The Gulf Oil Spill: What Have We Lost

NYSG Director joins others on October 15th for the “Living World” lecture

Stony Brook, NY, October 04, 2010 – The 40th anniversary of Earth Day this past April was marked by the blowout of British Petroleum’s Macondo oil well and followed by the largest oil spill in history. On Friday, October 15th, a panel of experts will assemble at Stony Brook University (SBU) to answer some questions regarding the incident and subsequent relief effort, including: Will the Gulf recover from this? Could it happen again? How could we have learned better from past oil spills in our response this time?

“The potential for disaster was great,” says New York Sea Grant (NYSG) Director Jim Ammerman of the Gulf Oil Spill, “but so far environmental impacts have been less than feared.” Ammerman, who will be on the panel discussion for this Living World lecture, also recently shared his impressions on the subject during his own talk at Stony Brook Southampton.

Ammerman, like many scientists, is quick to remind that much is still unknown about the oil spill and its impacts and will remain so for some time. “Although shoreline impacts by the spill have been limited, partly due to dispersant use, the ultimate effects of deep water dispersant use are unclear,” says Ammerman. While damaged marshes already appear to be re-growing and bird mortality is less than prior spills, other uncertainties include the impacts on the region’s turtle and tuna populations. Also, seafood appears safe (from open fishing areas in the Gulf), but additional testing is needed.

“Oil is not an entirely foreign substance in Gulf waters,” Ammerman said, referring to the area’s natural underwater seeps, from which oil is largely metabolized naturally by bacteria. “The difference, here, though,” he cautioned, “is that the concentrations of oil from this incident [4.9 million barrels, or 205 million gallons] have been excessive.” So, the long-term effects on fisheries, wetlands and other parts of the ecosystem have yet to be determined.

Joining Ammerman on the panel for “The Gulf Oil Spill: What Have We Lost,” which is sponsored by SBU’s Department of Ecology and Evolution, are: Anne McElroy, Toxicologist and Professor at SBU; Carl Safina, Conservationist and President of the Blue Ocean Institute; Malcolm Bowman, Distinguished Service Professor, SBU; Howard Schneider, Dean of SBU’s School of Journalism; and moderator Jeffrey Levinton, Marine Ecologist and Professor at SBU.

The discussion, one in a series on biology, the natural world and conservation, will begin at 7:30 pm. on Friday October 15th in SBU’s Earth and Space Sciences Lecture Hall 001. For more information, click here.

New York Sea Grant is part of a nationwide network of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities. The National Sea Grant College Program engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.

Here are a few video clips from the panel discussion, which included NYSG's Director Jim Ammerman:

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