Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Gales threaten to drive slicks inshore

Seven oil slicks from the sunken tanker Prestige threatened the Spanish coast yesterday, though officials insisted there was no evidence that its tanks had imploded to release a deadly cargo of 60,000 tonnes of fuel oil that went down with it.

"There have been no new oil spills since the boat went down," Arsenio Fernandez de Mesa, the government's representative in the north-western region of Galicia, said.

Of the seven known slicks, officials said one was two miles from shore, two were 40 miles away and four had formed 130 miles off Spain's north-west coast, where the ageing Prestige went down on Tuesday.

Carlos del Almo, environment chief for the Galicia regional government, said the next wave of oil, released just before the tanker sank, would reach the same 185 mile stretch of coast that was blackened by a previous slick at the weekend.

Gale force winds helped break the slicks into smaller parts and push them north and slightly east yesterday. But the fierce winds, gusting up to 60mph, were expected to change direction overnight and drive the oil towards land at a much faster rate.

Britain, meanwhile, insisted that Loyola de Palacio, the Spanish transport commissioner, retract statements claiming Gibraltar had failed to carry out security checks on the vessel. The government wrote to Ms Palacio, whose sister Ana is Spain's foreign minister, demanding she admit that she had been wrong to blame Gibraltar. Ms de Palacio not only refused to retract but repeated her criticisms.

"If EU legislation had been in place it would have meant the Prestige would have been subject to a vigorous inspection in Gibraltar this summer," she told reporters.

She added that she had asked Britain to provide a detailed account of how the EU's current rules were being applied in Gibraltar.

Ms de Palacio also angered Portugal by claiming the Prestige, which was in that country's air-sea rescue waters when it sank, was a Portuguese problem.

But, as tar-covered seabirds began to appear in northern Portugal, environmentalists there criticised Spain for towing the disabled tanker south and closer to their own shores.

"If the black tide hits the coast here it will cause an ecological disaster of unimaginable proportions," Luis Macedo, head of Portugal's Esposende nature reserve said.

A bitter debate continued to rage over whether the 60,000 tonnes on board the Prestige had sunk to the seabed and frozen into solid, unmovable blocks or would start leaking and float to the surface.

Cleanup crews were scooping sludge from the more than 90 Spanish beaches affected so far. The environment minister, Jaume Matas, estimated the damage caused so far at £30m.

In Madrid, the development ministry said it had started legal action against the Prestige's owners to seek compensation.

The EU yesterday released £80m of funds to pay compensation to the more than 1,000 fishermen forced to stay in port until further notice.


A Four Year Analysis of Vegetation Following an Oil Spill in a Freshwater Marsh

Wildlife Suffers As Oil Spreads Along Spanish Coast

Second ship exploits disaster by washing out tanks. Fresh slicks of black, viscous oil continued to wash up on to the beaches of north-west Spain yesterday as the fuel left behind by the sunken tanker Prestige began to spread south down the coast.
Comments on article "Wildlife Suffers As Oil Spreads Along Spanish Coast"
NameViews and CommentsDate
With Heldi think that that was horrible he harmed animals and people by the oil spill1/3/2006
TaraNot giving me what I need When I give the information to get it for me!!!!!!9/23/2003

Marine iguanas hit by oil slick

The unique marine iguanas of the Galapagos islands have been devastated by the aftermath of an oil spill, scientists say, losing almost two thirds of their number on one island since a tanker ran aground in January last year.
Comments on article "Marine iguanas hit by oil slick"
NameViews and CommentsDate
Angela QuamI think that killing birds is unpleasent and I think that the should be more care full about this. Please help these poor birds3/25/2005
Cece007i belive that marine life should be more well protected for children love nature n the animals that live in it!
n most children of life now day's want to become scientist or marine biologist! 4 instanse i just met a bunch of gurls at USM University of Southren Mississippi who want to become marine biologist n i'm one of those gurls!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
ErikaI need information about marines iguanas life.

A chemical investigation of the transport and fate of petroleum hydrocarbons in littoral and benthic environments: The TSESIS oil spill

Paul D. BoehmCorresponding Author Contact Informationa, Judith E. Baraka, David L. Fiesta and Adria A. Elskusa
aEnvironmental Sciences Division, ERCO (Energy Resources Co. Inc.), 185 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138, USA
Received 6 February 1981.  
Available online 26 March 2003. 


The fate of saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons discharged into the coastal Baltic Sea environment from the TSESIS oil spill has been studied in the acute and postacute (one year) phases of the spill. Periodic samples of Mytilus edulis (mussels) from eight littoral zone stations and Macoma balthica from nine soft bottom stations were obtained as well as sediment trap samples and surface sediment samples. Glass capillary gas chromatography and gas chromatographic mass spectrometry were used as the analytical tools to determine saturated and aromatic hydrocarbon composition and concentrations in these samples.
Sediment trap samples indicated that sizable quantities of chemically and microbially weathered oil were sedimented, and available for benthic uptake shortly after the spill. After initial uptake of sedimented oil (500 to 1000 μ/g dry weight), Macoma populations appear to have begun slow depuration through the first winter after the spill, but TSESIS oil was again introduced to the benthic stations studied during the following summer. Mytilus populations in the region were severely impacted by the oil. Initial depuration of spilled oil during the first month was rapid and nearly complete at all but the most heavily impacted stations one year after the spill. The post-spill depuration of assimilated hydrocarbons was characterised by a relative retention of alkylated dibenzothiophenes and alkylated phenanthrenes compared to their unsubstituted parent compounds and compared with the entire homologous naphthalene series.
These data suggest that petroleum hydrocarbons from the TSESIS spill have become a chronic source of degraded saturated and aromatic hydrocarbons to the soft bottom benthic communities. Petroleum hydrocarbons in the benthic environment from this spill appear to reside in the difficulty sampled and mobile flucculent layer at the sediment/water interface and may affect epifaunal communities for an extended period of time.

Corresponding Author Contact InformationAuthor to whom correspondence should be addressed. 


Effects of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill on Marine Bird Communities in Prince William Sound, Alaska

Ecological Applications © 1996 Ecological Society of America


The supertanker Exxon Valdez ran aground on 24 March 1989, spilling $41 \times 10^6$ L of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska. To examine effects of this oil spill on the marine bird community, we analyzed data from 11 survey cruises between June 1989 and August 1991. Cruises were conducted in 10 study bays differing in the magnitude of initial oiling. We gauged bird responses to the spill in terms of habitat use, measured by frequency of bay occupancy and species abundances as functions of initial bay oiling. We focused on community-level measures to obtain a broader perspective than can be obtained from studies directed toward individual species of concern. Effects of the oil spill on community measures were most apparent shortly after the spill but diminished rapidly. Species richness was significantly lower in 1989 than at the same season 1-2 yr later, especially in heavily oiled bays. Species diversity (log-series $\alpha$) was also significantly reduced in more heavily oiled bays in early summer 1989 and 1990, but impacts evident in midsummer and fall 1989 were absent 1 yr later, and there were no significant relationships between diversity and bay oiling after midsummer 1990. Species occurrence in bays was more restricted immediately following the spill than 1-2 yr later, and widespread species were less abundant in early summer and fall 1989 than at the same seasons 1 yr later. This latter pattern was reversed in the midsummer surveys, perhaps because spill clean-up activities attracted large numbers of nonbreeding gulls. We used cluster analysis to define six avian guilds based on ecological characteristics of the species. Species richness of several guilds of birds feeding on or close to the shoreline was negatively related to initial oiling level until early or midsummer 1990, but not thereafter. Of these guilds, the richness of a guild of winter visitant and resident species showed the greatest negative association with initial oiling. However, the richness of guilds of solitary or colonial species that dive and/or feed on fish showed no significant relationships with oiling at any time. Correspondence analysis based on bird community composition indicated clear differences between heavily oiled and unoiled bays in 1989, but overall community composition converged between these sets of bays in subsequent years. Our analyses indicated that the Exxon Valdez oil spill had significant initial impacts on marine bird community structure, although they were not evenly distributed among ecological guilds. Even during the first survey, many species were present in the most heavily oiled bays. Although a few species continued to show spill impacts in late 1991, none of the community measures indicated continuing negative oiling effects. This suggests that, at the community level, recovery was well underway, consistent with observations that seabird habitat had apparently returned to normal in all but a few localized areas by mid-1991. Seabird communities appear to have considerable resiliency to such severe but relatively short-term perturbations, possibly because birds move over a regional scale. It may, therefore, be important to consider regional processes in 

BP Relief Well Set to Intercept Damaged Well in Days

After finally capping the well last week, BP appears poised to have the first of its two relief wells make an attempt to intercept the damaged well in the coming days and expects to have the well safely shut down in a few weeks. Fears had risen recently when monitors detected oil seepage in areas near the blown out wellhead, but further testing showed the seepage was not from the damaged well.

Some small leaks had also been detected around the new well cap itself, but the volume is so small as to not be significant from a safety standpoint. Initially, the government wanted to remove the cap and resume pumping oil to the surface so that pressure within the well would not build to dangerous levels and potentially make containment impossible.

Indications from both BP and the US government - reliable sources indeed - are that the well cap is holding up well and that pressure levels within the well are at expected levels. With no large storms appearing on the horizon, it seems that BP is going to have a shot at reaching the damaged well with a relief well by the end of the month.

There is still risk that the relief well will not hit its target or that the process of killing the damaged well through the relief well will not go as planned. At the moment, however, the well is contained and appears to be fairly stable. Clean-up and relief efforts are ongoing at the surface level and will likely be under way for the next few years as the impact of the oil is felt and studied.

BP has already moved to sell assets in order to facilitate payment of the record fines that it will face in addition to the $20 billion fund that it set up to help victims of the oil spill.

Rough Seas from Tropical Storm Complicates Oil Response

Alex arrived earlier than any Atlantic hurricane in the last 15 years and is perhaps an ominous sign that this hurricane season will be especially active. With clean-up efforts already being overwhelmed by the volume of oil spewing into the Gulf, the arrival of high seas and winds have only made the impossible even more difficult. Fortunately, Alex is far enough from the oil spill zone and the site of the gushing pipe that efforts at the source of the spill are not believed to be impacted.

Of course, it's likely that they are, in fact, being impacted but that BP is choosing not to disclose exactly what is happening with the efforts at the leak in relation to the weather. In BP's official disaster response plans, there is no mention of contingencies involving hurricanes or tropical storms. Again, a massive oversight at both the corporate and government levels, as anyone planning large-scale operations in the Gulf of Mexico would certainly have to account for the potential weather issues in that part of the world.

And as the spill continues to spew oil into the Gulf, the most obvious questions still linger about why the pipe itself can't be capped and shut down entirely. Even with the considerable depths and pressures involved, we're basically looking at a plumbing problem. There are countless available strategies and techniques for capping high-pressure pipes, but none seem to be available to some of the best minds in the world.

Ocean circulation influencing the Exxon Valdez oil spill

Royer, TC | Vermersch, JA | Weingartner, TJ | Niebauer, HJ | Muench, RD
Oceanography. Vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 3-10. 1990. 

In March 1989, North America's largest marine oil spill occurred in one of its largest estuaries: Alaska's Prince William Sound. Observations of the spill trajectory serve to delineate the circulation within the sound and along the southern coast of Alaska. This region has very high rates of freshwater discharge and intense wind stresses: the average annual amount of fresh water entering the Northeast Pacific drainage system is at least 20% larger than the Mississippi River system, and the seasonal signals of wind stress and wind stress curl here are the largest in the North Pacific. Even as the oil was being released in the sound, it came under the influence of this coastal circulation. The spilled oil and subsequently released surface drifters have served as tracers that can be used to examine our knowledge of the processes affecting regional coastal flow. This knowledge might be applied to coastal processes elsewhere.

Descriptors: Article Subject Terms bay dynamics | coastal currents | estuarine dynamics | estuarine environment | ocean circulation | oil spills | pollution dispersion | tracers | water circulation | water pollution

BP Withheld Internal Estimates that Well Could Gush 2.5 Million Gallons Per Day

Obviously, BP doesn't know exactly how to handle a crisis the likes of which is unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico. Even a multi-national juggernaut like BP is not equipped to deal with the growing ire of the entire United States of America - still the most powerful and influential nation on earth, even if no longer the most loved or respected. As a result of dealing with this unprecedented disaster, BP has revealed itself to be dis-organized and bumbling when it comes to dealing with PR and exactly what to say and how to say it.

Perhaps the most damning piece of information to surface was the revelation in newly released documents explaining that very soon after the oil rig exploded, BP made internal worst-case estimates of 2.5 million gallons per day leaking from from the well-head. Those numbers were never disseminated and instead BP floated estimates of 60,000 gallons per day for some time and allowed other early government estimates to become mainstream estimates.

Obviously, BP knew every piece of information about the well - the size of the pipes, the pressure of the oil that it had pumped from the well and so on and so forth. So when the well exploded, the company clearly would have very easy access to the numbers necessary to generate accurate estimates of the oil flow. But instead they failed to be forthright about the size of the spill, perhaps gambling that they could stop it before any accurate third-party estimates could be obtained.

Because of the live video feed and the fact that the well has been gushing unabated for nearly two full months, BP was exposed for withholding the key information about the size of the spill. Now everyone has that information, even though that knowledge alone probably doesn't mean much at this point. It simply means that BP knew from the beginning just how bad the spill could be, but they didn't have the integrity to be honest about it.

The Tsesis Oil Spill: Its Impact on the Coastal Ecosystem of the Baltic Sea

Linden, O | Elmgren, R | Boehm, P
Ambio Vol 8, No 6, p 244-253, 1979. 13 Fig, 26 Ref. 

The Tsesis study describes an attempt to investigate the full spectrum of effects of an oil spill on the ecosystem of a rather sheltered coastal archipelago in the atidal brackish Baltic Sea. The study demonstrated a number of effects of oil on various types of organisms. In general, however, the impact seems to have been of relatively short-term nature in the pelagic system, a conclusion supported also by the results of the investigations following the Torrey Canyon and Argo Merchant accidents. Increases in primary production among phytoplankton in impacted areas have been observed earlier. The stimulation of primary production in the area affected by the Tsesis oil spill is probably related primarily to the higher phytoplankton biomass in the area. The observed decrease of zooplankton in the vicinity of the ship was undoubtedly due to the acute toxic effects of the oil. The results of the investigations of the effects of the Tsesis oil on littoral communities indicate severe acute effects on all major faunal groups. These results together with results from a study of a very similar spill in the Stockholm archipelago suggest that complete recovery of a littoral community under these circumstances will take two to three years. (Sinha - OEIS)

Descriptors: Oil spills | Water pollution effects | Ecosystems | Outer Continental Shelf | Baltic Sea | Coasts | Environmental effects | Tsesis oil spill | Soviet tankers

Damaged Oil Rig Spewing 42,000 Gallons of Oil Per Day into Gulf of Mexico

Originally, it was believed - or at least reported - that the damaged oil rig off the coast of Louisiana was not an active oil leak. The slick that had formed was reported to have been residual oil from the rig itself and the wellhead was believed to be stable. Of course, that has since been proven not to be the case. The wellhead is actively spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico at a rate of 42,000 gallons per day. And while that sounds like an enormous amount of oil, it's actually fairly manageable by environmental disaster standards.

Officials and clean-up crews are battling high seas and difficult conditions as they try to contain the growing spill. It's difficult to determine whether or not the slick will make its way toward land or if the majority of the oil can be collected and cleaned up at sea.

At this point, the primary objective is closing the wellhead and stopping the flow of oil into the Gulf. Deep-water robotic submarines are on the scene, trying to close valves designed to stop the flow of oil from the well. Unfortunately, the valves are located at least a mile below the surface and it is unknown whether shutting the valves will stop the oil. If the well suffered extensive damage, it may take months to drill relief wells to try to stop the flow of oil.

In the meantime, the environmental damage is only going to grow. Even if the oil doesn't make direct landfall, it's going to have an immediate impact on the marine life in the area as well as birds and other animals. It will likely be some time before officials have a firm handle on the extent of the damage to the local ecosystems.

Oceanography Current Events

Even the fact that oceans cover 71 percent of the total surface area of the Earth is not enough to provide you with the details of the biodiversity of these water bodies. The actual number of marine biome plants and animal species which inhabit these oceans goes way beyond the thousand mark, with several species waiting to be discovered as of today. The information provided in the number of oceanography current events articles which are published in the dailies and magazines is nothing as compared to what actually lies at the ocean floor. The life in the depth of these oceans is quite dynamic with a number of marine events taking place at any given point time.

Oceanography Current Events 2010

The marine biome, which consists of the five oceans of the world - i.e. the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Southern Ocean and the Arctic Ocean, covers approximately 71 percent of the total surface area of the planet Earth. The branch of Earth science which deals with the physical and biological aspects of these oceans is known as oceanography, marine science or oceanology. Scientists involved in oceanography keep a track of various events that occur in these oceans, and compile the data of these events. While some oceanography events and findings are astonishing, others are equally alarming. Either ways the occurrences in these oceans are quite interesting, and therefore shouldn't be ignored. Given below is a list of some of the most prominent current events in marine biology which is bound to leave you spell bound.

Oceans Encroaching Upon Land
Rising sea level, which can be attributed to rise in the surface temperature of the planet due to global warming, is threatening the low lying areas and small islands in various parts of the world. Global warming has been melting the glaciers and expanding the ocean water by heating, which, in turn, is encroaching upon the land. Maldives islands sinking and sea water encroaching on flood plains of Bangladesh are the best examples of this phenomenon.

Microbes are Disappearing
The microbes, which constitute for 90 percent of the ocean biomass, are disappearing at an alarming rate. These microbes absorb greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, in the oceans and thus play a crucial role in regulating the temperature of our planet. The alarming rate at which these microbes are dying only hints at the difficult times towards which we are heading.

Hypoxia in Oceans
The oxygen levels in ocean water is depleting, which has resulted in hypoxia in various parts of the Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Even though scientists have come across oxygen deficient pockets in oceans in the past, the rate at which these pockets are spreading has left these scientists alarmed. Studies in marine biology have revealed that the amount of oxygen concentration in ocean water in certain parts of the world has gone down by 34 percent over the last five decades.

Oil Spills and Oil Seeps
Oil spill is yet another issue which has been threatening various oceans of the world. While oil spills triggered by human error have been common over the last few years, the instances of natural oil seeps in certain parts of the ocean have also become quite frequent. Some instances of oil spills triggered by human error over the last year include Deepwater Horizon oil spill, Mumbai oil spill, Barataria Bay oil spill, etc. The best example of natural oil seep, on the other hand, is the Gulf of Mexico oil seep.

These were some of the most prominent events that have been occurring in the oceans over the last few years. Other than the above mentioned oceanography current events, extinctions of marine species, expeditions by various countries, are some of the prominent events which deserve a mention. The vast expanse of ocean biomes makes it difficult to keep a track of all the events that take place in them. That being said, the chances of we missing on some important events that took place in these oceans cannot be ignored. At the end of the day, we can take these events as signs of the problems we are likely to face in the future and put in some efforts in order to make sure that we don't contribute to the damage that is being induced upon the marine life.

Injury, regeneration and growth of Caribbean reef corals after a major oil spill in Panama

Guzman, HM | Burns, KA | Jackson, JBC
Marine ecology progress series. Oldendorf [MAR. ECOL. PROG. SER.]. Vol. 105, no. 3, pp. 231-241. 1994. 

We studied effects of a major oil spill in Panama on injury, regeneration and growth of subtidal reef corals over 5 yr. Corals exhibited much higher levels of injury, faster regeneration rates and slower growth on heavily oiled reefs. Concentrations of hydrocarbons in reef sediments were significantly positively correlated with amounts of coral injury and significantly negatively correlated with coral growth. The probable cause of persistently high levels of coral injury is chronic exposure to sediments mixed with partially degraded oil that are exported from mangroves onto adjacent reefs. Injury apparently results in a reallocation of resources to regeneration and consequently decreased investment in fecundity and growth. There was no evidence of coral recovery 5 yr after the oil spill.

Descriptors: Article Subject Terms biological stress | coral reefs | growth | injuries | marine pollution | oil pollution | oil spills | petroleum hydrocarbons | pollution effects | regeneration | sediment pollution | sublethal effects | Article Taxonomic Terms Diploria clivosa | Porites astreoides | Siderastrea siderea | Article Geographic Terms ASW, Panama

Did Federal Rule Changes Contribute to the BP Disaster?

The federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) is the government office that is responsible for regulating offshore oil rigs. As part of those regulations, oil rig operators are required to submit to the government a "blowout scenario" that details how a company would handle a major spill if a catastrophe occurred on a rig. The type of catastrophe that is now playing itself out in the Gulf of Mexico, where the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico on April 20, and sank, killing 11 workers.

The blowout scenario plans were supposed to require operators of oil rigs to estimate how much oil would be flowing from a well each day, and the total amount that might leak if there was a single incident. The plans should also explain how a spill would be stopped, what methods would be used, the amount of time it would take to stop a leak, how long the company would need to drill a relief well, and whether or not there was potential for a leak to stop on its own.

However, in 2008, the MMS changed its rules about blowout scenarios, saying that such plans were necessary only if certain conditions applied. For example, if a rig operator was going to install a facility on the surface to drill in water that was more than 1,312 feel deep, a blowout scenario must be filed. But according to BP spokesman William Salvin, the Deepwater Horizon project did not meet the established definition of "surface facility," and the MMS agreed. "The production platform is what’s considered a surface facility," said Salvin. "This was an exploratory well, not a production well." At the time the rules were changed, MMS said that BP met the conditions necessary for being exempted from having to submit a disaster plan, so the company had no specific plan for Deepwater Horizon. Savin has said in interview that despite the lack of a formal plan being submitted, the company was always prepared to handle a problem because of the detail in a 582-page plan they developed for the Gulf region to deal with a disaster on any of their rigs in that region.

However, the MMS has been criticized for a long time for being perceived as being too soft on the industry it is supposed to be regulating. In 2008, disciplinary action was pursued by the Interior Department against 8 employees of the MMS who were given lavish gifts and parties, and in some cases even had sex with some employees at the energy companies they were supposed to be regulating. The investigation found that employees in the Denver office of the MMS were engaged in a "culture of substance abuse and promiscuity," and MMS workers were required to undergo ethics training.

Brendan Cummings, a lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, told reporters that the exploration plan that was filed by BP for the Deepwater Horizon project did not analyze the risks of an oil spill in enough detail. On behalf of the Center, Cummings has filed suit against the government for another offshore drilling rig in Alaska, owned by Royal Dutch Shell. "The technology used on the now-sunken Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf was supposed to be the most advanced in the world, including various mechanisms to prevent or cap a blowout," Cummings said in filing the suit. "None of these mechanisms worked, and the state-of-the-art technology completely failed to stop the spill."

The lack of a plan being on record for the Deepwater Horizon is troubling, to say the least, because the drilling was being done in extremely deep waters and therefore a leak could be a catastrophic event. Many feel that the change in rules by the MMS resulted in an outrageous omission, and they were clearly not doing their job correctly, and that someone fumbled the ball terribly. In an exploration plan created by BP last year, the company discounted the chance of a catastrophic leak. In similar fashion, Shell created an environmental impact analysis regarding its Beaufort Sea underwater drilling plan. That analysis concludes that the possibility of a large spill of liquid hydrocarbon "is regarded as too remote and speculative to be considered a reasonably foreseeable impacting event."

Middle School: Science Activities for Middle School

Every once in a while, kids get bored of studying about science, the rules, and how they are implied to the real life. Whether it is chemistry, life science, physical science, or environmental science, books don't always make sense and the words get forgotten. As a parent, is there anything you can do about it? Are there any science activities for middle school kids, that can keep them interested and invoke the will to learn more? Yes, there is. In fact, there are tons of middle school science activities that you can perform at your home. So this weekend, instead of going out to the mall or playing video games, shop for some science project materials and start studying. Read more on homemade volcano science project.

Fun Middle School Science Activities

Give the kids of middle school some hands-on learning with exciting science activities to study from. Let them put all the theories and homework to good use. These science activities for middle school will test their skills and knowledge about the world around them. Read more on physical science projects.

How oil spills are harmful to wildlife?
We hear it on the television and radio stations about hundreds of volunteers cleaning the areas where the mess has been made due to oil spills. It is our responsibility to realize the dangers it could do now and in the future. These oil spills can result in animals getting soaked in them and then getting poisoned by trying to lick it off. This experiment will help your kids learn how to apply water, oil, and soap to a feather, and understand how difficult it is for oil to separate from it.

Materials Needed:
  • Liquid soap
  • Vegetable oil
  • Toothbrush
  • Corn oil
  • Feather

Get all the materials ready and make three charts by the name of "Absorbed", "Repelled", and "Changes" written on top of each. Ask him/her to make columns by the name of "Water", "Oil", and "Liquid Soap" on the left side of each chart. Take the feather and let him/her examine its structure. Now dip the feather in the oil and check if the feather has absorbed or repelled it. Check for any other unusual changes in the feather. Sprinkle some water over the feather and see if it absorbs or repels that as well. In a bowl, combine water and liquid soap. Using the toothbrush, try to take out the oil from the feather. Check what the results are and see how well he/she can clean the feather. Did the feather regain its original form?

How strong are a bird's bones?
Birds have the ability to fly because they have hollow, lightweight bones. But have you ever wondered how strong these bones need to be, even if they are hollow? For this experiment, your kid will have to see how strong can a hollow structure be.

Materials Needed
  • 3 printer papers
  • Paper plate
  • Pennies
  • Tape

First of all, make the concept clear that birds have hollow bones. If he/she already knows about it, then half your work is done. Roll the printer papers into 1 inch diameter tubes and tape the edges to make sure they don't unroll. These three tubes will be your hollow bones. Hold the tubes at equal distance and tape the paper plate over them. Now ask your kid to make an assumption as to how many pennies can the bones hold? Write down the estimate and start adding the pennies one at a time. Make sure the pennies are evenly distributed around the middle of the plate. This will keep the structure in balance. Keep adding pennies till the bones can't take the weight anymore and collapse. Did the estimate come true? Did the structure hold less or more pennies?

Can eggs bungee jump?
Bungee jumping is a fun sport and I am guessing that your kid might think so as well. But this experiment doesn't require him/her to bungee jump. We will use an egg to do the job and see if the we can answer our question.

Materials Needed
  • 1 egg
  • Pair of pantyhose
  • Pennies
  • Newspaper
  • Tape

The perfect location to perform the experiment is a tree branch or a ladder. Your kid will be lying on the ground as he/she looks up at the hanging egg. The distance between the hanging egg and your kid shouldn't be more than an inch apart. Measure the distance with the ruler. Before you begin, have him/her hold the egg in the right hand and pennies in the left hand. Till both the weights feel similar, keep adding pennies in his/her hand. Take those pennies and stuff them in one leg of the pantyhose. Take the other leg and tape it to the tree branch or ladder. Leave the pantyhose and check the distance between the end of the leg and the ground. The distance should be exactly the same as you had calculated before. Make any necessary changes if you have to. Now take the pennies out and place the egg in its place. Have your kid lie underneath the branch or ladder and let go of the pantyhose. Did the egg crack open inside the pantyhose and splatter all over his/her face?

For more science activities for middle school kids, go to:These were some of the science activities for middle school kids. These experiments are exciting and will never make your kid get bored. Come up with new and improved middle school science activities to keep him/her busy.

Port at Mercy of Oil Slick Prepares for Worst

Jose Manuel Trillanes wrapped his yellow oilskins tight around his body and pointed out to where gale force winds were churning up the Atlantic ocean beyond the small fishing port of O Grove.

"We know there's oil floating out there somewhere. If this storm brings it in, we might as well all emigrate," he said before stepping on board the blue-and-white painted Naveiro yesterday afternoon to do a second shift to gather mussels.

"Normally we only go out in the morning. But today we want to get as many mussels as we can in before any oil gets here," he said.

Jose Manuel, son and grandson of O Grove mussel gatherers, was not the only one talking of packing his bags if the sunken oil tanker Prestige, lying 130 miles to the west, spilled its deadly cargo into the shellfish-rich waters

Fear and panic continued to spread along the coast, despite the fact that the Prestige appeared to have taken most of its 70,000-tonne load of fuel to the sea bottom.

With the storm rolling in off the Atlantic, and mist banks obscuring views of the sea in many areas, rumours of numerous oil slicks in different directions provoked anger and dismay. Those slicks had been released before, or while, the tanker went down on Tuesday.

"There is a 30-mile-long slick coming up from Portuguese waters. When I saw the pictures on the television I felt absolute panic," said Francisco Iglesias, president of the town's 890-strong Fisherman's Guild.

Outside the guild's headquarters, the trees were being bent backwards by the force of the winds from the south-west, which were said to be pushing the oil inland at up to four miles an hour.

"It is going to come on to the coast somewhere. It could be here within hours. I am really scared about what might happen tonight. If it gets in here, then the whole town will have to close down," said Mr Iglesias.

Helicopters and spotter planes trying to track the oil spills buzzed overhead yesterday bringing in reports on the slicks which have already blackened a 100-mile stretch of coast to the north.

From his back pocket Mr Iglesias pulled a rumpled, hand-drawn map given to him by a French pilot who had overflown the area where the Prestige went down on Tuesday. "Look, the oil has broken into different slicks and they are all behaving differently," he said. "And there is a whole area of the sea that nobody has even looked at yet."

On the quayside, where fishermen were bringing the day's catch into the fish market from ranks of brightly painted boats, all the talk was about the Prestige and the Spanish government's bungling of the rescue operation.

"Our whole family lives off this boat and the sea," explained Jesus Pineiro, as he carted boxes of squid from the Diana VI. "My father, my brother and my cousin work with me on the boat. We all have families. If we can't fish, nobody will have anything to eat."

The same story was being repeated up and down the coast yesterday. Maria Dolores and Maria del Carmen Paz, two thick-armed sisters who go out every day at low tide with rakes and black rubber buckets to gather clams and winkles from the pristine beaches of the nearby island of Arousa, also spoke of emigrating.

"I have already lived in New Jersey," said Maria Dolores as she carted sacks full of clams into the market. "May be we will all have to go back. This is hard work. But we'll be out there tomorrow even if the storm comes in. This is how we live. Take it away and there is nothing left," she said.

Hundreds of small, wooden fishing vessels, some little more than rowing boats fitted with outboard engines, bobbed up and down in the island's port - a sign of the dependency of the 6,000 people who live here on the sea.

Francisco Vazquez, who owns half a dozen of the 250 square foot wooden rafts where thick knots of mussels are cultivated on strings dangling into the salt water, said the oil could ruin his livelihood without even entering the large sea loch where the rafts are situated.

"The small mussels which we use as seeds and from which we cultivate the rest are all on the rocks facing out to the open sea," he said.

"We should start going to get them in December, but if they get covered in oil, they will all die."

"If we're lucky," he added. "The wind will blow from the south and away from the shore. That way you'll get all the oil up north where you come from, in Britain or Ireland."

Long-term impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on sea otters, assessed through age-dependent mortality patterns

  1. Daniel H. Monson * , 
  2. Daniel F. Doak 
  3. Brenda E. Ballachey *,
  4. Ancel Johnson § , , and 
  5. James L. Bodkin *
+Author Affiliations
  1. *United States Geological Survey, Alaska Biological Science Center, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503; Department of Biology, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA 95064; and §United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Fish and Wildlife Research Center, 1011 East Tudor Road, Anchorage, AK 99503
  1. Communicated by Robert T. Paine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA (received for review October 17, 1999)


We use age distributions of sea otters (Enhydra lutris) found dead on beaches of western Prince William Sound, Alaska, between 1976 and 1998 in conjunction with time-varying demographic models to test for lingering effects from the 1989Exxon Valdez oil spill. Our results show that sea otters in this area had decreased survival rates in the years following the spill and that the effects of the spill on annual survival increased rather than dissipated for older animals. Otters born after the 1989 spill were affected less than those alive in March 1989, but do show continuing negative effects through 1998. Population-wide effects of the spill appear to have slowly dissipated through time, due largely to the loss of cohorts alive during the spill. Our results demonstrate that the difficult-to-detect long-term impacts of environmental disasters may still be highly significant and can be rigorously analyzed by using a combination of population data, modeling techniques, and statistical analyses.