Oil Spill Research Project Led by Mississippi Team of ScientistsBy Rhonda Miller | Published 05 Nov 2012 08:09pm |
A state-of-the research vessel studying the impact of the BP oil spill is in Pascagoula this week preparing for sea trials. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the project leaders are based at the University of Mississippi, with a team of scientists from around the world.
"Welcome to the main control room. Basically, it’s like mission control for NASA. Everything that happens we can see and watch from in here."
That’s Leighton Rolley, a marine technician from Wales who’s in the middle of computers and video screens that can show what’s happening on the floor of the ocean.
"The Falkor is equipped with a lot of different systems. So, we have our systems for mapping the sea bed. We’ve got other systems for monitoring where the ROV you’ve seen on the back deck is, under the ship."
The ROV or Remotely Operated Vehicle aboard the Falkor is part of the special equipment for research near the site of the 2010 explosion at BP’s Macondo well.
Leading the project is the University of Mississippi’s National Institute for Undersea Science & Technology. Ray Highsmith is executive director.
"We’re a blue water outfit. We work out in the area of the oil spill. We had a sea floor observatory established out there prior to the spill."
The three-year project is called ECOGIG, which stands for Ecosystem Impacts of Oil and Gas Inputs to the Gulf. It's funded by $20 million from BP. Highsmith says there’s a firewall.
"BP had nothing to do with selecting the proposals. They don’t have any daily interactions with us at all. We’re free to find what we find. This is like National Science Foundation science. We’re an honest arbiter of the truth here and we will report what we find. Period. "
Ian MacDonald is professor of Oceanography at Florida State University.
"Well, the oil spill happened in very deep water, 5,000 feet down. And what we’re trying to do is study how accidents like the BP blowout can affect that ecosystem." "And so, you will be going to the Macondo well site?" "That’s correct. We hope to be at the Macondo well site in a couple of days."
The first reports from the research project will be presented at a symposium in New Orleans in January.
Rhonda Miller. MPB News. Biloxi.
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