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Researchers Collect Samples Near Oil Spill
May 12, 2010

NIUST team members Carl MacLetchie (left), Luke McKay and Max Woolsey examine one of the first sediment samples brought aboard the Pelican from a control site outside the oil spill area in the Gulf of Mexico. NIUST photo.

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)-sponsored ocean mission, set to explore for deep sea corals, has been redirected to collect seafloor and water column data from areas near the Gulf of Mexico oil spill source.

Researchers from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST) sailed recently on a university research ship to obtain core sediment samples from the seafloor and water samples from the water column in areas near the Deepwater Horizon spill source. They are aboard the Pelican, operated by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, which departed from Cocodrie, La.

The samples are expected to provide important information about the abundance of marine organisms and the presence of chemicals in ocean water and sediments — information for a baseline against which to measure change if those areas are affected by sinking oil.

The research team brought aboard a large box corer used to take sediment samples from the seafloor and installed a large reel of cable to allow the corer to operate at depths equal to the spill source at 5,000 feet. An instrument called a CTD (Conductivity-Temperature-Depth) will measure the water’s salinity, temperature, density and oxygen concentration at various water column depths, while bottles on the CTD obtain water samples.

Based at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and the University of Southern Mississippi at the Stennis Space Center, NIUST is a partnership of the University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi and NOAA, funded by NOAA’s Office of Ocean Exploration and Research. Samples from the mission will be studied by NOAA and by labs at the universities of Georgia and North Carolina and other members of the Hydrates Research Consortium.

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