LSU Biological Sciences Researcher Testifies about Oil Spill Findings at House of Representatives
BATON ROUGE –Department of Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Fernando Galvez testified before the House Committee on Natural Resources in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Oct. 12. He presented his findings, as well as those of his colleague Associate Professor Andrew Whitehead, on the lingering effects of the BP Deepwater Horizon, or DWH, oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico, particularly the impact it has had on the Gulf’s abundant killifish. This research, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is the first report in scientific literature on the biological effects of the DWH oil spill in fish.
At this hearing, Galvez relayed important facts about the cellular changes in fish collected from coastal Louisiana, effects that are ongoing nearly 18 months after the oil spill. His and Whitehead’s team have found that the gill tissue, which is important for maintaining critical fish body functions, appear damaged and show cellular changes diagnostic of exposure to the toxic components of hydrocarbons in resident killifish from oiled sites. Furthermore, while the fish are safe for human consumption, the magnitude of tissue, cellular and genetic effects seen in the fish from the oiled site in Louisiana suggest impacts on growth, reproduction, development and performance. This highlights potential ecological consequences for the killifish such as depopulation, reduced sizes and smaller life cycles. Effects like this could have a serious impact on the entire Gulf food chain.
At the hearing, Galvez also took the opportunity to promote the need for reliable sources of federal emergency funding for early-response scientific research following natural and man-made disasters. This funding would make it possible for transparent, cutting-edge and unbiased academic research to be conducted at the most critical times following such tragedies.
The day before Galvez presented his testimony, Sen. Bill Nelson, Fla., used portions of Galvez and Whitehead’s research on the Senate floor in his discussion of the continuing economic, environmental and ecological consequences of the DWH oil spill. Senator Nelson also emphasized the important role science has played in relaying these effects to public servants as well as to the local and national communities.
Galvez, a native of Canada, joined the biological sciences faculty in 2006. His promotion to associate professor with tenure will become effective in January. Whitehead, also a native of Canada, came to the department in 2005 after a postdoctoral stint at the University of Miami.
For a glimpse of Galvez’s testimony, go to http://resources.edgeboss.net/wmedia/resources/112/2011_10_12_fc.wvx.
A transcript of his testimony can be found at http://naturalresources.house.gov/UploadedFiles/GalvezTestimony10.12.11.pdf.
To view Nelson’s speech from Oct. 11, visit http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/SenateSession4938.