Coastal Waters Consortium Hosts a Public Education Workshop

CWC strives to inform the public about the effects of the 2010 oil spill. With knowledge, ground breaking research and studies, the Coastal Waters Consortium is taking part in one of the most important projects in the marine science field that will help us gain insight into how the chemical evolution, biological degradation, and environmental stresses of petroleum and dispersant within Gulf of Mexico can affect coastal and shelf ecosystems. “But what is scientific research if we cannot share it with the public?” marine educator, Jessica Hernandez asks. Because the Coastal Waters Consortium believes
that public awareness is important to fulfilling their mission, they have established a series of public education workshops that will allow participants to get informed about the kinds of research their scientists and prime investigators are conducting.

Their first public education workshop was held on October 26, 2013 at the De Felice Marine Center in Cocodrie, LA. With the funding of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative and the support of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, they were able to offer unique experiences to adults 18 years of older. Participants met scientists, explored the bay environment, and (in true Louisianan style) had a delicious chicken and sausage gumbo for lunch.

The featured scientists for this event were Dr. Chuck Wall and Dr. Tara Duffy.

Dr. Wall explained the seasonal hypoxia his lab is investigating as well as the oil impacts on salt marshes. His research focuses on how oil exposure affects abundance and the diversity of benthic critters. This project is still in progress and with more results coming. Dr. Wall hopes to lead another public education workshop to further discuss his findings. One
small research project he highlighted was the summer project his past REU student, Steven Carrion conducted on the oil impacts on sub-tidal benthos. This project concluded that there was no difference among the species richness and
diversity between oiled and non-oiled sites. However, Dr. Wall mentioned that there was a need for further studies to get a better idea of the relationships being observed.

Dr. Duffy discussed the fisheries health in the Gulf of Mexico. Her work involves larvae and how the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill affected the Blue Crab, Anchovy, Red Snapper and Trout in their early life stages. She exposes larvae in her lab and records how the organisms respond to immediate contact with oil. With these findings, she will be able to conclude how oil
spills affect the primary stages of these important marine organisms.

Knowledge wasn’t the only thing participants took from this experience; they also took wonderful memories from the boat cruise around the estuary. On the boat educators collected organisms using a trawl to show participants that coastal Louisiana has a large biodiversity that can be at risk during an oil spill. The day concluded with a plankton lab, where participants were able to see plankton specimens under a microscope and understand theimportance of these small organisms to the Gulf of Mexico’s food web.


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