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How Did the BP Oil Spill Affect Gulf Coast Wildlife? [Slide Show]

One year later, there are more questions than answers about the impact of the oil spill from BP's Macondo well on wildlife and ecosystems
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CRISIS AVOIDED?:

Billy Maher, a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries biologist releases a sea turtle after treatment for oil exposure last October. Transferring eggs or turtles to clean beaches or clean waters also helped avoid an apocalypse among endangered Kemp's Ridley sea turtles and four other endangered or threatened turtle species that live in the gulf.....[ More ]

TAR BALLS:

The biggest visible legacy of BP's Macondo well blowout is an increase in the number of tarballs on beaches throughout the Gulf Coast. Heavy machinery is used to comb the beaches and scoop up the top layer for cleaning elsewhere, pictured here working Grand Isle Beach in Louisiana, which remains closed to visitors.....[ More ]

MICRO-FISHING:

A 160-micron mesh net leading to a tiny canister allows scientists to sample for tiny plants and animals known collectively as plankton. Such plankton has been taking on oil, with unknown effects.....[ More ]

ROSETTE:

This canister of scientific paraphernalia tests the conductivity, temperature and density of the water. Other devices can also be added to sample for dissolved oxygen (to find dead zones) or fluorometers (to identify materials, like hydrocarbons, in the water).....[ More ]

HIDDEN SHELLS:

A good spraying reveals a host of tiny shells within the muck.....[ More ]

MISSISSIPPI MUCK:

The brownish-green waters of the Delta say two things: mud and algae—further out to sea the water suddenly turns blue. The mud brought up from the bottom is silty, with a lighter layer of brown at the top from a dusting of diatom shells.....[ More ]

DREDGING:

A very small mud grab or ponar grab, like the one pictured here, takes a sample of the top layer of the Houma Navigation Channel bottom.....[ More ]

BYCATCH:

When trawling for shrimp, everything else is bycatch—unwanted marine life—and there is a lot of bycatch. A short trawl brought up this juvenile flounder as well as blue crabs, catfish and more.....[ More ]

GOOD FISHING:

Even a short 20-minute trawl pulls up a profusion of catfish and other marine organisms, testimony to the richness of the ecosystem. That richness is a result of the nutrients, such as nitrogen, phosphorus and silica, carried by the mighty Mississippi River.....[ More ]

OTTER TRAWL:

Scientists—and fishermen—employ an otter trawl with a pair of doors at the front and a nearly two-centimeter mesh net behind it to capture much of what thrives on the bottom, particularly brown and white shrimp.....[ More ]

OILY MARSH:

Bay Jimmy in Plaquemines Parish remains one of the heavily oiled sites in Louisiana. Here, workers attempt to vacuum oil out its marshes without causing too much damage to the ecosystem. Such industrial attempts at cleanup actually did more harm than the oil spill itself in the case of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska.....[ More ]

OILED BIRDS:

Brown pelicans got a little browner, thanks to the oil spill, with potentially fatal results. Preening causes the pelicans and other birds to eat the oil as well as the hypothermia caused by oil's interaction with the bird's natural oils.....[ More ]

DEAD DOLPHINS:

This year an unusually high number of dead baby dolphins have washed ashore in Alabama and Mississippi—roughly 300 dolphins in all since April 20, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.....[ More ]

OIL INUNDATION:

By late May, oil from BP's blown out Macondo well began to reach the Louisiana coast, as captured here by NASA's Terra satellite. The largest and longest boom deployment ever was not enough to keep it off the coast and it even began to infiltrate the mouth of the Mississippi River, although large releases of fresh water from upstream storage kept the oil out of the river itself.....[ More ]

WORKING LANDSCAPE:

It can be hard to tell where the land ends and the waters begin in southern Louisiana—as well as what parts of the landscape are natural and which are part of nearly 50,000 kilometers of pipeline, channels and other infrastructure for the offshore oil and gas industry.....[ More ]

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