flew to Trondheim in Norway to spawn the corals and culture larvae for the experimental work. So far they have been developing embryos that they hope will start swimming very soon so they can begin their experiments