Crews from the USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center (SESC) and other USGS Science Centers in the Southeast conducted rapid assessments of conditions in the Gulf before oil made landfall to gather "pre-oil" baseline data that documents conditions in coastal Florida. This will provide data for analyzing the biological impacts of oil.
Petrochemicals in Coastal Waters
To assess pre-oil baseline levels of petrochemicals in the waters off Florida's coastline, USGS scientists deployed semi-permeable membrane devices (SPMDs) around Florida in advance of oil landfall from the Deepwater Horizon incident. SPMDs were developed at the USGS to measure fat-soluble chemical compounds in waterways. For more information about SPMDs, visit: http://www.cerc.usgs.gov/pubs/center/pdfDocs/SPMD.pdf
Sea Floor Conditions (Benthic Samples)
As part of the effort to sample and document pre-oil baseline conditions, USGS scientists are assessing organisms that live in the near-shore seafloor of the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida shorelines. Scientists from USGS Water Science Centers in each of those states collected samples from the beach and near-shore zone of the coast. Biologists from SESC will compare the number and types of organisms, known as benthic infauna, found in these samples before and after the arrival of oil on the beach.
Coastal Habitats (Aerial Photography)
USGS captured more than 350 miles of Florida's coastline, from Cedar Key to Flamingo, with over 9,800 aerial photographs. Scientists from SESC teamed up with geologists from the USGS St. Petersburg Science Center to use technology that synchronizes imagery with GPS locations.
The aerial photographs document baseline conditions along Florida's coastline in advance of the arrival of oil from the Deepwater Horizon incident. Altogether, flight paths on all of the USGS pre-oil reconnaissance flights covered parts of 11 National Wildlife Refuges, two units of the National Park Service, and numerous State of Florida Parks and Aquatic Preserves. In addition, the images document the condition of Florida's mangrove forests before the arrival of oil, allowing researchers to separate the oil impacts from the earlier impacts that the January 2010 freeze had on Florida's mangroves.