Nearly five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, scientists are still working to determine the full extent of the 87-day spill on the Gulf of Mexico’s diverse ecosystem. Given recent assertions that the spill caused a continued wave of dolphin deaths, a research team headed by a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette is heading back into the water.
The Advocate reports that the team will be led by Natalia Sidorovskaia, a physics professor at UL Lafayette who specializes in ocean acoustics. The research team, consisting of 25 scientists and students, is returning to the Gulf to study marine mammals. Thanks to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, the project has received a grant for $5.2 million.
Back in 2010, the team of scientists used sonar recordings to determine the location of various species, all of which have unique sound patterns. The researchers were able to determine that sperm whales began to avoid the heart of the contaminated area, but beaked whales failed to distance themselves from the spill site. The team also conducted research in 2001 and 2007, which will provide the scientists with ample background to determine the effects of the BP spill on local whale and dolphin populations.
Once the team concludes its research, it plans to use specifically allocated funds to develop an interactive contribution to the Lafayette Science Museum’s ocean exploration.