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TROY Magazine
13
Dr. Stephen Landers is no stranger to the smallest life forms of the Gulf
of Mexico. A professor in Troy University’s Department of Biological and
Environmental Sciences, Dr. Landers has been collecting data on meiofauna, the
microscopic animals that inhabit the sandy floor of the Gulf, since 2007. So when
the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in 2010, becoming the largest accidental
marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry, Dr. Landers’ previous
research paved the way for impact studies on the Gulf ’s ecosystem.
“We started doing this research and taking undergraduate students with us in
2007, and when the oil spill happened, we realized we had three years of pre-spill
data,” Dr. Landers said.
Dr. Landers learned last month that his research was one of 19 grant proposals
funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to the tune of $650,000. The
research, “Analysis of continental shelf meiofauna in the Northern Gulf of
Mexico: Effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill investigated during a long-term
community study,” will be conducted over a three-year period.
“The research project is aimed at understanding the sea floor and the microscopic
animals that live in the sediment,” Dr. Landers said.
Dr. Landers’ research group, which also includes Dr. Martin Sorensen of the
University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark, will collect
marine sediments from many locations across the continental shelf in the north
central Gulf, and study the worms, shrimp-like animals and others in the sediment,
to better understand the community structure of those animals in polluted and
non-polluted areas.
The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative, established with funding by BP, received
629 letters of intent from applicants. Applications were evaluated for scientific and
technical merit by an expert panel.
“I’m very pleased and humbled to be chosen for funding given the intense
competition for these grants, and I’m looking forward to my work during the next
few years,” Dr. Landers said.
The team received rapid response funding in the amount of $35,000 from the
Initiative in 2011 for preliminary data collection.
That data and the data from the continued research efforts will be collected by
traveling on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ships. A pair of
Troy University students is collecting data during trips this fall.
Nathan Barron, a junior from Troy enrolled in the biology program with a
concentration in biomedical sciences, collected data aboard the NOAA ship
Gordon Gunter in October. Craig Schimmer, a graduate student from Ozark
who is pursuing his master’s degree in environmental and biological sciences, will
make his third data collection trip aboard a NOAA vessel in November. Schimmer
became involved in the meiofauna project as an undergraduate student and has
remained involved through his graduate studies, Landers said.
Dr. Kewei Yu, an assistant professor of biological sciences in his fourth year as a
member of the TROY faculty, will assist Dr. Landers in analyzing samples.
Dr. Landers earned his Ph.D. in 1990 and his master’s in 1985 from North
Carolina State University and his bachelor’s degree in 1983 from Iowa State
University. He has been a member of the Troy University faculty since 1993.
Lusk is a university relations coordinator.
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