USF examines health of Gulf of Mexico in aftermath of oil spill

- A team of scientists and students from the University of South Florida have spent the past seven years looking at what lies beneath the Gulf of Mexico since the 2010 Deepwater Horizon environmental disaster.

"We found a big contrast in the type of species that exist in the Gulf because the environmental conditions are different and we've also taken a number of samples to look at oil contamination," said lead researcher Dr. Steven Murawski.

BP settlement money partially paid for the researchers' work. They've made some surprising discoveries.

"One of the things that was kind of surprising to us is the predominant species we found in the Gulf are actually sharks and so we've got like 30 different species of sharks that we've encountered in the Gulf of Mexico," said Dr. Murawski.

And that's not all.

"In the northern Gulf, where Deepwater was, we've seen the contamination levels going down. In other parts of the Gulf, they are either slightly contaminated or in some cases, even more contaminated so there's a real contrast all over the Gulf in terms of baseline contamination," said Dr. Murawski.

They hope this exploration prevents future disasters.  

"If we're going to allow drilling in those highly sensitive areas we need to know what's there. We need to know how it's contaminated now and we need to know what kind of policy should we put in place to reduce the likelihood of an accident and actually respond better in the event of a Deepwater spill there," Dr. Murawski added.

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