Navigation Links
Virginia Tech studies impact of Gulf oil spill on plovers

Researchers from Virginia Tech's College of Natural Resources and Environment have received a $3.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior to study the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on piping plovers, shorebirds that have been listed as threatened since 1986.

Breeding populations of piping plovers exist in three distinct locations the Atlantic Coast, the American and Canadian Great Plains, and the Great Lakes but birds from all three populations use the Gulf shore as overwintering habitat.

Anticipating the spill's implications for the plover population, the Virginia Tech team began work on the grant application within days of the explosion that caused the oil spill. The first two boats and their crews left Blacksburg for the Gulf the day after the team received notification that its grant proposal had been funded. By the following week, a full team of 28 researchers was collecting data on site.

The team, from the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, includes faculty members James Fraser, Sarah Karpanty, and Bill Hopkins, research scientists Daniel Catlin and Jonathan Cohen, and master's student Joy Felio.

When completed, the research will provide data upon which litigators can base settlements for the damage lawsuits resulting from the oil spill. In order to factor damage to plover habitat into these settlements, litigators must know whether and by how much plover survival and migration patterns have changed since the spill.

Fraser, however, would like to see the research used for more than just litigation purposes. "Our real hope," he said, "is that our data will be used for restoration efforts. We want our research to help people think toward the future."

The study will measure survival and migration patterns by comparing rates of survival and emigration in oiled and unoiled areas of the Gulf. Study sites will be limited to areas that historically have had a large number of overwintering plovers.

The team will use a mark-recapture study a study in which birds are captured and tagged so that researchers can estimate population characteristics based on the proportion of tagged birds that can be recaptured to evaluate the plovers' survival and emigration rates. A separate survey will determine the percentage of plovers that have been oiled as a result of the spill.

The present study is funded by the Interior Department's Natural Resource Damage Assessment Program only through the end of the plovers' spring migration in April, but Fraser, who has been studying piping plovers since they were first listed as threatened in 1986, and Karpanty, who has studied migratory shorebirds for the past six years, plan to pursue funding to extend the research.

"Because the spill was an emergency, the funding came late, and the birds were already on the Gulf when we got there," explained Fraser. "I'm very proud of the fact that we were down there the day after we had funding, but it's possible that birds died before we began to take data."

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 20, 2010, killed 11 of the 126 workers on board and released four to five million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico before the well was permanently sealed on Sept. 19. Currently, surface oil affects coastal areas from western Louisiana to Pensacola, Fla., with some tar balls appearing as far west as Galveston, Texas. The area's natural oil-eating microbes, which are abundant partly because smaller spills occur so often in the Gulf, and strong sunlight, which increases photooxidation, offer hope for recovery, but the prognosis for the affected area is still uncertain.


Contact: Lynn Davis
Virginia Tech

Related biology news :

1. Government agencies fund improved fuel economy research at Virginia Tech
2. Industry to Demonstrate Off-the-Shelf Integrated Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism Solutions at Northern Virginia Site
3. Virginia Techs Mueller receives friendship award from China
4. Industry to Demonstrate Off-the-Shelf Integrated Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism Solutions at Northern Virginia Site
5. NSF funds Virginia Tech program to train researchers at intersection of engineering, biology
6. Major Force Protection and Anti-Terrorist Equipment Demonstration Set for Next May 17-19 in Northern Virginia
7. Oil spill reshapes sweeping new study of oyster reefs -- Virginia to Florida
8. Efforts underway at Virginia Tech to address deterioration of nations water pipes
9. Virginia Tech mathematician wins international award
10. Virginiamycin may reduce feed costs for swine producers
11. Virginia Tech researcher explores role of human behavior in infectious disease emergence
Post Your Comments:
Related Image:
Virginia Tech studies impact of Gulf oil spill on plovers
(Date:11/9/2015)... ) ... "Global Law Enforcement Biometrics Market 2015-2019" ... ) has announced the addition of ... 2015-2019" report to their offering. ... ) has announced the addition of the ...
(Date:11/2/2015)... Nov. 2, 2015  SRI International has been awarded ... preclinical development services to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) ... provide scientific expertise, modern testing and support facilities, and ... pharmacology and toxicology studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention ... The PREVENT Cancer Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported ...
(Date:10/29/2015)... , Oct. 29, 2015 Daon, a global ... it has released a new version of its ... North America have already installed ... also includes a FIDO UAF certified server component ... preparing to activate FIDO features. These customers include some ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... healthy metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic ... (NIH), researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... This fall, global software solutions leader ... five states to develop and pitch their BIG ideas to improve health and wellness ... competing for votes to win the title of SAP's Teen Innovator, an all-expenses paid ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... /PRNewswire/ - Aeterna Zentaris Inc. (NASDAQ:  AEZS) (TSX: ... 11,000 post-share consolidation (or 1,100,000 pre-share consolidation) Series ... Warrants") subject to the previously disclosed November 1, ... which will result in the issuance of 365,518 ... issuance of such shares, there will be approximately ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... - ProMetic Life Sciences Inc. (TSX: PLI) (OTCQX: PFSCF) ("ProMetic" ... , President and Chief Executive Officer of ProMetic, will be ... th Annual Healthcare Conference to be held at the ... st , at 8.50am (ET) and ProMetic,s management team ... presentation will be available live via a webcast accessible at ...
Breaking Biology Technology: