Reports have discussed whether BP's use of dispersants simply transferred damage from the more visible onshore wildlife to underwater critters to hide the disaster. Add into the deadly oil mess the methane, methanol, and the "drilling fluids [that] add their own frightening recipe to the disaster: arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, barite, fluoride, chrome lignosulfonate, vanadium, copper, aluminum, chromium, zinc, radionuclides, and other heavy metals." The EPA estimates that drilling fluids will remain a "threat to the seafloor and surrounding waters for up to 40 years."
BP has been quite successful in covering up so much of the environmental damages by restricting media access, buying scientists, and fudging/hiding/nondisclosing the facts. But the Smithsonian Museum has the data to prove some of the unseen underwater damages and a means to monitor recovery.
Julia Whitty of Mother Jones wrote yesterday about "The BP Cover-Up": "BP and the government say the spill is fast disappearing -- but dramatic new science reveals that its worst effects may be yet to come." Whitty describes the different underwater zones, the critters that live in these zones and how the oil, dispersant, methane and drilling fluid might impact the interconnected marine food web where life in deeper zones supports critters living in other zones:
The emerging picture is one of an incalculably complex, finely tuned, and delicate interaction between predators and prey, chemistry and light, currents and water column, night and day. Some semblance of this spatial ballet, played in weightless three-dimensional darkness, has likely been part of the oceans since the oceans were brought to life: layers of life gathering in extremely high densities to feed or to avoid being eaten.
So what happens if you add millions of gallons of oil, dispersant, methane, and drilling fluid into the dense mix?
"We know that the deep scattering layer in the Gulf of Mexico—like the DSL [deep scattering layer] everywhere—supports huge numbers and biomass of life," says Benoit-Bird, who has spent time studying the Gulf's sperm whales. "We know the DSL is super important to the life of those waters. We know it's constantly on the move, not only up and down, but inshore and offshore, back and forth, every day and every night. This greatly increases the likelihood that any given animal or layers of life will be exposed to the pollutants at some point in the course of their travels. And each of these exposures will cascade up and down through the food web."
There are already indications of some impacts, such as this video showing underwater oxygen loss:
Fortunately, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History will play a key role in assessing damages of the BP oil gusher and assisting recovery. To determine the full impact and damages caused by the BP oil gusher on our ecosystem and guide its recovery, we need to have basically an inventory of all the creatures and critters that lived in the water before BP's actions caused the gusher. While the Smithsonian has art collections shown to the public at the museum, the "vast majority" of its collection is for scientific research.
The Smithsonian has around 500,000 samples of 15,000 different species from the Gulf waters on its warehouse shelves of specimens of sea critters, including crabs, sea urchins, squid, coral, and fire worms in iridescent blue and green colors. (BBC video at link)
This collection can serve as a baseline to measure the BP gusher's impacts on the Gulf ecosystem, telling us what was living in the Gulf before the gusher, and sometimes also quantify these populations. (CNN video at link)
Scientists "pulling a creature from the Gulf can use the Smithsonian's collection to compare its size, body chemistry and other characteristics to a specimen collected before the catastrophe." This will enable scientists to document the changes occurring over the next several years from this horrendous attack on their world.
The Smithsonian has a collection in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology that includes a page for the Deepwater Horizon disaster. If you download the Google Earth plugin at this link, you can explore the mappings for oil plumes and critters. Minerals Management Service (MMS), now BOEMRE (Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement), has for years collected these samples to "help predict the potential impacts of future oil/gas explorations." Since 1979, the specimens have been deposited at the Smithsonian.
In the Gulf of Mexico, over 57,000 invertebrates (points on the map) from 5,789 distinct collecting sites from 14 MMS survey programs (point colors) have been cataloged. Since the Deepwater Horizon incident in late April, Collections staff have updated the files to reflect the latest areas affected by the spill. "The points on the map represent less than half of our Gulf of Mexico holdings, the rest--approximately 75,000--still need to be processed and cataloged," said Bill Moser, museum specialist.
This link shows 91 pictures and a brief description of some of the critters in the Gulf.
Days after the BP gusher happened, the Smithsonian scientists started creating a digital map to show where each critter was collected in the Gulf and this information can be used to establish the facts necessary to establish damage claims, or refute them:
"Shrimpers are going to say, 'We're just not seeing any big shrimp any longer.' Then we'll go back to these collections and say the average size of shrimp prior to the spill was this," Coddington said, surrounded by thousands of jars containing worms and other Gulf creatures preserved in alcohol in a suburban Maryland warehouse. "It will come out which ever way it comes out. Facts help everybody."
We can take action to both help fund recovery and encourage activism by 11-year old Olivia Bouler, a "budding orinthologist," who used her artistry to draw this grosbeak and raise more than $70,000 to protect pelicans, manatees, whooping cranes and other birds.
Olivia is doing 500 original drawings of birds. You can view more her work at her Facebook.
You can donate to her project here at the AOL Artists site.
She is also selling her work at CaféPress that has a drawing of a Puffin by her younger brother, Jackson, age 7 on items like a tote bag and T-shirts.
thanks to boatsie, we have hyperlinked schedule
Gulf Recovery Blogathon Calendar (All times Pacific)
Wednesday August 11
3pm Daniel Kessler (Greenpeace)
5pm Patriot Daily
6pm Project Gulf Impact
Thursday August 12
4pm Bill Mckibben
6pm Project Gulf Impact
Friday August 13
1pm La Feminista
2pm Pam La Pier
4pm Meteor Blades
5pm Laurence Lewis
6pm Project Gulf Impact