AUBURN – The April 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the waves of tar balls deposited on the beaches shortly thereafter prompted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to produce a tar ball fact sheet. Among the factoids was one stating that those sticky, coin-sized clumps of weathered oil, though unsightly and annoying, are not a human health hazard.
But new research findings out of Auburn University indicate that tar balls are reservoirs for a multitude of bacteria, including at least one pathogen that can cause life-threatening sickness in some humans.
AUBURN – Stephen “Ash” Bullard, assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures in Auburn University’s College of Agriculture, recently received a $145,000 National Science Foundation for Rapid Response Research grant for work related to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The 12-month study will be conducted by Bullard and Middle Tennessee State University biology professor George Benz. Beginning this month, the researchers will study parasites of fish as biosensors to learn how the toxic effects of the spill impact the marine and coastal environment of Alabama.