Educating the next generation in marine science with examples from Deepwater Horizon

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, starting 10 April 2010 and lasting until 15 July that year, was the largest in US waters in history. This highly impactful event offers lessons that can be used to train the next generation of marine scientists. In a pair of new articles in Current: The Journal of Marine Education a group of authors that include SAFS communications specialist Dan DiNicola outlines ways in which marine educators can bring the story of the oil spill to life, including assessing the impact of oil on fish swimming behavior and vision using “fish treadmills” with the aid of an online virtual laboratory; and highlighting new technological advances that came out of research on the effects of the oil spill.

“For the virtual lab, the RECOVER team wanted to create an online resource for teachers that put them in control of the same experiments we were performing in the lab,” said Dan DiNicola. “It’s really amazing to hear from educators who are using it in places like Colorado and Ohio, where they are introducing new marine species, concepts, and even the lasting impacts of the oil spill to students. It also allows the scientists to communicate their work and present the actual data from their experiments to students in a new way.”

A juvenile red drum swimming against a current in a swim tunnel respirometer
Dan DiNicola
A juvenile red drum (Sciaenops ocellatus) in a swim tunnel respirometer at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute. Findings show that when exercised in a swim tunnel, oil-exposed fish underperform healthy control fish. The oil-exposed fish cannot swim as fast or as long as healthy control individuals. In the ocean, this can have dramatic results on all facets of their lives, including avoiding predators, capturing prey, spawning, and traveling long distances in migrations.
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