Albemarle Corporation, Ocean Alliance and the University of Southern Maine are working together to study the impacts of recent oil spills, natural disasters and collecting tissue samples from whales in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ten-person team aboard a 93-foot Odyssey sailboat is taking a short mid summer break from their 14-week scientific voyage and visiting Baton Rouge where Albemarle Corporation, the expedition’s primary sponsor, is located.
The sailboat is docked in the city to give Albemarle Corporation and the Odyssey crew a chance to meet on Friday and on Saturday, members of the crew were at the city docks downtown from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. discussing their work with the public.
When the crew spots a whale, a sample is taken and used for genetic testing and to grow cell lines. “The Gulf is kind of a microcosm of the larger marine ecosystem,” said Iain Kerr, CEO of Ocean Alliance. The goal is to perform sampling for five years to get an overall picture of the impacts last year’s oil leak had on whales — the top of the food chain — and the ecosystem of the deep water Gulf, he said.
Although it is too early to reach a conclusion, their initial results are showing some cell death and DNA damage cultured from the whales that are exposed to oil or dispersant.