Undergraduate Research Experience in Ocean, Marine, and Polar Science 2010
"Establishing a Baseline of Water Quality along the Coast of Northeastern North Carolina in Response to the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill"
Mentor: Mr. Jeff Wood


Deepwater Horizon was an ultra-deepwater, semi-submersible, offshore drilling oil rig used for oil exploration and production purposes. The oil rig was owned by Transocean and was under contract to British Petroleum (BP). On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon had a wellhead blowout which caused an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This incident caused a total of eleven deaths and injured seventeen of the workers. The Deepwater Horizon blowout is the largest oil spill in U. S. history.

The Deepwater Horizon was located north of the Gulf Stream Loop Current which is a warm ocean current that begins its path within the Gulf of Mexico. The Loop Current flows northward between Cuba and the Yucatan Peninsula, eventually curving east and south along Florida's coast and exiting through the Straits of Florida. The Gulf Stream then follows the coastlines of the United States and Newfoundland before crossing the Atlantic Ocean. These currents have the potential to bring oil from this spill to the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

This project sought to establish a baseline on a range of data correlating to water composition along the Outer Banks of North Carolina from Ocracoke Inlet to Corolla with concentrated sampling from Ocracoke Inlet to Cape Hatteras. The spectral fluorescence data was the main indicator for the presence of crude oil. The data obtained predates any appearance of oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the outer banks of North Carolina. The compilation of data will allow researchers to analyze variations between the baseline and future data collected.