Experts take a deeper look at Gulf oil spill effects


Repurposed technology will map out the extent of oil and chemical impact on wildlife.

Baton Rouge, La.

-- Prosanta Charkrabarty, curator of ichthyology at LSU's Museum of Natural Science, and Daniel Janies, associate professor of Biomedical Informatics at the Ohio State University, are taking a deeper look in the Gulf oil spill-literary. Through research and repurposed technology, the two are investigating the extent of oil and chemical and the distribution of various fish species.

“We know very little about deep-sea life and even less about the interactions between this biota and these toxic chemicals,” said Chakrabarty in a press release. “The northern Gulf of Mexico is home to more than 600 species of fish, and new ones are being described every year. Through our efforts and by making the informatics tools available over the web, our aim is to map baseline data about nearly every northern Gulf of Mexico species that may be impacted.”

To do so, Charkrabarty and Janies are are using a computer application that was designed to track infectious diseases, such as avian influenza and H1N1, to collect and reinterpret data for oil, dispersants and fish, including those at great depth.

“We have developed DEPTHMAP, a web-accessible mapping application for historical species collection records, to combine baseline information about the range of these species with respect to data on the extent of the spill,” said Janies. “From museum records, wildlife and fisheries collections data, we can measure the impact of this spill on marine species with various habitats, life histories and ranges.”

Data collected at intervals since the spill began is being incorporated and compared to show changing distributions, deaths, lost spawning seasons and year classes, and, potentially, extinctions.

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