UM-led team to study oil spill

By Daily Journal and University of Mississippi

OXFORD – A consortium of 14 institutions led by the University of Mississippi has been awarded $20 million to study lingering environmental effects of the massive 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The spill provides an unprecedented opportunity to examine the effects of hydrocarbons from natural seeps or man-made spills on a deepwater ecosystem, said Ray Highsmith, lead investigator on the study and director of Ole Miss’ National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST).
“The BP spill was a gigantic man-made experiment that scientists could never do, so this is a tremendous opportunity to study real-world conditions that we could never replicate,” Highsmith said. NIUST scientists already had been studying an ocean canyon just nine miles away before the BP explosion occurred.
Goals for the study include analyzing remaining effects of the oil spill, predicting how future spills may affect sensitive areas, learning how oil behaves at different depths and comparing data from the BP blowout with that from natural oil seeps.
Highsmith, formerly a longtime professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, oversaw research that resulted from the Exxon Valdez oil spill.