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Study by Haverford College professor reveals unprecedented impact of Deepwater Horizon on deep ocean
Date:3/26/2012

pinpointing the source of petroleum hydrocarbons in Gulf samples can be challenging to scientists, especially since oil is comprised of a complex mixture of different chemical compounds. However, there are often slight differences in oils that can be used to trace their origin. To identify the oil found in the coral communities, White worked with Christopher Reddy and Robert Nelson at WHOI using an advanced technique called comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography, which was pioneered at WHOI by Reddy and Nelson for use in oil spill research. The method, which separates oil compounds by molecular weight, allows scientists to essentially "fingerprint" oil and determine its source.

This exacting petroleum analysis coupled to the analysis of 69 images from 43 individual corals at the site, performed by Pen-Yuan Hsing, a graduate student of Charles Fisher's at PSU, yielded strong evidence that the coral communities were impacted by oil from the Macondo well spill.

"These findings will have a significant impact on the location of deep water drilling and the monitoring of oil spills in the future," White says. "Ongoing work in the Gulf will improve our understanding of the resilience of these isolated communities and the extent to which they are affected by human activity. Oil had a visible effect on these corals and it is important to determine if they can rebound."


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Contact: Eils Lotozo
elotozo@haverford.edu
610-795-6235
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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