Dispatches from the Gulf: Film examines the effects of Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster may no longer be a buzzword in the media, but the effects of history’s largest oil spill on the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico are still on the minds of marine scientists around the world. Gulf seafood seems to be recovering, but biologists are keeping a close eye to the seafloor, where much of the oil has settled into the sand. Take a closer look at the lingering effects of the spill Tuesday night at the Houston Museum of Natural Science with a special screening of the science documentary Dispatches from the Gulf.

This April 20 will mark the sixth year after the massive failure and subsequent explosion of the Deepwater Horizon, also known as the Macondo Prospect, an offshore drilling platform 50 miles off the coast of Louisiana. The blast claimed the lives of 11 workers and from a depth of 5,000 feet, pumped more than 200 million gallons of crude oil and natural gas into the Gulf over a period of 87 days. A month after the disaster, BP, the operator of the prospect, announced it would commit $500 million over 10 years to the study of the effects of the spill.

GULF OF MEXICO - APRIL 21:  In this handout image provided be the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans, Louisiana.  An estimated leak of 1,000 barrels of oil a day are still leaking into the gulf. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon's 126 person crew. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)

GULF OF MEXICO – APRIL 21: In this handout image provided be the U.S. Coast Guard, fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico on April 21, 2010 near New Orleans, Louisiana. An estimated leak of 1,000 barrels of oil a day are still leaking into the gulf. Multiple Coast Guard helicopters, planes and cutters responded to rescue the Deepwater Horizon’s 126 person crew. (Photo by U.S. Coast Guard via Getty Images)

In addition to the tragic loss of life, many environmentalists expected a total collapse of the ecosystem leading to further economic effects in the fishing and seafood industry, yet as early as five years later, CNN reported fish landings had returned as well as the oyster population.

“According to the Food and Drug Administration, tests on edible seafood show no excess hydrocarbons in the region’s food supply,” Drew Griffin, Nelli Black and Curt Devine of CNN.com reported. “The spill’s effects on other species are less clear. … But perhaps the greatest unknown is what, if anything, millions of gallons of oil on the deep seafloor are doing to the overall environment of the Gulf itself.”

Our own Associate Curator of Malacology Tina Petway is one of the scientists keeping watch. She flew over the disaster while the oil was still free-flowing, visibly bubbling above the surface of the water from the break at depth. To her, the Texas coastline is the least of her concerns.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster created an oil slick visible from space.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster created an oil slick visible from space.

“The oil can wash up in globs, which is bad for folks walking or playing on the beach,” Petway said, “but the real problem is that the oil stays in the environment even though they have removed a huge quantity of it. A lot of it has sunk.”

On the bottom of the Gulf, the oil has created a mat of tar, leaving the sand impenetrable to oxygen and light, Petway explained, eliminating everything beneath the mat from the habitat. Chemicals from the oil are leaching into sandy and muddy seafloors, making hydrocarbons difficult, if not impossible to dissolve or wash away.

“Just because you don’t see anything on shore anymore doesn’t mean it’s not still out there,” Petway said. “Ongoing research is being done as to the effects, and it is constantly being updated.”

Watch the screening of the science documentary Dispatches from the Gulf Tuesday, Feb. 9 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wortham Giant Screen Theatre at the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The film will recap the unprecedented response effort following the disaster and delve into the research of the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI). Tickets $18, members $12. For one night only!

You can learn more about the delicate Texas coastal ecosystem at the Hamman Hall of Texas Coastal Ecology.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 2/1-2/7

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Tracey (age 8).

Block Party 9

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Lecture – Tracking a Killer: The Origin and Evolution of Tuberculosis
Tuesday, Feb. 2
6:30 p.m.
In 2014, tuberculosis (TB) surpassed HIV as the leading cause of death from infectious disease. TB has long been a scourge of humans; however, exactly how long has been debated. In this lecture Anne Stone examines the evolutionary history of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacteria that causes TB, focusing on the distribution of TB strains in humans in order to understand their relationships, assess patterns of pathogen exchange through time, and investigate how TB adapted to humans and other animals.
Sponsored by The Leakey Foundation.

Lecture – The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World by Oliver Morton
Thursday, Feb. 4
6:30 p.m.
The risks of global warming are pressing and potentially vast. The past century’s changes to the planet-to the clouds and the soils, to the winds and the seas, to the great cycles of nitrogen and carbon-have been far more profound than most of us realize. The difficulty of doing without fossil fuels is daunting, possibly even insurmountable. To meet the urgent need to rethink our responses to this crisis, a small but increasingly influential group of scientists is exploring proposals for planned human intervention in the climate system.

In the United States for a special lecture tour, Oliver Morton will explore the history, politics and cutting-edge science of geoengineering that may provide solutions, as well as address the deep fear that comes with seeing humans as a force of nature, and asks what might be required of us use that force for good to combat global warming.

Special Exhibition: Biodiversity in the Art of Carel Pieter Brest van Kempen Closes Friday, Feb. 7
HMNS at Sugar Land
Brest van Kempen’s meticulously executed paintings in rich jewel tones explore the variety of nature and attest to the artist’s belief that chief among nature’s hallmarks is its diversity. This widely acclaimed exhibition consists of 50 original paintings and preparatory sketches inspired not just by the beauty of the subjects, but also by their fascinating ecology and habitat.

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/25-1/31

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Juliauna (age 9).

block party 8

We also want to highlight another great #HMNSBlockParty creation by Jamie (age 2). 
block party 8 -2

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Film Screening – First Footprints with Peter Veth
Wednesday, Jan. 27
6:30 p.m.
Explore the story how people first arrived and thrived on the Australian continent. Startling new archaeological discoveries reveal how the first Australians adapted, migrated, fought and created in dramatically changing environments.
Join Dr. Peter Veth of University of Western Australia for the Texas premiere of the film First Footprints.
This is a one-night only event. This program is cosponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support from Schlumberger and the Houston Perth Sister City Association.

Lecture – Expression in Aboriginal Rock Art by Peter Veth
Thursday, Jan. 28
6:30 p.m.
One of the oldest living traditions on the planet, Australian Aboriginal rock art informs us about the very nature of cognitive origins. Dr. Peter Veth will explore why aboriginal tribes feel compelled to decorate their landscape and what meaning this art form holds for them. Perhaps creating art is essential to the human spirit.
Archaeologist Peter Veth is a professor at University of Western Australia who studies ethnohistoric and ethnographic artwork in an archaeological context. This lecture is cosponsored by AIA, Houston Society with support from Schlumberger and the Houston Perth Sister City Association.

Wildlife Photographer of the Year opens Friday, Jan. 29
Now in its fifty-first year, Wildlife Photographer of the Year is the international leader in innovative visual representation of the natural world. This prestigious competition and resulting exhibition stimulates engagement with the diversity and beauty of the natural world and thrills audiences around the globe.
This world-renowned exhibition, on loan from the Natural History Museum in London, features 100 awe-inspiring images, from fascinating animal behaviour to breath-taking wild landscapes.

 

 

Mark Your Calendars for these events happening at HMNS 1/18-1/24

Bust out your planners, calendars, and PDAs (if you are throwback like that), it’s time to mark your calendars for the HMNS events of this week!

Last week’s featured #HMNSBlockParty creation is by Jasmine.

block party 7

Want to get your engineering handwork featured? Drop by our brand-new Block Party interactive play area and try your own hand building a gravity-defying masterpiece. Tag your photos with #HMNSBlockParty.

Extended Hours at HMNS Hermann Park on Martin Luther King Day (Monday, Jan. 18): 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. 

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – La Virgen de Guadalupe
Tuesday, Jan. 19

6:00 p.m.
Going back to the 8th century in a struggle between Muslim and Spanish naval forces and on to the appearance in the Aztec capital in the 15th century, Virgin of Guadalupe was adopted as a symbol in Europe and the New World during times of friction. Through the artwork and artifacts on display, your guide will trace the increasing role the Virgin of Guadalupe played in society.

Behind-the-Scenes Tour – Out of the Amazon
Tuesday, Jan. 19

6:00 p.m.
HMNS has an unparalleled Amazonia collection which is made up of rare artifacts from thirteen tribes. Priceless pieces of the collection-ceremonial objects, masks, body costumes, headdresses and more-are on display in the special exhibition Out of the Amazon. Tour this temporary exhibition with HMNS master docents who share stories of everyday life among rapidly disappearing indigenous groups.

Class – Growing Fruit Trees in a Small Space
Wednesday, Jan. 20
10:00 a.m.
Homeowners with the smallest urban lots can grow fruitful gardens of increased variety and beauty. Instructor Angela Chandler will teach the techniques known as high density orchard, which enables the urban gardener to quadruple the variety of fruit they can grow without buying a single square foot of land. Maintenance is made easier by employing simple changes in the way home orchard management is approached. Practical and decorative techniques are will also be included. Fruits covered include stone and pome fruits, as well as tropical fruits, small bush fruits and berries.

Lecture – Terrorism, ISIS and Emerging Threats – Evolution of Terrorism Strategy by Brit Featherston
Wednesday, Jan. 20
6:30 p.m.
Most of the post 9/11 terrorism plots are foiled by the observant public and by an attentive local, state and federal police response. Hear how law enforcement tools have worked to protect us, and how enforcement techniques must evolve to meet the dynamic threats we will face.
Former police officer, Brit Featherston, J.D. is First Assistant US Attorney and Chief of National Security Division of the Eastern District of Texas US Attorney’s Office. He works with local, state and national law enforcement officials, emergency first responders and officials, and others on protection of our homeland.