Sun Sentinel: NSU’s oil spill study: 96 hours of staring at coral January 7, 2015

Sun Sentinel
By Ken Kaye
January 4, 2015

It will be about as exciting as watching grass grow.

But to help protect marine life against oil spills, two Nova Southeastern University researchers plan to monitor corals for 96 hours straight to see how they react to oil.

The information will be used by coastal authorities in case of a disaster similar to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

“Should they use a dispersant? Or is it better for corals to not use a dispersant?” said Abigail Renegar, an oceanographic scientist with the NSU Oceanographic Center. “These are the types of hard decisions that will need to be made.”

Over the next three years, the center plans to test how corals will react to various grades of oil and gasoline. Eventually, the experiments will shift to testing how corals react to oil dispersants, as their effect on marine life isn’t fully known and their use remains controversial.

Beginning Monday, Renegar and a research assistant will place a light oil, which can be the most toxic to marine life, into about 100 small tanks. Each will contain an individual coral.

Then each researcher will pull up a chair in the NSU coral nursery, one of the few in the world, and take turns monitoring the corals in 12-hour shifts.

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