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Research, Science & Technology

LSU Researchers Receive Two NSF Grants to Study Oil and Dispersant Contamination

Faculty from the School of the Coast & Environment and the College of Science work to determine short- and long-term reaction of natural systems to chemicals

09/22/2010 09:41 AM

BATON ROUGE – Since the Deepwater Horizon disaster began in the Gulf of Mexico, experts have debated the potential impact of the oil and the dispersants used to break it up. What will it do to seafood? Or the delicate wetland ecosystems lining the Gulf of Mexico, particularly those already in danger near the mouth of the Mississippi? Two groups of LSU researchers have received Rapid Response Grants from the National Science Foundation, or NSF, to study these and other implications relating to the oil and dispersants now in the Gulf of Mexico.


R. Eugene Turner, professor of oceanography and coastal sciences in the School of the Coast & Environment, along with Laurie Anderson of LSU’s Department of Geology & Geophysics and Linda Hooper-Bui, associate professor of entomology at LSU and the LSU AgCenter, have received support to research the effects of oil and dispersants on the Louisiana salt marsh ecosystem.


“We will sample more than 35 salt marshes beginning in September of 2010, then again in May of 2011, adding to a collection of samples we have already collected from these sites in May 2010,” said Turner. “This will help us to gauge long-term damage to the salt marsh environment, as well as test hypotheses about other forms of impact from the oil and associated chemicals.”


For more information about this grant, visit


Andrew Whitehead, assistant professor of biological sciences in LSU’s College of Science, received a grant to study the genetic impact these chemicals might have on wildlife populations through studying a particular species of fish known as Fundulus grandis, or the cocahoe minnow, which is native to the estuaries along the Gulf of Mexico.


“With millions of gallons of oil and dispersants having been released into the Gulf over a relatively brief amount of time, the impact is an almost complete unknown,” said Whitehead. “We are gathering data pre- and post-event so that we can better determine the impact of the oil spill on the genetic structure of resident populations. We’re particularly curious to test whether tolerance to oil varies in populations, what is the genetic makeup of individuals that are more or less sensitive to contaminating oil toxicity and how toxicity varies across a large geographic area.” Another benefit of this research, according to Whitehead, is that it should provide a point of reference by which to measure the BP cleanup efforts’ effectiveness.  


For more information on Whitehead’s grant, visit


NOTE: Rapid Response Grants are constantly being awarded, so more LSU faculty may be awarded support as time progresses. For more information, contact Ashley Berthelot, 225-578-3870 or

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