ORCA Ocean Research and Conservation Association
Oil swirls through the water in the Gulf of Mexico
An Urgent Plea From Edie
Download Letter

Get Involved And Help ORCA Save Our Ocean 
As a member of TeamORCA you'll get special opportunities to protect important marine ecosystems near you, our monthly e-newsletter and more.


ORCA's Response To The BP Oil Spill
One of the big challenges facing the BP oil spill response teams was monitoring the increasing toxicity levels in the ecosystem so that the true cost of the spill can be documented and appropriate mitigation protocols applied. Toxicology labs were overwhelmed with samples and the backlog continued to grow. ORCA's Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity (FAST) assay is a high-throughput, low cost solution. We partnered with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute to test oiled sediment samples from the Gulf of Mexico for toxicity. In addition, with support from concerned citizens, ORCA was able to collect baseline sediment toxicity measurements in the marine environment at the eleven inlets on the east coast of Florida from Sebastian to Miami.

Also during this time, ORCA integrated petroleum sensors with the ORCA Kilroys to provide real-time tracking of the oil. These measurements could provide the early notification needed to take action in time
to limit or prevent irreparable damage of our precious wetlands.

Long Term Impact Remains Uncertain
Two recent expeditions to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill site have provided conflicting views of the aftermath. Sediment samples collected by University of Georgia biologist, Samantha Joye, at a site 16 nautical miles from the Macondo well head site, revealed a thick layer of oil on the bottom. (see related video) By contrast a NOAA expedition that has been using the Woods Hole remote operated vehicle, Jason, has been sending back images of apparently healthy deep coral reefs less than 30 miles from the well head. (see reef images) While these images are reassuring, the long term impact remains uncertain and scientists are awaiting the results of shore-based laboratory tests to determine if the oil found by Joye originated from the spill and whether samples taken from the deep coral reefs contain evidence of hydrocarbons or dispersants.

How Kilroy Can Help
ORCA Kilroy arrays, by mapping flows, assist in determining when and where toxic pollutants, like oil spills, are entering important bodies of water. By design, the Kilroy Network simplifies integration of other environmental sensors, meaning commercially available sensors capable of measuring hydrocarbon and other chemical concentrations can be rapidly incorporated into the network. This enhanced Kilroy Network can act as the sentinel that will tell you exactly when pollutants have entered the area, in what concentration, and the direction in which the pollutant plume is heading.

As the oil spill has the potential to cause unprecedented environmental and economic damage, sound scientific evaluation will be vital to assess the impact as well as monitor any remediation efforts. ORCA’s Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity (FAST) program will allow us to quickly, and inexpensively monitor the toxicity of sediment and invertebrate samples collected from areas impacted by the oil. In fact, ORCA may be evaluating the first deep-water sediment samples collected from the area impacted by the oil spill. These samples will provide a baseline measure of the impact of the oil, and the dispersant used to bind the oil, on the marine environment, but there is much more work to be done.

Help us bring Kilroy and FAST to bear on this and future environmental disasters so that appropriate mitigation protocols can be applied where impacts are earliest and greatest. Your donations will further the development of measurement systems, mounting platforms, and chemical sensors necessary to provide
low-cost, rapidly-deployed monitoring equipment in areas that need it most.

Oil Spill Cruise Finds Field Of Dead Coral
A team of researchers surveying the depths of the Gulf of Mexico have found a large area of dead or dying corals and associated animals. Though the scientists caution that they cannot say definitively what caused the damage, they believe the limited evidence available points to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill as the culprit. Read Article

Dr. Widder and Strategic Sciences Working Group Continue Work
As a result of its first session, Secretary of the Interior Salazar has directed the group to continue its work, and scenario-building sessions of the Working Group will continue at a second session September 18- 24th, in New Orleans, Louisiana. During this second session, the working group will refine the technique, further advance the existing scenarios based on additional input and new information, and complete additional scenarios focused on mid to long-term recovery of the Gulf of Mexico as a coupled natural-human system.
First Session Article |
Second Session Press Packet

Blacktide.tv Webisode
How much of the 190 million gallons of oil leaked still remains in the gulf and where is it? What short and long term effects on the plankton, oyster beds, crabs, coral reefs and fisheries will we see? When will oil from the Macando spill stop washing up on our beaches, even in the smallest amount? The Black Tide project is dedicated to seeking out honest, reliable answers to these questions and more. Learn More

TCPalm: Research Group Not Waiting For Government Action
While surface oil is being surveyed in the Gulf of Mexico, little data is being collected on the damage being caused underwater. Much of the problem for the failure to collect data is that the federal government has allowed BP to make decisions since it has committed to funding protection and cleanup operations. And, Widder said, it may not be in BP’s best interests to help collect scientific data that would demonstrate the extent of damages. Read Article

BP Lacks Sense of Urgency, Scientist Says
Frustrated by BP’s control of the purse strings, and therefore the scientific efforts to monitor the largest oil spill in U.S. history, one South Florida researcher has launched her own effort to guard the state’s eastern shores. Deep sea explorer Edith Widder, founder of the Ocean Research and Conservation Association, began collecting sediment samples this week at inlets from Miami to Sebastian, including those in Palm Beach County.
Read Article

Collection of Scientific Data on Oil Spill Critical
Edie Widder, a world-renowned marine researcher and passionate protector of the ocean environment, has witnessed the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico with sadness and a degree of frustration. She believes her organization can provide important scientific data on the impact of the spill, but funding has not been made available and time may be running out.
Read Article

Ocean Researcher Warns of 'Oilberg' Coming Closer to Us
If you listen to Tom Daly, coordinator for St. Lucie County’s Division of Emergency Management, you might feel reassured the worst of the Gulf oil spill won’t be coming our way. Edie Widder, PhD, an internationally renowned ocean researcher based in Fort Pierce, would vehemently disagree. The spill is a continuing disaster that will impact us, our waterways and our grandkids for generations to come, she says.
Read Article

Floridathinks.com Interview: ‘There’s No Making This Right’
Marine scientist and deep-sea explorer Dr. Edith “Edie” Widder sums up what’s happening in the Gulf of Mexico in three words: “a hideous stain.” On Monday, Widder shared with FloridaThinks her observations on the destruction underway in the Gulf from the BP oil spill. Read Article

More About Kilroy
ORCA envisions a revolutionary approach toward marine conservation—one that works
"in-the-water" to help reverse continuing trends of marine degradation. ORCA's technology development is targeted on monitoring the quality of water—the precious habitat fish, marine mammals, and other wildlife require for survival—and then partnering with communities to stop the pollution damaging these ecosystems. Learn More

More About The FAST Program
Sediment toxins remain a significant and unmeasured component of the health of the ecosystem. In response, ORCA has developed the Fast Assessment of Sediment Toxicity (FAST) program. FAST is a “canary in a coal mine” method to assess relative toxicity of sediment samples using broad-spectrum toxicity tests. In essence, FAST quickly identifies pollution sinks in aquatic environments. Learn More




"ORCA’s Kilroy is
brilliant. The whole concept of a low-cost monitoring network is critical for understanding the ocean so we can better protect it.
- Sylvia Earle, Ph.D.
National Geographic