Tom Bianchi blogs from field work in the Louisiana wetlands and marshes
Tags >> hydrocarbons

Today we sampled the contaminated marshes which, in fact, appear to represent a relatively small fraction of the total marshes we observed in these regions of Barataria Bay.

Contamination of the marsh grassesPhoto right: marsh death behind the oil booms in Barataria Bay

As you can see in the photo there was significant marsh death in the oiled regions, however we already see new shoots of marsh plants beginning to occur.  Assistant Professor Alex Kolker from LUMCON, noted these new shoots of Spartina plants beginning to occur in these contaminated areas. While this is very encouraging in terms of marsh recovery, the amount of suspended particulates was considerably higher. Filtered water had a distinct oil smell which will likely result in higher dissolved organic matter concentrations, that can potentially allow bacteria to transfer these hydrocarbons to higher trophic levels in the marsh. 

This remains to be determined over the next few weeks as data is gathered at Texas A&M (Thomas Bianchi lab), LSU (Rob Cook lab), and Georgia Tech (Michael Perdue lab). 

Louisiana Fisheries and Wildlife research stationTomorrow, we will sample another contaminated site and then make our way back to LSU where the dissolved organic matter will be concentrated using reverse osmosis electrodialysis.

(Photo right: Louisiana Fisheries and Wildlife research station)

Overall, the fish activity, bird life and even crabs in the marshes seem more active that expected in the contaminated regions. Nevertheless, if the tissues of these animals continue to accumulate hydrocarbons that could impact higher trophic levels.   The graduate students at LSU (Paulina Kolic), Georgia Tech (Nelson Green and Yaoling Zhang), and LUMCON (Alex Ameen) have all been working diligently in sampling many thousands of liters of water from these sites.

Tomorrow, we do it again.

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