By comparing this data to their pre-spill studies, the scientists hope to get an idea of whether the number of whales in the area has changed. They plan to present this new analysis in their talk on November 17.
"Our estimations agree with NOAA's -- about 1,655 sperm whales before the spill," said Sidorovskaia. "If we killed 3 animals in the gulf, it might affect the population in the growth."
Other researchers at the session will present new -- though largely unproven -- ideas for adapting technologies now used to study the structure of the ocean to detect the presence of oil in water as well.
At the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Michael Vera is exploring a technique commonly used to measure temperature gradients in the ocean (ocean-acoustic thermometry) which detects changes in the speed of a sound broadcast through water. Like a lens bending light, ocean water can distort sound in measurable ways that reveal various properties of the ocean.
Vera's computer models, which simulate a Deepwater Horizon-like stream of oil, indicate that the presence of concentrated crude oil should also reveal itself by changing the speed of sound propagation.
"The model suggests that the oil should be detectable near the wellhead," said Vera.
He is working to refine his model with a more realistic simulation of oil that also includes other materials such as methane. Vera has written a lay-language paper about this research, available here: http://www.acoustics.org/press/160th/vera.htm
Mohsen Badiey of the University of Delaware in Newark, Boris Katsnelson of Voronezh University in Russia, and Jim Lynch of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts are investigating another technique used to study the ocean's three-dimensional
|Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi|
American Institute of Physics