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USF Marine Scientists Take Major Role in Feb. 1-4 International Conference on Keeping the Gulf of Mexico Healthy

Among the highlights are presentations on the most recent Gulf research and “The Story Collider” presentation at Tampa’s Stageworks Theatre, featuring USF faculty members.

TAMPA, Fla. (Jan. 26, 2016) – Faculty and graduate students from the University of South Florida’s College of Marine Science will take a major role in the 2016 Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Ecosystem Science Conference held in Tampa Feb. 1- 4 at the Marriott Tampa Waterside Hotel, 700 S. Florida Avenue.

The international conference aims to bring together hundreds of oil spill experts representing academia, state and federal agencies, as well as non-governmental organizations and industry who will share the latest oil spill and ecosystem scientific discoveries, innovations and policies. Many of the results from 2015’s summer research will be presented.

“We are pleased that this year’s conference is in Tampa, affording us an excellent opportunity to share our research with experts from around the globe,” said Dr. Steve Murawski, professor at the College of Marine Science who studies the impacts of Deepwater Horizon on fish in the Gulf of Mexico and serves as director of the C-IMAGE Consortium.

The 2016 conference has drawn 800 registrants who will offer more than 500 scientific presentations focused on promoting and sustaining a healthy Gulf of Mexico environment, community and economy while addressing the “human dimensions” related to oil spill damage. Among the program contributions, 70 presentations are from the C-IMAGE Consortium and over half of these are presentations by USF students and researchers. USF is the lead institution of the C-IMAGE consortium and is involved in chairing and/or co-chairing eight of the 18 sessions offered at the conference.

"This conference will share the latest research by world experts who are dedicated to understanding the long term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster and want to develop more effective responses to future disasters,” said Dr. Jackie Dixon, Dean of the College of Marine Science. “I’m extremelyproud of the role our faculty, staff, and students are taking in leading discovery and stewardship of the Gulf of Mexico.”

In 2015, USF was awarded $20.2 million from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) to fund an international consortium of 18 institutions to study the impact of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico. This summer, C-IMAGE researchers traveled over 6,000 nautical miles collecting fish and bottom sediment samples from areas impacted by oil spills.

More information can be found on the conference’s website.

Notable USF conference presentations

Levels of toxin content in fish -- Fish communities in the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill may have been exposed to high levels polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), one of the more toxic components of oils. High levels of PAHs can cause potential effects on fish health, behavior, and reproduction. Researchers who want to know the extent of exposure over time have evaluated fish muscle and liver tissue for PAH content over time. This report discusses the overtime variability of PAH concentrations and composition from pre-oil spill concentrations to 2015. Both shallow and deep water fish communities were studied and its was determined that after the 2010 DWH spill PAH concentrations in deep water fish increased 10-fold from 2010 to 2011 while the increase in PAH content in shallow water fish increased 20-fold. After 2012, PAH concentrations in these fish fell to levels closer to baseline levels established in 2007. Presenter: Isabel C. Romero, Research Associate, USF College of Marine Science. Session 15A Feb. 3, Poster Session, 5:15- 7:30 p.m.

Marine “Snow” measured in the region of Deepwater Horizon spill – Marine “snow” is a term used to describe falling particulate matter (dead and dying plankton) traveling down towards the seafloor. Marine snow is a pathway through which oil, following an oil spill, may reach the seafloor through mixing with falling particles. Using a submerged camera imaging system (SIPPER) researchers determined particle (snow) characteristics during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on ten cruises in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. Researchers speculated that the marine snow process would likely have the greatest impact on future oil spills during spring and summer –plankton bloom seasons, especially during years of high river flow. Presenter: Kendra L. Daly, Professor, Biological Oceanography, USF College of Marine Science. Session 16, Feb. 3, 4:00 p.m.

Analyzing the “footprint” of a 1979 oil spill - The “footprints” of a major oil spill in the southern Gulf of Mexico (IXTOC) may, 37 years later, hold the key to understanding the impact of the DWH spill and predicting DHW recovery, say researchers who have studied satellite images of the IXTOC oil spill from 1979-1980 that show the spill’s trajectory. To date, there has been no attempt to document IXTOC surface footprints or the surface transport trajectory. Presenter: Shaojie Sun, PhD student, USF College of Marine Science. Session 3A Feb. 2, 2:45 p.m.

Special Event: Monday Feb. 1

The “Story Collider” event features researchers from the University of South Florida and local media who have been impacted in various ways by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The Story Collider focuses on the personal side of science, communicating the ways in which the journey of the investigative process is much more than numbers on a page. Contributors will tell their personal stories about how and why they became scientists. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited and tickets are required.

*Monday, Feb. 1 from 7:30-9:00 p.m.

*Stageworks Theatre - 1120 East Kennedy Boulevard. Tampa, Fla. 33602.

*More information, click here.

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