Investigating the effect of oil spills
on the environment and public health.
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Funding Source: Year One Block Grant - Florida Institute of Oceanography

Project Overview

The Impact of Crude Oil and the Dispersant Corexit® on Three Key Gulf of Mexico Invertebrate Species

Principal Investigator
Florida Atlantic University
Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute


The Gulf of Mexico is a major source for the U.S. seafood industry. The impact of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the seafood industry has already been felt in many regions of the Gulf, not only with respect to mortality of important commercial species, but also due to closures of fishing grounds and oyster beds in anticipation of the potential health impacts on fisherman working in contaminated areas and on consumers of contaminated seafood. Unanswered questions include how quickly commercially important species will return to these areas, and what the long-term consequences of the spill on these species will be. 

The goal of this research is to determine the effects of oil and the dispersant, Corexit®, on the mortality, development, and growth of the larval, juvenile, and adult stages of three ecologically and economically important invertebrate species from the Gulf of Mexico. The queen conch, Strombus gigas, will serve as the model species for gastropods; the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, will serve as a model species for bivalves; and the white shrimp, Penaeus setiferus, will serve as the model species for crustaceans.  As all species consume phytoplankton microalgae during their larval stages, the effects of oil and the dispersant on microalgae will also be evaluated.  These baseline studies, as defined in category two of the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) quick start grants program, will provide a basis for long-term monitoring as well as insight into the potential for recovery of these species that will impact future fisheries and ecological management decisions. 

The specific aims of this project are:

  1. To determine the lethal concentration (LC50) and effective concentration (EC50) of oil and Corexit on various life stages of queen conch, oysters, and shrimp,
  2. To determine the LC50 and EC50 of oil and Corexit on  phytoplankton,
  3. To document the effect of oil and Corexit on growth and development of early life stages of queen conch, oysters, and shrimp and
  4. To document the effect of oil and Corexit on growth, development, and reproductive capability on juvenile and adult life stages. 

The aquaculture staff of Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Florida Atlantic University has extensive experience in the culture of these species, the determination of LC50 and EC50 values, and the assessment of cellular abnormalities and reproductive capabilities using histological techniques that is required for this study.

This research was made possible by a grant from BP/The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.