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RESTORE Act Award Shines Light on Deep-Sea Fauna in the Gulf of Mexico

OCTOBER 28, 2019 — The deep-pelagic is both the largest and least-understood habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. Dan Hahn, of OR&R’s Assessment and Restoration Division is on a diverse team of federal and academic scientists working to better understand the abundance and diversity of life in these dark waters.

The team, led by Tracey Sutton, was recently awarded $2.8 million from NOAA’s RESTORE Science Program to support this important research. 

By using midwater nets and sound waves to sample the deep-pelagic region in surveys across the Gulf, the team will be able to analyze trends in abundance over time. The research enhances an unprecedented time series that was initiated during the Natural Resource Damage Assessment for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and continued through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative's DEEPEND consortium. The team will also look at the size-frequency, genetic diversity, and petroleum contamination concentrations of deep-pelagic creatures.

This work is important to develop baseline data for this little-understood habitat. When disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happen, researchers need this “before” baseline to compare the “after” assessment to. This allows scientists to quantify injuries to the environment after oil spills. 

This award will provide critical information about the deep-pelagic environment to natural resource managers, allowing sound science to guide decisions in the Gulf of Mexico. The full project description is available online. 

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Last updated Friday, November 1, 2019 4:19pm PDT