A team of researchers led by professor of marine sciences Samatha Joye will return to the site of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout to assess environmental impacts resulting from the discharge of roughly 5 million gallons of oil into the ocean over a period of 84 days:
Using the U.S. Navy's newly upgraded human-occupied deep submergence vehicle, Alvin, scientists will view the ocean floor, record observations through high-definition cameras, and collect water and sediment samples during the monthlong research cruise. This cruise is the first research voyage with the upgraded Alvin and is funded by the National Science Foundation and the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.
"No one has visited these sites in a human-occupied submersible since 2010, so we are very eager to evaluate the health of these locations firsthand," said Samantha Joye, a UGA marine scientist who has studied the oil spill extensively and will be the chief scientist on the cruise. "Populations of many organisms living in the water and on the ocean floor were seriously damaged by the blowout, so we want to know how things have changed since December 2010."
During their cruise, which will last nearly the entire month of April, Joye and her colleagues will come within 2 nautical miles of the wellhead, visiting seafloor that was covered with oil in 2010.
Follow-up, especially to horrific disasters that take up a lot of media attention initially, is a crucial element of containment and cleanup of marine and wildlife habitats. We have a tendency in American society to want to move on even after such an environmental catastrophe, on a need to believe everything is okay and will work out. But that tendency can have negative consequences, particularly when everything this isn't quite okay. According to Dr. Joye, this is the case in the Gulf and despite assurances from some quarters that the marine ecosystem has bounced back, much more assessment is and will be needed for some time to come. Thanks to her and scientists from around the region for their persistence, and ability to keep attention focused on important problems.