Natural Resources Damage Assessment - Deepwater Working Group
21 - 28 July 2010
NOAA Ship Nancy Foster / ROV Global Explorer

Our first chance to get out to the Gulf and see if there was an impact of the oil spill focused on the shallower coral sites. These were sites where we had established research stations with equipment on the seafloor. This cruise was funded by the Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) trustees. This is a cooperative process between the U.S. government and BP to gather evidence on the impact of the oil spill on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Our role in the Deepwater Working Group led us out to sea in late July. We departed Pascagoula MS on July 21 on the NOAA Ship Nancy Foster with the ROV Global Explorer. We completed a lot of careful imagery to look for damage from oil exposure to the spill, since some of the sites we visited were only ~20 miles from the site of the Deepwater Horizon. To our relief, there were no obvious signs of damage to the Lophelia corals at these sites, possibly because they were only at 300-500 m depth, above where the highest concentrations of oil in the mid-water plume were predicted to be. Even though the corals were not obviously damaged, we collected samples of a number of different species to determine if they had been exposed to hydrocarbons and if there were less obvious, sub-lethal effects of the spill.