ME Students Among First Responders to Galveston Bay Oil

On March 22, a cargo ship collided with a barge carrying approximately 4,000 barrels of bunker fuel oil in Galveston Bay, Texas. An estimated 168,000 gallons spilled into the Houston Ship Channel, prompting officials to shut it down for cleanup.

Within days, scientists from two research consortia funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) were on site alongside government and industry workers, collecting baseline information to assess impacts. These two groups were the Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico Consortium (Deep-C) and the Dispersion Research on Oil: Physics and Plankton Studies (DROPPS) consortium.

Scientists with DROPPS are interested in oil as it moves through the water column and the effects of different agents on its travel path. They also look at the weathering process, but their primary focus is effects on planktonic populations and how they in turn impact the oil.

Larry Brock and James Lassmann, students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, worked with members of the DROPPS team, sampled in the bay, and used a 3D holography unit. The underwater holography system is used to profile this oil and biological agents in the water column.