Thursday, May 6, 2010

NOAA ocean science mission changes course to collect seafloor and water column oil spill data

NOAA: A 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) 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. 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 university fleet research vessel Pelican, operated by the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, departed Cocodrie, La., late Tuesday and arrived at the spill source on Wednesday. They will return on Sunday for more supplies, and go back to the site later that week.

The ship had been outfitted and ready to support a different NOAA-funded mission, but it was scrubbed in favor of gathering timely and much-needed data close to the oil spill source.

“This sampling mission is one of many NOAA responses to the oil spill,” acting NOAA assistant administrator for NOAA Research Craig McLean said. “It fills an important gap in researching the interaction of spilled oil and the ocean environment. The samples will help us better understand affected ocean resources.”…

A team from the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST) recovers a box corer used to gather sediment samples from the ocean floor. Photo from NIUST/NOAA

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