Gulf of Mexico

Nancy Rabalais

Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, Executive Director and Professor

January 15, 2013

New Panama Canal: Hope for the Gulf Coast

Denise Reed

In discussions about saving the Louisiana coast from sinking into the rising Gulf, Denise Reed (2006) highlighted an eye-opening idea -- the positive role that planned upgrades to the Panama Canal could play. As part of a plan to support the larger ships that will traverse the canal, realigning the Mississippi River shipping canal for the Port of South Louisiana could rebuild the coast in both physical and economic perspectives. "We have to look for ways to make the river work for us in the world we live in today and going forward," Reed says.

June 16, 2011

For Gulf fishers, new impacts from growing dead zone

Nancy Rabalais

photo: Kim

A team of scientists including Nancy Rabalais (1999) predicts that this year's dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico will be the largest ever, covering an area between 8,500 and 9,400 square miles. The increase in size stems from recent flooding along the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers, which carried higher than usual amounts of nitrogen to the Gulf. Impacts are likely to be felt by fishers and shrimpers, who may have to travel farther afield to find fish stocks.

February 10, 2011

Call to refocus research after Gulf oil spill

Selina Heppell

photo: NASA

Scientists can't measure recovery from last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico because they lack baseline data on marine life there. That's why Selina Heppell (2006) and others argue that research needs to prioritize finding such baseline data on protected species so scientists can track individual populations.


August 30, 2010

Time needed to understand extent of Gulf spill

Christopher Reddy

photo: SkyTruth

Scientists from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution found a 21-mile-long oil plume in June from the Gulf oil spill and described it in a study co-authored by Chris Reddy (2006). Reddy recently criticized some journalists who, in looking for definitive answers, misrepresented the study as deciding between "competing" estimates on the oil remaining. "Science does not work that way," Reddy wrote in an op-ed for, noting "Rather, science is more like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece is added. Occasionally a wrong piece may be placed, but eventually science will correct it."

July 30, 2010

Scientists call for pause on building Gulf berms

Denise Reed

photo: BP America

Scientists are questioning a plan to build berms of sand along the Louisiana coast to shield it from the Gulf oil slick. They worry the berms could disrupt the movement of sediment sustaining barrier islands and that storms will quickly erode the berms away. Denise Reed (2006) suggests that the plan's commander pause to review existing science and assess potential effects so he "can make these decisions with eyes wide open."

July 14, 2010

Dispersants understood to be safe on sea surface

Christopher Reddy

photo: Adrian Cadiz, US Air Force

Scientists understand that dispersants used to help clean up the Gulf oil spill are safe for use on the ocean surface, but effects on deep sea life are unknown, Chris Reddy (2006) testified to a presidential commission. Reddy cautioned that we need to study their use at such depths and in such large amounts.

June 16, 2010

Gulf oil spill: science for the long-term cleanup

Christopher Reddy, Denise Reed

photo: US Navy

To minimize damage to the Louisiana coast, the Gulf oil spill cleanup must be closely tailored to local conditions and monitored long-term using the best science, Denise Reed (2006) told a House Committee on Natural Resources subcommittee June 15. In the same hearing, Chris Reddy (2006) urged House members to engage academic scientists, noting that universities’ involvement in oil spill research has declined over the past 20 years.

May 4, 2010

Scientists weigh implications of Gulf oil spill

P. Dee Boersma, Nancy Rabalais, Christopher Reddy, Denise Reed

photo: NASA

As the Gulf of Mexico oil spill unfolds, several Leopold Leadership Fellows are helping elucidate the implications. Chris Reddy (2006) has called the spill "unprecedented," describing it as "an upside-down faucet, just open and running out." He also advocates burning the oil if possible. Denise Reed (2006) warns that the oil could significantly damage marshes that are "already hanging by a fingernail." However, she points out the spill could increase awareness of the importance of the marshes. Nancy Rabalais (1999) further cautions that the spill could worsen Louisiana's annual "dead zone" caused by fertilizer runoff from the Mississippi. The New York Times interviewed Rabalais on the complexities of oil cleanup, while Dee Boersma (2000) told MSNBC that cleaning wildlife after oil spills is "not cost effective and the animals usually die" soon after from the toxicity.