Deepwater Horizon Oil SpillGulf of Mexico, USA
In the spring of 2010 the Macondo wellhead blowout resulted in the tragic loss of 11 lives and the catastrophic release of more than 5 million barrels of crude oil and natural gas into the Gulf of Mexico. The impacts on coastal ecosystems, fish, birds, and mammals is well-documented. Based on this, public and scientific press assumed little hope for recovery in the Gulf’s deep-sea ecosystem, anticipating severe impacts and a decades-long recovery. However, SPI technology enabled INSPIRE scientists to see beyond traditional sampling depths and preconceived notions of benthic response, discovering signs of benthic recovery in the deep-sea one year after the spill. SPI allowed for samples to be collected more rapidly, more precisely, and at a greater density than what was feasible with traditional sediment sampling techniques such as core and grab sampling. INSPIRE’s unique approach to documenting benthic recovery presents new standards for monitoring offshore energy development, including environmental baseline studies, pre- and post-drilling evaluations, and environmental impact assessments following the decommissioning of wellheads.