Bottlenose dolphins help a UCF-led research team

Photo by Steve Shippee, Graduate Student

UCF Biology Professor Graham Worthy and his research team are studying bottlenose dolphins in the Gulf of Mexico to determine how safe it is for humans to eat fish caught by recreational fishermen.

“Ultimately we want to see what the effects of the spill are on the dolphins,” Worthy said. “What they eat, we eat.”

The research project is funded through the $10 million dollars BP gave to the Florida Institute of Oceanography (FIO) Council after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The FIO is a union of 20 public and private marine science centers and institutes located in Florida. The FIO chose 27 research projects to fund with the BP backed fund totaling $9.5 million dollars in August.

Worthy and his research team aren’t just worried about the oil.

It has been estimated that anywhere from 186 million to 227 million gallons of crude oil entered the Gulf during the almost three months of the oil spill. In an attempt to clean the spill BP used an estimated 1.8 million gallons of chemical dispersants.

“We are also trying to determine if there are signatures of dispersants in the ecosystem,” Worthy said. “The impacts of the dispersants aren’t really known.”

Worthy will test the dolphins by conducting a small biopsy and comparing it to the data his team has collected over the past three years. The research team will also compare the previous habit use, movement patterns and general mortality of the dolphins with their current routines and statistics.

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