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Human Actions and the Sixth Mass Extinction

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We've Got A Bigger Problem Now
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We've Got A Bigger Problem Now

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon. Image courtesy of USGS,DOI

There's More Than Meets The Eye

In 2010 the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, resulting in the largest oil spill yet recorded in US history. It was three months before the resulting leak could be stopped, and by then, 210 million gallons of oil had spilled into the Gulf of Mexico. People knew this was going to be bad, but many people didn't realize it was going to hit ecosystems they never new existed.

No Duh's and Head Scratchers

If you need help scratching a mental itch, use the resources below:

  1. What ecological services do marsh grasses perform? How were they affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill? What was happening to these communities before the oil spill?
  2. Where does Sargassum occur? What kind of habitat does it provide for organisms? How was this habitat affected?
  3. Where do cold seeps occur? What is the energy basis of this community? How was it affected by the oil spill?
  4. Were you aware of the range of habitats that were affected by the oil spill? Does it surprise you that so many diverse communities were affected? How do you think episodes like this can be minimized in the future?
  5. How long do we think it will take before the full impact of the oil spill is realized? Does this number surprise you? Why or why not?


Controlled burns like this were conducted to try to minimize damage from the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey, Department of the Interior/USGS, U.S. Geological Survey/photo by U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Justin Stumberg , U.S. Navy

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