Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem Analysis
Leading scientists and representatives from a number of organizations are in the northern Gulf of Mexico on an expedition led by Dr. Sylvia Earle, National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, and Dr. Thomas Shirley, professor at the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Using a submersible provided by the Waitt Institute, the expedition aims to explore and document several areas west and east of the site where BP Deepwater Horizon released nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf.
“Our goal is to identify areas with potential for Gulf ecosystem recovery,” said Dr. Earle, founder of SEAlliance and recipient of the 2009 TEDPrize that developed into Mission Blue, an international ocean conservation movement. “That is going to require protection of places healthy enough to replenish and rebuild populations. What’s happened here is far from over for the clams and oysters and other sea life critical to a healthy Gulf of Mexico.”
The fate and impact of the spilled oil, gas, and dispersants applied following the blowout into the Gulf is the subject of intense discussion by experts. The expedition team, assembled under the broad banner of the Mission Blue initiative, seeks answers to questions about the current status of key species and ecosystems. What they learn will be compared with historical data gathered in the region since the 1950s, archived at the Harte Research Institute.
Other research participants include: Edith Widder and Brandy Nelson, Ocean Research and Conservation Association; Carl Safina, Blue Ocean Institute; Eric Hoffmayer, University of Southern Mississippi; Marissa Nuttall, NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program; and Larry McKinney, Douglas Weaver, and Harriet Nash of the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. Research dives, using the Dual DeepWorker submersible, are being facilitated by the Waitt Institute. Support for the expedition is also provided by the National Geographic Society, Google Inc., and Hope Spots LLC. The Waitt Foundation is supporting sponsor of the Mission Blue initiative.
- Mission Blue blog