Dispersion Research on Oil: Physics and Plankton Studies

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The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) will investigate the impacts of the oil, dispersed oil, and dispersant on the ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico and affected coastal States in a broad context of improving fundamental understanding of the dynamics of such events and their environmental stresses and public health implications. The GoMRI will also develop improved spill mitigation, oil and gas detection, characterization and remediation technologies.

• The DROPPS consortium brings together complementing experts from six institutions to investigate the breakup of crude oil patches into droplets, and the resulting droplet size distributions under several important conditions, such as
sub-surface plumes, under breaking waves, and in turbulent flows.
• Complementary studies focus on characterizing and modeling complex interfacial processes that cause the breakup of droplets in the presence of dispersants and bacterial colonies.
• We are measuring and modeling the transport of oil droplets in turbulent flows, including settling and dispersion/diffusion rates, encounter rates with marine particles and bubbles, and effects of attachment to particles on agglomeration and subsequent transport of the petroleum.
• Interaction of oil with hydrocarbon-degrading bacteria at oil-water interfaces is also being investigated, including formation and growth of colonies on surfaces, consumption rates, genetic traits of oil consuming bacteria and resulting changes to the oil properties.
• We are also investigating the interaction of suspended oil droplets with several species of marine phytoplankton and zooplankton, and with natural plankton assemblages, quantifying how planktonic organisms interact with minute oil droplets, their consumption of oil droplets and effects of plankton on the fate of this dispersed oil.
• Results will be incorporated into a meso-scale model for predicting the transport and fate of oil spills.

The DROPPS Consortium is composed of members from the above universities.
© 2012 Dispersion Research on Oil: Physics and Plankton Studies