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Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314-7796


SharkBytes Archives


Division of Public Relations and Marketing Communications
Nova Southeastern University
3301 College Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33314-7796


NSU Receives Additional Grant for Projects Related to Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

NSU Receives More than Half a Million Dollars to Study Marine Ecosystem



FORT LAUDERDALE-DAVIE, Fla. – When it occurred on April 20, 2010, scientists and marine biologists knew almost immediately it was one of the worst environmental incidents in human history. Almost as soon as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was capped, researchers set about studying the immediate and long-term effects it had on the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.

NOAA DWH Photo 1

Photo Credit: NOAA – Deepwater Horizon

To that end, the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) was formed to provide grant funding to researchers studying the effects of the oil spill. The funds came from $500 million committed over a 10-year period with the sole purpose of creating a broad, independent research program to be conducted at research institutions primarily in the U.S. Gulf Coast States.  Over the years, many Nova Southeastern University researchers at the Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography have received grants to further their work – and additional funds were awarded for ongoing studies. The newly funded research project is:


TITLE – “Deep-sea Risk Assessment and Species Sensitivity to WAF, CEWAF and Dispersant”

Principal Investigators (PIs) – D. Abigail Renegar, Ph.D.; Tammy Frank, Ph.D.; Bernhard Riegl, Ph.D., working in conjunction with researchers at Texas A&M University

Amount – $590,000 (anticipated) over three years

Summary – Despite intense research effort into the ecological consequences of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill, many questions remain regarding the current health of the ecosystem, and what this disaster can teach us for responding to future spills. One important component of the Gulf ecosystem that has received relatively little attention is the deep-water column micronekton (e.g., shrimp, fish and squid) and plankton (amphipods, copepods) etc. inhabiting depths from 200 – 1,000 m.

These organisms are key trophic intermediates in deep-sea food webs, and represent a major trophic link between deep-water and shallow-water ecosystems. These animals are involved in one of the largest animals migration on earth, during which huge populations of animals migrate from the mesopelagic zone (deep-sea) into the epipelagic zone (shallow waters) on a nightly basis, forming massive sonic scattering layers that can be picked up on shipboard sonars.   There is evidence of variable, yet distinct, petroleum/dispersant incorporation into shallow water zooplankton through polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) accumulation and isotopic carbon depletion, which would not only affect their survivorship, but also may be accumulated in their predators. Mechanistic studies on the effects of petroleum and dispersants are rare for deep-water organisms, due to the difficulties in collecting live animals that will survive in the laboratory for any length of time.

In order to better understand the ecosystem effects of petroleum and dispersants, both alone and in combination, and to support the interpretation of process-based studies in response to the DWH spill and future events, NSU researchers will conduct a series of studies using a range of individual hydrocarbons as well as WAF, CEWAF and dispersant aimed at understanding toxicity in several ecologically important deep-sea zooplankton/micronekton. The mesopelagic taxa to be investigated are a critical component of the Gulf ecosystem, most notably in their role connecting biological processes occurring at depth with those in the surface waters. This data will be of immediate use to those conducting process-based studies in the Gulf by allowing more definitive incorporation of mesopelagic animals into their data interpretation. It will also inform those designing data collection programs in response to future spills in the Gulf and elsewhere as to what aspects of deep-sea micronekton and zooplankton biology are critical parameters to measure in order to capture the response in these organisms


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About Nova Southeastern University (NSU): Located in beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is a dynamic research institution dedicated to providing high-quality educational programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional degree levels. A private, not-for-profit institution with more than 24,000 students, NSU has campuses in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Miami, Miramar, Orlando, Palm Beach, and Tampa, Florida, as well as San Juan, Puerto Rico, while maintaining a presence online globally. For more than 50 years, NSU has been awarding degrees in a wide range of fields, while fostering groundbreaking research and an impactful commitment to community. Classified as a research university with “high research activity” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, NSU is 1 of only 37 universities nationwide to also be awarded Carnegie’s Community Engagement Classification, and is also the  largest private, not-for-profit institution in the United States that meets the U.S. Department of Education’s criteria as a Hispanic-serving Institution. Please visit www.nova.edu for more information.


About NSU’s Halmos College of Natural Sciences and Oceanography: The college provides high-quality undergraduate and graduate (master’s and doctoral degrees and certificates) education programs in a broad range of disciplines, including marine sciences, mathematics, biophysics, and chemistry. Researchers carry out innovative basic and applied marine research programs in coral reef biology, ecology, and geology; fish biology, ecology, and conservation; shark and billfish ecology; fisheries science; deep-sea organismal biology and ecology; invertebrate and vertebrate genomics, genetics, molecular ecology, and evolution; microbiology; biodiversity; observation and modeling of large-scale ocean circulation, coastal dynamics, and ocean atmosphere coupling; benthic habitat mapping; biodiversity; histology; and calcification. The college’s newest building is the state-of-the-art Guy Harvey Oceanographic Center, an 86,000-square-foot structure filled with laboratories, offices, seminar rooms, an auditorium and indoor and outdoor running sea water facilities. Please visit cnso.nova.edu for more information.


February 3, 2016

Joe Donzelli | Office of Public Affairs
954-262-2159 (office) | 954-661-4571 (cell)
jdonzelli@nova.edu | www.nova.edu