While studies conducted to date in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill represent a significant step forward in our understanding of oil-associated toxic endpoints in cetaceans, many questions still remain unanswered.

Background and problem

The goal of this consortium is to address several of the most important scientific questions that have emerged but remain unanswered with respect to overall physiological impacts of the DWH oil spill in cetaceans, and then to synthesize that information, along with new information that has been collected since prior GoMRI and NRDA studies were ended, to model the current condition and future recovery timelines for key populations.

How CARMMHA addresses problems

CARMMHA will use a cross-discipline combination of laboratory, field, and modeling projects to provide a comprehensive understanding and synthesis of the health impacts of oil-associated chemicals on cetaceans. In addition to reports and manuscripts about the biological mechanisms by which DWH oil was toxic to cetaceans, CARMMHA will also produce a suite of models that will integrate available information collected prior to the spill, immediately following the spill, and over 8 years after the spill, to demonstrate where population-level impacts have occurred and to reassess the current recovery trajectories. Resource managers and the scientific community will be able to use our documentation of physiological toxicity mechanisms and model outputs to improve marine mammal restoration, management, and science.

Our objectives:

  • Conduct innovative veterinary and/or laboratory studies to address priority scientific questions related to health effects of oil exposure in dolphins that have emerged from prior studies;
  • Integrate data from lower taxa to understand the potential indirect effects on dolphins from ecosystem changes that occurred before, during, and after the DWH spill in Gulf of Mexico (GoM) bays and sounds;
  • Fill a critical information gap related to the current health status of dolphins outside of the previously studied bays and sounds following the DWH oil spill;
  • Apply state-of-the-art modeling approaches to synthesize all available data and information from prior and on-going studies, as well as new information from the above objectives, to develop new population recovery trajectories for multiple cetacean stocks.